The NZ International Film Festival season is upon us – beginning tonight – and we are yet again faced with a programme filled to the brim with fantastic films. So for those of us who can’t see everything, how best do you go about choosing what to watch? While by no means an exhaustive list, we here at The Speakeasy have picked a few films which have piqued our interest – and while we can’t promise that they’ll be the best films of the festival (or any such hyperbolic nonsense), they do come highly regarded and are all worth a watch.

WILD

A walk on the wild side in the most literal sense, Wild is a wayward, confrontational, anarchic, sexually outre modern fairy tale that balances on a razor-sharp edge between the genuinely provocative and the totally out-there. I remembered reading about Wild when it premiered at Sundance and Nicolette Krebitz’s third feature film has stuck with me since. Krebitz exhibits real nerve and rigorous control in equal measure as she tells a visceral tale of a young woman drawn into a sexual relationship with a wolf. Yes, you read that right – an actual wolf. This film will likely be beyond the pale for the more sedate NZIFF regulars but should develop a following among adventurous viewers hungry for something different. I’m intrigued.

Shawn

HIGH RISE 

Directed by British cult-director Ben Wheatley, High Rise is adapted from J. G. Ballard’s 1975 book about the savage breakdown of social order inside a giant residential apartment block. Featuring an all-star cast that includes Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, and Sienna Miller, this dystopian fable was once deemed “unfilmable”, but then again so was  another one of Ballard’s novels – Crash. The film is an ambitious undertaking and one of the most mainstream films in the festival – it’s definitely one to check out.

Shawn

ELLE 

To say that Elle is a hard-sell is a bit of an understatement. Dutch auteur Paul Verhoeven has created a dark, perverse, and tastefully twisted late-life crisis thriller that has been described by The Guardian as a “rape-revenge comedy” (much to Verhoeven’s annoyance). Starring the wonderful Isabelle Huppert, this French farce, chronicles the experiences of  a rape victim who gets her rocks off every time she comes face-to-face with her assailant. However, rather than prompting walkouts at Cannes, Elle received a seven minute standing ovation and rave reviews. That’s enough to pique my interest.

Shawn

LIFE, ANIMATED

In Life, Animated, Academy Award winning director Roger Ross Williams presents a moving and unique tale of the true power that film can wield. The documentary follows the life of Owen Suskind, a young autistic man who was unable to speak throughout his childhood until he and his family discovered a unique way to communicate: By immersing themselves in the world of classic animated Disney films. Like most kids I loved Disney films; so it’ll be interesting to see the full extent to which they can not only provide entertainment but also become a tool for healing. I can’t think of a better example of the therapeutic power of art at this years Festival.

 – Nathan

WEINER 

Described as “….an alternately fascinating, mystifying and appalling portrait of the quest for power at its most obsessive and self-destructive” by Ann Hornday of the Washington Post, Weiner follows the ill-fated mayoral campaign of its titular subject. As I watched the trailer with horrified amusement I knew this would be going straight on my must-watch. Equal parts cringe-worthy, absurd, and illuminating; this character study is not to be missed. I cannot wait to watch the train wreck unfold before my eyes.

Nathan

THE REHEARSAL 

Based on Eleanor Catton’s  novel of the same name and directed by Alison Maclean, The Rehearsal  is a home-grown peek into the world of budding young actor Stanley (played by James Rolleston) as he tries to make his mark on the theatre scene while struggling with questions of his own self-hood. The trailer reminded me of Whiplash, featuring an ambitious lead character and an interesting tutor/tutored dynamic. With its world premiere on 23rd July,  local audiences will be the first to see this fascinating exploration of millennial identity

Nathan

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