22 June, 2010

Revenge of Suspense, Laughter, Violence, Hope, Heart, Nudity, Sex, Happy Endings... Mainly Happy Endings

So here's the thing.

It is rather an impressive feat to manage to be a jerk even when you are explicitly trying not to be.

Last year, I posted about my experiences while queueing for film festival tickets, and my annoyance at these two guys who parked their car on the forecourt in front of the ticket office, sat in their car for a couple of hours, and felt that this entitled them to take the front position in the queue. I also mentioned how angry I was, both at them for being jerks, and at myself for letting them take that front place in the queue. So this year I was ready, I've spent the last few weeks psyching myself up for this. If they did the same thing this year, I would wait until they left their car and tried to claim front place, and then I would refuse to accept their claim. I would send them to the back of the queue, with (I assumed) the support of those around me. (I would have discussed it with people ahead of time.)

So it was 6am, I was walking to the ticket office, I could see it at the end of the street, and it was empty. Not a soul was visible, no cars, nothing. And then, as I watched, a minute away from the ticket office, a car pulled up, but not on the forecourt. A guy got out and put some box-shaped object on the ground in front of the ticket office, then went back to his car and brought another out to stack on top of the first object. As I walked up, I saw that he had two stereo speakers, one on top of the other, and he was putting a jacket around the speakers. And sure enough, this was one of my mortal enemies, and look, there's my other mortal enemy sitting in the car.

So the guy looks at me and comments that this was their "person," that they decided "not to be jerks" this year by parking on the forecourt, and rather they had made this person as their stand-in holding their place while they sat in their car in the car park a few metres away. Well, I wasn't expecting this exact situation, but I was still mentally prepared to take a position on this issue. "No," I said, "you cannot save a place with a stereo. If someone wants to wait in the queue and save a place for someone else, that's one thing. But inanimate objects do not get to save places for people." I told them how annoyed I was at their actions in the past, and I felt that their actions this year were just a further example of inappropriate behaviour.

So they tried to defend their actions.
"But it's cold," they said.
"I know it's cold. I know because I'm cold."
"Well you could bring your car and wait in it if you wanted," they said.
"No, because that's just not how you queue. Plus, if everyone queued in their car then pretty quickly we'd have thirty cars and a bicycle lined up in front of the ticket office inconveniencing everyone."

So they went, and they sat in the car. Meanwhile I stood out in the cold, standing by the two speakers. I had made my position clear - I did not accept their scarecrow saving their place, and I was planning on moving it out of the way, but I wanted to wait for someone else to come along before I did so. (I felt that I wanted someone else in the queue to support my position that their claim had no validity.) But after five or ten minutes, they must have had a change of heart. One of the two got out of the car, put the two speakers side-by-side to form a makeshift chair, and sat down, where he stayed until the ticket office opened. "Victory," I thought.

Here's the point where they actually became jerks. Since the guy sitting outside was now not in the car, he couldn't listen to the music they had playing. So the other guy opened the doors, turned the stereo up, and proceeded to play some really bad music really loud (certainly much louder than should be allowed at 6.30 in the morning). So here I am, trying to listen to episodes of This American Life on my iPod, but since the show is mostly just talking, even with the volume turned right up, it was hard to focus on Ira Glass's voice with the constant barrage of noise coming from the car. The guy who wasn't in the queue started doing something around his car (I wasn't paying close attention, but it seemed like he was cleaning the windows, which seems like a weird thing to do), before eventually driving away about 7am, only returning shortly before 9am to pick up the speakers and then leave again.

Meanwhile I waited, happy in the knowledge that I had actually won, and at 9am, I bought my tickets. This year I'm going to either 22 or 24 films (depending on how you count them) which makes this the most films I've been to during the festival however you count them. I'm going to be seeing:

* The Concert
* Animal Kingdom
* Four Lions
* The Housemaid
* Once Upon A Time In The West
* Exit Through The Gift Shop
* Cell 211
* Please Give
* The Most Dangerous Man In America
* A Prophet
* The Ghost Writer
* Oceans
* The Two Escobars
* Farewell
* Winter's Bone
* Cyrus
* Splice
* Carlos (Parts One, Two, and Three)
* The Double Hour
* The Red Shoes

There's a lot of films that I'm really excited about. I'm probably most looking forward to Once Upon A Time In The West. I've actually owned it for about five years, purchased solely on the basis of reputation, but just never got around to watching it. But I recently watched Once Upon A Time In America (another film I've owned for years but never actually watched) and loved it, and that reinforced my need to actually start watching Leone. And now I have the opportunity to see one of his best films at the Embassy? That is exciting.

