Saturday, 16 October 2010

LFF4: Playing for real

At the London Film Festival yesterday, Hilary Swank was joined by the woman she plays in Conviction, Betty-Anne Waters, as well as her costars Minnie Driver and Sam Rockwell. It was a long day of press interviews, junket events and then the red carpet. It was fascinating to hear Betty-Anne talk about how all three actors did in capturing herself, her brother and her best friend on the big screen - and in some ways hearing her talk about her experiences was just as powerful as the film itself.

I also attended screenings of Waste Land and Amigo yesterday that featured extensive Q&As - with director Lucy Walker and artist Vik Muniz for the first film and writer-director John Sayles for the second. Both were lively and enlightening sessions that touched heavily on the serious themes in the films and how these things affect us all. Here are some comments on films showing at the festival yesterday and today...

The American
dir Anton Corbijn; with George Clooney, Violante Placido 10/It ***
Like its central character, this film is almost painstakingly meticulous in the way it sets up every scene. And while it feels like nothing much is happening, there's a lot going on under the surface, and a real sense of suspense growing deep under the surface. Clooney is excellent as a low-key hitman hiding in an Italian village and opening up only to a priest and a hooker. While Corbijn's striking visual style adds layers of meaning and refuses to ramp events up into an action movie, the story feels a little too constructed and deliberate to really move us.

Waste Land
dir Lucy Walker; with Vik Muniz, Fabio Ghivelder 10/UK ****
This thoroughly involving documentary works on two levels, as a profile of an artist and as an exploration of human waste. It's such a clever film that it's entertaining and challenging at the same time. While profiling Brazilian-born artist Vik Muniz, filmmaker Walker follows him on a major project to involve his subjects in his work and change their life as a result. His project involves creating portraits of workers at Rio de Janiero's dump out of the recycled rubbish they collect, and watching their transformation (and Muniz's) is extremely involving.

dir Olivier Assayas; with Edgar Ramirez, Alexander Scheer 10/Fr ****
Edited down from five-and-a-half hours, this nearly three-hour film still feels like an episodic TV series as it covers two decades in the life of the notorious terrorist. But it's expertly made and very well-acted, and some sequences are sharply involving... MORE >

dir John Sayles; with Joel Torre, Garret Dillahunt, Chris Cooper 10/Ph ***
Sayles continues his immersive filmmaking by travelling to the Philippines and making a historical drama that takes the style of a Filipino movie. This might be off-putting for Western audiences, but the story is genuinely gripping. It's an early story of American imperialism, set in 1900 when the US forces were trying to win the hearts and minds of Filipinos after unseating Spanish rule. And what happens has eerie resonance through the next century, including Vietnam and Afghanistan. It's great to see these events finally depicted on screen, and the film has moments of real power. But it's a shame that it also feels rather simplistic and schematic.

No comments: