Thursday, 31 March 2011

World Cinema Showcase: Movie Review

World Cinema Showcase: Movie Review

The World Cinema Showcase
It's back showcasing some of the best cinematic talent around - from here and around the globe. There's a few premieres too - and as ever, it's a mixed bag to suit all kinds of tastes.
Here's just a taster of some of what's hitting the streets from the 1st of April.
Rubber comes with a cult following already behind it. Simply put (and no word of a lie), it's the tale of a tyre - yep, you read that right - who goes on a killing spree. This French piece of madness works on a few levels. It never sets out to be something radical, but plays with your expectations in a smart way. Worth watching for the way the action loops back to a group of spectators, direct to camera pieces and back to the tyre's rampage. So much so, you're never quite sure which viewpoint is the one to focus on. . At the beginning a character, in a monologue to the screen, tells you the best things in cinema happen for "no reason". It's best to bear that in mind as this piece of destined for eternal cult lunacy unfolds.
Bill Cunningham New York already is bound for great things. A simple film, this doco follows the life of 80 year old Bill Cunningham, the fashion photographer who walks the streets of the Big Apple, taking pics and setting the trends on the streets. Genuinely likeable, Bill's clearly old school, with ethics and principles aplenty - the majority of which get his support from within the industry. While many are happy to be photographed by the legend and put in his columns, not many know much about him. The engaging doco which plays out in front of you will charm and amuse in equal measures. Plus you'll be impressed at the major effect one person has on so many lives.
The Woodmans is a curious doco about the life of an artistic family. Mom Betty and Dad George believe that "art is a very high priority" - so much so that their two kids, Charlie and Francesca, spend much of their formative years being dragged around exhibitions and to a degree, suffering neglect because of their parents' passion. Inevitably Francesca gets the art bug but excels in photography - however, her own demons threaten her self obsessed world. The doco leaves many questions over the parenting skills, with interviews of Betty (in particular) and George never giving you the feeling they got the family right. Francesca's life plays out in telling journal extracts and her photos litter the doco casting a haunting presence over this troubling yet hypnotically watchable piece.
You Don't Like The Truth - 4 Days inside Guantanamo is harrowing to be brutally honest. Hidden-camera footage of a Guantánamo interrogation, released by a Canadian court, provides filmmakers Luc Côté and Patricio Hernríquez with acutely personal evidence of the tragic injustice of American war on terror tactics. Canadian-Afghani Omar Khadr, abandoned in Afghanistan by his father, is accused of killing a US medic. He was interrogated in 2003 aged 16 by Canadian intelligence officers. But the interrogation sees Khadr fall apart and get treated brutally by his interrogators as his mental state falls apart. With grainy images and an unclear view, the effect is devastating - quite simply the pictures tell the story - and commentators/ interviewers and those fighting for Khadr's justice and freedom all rationally weigh into the debate. Uncomfortable viewing but an essential reminder of the atrocities being committed as the ongoing war against terror continues.
We Are What We Are - a cannibal flick from Mexico - sort of says it all really. When the father of a human eating clan dies in the middle of the street, the family he provides for are flung into chaos. Well, sort of - as they try to work out who should lead them and continue the life of collecting and killing their victims. Dark and bleak it is and there's little light throughout. But scenes of the lead characters preying on their targets may also give nightmares because of the tension and bleak overtones. That said fans of horror (albeit of the subtle and restrained variety) will lap this up.
Bicycle Dreams is a doco charting the progress of riders in an annual 3000 mile Race Across America; focusing on the 12 day event which runs through some truly terrific and truly terrifying countryside, this doco is exactly what you'd expect from a feature looking at endurance athletes. Interviewees talk of "learning something about themselves" and "being pushed to the absolute limits and beyond." Interesting though are the choices made by the riders who partake in this difficult race - we see them forgo sleep and risk death to be the winner. Fairly told and interesting, this will fail to garner anything but a "What the hell are they thinking" reaction from those outside the cycling fraternity. But I doubt it will convince you to start training for it next year - particularly when this event they charted leads to tragedy.
Of Gods and Men was France's official selection for the Oscars this year - and it's searingly haunting. It's set in the monastery of Tibhirine, where Trappist monks lived in harmony with the largely Muslim population of Algeria. Well, that is until terrorists invade their village, frighten the local populace and look to the monastery for supplies and medicines. Ultimately, this true story leads to seven of their number being beheaded in 1996. From initial shots of prayer and treating the locals for their ills, to scenes of the monks studying, eating and living together, there's a hypnotic lull to this film which explores faith in a crisis. But when the terrorists break in, reality comes crashing in - however, it's never at the expense of the drama or over the top at all. The final sequence which sees the monks partake in a Last Supper is electrifying - even if the camera milks every emotion from the close ups on their faces. Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale shine as the lead two monks in an entirely powerful and masterly film - and it imparts such a serenity and horror in you, it'll haunt you from the minute you leave the cinema.
Waiting for Superman is a doco about the American education system and its failings. From Davis Guggenheim (who brought us An Inconvenient Truth) its USP is that this doco blames weak teachers for the failing students rather than the system itself. Choosing to follow a clutch of kids from all sides of America and their families who want the best for them educationally, it manages to humanize the issue. Throw into the mix some inspirational teachers who're trying to make the difference after realizing what's wrong and some damning evidence (and some anecdotal) about where it's going wrong and you've got a fairly potent mix. Use animations and clips from the School of Rock and The Simpsons and Waiting for Superman aims to get its message out to all - many will appreciate what it's saying; some will feel, once again, that the doco maker is following his own agenda.
Tucker and Dale Vs Evil is likely to be the new cult hit (along with Rubber). A comedy horror with aspirations to do for hillbillies what Shaun of the Dead did for zombies, it's got a neat premise. Tyler Labine (of Reaper) and Alan Tudyk (of Firefly and anything cool) are the Tucker and Dale of the title; a pair of hillbillies who're just heading into the woods to do up their vacation home. But when they get nearly run off the road by a group of college kids, enemies are made. The hapless duo find things get worse when they save one of the girls from drowning and take her back to their cabin - soon, her friends are, in their words, "in a suicide pact" and "killing themselves on my property." Simple misunderstandings lead to hilarity and horror in equal measures - and you'll never look at a hillbilly again in an unsympathetic light.

The World Cinema Showcase starts this Friday in Auckland before hitting Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin. Full details here.

No comments:

Post a Comment