Wednesday, 16 October 2013

LFF 7: True stories

It was duelling red carpets on Leicester Square tonight at the 57th London Film Festival, as one side hosted Judi Dench and Steve Coogan (pictured) for Philomena while across the square fans and paparazzi were lined up for Joseph Gordon-Levitt and his film Don Jon. Yes, another day of too many films and lots of rain. I'm glad there are only four days to go. More highlights...

dir Stephen Frears; with Judi Dench, Steve Coogan 13/UK ****
A shameless crowd-pleaser, this warmly engaging drama is based on a remarkable true story. And it also offers Dench and Coogan the chance to create complex, involving characters we can identify with. The film sometimes feels harshly edited, zipping through serious scenes with an emphasis on sentimentality. But it still wins us over. FULL REVIEW >

The Past 
dir Asghar Farhadi; with Berenice Bejo, Tahar Rahim 13/Fr **** 
Farhadi brings his surgically precise filmmaking to Paris with an interpersonal drama that, like A Separation, fills the screen with almost frighteningly complex characters who are struggling to get on with their lives together. Or apart, for that matter. Farhadi isn't one to let old wounds heal slowly; he'd rather rip off the plaster and pick away the scab FULL REVIEW >

The Armstrong Lie 
dir Alex Gibney; with Lance Armstrong, Oprah Winfrey 13/US ***. 
Gibney takes his usual detailed approach to this documentary about Lance Armstrong's stellar cycling career and notorious fall from grace. But it's an oddly assembled hybrid, as much of the material was shot for a very different doc about his comeback in 2009. And wile it's great footage, it throws the film somewhat off-balance. FULL REVIEW >

We Are the Best! 
dir-scr Lukas Moodysson with Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin 13/Swe **** 
After dipping into more experimental filmmaking, Moodysson returns to the lively improvisational style of Show Me Love and Together. He coaxes energetic, utterly charming performances from his three pre-teen leads, while exploring youthful rebellion from a cleverly askance angle FULL REVIEW >

Floating Skyscrapers 
dir Tomasz Wasilewski; with Mateusz Banasiuk, Marta Nieradkiewicz 13/Pol ****
Exploring a very dark side of Polish society, which echoes in many parts of the world, this drama is compelling and involving. As well as rather overwhelmingly bleak. But it's so beautifully shot and edited, with sharply naturalistic performances, that we can't help but be drawn in.

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C R I T I C A L   W E E K
Yes, I also caught some non-LFF movies this past week, including: the Arnie/Sly action thriller Escape Plan, Danny Dyer in the crime drama Vendetta, Sheridan Smith in the girly comedy Powder Room, the British mystery-spoof World of Hurt, and the arty American drama Five Dances. None of them were great (to put it mildly), but they were a nice contrast to the intensity of the festival films.

Coming this next week outside the LFF: the comedy Last Vegas, the biopic Mandela, the Dickens drama The Invisible Woman and the sequel Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2. Among other things...

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