Thursday, 31 October 2013

Drilling DEEPER into the BFI London Film Festival #lff (Part 2)

Continuing my very intuitive London Film Festival 2013 taxonomy...


Where would you find a film festival without a handful of films on this eternal theme? Three excellent ones here, a very controlled performance in Nebraska from Bruce Dern as an old, semi-alcoholic grump who is convinced he’s won a million in a lottery and wants to go to claim his prize. His son David takes the path of least resistance and decides to take him on a road trip that explores and redefines family ties with humour but without cloying sentimentality. 


Like Father, Like Son, the latest from Hirokazu Kore-eda takes a hypothetical situation, two boys swapped at birth, and tries and tests tests the two very different couples through what it means to be a parent as they contemplate exchanging their six-year-olds.  

Like Father, Like Son
A terse and contained British prison drama from David Mackenzie, Starred Up avoids the genre clichés through the strength and brutal detail of its opening scenes. Eric, a young offender is sent to adult prison because he is uncontrollable. His father happens to be banged up there and a conflict arises between the tensions in their relationship and progressive attempts to rehabilitate him through group therapy. A tough watch that only slightly dilutes as the plot moves towards its resolution.


 In which case the speculation is what happens to dialogue? Does the character talk to him or herself? Do we get interior monologue? Will it be a silent film? Three notable cases at the LFF: lost in space drama Gravity which delivers its very own 3D roller coaster ride, Locke (which I regretfully didn't see but is Tom Hardy in the interior of a car, driving from Wales to London for the duration of the film) and All is Lost in which Robert Redford is a yachtsman adrift in the Indian Ocean in a leaky vessel.

All is Lost


Computer Chess
Cinematography is the crucial element here, spectacular widescreen photography in Nebraska to convey the vast open spaces of midwest America and the closed, monotonous structures of small town life; in the US Indie offbeat comedy Computer Chess to simulate early 80s grainy video; and to stunning effect in the glittering, deep focus landscapes in the Polish biopic of 20th century Roma poet, Bronislawa Wajs, aka Papusza, a revelation, though there were barely 30 people in the audience at the public screening I attended.





There were three Greek films in total, of special interest to me; I sought them out. Two of them - The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas and Luton - could be classified as Greek 'weird wave' films following in the footsteps of Dogtooth, Attenberg, The Boy Eating the Bird's Food though the young director of Luton repudiated this categorisation in his Q&A.  They reflect, as you might expect, a troubled and fragmented society and eschew a conventional narrative story-telling. The third, The Enemy Within, was similarly dystopian but in straightforward revenge thriller form. I was delighted to run into Margaret, formerly Flicks in the Sticks promoter at Garway, at the Luton screening at Vue Leicester Square. Her verdict on Luton was 'pretty hard to take', unremittingly grim social and personal relations, long, long sequences and not much indication of where the film was headed. Or indeed why it was called Luton. The director explained that the airport had something to do with it: a mundane place where not much goes on (?) that is a gateway to London where everything is happening. Thus the episodes depicted in the film.

The Eternal Return of Antonis Paraskevas



  • 12 Years a Slave - a tour-de-force from Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame).
  • Gloria
  • Papusza
  • Like Father, Like Son
  • Ilo Ilo -  fresh, low budget Singapore family drama which won Anthony Chen the Sutherland Award for best first feature at LFF as well as Camera D’Or at Cannes.
    Ilo Ilo
  • Exhibition
  • Nebraska
  • Sacro Gra - surreal, in the sense of bringing out the extraordinary in the everyday, this documentary that skirts around the margins of Rome's ring road won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival. Would make intriguing double bill, a long one, with The Great Beauty.
  • The Epic of Everest - unseen since it was a box office draw in 1924, this restoration from the BFI National Archive of Mallory and Irvine's tragic attempt to reach the summit of the highest mountain in the world is fabulous, down to the lyrical but occasionally dodgy inter-titles.
    The Epic of Everest
  • La Belle et La Bête - restored and simply magical. It seems likely this will play at Borderlines 2014 so come see and bring children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces (it's a PG) to catch the bug of cinema. 
    La Belle et La Bête

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