Wednesday, 29 October 2008

LFF14: Serious acting

Ralph Fiennes was on hand at the London Film Festival to collect the Variety UK Achievement in Film Award here. I'm not completely sure what this awards means, but it looks like a very nice chunk of glass.

Meanwhile, out on the red carpet last night were Colin Firth, Jessica Biehl and Ben Barnes for the premiere of their Noel Coward film Easy Virtue; Dougray Scott with filmmaker Richard Jobson for New Town Killers; and Charlie Kaufman for Synecdoche, New York.

Here are a few notes on films in the festival yesterday and today...

Quantum of Solace ****
Yes, the new James Bond film will get its first public screening tonight at the LFF, just after its massive premiere on the other side of Leicester Square (the film opens in the UK on Friday). It's a direct sequel to Casino Royale, picking up the story immediately as Bond seeks answers and revenge after the death of his girlfriend. In other words, it's a much more internalised 007 movie than we're used to - centred more on the drama going on in Bond's head than a megalomaniac (in this case Mathieu Amalric) trying to take over the world. And the action is once again bone-crunchingly rough, sofuccing on stunt work rather than gadgets. This is the kind of action film I love - as it appeals to the heart as well as the gut. But fans who like more mindless action may be annoyed.

Not Quite Hollywood ****
This documentary about Australian exploitation cinema (or "Ozploitation!") is raucous good fun, trawling through nearly 40 years of unhinged movies that gleefully trample all over every concept of good taste. It's loaded with pristine clips from all of these films, plus interviews with filmmakers, actors and big-name fans. From ocker comedies to gross-out horror to marauding road gangs (like Mad Max), this film chronicles an important movement in world cinema that's still influencing what we see now. And it's also fast, crazed and hysterically good fun.

The Beaches of Agnes ****
From the ridiculous to the sublime, this documentary by French filmmaker-photographer Agnes Varda traces her life and work with ironic set pieces, telling film clips, witty dramatic recreations and lots of stories about her encounters with her famous friends over the years. What emerges is a lovely exploration of life, looking back from age 80 and constantly cycling back to the love of her life (filmmaker Jacques Demy) and their children. And it's all linked by scenes shot on various beaches - in her childhood Belgium, France, Hollywood and even a makeshift sandbar on a street in Paris.

The Market ****
British director Ben Hopkins travels to the eastern border of Turkey to tell an engaging story of a man trying to get the most out of the free market system without losing his soul to greed and unethical behaviour. It's a warm combination of family drama and road movie, packed with comedy and emotion, and beautifully filmed and acted. There are also, of course, incredibly relevant themes running right through it, all handled with a deft light touch.

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