Cover of the Film Festival brochureThe New Zealand International Film Festival programme has been released and we caught up with its Director, Bill Gosden, to discuss what Christchurch audiences should head out to see.

Bill says this year is the biggest so far for Christchurch Film Festival audiences with over 90 films screening at Hoyts cinemas. Nick Paris (Christchurch publicist for the Festival) described the programme as being filled with “contagious cinematic bling”.

The Festival has films for all ages, including children. The NZIFF received a harsh letter from some 7 year old festival-goers a few years ago who deemed the “Animation for Kids” programme “Animation for BABIES”. In light of that stinging criticism, the festival now provides two animated programmes for kids, one aimed at 3 – 6 year olds: Toons for Tots, and the other aimed at 7 – 10 year olds: Animation for Kids 2014Toons for Tots features adaptations of two popular children’s books: The legend of the golden snail by Australian master Graeme Base and the hilarious I want my hat back by Jon Klassen.

If you’ve been enjoying your movies for longer than 3 – 10 years though, Bill pointed out two movies that star modern cinema legends: Isabelle Huppert in Folies Bergère and Catherine Deneuve in In The Courtyard. If you like your stars more local or literary, here are some films that strike a literary or local chord include:

Book Cover of Selected Works of TS SpivetBill encourages Christchurch cinephiles to take on the Film Festival films. He and his team have spent months viewing over 800 films across the world in order to bring Film Festival audiences “the most interesting films of the year. One effect of being able to bring films digitally to the Festival is that there are quite a few films that viewers haven’t heard much about as they are so new.” Festival attendees have the opportunity to be the first in the world to check them out.

Tickets go on sale Friday 18 July and the Festival runs from 7 – 24 August. On the Film Festival website you can timetable in your viewing pleasures and make sure you don’t double-book yourself. Programmes are also available from our Libraries.

You probably already know that Disney has announced a release date for the next Star Wars movie. Apparently there at least three more to come. I have to admit that “Oh goodie” was not my first reaction. I was however interested to note that John Williams will be composing the music for the next release.

He composed the music for all the previous films and won a fistful of awards including an Oscar, Bafta and Golden Globe for his score to the first one.

His original soundtrack took  film music out of the doldrums at the time, reviving it after a less than glittering period during the 60s and 70s. Williams deliberately set out to reflect late 19th century orchestral music, apparently because Lucas wanted a soundtrack that grounded the

otherwise strange and fantastic setting in a well-known, audience accessible music.

Indeed it was often credited with creating a resurgence in interest in that music.

Curious to have another listen, I decided to try out some of it in Naxos Music Online which has quite a range. I’m not sure I would like to sit down and listen to the soundtracks in their entirety, but many of the themes seem to me to have stood the test of time and who could forget the original title theme? Have a listen and see what you think.

If you’re keen on sci fi film music Naxos and Music Online cover Stargate SG1, Star Trek (films) and Star Wars as well as the odd film like Dune.

It is 50 years since the day President Kennedy was assassinated on 22 November 1963 (23 November in New Zealand.)

You’d think we would all be clear about what happened by now. Instead the waters have been muddied by an official investigation with too many loose ends and endless versions of the truth postulated or imagined in films and books. A recent article to mark the 50th anniversary lists a bewildering array of films and plays which have dealt with the theme, giving it all sorts of twists.

Even our own library has had to publish an explanation of why the Christchurch Star newspaper was able to publish the story so fast, because theorists took it as proof of a CIA plot.

It’s no wonder we’re so confused. I’m not sure if I should consider this as a reflection of the awe in which Kennedy was held, or a sad distraction from his legacy. Either way it has fed the creative imagination of a generation film makers and authors.

Will we ever know the truth? Or will we have to settle with whichever investigation or conspiracy theory that suits us?

Interior of St Michael'sImagine a cool historic building, a live accompaniment and a programme of historic films about Canterbury and you are set for the old timey travelling film show from New Zealand Historic Places Trust.

