Thursday, 22 October 2009

LFF9: Beauty and brains

It was Julianne Moore's turn on the London Film Festival red carpet tonight, appearing with director Atom Egoyan, costar Amanda Seyfried and producer Ivan Reitman for the premiere of their film Chloe. The press conference this morning was a thoroughly entertaining one - with lively chat and surprisingly thoughtful comments from all four. Tonight was also the night of a screening in Trafalgar Square - and the weather cooperated for a change: even though it was very cold, it was a gorgeous clear evening.

Meanwhile, I feel that on Day 9 I've hit a bit of a wall. I'm not getting enough sleep - nor do I have enough time to write about everything I see. I know nobody has sympathy for someone who watches movies all day, but I do feel like the walking dead tonight! I need to take it a bit easier over the next few days and build up some strength for the final push to closing night next Thursday. Here are some highlights from today...

dir Robert Connolly; with Anthony LaPaglia, Oscar Isaac 09/Aus *****
This provocative, powerful true story is well-known in Australia but not anywhere else. And it's the expert filmmaking that makes this both an important account of the events and a gripping, shattering thriller ... REVIEW >

The White Ribbon
dir Michael Haneke; with Christian Friedel, Leonie Benesch 09/Aut ****
Grim, long and very bleak, Haneke's Cannes-winner isn't the most accessible of his films. But it's strikingly well-made, with a riveting series of events and a growing sense of depth that makes it disturbingly relevant on several levels ... REVIEW >

London River
dir Rachid Bouchareb; with Brenda Blethyn, Sotigui Kouyate 09/UK ****
Kouyate won the acting prize at Berlin, and you can see why for his serene performance here, but it's Blethyn who catches us with another memorable emotionally vulnerable character. They play parents who are searching for their children in the aftermath of London's 7/7 bombings in 2005. But the film deals with the serious themes in a subtle way, focussing on the intensely personal journeys of these two parents who don't know their children very well and aren't sure what to do with each other. It's a somewhat slight film, but the acting makes it worth a look. As does the sensitive handling of the big issues.

dir Lindy Heymann; with Kerrie Hayes, Nichola Burley 09/UK **
Two Liverpool teens freak out when their beloved football star is traded to Madrid, but instead of just sobbing themselves to sleep, they concoct a drastic plan to change his mind, kidnapping him and taking him to an abandoned caravan. From here, the film turns into a low-key thriller, as these girls don't quite know what to do next with the man they have loved so long from afar. The problem is that the film feels a bit made up as it goes along too - with contrived plot elements and no real sense of pace. But the three central cast members (Hayes, Burley and Lee Doyle) are very good.

About Elly...
dir Asghar Farhadi; with Golshifteh Farahani, Shahab Hosseini 09/Iran *****
Bursting with energy that shifts from warmly comical to eerily intense, this ensemble drama from Iran tells the story of a group of friends in their late-20s who take a holiday to the seaside. But one of them has a secret relating to the one stranger in the group, Elly. As events shift and twist, the tension gets pretty potent, and it's all sharply well-played by a terrific young cast, while writer-director Farhadi holds things together with both humour and dark emotions. A must-see.

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