A fest of films

I’ve always had this awkward relationship with the NZ International Film Festival. Sometimes I throw myself right into it, other times I ignore it entirely. In recent years, I’ve found myself overwhelmed by the choice offered in the programme, and cautious of leaping into see some film only for it to come out on general release the next week.

I’d more or less ignored it for the last few years, but this year, with my realisation that I’m still totally nuts about film, I decided to give the film fest a go.

But this year I based my film-going around two basic rules:

  • No planning ahead. All films are to be decided upon on the day and no tickets bought in advance.
  • No films that are due to come out on general release in the near future.

So I took it day by day and this is what I saw:

Best Worst Movie
Best Worst Movie is a documentary about a film that tried to be a good film but ended up a bad film which in turn made it a good film. The film in question is 1990 horror film “Troll 2” (which has nothing to do with the original “Troll”). After languishing in home video obscurity, the film slowly gained a cult following, and the doco (made by “Troll 2″‘s child star) takes a look at the cast reluctantly revisiting the most embarrassing role on their IMDB profile. It was a little slow in places, but ended up being a joyful, kind-hearted look at films and fans.

The Camera on the Shore
This documentary by Graeme Tuckett looks at the work of New Zealand film-maker Barry Barclay. The only film of his I’d seen before was “Feathers of Peace”, but, as the doco shows, he had a significant career in both film and television work. Sadly, Barclay died during the making of the documentary, but the film includes footage from his tangi, including his friends telling stories about him. The doco’s style just lets the story of Barclay’s life unfold quite organically, without a power narrative pushing things along. The result it a really lovely, moving film about a great New Zealand film-maker.

Tangata Whenua 1
The film festival also included a retrospective of some of Baz’s films. “Tangata Whenua” was a television series from 1974, written and presented by Michael King. The Barclay-directed crew travelled to various parts of New Zealand and let groups of Maori tell their stories. The two episode in this series looked at kuia with moko (there were only 30 left at the time) and the Waikato. It was remarkable seeing footage of the Raglan golf course, with men in walk shorts and knee socks, while the old kuia talked about the great whare nui that once stood there.

Humpday
This was a very talky film, about two old university friends who suddenly become reunited as adults and decide to make a gay porn film together. No, really. The script was clever and focused on the relationship of the two men and the wife of one. The awkwardness and bravado of the conversations got a lot of laughs, though I heard that a daytime session of the same film screened to an almost silent audience. Really, the film isn’t about porn or sexuality, but more about male friendships – and not many films do that well.

Moon
The Tuesday night session (during the 40th anniversary of the first man on the moon!) was sold out, but I got a sweet seat anyway. “Moon” is directed by Duncan Jones (son of some famous guy who wrote some songs about space) and stars Sam Rockwell (who is my boyfriend). Moon exists in a sort of Kubrickian universe, as if the moon of “2001” had been further explored, mined, and just left to get a bit crappy. The story centres around a man who works on the moon, and his discovery of, ooh, another version of himself. What’s going on, and what does Gerty the computer know? “Moon” is a really enjoyable, tense sci-fi.

Every Little Step
This documentary follows the casting process of the 2006 revival of “A Chorus Line”, with the idea of contrasting the ambitious contemporary actors with their fictional counterparts from the musical, as well as interviews with the team behind the original musical. Now, I’ve only seen “A Chorus Line” once so I was really surprised at how moving I found “Every Little Step”. But when you take what is quite an emotional musical and couple it with people are going through similar experiences to the characters, and then consider how rare it is for actor/singer/dancers to get good work, then you can see where the drama comes from.

It Might Get Loud
The Embassy was full of rock geeks – people who I imagine read Q magazine. This documentary was all about rock guitar, told through interviews with Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. Mr Page and Mr Edge seem to have reached a comfortable place in their lives, whereas Mr White is still in a very self-conscious place and seems to want most to be an old black bluesman. The three are brought together for a “summit” – talking about guitars ‘n’ shit while seated on old brown couches – and a great highlight of that is seeing the look of glee on The Edge and Jack White’s faces as Jimmy Page rips into “A Whole Lotta Love”.

All Tomorrow’s Parties
Yeah, let’s finish with some more music nerdary. This documentary looks at the 10 years of the All Tomorrow’s Parties music festival, where indie bands play at British holiday camps. Most of the footage seemed to have been gathered together from bits and pieces incidentally filmed over the years, and much of the film’s appeal comes from the clever editing. All the film really concludes is that a bunch of bands have played at various ATPs over the years and most people there had a good time. But isn’t that all you really want in a festival?

