August 2, 2010

Film Fest: Day Seventeen

Alright. This is it. I made it. The final day of Film Festival. Thank the fucking gods. After battling through the worst of a hangover (and missing In the Attic because of said hangover), we managed to get through town in the driving wind and rain for our first film of the last day.

The Red Shoes
I actually had absolutely no intention of seeing this when I first heard it was playing. I'm rather glad I reversed that decision. This is a sweepingly big romantic melodrama that just isn't made anymore, and I'm glad I got to catch this Technicolor classic on the big screen.
The main thrust is a love triangle - between Vicky Parker the talented ballerina who lives to dance, the precocious young composer Julian... and the ballet, in the form of the obsessively controlling Lermontov. There is love, laughter, tragedy and dance. With a film like this you just have to let yourself go with the melodrama and the romance and not get caught up in minor niggling details.

Under the Southern Cross
I guess this was the closest we had to a Live Cinema event this year. The Live Cinema event – where a classic silent film is shown at the Embassy with live orchestra accompaniment – is one of my favourite parts of the Festival. This year, for reasons I’m not sure I can go into, we didn’t have the usual Live Cinema down in Wellington. Especially gutting as Auckland had Sherlock Jr. – a Buster Keaton classic.
Instead we had this film from 1928, shot in New Zealand with an all Maori cast. The score was a new thing worked up by three prominent Wellington musicians, notably Warren Maxwell of Trinity Roots, Fat Freddy’s Drop and Little Bushman. The film was due to start at 6:30pm. But as the musicians were still setting up and fiddling about (and fair enough, there should’ve been more time between this and the previous session) the doors didn’t open until 6:40pm. There were cries from the crowd beyond of “Hurry up!” and “Supposed to have started by now!” Yeah, no duh. Perhaps there’s a reason the doors haven’t opened yet? Because that’s what I wanted to deal with when I had a hangover: an angry audience.
Anyway! You’re maybe wondering about the film. The film itself was pretty standard guff: two warring tribes, two star-crossed lovers, a nefarious prince, battle, death and love. Nothing particularly exciting or new there. As for the live music… when it was there it was interesting and bold, melding new sounds to this incredibly old film. But that was the main issue – when it was there. There were long spells of no score. And always in an odd place; in a part of the film that could’ve, and should’ve, worked with a score of some sort. Somewhat disappointing, especially when what score there was there was so intriguing.
It’s a great idea to have contemporary scores to classic films, and maybe something we can begin to see more of. But the film nerd in me really does enjoy these silent classics up on the big screen with their original score. So, a return of the “classic” Live Cinema please.

Oh, this really wasn’t the film I wanted to end the final (severely hungover) day of Festival on. It’s a psychedelic head-trip of a film, an homage to Italian giallos of old. I’ve never really seen any of the giallos though so I have no idea how true to them this intensely cut, largely dialogue free film with a slim to not-there narrative, is.
I’m slightly ashamed to say, I nodded off for quite a fair bit of it. What I did see… well, I had no idea what the hell was going on. Properly freaky scary in places and intensely sexualised in others and with a killer soundtrack, ripped from films of the era I was left with impressions more than anything. Which, from talking to people afterward, would’ve been the same had I actually seen the whole thing. There are scores of quick cuts, notably on extreme blurry close-ups and use of outrageous colours. Perhaps if I was not so hungover and tired I could've soaked into the experience of it all more.

And that's that. The Film Festival over for another year. But don't worry, I'm not quite done with it yet. There's still my Festival Wrap to come and an In Appreciation Of... for Once Upon a Time in the West. It's been a crazy hectic couple of weeks, and I hope you've been reading and enjoying what I've had to say about the various films I've seen.

We will return to our irregular scheduled programming soon.

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