Monday, 25 October 2010

LFF13: Prince of darkness

Yes, that's Britain's infamously Machiavellian political puppetmaster Peter Mandelson on the London Film Festival red carpet last night for the premiere of a documentary about him, Mandelson: The Real PM? The film debunks Mandelson's "evil genius" reputation as filmmaker Hannah Rothschild shadows the then-cabinet minister for eight months, right through May's general election.

Crowds in the venues today were very strong, with people braving the cold weather to catch a glimpse of tonight's red carpet guests and see some offbeat movies too. Here are comments on two films I saw...

The Sleeping Beauty
dir Catherine Breillat; with Carla Besnainou, Julia Artamonov 10/Fr ***
Breillat continues to subvert fairy tales with this riff on the classic fable. Although there's little recognisable in this movie beyond continual references to the original story. Instead, it's more like Alice in Wonderland as a young princess roams through a series of crazy landscapes looking for her lost prince. Is this the dream she's having while she's sleeping for 100 years? Possibly. Although Breillat would never tell us. Instead we get a series of random encounters and adventures that are wonderful simply because they're so strange (children feature heavily in the story as princes and queens, and there are also a few little people to keep us on our toes). But what it's all about is anyone's guess.

dir Gregg Araki; with Thomas Dekker, Juno Temple 10/US ****
As this scruffy coming-of-age sex comedy turns into a horror movie, the combination is completely disarming. It's both silly and creepy, with honest subtext about youthful searching and the complexities of human sexuality. Araki assembles the film with lurid colours and lots of visual trickery to keep us as off balance as the characters, who are young university students trying to figure out who they are when their vivid dreams start invading real life. As the film goes along, the darkly creepy subtext begins to take over. It's funny, unnerving and impossible to predict where it goes from here. And while it's a bit madcap, it's also thoroughly engaging.

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