You probably missed these films in 2013. Silly.
Friday 17th January 2014
I'm not trying to say you're a lazy cinemagoer. You're not. You saw all the big blockbusters - Muscle Hero, The Sworddwarf, Shootman Returns. You got off your butt for all the Oscar season prestige pics. You probably even got along to the banner screenings at the New Zealand International Film Festival coz you're pretty sophisticated, right?
I’m just saying you might have missed a few films. Some limited screenings here and there, a direct-to-DVD release or two, things tucked away in the darklands of the NZIFF programme. Don't worry, you've got all of 2014 to catch up. Nothing important is coming out this year.
A TOUCH OF SIN
Jia Zhang-ke confronts the misogyny, classism, exploitation and state-sanctioned violence coursing through the veins of contemporary Chinese society in four indignant, blood-spattered tales of injustice and retribution. Patient and elegant, each story plays out like a pot boiling over, climaxing with short, sharp scenes of righteous bloodletting. The highlight of the NZIFF, Jia’s marriage of bleak social satire and wuxia-influenced violence is vital, beautiful and necessary viewing.
When can I see it? It's on DVD in China, but no word on a local release yet.
On paper, Wentworth Miller’s Stoker is a clumsy psychosexual retread of Alfred Hitchcock's Shadow of a Doubt - wooden dialogue, stop-start pacing, empty movie references. On film, Park Chan-wook’s Stoker is a magnetic, lurid study in hereditary sociopathy. One of South Korea’s masters of the perverse and peculiar, Park distorts scale, colour and character in ways that heighten suspense and leave you flat-out scared of every member of this family. It’s a crying shame it only got one-week limited releases across the country.
When can I see it? It's out on DVD this month.
THE GREAT BEAUTY
Toni Servillo's the most charming dude in the room, but he's going through a crisis of purpose in Paolo Sorrentino's The Great Beauty. An opulent, self-indulgent, totally exquisite tour of Rome doubling as an exploration of an aging man's loves and anxieties, The Great Beauty is the interior to This Must Be The Place's exterior. It’s a film looking out at the society Sorrentino is a part of, its eccentricities and ideals, finding both things to appreciate and things to be anxious about.
When can I see it? It should get a cinema release later this year.
Johnnie To's been messing with the crime film for years, seeing how much he can strip it down (the pure mechanics of triad-politics flick Election) or how much he can mess with its formula (the fantastically bonkers Mad Detective). With Drug War, he takes the former approach, dropping us straight into a major drug sting with next-to-no exposition. Nimbly edited and strictly procedural in its structure, it's an entertaining and suspenseful policier with a seen-to-be-believed punchline of a third act.
When can I see it: It's out on DVD now.
ERNEST & CELESTINE
Stéphane Aubier’s and Vincent Patar’s A Town Called Panic was one of 2009’s least-talked about gems, a manic masterpiece of stop-motion comedy that never stopped escalating. Their watercolour follow-up, Ernest & Celestine, is a different beast; more family-friendly, more overtly heartwarming. Those aren’t slights, though – Ernest & Celestine is one of those rare films that resonates deeply with audience members of all ages, funny and inventive and powered by the winning chemistry between two lost souls, a busking bear and a young girl mouse, both with dreams beyond their socially-repressive stations.
When can I see it: The American dub hits cinemas in April.