Wednesday, 17 October 2012

LFF 6: Beard vs beard

Today at the 56th BFI London Film Festival, the red carpet paved the way for filmmakers Ben Affleck (with Argo, above), Michael Winterbottom (Every Day) and Ben Lewin (The Sessions), who were accompanied by their cast members. Oddly, I read about these big gala events, but don't actually get to experience them myself, as I am sitting in press screenings all day, plus the occasional press conference when I have the time. In other words, for most journalists the LFF isn't very festive. But then we do have the films. Here are some more highlights...

dir Ben Affleck; with Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston 12/US ****
Based on an unbelievable true story, this entertaining thriller uses declassified documents to recount a news story from an angle never heard before. Both funny and thrillingly nerve-wracking, it also cements Affleck's status as an A-list director... REVIEW >

Keep the Lights On
dir Ira Sachs; with Thure Lindhardt, Zachary Booth 12/US ****
This gorgeously shot and edited film is an incisive exploration of two people struggling to make a relationship work over nearly a decade. Its honest perspective makes it thoroughly involving, even if it turns dreary in the final act... REVIEW >

The Sessions
dir Ben Lewin; with John Hawkes, Helen Hunt 12/US ****
Based on a true story, this quietly honest film manages to avoid sentimentality with startlingly earthy performances. And the straightforward filmmaking captures the inner life of the characters without becoming gimmicky... REVIEW >

Every Day
dir Michael Winterbottom; with Shirley Henderson, Jon Simm 12/UK ***
In the style of a fly-on-the-wall doc, this movie traces fictional events over a five-year period. And since it was actually shot over five years, it's a significant cinematic experiment. It's also moving story with very strong performances, although it's limited by the scale of the narrative as it follows a mother (Henderson) in Norfolk, coping with four precocious children on her own while her husband (Simm) serves a prison term. Over the years they learn to live without him, and enjoy being with him when they can. And that's about all there is to the film, which stirs in a few contrived events to liven things up. Without a more compelling plot, the movie is most notable for the fact that we watch the children grow up on screen in 94 minutes. Shot on grainy, hand-held video it looks like a TV doc, but Michael Nyman's surging score makes to feel more like a kitchen sink drama. It's a cool experiment, but it makes you wish more attention was paid to the story.

The Comedian
dir Tom Shkolnik; with Edward Hogg, Nathan Stewart-Jarrett 12/UK ***
This low-key improvised drama has a rather misleading title. Writer-director Shkolnik astutely explores the bleak aimlessness of his central character, drawing knowing performances from the cast. But it's so gloomy that it's difficult to connect emotionally... REVIEW >

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