Thursday, 28 October 2010

LFF16: Out with a bang

Aleksei Popogrebsky receives the Best Film prize from jury president Patricia Clarkson at last night's London Film Festival awards ceremony at LSO St Lukes. Other prizes included best documentary (the Grierson Award) for Armadillo and two awards for Clio Barnard's The Arbor: best first feature (the Sutherland Award) and British newcomer. In addition, Danny Boyle, director of tonight's closing film 127 Hours, was awarded a BFI Fellowship. The starry ceremony was attended by virtually every filmmaker and actor in London at the moment, including Martin Scorsese. Alas, mere journalists weren't invited to cover it.

Here are three more highlights from today: the closing night film, the big winner and my last film at this year's festival...

127 Hours
dir Danny Boyle; with James Franco, Kate Mara 10/UK *****
Danny Boyle brings his considerable filmmaking energy to bear on this claustrophobic true story, and the result is a bracing thriller that puts us right into the mind of a man trapped in an unthinkable situation... MORE >

How I Ended This Summer
dir Aleksei Popogrebsky; with Grigoriy Dobrygin, Sergei Puskepalis 10/Rus
Gorgeously shot and edited, this subdued dramatic thriller closes in on us through skilful filmmaking, sharply believable performances and an astonishing use of a natural setting that's both expansive and claustrophobic. It's about two scientists at an isolated Arctic outpost - one is young and bored and the other is more experienced and annoyed. Their interaction is a thoroughly engaging mixture of comedy and tension, and as the story progresses things get surprisingly emotional and scary, even though the film never abandons its earthy, realistic tone. These two men are so different that we wonder if they can ever connect on a meaningful level, and clearly they are beginning to feel the same.

Inside Job
dir Charles Ferguson; with Barney Frank, Eliot Spitzer 10/US ***
Easily a contender for the year's most depressing documentary, at least this film is sharply well made. It's also the first of the docs about the financial crisis that actually helps us understand what has happened and what is going on now. This is a lucid and thoroughly researched exploration of the economic system that caused this global mess, and as we begin to understand it we wonder why the people responsible aren't in prison, frankly. But no, they're still either earning multi-million dollar bonuses at still-thriving financial institutions or working at the very highest offices of politics. Meanwhile, the entire system is slanted to take money from the hard-working middle classes and give it to the most wealthy - thanks to laws enacted by Reagan and both Bushes and inaction from Clinton and Obama. Which is why America now has the largest disparity between rich and poor in the industrialised world. In other words, this is a film that gets our blood boiling in all the right ways - and it's not a polemic: it's all too true.

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