Review: New Zealand Film 'Insatiable Moon'   15 Oct 2010

It’s a small film but The Insatiable Moon just might be the feel-good movie of 2010.

Joseph Hoye

In a London screening in conjunction with Mental Health Day, New Zealand's The Insatiable Moon delighted a sell-out audience in advance of its 2011 general release in the UK.

Made on an ever-shrinking budget, this New Zealand film should become one of our cinematic treasures. Initially bankrolled to the tune of NZ$6 million, the final budget was a mere $500,000 after a deal fell through. It is difficult to fathom why the New Zealand Film Commission pulled out of funding The Insatiable Moon, as it is a wee gem of a movie.

First-time feature director Rosemary Liddell has allowed her actors to grow into their roles and has succeeded in creating a slice of New Zealand cinematic magic. The cast, led by Kiwi icon Rawiri Paratene, deliver strong performances in this tale about Arthur, the second son of God.

Based on the New Zealand novel by Mike Riddell, Ponsonby resident Arthur knows that he is Jesus’ brother. That he might be crazy doesn’t phase him at all. That he cares deeply for his friends and community is beyond doubt.
This is a film with love at its core, though it's no Notting Hill or Ghost. Instead, we are honoured to share the lives of men for whom communal life in a half-way house is their only chance of approaching normalcy. Those lives are threatened when the hostel receives a closure notice.

Rawiri Paratene shines as Arthur, bringing dignity to what could have been just another laugh-at-the-unfortunates flick. Instead, we share, however briefly, the confusion and horror as well as the humour that is life for someone who has yo-yoed in and out of New Zealand's psychiatric institutions throughout his life. The supporting cast are just as good.

For me, New Zealand stalwarts Ian Mune and Greg Johnson produced the stand-out performances in The Insatiable Moon. In an understated performance as alcoholic Norm, Mune is perhaps the conscience of the film. He expresses our horror as events move towards the inevitable and there is something within his brokenness that suggests we are all redeemable – that there is hope for us all. Johnson, meanwhile, gives an over-the-top performance as the grumpy hostel owner, Bob. It has been a long time since I have seen an actor portray so much compassion while insulting everyone about him.

If The Insatiable Moon has a flaw as a film, it would have to be its failure to fall into a particular category. This is not an easy film to pigeon-hole. It treats the subject of mental instability with humour and compassion, it does not shy away from the ugly side of mental health issues and it remains thoroughly entertaining. It points out that Community Care by definition needs a community to show that it cares, that the people who live on the outskirts of society are still members of that society and that no matter how tragic our circumstances may be, there is always something that will remind us to smile. That said, you cannot accuse The Insatiable Moon of being cerebral. This is New Zealand cinema at its most entertaining.

The film screening at London’s Haymarket Cineworld was followed by a well attended Q&A session with Mike and Rosemary Riddell and Rawiri Paratene. The three received much praise for the film but also came under fire from a gentleman who had spent much of his life in psychiatric institutions, prompting Mr Paratene to declare it the best Q&A session he had ever participated in.

The Insatiable Moon is out in cinemas in New Zealand now and will be released in the UK early next year. The adversity that the film makers had to overcome is alone worthy of our support. That this is a highly entertaining story should make it an unmissable event and it can only be hoped that the New Zealand Film Commission will see fit to help it gain the exposure it so richly deserves. If you live in the UK, see it soon. If you’re in New Zealand, see it now.

The Insatiable Moon Interview

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