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2010 Film Festival, Day 10

I keenly resent paying for parking during the weekend, but I ended up parting with $6 to park near Te Papa for Howl. (I could claim that I was trying to make some post-modern point about the mundanity of the bourgeoisie in the face of Art, but no, I’m just cheap about parking.) My knowledge of modern American writers is minimal (unless you include genre or pulp writers), and I’ve not read On The Road or Howl, so I wasn’t quite sure what I was letting myself in for, but I enjoyed it.

There were some oddities, like Mary-Louise Parker being credited, and then appearing very briefly as an expert witness for the prosecution in the Howl obscenity trial; but they make the case against censorship very eloquently, the animation was beautiful, and the actor playing Allen Ginsberg is great.

There was also an old television with a burn-in that looked like an eye that was muy creepy, and there was a point during the “interview” with Ginsberg where the golden light and the almost marionette-like movements of the actors arms made my brain go, “The animation on that model is pretty well done”, sort of climbing down the other side of the Uncanny Valley – I think that’s just work creeping up on me, rather than any reflection on the film.

I’m not sure I’ll read the poem; but I’m much more likely to now than I was.

* * *

Next, I drove home to pick up C, and then we went up to the Penthouse for His & Hers, an Irish documentary about … well, women, and their relationship with men, moving from girls just able to speak to a woman in her 90s. It started with the Irish proverb, “A man loves his girlfriend the most, his wide the best, but his mother the longest.”

In some ways, it reminded me of Babies, in that none of the hard things were really touched on – all the girls seemed to be in stable homes, all the teens were interested in boys, the clashes of wills the wives went through were verbal rather than physical, and the mothers and grandmothers were all still in touch with their kids.

On the other hand – given that this sort of documentary would normally focus on the extreme and the shocking, seeking out pathos or drama, it was kind of nice to see someone taking a different tack, showing the norm rather than the confrontational.

It was nice to watch, and I could imagine sitting through it again if it came on TV.

* * *

C stayed for Farewell, which was a Cold War spy story about the French Embassy official (an engineer) that was approached by a colonel in Russian Intelligence. This officer had decided that the USSR had become ossified, in part because they had become too reliant on stealing research from the West (as a result of becoming so good at it). In order to shake things apart so his homeland could grow, as well as decreasing the chance of war by making clear to the West how unprepared they were, he wanted to give pass on information; but the Americans were closely watched. The Frenchman he chose had only loose links to the Intelligence community – his boss knew someone at the DSE (the French equivalent of the FBI or our SIS, I think), which was ignored by the KGB because they were only meant to operate inside France. But this lack of training, which made him so useful (because he wasn’t suspected), meant that he felt the pressure more acutely – and his wife and family never signed up for such high stakes.

This film was very good at evoking the feel of the time, and managed to have you on the edge of your seat whenever a truck appeared. It wasn’t extremely fast-paced, but it was good, and I’d happily watch it again.

* * *

C and I ate together, and then she disappeared and I went back to Please Give, a quiet character study set in New York about a couple who buy vintage furniture from the dead and sell it at a mark-up; the wife feels guilt and gives money to the homeless (or, more embarrassingly, to those who appear homeless to her), but the husband seems more blasé about everything, though events suggest that he may be affected, too. They have a daughter, who is dealing with bad skin and a mother who will give a homeless man who they don’t even know a $20, but won’t pay for her daughter to get really cute jeans that are only $200.

There’s also an old woman that the couple are waiting for to die, so they can buy her apartment and expand theirs into it; she’s looked after by one of her grand-daughters (who works in a breast-cancer screening clinic, and is nice), and ignored by her other grand-daughter (who works in a beauty clinic, and isn’t). And then… things happen that illustrate their characters, and why they act the way they do.

I quite liked it.

* * *

Finally, I saw Double Hour, an Italian thriller that did something very interesting that I don’t want to talk about, because I wouldn’t want to spoil it for people who haven’t seen it. There isn’t much in the way of slam-bang action, more of a dawning realisation of what is going on as the film progresses. I enjoyed it, and I’m tempted to watch it a second time to see if my impression is different if I know various things from the beginning.

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