December 29, 2013

Scorsese on coke

The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013). All of the Scorsese exuberance and volatility, without the dark underside of guilt and violence, like a cocaine frat house GoodFellas with Jonah Hill as Joe Pesci. Hedonism is its own reward. This is also the fullest realisation of the evolving Scorsese/Leonardo DiCaprio partnership – could any other American actor carry this blend of comedy and wild thriller as DiCaprio does across three hours, while both trusted and distrusted by audiences? Scorsese’s most enjoyable film since … well, GoodFellas. Easily his funniest.

December 27, 2013

The Priest, they might have called him

The Man in the Hat (Luit Bieringa, 2009). Luit Bieringa’s insightful documentary is a film about the inner life – the external world, the noisy, contemporary Wellington that his quiet subject, priest-like art dealer Peter McLeavey slowly walks through, is secondary (as is family, mostly). Long hours are spent alone in a peaceful white room two or three floors above street level. Contemplating what? An early memory has the young Irish Catholic McLeavey assisting a priest in church: “He was looking at things that I couldn’t see.” An artist or an art specialist does much the same.

December 20, 2013

Dreamed city

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (FW Murnau, 1927).

December 18, 2013

I kept forgetting that I wasn’t watching an experimental treatment of the inner life of Nigella Lawson

Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (Matthew Akers, 2012).

Rest Energy, recorded in 1980 at Filmstudio Amsterdam, is also part of the That Self series and engages with the first acceptance of performance, when understood as a body test that can lead to endangering life. Ulay and Abramovic drew a large bow and arrow, each holding one side. The arrowhead was pointing at Abramovic's heart, creating a dense tension. Microphones on their clothes picked up their quickening heartbeats and irregular breathing. After four minutes, they dropped the bow. (from here).

December 17, 2013

Top tens


1 The Master

2 Gravity

3 The Act of Killing

4 Only Lovers Left Alive

5 Beyond the Hills

6 The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology

7 Cosmopolis

8 Rust and Bone

9 Before Midnight

10 A Field in England

(more on these, with attempts at explanations, at Werewolf)

SECOND TEN: Behind the Candelabra, Camille Claudel 1915,  Frances Ha, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, Mud, Pacific Rim, The Past, Silence in the House of God, Stranger by the Lake, Upstream Color.


Partie de campagne (Jean Renoir, 1936)

Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur, 1947)

Dial M for Murder (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)

Bigger Than Life (Nicholas Ray, 1956)

Night of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur, 1957)

North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)

Accident (Joseph Losey, 1967)

Point Blank (John Boorman, 1967)

Targets (Peter Bogdanovich, 1968)

Theorem (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1968)

Bird on a Wire (Tony Palmer, 1974)

Edvard Munch (Peter Watkins, 1974)

The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978)

Radio On (Christopher Petit, 1979)

Wise Blood (John Huston, 1979)

Blow Out (Brian De Palma, 1981)

Utu Redux (Geoff Murphy, 1983/2013)

Starman (John Carpenter, 1984)

No End (Krzysztof KieĊ›lowski, 1985)

Illustrious Energy (Leon Narbey, 1988)

Ulysses’ Gaze (Theo Angelopoulos, 1995)

The Promise (Jean-Luc Dardenne and Pierre Dardenne, 1996)

The Life of Jesus (Bruno Dumont, 1997)

Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997)

Eternity and a Day (Theo Angelopoulos, 1998)

Moloch (Alexander Sokurov, 1999)

Read My Lips (Jacques Audiard, 2001)

London Orbital (Christopher Petit and Iain Sinclair, 2002)

Into Great Silence (Philip Groning, 2005)

Old Joy (Kelly Reichardt, 2006)

The Pervert’s Guide to Cinema (Sophie Fiennes, 2006)

Red Road (Andrea Arnold, 2006)

Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)

Adventureland (Greg Mottola, 2009)

Down Terrace (Ben Wheatley, 2009)

Enter the Void (Gaspar Noe, 2009)

Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu, 2009)

Thirst (Chan-wook Park, 2009)

Of Gods and Men (Xavier Beauvois, 2010)

The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies, 2011)

Killer Joe (William Friedkin, 2011)

Weekend (Andrew Haigh, 2011)

Compliance (Craig Zobel, 2012)

Lore (Cate Shortland, 2012)

Marley (Kevin Macdonald, 2012)

No (Pablo Larrain, 2012)

TELEVISION: Breaking Bad, seasons 1 to 5. Mad Men, season 6. House of Cards, season 1. Rectify, season 1. Enlightened, seasons 1 and 2. Girls, season 2. 



1 Boards of Canada, Tomorrow’s Harvest

2 Fuck Buttons, Slow Focus

3 The Dead C, Armed Courage

4 Wooden Wand, Blood Oaths of the New Blues

5 The Haxan Cloak, Excavation

6 Autechre, Exai

7 Tim Hecker, Virgins

8 Bardo Pond, Peace on Venus

9 Zoviet France, The Tables Are Turning

10 Forest Swords, Engravings

Also: Merzbow, live in Christchurch, November 21. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, live in Auckland, February 8. Leonard Cohen, live in Christchurch, December 14. Laurel Halo, Behind the Green Door EP (and live in Christchurch, September 12). Follakzoid, II. Ontal, Output EP. Miles, Unsecured EP. Carter Tutti, Coolicon. Prurient, Through the Window. Atoms for Peace, Amok. Ensemble Pearl. The Black Dog. Gate. Skeptics. Wooden Wand and the World War IV. William Basinski, Nocturnes. Hawkwind, Space Ritual. The Clean, Vehicle/In-A-Live. Death Grips, Government Plates. Unknown Mortal Orchestra, II. Black Boned Angel, The End.

December 16, 2013

Easter, 1979

Mt Zion (Tearepa Kahi, 2013). There is a sequence near the end of Kevin Macdonald’s documentary Marley that shows how the idea and image of Bob Marley has travelled the world – especially the developing world – as a redemptive figure, equal parts Che Guevara and Nelson Mandela, only with music (and marijuana). That was the story in New Zealand, where there has also been the happy coincidence that Waitangi Day is Marley’s birthday. Tearepa Kahi’s amiable, mostly routine first film, Mt Zion, touches on some of this but never deeply – Kahi appears to have worked backwards after locating footage of Marley receiving a marae welcome in Auckland in 1979, writing an against-the-odds showbiz story that builds towards that indelible moment. Australian Idol winner Stan Walker is Pukekohe potato picker Turei who dreams of winning his band a spot opening for Marley at Western Springs but movie obstacles are in his way. No surprise that Walker is a better singer than actor but Temuera Morrison has an appealingly weary quality as Turei’s father and original Golden Harvest guitar hero Kevin Kaukau is here as his sub-Hendrix self. While never quite nostalgic, Mt Zion has a fairly convincing sense of time and place but for one thing: it’s not the late 70s if no one but the bad guy smokes.

December 10, 2013

No help

Inch'Allah (Anais Barbeau-Lavalette, 2012). Plausible motivations for suicide bombing, raw immediacy and measurable anger, but who needs the mediation of a blank-faced and earnest Canadian tourist? 

December 7, 2013


Silence in the House of God (Alex Gibney, 2012). Silence comes to mean several things: the victims were deaf, of course, and a culture of silence allowed the abuse to continue for so long but beyond all that, and undiscussed, the silence or absence of God. “God’s famous reluctance to appear.”