Annual feast of cinema returns

JAMES CROOT
Last updated 11:21 01/08/2014
Scarlett Johansson

UNDER THE SKIN: Scarlett Johansson at her hypnotic best.

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The 38th Christchurch International Film Festival kicks off at Hoyts Northlands and Riccarton on August 7. James Croot takes a takes a look at 10 of the dramatic feature highlights on offer.

Feel privileged, Christchurch cinema-goers. You're going to be among the first in the world to see the latest and hottest slices of international cinema.

New Zealand International Film Festival director Bill Gosden says his aim is to "incite a public celebration for films and filmmakers that may lack the franchise power to storm the multiplex, but happen to be the most rousing and rewarding seen in the past year". Go has had the opportunity to preview 10 features that fit that bill perfectly

Beloved Sisters: A German romantic period drama centred on the love triangle between rising poet Friedrich Schiller and two aristocratic sisters. Lavishly costumed and gorgeously photographed, this sweeping tale feels like this year's Farewell, My Queen with an extra side-order of self-sacrifice.

The Double: Richard Ayoade (Submarine) adapts Fyodor Dostoevsky's 1846 novella about a government worker who finds himself replaced by a far more charismatic doppelganger. The superb, dystopian art direction reminds one of Orson Welles' The Trial meets Terry Gilliam's Brazil, while Jesse Eisenberg proves why he's one of the most exciting actors of his generation by creating two distinct characters without any physical transformation.

Everything We Loved: Kiwi writer-director Max Currie's debut film is an atmospheric cross between Raising Arizona and What Maisie Knew as a travelling magician goes to desperate lengths to try and fill the hole caused by a family tragedy. A unique release strategy meant virtually all Kiwis were able to see it at the same time when it premiered on Monday.

52 Tuesdays: Australian director Sophie Hyde's dramatic feature debut is a stunning, low-fi coming-of-tale about a teenager struggling to come to terms with her mother's decision to undergo gender reassignment. Shot one day a week as the title suggests, the film also boasts two terrific performances from Del Herbert- Jane and newcomer Tilda Cobham-Harvey.

Frank: Michael Fassbender dons a paper mache head, Maggie Gyllenhaal sports a major attitude and Domnhall Gleeson joins their band (the virtually unpronounceable Soronprfbs) in this subversive and surreal parody of modern pop culture. Travelling from Ireland to Austin, Texas, the film will appeal to fans of both Almost Famous and This is Spinal Tap.

Kumiko: The Treasure Hunter: Inspired by an internet "urban legend", this United States drama follows the adventures of a Japanese woman who is convinced that the Coen Brothers' 1996 film Fargo is a true story and provides a map to some buried treasure. Beautifully shot and scored (by The Octopus Project), it also magnificently contrasts the cultures of Tokyo and rural Minnesota.

Locke: We've had films set in a single hotel room, a phone booth and a coffin - now here's 90-minutes in a car. Far more audible than in The Dark Knight Rises, Tom Hardy (doing his best Anthony Hopkins impersonation) is on screen virtually the entire time as he makes his way from Birmingham to London while receiving and sending phone calls that will completely alter his life. Gripping, compelling, bravura filmmaking.

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Under the Skin: The Year of Scarlett Johansson continues with this creepy and compelling low-fi, sci-fi. She plays a mysterious woman trawling the streets and isolated scenic sights of Scotland looking for male specimens of the Celtic race. What could have been simply an art house version of Species or The Terminator is elevated by liquid and luscious visuals, a slowly unfolding mystery and the hypnotic power of both Mica Levi's score and Johansson herself.

We Are The Best!: Swedish writer-director Lukas Moodyson (Show Me Love, Together) makes a welcome return to comedic form with this hilarious coming-of-age tale about three unlikely female teen punks in 1980s Stockholm. Does for punk what The Comic Strip's Bad News did for heavy metal, while also possessing a sweet heart and sympathetic eye and ear for the trials and tribulations of teenage life.

Yves St Laurent: The famous French designer gets the biopic treatment as director Jalil Lespert charts his rise to the top and his relationship with business partner and lover Pierre Berge. While not as absorbing as 2010 documentary L'Amour Fou, it still serves as an excellent primer on St Laurent and his aesthetic.

THE DETAILS:

The Christchurch leg of the New Zealand International Film Festival will be held at Hoyts Northlands and Riccarton from August 7 to 24. Click here for more information and session times.

- The Press

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