Reporting Directly From The New Zealand International Film Festival – The Sequel!

It must be a horrid thing sitting in the dark through hundreds of thought-provoking films from all over the world just to pass judgment for the benefit of Witchdoctor readers. We gave PAUL ROSE this most demanding of jobs. Here’s his second instalment.

 

Genesis is a coming of age film that follows the trials and tribulations of half siblings Guillaume (Theodore Pellerin), a pupil at a boys’ boarding school, and older sister Charlotte (Noee Abita), a university student. Set in Montreal, Canada, their two stories intertwine throughout the film.

Guillaume is the class clown and popular with his schoolmates for his pranks and teacher baiting, but outside of the classroom he really has just one friend, Nicolas, who he has known since Primary School. Charlotte is in her first serious relationship with the nerdy Maxime, but is shocked when he suggests they have an “open” relationship.

This is Director Phillipe Lesage’s second feature following Les Demons (2015) and fans of that film will find much satisfaction in Genesis. The film is at times light and at times dark, and often funny but sometimes incredibly sad as the protagonists struggle with their youthful desires.

Guillaume is coming to terms with his attraction to boys, in particular Nicolas, his childhood friend. After a particularly boozy night on weekend leave he makes a move on the very drunk Nicolas and attempts to kiss him on the mouth. Nicolas is horrified and very soon there are rumours circulating around the school. One night a 14-year-old who is in the same dormitory as Guillaume approaches him while he is reading in bed. Discovering that he is reading J D Salinger’s Catcher In The Rye, the younger boy gets very animated and promises to lend him Franny And Zooey, the Salinger novel which he prefers.

In a most remarkable scene Guillaume comes out in front of his entire class, telling them of his unrequited love for his best friend Nicolas. He is now ostracized by everyone except the obviously gay Salinger fan. A totally innocent encounter between them one night ultimately leads to Guillaume’s expulsion.

Charlotte leaves Maxime after he suggests the “open” relationship and to drown her sorrows she begins drinking and partying hard. One night in a bar she meets the much older Theo, who she falls for. It doesn’t take long for her to realize that her love is not reciprocated as Theo has more than one lover and she is just one of his playthings. She attempts a reconciliation with Maxime with a picnic in the park, but realising his immaturity they part ways. After this encounter she goes to a party where she gets leglessly drunk and is taken advantage of by a much older man.

Needless to say the siblings seek comfort in each other’s company.

Had the film ended here I would have given it a solid 8 out of 10, but unfortunately director Phillipe Lesage has chosen to tag on what at first appears to be a totally disconnected story at the end involving much younger children at a summer camp. It turns out that this is a postscript to the earlier Les Demons but having not seen that film meant I left the cinema totally confused and wondering what on earth the last 20 minutes was all about. In hindsight, I think he was showing that the sweet innocence of a childish love is not repeated as we get older, as life becomes more complicated and relationships more difficult. However, I could have done without that lesson and the film should have ended long before it did. Rating – 6/10

Jonah Hill is known for his comedic roles in films such as Superbad, Knocked Up, Moneyball and Wolf Of Wall Street, but in mid90s he’s directing his own screenplay.

It’s the story of 13-year-old Stevie – brilliantly portrayed by Sunny Suljic – who lives with his single mother and his bully of an older brother, Ian. Set in 1990s Los Angeles, Stevie takes up skateboarding to escape his boring and sometimes violent home life. He charms his way into a crew of older skateboarders who adopt him as their mascot and introduce him to alcohol, girls, pot and cigarettes, but also brotherhood, honesty and respect.

At its core, mid90s is a skate film with a huge heart. Most of the cast, especially the skateboard gang, are unknowns and they do a remarkable job. They come across as authentic and likable, even when they break the law with their juvenile shenanigans. Shot in 16mm this film has a totally authentic feel as it follows Stevie busting out on his own, escaping his non-caring mother and bullying older brother and making his way into the big wide world. The result is a joyful celebration of youth.

The action takes place chronologically over one hot summer.

Being a skateboard film, music plays a major part and the soundtrack here reflects the best of the mid- 90s, including Wu-Tang Clan, The Pixies, Nirvana, Public Enemy and Cypress Hill among many others.

With the action all taking place chronologically over one hot summer, it’s a wild ride and is a must see for anyone who has ever owned a skateboard or has kids who skate. It’s a film I’m sure I will see at least one more time, not only for some great skateboarding scenes, but because it’s funny and uplifting and made me smile for days. Having said that, this film is probably one for the boys as the only female character of any note is the mother, and she plays a very small part. Rating – 8/10

 

Selected to compete for the Palm d’Or at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, Knife+Heart is a French drama/thriller/horror/splatter film directed by Yann Gonzales.

Set in Paris in the pre-Aids late ‘70s, someone is killing the cast of a gay porn movie before it has even finished production. The film opens with Anne (Vanessa Paradis) running through the rain to call her ex, Lois, in an effort to get back together, and she’s obviously drunk and very upset. Lois rejects her pleas, and we learn that Anne is a producer of third-rate gay porn and Lois is her film editor, so even though their longterm relationship has been ended by Lois, the two still have to work together.

Cut to an underground gay bar where one of the “stars” of the latest film is brutally murdered when he follows a masked man into the basement. Over the following days more of the actors are murdered in creative ways and Anne turns to the police for help, but they seem uninterested as they have little concern for men who they consider to be drifters with “complicated personal lives.” In other words, homosexual lives don’t matter, so she turns sleuth and begins an investigation of her own. This takes her on a strange journey through the underbelly of the city of love where she uncovers a haunting and sad story which threatens her friends, cast and crew, loved ones and ultimately her livelihood.

There’s much slashing and sleaze in Knife+Heart, but also an undercurrent of love and togetherness among the cast and crew of the production company. There’s also a hell of a lot of humour. At the screening I went to I was lucky to be sitting next to a young gay couple who got the humour and laughed along with me. Many people in the audience didn’t seem to get the humour at all. Aren’t there laughs in every splatter movie?

Knife+Heart is beautifully shot. Some of the underground nightclub scenes are so good you think you are actually there and there’s a scene towards the end of the film set in a Parisian park at the wrap party of the porn film which lulls you into a false sense of happiness before hurtling you into the heart of darkness.

Knife+Heart is basically a whodunit with a twist. I thoroughly enjoyed it. It made me laugh, it made me think and at times it made me jump out of my seat. Without being disparaging there were some members of the raincoat brigade at the screening I attended who were obviously expecting a gay porno and they would have been very disappointed. Yes, you see man on man and woman on woman kissing, but that’s as far as it goes apart from a couple of brief shots where you see a man’s derriere.

If you like slasher movies, whodunits and thrillers with a dollop of humour thrown in, Knife+Heart is for you. Rating – 9/10

 

 

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