BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM looks forward to another year of earthly delights, ahead of the Film Society’s new season in March.

THE FILM SOCIETY still provides the best value for money film viewing in the country (plus, the discounts at cinemas and video stores don’t hurt either for members). While it’s easier and easier to watch good DVDs at home, there’s nothing like the communal atmosphere of enjoying cinema with an audience, and the big screen experience (even if it is frequently DVD, rather than 16mm) is still second to none. And while this year’s programme lacks anything of the calibre of Cinema Novo or the Jacques Demy retrospective, there are plenty of gems that make membership well worth it for any film fan.

One of the early highlights is the brief Lech Majewski programme. Majewski is most known for being the writer of the Julian Schnabel film Basquiat (also showing). Majewski is noted for his use of digital cameras to create some astonishing visuals, and is regarded as one of the finest proponents of the technology that is sweeping the filmmaking world. Majewski will also be present to discuss his films and methods after the Wellington screening on March 9, with other Film Society appearances to follow (check your local Society’s schedule for more details).

A collection of French films from filmmakers who have attained some status in France and on arthouse circuits worldwide is also one of the highlights this year. Arnaud Desplechin’s La Sentinelle, a loose, free-wheeling thriller (partnered with two stylish crime capers, Diva and Leos Carax’s pre-Les Amants Du Pont Neuf pairing of Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant in Mauvais Sang), as well as Bruno Dumont’s controversial Flandres, are two films which standout. Early Gus Van Sant – his delightful Mala Noche, and the more widely seen Drugstore Cowboy – are included too, and provide proof that Van Sant is indeed one of the more interesting American indie directors.

The Goethe Institut have continued their long tradition of providing great German films to the Film Society, and this year they have given a number of rarely seen East German films. The four films travel in a loose chronological order too, and will provide a fitting cinematic tribute to the felling of the Berlin Wall twenty years ago. Entry for non-members is by Koha.

I am particularly excited about the collection of short films by French veteran Agnes Varda, given Varda’s status as one of the most revolutionary filmmakers of all-time. The Colour of Pomegranates by Sergey Paradzhanov is one of the greatest films of all time, and any self-respecting film fan ought to see this howl against repression (even if much of the Armenian imagery remains too oblique for non-Armenian viewers). The masterpiece is a total contrast to the other masterpiece Film Society members saw last year by Paradzhanov – Shadows of Our Forgotten Ancestors – and is an utterly unique film.

The New Zealand Film Commission provides Film Society members a chance to see a number of New Zealand short films, that too-often maligned but very important part of cinema. The Film Society will continue its tactic from last year, and play a local short film prior to a number of the shorter films. There are also a number of popular art films from the last decade or so being shown – highlights include the rambunctious Attack the Gas Station!, a movie that is incredibly fun to watch, the beautiful Ousmane Sembene film Moolaadé, the last film the great Senegalese novelist and filmmaker made and Wong Kar-Wai’s Fallen Angels. Full programmes for Film Societies nationwide can be seen via the corressponding regional links below.

Lech Majewski, French Mavericks, East Germany and Agnès Varda seasons are programmed nationwide. The Lumière Reader will review Wellington Film Society screenings throughout 2009.

See also:
» Film Society 2008: Five Reasons to Join
» Film Society Preview 2007
» An ode to Film Society; a fatwah against DVD

*   *   *