Confused about the film festival? Don’t want to take a wild stab in the dark? Allow us to ease your fears and arm you for the season ahead.
The NZ International Film Festival season is upon us and yet again we are faced with a programme full to the brim of films everyone pretends to have heard of. At first this is fine: It’s so far away! You’ll do some research!
But it’s already July: tickets are selling, the FOMO is building, and the Ticketmaster website says you only have SEVEN MINUTES LEFT to confirm your purchase. Before you know it you are stuck in the Civic on a Sunday afternoon for three hours watching a documentary about ecovillages with no one to blame but yourself.
But maybe that’s your thing? It’s easy to get swept up in the hype, and just because so and so says such and such is a “must see”, it doesn’t mean you should just go spending your money willy nilly.
Which is why, rather than shake the gluggy cinematic magic eight ball and present you with yet another hypothetical pick list, what you will find here are concrete opinions based on the most tangible evidence available at this time: trailers.
Now not every movie in this festival has a trailer. Some are too new or obscure and that's fine. Their marketing departments can feel safe and smug knowing only TRUE RISK-TAKING CINEPHILES will see them. But when even the German bestiality drama has one, I think we can agree that trailers are a valuable necessity in this kill or be killed film economy.
I cannot promise these are the best films in the festival, or must-sees, or any such hyperbolic nonsense. Time is running out, and what we need right now is information.
Based on J. G. Ballard's 1975 book, and apparently deemed unfilmable for pretty much forever, High Rise - one of the most mainstream films in the festival - looks suitably glossy and high budget.
High Rise is about a huge self-contained apartment block on the outskirts of London, kitted out with a school, supermarket, swimming pool, creepy garden etc. The residents never have to go anywhere, which means they can go quietly mad without bothering anyone else. How ideal. Tom Hiddleston is also a sexy doctor dude who lives there.
It looks very nice and slick and stylish, which are things I don’t really associate with the ‘70s. Fancy parties; sexy ladies; Tom Hiddleston butt naked; a steady descent to anarchy and chaos: what more could you want?
With Hiddleswift reaching peak exposure, my buzz for this has died down slightly, but Ben Wheatley is an interesting director, Jeremy Irons is looking well, and hopefully the film can do justice to what was a truly weird, violent, and cool book.
The tone of this trailer is super weird and given that The Guardian described it as a “rape-revenge comedy”, this is unsurprising (though they also published an interview with the director titled “Paul Verhoeven on Elle: 'It is not a rape comedy'”, so make of that what you will).
Isabelle Huppert is a high powered business woman who, having been assaulted in her own home, appears to be unravelling in the aftermath. She also has an abusive ex-boyfriend and seems to work in an office where naked ladies get manhandled.
It’s sensitive subject matter, but the general consensus seems to be that this film is also comedic, something both Verhoeven and this trailer seem reluctant to publicise. This is probably smart since NONE OF THIS STUFF SOUNDS FUNNY. Yet rather than prompting walk outs at Cannes, Elle received a seven minute standing ovation and rave reviews. It also looks atmospheric and interesting and Isabelle Huppert is great, so I’m in.
Depending on which way you look at it, the weird shit people do in drama class can be either amusingly absurd or maddeningly self-indulgent. Although The Rehearsal looks like it could similarly go either way, I’m into the bizarro.
James Rolleston is a young and starry eyed student at some fancy Auckland drama school where he and his peers must partake in wacky theatre sports while a snippy glasses lady promises them a “physical and emotional undoing”. Meanwhile, he meets a girl, uses her personal family drama for theatre fodder, and probably learns some personal truths in the process.
I’m fully here for coming of age dramas, and Rolleston has grown up to be a total #MCM, so that’s all good. New Zealand film does love to rely on muted grey cinematography for realism and atmosphere though, and hopefully this is a bit more vibrant overall than it looks here.
The Rehearsal is a product of New Zealand creative pedigree. It’s adapted from Eleanor Catton’s debut novel by director Alison Maclean and New Zealand literary gem Emily Perkins. It also features music by Connan Mockasin. With all this star power involved, it can surely only go well.
Based solely on this trailer not very much is clear about The Lure, except that it is fun, saucy, and Polish. But what this trailer lacks in subtitles, it makes up for in singing! And dancing! And many sexy Polish people!
Given what I’ve heard about The Lure, this is leaving quite a bit out. Yes, it is a musical set in swinging ‘80s-era Warsaw, but it is also a fantasy horror about two vampire-mermaid sisters who, having somehow found employ in a night-club, become embroiled in a love triangle that presumably goes terribly wrong.
Kitschy euro discotheques make for great cinematic mise-en-scene and the guy speaking Polish at the beginning almost sounds like the backwards-speaking dwarf in Twin Peaks (I got total, and probably false, David Lynch vibes from this trailer). There’s not really any mermaid biz visible here which is a shame, but as the backdrop to a dark fairy tale, it looks amazing.
This trailer is awesome because it’s mostly just exposition: Kristen Stewart is a personal shopper for rich people in Paris and also a ghost whisperer living in her dead brother's former residence.
Sadly, ghost bro seems to only be able to turn on taps, send mysterious texts, turn lights on and off and other run of the mill ghost stuff. What’s more, Stewart doesn’t seem super thrilled about any of these small gestures from beyond the grave, so I suspect it will turn out that this is more about acceptance and moving on than it is fun and spooky ghost stuff. Meanwhile, she has to go pick up dresses for her rich clients which doesn’t seem so bad but she haaates it. It’s not particularly clear how these threads relate and, to be honest, you would think the ghost stuff might outweigh the bougie job dissatisfaction.
This movie sounds terrible in theory. It prompted walk outs at Cannes, but I’m into this trailer. What’s the mystery with ghost bro? Who is sending the weird texts? Does she ever get hand-me-down fancy dresses? Keen.
The aforementioned German bestiality drama. What is the deal with Wild? I remember reading about it when it premiered at Sundance and gathering that it is about a girl who gets into a sexy relationship with an ACTUAL WOLF. Based on the trailer this seems accurate.
Said girl is clearly stressed about some kind of family medical situation, which is understandable. This stress, however, seems to manifest itself as she sublets her apartment to a wolf she meets on the street, which is less understandable. This trailer is also kind of ambiguous: is she actually banging the wolf or is she just thinking about it when she bangs human men? Is the wolf real, or will it turn out to be a metaphor or something? Either way, at some point she gets down on all fours and drinks some gross pond water. I’m so intrigued.