From February 2010, The Lumière Reader will publish from its all-new website. This existing website will remain online in an archival capacity until we relocate its content.
JACOB POWELL’s annual pilgrimage to the 24 Hour Movie Marathon – this year in its tenth edition – yielded 14 cult films. He recounts the midnight madness in diary format.
BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: Ken Loach.

DESPITE his films being of quite eclectic subject matter, Ken Loach is primarily known for his kitchen-sink, social realism. He made his name with the controversial 60s TV movie Cathy Come Home, and since then has shown an empathy and understanding of everyday people’s struggles. His politics aren’t hard to decipher, and while the politics in The Navigators are obvious, the film’s success comes his almost exclusive focus on his protagonists and their increasing desperation with the way times have changed.

Reviewed by Brannavan Gnanalingam

IT’S an incontrovertible fact that good books rarely make good movies. But a movie adaptation shouldn’t be making the source material look bad. Unfortunately The Vintner’s Luck, the movie, seems to think that by simply mixing a critically regarded book with a beautiful setting, it will strike cinematic gold. Instead, the film is a mess. It’s emotionally sterile, disjointed in its narrative, full of characters lacking in character, and scripted without any of Elizabeth Knox’s spiritual or thematic resonance. It’s also unconscionably timid. The film, a New Zealand Film Commission product, is further proof of the national funding body’s unambitious, mediocre approach to national cinema and is deeply disappointing because of what the film could (or should) have been.
ALEXANDER BISLEY recaps the best in comedy television on DVD. In this installment: Flight on the Conchords: Season Two, Extras: The Complete Collection, The Simpsons: Season Twelve.
BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: good cop, bad cop.

Infernal Affairs will forever suffer comparisons to its Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning remake The Departed. Scorsese’s film was bloated, weighed down by its star power, and revelled in the moral ambiguity of the premise. Infernal Affairs in contrast is buffed down to a sheen, the moral ambiguity of the narrative a thin (but important) film around its seeming glossy fashion shoot. But that doesn’t make Infernal Affairs a bad film. Anything but – it’s one of the most enjoyable action films of the last decade. The narrative is so tightly coiled, the tension arises simply from waiting for the script’s muscles to flex.
This Novemeber’s German Film Festival marks two decades since the fall of the Berlin wall. BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM checks out one of the twenty post-reunification films on offer.

BERLIN has regained a reputation as one of the world’s most eclectic and electric party spots over the last decade, a sort of 1920s Weimer decadence typified by a wildly diverse artistic scene, plenty of young people attracted by the cheap rent/squatting opportunities, and the city’s spatial dynamics. And as Hannes Stöhr’s Berlin Calling shows, the heady mix of drugs, music, and artistic types has had both productive and cautionary effects on some of Berlin’s citizens. The film, while at times a hackneyed narrative of self-destruction and redemption, is aided by its pulsating techno soundtrack and its depiction of the great city.
ALEXANDER BISLEY reports from the Wellington Film Society. Coming up: Sembene’s swansong.

Moolaade was the last film from Ousmane Sembene, the Senegalese father of African cinema. The rebel with a cause went out in style. Expelled from a conservative school, Sembene forged a saw-toothed, egalitarian consciousness as an immigrant Marseille dockworker. He damn near perfected art as politics with Moolaade, a rousing film that recommends itself also on purely aesthetic grounds.
BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: dangerous liasons.

PIERRE Choderlos de Laclos’s novel Les Liaisons Dangereuses has had a number of glossy, attractive re-workings. This Korean adaptation has similarities to its other more famous siblings (Dangerous Liaisons, Valmont, Cruel Intentions) – essentially it’s beautiful people doing despicable things to each other. And while it’s hard to really care about the awfulness on display at times, Untold Scandal is an immaculately shot, rather sexy version of a society in freefall and moral decay.
BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: Korean anarchy.

I’VE SEEN the brilliant Attack the Gas Station! twice in large crowds now, and have seen totally divergent reactions. Half the crowd walked out during the Film Society screening, perhaps put off the dubbed American accents which sounded positively Brechtian. The other time was in a class studying Korean cinema, and the audience were hooting and clapping along with the film – and perhaps to fully appreciate how pointed the film really is, an understanding of its targets, like the latter audience would have had, might assist.
STEVE GARDEN’s final word on New Zealand International Film Festival, in which the likes of Dogtooth, 24 City, Double Take, Serbis, Summer Hours and Eccentricities of a Blond Hair Girl impressed and demanded repeat viewings.
ALEXANDER BISLEY recaps the recent best and rest in film and DVD. In this installment: Somersault, Pete Seeger: Live in Australia 1963, Notorious, Defiance, The Wrestler (DVD); Cathay Pacific Italian Film Festival 2009, The Strength of Water, Disgrace, District 9 (Film).
GREGOR CAMERON reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: five Kiwi shorts.