Called Reel life in Canterbury the screening includes 17 short films which are a great way to see some of our beautiful historic buildings and  landscape. The earliest film from 1910 shows the Hinge family in their home at 10 Berry Street, St Albans. In A Daughter of Christchurch a new school teacher arrives in town and is wooed by Freddy Fishface, a shady journalist and Bill Cowcocky, a handsome farmer. Made by Rudall Haywood in 1928 it starred Christchurch locals and features a fistfight on the banks of the Avon.

There are films from North Canterbury and the Mt Cook area and also films featuring buildings that did not survive the earthquakes. The silent films have a live musical accompaniment. The Christchurch venue is St Michael’s and All Angels Church, 84 Oxford Terrace, door sales only at a bargain basement $5.00 and two screenings on Saturday 14 September at 4pm and 7.30pm.

And just to remind you of the golden age of movie going when Christchurch was dotted with great picture palaces – our Movie Theatres collection of heritage photographs.

The lucky library crew who get to select the big books on the important things in life like clothes and  jewellery have been excelling themselves lately. Some true beauties have come through and I have been having a good guzzle of their gorgeousness. I hope there will always be books like this; books that you are excited to see, to hold  in your hands and feel their satisfying heft, to turn their pages looking at them really, really closely.

So you didn’t get to see the show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute – Schiaparelli and Prada: Imposssible Conversations is almost as good as being there.  Judith Thurman’s introductory essay is everything we expect after reading her in The New Yorker; really good writing about clothes, the people who make them and the people who wear them.  Then there are the photographs and the cunning little postcard-sized inserts of the imaginary conversations between these two Italian designers.

The New Jewelers has 800 illustrations of  “desirable, collectable, contemporary”  jewelery – enough to set off tragic dreams of winning Lotto or giving up coffee for the next twenty years to afford one of these pieces.

Coming into fashion: A Century of Photography at Conde Nast is a book of photographs of some of the most beautiful clothes from the last hundred years worn by some of the most beautiful women in some of the most preposterous poses. My standout is a model in a maillot standing on a beach holding a kangaroo by the paw.

Vogue:The editor’s eye gives an insight into the women who came up with these mad ideas. The women who said “let’s take Richard Avedon   and a bunch of models to Japan for five weeks for one photo shoot”.

The budgets may have shrunk since 1947 but the creativity hasn’t – just look at the Grace Coddington chapter.

Hollywood Costume is a celebration of 100 years of clothes in film and how they help create the identity of the characters who wear them. All the familiar images are here; Audrey Hepburn wearing Givenchy in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Vivien Leigh swathed in “Miz Ellen’s poteers” in Gone With the Wind and Elizabeth Taylor spectacularly historically incorrect in Cleopatra. Sometimes the words in books like this seem to be merely space fillers between the photographs but the essays here are really interesting – Meryl Streep describes herself as “a real pain in the ass for every costume designer” because she took her degree in costume design and wrote her thesis on it.

What’s your favourite big beautiful book?

  1. Excalibur.
  2. My Brilliant Career.
  3. Persuasion.
  4. Romeo and Juliet (the Zeffirelli version).
  5. The Tin Drum.

CoverCoverCover

Hit me with your top five all-time favourite movies!

CoverYes there are heaps of books about movies. But a less common is A book about A movie.

Or, as Zona is subtitled – A Book about a film about a journey to a room.

Zona is all about Stalker, a film by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky. Author Geoff Dyer (a brilliantly droll Brit who graced the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival this year) talks us through what is happening on the screen and his reactions to it.  I shudder at the thought of having the commentary turned on a DVD, but in a way this is just a booky version of that – but with way more room for digressions. Geoff goes on a bit about his childhood, and how his wife is a dead ringer for Natasha McElhone. We get to that via Tarkovsky made the original Solaris, and Natasha starred in the more recent adaptation of Solaris with George Clooney as lead).

This could/should be a literary subgenre. The film and your reaction to it, and digressions. It probably is only going to work when you are in the hands of a expert writer like Dyer.

It’s very odd that someone talking about a movie you’ve never seen is a brilliant read. I wonder what it’s like for someone who has seen the movie?

A review of Zona by Sukhdev Sandhu in The Guardian sums up with:

Beyond the book’s bravura formalism and in spite of the suspicion that it could be viewed as a highbrow take on live-blogging, it’s Dyer’s ability at moments like this to make pilgrims of his readers and to lead them on a journey in search of truths about love and about the nature of happiness that make Zona such an exhilarating achievement.

