Thursday, 25 June 2009

Fest Day 9: Summer movie parties

Jonathan Caouette presented his new film All Tomorrow's Parties last night here in Los Angeles at a gorgeous screening under the open sky at the Ford Amphitheatre. The film was preceded by Spike Jonze's hilariously surreal new short We Were Once a Fairytale, starring Kanye West. Meanwhile in Edinburgh, All Tomorrow's Parties premiered to that festival crowd followed by a Mogwai concert.

Here are some other festival highlights from yesterday and today - the first two films are in Edinburgh, the second two are in both Edinburgh and L.A., and the last one was in L.A. only...

The Hurt Locker
dir Kathryn Bigelow, 09/US ****
Gritty and raw are the best words to describe this Iraq battlefield drama, in which Jeremy Renner plays the leader of a bomb squad team (which includes Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty). It's an anecdotal film, made up of a series of blisteringly tense set pieces. The through line is pure emotion as we watch these three men cope with the pressure in very different ways. Great cameos from Ralph Fiennes, Guy Pearce, David Morse and Evangeline Lilly. > FULL REVIEW

dir Jose Padilha, 09/Brazil ***** After his gritty Berlin-winning Elite Squad, Padilha turns to a startlingly pure doc format for this film about hunger, following three poor families through their everyday life in a small city, a small town and an isolated rural village. Without making any commentary, Padilha just presents the images for us to see - and it's gorgeously shot in black and white, which makes it look like an Apu movie, or perhaps Italian neorealism. Utterly unforgettable. > FULL REVIEW

35 Shots of Rum
dir Claire Denis, 08/France ****
Here's another impressionistic drama from Denis and her ace cinematographer Agnes Godard. It centres on the relationship between a fatehr and daughter, both of whom find romance in unexpected places as the extremely loose story continues. As usual, Denis is looking at moods and emotions and connections, rather than a defined plot. But more adventurous filmgoers will find plenty to love about this beautifully observed film. > FULL REVIEW

All Tomorrow's Parties
dir Jonathan Caouette, 09/UK ***
Five years after his remarkable debut Tarnation, Caouette is back with this clever documentary about the unstructured UK festival. It's a collage-style film made up of both new footage and scenes shot by the fans - and it captures both the fantastic music (including the Gossip, Sonic Youth, Mogwai, Iggy Pop and Patti Smith) and the raucous, free-spirited atmosphere at the events over 10 years. But for those unfamiliar with the ATP movement, it feels like a bit of an inside perspective.

El General
dir Natalia Almada, 09/Mexico *** Filmmaker Almada starts with a series of audiotapes recorded by her grandmother, talking about growing up as daughter of the norotious Mexican strongman President Calles. From here, Almada examines issues of memory and history in evocative, intriguing ways. The film includes a wealth of old footage (including beautiful scenes from Eisenstein's Mexican films), and instead of trying to nail down a firm history of her great-grandfather's life, she instead examines the intriguing difference between the politician and the father - and also between Mexico's past and present. Intriguing, but a bit open-handed.

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