THERE’s something very powerful about seeing a generation grow up in front of you. Parents know this. At the Film Society on Monday evening members were treated to a programme that seemed to do this right in front of them.

The evening belonged to Donogh Rees as each short film featured her performances. Our first meeting occurs through Pheno Was Here (Richard Riddiford, 1982) which also stars Kelly Johnson fresh from filming Goodbye Pork Pie the year before. Significantly this is a film made post-Springbok and there is, along with their familiar joyous play, a darker pitch, and a world less worthy. Rees and Johnson are the young people trying to evolve, on the run, armed with spray cans yet seem somewhat lost. In this world justice seems divorced from right and wrong, no better underpinned than when Duncan Smith’s cop catches up with Pheno (Rees) at the airport and instead of arresting her buys another ticket and leaves New Zealand with her. The film serves as a pocket reminder to those of us that lived through it of how ambiguous we felt about our country back then.
Compassionate and hard-hitting, Warwick Thornton’s Cannes-winning Samson and Delilah returns to cinemas this week following screenings at the New Zealand International Film Festival. He talks to BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM.
BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: Wong Kar-wai style.

WONG KAR-WAI makes films that are so sexy, you kinda forget his are all about thwarted love, the failure of communication, and the end of the world. In time to come, his films may end up being the visual representation of the 1990s, a decade which may go down as one of the most transformative decades politically, socially, and technologically in human history. Wong’s films are all about the senses, and of time passing, and his hit-man thriller/romance Fallen Angels fits in nicely with the feel of Wong’s best work.
BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: round three of shorts by the doyenne of the French New Wave.

IT’S ALMOST misleading to call Sergei Parajanov’s extraordinary film a Soviet one. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more political statement made in the history of cinema, and given the personal consequences on Parajanov, let alone the film’s political intent, the film is as anti-Soviet as you can get. But then The Colour of Pomegranates couldn’t have been made anywhere but in the Soviet Union, where Parajanov channelled unashamedly nationalistic and Christian motifs in direct opposition to those championed by the Soviet authorities. In other words, this film couldn’t have been made without the repressive conditions Parajanov was screaming against. The film’s almost sealed Armenian nationalism has led to its marginalisation by film critics however. As it requires an intimate knowledge of its subjects, any reviewer not in-tune with the symbolic significance of its tableaux cannot do much beyond give a loose overview of its themes or talk about its aesthetic qualities – but that shouldn’t put off viewers. It’s undeniably one of the greatest films ever made.
BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM chats to Stephanie Cook, subject of a new documentary by Vanguard Films’ Russell Campbell.

FOLLOWING on immediately from the Vanguard Films retrospective at the Film Archive, Sisters from Siberia is the latest addition to the Kiwi collective’s stable. Directed by distinguished documentary-maker and academic Russell Campbell, the touching documentary follows Wellington City Councillor Stephanie Cook and her quest to adopt two girls (Katya and Nadya, aged nine and four respectively) from Siberia. The documentary moves to look at the two girls’ struggles/triumphs in trying to adapt to New Zealand life. Campbell frequently digresses from the main narrative, and adds interviews with former Russian citizens – and reveals the diversity, energy and colourful nature of the vibrant Russian community in the city. The documentary has its world premiere on Sunday September 20 at the Paramount Theatre in Wellington.
BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: round three of shorts by the doyenne of the French New Wave.

AGNÈS VARDA’s good friend and co-film revolutionary Chris Marker once made one of the most astonishing pieces of cinema with La Jetée – a film composed of static, two-dimensional photographs (bar one moment in the film). The photographs replicated memory, because for Marker our memories are only played back to us in 2-D. These images are inherently unreliable, but they are the best we’ve got. This treatment of the static image appears to be the philosophical underpinning of the three wonderful short films which closed the Film Society’s Varda programme.
Baiting and repelling audiences at the New Zealand International Film Festival in equal measure, Lars von Trier’s Antichrist is the most misunderstood film of year. STEVE GARDEN explains why.
BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM argues for the transgressive comedy of Sacha Baron Cohen’s ‘Brüno’.

I AM CONVINCED that if Brüno (and Borat) hadn’t crossed over to mainstream multiplexes, it would have been proclaimed an avant-garde masterpiece. Perhaps this will occur in twenty or so years time. The film isn’t even notable for its comedy (and by the way, it is rip-roaringly funny). It’s the intellectual rigour with which Sacha Baron Cohen uses his creations to confront bigotry and intolerance. Creator Cohen is essentially carrying on a tradition created by the likes of the Marquis De Sade, Georges Bataille, and the Situationists. Or you could point to a film tradition of John Waters, Russ Meyer, the Cinema of Transgression movement, Catherine Breillat, Baise-Moi etc. By challenging society over what it considers offensive or disgusting, these artists have examined the construction of taboos and the repressive nature of particular societal norms. Whereas Borat wrapped this exploration up in the cuddly, roguish titular character, Brüno pushes the boundaries even further by directly confronting the audience’s expectations with the character’s shenanigans. And the film is being given warnings all over the show by reviewers for its apparent offensiveness – a clear statement which merely confirms what Cohen is in fact challenging.
ALEXANDER BISLEY reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: Kim Ki-duk’s four seasons.

SIMPLE in its means yet cosmic in its scope, Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter… and Spring is transcendent. The lovely film, seasonally structured, meditates on a cute child’s way to nirvana, instructed by a wise old Buddhist monk. They live on a floating temple in the middle of an isolated, bucolic lake. As with his wrenching The Isle, Kim Ki-duk’s visual rhythms are innovative and beautifully hypnotic.
BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: round two of shorts by the doyenne of the French New Wave.

THE FILM SOCIETY’s jaunt through the rarely seen but blazingly important world of Agnes Varda continues with a collection of her ‘Parisian’ short films. While many in this collection are not as idiosyncratically endearing as some of her best work (though, there is of course her adoration of cats), there are some brilliant and philosophically rigorous moments throughout.
We recap the recent best and rest in film and DVD. In this installment: Underbelly: A Tale of Two Cities, Until Proven Innocent, Soul Men, Milk, Vicky Cristina Barcelona (DVD); The Hangover + Festival Repeats (Film).
Thirty years of Vanguard Films – from the politically radical (A Century of Struggle) to excursions into dramatic fiction (Taking the Waewae Express) – screen in retrospect at The Film Archive this September. Founding member Russell Campbell talks to BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM about three decades of headstrong filmmaking.
With thoughts on Broken Embraces, A Christman Tale, Disgrace, Jerichow, In the Loop and Paper Soldier, STEVE GARDEN continues his post-mortem of the New Zealand International Film Festival, separating the stellar from the middle-of-the-road.
BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: a comedy of depression.

FOR A FILM that’s remarkably depressing, You, the Living is rather funny. A dark, colourless vision of modern life, its idiosyncratic touches mean the film never feels as alienating as its subject matter. With its rich, intricate shots and understated deadpan symbolism, the film manages to elevate its subject matter into a deeply moving howl. And while it’s a little too loose in terms of its narrative, there’s no denying its idiosyncratic touch is quite something.
Premiering locally at this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival and returning to cinemas this Thursday, The Strength of Water marks Kiwi filmmaker Armagan Ballantyne’s feature debut. She takes BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM behind the scenes.
A violent quartet from the 2009 Melbourne International Film Festival. By AMY BROWN.

LIFE ISN’T always a barrel of laughs; in fact, “if you’re happy for more than ten minutes in a row, you must be an idiot”. This is a line from Baltasar Kormákur’s Icelandic dramedy, White Night Wedding, but it could apply to any of these four films from the Melbourne International Film Festival this year. Patriarchal Korean family life, adolescence in an Essex housing estate, disastrous marriage on a small Icelandic island, and a bomb disarmament squad in Iraq, provide completely different perspectives on the violence and disappointment that inevitably comes with some human interaction.
BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM reports from the Wellington Film Society. This week: round one of shorts by the doyenne of the French New Wave.

AGNÈS VARDA’s films are so disarming because they are at once playful and philosophical without the two strands frustrating the other. Following on from screenings of The Beaches of Agnès and Cléo 5 to 7 at the New Zealand International Film Festival, Monday’s Film Society programme played a collection of her shorts where the two elements of her films were again evident. Even if some of her political films have dated somewhat, her love of her characters and her idiosyncratic approach to filming ‘reality’ remain as compelling as her best feature-length work.
In Unmade Beds, director Alexis Dos Santos has reworked London as a bohemian rhapsody. He talks to BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM about making the film.
Love and listlessness in bohemian London. By JACOB POWELL.

