Friday, 28 October 2011

LFF 2011: That's a wrap

And so the London Film Festival comes to an end for another year, leaving my October (and much of September as well) a blur of film screenings. I saw 65 films at this year's festival, which is about normal for me. Sadly, this is the last of nine LFFs organised by artistic director Sandra Hebron (pictured above with Jude Law on opening night). Over her tenure, she has hugely expanded the scope and profile of the festival, and she'll be missed. Here are a few more films, plus my favourites and the award winners...

dir Ruben Ostlund; with Sebastian Hegmar, John Ortiz 11/Swe **** 
This bold, ambitious Swedish drama explores some potent issues in any melting-pot society without ever overstating them. And with its striking visual style, it leaves us deeply haunted by the issues it explores in a very personal way. It centres on a clash between two groups of young teens, as five black boys target three white boys to steal their mobile phones. But it's much more complex than that, as they talk and interact, travelling out of the city for a strange series of confrontations. Filmmaker Ostlund is exploring the whole culture of bullying, while making an intriguing comment on the nature of a melting-pot society. Cleverly shot in long takes from askance angles, it's not an easy film to watch, but it really gets under the skin.

dir Mark Jackson; with Joslyn Jensen, Ron Carrier 11/US ***
For a low-budget, meandering American indie movie, this film actually has a lot more going on than most of them. Sure, the plot feels aimless and rather uninvolving, but the filmmaking is especially sharp, and there's a lot going on beneath the surface. It also features a terrific central performance from Jensen, as a young woman housesitting a disabled man (Carrier) in an isolated island home. But it's her internal journey that becomes the focus, even though most of it happens in subtext. She's recovering from a relationship that we later learn took an unexpected turn. Her experience is haunting and creepy and also blackly funny. And in the end we're surprised at how much we care about her.

King Curling
dir Ole Endresen; with Atle Antonsen, Linn Skaber 11/Nor ****
With garish production design and bone-dry wit, this raucously entertaining film finds comedy in a story about mental illness, terminal disease and the sport of curling. Only in Norway. It centres on the obsessive-compulsive curling star Truls (Antonsen), who is released from a mental facility after 10 years and brashly decides to reform the old team. But this puts him back on a collision course both with the judges and his arch-rival (Kae Conradi). The film is designed with bright colours and hilarious costumes, and the character interaction sometimes feels very cartoonish. But it's very funny and surprisingly involving as the big final competition approaches.

My top 10 films of the fest...
  2. THE ARTIST (Hazanavicius, Fr)
  3. WEEKEND (Haigh, UK)
  4. SHAME (McQueen, UK)
  5. THIS IS NOT A FILM (Panahi/Mirtahmasb, Irn)
  6. WILD BILL (Fletcher, UK)
  7. ALPS (Lanthimos, Gr)
  8. BEAUTY (Hermanus, SA)
  9. DREAMS OF A LIFE (Morley, UK)
  10. SHE MONKEYS (Aschan, Swe)
Honourable mention: INTO THE ABYSS (Herzog, US), THE DESCENDANTS (Payne, US), THE KID WITH A BIKE (Dardenne/Dardenne, Bel), CARNAGE (Polanski, Fr) and SNOWTOWN (Kurzel, Aus).

And the festival awards go to...

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