Wednesday, 26 October 2011

LFF Day 15: Starry night

Tuesday night was one of the starriest of the London Film Festival, with the casts of films like Anonymous and Hunky Dory parading through Leicester Square for crowds of adoring fans. Meanwhile, most critics were on the other side of the square, avoiding the red carpet insanity for the UK press screening of the 3D Greek god romp Immortals. Here are

dir Roland Emmerich; with Rhys Ifans, Vanessa Redgrave 11/UK **
Based on the long-mooted Oxfordian theory about the true authorship of Shakespeare's plays and poems, this film undermines its own point by over-egging the story. An over-complicated script and arch performances don't help the case... FULL REVIEW >

Hunky Dory
dir Marc Evans; with Minnie Driver, Aneurin Barnard 11/UK ***
With a lively recreation of the 1970s in South Wales, this relatively standard nostalgic teen drama holds our interest through its colourful settings and characters. Although without a clear central character, the film feels rather diffuse. It's set at a Swansea school, where unorthodox drama teacher Viv (Driver) is mounting a rock-infused version of The Tempest. But of course, this causes problems with the school board and the community. Meanwhile, various students are having coming-of-age issues involving romance, sexuality and hanging with the wrong crowd. But all of them are hugely talented singers, which kind of makes the film feel like a groovy, soulful version of Glee. It's also very colourful, catching the period with style and energy. And the characters are all engaging. But the film doesn't have a central point of view, jumping from plot to plot and leaving each strand somewhat undercooked.

The Dish and the Spoon
dir Alison Bagnall; with Greta Gerwig, Olly Alexander 11/US **
With its deliberately quirky characters and meandering, seemingly random series of events, this mumblecore movie is enjoyably ramshackle, constantly catching us off guard with moments of spiky humour or warm emotion. But it's also infuriatingly vague about everything, from the plot to the characters' names... FULL REVIEW >

dir Alexander Zeldovich; with Maksim Sukhanov, Justine Waddell 11/Rus ****
This astonishing 2.5-hour long Russian epic takes us into the near future with glassy-eyed production values that are reminiscent of vintage TV shows like UFO and The Avengers. In fact, Waddell often looks rather a lot like Diana Rigg as she prowls through this story. She plays the wife of a government official (Sukhanov) who joins a group that travels to an isolated valley, where a disused scientific station has been shown to permanently stop ageing. But the five characters who have this experience all find their lives drastically changed by the experience, mainly because of their own reactions to their newfound immortality. The film is both gorgeous to look at and so packed with unsettling themes that it's deeply haunting in all the right ways. It's also vague enough to please arthouse film fans and probably alienating everyone else.

In non-festival screenings, I've caught up with the muscled Greek god romp Immortals, Daniel Craig's muddled Dream House, Annette Bening's moving Mother and Child, Marcia Gay Harden's intriguing If I Were You and Wayne Wang's girly Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. Still to come: Justin Timberlake's In Time, Johnny Depp's The Rum Diary, the remake/prequel The Thing and the sequel The Human Centipede 2. Not to mention lots and lots of writing to catch up after the festival. And some sleep too.

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