We have Stalker on DVD and other Tarkovsky stuff.

coverAnother good little volume about a movie is Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. It is all about director Todd Haynes’ underground classic in which the tragic demise of Karen Carpenter is reenacted with dolls.

Freaky (and yet utterly compelling) stuff.

Are there any other books about a movies you reck0n are worth reading?

And if you were to write about a movie, which one would you deconstruct and report on? I’d do my alltime favourite movie Excalibur or the fantabulous TV movie version of Ivanhoe starring Anthony Andrews and Sam Neill!

This year I have become a devotee of the Song of Fire and Ice series of books and watched the TV series Game of Thrones. While I’ve admired much of the acting in the film I find  I still prefer the books and I am looking forward excitedly to when the God of the Reserve List pops up the next title I have requested.

I’m not usually a fantasy fan but the standard of writing and characterisation has me hooked. Even the vast number of characters and settings which make me regularly check the maps and the “House” information at the back of the book seems a reasonable part of the experience. The film on the other hand focuses on some key events and characters and skips over the detail of why and who and when that I find satisfying in the book.

Has anyone else had this experience with Song of Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones? In the wider scheme of book reading and movie adaptation I don’t have any set opinion. Sometimes the book is the thing and the film disappointing, sometimes the film really brings the book to a new life and sometimes they seem to be perfectly partnered – enhancing each other, especially when the film respects the characterisation and dialogue of the book.

For those of you who like the whole book into film thing – you can keep up with what is due to be released via our excellent Read the book then see the film . If you want to find out if anyone has ever made a film of a book you are reading try our Books into film.

Song of Fire and Ice has generated a considerable fan following. Geekandsundry have an interview with George R.R. Martin (if you want to skip directly to the interview it is 6 minutes in) in which he comments on the television programme and how it visualised his story.

If you’re anything like me the idea of being in a cinema post-quake leaves you shaking in your boots. It took me more than a year to attend a cinema and even then the thunderous sounds of the movie playing next door and the cars driving around the attached carpark makes me jump. Still, I have persevered and really enjoyed some great films of late.

Not ready to brave the cinema yet? Try our DVD collection including NZ films and see our new DVDs, read the book that was made into a film, or borrow a magazine about movies.

Did you know the project Gap Filler held cycle powered outdoor movies?

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Regent Cafe

Remember the days of Saturday matinees and rolling jaffas? Part of the joy of the movies is the otherness of being in a cinema. For years, picture theatres have been like a big community lounge – where kids romp, couples court and friends meet up.

Most of us have a databank of movie memories. I can remember the first movie I saw at the cinema (The Towering Inferno) – and the movie that was playing at the Gore picture theatre in the floods of 1978 (Can’t stop the music … or was it Thank God it’s Friday? Either way it was disco).

We’ve brought together some photos of Christchurch movie theatres from our collection. George Arliss was appearing in The Millionaire at The Plaza in 1932.

Papers Past, the essential resource of digitised New Zealand newspapers, has lots of great information on movies and picture theatres. How about what was on at The Colosseum in 1908:

The new programme of pictures presented at the Colosseum last night by the Royal Pictures Company comprises a large variety of interesting and amusing films, and the large building was again packed in all parts. The films shown covered a diversity of subjects, and included some of the best motion pictures yet shown in Christchurch. “The Enchanted Guitar”,” The Pumpkin Race”,” Timid Lovers”, “Baffled Boobies” and the other humorous pictures raised unbounded merriment, while such films as “Rodents and their ways”, and “Dumb Sagacity”, afforded valuable object lessons on the matters with which they dealt.

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Plaza Theatre

If you want to go further down the rabbit hole, the Canterbury Film Society has excellent information on the history of Christchurch cinemas. It includes a chronological list of cinemaswith photos.

Digital NZ has a set of images related to Going to the movies (there are some rather lovely shots of a Wellington audience watching Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights).

An earlier blog post here The ghosts of cinemas past has lots of Christchurch movie theatre memories in the comments. The Tivoli, The Barclay, Cinerama …

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