Thursday, 18 October 2012

LFF 7: Jumping Jack Flash

The Rolling Stones - Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Charlie Watts and Ronny Woods - were on the red carpet tonight for the world premiere of their new film Crossfire Hurricane at the 56th BFI London Film Festival. People had started lining up by noon for a glimpse of them, as well as premiere guests like Liam Gallagher, Anita Pallenberg, Jeff Beck, Bryan Ferry and Bill Wyman. (I'll try to get a photo for tomorrow.) I had four movies today, so am feeling a bit blurry tonight. Thankfully tomorrow is my last early morning screening, and then this weekend is just catch-up time for me. Here are some more highlights...

Crossfire Hurricane
dir Brett Morgen; with Mick Jagger, Keith Richards 12/UK ***
The Rolling Stones commissioned this film for their 50th anniversary, so it's probably not surprising that it never delves too far beneath the surface. What's really surprising, though, is that it only covers the first two decades before stopping abruptly, leaving us waiting for Part 2. But until then, it's a fast-paced, entertaining trip backstage with the bad-boy band. From the 60s to the 80s, we see the Stones largely through home movies (often shot on Jagger's own camera), cavorting back stage and indulging in the rock-n-roll lifestyle, complete with plenty of sex and drugs. On stage footage is equally intimate, and there's also a collection of vintage TV interviews that show us the bandmates growing up through the years. All of this is overlaid with a recently recorded audio track that's like a DVD commentary, as the surviving musicians offer present-day observations on the events. It's certainly a lot of fun, and covers momentous events like the chaotic free concert in Altamont and Richards' life-changing heroin arrest in Canada. Plus of course the death of Brian Jones. But it never touches on their life outside the band. Perhaps that isn't the point, but it leaves the film feeling incomplete.

Hyde Park on Hudson
dir Roger Michell; with Bill Murray, Laura Linney 12/UK ***
This entertaining film takes us on a breezy journey through a pivotal point in 20th century history without any real sense of perspective. And while some of the characters seem oddly uninteresting, a couple of terrific performances make it worth a look... REVIEW >

The Reluctant Fundamentalist
dir Mira Nair; with Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson 12/US ***
Riz Ahmed stars in another complex, provocative film about terrorism, but this one isn't remotely as funny as Four Lions. No, this is a dead-serious drama that holds us gripped by its characters and situations until the story starts to sag under its own weight. And in the end, it feels oddly unsatisfying, simply because the film's structure undermines the point it's making. Ahmed plays Changez, a young Pakistani who attends Princeton in America and becomes a high-flying Wall Street analyst. But a series of events shake him, including 9/11 and subsequent harassment by police, immigration officials and security agents. Returning to Lahore, he becomes a lecturer specialising in violent uprisings. But is he a terrorist? The film frames this story as Changez narrates it to a journalist (Liev Shreiber) before a tense situation breaks out in Pakistan. But the script never quite connects the dots properly, abandoning characters along the way (such as Changez's parents) or distracting us with roles unnecessarily beefed-up for American actors (Hudson as his artist girlfriend, Keifer Sutherland as his boss). Fortunately, Ahmed is so good in the central role that his journey is both compelling and thought-provoking. But it should have been much punchier than this.

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CRITICAL WEEK: Festival schmestival. In addition to all of the movies I've seen at the LFF, I've had to keep up with all the usual movies coming out in cinemas. In the past week, London critics have had a chance to catch up with Cloud Atlas, the Wachowskis and Tom Tykwer's ambitious multi-strand epic in which their cast members play six roles each. It's such a wildly huge undertaking that the high points outweigh the low ones. We saw the new James Bond movie Skyfall, which is startlingly personal, with great action and no main villainous plot; the incomprehensibly frantic Chinese 3D action epic Flying Swords of Dragon Gate, starring Jet Li; and the rather slow-paced American drama The Seminarian. I also got to see the 1954 classic Creature From the Black Lagoon in a sparkling new 3D digital projection - it looked pretty amazing, and wasn't nearly as cheesy as I remember.

Back to normal this coming week, I have screenings of Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, Vanessa Redgrave in Song for Marion and Michelle Pfeiffer in Love Crime, plus a variety of other things I can't recall in my LFF haze.

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