Saturday, 24 October 2009

LFF11: Crime and animation

The entire cast of the British thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed - Martin Compston, Gemma Arterton and Eddie Marsan - took to the red carpet tonight for their London Film Festival premiere. Also out tonight were British actor-turned-director David Morrissey (with Helen Elizabeth and James Brough, writers and stars of his film Don't Worry About Me); French filmmaker Jacques Audiard (with his Cannes-winning A Prophet); and Australian filmmaker Warwick Thornton (with his Cannes-winning Samson & Delilah). Here are a few highlights from Saturday...

The Disappearance of Alice Creed
dir J Blakeson; with Gemma Arterton, Martin Compston, Eddie Marsan 09/UK ****
This thriller is so tightly contained that it feels like a stage play with three characters and one set. But director Blakeson takes a cinematic approach, and his use of the camera, editing and sound combine to keep us utterly riveted ... REVIEW >

The Informant!
dir Stephen Soderbergh; with Matt Damon, Scott Bakula 09/US ****
Telling an outrageous true story with humour and irony, Soderbergh crafts an engaging corporate comedy-drama that continually catches us (and the characters) off guard. It's great fun to watch, and has a strongly resonant kick ... REVIEW >

A Prophet
dir Jacques Audiard; with Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup 09/Fr *****
Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, this astonishing prison drama grabs hold of us and never lets go for two and a half hours. It's the story of Malik (Rahim), who has spent his whole youth behind bars - we meet him when he's transferred to an adult prison at age 19. Over the next few years, he learns his way through the system, transforming before our eyes from a nice, frightened young guy into a confident, clever criminal kingpin. The way Audiard keeps the film tightly within his perspective makes it much more introspective than most prison dramas, and the way he refuses to shy away from the gritty realities makes the film utterly unforgettable.

Astro Boy
dir David Bowers; with Freddie Highmore, Nicolas Cage 09/US ***
A vaguely Americanised version of a Japanese manga, this film uses a computer-aided variation on traditional Asian-style animation. It's much simpler visually than what Hollywood produces, but features some truly deranged touches that make it thoroughly engaging in its own right. The plot is a bit nutty - a futuristic Pinocchio-like tale about a scientist (voiced by Cage) who builds a robot to replace his dead son (Highmore), with world-changing resultsAlthough the especially strong vocal cast (including Donald Sutherland, Charlize Theron, Nathan Lane, Samuel L Jackson, Bill Nighy, Kristen Bell) feels strangely flat, the story's strong enough to keep us interested.

dir Tarek Saleh; with Vincent Gallo, Juliette Lewis 09/Swe ****
This Scandinavian co-production is animation like we've never seen before. Filmmaker Saleh uses photographs as a starting point, capturing the textures of settings and people then pinching and stretching the characters to turn them into something truly original - it looks like a blend of Terry Gilliam cut-out cartooning and Tim Burton stop-motion. The story, meanwhile, is a Matrix-like tale set in the future, when Europe is linked by a gigantic metro system and the transport company has figured out a way to get into the heads of its passengers using a sinister (and ubiquitous) brand of shampoo. And when young office worker Roger (Gallo) starts sensing that something is wrong, he stumbles into a series of secrets no one should know about society. The present-day relevance is obvious, but it's the film's astounding visual creativity that makes this a must-see.

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