Tuesday, 25 October 2011

LFF Day 14: Danger!

Michael Fassbender was back at the London Film Festival yesterday to promote his second film here, A Dangerous Method, costarring Viggo Mortensen and Keira Knightley and directed by David Cronenberg. This made for a lively press conference, as well as a paparazzi-friendly red carpet later in Leicester Square. Amid the general exhaustion on the faces of film journalists here, there's finally a sense that the festival is coming to an end in a couple of days and we'll be able to sleep - Freudian dream alert! - again. Here are some more notes on festival films...

A Dangerous Method
dir David Cronenberg; with Michael Fassbender, Keira Knightley 11/Ger ****
Cronenberg's brainy approach makes this film fascinating but demanding as it traces the birth of psychoanalysis through the relationship and rivalry between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. The film radiates intelligence through clever direction and strong performances... FULL REVIEW >

dir Richard Linklater; with Jack Black, Shirley MacLaine 11/US ****
Jack Black delivers one of his strongest performances in this rather outrageous true story from East Texas, which Linklater tells with a witty blend of comedy, drama and documentary. It's played dead straight, but it's consistently hilarious... FULL REVIEW >

The Monk
dir Dominik Moll; with Vincent Cassel, Deborah Francois 11/Sp ***
This 16th century freak-out is ravishingly beautiful to look at. but it's also turgid and relentlessly grim. So what's essentially a dark supernatural thriller will only really appeal to arthouse audiences. Based on the 18th century novel by Matthew Lewis, it's the gothic saga of a priest (Cassel) who was raised from infancy by monks. Now a celebrated preacher, he begins to have increasingly dark encounters with the supernatural through dreams, visions and a stranger who offers him demonic powers. This is a seriously bleak story that's clearly not heading for a happy ending, but it's so gorgeously designed and shot by Moll that we can't look away. And Cassel's performance is deeply haunting.

Dreams of a Life
dir Carol Morley; with Zawe Ashton, Alix Luka-Cain 11/UK ****
This beautifully assembled exploration of the life of a Londoner is hauntingly, desperately sad as it reveals a person living in such isolation that she could simply fall through the cracks. And while the filmmaking is skilful and powerfully moving, it does feel a bit more lit a TV doc than a feature film. That said, the story is astonishingly gripping: it's the 2006 case of Joyce Vincent, who was found dead in her North London flat with her TV on, after being undiscovered for three years. There was no foul play, and the film is a potent mix of re-enactions and interview with her friends, who talk about her as the life of the party. But she also had a dark side, and drifted out of their lives to the point where no one ever asked where she had gone. The film may feel a bit padded out, but it's utterly riveting, and hugely moving.

1. Beats Being Dead: dir Christian Petzold; with Jacob Matschenz, Luna Zimic Mijovic 11/Ger ***
2. Don't Follow Me: dir Dominik Graf; with Jeanette Hain, Susanne Wolff 11/Ger ****
3. One Minute of Darkness: dir Christoph Hochhausler; with Stefan Kurt, Eberhard Kirchberg 11/Ger ****
This trilogy tells three distinct stories that take place in the same time and place and overlap at various points. And in the final film, we also a more over-arching drama emerges from the shadows of the first two films. All three are extremely well shot and edited, packed with insinuation and clever touches in the styles of their respective directors. The three films stand alone as a twisty romance, friendship drama and dark thriller, respectively. And they also have some strongly echoing themes about human fragility and the way our private obsessions have a potent impact on the people around us. You also get the feeling that these aren't the only three stories you could tell from this setting.

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