The Incredible Film Fest 2001 – My Reviews

Anatomie
A German thriller about some bad behaviour going on at an elite med school. Starring Franke Potente, a.k.a That Chick From “Run Lola Run”. There were a bunch of Germans sitting in the row in front who laughed harder and longer at the humour. Also, while lame stand-up comedians might say that German is not a sexy language, “Anatomie” proves that wrong.

Audition (Odishon)
I loved “Audition”! It started out so nice. A widower seeking a new wife sets up a fake audition to meet chicks. The one he picks turns out to be really messed up – bad touching in her past made her a crazy lady. The horrible finale of the film was so gruesome (but a lot of it was never shown, just implied) that about six people walked out rather than face it. But the bit I loved was when after being savaged by his dream girl, who in turn is pushed down the stair by the widower’s son, the widower turns to her and says something like, “One day you will realise that life is wonderful.”

Butterfly and Sword (Xin Liu Xing Hu Die Jian)
Part of the “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” tribute, and also starring Michelle Yeoh, but less serious and more fun and funnier than “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”. The sub-titles were sometimes badly translated, but that added to the charm. Plenty of crazy martial arts. I’m not a huge martial arts fan, but “Butterfly and Sword” was fun and entertaining. A couple of days later I heard a girl describe it as “so bad it’s good”, but she’s a deluded fool if she thinks that.

Criminal Lovers (Les Amants Criminels)
I got really excited because “Criminal Lovers” was the sole French film in the festival. I like French films. The trashier, the better. “Criminal Lovers” was kind of like Hansel and Gretel meets “Deliverance”. Y’know, young lovers on the run get lost in the woods and are taken hostage by a crazy woodsman who has a thing for the young man. In a parallel universe, it would be an excellent date movie.

The Curious Dr. Humpp (La Venganza Del Sexo)
So there’s Dr Humpp and he needs to capture the sexual essence of attractive young men and women in order to stop decaying. He has a monster who he sends out on errands. One time he was operating on the monster, inserting a smoking thing into the monsters brain, and suddenly smoke started to come out of the monsters eyes and nose. Such are the production values of this Argentinean exploitation classic. A soft-core porno film (which means naked people feeling each others bums) that features a brain in a jar can’t be a bad thing.

The Devil At Your Heels
Crazy Canadian stuntman Ken Carter wants to do a jump one mile from Canada across the St Lawrence seaway to the USA. It takes him five years, he builds a big-arse ramp. Near the end of the film, building up to the actual jump, it was so suspenseful. My palms were all sweaty and I was almost sitting on the edge of my seat. It almost had the sort of feeling that those “In Search Of…” TV shows did. In search of a crazy guy.

Divine Trash
At one point in “Divine Trash” John Waters is talking about how he and his friends used to take speed and go and see all-night movie screenings. I had to rely on energy drinks. “Divine Trash” is a documentary that looks at the making of “Pink Flamingos”. It was pretty entertaining, but might have been more interesting if I’d seen “Pink Flamingos”. I think, though, that it shows that making a good film is not reliant on technical genius, wonderful actors and money. Or perhaps it is?

Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!
I think to appreciate this film you have to think of it in its historical context. (Oh wow, I just wrote that sentence). Basically, in these post-Xena days, seeing women kicking arse on screen is nothing special, but back in 1966 it was, so there. But the film isn’t just about large-bosomed racer chicks. It’s beautifully shot, and the acting isn’t too bad either. Leaving the film I overheard a bunch of lesbians discussing the film. One of them said “It was great – lots of crotch shots”. Does that make lesbians the new pervy old men?

The Girl Next Door
A woman lies on an operating table. Her nipple has been cut out, leaving a hole in the centre of her breast. A surgeon pulls out a bag of gel through the hole. Half the audience giggles, the other half sucks in their breath. And the best part – it’s real. The breast belongs to porn star Stacy Valentine, and “The Girl Next Door” is a documentary on her life. She escaped an abusive marriage and became a porn star. We get a behinds-the-scenes look at fakes orgasms, porn awards, and the mundane stuff that goes on.

Green Snake (Ching Se)
“Green Snake” is a really beautiful film, filled with rich colours. Everything looks good. It’s about two snake sisters who take human form, and a monk who is on the lookout for animals trying to pass themselves off as human. I think when I first saw it, it annoyed me, but thinking back, I really liked it. It’s like watching visual contentment.

In China They Eat Dogs (I Kina Spiser De Hunde)
Funny! Sexy! Violent! Immoral! Danish! “In China They Eat Dogs” is typical of the new kind of films that the Incredible Film Festival plays. If this film was American, it would probably get a cinema release and be really popular. But as its in Danish, we have to settle for occasional festival screenings. It’s not high art, it’s just fun, the story of a mild mannered (i.e. boring) man pushed to the limit and turns to a life of crime!

