Wednesday, 12 October 2011

LFF Day 1: Back on the red carpet

The 55th BFI London Film Festival kicked off tonight with a red-carpet premiere of Fernando Meirelles' ensemble drama 360, and will continue over the next 16 days with some 300 movies plus special events and more. There really isn't much more to my life between now and 27th October - although I do still need to see the usual weekly releases and review them along with the 60 or so LFF movies I'll be watching.

This past week I also attended the 5th Iris Prize Festival in Cardiff, which was as festive as last year (when I was on the jury), as the filmmakers, actors, journalists and festival patrons and organisers all hung out together. In just three days, I saw 35 features and shorts. And the prize winner - the short I Don't Want to Go Back Alone from Brazil - was one of my favourites. As was the winner of best feature and best actor - Eldar Rapaport's August - and best actress - Casper Andreas' Going Down in La-La Land.

Regular releases screened to London critics this past week were good (Roman Polanski's Carnage, David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method, the frantic Korean thriller The Yellow Sea) and decent (the mopey war movie Resistance, the mopey romance Like Crazy) and almost watchable (the comedy Tower Heist). And then there were the London Film Festival titles. Here are some highlights from tonight and Thursday...

dir Fernando Meirelles; with Rachel Weisz, Jude Law 11/UK ***
Written by Peter Morgan, this ambitions multi-national, multi-strand drama centres on transgressive romances while urging us to take whatever fork in the road life throws at us. It continually urges us to remember that each decision has its consequences, but the film itself never gets deep enough to explore them. Its multiplicity of characters include a hooker from Bratislava, a businessman from Berlin, a strained marriage in London, a Russian mobster in Paris, a lovelorn Muslim dentist, a pair of lost souls on a plane to Denver and a recovering sex offender. The cast is superb, and Meirelles fills the film with glassy, reflective camerawork and tricky editing that carries us as the film moves from Europe to America and back. Yet while this engaging, involving film is full of gorgeous moments, carrying us along effortlessly, it never seems quite as sharp as it should be.

dir Jonathan Levine; with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen 11/US ****
Films about cancer aren't generally this funny. And while this movie isn't a comedy, beyond its generous dose of realistic humour, it has a smart, personal script that dares to face a difficult situation head on. And the light tone makes it hugely involving... FULL REVIEW >

Like Crazy
dir Drake Doremus; with Anton Yelchin, Felicity Jones 11/US **
With a deliberately wistful style, this romantic drama never quite convinces us that its central couple is actually in love. there are several wonderfully telling moments along the way, but the over-constructed plot and too-cute cuddle-fest just gets increasingly annoying. It follows a young couple (the terrific Yelchin and Jones) who are torn apart when she overstays her student visa and is unable to return to Los Angeles from London. They both have other relationships over the ensuing months, but can't get each other out of their minds. Basically, this film will appeal to anyone who was won over by the similarly toned One Day, another gimmicky and extremely mopey romance that seemed oddly artificial from the start.

Gandu [A**hole]

dir-prd Kaushik Mukherjee; with Anubrata Basu, Joyraj Bhattacharya 10/India ***
Filmmaker Mukherjee (credited only as Q) violates every taboo about Indian cinema to tell a lively story about an angry young man who just wants to make it big as a rapper. It's worth seeing for its brio even if there isn't that much more to it. The story follows an angry rapper nicknamed Gandu who channels his rage through his music. Eventually, he embarks on a road trip with a Bruce Lee-fanatic pal, and their adventures encompass both drugs and porn. The film is energetic and colourful - albeit shot in black and white, except for one lurid sex scene. So it kind of resembles Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It crossed with Coppola's Rumblefish, plus a surreal, drug-fuelled Indian sensibility. It's pretty outrageous, although not as shocking in the West as it would be back home.

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