Sunday, 11 October 2015

LFF 5: Enjoy the high-life

Sienna Miller, Tom Hiddleston and Elisabeth Moss were on the red carpet last night at the London Film Festival for the opening of their new film High-Rise. Yes, the parade of filmmakers and stars continues at a fairly brisk clip. As always at the LFF, there are two events going on here: a festive party for VIPs and an intensive film season for everyone else, including the press. This is my 18th year covering the festival, and I have still never been invited to an official LFF party. For me it's about the films, and here are some more highlights...

dir Lenny Abrahamson; with Brie Larson, Jacob Tremblay 15/Ire *****
With goosebump-inducing skill, Lenny Abrahamson and novelist-turned-screenwriter Emma Donoghue dig deep beneath a notorious global headline. In the process they tell a story that actually changes the way we see the news. And the use of a young child's perspective gives it undeniable power, especially since every scene is so inventively directed and played

Black Mass
dir Scott Cooper; with Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton 15/US ***
Gritty and muscular, this is the true story of James "Whitey" Bulger played as a rather standard FBI/mob thriller. It's sharply well-made, capturing a strong sense of the period, but nothing about the film sets it apart from the pack. Without an original angle, it feels like the same story of criminal ambition, betrayal and violence that we've seen countless times before... MORE >

Queen of Earth
dir Alex Ross Perry; with Elisabeth Moss, Katherine Waterston 15/US ****
After Listen Up Philip, Perry continues his wilfully arty approach to filmmaking with this florid drama how lifelong friendships flip and slip. Using complex editing and sound, plus a B-movie vibe that indulges in lingering emotive closeups, this observant, expressive film cleverly mixes raw feelings with brittle black humour... MORE >

The Assassin 
dir Hou Hsiao-Hsien; with Qi Shu, Chen Chang 15/Chn **.
Exquisitely crafted, this film features sumptuous cinematography, costumes and settings. So it's very frustrating that the story is so poorly told. While the basic outline of the plot becomes clear eventually, there's virtually no development to the characters, while the connections between them remain maddeningly vague. And the talky dialog is simply impenetrable, never conveying much meaning about the culture or situation.

Listen to Me Marlon
dir Stevan Riley; with Marlon Brando, Stella Adler 15/UK **** 
Expertly edited together from archival footage and never-released private material, this documentary offers a startlingly intimate look into the mind of an iconic actor. Marlon Brando reveals himself to be a fascinating character full of wit, passion and artistic insight. And defiantly unlike his public image.

Live From New York! 
dir Bao Nguyen; with Lorne Michaels, Chevy Chase 15/US ***.
This documentary explores a show that has reflected and influenced American culture for more 40 years. The film takes a serious look at an iconically hilarious programme that's well-known for its political parody and brightly talented cast. It's a surprisingly balanced, in-depth documentary, although it's likely that only fans of the show will enjoy it.

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