NZ International Film Festival: Wonder Women
In 1995, La Haine caused a sensation with its gritty, visceral portrayal of teenage lives in Paris’ dead-end housing estates. Twenty years later, writer-director Céline Sciamma’s Girlhood covers the same ground, minus much of the violence and with a bunch of badass girls taking the place of Vinz and the boys. The film focuses on 16-year-old Marieme (Karidja Touré), who drops out of school and begins a life of petty crime after falling in with a rowdy girl gang. The film is a deft mix of exuberance and melancholy, as encapsulated in a pivotal scene in which the girls party in a hotel room to Rihanna’s downbeat dance hit “Diamonds”.
Lily Tomlin’s career started 46 years ago on a television sketch show; her filmography since includes Robert Altman’s Nashville (for which she was nominated for an Oscar), the smash-hit feminist comedy 9 to 5 and David O. Russell’s I Heart Huckabees — that’s Tomlin he’s going off at in those famously leaked behind-the-scenes clips.
The legendary comedienne is now enjoying a career renaissance. In Grandma she plays a lesbian poet on a road trip with her granddaughter. Given its subject matter, it’s hardly surprising to hear that it “passes the Bechdel test with flying colours”, according to The Guardian.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night demands to be seen on the big screen. Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut film is a tongue-in-cheek mash-up of vampire flick, spaghetti western, Lynchian weirdness and Jarmusch cool, shot in creepily atmospheric black and white. That title seems to suggest female peril, but the avenging angel at the heart of the film has men in her sights. She’s a lonely, skateboarding vampire who cruises the streets of a Nowheresville small town, picking off drug dealers, pimps and other assorted villains. The coolest Iranian-American vampire romance you’ve ever seen.
The Diary of a Teenage Girl was one of most talked-about movies coming out of Sundance this year. Not that surprising, really: as the Hollywood Reporter notes, this astonishingly self-assured film by first-time director Marielle Heller is “the kind of film Sundance prays for every year: one that indelibly puts on the map a talented director the festival can then forever claim as one of its own”. Starring Kristen Wiig, Alexander Skarsgård and newcomer Bel Powley, Diary is a 70s-set comedy-drama about a precocious teenager who embarks on an affair with her mother’s laidback boyfriend. That goes about as well as you’d expect.