Match Frame

Thoughts from an American editor and filmmaker in New Zealand about film and video production and post-production. Plus whatever else I feel like talking about.

Location: Balmoral, Auckland, New Zealand

A work in progress.

Monday, July 16, 2007

NZFF report #1

RED ROAD: Partially funded by Lars Von Trier's Zentropa outfit and supposedly first in a three-film series using different writer/directors but same characters and actors, this is supposed to be yet another experience in observational hand-held drama leading to surprising revelations related to grief but mostly seemed kind of absurd - I spent a good half hour in the middle muttering under my mental breath about how I didn't believe the main character. This seems to be an increasing problem for me, though - I felt the same about BROTHERS - so your mileage may vary. Craftwise, I thought it was largely well done, and certainly would check out another of Andrea Arnold's films.

ANIMATION NOW!: The film festival's yearly animation round-up program was a real mixed bag. My favorite by far was BURNING SAFARI, heavily in debt to Pixar but super entertaining. Also of note: the clever TEN THOUSAND PICTURES OF YOU, the existential WEISS, and although a bit long, the portrait of Madrid, STUART.

(BURNING SAFARI, for your viewing pleasure.)

COCAINE COWBOYS: Now we're cooking. Several almost gleefully unrepentant survivors of the Miami-based cocaine business tell how cocaine went from nothing to a nationwide epidemic, and their stories are astonishing and entertaining and appalling by turns. Some dodgy sound editing, but nobody besides me will care.

THE SIGNAL: all the reputation this had was as a brutal visceral horror, and while there's no question that it's not a family film, what I hadn't heard much about was just how funny it is, particularly in its second section. (The film is made in three sections by three different writer/directors, and while the story runs through each director puts their own twist on it.) For people who like horror and/or low-budget films, this is a must-see and a heck of a ride, although in retrospect it's not clear if it makes a lick of sense.

MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES: an absolutely outstanding film. It's billed as a documentary about artist Edward Burtynsky, but from the agonizingly long first dolly shot it's clear that this is not just a vessel for another artist but a work of art in its own right. While it took me a while (like, not til several hours after the film) to come to terms both with the fact that it is not just grappling with Burtynsky but tackling his same themes on its own terms and with its laser-like focus on China, in fact (as a. rightly pointed out to me) China is the product center through which the consumerist world inflicts its modifications to the land. Meanwhile, Jennifer Baichwal brings not just her own eye (one that is able to find in motion as iconic and indelible of images as Burtynsky finds in stillness) but an ear for sound design that is impeccable and architecturally staggering.


METAMKINE/PLAINS: Both part of the film festival and part of the Alt.Music festival. Plains is a local largely electronic group, working more on the musique concrete side of that term. They were joined by guitarist Dean Roberts tonight, playing to video accompaniment by Michael Morley, famed for his presence in the Dead C. and Gate. However, while I enjoyed the music, the relation to the largely tedious video (which, intentionally or not, I wound up watching mostly as a study in digital compression) was pretty incidental.

Metamkine I wrote about this week at Nonalignment Pact. Suffice it to say here it is an absolutely essential experience for anybody who has even the vaguest interest in non-narrative film and/or experimental viewing.

THE HIRED HAND: What a discovery. Peter Fonda's 1971 western, his directorial debut, was pretty much ignored on initial release and overlooked for decades. It stands on a relatively simple story, but one that's beautifully told, particularly with some visually dense overlaid montages and use of still shots that come into motion. Apparently Fonda managed to direct two other films (WANDA NEVADA and IDAHO TRANSFER) but hasn't directed since 1979; a shame.

FOREVER: A rambling meditation set largely in Paris's Pere-Lachaise cemetery (which weirdly enough just featured in PARIS, JE T'AIME, although Wilde's gravestone is largely a footnote here). The focus is on the relation that living people have with dead artists and how they inspire us and inform our lives, though that focus drifts to include just about anything that happens to seem interesting in the generous interviews that make up the bulk of the film. I was definitely fading during this, but I think it's fair to say that while interesting its lack of narrative drive would be a hindrance for many.

EXPLORATIONS OF FOLDED TIME: LEIGHTON PIERCE: Unknown by me til this program, Leighton Pierce has apparently been making films since the late 70's, though this focuses on his video works from the past eight years or so. The program traces the evolution of one style, starting with the meditative and relatively recognizable images of WOOD to the more densely layered THE BACK STEPS (of which a sample is featured on his web site, should you be inclined to see if his work is of any interest to you). Themes develop, grow, and recur, up to 2004's VISCERA, which is the densest, most insistent, and most fully realized work, to the point where future progress seemed unimaginable. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the last program on the film, NUMBER ONE, points in a somewhat different, relying on kaleidoscopic image doubling and the framing of multiple images in the frame. Anyway, definitely deserves more attention than I can give at the moment but very worthy of your attention if you like the abstract filmatists.

Time to get some sleep, will try to catch up with everything else I've seen tomorrow.


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