The Red Turtle


rtThe Red Turtle has recently done the rounds of the film festival circuit, including our own New Zealand International Film Festival. A collaboration between Studio Ghibli and Oscar-winning Dutch born writer-director Michael Dudok de Wit (Father and Daughter) makes for an interesting fit. Dudok de Wit has applied his hand solely to short films to date, so it must have been an interesting turn of events that convinced him to work on a feature film with an animation studio from half a world away in distance and style.  It took a decade to make, but make it they did, and the result is a genuine treat.

Entirely dialogue free, the film tells the simple story of a man (we never know his name) castaway on a deserted tropical island. His attempts to escape the island by a raft made of bamboo are repeatedly thwarted by the titular red turtle. Consequent to seeking his revenge upon the turtle, the film uncannily unfolds into a fantastical fable that explores themes of companionship, family, grief and man’s bond with nature … ultimately to its poignant and moving end.

The film’s art style is stunning and mimics the purity of its narrative, with clean lines and hyper-simplistic characters with simple dots for eyes, set against a painterly backdrop of the sea, sky, and island.  There is a palpable splicing of Japanese and European art styles, almost as if Tintin walked onto the set of Ponyo.

A minimalist pace and lack of dialogue allows space to ponder what is presented before your senses rather than having to play catchup on any lengthy expositions.  This is a refreshing approach and perhaps necessary of a film that implores us to look at nature through a simple lens. However, it is the provocative ambiguity that remains the film’s most attractive feature, and as such I was left basking in its tantalisingly elusive meaning for days after viewing — it’s almost as if the film is daring you to draw your own conclusion rather than present one for you.

Despite the Studio Ghibli pedigree, the slow pace means that audience patience, rather than subject matter, might make the film inaccessible to younger children. Although, I think perseverance in this instance would have its rewards, as this is a masterclass in sensory story telling. Look out for this film in the new year … it is definitely worth the wait.

Star rating: 4.5 stars.

Frances Ha

On Friday afternoon Seema and I saw Noah Baumbach’s latest film, Frances Ha. This well written original screenplay (by Gerwig and Baumbach) is a feel good film that hits its target perfectly. Not motivated particularly by its narrative, Frances Ha concerns the titular Frances (played by Gerwig) as she stumbles through that period of limbo between studenthood and settling down to a job, relationship etc. It’s a real slice of life that is rich with familiar characters, the kind that we’ve all known or met at some stage in our life. I found this film to be so well weighted in all respects. It is funny, quirky, intelligent, and infectious, yet is careful not to overcook any of these. I’m still puzzled by the odd decision to shoot this character driven film in black and white … although it didn’t seem to detract either so I’ll just leave that well alone.

Frances Ha is a must see!


Afterward we headed out to Cafe Abyssinia in Sandringham for some Ethiopian cuisine. Never had Ethiopian before, but boy it was yummy! Thanks to Nana and Mikee for looking after the kids :0)


Next Thursday it’s Sofia Copola’s Bling Ring.

Mistaken for Strangers

Mistaken for Strangers is an odd, yet interesting, documentary that is still settling in my mind. Lead singer of successful indie band The National, Matt Berninger, asks his somewhat aimless younger brother, Tom, to tour with the band as a roadie. Tom does, but takes his camera with him and documents what unexpectedly turns out to be a film about him and his struggles living in the shadow of a successful sibling. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure what to make of it, but one thing is for sure; this is certainly not a film about The National. Either Tom is not a particularly skilful film maker, or he is cleverly pulling the wool over my (and arguably his brother’s) eyes. The whole film just seems a little too simplistic and obvious. Yet somehow I get the nagging feeling that there is something bigger afoot going on here. I sense something a tad more intentional than Tom is leading on. He might have the last laugh …we shall see.


Tonight I see Computer Chess. Will report back tomorrow.

NZ International Film Fest … here we go!

At last! The NZ International Film Festival begins this Thursday. Here is their website. I’ve managed to shoe-horn in nine films to see. They are:

North By Northwest – Hitchcock’s classic. I’ve never seen it and it’s playing at the Civic … a safe bet!

Mud – I loved Nicol’s Take Shelter (still yet to see Shotgun Stories). I think McConaughey is great, an actor who’s talent has been tarnished by his fame. Been looking forward to this one for ages. Seema and I are both going assuming we find a baby sitter that night.

Mistaken for Strangers – I think I can quite safely say that The National is my favourite band at the mo. This is a doco about the band, made by Matt’s (lead singer) metal-head brother, who incidentally hates indie rock. Makes for an interesting start. This doco could go pear shaped, but will be interesting regardless.

Computer Chess – I am going to this entirely based on the very appealing trailer, and a few recommendations. A faux doco set in the seventies about, yep, you’ve guessed it, Computer Chess.

The Perverts Guide to Ideology – “We are responsible for our own dreams”. Sounds like an interesting premise for this doco. Watching academic Slavoj Zizek is both comical and fascinating, and if his last psychoanalytical exposé on Cinema is any indication, then this will be a very interesting, if somewhat hard to keep up with, experience.

Francis Ha – I don’t know too much about this one apart from its trailer and a few recommendations. A black and white comedy with Greta Gerwig directed by Noah Baumbach … gotta be good.

The Bling Ring – It’s Sofia Copola, so why not. I’ll have to put aside my dislike for all things, like, Valley, like, you know.

Only Lovers Left Alive – Vampire films are everywhere now, but there is a huge difference between the utter shite that is the Twilight series and Alfredson’s superb Let the Right One In. I’m trusting that Jarmusch is firmly in the right camp. Tilda Swinton is a mesmerising actress to boot.

To the Wonder – Seema and I finish off with a bit of Malick. His Tree of Life masterpiece is on my all time favs list. If this is half as good then I’ll be happy.

I’ll be back with my thoughts on them as they happen … ooh, so excited!