RECREATING the spirit of those peripatetic uni days, Unmade Beds reveals its story amidst the aimless existence of urban 20-somethings brought together for brief spell in a sprawling London squat. Sporting a consistent tenor of muted cool, Alexis Dos Santos’s appealing new feature charts afresh the age old quest for love, connection, and meaning.
Director of Dig! and now We Live in Public – a short history of the internet through the exploits of dotcom millionaire and mad prophet Josh Harris – Ondi Timoner has made a habit of documenting egos and self-destruction. She talks to BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM.
Eight films that lead from the front at this year’s festival. By ALEXANDER BISLEY.

I’M NOT touching Antichrist with a ten-foot taiaha! I can’t curb my enthusiasm for A Christmas Tale, 35 Shots of Rum and Tyson. Five further stellar films make up my festival forward pack for 2009.
The animator of ‘Ghost in the Shell’ looks to the skies. By CALEB STARRENBURG.

The Sky Crawlers, the latest feature from master Japanese animator Oshi Mamoru, is based on Mori Hiroshi’s sci-fi novel of the same name. This is an important point, as the film seems to assume you’ve already read the book. At least, I had no idea what was going on for about two-thirds of the film. And by the time the pieces started falling into place, I struggled to engage.
A carte blanche concert film. By BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM.

All Tomorrow’s Parties essentially employs a well-known musical figure (like Sonic Youth, Mogwai, Dirty 3, Steve Albini) to run a music festival. They are given carte blanche to pick bands that they like or admire, and a three-day festival takes place in the English seaside. And the line-ups are usually fantastic. So anyone making a documentary on this festival would have a ridiculous amount of great music to wade through. But the problem this largely disappointing film has is, paradoxically, that there’s too much music in the documentary, and not enough music.
In the likes of Bluebeard, Wendy and Lucy, Jeanne Dielman and 35 Shots of Rum, women filmmakers provided much of the poetry at this year’s New Zealand International Film Festival, writes STEVE GARDEN.
Steven Soderbergh pulls off a cinematic coup. By NINA FOWLER.

Che is an achingly beautiful blend of biography, adventure-odyssey and deep social commentary, with a touch of blockbuster thrown in for good measure. This master work is not only remarkable for sheer scale – two revolutions, two parts, four hours – but because director Steven Soderbergh has managed to successfully bind these disparate components together.
Michael Haneke frames the rise of German fascism. By BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM.

MICHAEL HANEKE’s films work like bed bugs, hidden away, causing discomfort months later from when they were first introduced. His latest, deeply unsettling film was a last-minute addition to the New Zealand International Film Festival programme, and all I can say is Thank God for that. And while it certainly felt odd walking into a multiplex – a necessary detour as one the first countries to see the film since it won the Palme d’Or – this austere examination of the roots of German fascism looks anything but dour with its sumptuous digital projection. Haneke’s films are so emotionally glacial that they can alienate viewers, however those who share Haneke’s pessimism will find plenty to savour. And those already attuned to Haneke’s worldview will add The White Ribbon to the burgeoning list of great films by this Austrian master, that haunt well after they have been seen.
The outrageous espionage of OSS 117 returns. By CALEB STARRENBURG.

HE’S FRANCE’s top agent. His name is Hubert Bonisseur de La Bath, better known as OSS 117, a spy whose prominent jawbone is matched only by his bloated ego. And he’s the absurd secret weapon that makes this spy-thriller parody and delicious satire of Gallic arrogance so ridiculously entertaining. OSS 117: Lost in Rio is the second film by director Michel Hazanavicius that lift its protagonist from a series of 1950s pulp novels.
Filmmaker Megan Doneman tells BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM about documenting the story of India’s most controversial woman, Kiran Bedi, and overcoming her own adversity in the six-year making of Yes Madam, Sir.
Toe-to-toe with an ex-con, hitman, and would-be martial artist. By JOE SHEPPARD.

THIS YEAR’s New Zealand International Film festival saw (at least) three very different takes on that classic genre noir – one old-school, one surreal, and one farcical. First up are the mean streets and violent prison life of 1960s Sofia, in the bleak and hard-nosed Zift. The title refers to the thick, dark resin that convicted diamond thief Moth chews, but it’s also used for holding down pavestones and it’s apparently slang for shit in Bulgarian.

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