26 July 2018

The peculiar wretchedness one can feel while the wind blows

As a writer, Katherine Mansfield absorbed the Wellington wind as deeply as the Romantics, making it something like her literary accomplice, even if its vehemence often tested the relationship. She wrote, '[I]t moves with an emotion I don't ever understand'. The wind stirs beneath her words, snuffling, as she puts it, around the corners of the page. In 'The Wind Blows' she asks: 'Hasn't anyone written poems to the wind?'...

Wind adds a feather-ruffling frisson to many of her stories. She often uses weather - especially the wind - as a conventional literary device to evoke mood, setting and narrative jumps. In 'Psychology', 'a cold snatch of hateful wind' underlines the anguish of the parting. In 'The Wind Blows' the gale is centre stage, the noisy, lurching main actor. The story 'Revelations' ships the tempest to France where 'un vent insupportable' roils the protagonist: 'the wild wind caught her and floated her across the pavement'. 'The New Baby' gives the breeze a calmer quality, with 'the soft moist breath of the large wind breathing so gently from the boundless sea'.

In her hands, her hometown wind also gains omnipotent powers, sometimes for better, mostly for worse. 'A Birthday' illustrates its impact on the civic mood. A doctor reassures a patient: "'You're jagged by the weather," he said wryly, "nothing else"'. And like most Wellingtonians, Katherine Mansfield was highly sensitised to the breeze: 'To remember the sound of the wind - the peculiar wretchedness one can feel while the wind blows'. 'The Wrong House' evokes the same mood: 'It was a bitter autumn day; the wind ran in the street like a thin dog'. In 'Juliet', she says of the protagonist: 'the wind always hurt her, unsettled her'.

Wellington's is no ordinary wind. 'A Birthday' outs its gales as pitiless, dominating, even bullying: 'A tremendous gust of wind sprang upon the house, seized it, shook it, dropped, only to grip it more tightly'.

- Redmer Yska, A Strange Beautiful Excitement. Katherine Mansfield's Wellington 1888-1903, Dunedin, 2017, p.72-3.

16 July 2018

The grooviest place on the planet

A pal sent me this tremendous clip of Soho in July or August '67, which looks fantastic in HD. It looks like the rough footage for a film-magazine piece. The first part is in Carnaby St (above-knee hemlines mandatory), which was probably the trendiest place on the planet at the time, and it goes on to Portobello Rd markets.

10 July 2018

Getting Welly (and Auckland) moving

I enjoyed listening to a talk by Vancouver's city transport manager Dale Bracewell at the Sustainability Trust here in Wellington last week, and this 9-minute interview by RNZ's Jesse Mulligan is a good summary of the optimistic appraisal Bracewell has of the prospects for expanded transportation options for cycling, walking and public transport in Auckland and Wellington. (And elsewhere, but those were the two New Zealand cities he visited on his Australia-New Zealand tour). I can vouch for the Vancouver Skytrain, having used it last month, but I promise I'm not (yet) advocating building a monorail here, if only because of the Lyle Langley jokes it would spawn.

Interview: 'Transport solutions: Advice from Vancouver's Dale Bracewell', Jesse Mulligan 1-4pm, Radio New Zealand, 9 July 2018

03 July 2018

Film Festival 2018 lineup

Another year, another 20 films to savour in this highly promising 2018 Film Festival programme, which begins screening in Wellington on 27 July. Of this brief selection I'm most excited about the two Kore-eda dramas from Japan and the three films set in Iceland. It will also be a real treat to see 4K restorations of Monterey Pop and Wings of Desire on the big screen. Now the only thing to do is avoid all spoilers and trailers until the end of July, and gird myself for the inevitable wrangles with the opening-day ticket booking system!

In the Aisles (dir. Thomas Stuber, Germany, 2018)
In den Gängen
Night-stackers in a German supermarket find their own place and even a little love in an uncaring world.

Monterey Pop (dir. D.A. Pennebaker, USA, 1968)
4K restored pop gorgeousness, including astonishing performances from The Who, Jimi Hendrix and the soul colossus Otis Redding.

Garry Winogrand: All Things Are Photographable (dir. Sasha Waters Freyer, USA, 2018)
Biography of the self-destructive genius photographer who died in 1984 and helped to define the photographic style of a generation.

Leave No Trace (dir. Debra Granik, USA, 2018)
Compelling drama depicting a father and daughter whose off-grid life is disrupted by authorities, and how they face the challenges of conventional society; featuring a breakthrough performance by young NZ actor Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story (dir. Alexandra Dean, USA, 2017)
The multiple lives of cinema sex symbol and brilliant mechanical inventor Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000).

And Breathe Normally (dir. Isold Uggadottir, Iceland, 2018)
Andið eðlilega
A single mum retrains as a border guard and crosses paths with a refugee from Guinea-Bissau.

Three Identical Strangers (dir. Tim Wardle, USA, 2018)
Identical triplets separated and raised by different families discover more than they bargained about their heritage. (This is one I'm definitely not watching the trailer for or reading anything about in advance!)

Beirut (dir. Brad Anderson, USA, 2018)
Jon Hamm stars as a jaded ex-diplomat who returns to Beirut in 1982 to negotiate the release of a friend taken hostage.

The King (dir. Eugene Jarecki, USA, 2017)
Driving the backroads of America in Elvis' old '63 Rolls-Royce Phantom V, listening to musicians describe in words and song what Elvis and America means to them.

Shoplifters (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2018)
Manbiki kazoku
Always a thrill to see another of Kore-eda's lovingly crafted, profoundly humanist family Japanese dramas. This one's about the struggling Shibata family, who adopt and care for an abused child. Won the Palme d'Or at Cannes.

Stray (dir. Dustin Feneley, NZ, 2018)
A loner in self-imposed exile in Central Otago encounters a mysterious woman in a dramatic, sumptuously-shot landscape.

Arctic (dir. Joe Penna, Iceland, 2018)
Mads Mikkelsen's plane crashes in Iceland. 'Nuff said.

First Reformed (dir. Paul Schrader, USA, 2017)
Ethan Hawke as a small-town minister whose ebbing faith is tested by his circumstances and the spiralling decline of America (I think).

Woman at War (dir. Benedikt Erlingsson, Iceland, 2018)
Kona fer í stríð
Middle-aged environmental activist Halla makes her own rules in this Icelandic drama.

The Third Murder (dir. Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2017)
Sandome no satsujin
Another Kore-eda film! This one's a steely courtroom drama uses a murder trial as a vehicle for examining Japanese society.

Filmworker (dir. Tony Zierra, USA, 2017)
Biopic of English actor and Stanley Kubrick's personal assistant, Leon Vitali (b.1948).

Wings of Desire (dir. Wim Wenders, West Germany, 1987)
Der Himmel über Berlin
For many years my favourite film ever made. Here's what I wrote about it back in 2012.

Juliet, Naked (dir. Jesse Peretz, USA, 2018)
A woman's frustration with her partner's musical obsession, the lost rocker Tucker Crowe, comes to a head in this adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel.

Burning (dir. Lee Chang-dong, South Korea, 2018)
A mysterious love triangle based on a Haruki Murakami short story, which wowed the critics at Cannes. 

Cold War (dir. Pawel Pawlikowski, Poland, 2018)
Zimna wojna
A doomed Eastern Bloc Cold War romance tells the musical and political story of the times.