Saturday, 15 October 2011

LFF Day 4: It's the weekend

Red carpet glamour continues at the 55th BFI London Film Festival as stars come out in support of their films. Out tonight in Leicester Square and on the Southbank: Woody Harrelson, Oren Moverman, Dee Rees and Julie Loktev. And from the rightly acclaimed British independent drama Weekend, Andrew Haigh, Tom Cullen and Chris New were all on hand for the screening and a very cool party afterwards - perhaps the only one to which I will be invited this year, thanks to distributors Peccadillo, who also have She Monkeys (see below) and Beauty (next weekend) in this year's festival. Here are some highlights...

Sarah Palin: You Betcha!
dir Nick Broomfield, Joan Churchill; with Nick Broomfield, Sarah Palin 11/UK ***
With his usual disarming, faux-bumbling style, Broomfield sets out to get the real story of the former Alaska governor and vice-presidential candidate. But she won't talk to him, and her supporters are told not to, so it's kind of difficult togged a balanced view. On the other hand, this tells us rather a lot about Palin, but nothing we haven't heard before. This lack of a revelatory bombshell keeps the film from ever being important, although it's thoroughly entertaining to watch Broomfield's comical attempts to interview Palin and her secretive friends. On the other hand, her "enemies" are happy to talk. But the filmmakers never indulge in a hatchet job, the approach is fair and honest. And what we see of Palin is pretty scary, really.

dir Emanuele Crialese; with Filippo Pucillo, Donatella Finocchiaro 11/It ****
Filmmaker Crialese once again captures the atmosphere of rural Italian life in this darkly involving drama, which loses some of its warmth when a more politically oriented plot takes over. But it holds our interest with lively, realistic characters and settings. It centres on a young man caught between harsh ant-immigration laws and the traditions of his fishing community on the isolated island of Linosa. It's both gorgeously filmed to capture the raw beauty of the island and insightfully observed. We really understand the tensions in this place, where the old ways are disappearing and people are increasingly making a living off tourism. But the plot, involving the arrival of a pregnant illegal immigrant, catches the intensely personal side of the situation.

She Monkeys
dir Lisa Aschen; with Mathilda Paradeiser, Linda Molin 11/Swe ****
This Swedish drama explores issues of women in society in ways we rarely see on screen. With a bracing filmmaking style, this unflinching exploration of power and desire continually surprises us with its quietly revealing approach. The writing, direction and acting are all extraordinary as it centres on the power struggle between two teen girls on a vaulting team - both rivalry and attraction are factors here. The main idea is that a lack of role models makes it difficult to find your place in society, but it's the way filmmaker Aschen approaches this, with a naturalism and artistry that continually catches us off guard with an honesty that's sometimes uncomfortable to watch.

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