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August 2, 2010 | by  | in Film | [ssba]

Sam Hunt: Purple Balloon


Sam Hunt is one of New Zealand’s most eccentric characters, known for his personality as much as his poetry. Purple Balloon is a loosely structured narrative of Hunt’s life. Included are the biographical details of his upbringing in Auckland, significant milestones, various jobs and numerous road adventures. The film is not arranged in chronological order, rather information is presented randomly, much like the perplexing compositions of Hunt’s poetry.

Interviews with prominent New Zealand artists, personalities and literary figures such as Robin White, Dick Frizzell, Gary McCormick and C.K. Stead provide varying angles of Hunt. Interestingly, Stead receives a large proportion of screen time with no clear intent, except to perhaps contrast traditional literary style with the idiosyncrasies of Hunt. The image of Hunt that transpires from these interviews is one of stark authenticity, and it appears that the documentary is attempting to achieve this same sense. The inclusion of raw interview footage (awkward questions such as “Are we filming now?” are not edited out) presents a somewhat earnest impression, but the effect is lost after the second occurrence.

A captivating opening scene depicts Hunt reciting some of his much-loved poetry, with quick editing to complement the lyrical flow. Yet this slows for the duration of the documentary, causing some points to become tedious. Fortunately, the quirk and charisma in the words of Hunt, rarely shown without a glass of wine or smoke in his hand, carry the film forward. Strangely enough, Hunt asserts that he did not utter a word until the age of four (a tale which is confirmed by his brother) and suffered from a stutter throughout adolescence.

A great deal is made in reference to James K. Baxter, who was a significant influence and early mentor for Hunt. When talking about writer’s block, Hunt fuses Baxter’s poetic notion of listening with his own, describing how one must go to a place in order to listen to it. The documentary delivers a candid portrayal of a local icon, and would be warmly received by those who enjoy him and his work.

Sam Hunt: Purple Balloon
Director: Tim Rose


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