Sam Neill has acted in forgotten Kiwi TV dramas (The City of No) and classic Kiwi movies (Sleeping Dogs, The Piano, Hunt for the Wilderpeople). His career has taken him from the UK (Reilly: Ace of Spies) to Hawaii (Jurassic Park) to dodgy Melbourne nightclubs (Death in Brunswick). As Neill turns 70, this collection celebrates his range, modesty and style — and the fact he was directing films before winning acting fame. In these backgrounders, friends Ian Mune and Roger Donaldson raise a glass to a talented, self-deprecating actor and fan of good music and pinot noir.
"It was the beginning of the end of the world..." Award-winning actor Tim Balme (Braindead) narrates this rain-lashed tale of being trapped in a world where all the women have disappeared. The film noir stylings, Blade Runner climate and tough-talking dialogue come to the fore when Balme encounters a beautiful woman with an attitude (Balme's real-life partner Katie Wolfe), and finds desire playing tricks with his mind. Planet Man was judged best short film in the Critics' Week section of the 1996 Cannes Film Festival.
This collaboration between dancer Douglas Wright and director Gregor Nicholas was one of a series of music and movement-based shorts that established Nicholas’ reputation. A dramatised film noir sequence leads to a cross-dressing dance duel between Wright and Debbie McCulloch, shifting between an Orwellian cityscape and retro nightclub. Wright choreographs the bodies, and Nicholas the bold and sensual visual rhythms (shot by Stuart Dryburgh). Nicholas went on to direct high profile commercials and movie Broken English. Wright passed away in 2018.
This short film takes its title from Russell Corgi's famous 1942 Buffalo Courier Express photograph of the exterior of the Genesee Hotel. Directed by Jonathan Ogilvie, the film is a series of close-ups of the photo coolly unfurling to reveal the full image. The snippets are overdubbed with a beguiling film noir-styled narration that imagines the context behind the extraordinary shot. Divorcee screened at many film festivals including in competition at Cannes in 1995. Corgi's photo was also referenced in the 'Passengers' issue of Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics.
Off his own bat, Ilam art student Glenn Standring got his third-year short into competition at the Cannes Film Festival. The minimal plot — hipster private eye Lenny Minute dryly narrates, before facing his nemesis, a rampaging giant blue “sheila doll” — allows Standring to conjure up a distinctive collage-styled cityscape, mined from a grab-bag of Americana inspirations: 50s sci-fi, jazz, the hardboiled detectives of Dashiell Hammett, and star Marlene Dietrich. After this early computer-aided short, Standring joined the Gibson Group as an animator, then directed two stylish features.
Auckland troubadour Greg Johnson won the prestigious APRA Silver Scroll songwriting award for 1997 with this moody, tortured love song from his fourth album (his first for a major label), Chinese Whispers. The elegant, uncluttered video was directed and edited by Jonathan King. The video was shot in the Auckland suburbs of Newmarket and Parnell. With a narrative straight out of Hitchcock, Johnson is cast as narrator — and both the victim and accomplice of a blonde femme fatale in what appears to be a murder ... with a mysterious handbag the only clue.
The title provides pointers towards the film noir intentions of this stylish short film. A well-travelled set-up — drifter rolls into a seedy motel diner — springs surprises as the time -travel plot unravels. Jet Black features Leighton Cardno (Shortland Street's Dr Adam Heyward) as Jet, burdened by murderous guilt, and fellow Shortlander Marissa Stott as the winsome waitress. The screenplay was written by director Kezia Barnett, novelist Chad Taylor (Heaven) and adman Karl Fleet. It was part of a series of shorts promoting Schweppes, by advertising agency Publicis Mojo.
As a trench coat-clad protagonist enters the room, the jazzy soundtrack and copious shadows promise a claymation exercise in film noir. But the room advertised in director Barry Prescott’s first short film is no ordinary rental. It soon becomes apparent that a more unusual threat is responsible for the lack of furnishings and tenants — and it threatens the man and his oversized revolver. Television has been accused of rotting brains, but this short takes the allegation to the next level. Unfurnished Room for Rent screened at the Palm Springs and Seattle film festivals.
Veteran producer/director John Laing has worked in film and television in New Zealand, Canada and the UK. His feature films include the Arthur Allan Thomas-inspired Beyond Reasonable Doubt, cross-cultural romance Other Halves and thriller Dangerous Orphans. Laing has also directed a long list of popular drama series for TV, including Go Girls, Nothing Trivial, Street Legal, Inside Straight and Marlin Bay; plus tele-feature Safe House.
From The Phoenix Foundation’s second album Pegasus, ‘Hitchcock’ is an eerie “electro noir” instrumental tribute to the great film director. Reuben Sutherland’s remarkable clip (which he shot, directed, animated and edited) features a choreographed army of Russian Lada cars — created out of images shot with a stills camera and layered 90 times. What follows is a surreal, conservation-themed revisiting of the Cold War as the electric powered Ladas of the ‘Petrol Crimes Bureau’ are pitted against a gas guzzling 4x4 (bedecked with the Stars and Stripes).