Saturday 17 October 2009

Random collisions at the LFF

People – disparate, distracted, in London, watching, engaged, rapt (even if what they're looking at has something of the overstatement of a Second Coming) – the new trailer for the London Film Festival touts the PR message that it's the public not the industry that figures in this event. Certainly the audiences have turned out in force; many, if not most of the screenings this week, daytime and evening, have been fully booked. There's congestion on the escalators in the multiscreen Vue even if the viewing spaces in the festival's new West End venue are smaller than in previous years.

And on Thursday evening the LFF hosts London Moves Me, a free outdoor screening of, capital-related transport films from the BFI National and London Screen Archives in Trafalgar Square.

For me, two and a half days into viewing the experience has been one of coincidences, filmic rather than social encounters, though I did glimpse the back of Colin Firth's head while queuing to collect tickets. It started with a couple of previews a few weeks ago. First Harmony Korine's Trash Humpers in which a gang of ostensibly elderly delinquents.... yes, hump trash and engage in various other trashing scenarios, repetitively, on low-grade video footage. Shortly after I saw Burrowing, a beautifully crafted Swedish film in which four characters living in the same suburban community (different ages and degrees of affluence) follow trajectories that set them outside society. Anti-social tendencies

Yesterday I viewed four movies: The Road, Ivul, Today's Special, and Dogtooth. And the following themes recurred in two or more of them: dystopias, imploding families with a highlight on father/son relationships, incest, survivalism, too little or too much food, falling tree imagery and crows.

The Road, based on the Cormac McCarthy novel, is truly terrifying, the logical and unpalatable outcome of the message of The Age of Stupid, far more powerful in terms of film-making. A father and son battle their way through an unrelenting and monotone landscape at the world's end.

The best film I've seen so far has been Dogtooth, a film from Greece, a remarkable achievement. It's a parable about family life and the future of the family that manages to be bright, funny and natural on the one hand and darkly satirical on the other. Using a combination of fences and Pavlovian training, the mother and father of an anonymous family isolate their grown-up children from the world in what is effectively an affluent prison. Wielding short, sharp shocks, the film comes across as fresh, provocative and surreal. It's quite rare - and very encouraging - to come across a film that is not just underivative but genuinely original.