Watching brief

Peter Calder at the New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland

Watching Brief: Tragedy and comedy

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 Cave Of Forgotten Dreams . Photo / Supplied
Cave Of Forgotten Dreams . Photo / Supplied

Major blunder, verging on catastrophe. I have missed out on tickets to the 3D post-festival screenings of Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams.

I can't believe I took my eye of the ball. The Herzog film is usually the first one I tick in any programme that contains one. I took a lot of stick for detesting Grizzly Man but he is such an old friend that I feel entitled to get angry with him from time to time.

I don't mean his literally a friend, of course. It's just that we've been knocking around together for more than 40 years now: he makes films and I watch them. We go back as far as Even Dwarves Started Small, I think (check out the trailer online and ask yourself how a film like that would go down these days) and we've only fallen out the once.

So I will have to wait for that one to return on general release - but if you've got a couple of tickets and can't use them, flick me an email.

Noon update: I now learn that the 10pm screening on Saturday July 30 has about 80 seats left, but I don't fancy my chances of staying awake for that, so my plaintive request stands.

I'm allowed to mention that it will do so now, because it's sold out. Normally I keep quiet about the ones that are coming back. This is at the festival's request and they have good reason for their coyness: they rely on good box office for popular titles, which will return, so that they can afford to take a hit on small-appeal and interesting minority product.

In the absence - for four years now - of a principal, naming-rights sponsor, the fest is more than ever in a precarious financial position.

It's a non-profit operation, as lean as a whippet in terms of expenses, and those few who annually criticise it for having too many commercial selections are misguided: if you check the programmes for Venice, Berlin, New York, Toronto and London, you will see that we are pretty well served.

As we enter the second week - not quite the half-way point - I'm far from saturated. I've been pacing myself.

I really enjoyed Footnote yesterday, although I thought the programme note's description of it as a comedy was a bit adrift. Maybe Israelis have a finer sense of how thin the line is between comedy and tragedy. (Comedy is when you miss out on tickets to Cave of Forgotten Dreams; tragedy is when I do).

Interestingly, it had an unresolved ending which seems to be one of the themes of the festival this year: Sleeping Sickness, The Kid With A Bike, A Separation, Take Shelter all stopped short of tying everything up.

I like it that way: for my money, the terrific Las Acacias would have been better with the final conversation foreshadowed but not taking place.

STREET THEATRE: As the closing credits rolled at the end of the second screening of Australian true crime drama Snowtown yesterday afternoon, the audience members, perhaps stunned by what they had seen, assumed that the siren they were hearing was on the film's soundtrack.

In fact it was an evacuation alarm so the post-screening Q&A with director Justin Kurzel and lead actor Dan Henshall became an informal chat with some of the film's admirers on the footpath.

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