Saturday, 28 April 2012

Sundance London: Day 3

Audiences have been pretty strong at the first Sundance London festival, even though the O2 as a venue feels oddly corporate for an event that celebrates non-corporate moviemaking. But the Cineworld screens are excellent showcases for films, each of which is screened with a director Q&A. And the neighbouring IndigO2 venue has been great for music events, such as tonight's Placebo film and concert combo. There's also something called the Sundance London Inc Club, a music cafe that I haven't checked out yet. Here are some more highlights (including the doc Chasing Ice, pictured above)...

2 Days in New York
dir Julie Delpy with Julie Delpy, Chris Rock 12/Fr ****
This sequel to Delpy's wonderful 2007 comedy 2 Days in Paris brings Marion's family to New York, where she's now in a relationship with Mingus (Rock). Both have children, and their blended family is doing just fine until Marion's dad (Julie's real dad Albert Delpy) arrives with her sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) and Rose's outrageous boyfriend Manu (Alexandre Nahon), who of course is one of Marion's exes. The script is simply hilarious, sharply cutting through the relationships and bringing out the culture-clash clash comedy with intelligence and insight. The performances are earthy and funny (Rock is especially good in an against-type role), and while the story gets a bit corny in the end, the film remains utterly charming.

Chasing Ice
dir Jeff Orlowski; with James Balog, Louie Psihoyos 12/US ****
Even though this documentary is rather chilling, it features such staggeringly beautiful imagery that we can't take our eyes off the screen. It follows Balog as he photographs glaciers over time in a major global survey, and what he finds is definitive proof that humans have caused global warming (in a nutshell: the melting accelerated exponentially when we started burning fossil fuels in the 19th century). Over the years of his project, he assembles amazing time-lapse sequences and captures some major events on camera, including the calving of an ice shelf the size of Lower Manhattan. He also discovers that, at this point, the melting is now irreversible. Sea levels will rise, climates will continue to change, there is no going back. Yes, this makes the film rather gloomy, but as a documentary it has real power to help us understand exactly what's happening. And it's assembled so adeptly - and gorgeously - that it changes the way we see not only our planet but our relationship to it.

dir Sheldon Kandis; with Common, Michael Rainey Jr 12/US ***
Skilful filmmaking gives this drama a warm, smooth tone, even when events turn very dark. And the cast gets the chance to deliver seriously wrenching performances. So it's a shame that the story takes a couple of corny turns in the final act. It centres on 11-year-old Woody (Rainey), who spends a day with his Uncle Vincent (Common), who has just finished an eight-year prison term. Vincent wants to start his life over, get on his own two feet and start his own business. But he turns to his old gang bosses for help, which is a mistake since they basically draw him straight back into the old criminal ways. This inexorably nasty slide isn't easy to watch, especially as Vincent has Woody along for the ride. But the actors make the most of every scene, and the film is boosed by appearances from veterans like Danny Glover, Dennis Haysbert, Charles S Dutton and Lonette McKee. On the other hand, the final act feels like it was rewritten by a marketing team, as what has been a loose, earthy plot veers into implausible movie cliches that leave us cold.

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