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Perfect Strangers Now Sold To Twenty Territories

Perfect Strangers Now Sold To Twenty Territories

Guests got more than a taste of the South Island’s West Coast at the premiere in Auckland of film maker Gaylene Preston’s Perfect Strangers on Saturday night.

The 700 guests, including Prime Minister Helen Clark, the stars of the film Sam Neill, Rachael Blake and Joel Tobeck, film and television celebrities and art collectors, had most of their senses regaled by the West Coastness of the evening.

The evening event held at Sky City Theatre was as much a tribute to the ruggedly beautiful coastline where the film was made as it was to the quality of the film itself which has won rave reviews from round the world.

The film with its chilling and obsessive romance cum horror story set amid the wild beauty of the Coast, Don McGlashan and friends performing the film’s theme song, “Anchor Me”, ushers dressed in gumboots and pseudo-Swandris, Greymouth groper and smoked ling nibbles, whitebait fritters, Blackball salami, Phoenix beef, and yummy Snowflake ice cream supplied by the West Coast Development Trust - all added up to a premiere with a difference, said arts and film industry representatives attending on the night.

Everyone went away with a present, wrapped fish and chip style, containing a Perfect Strangers Location Guide to the Coast, a CD of the soundtrack, tourism brochures and an introduction to the innovative on-line art auction being launched by premiere sponsors Fishers Fine Arts.

Prime Minister Helen Clark, in a speech to the audience before the premiere, praised the film industry in New Zealand and paid tribute to Gaylene Preston, New Zealand's first Film Maker Laureate.

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She said Perfect Strangers was the second to be produced with the help of the government's new film fund, established to help get more New Zealand films made. She said she supported public funding of such films.

Ms Clark announced the film had been sold in 20 territories including the United States and has received strong reviews after featuring at film festivals in London and Montreal. It has also been selected for the Creteil Film Festival in Paris next month.

Reviewers overseas are lauding the Preston film. In Australia, Ruth Hessey of Insidefilm called it “audacious, brilliantly visualised and slightly unnerving … a journey to the heart of darkness”.

Film maker Preston said the US magazines Variety and Screen International reviews were overwhelmingly superlative. “The story is quite strong one way or the other and people have definite views.”




There's something about New Zealand films that makes everyone want to get up and go see the scenery for themselves. The latest offering, Perfect Strangers, from New Zealand's first Film Maker Laureate Gaylene Preston will compound this irresistable urge.

The film, a chilling but blackly humorous tale about a romance that turns into an obsession, had its New Zealand premiere at the Sky City Tower Theatre in Auckland on Saturday night (Jan31) and has a West Coast opening in Greymouth on Thursday (Feb4).

Multi-award-winning Preston shot the film, whose storyline she wrote, in the region of her childhood, the South Island's untamed West Coast. It's a place she admits she can't get out of her system.

Neither can male star of the film, Sam Neill, whose home is in that other region of spectacular scenery, Queenstown Lakes.

Neill told Onfilm Magazine that the physical locality of the film was the thing he remembered most fondly about it, in particular the setting for the bach where much of the film was set.

"It's probably one of the most savagely beautiful corners of the world imaginable," he said.

Neill said the weather was very kind for the winter shooting of the film, though he was probably comparatively speaking while thinking at the same time of the full onslaught that the West Coast is capable of turning on. Even the sandflies were at a minimum, he said.

In contrast, film maker Preston delights in telling people that the red noses they will see on the human faces in the film have nothing to do with imbibing whiskey to keep themselves warm during the winter shoot.

The redness is from a cutting wind the West Coasters call The Barber which is so sharp it feels like your ears have been shaved.

Neill said he was "tactfully bullied" by Preston into doing the film: "A little bit aunty, a little bit tyrant, a little bit art film director. Gaylene's from the West Coast and they breed strong women down there."

Perfect Strangers has already premiered in Australia, where the reviewers raved almost as much about the scenery and the moody weather as they did about the stars Neill, Australia's Rachael Blake, local Joel Tobeck, and film maker Gaylene Preston. New Zealand Tourism, seeing the potential, cross-promoted the film when it appeared in Australia.

Everyone agrees that the scenery and the weather make themselves integral characters in the film. They are so much a part of the atmosphere of the film that the Grey District Council has produced, in association with the New Zealand Community Trust, a movie location guide book for tourists called the Perfect Strangers Location Tour Guide.

