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servant2_©1963StudioCanalLate last year, the enter­tain­ment giant Net­flix announced that they would be bring­ing their video-stream­ing ser­vice to New Zea­l­and and Aus­tralia. From March they will be com­pet­ing with Quick­flix, Light­box (from Spark) and Neon (from Sky) to see who can keep Kiwis on their couches for longer. The video store (apart from rare spe­cial­ist insti­tu­tions like Aro Street Video) is all but dead, killed by leg­al and illeg­al downloads.

Cinema own­ers are wor­ried that they might be going the same way. After all, as attend­ances at Wel­ling­ton rugby matches indic­ate, if you can watch some­thing in high defin­i­tion in a warm lounge, why leave the house?

But there is still one oas­is where the big-screen exper­i­ence — the com­mun­al big-screen exper­i­ence — is supreme. A place where you can watch great films with hun­dreds of oth­ers around you, not dozens; where the finest examples of the defin­ing art form of the mod­ern age are show­cased the way they were meant to be seen and where — gosh darn it — films are some­times still screened on actu­al film.

Which is a hyper­bol­ic way to entreat you to renew your mem­ber­ship of the Wel­ling­ton Film Soci­ety (or even join if you are one of those recal­cit­rants who ignores my entreat­ies every year). On 2 March, the society’s weekly Monday night get-togeth­ers recom­mence with a spe­cial 35mm screen­ing of Cronenberg’s A His­tory of Viol­ence, and then con­tin­ue — inter­rup­ted only by pub­lic hol­i­days and the New Zea­l­and Inter­na­tion­al Film Fest­iv­al — until 30 Novem­ber, when the Para­mount Theatre vault is raided once again for the delight­ful Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter, based on the nov­el by Mario Var­gas Llosa.

In between, you’ll be wit­ness to Kiwi microbudget films I’m Not Harry Jen­son and Fan­tail, a spe­cial Anzac-week screen­ing of All Quiet on the West­ern Front, rarely seen Brit­ish farm­ing doc­u­ment­ary The Moo Man, mod­ern clas­sics like Abu-Assad’s Omar (2013) and Mungiu’s Bey­ond the Hills (this reviewer’s second favour­ite film of 2012), and a doc­u­ment­ary about the loss and redis­cov­ery of Méliès’ 1902 A Trip to the Moon, fol­lowed by the film itself. Per­son­ally, I am look­ing for­ward to catch­ing Chinese thrill­er Black Coal, Thin Ice after the screen­ing I was booked for at last year’s film fest­iv­al was abor­ted because of sub­title problems.

But the two great centrepieces of this year’s pro­gramme are the ret­ro­spect­ives — a chance to sur­vey three films each by some of the greatest auteurs who ever called “Cut!” I have been lob­by­ing film fest­iv­al dir­ect­or Bill Gos­den for a Satyajit Ray ret­ro­spect­ive for years and am pleased that, if room can’t be found in the July event, three of his films screen here: The Big City and The Lonely Wife from the 1960s, and The Ele­phant God from 1979.

Amer­ic­an expat dir­ect­or Joseph Losey’s three col­lab­or­a­tions with writer Har­old Pinter screen in July and August: The Ser­vant, which stars Dirk Bog­ar­de as a mys­ter­i­ous and ambi­tious but­ler slowly tak­ing con­trol of his inef­fec­tu­al upper-class mas­ter (James Fox); clas­sic mid-life crisis movie Acci­dent (also star­ring Bog­ar­de); and the mas­ter­piece The Go-Between, which stars Alan Bates and Julie Christie as class-crossed lov­ers in Edwar­d­i­an England.

Finally, although earli­est in the pro­gramme, there are three examples of the sin­gu­lar tal­ent of Douglas Sirk: All That Heav­en Allows, The Tar­nished Angels (both star­ring Rock Hud­son) and the rarely seen A Time to Love and a Time to Die.


Also in February


The The­ory of Everything — 5 Feb Former Wel­ling­to­ni­an Anthony McCarten wrote this adapt­a­tion of Jane Hawking’s mem­oir of her life with phys­i­cist Stephen.


Inher­ent Vice — 19 Feb There Will Be Blood dir­ect­or P.T. Ander­son adapts the fam­ous nov­el by the reclus­ive Thomas Pyn­chon, star­ring Joa­quin Phoenix, Reese With­er­spoon and Josh Brolin.


Black­hat — 26 Feb Michael Mann’s first film since gang­ster film Pub­lic Enemies in 2009, this is a plucked-from-the-head­lines thrill­er about cyber crim­in­als and digit­al terrorism