At The London Film Festival 2014
We’ll be covering (a fraction of) this year’s London Film Festival throughout the month. This is the one-stop shop for reviews of films we’ve seen, plus details of where & when you can catch them.
The Way He Looks
On paper, Brazilian director Daniel Ribeiro’s debut feature is easy to pigeonhole as ‘blind gay teen romance.’ That would be a disservice to a lovely, Linklater-quality gem that navigates its subject with insouciant naturalism and tender observation.
The Man In The Orange Jacket
Latvia’s “first horror movie” sees a laid-off dock worker conduct some recessionary revenge on his old boss. While overextended even at 71 minutes long, this works both as a macabre comedy of class war and a surreal parable of guilt and paranoia thanks to director Aik Karapetian’s devilishly unreadable poker face.
Sion Sono’s hybrid of yakuza thriller and hip-hop musical is an exercise in pure cinema: imagine Baz Luhrmann casting Scott Pilgrim and The Bride as The Warriors and then remaking R Kelly’s Trapped In The Closet. It’s also an exercise in bad taste, its parody of rap braggadocio coming uncomfortably close to perpetuating hip-hop’s worst tendencies.
Watch Tokyo Tribe at LFF 2014.
Call it Once Upon A Time In Russia. Andrey Zygagintsev’s long, involving, novelistic retelling of the Book of Job is a bleakly funny – and bleak – fable of cruel fate. Man’s helplessness isn’t so much God’s will as the result of a corrupt, regressive socio-political system; no wonder everybody drinks far, far too much vodka.
You’d think Dogme veteran Kristian Levring would bring fresh perspective to his Western about a Danish settler (Mads Mikkelsen). No: instead every genre narrative beat and stylistic tic is rounded up and pretty much lynched in a theme-park Western whose only real theme is a sour depiction of all-American sadism.
A Little Chaos
To be honest, it needed more. Yet for all it lacks in satirical bite, Alan Rickman’s tale of a common gardener (Kate Winslet), hired to work at Versailles for Louis XIV (Rickman), is a pleasant enough, Sunday-night-TV comedy-drama. It’s carried by engaging performances, led by the director at his most self-parodic.
Testament Of Youth
“Well-crafted” isn’t enough without personality, observes WWI nurse Vera Brittain (Alicia Vikander). Just as well, then, that James Kent’s resolutely old-school adaptation of her memoir is given real depth of feeling by Vikander’s eloquent, elegant star-making performance.
A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night
Ana Lily Amirpour’s “Iranian fairytale” about a skateboarding, burqa-clad vampire fuses sex, drugs and rock’n’roll with moody monochrome style and sly subtexts. A true cult original inflected with traces of Lynch, Jarmusch and Frank Miller, it’s fair to say you wouldn’t get this from Abbas Kiarostami.
Love Is Strange
Ira Sach’s unofficial remake of Make Way For Tomorrow aims at plenty of satirical targets, notably the societal tension of overpriced, undersized city living, but is too cosily meandering to hit effectively. John Lithgow and Alfred Molina make a lovely couple, but the film’s in-built flaw sees them separated for too much of the run time.
The stand-out of the festival transforms the musical prodigy genre into a bloody bout (half-duel, half-duet) between aspiring jazz drummer Miles Teller and tyrannical mentor J.K. Simmons. Twentysomething newcomer Damien Chazelle directs with more dynamism than most A-listers, sustaining a ferocious, exhilarating tempo even as he asks difficult questions about the price of perfection. A virtuoso performance.
If you thought James Franco had it tough in 127 Hours, here Reese Witherspoon (rediscovering her form) has to walk 1000 miles with her rock metaphorically attached. There’s the odd stumble, sure, but Jean-Marc Vallée’s mostly sure-footed direction confirms (after Dallas Buyers Club) an ability to bring a tough naturalism to awards-bait material, showing the bruises from the self-help hugs.
Tagged London Film Festival