A little tongue-in-cheek - like many West Coasters - the slender, heavily pictorial guidebook is like the more substantial guidebook that accompanied the blockbuster Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Half the West Coast seems to have been involved in some way with the shooting of Perfect Strangers. Even noted cinematographer Alun Bollinger lives there.

Sam Neill said the habitually bare-foot cinematographer was the logical choice.

"I've known him forever, since the Acme Sausage Company days. He wasn't wearing shoes then either .... much of the history of New Zealand cinema is his history too."

Asked at the premiere what attracted him to the film. “The powerful script,” Neill said.

“It also came as a rare opportunity to work with Robin and Gaylene who I’ve basically known since kindergarten.”

Australian Rachael Blake, known for her roles in the television series Wildside and the film Lantana, reacted with amazement, admiration and horror to the West Coast landscape.

New Zealand films echoed the intensity of the landscape, she told Insidefilm Magazine.

"New Zealand beaches are not sand, they're full of boulders and ripped up shells and the ice-cold Tasman Sea," she said.

"There's a scene where I'm in the surf and the undertow is so strong, the water picks up rocks, so I kept getting thumped in the head.

"You have to deal with the terrain in New Zealand. You just can't ignore it."

She told the gathered VIP guests on Saturday night that “New Zealand has got itself together so much better than Australia. I love coming here.”




The Norcasa Fish and Chip shop in Mackay Street, Greymouth was Perfect Strangers film maker Gaylene Preston’s parents’ business in the 1950s – but it was also the scene of another love tryst-type murder in the early 1960s.

The shop had been run by various well known families over the years besides the Prestons, including the Zampeses and Vicellis – plus it was the favourite staging post of Grey Star paperboys, who felt better equipped heading off with a bike load of papers into a howling wet gale fortified with a bob’s worth of the Norcasa’s best chips.

Plenty is known about Gaylene Preston’s achievements with Perfect Strangers but what is the story behind the Norcasa murder?

Apparently, a man had been refused the hand in marriage of a local girl by her father and the man wanted revenge. First stop was the supposed burglary of Jack Pegley’s Greymouth sports shop for the gun and ammo, then the late night railcar to Hokitika and a stop south of Greymouth to do the deed. But he missed the railcar.

Now for the first hand account from former Coaster and long serving sports writer for The Press, John Coffey.

“I was returning home down Mackay Street from a dance in Cobden on my motorcycle when I saw a body lying on the street near a car with its door open by the Norcasa – some mates were following me in a Morris Minor. I stopped to help because I thought it was an accident and next thing, this bloke jumps out of the shadows onto the back of my motorcycle with a 303 in his hand.

“I was more worried about the fact I only had “L” plates – no passengers allowed – I asked if there had been an accident and he replied that he had shot him. He demanded to go to the Police Station and as we neared there, he turned and fired a shot at the Morris Minor which followed us – I think he also pointed the gun at some people on the street.”

John Coffey said it was a very sad case that was in the news all over the country as the victim was a young lad who had simply been out to the Friday evening movies. In another bizarre twist, the man was reportedly a porter at Revington’s Hotel in Greymouth which has been used as a backdrop in Perfect Strangers.

“The serious nature of the situation did not hit me until I got home and told Mum. She rang the Police to ensure I wasn’t wanted as an accomplice.”

John was required to give his evidence in court in the middle of his University Entrance exams – this distraction possibly contributed to him missing out by two marks but he had already been offered a journalism cadetship with The Press, a job he has held for almost 40 years.





We’re all kids at heart and nothing proved that more than seeing 700 sophisticated guests some bow-tied, at the New Zealand premiere of the Perfect Strangers film rummaging through ice filled wheelbarrows for their second pottle of Snowflake Ice Cream.

In keeping with scenes from the film where an icy freezer and a huge wheelbarrow have their place, the award-winning, West Coast-made ice cream was served amid crushed ice wheeled round in hefty galvanized wheelbarrows.

Glasses of bubbly were set aside as soon as the ice cream appeared and everyone had at least one pottle produced fresh in a range of flavours by the Westland Snowflake Ice Cream Ltd.

This ice cream, made of only the freshest natural ingredients - milk, sugar and cream – has been made on the West Coast of the South Island since the 1920s.

It is sold in selected shops all over the country and used in top New Zealand hotels by discerning chefs.

© Scoop Media

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