Because Barbie and Oppenheimer are SO last week
It’s already the last week of the highly anticipated New Zealand International Film Festival, meaning your final chance to catch some premium artsy cinema is fast approaching. If you’re like Paris and are feeling mildly devastated about missing both Asteroid City showings, or if you’re like Abby who hasn’t enjoyed a single movie since Breaking Dawn: Part Two came out, we’re here to show you that all hope has not been lost. Over the next seven days, a goldmine of films are still set to be shown at multiple locations around the city, giving you the culture fix you so desperately need to beat the new-semester blues. So grab some popcorn, clear your schedule and settle in for a series of movies straight out of a pretentious art major’s wet dream.
May December USA, 2023
An entrancing rumination on scandals, power imbalances and the lies we tell ourselves, Todd Haynes’ new dark comedy centres on a woman’s highly publicised affair with a younger man. The film begins almost two years after the scandal took place when, in preparation for her role as the older woman in an upcoming film about the couple, Natalie Portman’s character Elizabeth begins shadowing her muse. As you would expect, drama ensues.
Thursday 3rd August, Saturday 5th August
Perfect Days Japan, 2023
If you’re after a more meditative experience, consider Perfect Days; Wim Wenders’ tranquil exploration of the human condition. This slow-paced masterpiece explores life’s simple pleasures, only ever incorporating enough drama to slightly derail Hirayama, the main character’s, carefully curated way of life. Perfect Days is tender, comforting and ideal for a mindful evening watch.
Sunday 6th August
Past Lives USA, 2023
Despite not being much of a film buff, TikTok has deemed it necessary to flood my For You page with this film—specifically, people’s reactions to this film. If you know the videos I’m talking about, it’s likely you’ve already bought a ticket to see it this week. If not, context: people have been filming themselves before and after seeing Past Lives, the after usually involving mental breakdowns, existential crises, A–Little–Life-readathon levels of tears. This seems like a reasonable emotional response reading the synopsis of the film: two high school lovers, Na Young and Hae Sung, are torn apart when Na Young suddenly emigrates from Korea to America. What follows is several decades of long distance pining, agonising build ups to eventual meetings, and a story that I’m sure will leave me feeling achingly, agonisingly single.
Wednesday 2nd August, Thursday 3rd August
Kidnapped Italy, France & Germany 2023
Based on the true story of Edgardo Mortara, a six-year-old who was abducted by the Catholic Church in the 19th Century, Marco Bellocchio’s newest offering exudes extravagance, emotionality and intrigue. Kidnapped examines themes of religious fanaticism and the misuse of power, all captured with the director’s highly dramatic flare. While this won’t be an easy watch, the tension is masterfully broken up with small instances of deadpan comedy, allowing for a little relief amongst the heavy subject matter.
Friday 4th August, Saturday 5th August
Fallen Leaves Finland, 2023
On a much lighter note, we present Aki Kaurismäki’s wry romance, Fallen Leaves. Deemed a favourite at Cannes by crowds and critics alike, the film follows Ansa and Holappa over the course of their whirlwind relationship which begins after meeting at a karaoke bar (the soundtrack is wild, you’ll love it). Kaurismäki’s charming portrayal of love is underpinned by deeper themes such as consumerism, toxic work culture and the rising conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The resulting 81 minutes are crammed with astute takes, beautiful cinematography and will leave you with that authentic feel-good sensation.
Sunday 6th August
Red Mole: A Romance Aotearoa, 2023
UoA’s very own blaze through the festival with this documentary on the unconventional political theatre troupe Red Mole, who toured New Zealand and the world throughout the 70s and 80s. Directed by Communications Professor Annie Goldson, also a highly decorated filmmaker, accessed the specialty archives of Red Mole’s history housed at the university library to tell their incredible story of fame, radicalism, and counter-culture. There’s nothing like diving deep into a unique and eccentric piece of Aotearoa’s performing arts history—especially if you’re like me and had never heard of Red Mole before—a story of deeply passionate creatives told by those who care deeply about the craft.
Friday 4th August, Saturday 5th August
Bad Behaviour Aotearoa, 2023
Wee-woo-wee-woo! Mummy issues alert! This odd, dark film tells the story of inherited flaws through three generations of women, focusing on Lucy, a former child star who goes on a spiritual wellness retreat to reflect on her relationship with the women in her life. However, also attending the retreat is Lucy’s nemesis, a small-minded model and DJ who is everything Lucy hates about her mother, her daughter, and herself. With an enigmatic spiritual leader at the helm (played by Ben Whishaw, best known as Adam Kay in BBC’s This Is Going To Hurt), this is certainly going to be a compelling debut from writer and director (and Jane Campion’s daughter) Alice Englert.
Monday 31st July
New Zealand’s Best 2023
Do you also wish Event Cinemas would start playing Subway Surfers on the screen so you could actually sit through a whole film? These are the shorts for you! None of these gems top 20 minutes in runtime, and have been selected by expert judge Niki Caro as the finalists of the festival’s short film competition. The screening of the six shortlisted films will also give you the opportunity to vote for the winner of the Audience Award. Vying for the prize pool are defiant love story Daughter of God, the dating misfortunes of models in My Eyes Are Up Here, after-ball-party teen slice-of-life Gate Crash, challenging Sāmoan docu-film Freedom Fighter, neanderthal comedy Hey Brainy Man, and mourning in MIQ in Anu.
Monday 31st July
Inside Greece/ Germany/ Belgium, 2023
This one is for all the pretentious art history students, and I’m one of you so I’m legally allowed to poke fun. Vasilis Katsoupis’ Inside follows a thief’s failed attempt to burgle the strangely high-tech apartment of a New York art collector. When the security system seals him inside, and his team abandons him, Nemo faces the painful reality of complete and utter isolation. Exploring the ways in which art relates to the human condition, this film is a must see for gallery goers (or if, like me, you also have an inexplicable celebrity crush on Willem Dafoe.)
Tuesday 1st August, Friday 4th August
Of an Age Australia, 2022
Show our neighbours over the ditch some love by setting in for this lusty, queer and socially-aware romance from director Goran Stolevski. The film is set in Y2K Melbourne and follows Kol and his best friend’s older brother as they flirt their way through a spicy hour-long road trip. With vibrant and complex characters, an enthralling will-they won’t-they dynamic and extremely witty dialogue, Of An Age serves as a tender reimagining of the classic coming of age film we know and love.
Tuesday 1st August
When The Waves Are Gone Phillipines, 2022
Also in Craccum this week, student and film critic Trevor Pronoso reflects on director Lav Diaz’s filmography and how it speaks to growing up Filipino. The auteur of long-form cinema brings a shorter offering to NZIFF this year, but it looks like it will be just as rich in the images it paints of Philippine life and culture as his previous, celebrated works. Following crazed characters, a disgraced detective and a vengeful criminal that he put in prison, this film sounds like it will perfectly balance being engrossingly absurd with real reflections of Philippine political corruption.
Thursday 3rd August