The New Zealand International Film Festival has announced a new series called Autumn Events to be held in Auckland and Wellington from mid-April to May, taking the place of the now defunct World Cinema Showcase. The stellar programme features digital restorations of David Lean’s 1962 masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia and the 1955 musical adaptation Guys and Dolls starring Marlon Brando and Frank Sinatra, as well as some essential documentaries, including Eugene Jarecki’s searing look at America’s failed War on Drugs in The House I Live In, Lauren Greenfield’s fascinating American-dream-gone-wrong character study The Queen of Versailles, and Nisha Pahuja’s intriguing look at India’s culture clash over women’s rights in The World Before Her. Several under-the-radar festival favourites make welcome appearances, from Oliver Assayas’ highly-anticipated new drama After May (aka Something in the Air) to the Oscar-nominated Norwegian historical drama Kon-Tiki and Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur’s similarly nautical true story The Deep. Last but certainly not least are two provocative entries bound to make your skin crawl and push the limits of taste: Brandon Cronenberg’s creepy body horror Antiviral, and the Ant Timpson-produced horror anthology The ABCs of Death which boasts 26 diverse genre filmmakers — notably Ben Wheatley (Sightseers), Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes) and Ti West (The Innkeepers) — each assigned a letter of the alphabet. This promises to be a great little series of eclectic films to tide us over until the main event in July, and I am very much looking forward to watching as many of these as I can on Auckland’s wonderful Civic screen. You can check out my top five picks of the programme below, and be sure to lookout for reviews throughout the Autumn Events.
For more details on the Autumn Events programme, including screening dates and ticketing information, head to the NZIFF website.
For those who mourned the loss of director retrospectives at the NZ International Film Festival in recent years, this latest Autumn Events update is just for you. The final additions to the programme include three digitally restored classics from legendary French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard — 1962’s Vivre Sa Vie, 1964’s hugely influential Bande à part (Band of Outsiders), and 1965’s Pierrot le Fou (all starring his wife at the time, Anna Karina) — and four rarely exhibited features from A Separation filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who is arguably Iran’s most important cinematic voice. Needless to say, these additions are a small treasure trove of cinematic gold and yet another reason to celebrate this great new mini-festival.
1. AFTER MAY (SOMETHING IN THE AIR)
Following back-to-back triumphs with 2008’s Summer Hours and 2010’s epic masterpiece Carlos, writer/director Olivier Assayas returns with After May (Après Mai aka Something in the Air in the U.S.), a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age drama set during the French political awakening of the early ’70s. The film features a cast of young up-and-comers led by Lola Créton (Goodbye First Love), as well as what looks to be some gorgeous cinematography and a great soundtrack. Assayas is one of the very best filmmakers working in France today, and this film has been steadily garnering critical acclaim since its Venice debut last year, so I have very high expectations.
Watch a new U.S. trailer for After May below.
2. LAWRENCE OF ARABIA
David Lean’s sweeping, epic and Academy Award-dominating 1962 magnum opus Lawrence of Arabia celebrated its 50th Anniversary last year at Cannes with a new 4K restoration of the 1988 Director’s Cut, which runs at an exhaustive 227 minutes! This benchmark film will look absolutely glorious on the Civic’s recently revamped 4K projection system, and this is a right-of-passage experience not to be missed for true cinephiles.
Watch the trailer for the 50th Anniversary digital restoration of Lawrence of Arabia below.
3. THE HOUSE I LIVE IN
Of the three fascinating documentaries mentioned earlier, this angry and intelligent investigation into America’s War on Drugs by director Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight, The Trials of Henry Kissinger) grabbed my attention the most. Filmed in over 20 states, The House I Live In captures heart-wrenching stories from individuals at all levels of this failed war, as well as an insightful interview with David Simon (The Wire, Treme). This film will likely be remembered as one of the most important documentaries of 2012, so serious doco fans ought to take note.
Watch the trailer for The House I Live In below.
Brandon Cronenberg — son of legendary Canadian director David (Videodrome, Cosmopolis) — makes his feature debut with Antiviral, a dark satire of our celebrity-obsessed culture that should do his old man proud when it comes to unsettling body horror. The film stars Caleb Landry Jones (X-Men: First Class) as a clinic worker who smuggles the viruses of stars to sell on the black market, and it certainly seems to bear the influence of Cronenberg Snr’s twisted early work while avoiding mimicry. The trailers and word-of-mouth have been rather promising so far, and I’m very curious to see how the younger Cronenberg’s film compares.
Watch the latest red-band trailer for Antiviral below.
Kon-Tiki tells the high adventure true story of Norwegian national hero Thor Heyerdahl (played by Pål Sverre Valheim Hagen), an explorer who sailed 8,000 km across the Pacific Ocean in a self-built raft from South America to the Tuamotu Islands in 1947. Co-directed by Espen Sandberg and Joachim Ronning (Max Manus: Man of War), the film is Norway’s most expensive production to date and was their submission for the Best Foreign Film Oscar — impressively making it to the final five (inevitably losing to Amour) — and from the looks of the trailer it harkens back to the kind of old-fashioned adventure yarn that rarely gets made anymore.
Watch the latest Kon-Tiki trailer below.