Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Fest Day 8: The big guns

After what felt like an interminable flight (due to shrieking baby behind me and ludicrous queues at LA Airport), I arrived at the Los Angeles Film Festival last night just in time to see the start of the cleanup after the star-studded premiere of Michael Mann's Public Enemies. (Pictured above, in case you don't recognise them, are Johnny Depp, Marion Cotillard and Christian Bale).

The sun is shining here in California, of course, but I will still be diving into darkened cinemas to see what I can find at this festival. Here are a few highlights from today's programme - the first film is both here in L.A. and at Edinburgh Film Fest. The other three are all at Edinburgh today...

Big River Man
dir John Maringouin, 09/US ****
Essentially, this film documents Slovenian Martin Strel as he attempts to swim the entire length of the Amazon (he had previously conquered the Mississippi, Danube and Yangtze). Narrated by his son, the film actually captures a remarkable tale of tenacity and madness, as the son watches his father lose his mind during the gruelling ordeal. Just as remarkable is the technical achievement of the film crew, which remains off screen and makes the doc into a gorgeously shot and edited drama that's utterly gripping.

Rudo & Cursi
dir Carlos Cuaron, 09/Mexico ****
Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna reunite for this lively Mexican film examining issues of fame and the economic divide. They play brothers who are drafted into the professional football leagues and deal with their success in very different ways. It's an energetic, extremely well-made film that sometimes feels a bit fragmented but really gets under the skin of the characters, who are extremely well played. > FULL REVIEW And Garcia and Luna are also at the LA Film Fest tonight to present a series of films about Mexico.

The September Issue
dir RJ Cutler, 09/US ****
Centring on the production of the September 2007 issue of Vogue, its largest issue ever, this documentary follows editor Anna Wintour on her globe-hopping job checking out fashion shows, overseeing photo shoots and picking out which photos are in and which are out. The film occasionally finds crasks in her ice-queen facade, but what makes it even more unmissable is the counterbalance of her colourful and brilliant creative director Grace Coddington. The tension between these women is both hilarious and sharp. > FULL REVIEW

Fear Me Not [Den du Frygter]
dir Kristian Levring, 08/Denmark ****
Ulrich Thomsen and Paprika Steen are terrific as a married couple stretched to the breaking point when the husband takes a leave from work and gets his brother-in-law to let him test some new anti-depressants. His changes of mood give him a creepy inner life that he completely hides from his wife and daughter, even as things get very, very scary. The film intriguingly asks whether the drugs give him an excuse for his erratic behaviour - and if there's any way back. Sleek and cool, and pretty scary too.

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