So I’ve decided to start a blog. There are many reasons why I have come to this decision. This I won’t get into right now. I’m going to write about movies, music, projects I may be involved in, or anything else that interests me. So stick around, you may find something interesting. If not I’m offering no apologies.
To begin I will talk about/review a film I just went to see, The Most Fun You Can Have Dying. Here’s the IMDB entry: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1866269/. I’d been tossing up what film I wanted to spend my hard earned cash on all week. Other choices had been David Cronenburg’s newest, A Dangerous Method or the kiwi western Good For Nothing. Also under consideration was a rescreening of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger 1947 nun-themed melodrama Black Narcissus. There was also F.W. Murnau’s Tabu*, but that’s screening as part of the Auckland Film Society, and I’m too cheap to fork out the membership fee. I would like to see all these films though, and hopefully at some stage I will get to.
I eventually settled on TMFYCHD. It’s also a kiwi film but I guess I chose it over Good For Nothing as I was in more of a drama mood than a western mood. TMFYCHD is about a young dude, Michael, probably in his early 20s that gets diagnosed with terminal liver cancer. He figures he’s pretty fucked, so instead of staying around in his small New Zealand community and receiving treatment that will give him a 10% chance of beating the disease, he takes the $200,000 raised to help him through donations and buggers off overseas. He leaves behind his best friend, David, just after admitting to him that he fucked his girlfriend and a caring father that now in trouble with the police over the stolen money. Michael just wants to enjoy the last months of his life, drinking, binging and experiencing what he can, while he can. At the expense of those who love him most. So he’s a bit of a dick.
His overseas journey takes him first to Hong Kong, where he gets a tattoo and a passport, and then to Europe. Things start off well, with his European first stop being London, or was it Paris? I’m not sure because things move quickly, there’s a fast cutting style and it’s never overly clear where exactly he is, unless to pay close attention to the architecture and the accents. Anyhow, in the London/Paris/Somewhere in Europe he meets a few characters at a local bar, yet hits on one of their girlfriends, getting his ass a royal beating (kind of a pun, intentional). A pretty young lass named Sylvie finds him lying bloodied in an alleyway, there is a connection between them and it doesn’t take long for him to woo her into join him on his adventure. We soon find she’s as misguided as him, perhaps a little big tragic, which probably explains a lot about the bond between them. Of course, we already know this relationship is not one that can end happily ever after, but I won’t ruin the intricate details of what unfolds.
So the plots a tad on the farfetched side but the film managed to absorb me, even when the screenplay went in some questionable directions. It’s not a perfect film and definitely not handled as slick as the same subject matter would have been by a more experienced director. I drifted off at a few points, imagining how much more gripping certain scenes would have been if they had been helmed by someone such as Wes Anderson. Then again I’ve watched a lot of Wes Anderson films lately, and the man’s style is so unique I’m tempted to call him a genius. So I should probably be fair and not compare a kiwi film to the work of such unique, rare talent.
For a kiwi film however, it is indeed an impressive journey. The amount of locations is startling and it’s hard to think of many other New Zealand films with a budget of this kind that delivered a journey of this cinematic scope. A few shots were breathtaking, particular the very last shot of the film (which I also won’t spoil). The film avoids the trendy and cost effective DSLR look and is shot in 35mm, so this perhaps explains much of the films visual appeal. The filmmakers certainly made the most of their minimal funding. The acting is mostly pretty strong as well, there are a few tear jerking moments here and there and no wooden Shortland Street level performances that can occasionally plague New Zealand productions. Matt Whelan did a good job of playing a bit of a dick of a protagonist. He probably had to lose a bit of weight for the role, as he does look pretty frail towards the end.