And speaking of classic films, I've also never seen The Red Shoes, which is supposed to be extraordinarily beautiful, and with a new restoration should be a great experience.

I'm also excited to see The Illusionist, the new animated film from the director of the incredible The Triplets of Belleville. That film was quite openly inspired by the comedy movies of Jacques Tati (indeed, in one scenes the characters watch a Tati film), so it's especially exciting that in this film Sylvain Chomet is working from an unused script written by Tati.

I will admit that I am conflicted about including Polanski's new film The Ghost Writer. A friend and I had a debate last week about the film - my friend saying that she would take a principled stand against Polanski (who has, admittedly, done some rather unsavoury things in his lifetime) and refuse to see anything he does. I'm not a big Polanski fan in any case (although Chinatown is really is phenomenal), but The Ghost Writer (which had most of its post-production undertaken by Polanski while on house arrest) has a great cast and has received some really excellent reviews, and if the film were from anyone else, I wouldn't hesitate to see it. And so I don't really see the point in refusing to see the film. I don't really think Polanski cares whether one person in New Zealand refuses to see his film because of something that happened thirty years ago, and for me to refuse to see it would deprive myself of a film that I might enjoy in order to make a point that no-one would notice or care about. And what would be the point in that? So I'm seeing it.

The Two Escobars is a film I would never have thought about seeing but for a coincidence of timing. Although it's not mentioned in the programme listing, the film was produced as part of a highly-acclaimed series of 30 sports-based documentaries intended to commemorate ESPN's 30th anniversary, and the day before the festival programmes came out, my favourite TV critic previewed the upcoming screening of the show in the States with the comment that "It's an incredible film, arguably the high point so far in a series that's been full of award contenders."

Similarly, the programme description of Winter's Bone doesn't sound too fascinating, but a week ago I heard several highly-praising references to the film, first a brief reference in the Firewall and Iceberg podcast, and then an entire segment dedicated to the film in the AV Talk podcast, so I'm excited about that one.

I was toying with the idea of seeing Predicament, the New Zealand film that is having its world premiere as the official opening night film. But when I realised it would clash with Inside Job, the documentary about the recent financial crisis (because yes, I am that boring), my decision was made for me. If Predicament turns out to be any good, I'm sure I'll have other chances to see it.

Then there's the Carlos the Jackal biopic, Carlos. I was uncertain about seeing the film - it's actually three films totalling 5 1/2 hours, and a film at that length can be daunting, especially if the film doesn't work for you. But a quick Google search brought up a lot of rave reviews from the Cannes festival, so it should be good.

Back in 1999, Vincenzo Natali's Cube was one of my favourite films of that year's festival. I don't think I've seen anything of his since then, so it will be interesting to see Splice and get an idea of how he's developed as a filmmaker, especially now he's working with (I assume) a bigger budget.

And then there are the rest. A Prophet is supposed to be incredible, The Double Hour sounds fascinating (although I am anxious about seeing it at the end of a day that features the marathon Carlos), Exit Through the Gift Shop is supposed to be a lot of fun (although I know even less about the film's subject, graffiti artist Banksy, than most people), and the rest of them just sound like they should be enjoyable movies. And then there are all the films I wanted to see but can't get to because of time clashes (a lot of those this year) or just needing to keep the number of films down to a reasonable level. It's been a particularly hard festival this year to make my film selections - and that's a good problem to have.

For me there are two real disappointments around the festival. Having attended the Live Cinema event the last few years (where they screen a silent film with live musical accompaniment), I was a little disappointed by this year's Live Cinema film, which doesn't interest me at all. Still, I wasn't too disappointed until I discovered that, in Auckland, they are showing Buster Keaton's Sherlock Jr - one of the best films from one of the masters of silent comedy. Now that would be a great film to see, but sadly the Wellington festival isn't getting it.

The other disappointment is around a film that isn't screening anywhere in the festival. The first time I ever saw Metropolis, it was at a festival screening of the then-new restoration back in 2003. Of course, since then, the complete uncut print of that incredible film has been discovered and, with it currently screening in US cinemas, I had my fingers crossed for a festival screening of the complete Metropolis. Sadly, the film is nowhere to be found in the programme. I was hoping for my first viewing to be on the big screen, but it seems I'll probably need to wait for the Blu-Ray release later this year.

Still, with such a wealth of potentially enjoyable and possibly great films ahead of me, I can't be too disappointed. I'm anticipating a good festival this year. I have my tickets, now I just want it to start.

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