Sunday, 30 March 2014

Autumn Events Q&A

Autumn Events Q&A

It's almost time - with winter drawing in, and autumn firmly here, it can only mean the New Zealand International Film Festival is on the horizon. But before then is the brilliant Autumn Events (find out more about the films at the NZIFF website on
I caught up with Festival director Bill Gosden to see what's what about the event which runs from April 11th to May 18th in Auckland, Christchurch, Wellington, Napier and Dunedin.

It’s back again – what’s the thinking behind this event?
To capitalise on the twin opportunities provided by some acclaimed digital restorations and state-of-the-art projection facilities in several of the country’s most fabulous cinema venues.

How much discussion goes into the programme?
First, there’s the internal conversations around the office about trying to balance and diversify the programme - and then there’s the discussions with the rights holders.

What are your criteria for choosing the films on offer?
We need to know that the digital work is top notch. That requirement has ruled out a few great films currently available in very disappointing digital transfers. Anyone who has watched the flesh tones shift around in a Blu-Ray of an old Technicolor favourite will know what I mean. Likewise, some restorations have gone back to source material and bypassed subsequent grading to devastating effect: in the Psycho transfer you never doubt that you’re watching actors under studio lights and you can see the skin blemishes through the powder on Janet Leigh’s face. No such calamities on our classic programme!

With one screening in each city, is it the feeling of making this an event?
The economies of operating in these great venues alone make each screening a luxury! And at the Civic, Auckland; Embassy, Wellington; and Regent, Dunedin, we’re returning these films to exactly the kind of venue they were designed to fill.

It’s quite the line-up of talent isn’t it? 
That’s for certain. We’re not exactly unearthing unknown gems here. What’s compelling to me is what remains fresh or striking enough in these films to retain the impact of first contact. The bravado and conspicuous risk to human life in Aguirre remain staggering and exciting. Brando’s sensitive brute still cuts to the heart. Orson Welles’ infamous “cuckoo clock” speech is forever spine-tingling in its flagrant cynicism. As for the contemporary resonance of Dr Strangelove, how galling is that? And Audrey Hepburn still looks appealing in those insanely elegant Givenchy gowns of 1956.

What do each of them bring to the big screen?
Spectacle. We chose films that expand to those grand spaces with images, and emotion.

It’s also a chance to see Miyazaki’s cruelly-robbed-of-an-Oscar last movie as well -what can you tell us about that?
He says The Wind Rises is his last, and we’re all reluctant to take his word for it, but it is most definitely a film about looking back. Dealing as it does with the aeronautical engineer most famous for equipping the kamikaze pilots of WWII, it’s also a film about recognising the inherent amorality of an ardent creative spirit. Many have found this a surprising choice of theme for Miyazaki, considering the positive spirit that has characterised every one of his key works. It struck me as a moving expression of chagrin in the face of all the evils in the world no artist can vanquish, and yet there’s a placidity about it too, a state of acceptance. It’s a troubling, beautiful film, animation for grown-ups, and not at all suitable for an Academy Award.

Astaire, Brando – who’s the best?
How opposite could two superstars be? You want romance or you want sex? Maybe you’re a greedy filmgoer like me and want both these guys. It’s amazing that two such radically different screen presences were both working in the same decade. Astaire is the debonair master of control, every tap and step rehearsed, every dance, no matter how exuberant, choreographed to stay absolutely within the frame. What can you do but sit back and revel in the romantic fantasy? With Brando the relationship is so much more intimate. You sit forward, not back. He does so little – you hear him breath and he seems to need all the oxygen in the room.

A last minute addition of a Peter Sellers classic too...
The last-minute nature of this Auckland confirmation is unfortunate, but the slot became available late in the piece. We were aware that Dr Strangelove had recently played Wellington, but not Auckland. It’s the 50th Birthday restoration and you won’t have to Google far to see how much political commentary this particular anniversary has generated.

Just finally, which of the venues is the best and why?
The one in which you are sitting.

Actually, I know I said that was the last question, but c’mon, give us an exclusive for this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival....
Everywhere I look at the moment: films about fathers and sons. Last year’s Kore-eda film was getting in early. Expect at least five of them at NZIFF 2014.

For more on the Autumn Events and the times / locations of screenings, head to the NZIFF website!

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