Once again, with heartening reliability, Bill Gosden and the New Zealand International Film Festival gang have delivered a sumptuous variety of pleasures in the line-up for this year's fest. I guess some things really are a constant in this mixed-up world.
In an effort to help you navigate what can sometimes be an overwhelming amount of choice, here are ten films from the programme that absolutely must be seen.
Fans of crazy Dutch genius Paul Verhoeven - director of Robocop, Basic Instinct and Starship Troopers - have been waiting ten years for a new film. This twisted drama starring the legendary Isabelle Huppert (whose powers somehow keep growing with every movie) and rising French star Laurent Lafitte (Bright Days Ahead, Daddy or Mommy) sounds like pure Verhoeven.
Everybody Wants Some
Writer/director Richard Linklater (Boyhood) has been a festival favourite ever since his iconic debut Slacker played in 1991. His latest film is a loving spiritual continuation of his most beloved early film, Dazed & Confused. It's a lofty aspiration that the film very much fulfills.
Resisting the temptation to jump straight into studio filmmaking after his 2013 breakout indie hit Blue Ruin, writer/director Jeremy Saulnier instead doubled down on his gritty sensibilites with this visceral stand-off thriller about a punk band baled up by a bunch of skinheads led by Patrick Stewart. The film is lent unexpected poignancy for featuring one of the final lead performances from the late Anton Yelchin.
Ben Wheatley marked himself as England's most exciting contemporary filmmaker with the devastating 2011 thriller Kill List. His two efforts since then - Sightseers and A Field In England - felt like diversions. This adaptation of JG Ballard's 1975 novel in which Tom Hiddleston heads a killer cast, does not.
This award-winning documentary illustrates (literally) how an autistic child who loved Disney cartoon movies was able to use the films as a medium to communicate his feelings. Tissues. You will need tissues.
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
The chance to see Robert Altman's iconic 1971 anti-Western on the big screen is not one to be missed. Cinematic in ways few other entries in the genre ever were, it's also a wonderful vehicle for the unique chemistry between leads Warren Beatty and Julie Christie.
More and more films these days try to tap in to the tone of 1980s Spielberg films, but none have succeeded as well as Jeff Nichols' (Take Shelter, Mud) does in this beautiful sci-fi-infused family drama that is both grounded and fantastical.
Poi E: The Story of Our Song
A welcome celebration of the hit single that stands as one of the most deeply ingrained and identifiable elements of New Zealand popular culture.
Representing the return of internationally successful Kiwi(ish) director Alison Maclean (Crush, Jesus' Son) to New Zealand filmmaking, this adaptation of Eleanor Catton's first book concerns a drama school class of young actors. James Rolleston (Boy) takes the lead and Jane Campion's daughter Alice Englert (Beautiful Creatures) is in support.
Under The Shadow
I admit a certain bias towards the Incredibly Strange section of the programme, but that's only because seeing a genre film with a clean slate is such a rare delight these days. Doubly so when it's a foreign film, which is the case with this Iranian thriller arriving with good buzz out of Sundance.