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Film Festival Day 4: Monday, 29/07/2012

I’m duly thankful that the weather has turned – it is a lot easier to be stuck in a theatre when you know it’s raining outside, and today, at least, was a simple commute back and forth between the Paramount and the Embassy. (With a brief detour to discover that the National Bank is a bit useless – sorry to friends and family who formerly worked there, but it was like they actively didn’t want to take money.)

But before we return to our regularly scheduled reviews, I’d like to mention In Safe Hands, a short that played before Shock Haired Soul. It was a NZ short, and it touched on the harvesting of children’s organs without the family’s knowledge or consent, which went on for some time (though that wasn’t the focus of the movie). I just wanted to mention it because, unlike most of the shorts I’ve seen, I felt it was done well, and I wanted to point people at it.

Film #15: Farewell My Queen

A film that was exactly what it said on the tin – a gorgeous period drama set in Versailles just before the revolution, full of heaving bosoms and unconscious privilege. I’ve visited the gardens at Versailles, and it was interesting to see them “working”. I enjoyed the movie, and thought that it was an interestingly female-centred view of things.

Film #16: Return To Burma

In some ways, I guess you could say that the director succeeded in conveying the oppressive sense of decay and lack of opportunity in Burma, and it’s impressive that this film was made at all. But… even though I’ve been fortifying myself with caffine, I’m afraid the stasis of this movie overwhelmed me. I think I was hoping for something more, and should have been warned by the phrases “first-time director” and “lingering shots”. Not, I’m afraid, recommended.

Film #17: Wish You Were Here

This film was preceded by the short Ten Thousand Days; if anything, I think it was let down by not being stylized enough. For example, you saw the edge of the greenscreen behind the car in one driving scene – but it wasn’t shown quite enough to make the transition from “mistake” to “stylistic choice”. Or when going over the men of the family who previously died – they could have given this a lot more “oomph” with very little effort. Indeed, with a deft edit, this film could be improved considerably, which is kind of frustrating; as it is, it felt a bit let down.

The main feature more than made up for it, however – a gritty thriller about a suburban couple, the wife’s sister, and the sister’s new man (who has gone missing during a holiday in Cambodia). We cut back and forth between the holiday, and the increasing tension at home as the couple and sister deal with the consequences and fallout of the trip. I found it gripping and involving, though I’m not sure how it would work on a second watching.

Just as an aside, I was recently reading a book on Victorian housing, (the very readable The Victorian House: Domestic Life From Childbirth To Deathbed by Judith Flanders), and she refers to a character from a Victorian novel saying, “What is the point of a home if you are never in it?” This very much reflects my point of view – when one of the characters in the movie asks, “If you had to stay somewhere for the rest of your life, where would you go?” Apart from the smart-arse answer of “Earth”, I think I would choose home.

As long as I could order things on the internet, anyway. 🙂

Film #18: The Last Dogs of Winter

This was a Costa Botes documentary; and like all Costa Botes documentaries I’ve watched, it’s made me care about something that I previously knew nothing about. In this case, it was about a breed of dogs called Qimmiq, which were also known as Eskimo sled dogs, and the breeder who lives in Churchill, Manitoba, which is a 48-hour train-ride away from the nearest major city (and bills itself as the polar-bear capital of the world). The breeder’s brusque nature is clearly communicated, as is the polarising effect that he’s had on the community. There was lots of footage of the very photogenic dogs, as well as plenty of shots of polar-bears. I hope that they manage to keep the breed going.

(Actually, I hope that we find a way to colonize other planets, and end up finding some iceball which makes this breed essential for exploration and settlement. That would be awesome. Er, sorry, slight tangent there.)

Anyway, I couldn’t stay for the Q&A, as I was under instructions to turn up briefly for a movie quiz, for which I was very little help at all. And then I had to rush off to my next film…

Film #19: In Darkness

Nazis are in Poland, rounding up the Jews, and a couple of sewer-workers discover a break-out attempt from the ghetto before this happens. They decide to start extorting money out of them in return for keeping them safe; after all, they’ll be able to turn them in later, once they’ve milked them for a bit…

I saw this with C, and I’m glad. It was based on a true story, which was why it had so much sadness in it. There was quite a bittersweet coda at the end, too.