Friday, 17 October 2014

LFF 9: A little chaos never hurt anyone

Alan Rickman turned up at the 58th London Film Festival to present his latest directing effort A Little Chaos, in which he stars alongside Kate Winslet, Matthias Shoenaerts and a scene-stealing Stanley Tucci (is there any other kind?). Also on the red carpet tonight were James McAvoy with The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (which oddly wasn't properly screened for the press) and filmmaker Julius Avery with Son of a Gun (see below). There are just two more days before I sleep. More highlights...

A Little Chaos
dir Alan Rickman; with Kate Winslet, Matthias Schoenaerts 14/UK ****
A cracking screenplay and sparky acting go a long ways to making this British period drama, set in 17th century France, thoroughly entertaining. With both spiky politics and swoony romance, the film has something for everyone, but it only works because the writing and directing allow the characters to have their own inner lives. Which makes the silly story surprisingly involving.

Son of a Gun 
dir Julius Avery; with Brenton Thwaites, Ewan McGregor 14/Aus ***.
Rippingly entertaining, this Australian thriller never quite breaks the surface but has strong characters well-played by an eclectic cast. And its pacing is so brisk that it holds the interest even if the plot twists and thematic metaphors are all painfully obvious. But without any subtle subtext, it's still a solid guilty pleasure.

Winter Sleep
dir Nuri Bilge Ceylan; with Haluk Bilginer, Melisa Sozen 14/Tur ****.
The extra-long running time may put some viewers off, especially since the film is essentially made up of a series of issue-oriented conversations, but there's never a dull moment. As it explores the issue of justice and conscience in an increasingly economically divided world, the film is relevant, witty and startlingly moving.

The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom
dir Jacob Cheung; with Fan Bingbing, Huang Xiaoming 14/Chn **
An epic tale of conspiracy and war combined with a sweeping romance, this film has all the elements to be a classic. But filmmaker Cheung rushes through it erratically, leaving the plot nonsensical, the battles incoherent and the love story utterly flat. While it has plenty of energy, the film feels like a 12-hour miniseries roughly chopped down to 103 minutes: overcrowded, rushed and exhausting. And the 3D doesn't help.

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