Watching brief
Peter Calder at the New Zealand International Film Festival in Auckland

Watching Brief: Sleeping sickness

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Paul Liebrandt paints sauce in  A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt . Photo / Supplied
Paul Liebrandt paints sauce in A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt . Photo / Supplied

Around about now, I suspect, plenty of people are re-evaluating the wisdom of their decision to spurn the flu jab.

I certainly hope the Professor's son, who's been sick for more than a week, is doing so.

I've been a devotee for more than a dozen years for the very good reason that freelance operators don't get sick leave. They grin and bear illness or they don't earn.

A few years ago I felt feverish and sniffy one afternoon, went to bed and awoke the next morning completely recovered.

"What the hell was that?" I asked my doctor next time I saw him. I'd had the flu, he explained, but years of vaccinations, especially the most recent one, had given me enough resistance to brush off the virus that was sending unvaccinated folks to their sick beds for a fortnight.

I suspect the same thing just happened. I felt like death warmed up late yesterday morning but the afternoon in bed, finishing Nineteen Eighty-Four, which I hadn't read since my teenage years and I'm up and about this morning.

I realise - more than opponents of vaccination ever will - that one person's anecdote doesn't constitute anything like scientific proof, but there you have it anyway.

As a result of this most unwelcome indisposition, I missed the second and final screening of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (so I'll have to wait until in comes back in November with the NZSO playing the score) and the Italian enigma called Le Quattro Volte, which is a bit of a bugger. But I figured it was better to miss a day than push myself and risk missing the rest of the week.

I had managed to get along to Ain't In It For My Health, the portrait of The Band's drummer Levon Helm, which I thought very disappointing.

Director Jacob Hatley, making his first full-length film, plainly assembled far too much material - he hung around Helm for about three years - and structurally the film was a complete mess. If he had decided on a narrative line and shot it in a month or so, the result would have been much better.

It was certainly sad to see a man still so consumed with bitterness about Robbie Robertson's having received all The Band's songwriting royalties (no one seems to dispute that he wrote the songs) and about the premature deaths of pianist Richard Manuel and bassist Rick Danko, tortured souls both.

But there is only so much you can take of watching a 70-year-old with throat cancer sitting round his kitchen table shooting the breeze while everybody competes to laugh loudest at his jokes. And the music was pretty crap, too.

Anyway, back into it today. I hope to have more to report from festival central tomorrow morning.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Expatriate filmmaker Sally Rowe is at the Film Café tonight (6.30 for 7pm) to talk about her film A Matter of Taste: Serving Up Paul Liebrandt.

The subject of the documentary is an English chef in New York but the subject matter, I thought, was the influence of the New York Times' restaurant reviewer (at that time Frank Bruni) over the fortunes of any eatery in the Big Apple.

Film and television has spent so much time in the kitchens of restaurants that the currency is cheapened, it seems to me. But the story this film tells has not, to my knowledge, been done before.

Rowe's interlocutor is Leanne Pooley, director of Untouchable Girls (about the Topp Twins) and Haunting Douglas (about Douglas Wright).

If you haven't already seen the Harry Belafonte doco Sing Your Song, which is on at the same time, this presents a tough choice.

With the greatest respect to Rowe and Pooley, I'll be at the pictures.

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