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Film Festival Day 16, 10/08/2013

I’m going to do my best not to lose momentum, and actually finish writing up all the films I saw. ūüôā

One of the things I like best about the Festival is bumping into people I don’t see at any other time — like various members of the illustrious Davie clan, who are always a pleasure to see.

Film #79: Toons For Tots

I was very pleased to be able to take a nephew and niece along to this, as well as C. ¬†Some of the shorts didn’t quite come off, I think —¬†A Girl Named Elastica seemed to be aimed at a slightly different audience, for example, and¬†Ballpit¬†veers dangerously close to the ever-present danger of free-jazz and abstract shapes that haunts all collections of animation. ¬†But¬†Macropolis (defective toys that escape the factory, which my nephew correctly guessed the end of), The Goat Herder and his Lots and Lots and Lots of Goats¬†(whose theme you may be able to discern) and Room on the Broom (adapted in the same way The Gruffalo and¬†The Gruffalo’s Child have been in the past) were all good fun.

There were also a few foxes in these shorts — The Little Bird and the Leaf had a lurking fox menace, while in¬†Metro the fox steals a girl’s ticket, and leads her away on an adventure.

Anyway, I think the kids enjoyed themselves, and I’d given myself a two-hour gap, which gave plenty of time to take them to Te Papa and meet up with their parents; then I left C behind and hurried off to my next movie.

Film #80: From the Bottom of the Lake

This film looks at the writing/directing process that Jane Campion goes through for a new TV series for the BBC,¬†Top of the Lake. ¬†I have not seen the series, but that wasn’t my primary interest in the film; I was more interested in process.

Campion writes with a partner, who is not there while she is directing. ¬†The writing process was shown to be the usual slog; there was a very nice bit where Campion said something nice about her partner, and he, embarrassed, exclaimed something about the film-maker, and then said, “There, you’ll have to cut that bit out now.”

From a roleplaying perspective, I found it interesting that Campion had the actors rehearse by talking back and forth in character, improvising in order to get a feel for the sort of person they were playing. ¬†I think it would be odd to slip from that mode to follow-the-script mode, since you’d be so much more constrained; but then again, if you’re an actor, I guess you’re getting paid to follow the script.

I think I’ll try and hunt down a copy of the series; for some reason, the vibe of what I saw reminded me of a game I was in called¬†Phoenix, and I’d like to see whether I still think that after watching the show.

Film #81: The House of Radio

This documentary made French public radio look pretty cool. ¬†There were a few instances where people addressed the camera, talking about what they do; but for most of the film, we are just watching them do it. ¬†What “it” is varies considerably — recording radio dramas or pieces of music, interviewing Umberto Eco or reporting on a bicycle race from the pillion of a motorbike. ¬†Possibly the bits that were most fun were listening to the newsroom gleefully discuss what should make the cut, and what could be pushed.

This was a “day in the life” style documentary, with no commentary, explanation or exposition; I think my preference runs more to the other end of the spectrum. ¬†However, there were many neat scenes, such as the newsroom mentioned previously, or the many musical performances.

(I might have fallen a tiny bit asleep during this, but luckily C was there to stop me from snoring.   I think that this may have been the only film where I nodded off this Festival, which is a much better track record than last year.)

Anyway, I enjoyed it, but I can’t imagine seeing it again.

Film #82: Dial M for Murder

Hitchcock with the lovely Grace Kelly in 3D. ¬†I’d never seen this film, and enjoyed it immensely; there is a lot to be said for a nice convoluted Hitchcockian murder. ¬†However; since I am trying my best not to spoil the movies I talk about, I’m a little constrained as to what I can say. ¬†The main villain is quick-witted as well as clever, and there’s a nice tension between wanting to see justice prevail, and wanting to see how he’ll wriggle out of a tight spot.

The 3D worked fine, though I’m not sure how much of an impact it had.

I’d happily watch this again, in 2D or in stereo.

Film #83: Computer Chess (& Destination Pioneer City)

The issue that I had with the short,¬†Destination Pioneer City (apart from the fact that I didn’t think much of the city design) was that there wasn’t very much to it — I mean, yes, it looked like the kind of glossy promotional thing that you might see if Mars colonization was commonplace, but that was about it. ¬†It wasn’t funny, it didn’t hint at anything, it didn’t echo the kinds of promotional material that brought people to New Zealand, it just… was. ¬†And that was kind of disappointing.

Computer Chess, on the other hand, had plenty of things going on in its early 80s competition between chess programs. ¬†I was pleased and impressed that they weren’t content to just throw in some technobabble and fake machines, but instead drew upon some of the interesting stuff happening at the time, like messing with compilers to optimize a program. ¬†And while the performances were stylised and intentionally stilted, they didn’t feel false, and it captured the feeling at the time that true artificial intelligence must be just around the corner. (And I can only assume that the weird swinging self-discovery group also meeting at the hotel is at least moderately true to the time.)

Artificial intelligence is a tricky thing — one of the lecturers that I had at university claimed that the reason that it was always just out of reach was because every time a goal was reached, it was removed from what was considered artificial intelligence. ¬†Once computers became good at pattern recognition, pattern recognition wasn’t AI any more; the same with natural language parsing, or anything else we actually worked out how to do.

This was a slow film, and very weird — it definitely wouldn’t be to everyone’s taste, and I’m not sure that I’d want to watch it again any time soon. ¬†But I think I liked it.

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