A quick rush through the reviews as I have to get a train shortly. Also a quick tidy of my kitchen, fridge cleaned out, garbage tossed and dishwasher running. Filmfest for me finishes at 7 and I’m looking forward to getting a pizza after and opening a bottle of red.
The setting for the first film yesterday, How I Ended This Summer by Alexei Popogrebsky, was the unforgiving landscape of a remote Russian outpost in the Arctic Circle. Two men, one who’s been doing it for years and years, and one a new recruit. Some of the interaction is the expected tension between old and new, but some is played out against the backdrop of a remote, isolating place. The older man remains mostly stoic throughout, while the younger is put out and retreats both within and without, preferring to run away other than confront his pain points. The resulting escalation of events was somewhat cringeworthy. I liked it though with reservation.
The second movie was a wonderful piece from New Zealand, Home by Christmas directed by Gaylene Preston. This was something of a family memoir and the history of the Preston family in war as told to the director in taped interviews with her father before he died. Tony Barry acts in the role of the old man remembering using a script created from the tapes. This was interspersed with a mix of archival footage and acted scenes to combine into a wonderful story. It was fun and interesting and insightful. An absolute pleasure.
After that one, it was a rushed walk down to the Opera House to catch Dracula, pages from a virgin’s diary, directed by Guy Maddin. A vampire ballet of sorts, based on Stoker’s story. Maddin is one of my favourite directors and this was mesmerising. Shot in 2002 but looks on screen like one of the silent flicks, yet with well used colour here and there. An old style display combined with more recent effects. I wasn’t sure how it’d go but it worked, with dancers and acting, swoons and gore. I’m not a ballet fan myself and it initially struck me as more of an acted piece with ballet bits but the ballet increased as the movie continued. It was an inventive take on an old story that I think paid off.
At the conclusion of the Maddin, it was a matter of walking back to the State and joining the queue for the final movie of the evening, the new flick from Roman Polanski entitled The Ghost Writer. The star, Ewan McGregor, was on hand to introduce it and stuck around for a Q&A after – as I usually do with the last film of the night, I skipped the Q&A so I could get the train though I was tempted to stay as McGregor was engaging in his introduction. This was a nice little thriller as what seems to be a simple ghost written biography expands into a more sinister plot which takes a a few twists before it reaches its conclusion. It had a nice pacing to it though a few bits were a trifle forced to squeeze in the plot, a couple of scenes ended up being unintentionally comical, such was the rush. Not quite the subtlety of le Carre, but an intriguing story and an enjoyable watch and it looked good on screen with a bleak, desolate outlook.