First up, on Sunday 3 May, is a single screening at the Embassy of the wonderful and utterly influential first Beatles feature, A Hard Day’s Night, screening as part of the New Zealand International Film Festival’s Autumn Events programme. For once, that famously loud Embassy sound system really does need to be turned right up. The following weekend there are screenings of restored versions of two more greats: Bertolucci’s The Conformist, a political thriller about Italian life under Mussolini; and Kubrick’s Spartacus, in which Kirk Douglas fights another kind of totalitarianism. On the weekend of 16 and 17 May, the programme is completed by Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Disney’s Pinocchio.
In the commercial realm we get to see one of the biggest Australian domestic hits of all time when Robert Connolly’s Paper Planes hits theatres on 7 May. In it, a Western Australian child (Ed Oxenbould) discovers a talent for making, you guessed it, paper planes and, encouraged by his father (Sam Worthington), travels to the World Paper Plane Championships in Tokyo to compete with the best. A feel-good Aussie movie in the mould of Red Dog.
A different perspective on outback Australia is on offer the following week when George Miller reboots his own Mad Max series with Mad Max: Fury Road. Tom Hardy takes over from Mel Gibson as the eponymous post-apocalyptic car-crazy hero, trying to survive in a world where oil and water are the only currencies. It’s pretty hard to believe that Miller’s last two films were the animated penguin vehicles Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two.
A year or so ago, social media in New Zealand was agog with the idea that Michael Fassbender could be in the South Island shooting an independent western. That fuss died down a little later when he returned to shoot The Light Between Oceans with Rachel Weisz in Marlborough and Otago, and it looked like these visits might be an annual occurrence. Slow West tells the story of a 16-year-old boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) travelling across the frontier with a mysterious stranger known as Silas (Fassbender).
Also opening on 21 May is Gemma Bovary, returning from this year’s Alliance Française French Film Festival, a modern retelling of Flaubert’s famous novel starring Fabrice Luchini and luminous English star Gemma Arterton. Based on a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds, it appears to have less spandex and capes than most comic adaptations.
Finally, in my highlights for May is the long-awaited blockbuster Tomorrowland, directed by Brad Bird (The Incredibles, Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol) and starring George Clooney. Clooney plays a grizzled inventor who travels with a genius kid to unearth the secrets of the mysterious place that seems to exist only in both their memories. Phew.