This year, like most years, I haven't seen as many movies at the New Zealand International Film Festival as I would have liked to.
A long time ago it was money, or rather lack of it, holding me back. This necessitated that the overly enthusiastic longlist I'd lovingly curated after poring through the NZIFF's hefty programme be ruthlessly chopped down to a more sensible and affordable shortlist.
As any budget planner knows there's "affordable" and then there's what you can actually afford. Thus each year I engaged in the ruthless and bloodthirsty ritual known as The Culling of the Films. My red pen striking down upon the list with great vengeance and furious anger as I hacked and slashed my way to the few films that I could realistically afford to see.
I wish I could say things have changed since those fiscally barren times. They haven't. In what can only be called a display of superb of financial nous I cleverly augmented my no money with two children thus eliminating the one resource I previously had in great abundance: time.
No money, no time, no problems? I'm not sure if I'm getting the saying quite right there. But it has meant my Film Fest binging has slimmed down even more in the past five years.
Because as soon as organising babysitters enters the equation of a night out I need to feel assured that the heroic effort involved in leaving the house will be rewarded. And when it comes to the Film Fest, well, sadly that's not always a guarantee...
I've sat through films I was certain were going to be cinematic triumphs only to spend two hours of my life kicking myself for choosing a cinematic turkey. But I accept this. As seasoned fest goers will acknowledge, it's a gamble. That's part of the deal.
This year that's been mitigated somewhat thanks to the raging global pandemic that saw the NZIFF go mostly online. I could afford to take a chance on more movies because the barriers were much lower in my lounge.
So what have I been watching? Well, here's a brief rundown of the best that I've seen so far.
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You should absolutely drink up Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets, a doco about the final day of a Las Vegas dive bar. It stirs a lot of emotions as the wayward patrons, who are almost exclusively down-on-their luck alcoholics, come for one final, farewell drink(s). It's funny and sad and entertaining and only loses a smidge of its impact when you learn it's only really half documentary and half fiction.
It was in the opening minute of Kubrick by Kubrick, an actual documentary, that I realised it was the first time I'd ever heard Stanley Kubrick's voice. He has a sort of lazy American drawl in case you're wondering. Aside from his vocals it wasn't hugely illuminating, but it was interesting to hear him talk about his work at such length.
Cinema's bright light also shone on reclusive avant garde designer Martin Margiela. Fashion's invisible man never granted a single interview in his 20 years at the top of high couture so doco Martin Margiela: In His Own Words is a fascinating coup, as he gives insight about the philosophical ideas behind his confusing and confronting designs.
Put French icon Catherine Deneuve in a movie and I will watch it. Her latest, the elegant, humorous family melodrama The Truth, was an easy and engaging watch. Even if it felt more traditional than wildly original.
Conversely, the Lao ghost story The Long Walk was an original spin on genre norms. Even if that spin was largely to take away frights and slow the pace down to a languid crawl. Still, I very much enjoyed its unique foreignness and haunting story, even when I wasn't always certain of what was going on.
And lastly I've seen Exile, a German psychodrama about the bubbling breaking point of a man who feels victimised by racism and xenophobia. Suffering micro-aggressions at work and being harassed by someone stuffing dead rats in his mailbox he does have something of a case, but his response and growing paranoia leads to dark places.
The Festival finishes on Monday and I'm hoping to catch a couple more before then. Your personal circumstances will determine whether the trade-off between losing the Film Fest vibe and big-screen experience but gaining living room convenience has been worth it or not.
For me, as a parent, enjoying the NZIFF from the comfort of my own house has been nothing but upside. After tucking the kids into bed I've watched a Film Fest flick most nights. It's the most I've been able to engage with the festival in years. Even with cinemas now open, I sincerely hope online remains a crucial part of the festival for years to come.