The Loved One
One of the two good, old films in the festival that attracted old people to come and see it. Old people laugh differently to younger people. It’s a more restrained, polite laughter. They say the film is about the young British man and his adventures in the Californian funeral industry. But really, it’s about the dead body make-up lady, Miss Thanatogunos. It’s about her and the two men vying for her affections. A classic love triangle story.

Legend Of The Wolf Woman (La Lupa Mannara)
Like Dr Humpp, it’s an exploitation classic dubbed into English. There’s a girl who experienced some bad touching and now she thinks she’s a werewolf (or maybe she really is…!). There’s a flashback where an ancestor of the girl frolicks naked in the moonlight, then turns into a werewolf, and oh my golly gosh, her were-nipples are more frightening than Stacy Valentines’.

Nowhere To Hide (Injong Sajong Polkot Opta)
There was a woman in the audience who laughed too much during this film. She would laugh at stuff that wasn’t funny (e.g., a title card reading “Day 17” HAHAHAHA! Not funny.) And in one scene a cop was taking a piss and she said “Oh, come on!” Yeah, wees are yucky. But apart from her, I managed to like the film. The basic plot: a group of cops go after a criminal. But what makes it cool was how the film was so stylish. It was like a cartoon with real people, yet didn’t feel cartoony.

Open Your Eyes (Abre Los Ojos)
Y’know, this film is being remade in English with Tom Cruise and directed by Cameron Crowe. Crowe makes really good romantic films. “Open Your Eyes” is not, however, a romantic film. See the original! It’s about a man (played by Eduardo Noriega who is a spunk) who is horribly disfigured in a car accident. His life is crap, then things start going well for him, almost too well. Is he crazy or is the world crazy? And, as I scribbled on a piece of paper, are we supposed to feel sympathy for Nuria? Who knows!

Peeping Tom
It’s a horror film, and it does it without cheesy fake spurting blood. The horror, dear viewer, is in the mind. A man, whose scientist father constantly filmed film growing up, as a film fetish of his own. He films women, and kills them being filmed. But the horrible thing about “Peeping Tom” is we see what he sees through his lens. Watching this film makes you an active participant in the goings-on. It’s an absolute classic and it was such a thrill to see it in the wonderful Civic theatre, up there on the big screen.

Paradise Lost 2: Revelations
Three teenagers were arrested for the murder of three boys. One was sentenced to death, the other two imprisoned for life. But did they do it? Perhaps not. Mark Byers, the bizarre step-father of one of the dead boys seems suspicious. Damien Echols, the one on death row, is like poster boy for the West Memphis Three. At one point in the doco, his mother is talking about how she goes and visits him and he puts his hand up on the glass, and how she likes Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” because he’s the only thing that really matters. The song starts to play, then as it builds to a climax, the film cuts to Damien in jail, behind the visitor’s room glass, with his hand up on the glass, staring soulfully with his beautiful brown eyes. Free the West Memphis Three!

Sex: The Annabel Chong Story
Waiting for the movie to start, I heard a guy say to a friend of his, “hey man, we should have brought a protective screen for the, uh, splashes”. But anyone expecting a pornographic film would be sadly disappointed. Grace Quek was gang raped in London. A few years later in Los Angeles she became Annabel Chong, pornstar, and engaged in a 251-man gang bang. Like Stacy Valentine she also wants to give up the porn industry, but she goes back to it. Watching the film, especially the part where her mother finds out what her daughter does, is harrowing. It’s about as erotic as a car crash.

Son Of That’s Exploitation
A collection of classic exploitation film trailers. It started with Oliva de Havilland introducing her new motion picture, “Lady In A Cage”, about a woman who gets trapped in a private elevator (“Help! I’m trapped in a private elevator!”) and a bunch of loonies invade her home. A taste of 1968 hippy culture film “Psych-Out” was a favourite. The collection ended with the trailer for the 1994 film of “The Fantastic Four” that was never released. It was a little sad to see that trailer end with “Coming soon to a theatre near you”.

Spike & Mike’s Sick & Twisted Festival Of Animation
A mixed bag of animations. In “Coco The Junkie Pimp 2”, one puppet hit another puppet and that cliche movie hitting noise was heard. An audience member drew his breath in sharply in empathy. Yeah, ow, that must have really hurt the puppet. There was some really vile, offensive stuff near the end. Just because you can make animated poo coming out of an animated bum, doesn’t mean you should.