The subject matter itself is difficult and sensitive to many New Zealanders (and people worldwide). I think the majority of us in New Zealand have lost a loved one to cancer, be it a family member or friend. I lost my granddad (who we affectionately referred to as ‘gra’) to the disease, so I know what it’s like to see a family member wither away, due to the cancer but also due to the somewhat undignified medical treatment**. The handling of this topic within the film does certainly make one think, what would you do if placed in a similar situation as Michael? Would you stay in your small New Zealand town and suffer through the treatment that may save you or may just make the last few months of your live agony, or would you take a risk and at the expense of your loved ones live the last few months you have left in the most impulsive way possible? We learn early in the film that Michael lost his mother to a terminal disease when he was a boy. One of the only photos he has of her being one where she is bed ridden near the end of her life. The other is one where she is overseas, a decade earlier looking much healthier and full of life. These photos are clearly provided as the underlying motive for his actions. One can certainly sympathise with Michael’s plight when taken into account the interactions with his mother during his youth. He wanted to go out dignified, living life to the full, just like the younger incarnation of his mum. Not as a bed ridden lab rat for an unproven test. In this respect Michael provides a deep enough character to overlook his misgivings, the hearts he breaks and the stupid things he does in living out his last days.
The film succeeded in making me think about the plight of those who die young from terminal diseases and what I would do if placed in a similar situation. It also managed to make the couple sitting next to me think about the same thing, as they chattered away, discussing the situation and whether what Michael did was right or wrong as they left the theatre. It was by no means flawless filmmaking and at times felt like an excuse for a big OE with the film crew, but it delivered enough gripping moments, had a script with enough thought and enough heart to be largely a success. The character development did however feel inconsistent at certain points, with characters leaping from one emotion to another without a heck of a lot of reasoning. This was particular evident with the girl Michael shacks up with in Europe. Either its sloppy screenwriting or the filmmakers are making a point about the irregularity of human emotions. The negative elements of the film did not overwhelm the positive.
A few final points; the soundtrack was awesome, provided by the Flying Nun signed Grayson Gilmour. Dense arrangements, some poppy stuff, heavy stuff, well produced, suited the mood. There was a cameo performance from the Naked and Famous which I’m on the fence about. There also an amount of semi-homoerotic scenes, many close ups on male butts and the filmmakers even managed to sneak in a little male kissing. Though the sensitive “hey man I’m dying but I love you as a friend” kind of kiss. Female director-I guess couldn’t help filming some of her fantasies. At least she was kind enough to throw in a bit of full frontal female nudity, even the titillation out a bit more. Got to throw something in to add a bit of spice and bite the visuals after all.
So that concludes my first blog post. Bit of a review really. I’m reluctant to include a score because I don’t really want to make these blogs official reviews. They’re more loosely structured rambles really. But for the sake of anyone that wants a score here we go:
A+++ trader, prompt delivery of aural and visual content, would trade again.
…well, I will go to more of Kirstin Marcon’s films. She’s pretty cute too: http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2393814016/nm1509373.
So good to know we’re producing more promising Kiwi filmmakers. This blog has inspired me to go check out more NZ films, so maybe I’ll see Good For Nothing next week. Or maybe I’ll enrol in film school. Or maybe start living in a narcissistic blur in the spirit of TMFYCHD‘s Michael. I don’t think that I’ve ever lived that hard, fast or thoughtless however. Its good we have films to live out these fantasies.
*Thought-to-self: It’s not too late to see Tabu. Perhaps it would be worth not being a cheap cunt and heading to the Tabu screening, as it probably won’t be screened anytime soon and I no longer have the pleasures of easy access to a large film archive that I had during University… (I’ll mull this over tonight and perhaps give an update in a future blog).
**I also had a bout of hypochondria during high school in which I would constantly find lumps and convince myself I was losing weight and had cancer or some terminal disease. This of course, turned out to be some phase probably brought on by pubescent pot smoking and the changes in my body as I went from fat kid to lanky young adult. But given my fears, I can relate to this film in that way. It is my pubescent fears, tragically a reality for some (who I have great sympathy for), brought to screen.