Sunday, 26 October 2008

LFF11: Revolutionaries

It was Benicio Del Toro's turn on the London Film Festival red carpet in Leicester Square last night, arriving with Steven Soderbergh for the premiere of their four-hour biopic of Che. Also out last night to support their British films were director Nick Moran and the cast of his rambunctious Joe Meek biopic Telstar, and director Justin Kerrigan with Robert Carlyle for I Know You Know.

Here are some highlights from yesterday, today and tomorrow...

Vicky Christina Barcelona ****
Woody Allen returns with his fourth Euro-film in a row, and this Spanish production is one of his best in decades: the lively tale of two Americans (the superb Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall) who spend a summer in Spain and have very different romances with a local painter (Javier Bardem at his most seductive). Then his passionately unstable exwife (Penelope Cruz, on fire) shows up. Hilarious comedy and astute observations about art and love combine into a thoroughly entertaining romp.

Wendy & Lucy ****
Michelle Williams is terrific in this low-key drama about a woman on a road trip to start a new life with her faithful dog, but plans are derailed in Oregon when her car breaks down and her dog goes missing. Like writer-director Kelly Reichert's previous Old Joy, this film is infused with a sense of disappointment in the way society lets people down through self-interest and ignorance, but there's still a glimmer of hope. And Williams gets it exactly right.

Gonzo *****
After his jaw-dropping doc Taxi to the Dark Side, Alex Gibney is back with this expertly assembled look at "The Life and Work of Dr Hunter S Thompson", the out-there journalist who put himself into the middle of his stories and was almost frighteningly honest about what he saw. His love of guns and drugs made most people label him a "freak", but in his quest for even one honest politician he could support, we realise that we need journalists like him now more than ever.

The Silence of Lorna ***
The Dardenne brothers won yet another Cannes award for this beautiful drama that combines genres to tell a story about an Albanian immigrant (Arta Dobroshi) who gets Belgian citizenship by marrying a junkie (the superb Jeremie Renier), then has serious doubts about the next stage in her handlers' plans for her. This is a harrowing look at both drug addiction and human trafficking, but is told with a deeply personal touch.

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