Starwoids

Another doco, this time about hard core Star Wars fans. It focusses on two groups of fans who are living on the streets outside two movie theatres so they can be first in line for the opening night screening of “The Phantom Menace”. The highlight of the film is some guys who wrote “Star Wars: The Musical”, which is a bunch of songs from other shows with lyrics changed to be about Star Wars. Tears of laughter. Another cool bit was the leader of one of the groups queuing was this 17 year old fat-arse, then in the epilogue a year later, he’d lost a whole lot of weight, and there were gasps of astonishment from the audience.

Tell Me Something
Plastic rubbish bags filled with body parts and a whole lot of blood turn up and the hunt for a serial killer begins. There’s a twist at the end. At the time it was a shock, but when I think about it, it was a fairly standard film noir ending. I guess it seemed unexpected because I wasn’t used to a Korean femme fatale. Another film where a woman is subjected to bad touching as a child and turns into a psycho when she’s an adult.

The Tex Avery Cartoon Collection
The cool thing about these cartoons is they don’t rely on dialogue to tell a story. Much fun is had with the limits of cartoons. There were lots of kids at this screening, and there was one group of about six children and the dad in charge would walk along the front of the row with a bag of popcorn and they’d all take some. He was also wearing a bum-bag under his beer belly. Fortunately the cartoons started and he sat down.

The Toy Box
There’s a young couple called Donna and Ralph. In the beginning there are lots of scenes where Ralph is talking but we never see his lips move. Donna is all hot ‘n’ bothered and wants Ralph real bad, but he says, “I’ll let you know when I’m ready for your slobbery mouth!” Then our young lovers go to the house of Uncle, a horny corpse, and hang out with a bunch of free-lovin’ hippies who take turns in performing for Uncle. In one scene a woman is lying in bed and the sheets start feeling her up. Then a voice says, “Your body and my sheets are one!” It’s like a surreal soft-core porno, with a slight “Rocky Horror Picture Show” feel to it, only with Janet being Frank-n-furter. Don’t look for sense. There is none.

Wonderwall
I didn’t see “Wonderwall”. It was only on during the first week of the festival, when I was ignoring it. Damn.

B-Movie Marathon

The Undertaker and His Pals
So there’s this undertaker and he and his two pals who run a greasy spoon diner (“The Greasy Spoon Diner”) go around on their motorbikes and kill people. The pals get to keep a limb, while the undertaker gets the business generated from the funeral. The victims have names like Miss Lamb, so the pals get to have “leg of lamb” as today’s special. Then in the end all the dead people came back to life and everyone was happy.

Bigfoot
The festival organiser dude, wearing pyjamas, described this as a “piece of shit” and he wasn’t wrong. Big Foot abducts some guy’s girlfriend and he goes looking for her. Only he takes along a really large group of people and they spend most of the time walking from one side of the screen to the other.

Dead Kids
An early ’80s horror film about some groovy teens who kill other groovy teens because an evil scientist is controlling their minds. The cool thing is, the film was set in Nebraska, but was filmed in Auckland. In one scene a car drove through the entrance gate to the school, and everyone laughed because it was a gate at One Tree Hill. Then one of the teens was hanging outside a school building and crossed the road and there was the Auckland University clocktower building. It brought the house down.

Pieces
Another groovy horror film. A killer with a chainsaw is terrorising a university. A studly young fellow (who even walked around naked for a bit, oo-er) helps an attractive lady cop investigate. Meanwhile the killer, who as a child killed his crazy, domineering mother, assembles a blood-stained nudie jigsaw puzzle. The killer has trouble doing this because he is wearing thick leather gloves. But I guess if he took them off it would reveal his identity. There’s screaming and titties and tons of that fake blood around the place.

Girl from Starship Venus
An alien comes to earth and takes the form of a naked lady. She wanders the streets of London investigating human life. All the places she visits are in the dodgy, seedy areas. She goes into a porno theatre, a massage parlour, and a strip club where she drinks alcohol and turns green and grows an afro. Then a man tries to have his way with her, but the force-field that has been activated in her nether-regions means he’s not gonna get any hot alien lovin’. I don’t really have an opinion on this film. It was on at around 6-7.00 am, and my mind was fuzzy.

I learned this:

  • If the film is fiction, abuse in a person’s past turns them into a psychotic killer.
  • If the film is a documentary, abuse in a person’s past turns them into a porn star.
  • Movie marathons are better with comfortable clothes, good food and lots of leg room.
  • Seeing naked ladies in ’60s sexploitation films is weird because they have non-surgically enhanced boobs.
  • Audiences get really quiet during soft-core sex scenes.
  • It’s going to take a while before people get used to the idea that the Incredible Film Festival is not “the best of the worst”.
  • No matter what film you see, there will always be someone in the audience who thinks it’s the most bizarre film they’ve ever seen.

And I’d do it again!