Saturday, 10 October 2015

LFF 4: Strike a pose

The 59th London Film Festival forges ahead with more red carpet mania (that's Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren and John Goodman out last night, for Trumbo). It's only Day 4 and I'm already suffering from burn-out, so tonight I'm taking a break and heading to the theatre! That should help me face the coming eight days, even with those nasty 8.45am press screenings. Thankfully the films have been good enough to (mostly) keep me awake. More highlights...

Bone Tomahawk 
dir S Craig Zahler; with Kurt Russell, Patrick Wilson 15/US ***.
A fresh take on the Western genre, this film combines dark drama with snappy wit and grisly horror to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. So while it's riveting and unpredictable, with strikingly bold performances from the entire cast, it's also vaguely ridiculous in its grotesque exaggeration of frontier fears about Native Americans.

The Program
dir Stephen Frears; with Ben Foster, Chris O'Dowd 15/UK ***. 
With a quick pace and steely tone, this drama traces Lance Armstrong's career in a strikingly lucid way. Never simplistic, it sees the events through the cyclist's own perspective, acknowledging the moral issues while carefully exploring why a sportsman would cheat his way to success. Anchored by a bracing performance from Foster, this is also one of the edgiest movies in Frears' eclectic filmography

Couple in a Hole 
dir Tom Geens; with Paul Higgins, Kate Dickie 15/UK **. 
Like something from the Greek new wave, this film takes a surreal look at fundamental human emotions through a premise that feels both fantastical and eerily realistic. On the other hand, this particular parable is far too on-the-nose, never quite coming up with anything very insightful. Still, it's packed with unexpected twists and characters that defy expectations.

Men & Chicken 
dir Anders Thomas Jensen; with Mads Mikkelsen, David Dencik 15/Den **** 
A wickedly grotesque look at family connections, this Danish black comedy is both hugely entertaining and utterly bonkers. A mixture of scientific creepiness and Three Stooges-style slapstick, the film defiantly refuses to fit into a genre. Which makes it gloriously entertaining in all the wrong ways.

dir Hansal Mehta; with Manoj Bajpai, Rajkummar Rao 15/Ind ****
It would be easy to write off this true drama as something that could only happen in India, but the film has striking layers of global resonance. Not only is it a vivid depiction of the struggle for human rights, in this case relating to sexuality, but it's also a subtle indictment of how Western media have created a need for everyone to be put into their appropriate box. And it's written, directed and acted with remarkable sensitivity and insight.

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