The 30th BFI Flare came to a close last night with an epic party. I left at 12.15 while it was still in full flow (sadly, the all-night Tube isn't running quite yet!). Here are some final comments on the closing night film (pictured above) and short films I caught over the past 12 days...
Summertime [La Belle Saison]
dir Catherine Corsini; with Cecile De France, Izia Higelin 15/Fr ****
An earthy honesty infuses this complex romantic drama set amid the women's rights movement of the early 1970s. But while the politics are strong, it's the intensely personal story and engaging characters that make the film so involving. And it's beautifully directed by Catherine Corsini, drawing out big emotions without even a hint of sentimentality.
I managed to catch 15 short films during the festival, including documentaries, comedies, dramas and even a couple of animated ones. Here are my top 5:
Mother Knows Best (Mikael Bundsen, Swe) tells its story in two shots: a brief prologue and then a stunning 9-minute scene as a mother drives her son through the city, chatting nonstop. She wants to be supportive of his relationship with his new boyfriend, but she inadvertently reveals much darker feelings. Beautifully acted by Alexander Gustavsson and Hanna Ullerstam.
The Guy From Work (Jean-Francois Leblanc, Can) plays like a fly-on-the-wall documentary shot in extreme close-up, which is a bit unnerving as scenes are underscored by the sound of shop machinery rather than music. It centres on a shy middle-aged married man who develops a crush on a talkative colleague and then dares to write him a letter. Provocative and powerful.
Bedding Andrew (Blair Fukumura, Can) is very simple: Andrew Morrison-Gurza is a disabled guy lying on his bed talking about his yearning sexuality, and how frustrating it is that people only seem to want to be with him out of pity. It's raw and honest, especially as this smiley, genuinely nice guy tells some genuinely awful anecdotes and reveals his undying inner hopes.
Dawn (Jake Graf, UK) is a lovely little moment between two people on a park bench as they wait for a bus in the early morning. The guy is blind, the girl is trans, and they both have personal issues that they're not quite ready to deal with openly. There's not much to it, but the misty photography is gorgeous, and it leaves us thinking.
No Strings (Eoin Maher, UK) traces a one-night stand between two guys - one is Welsh, the other Irish - both are looking for something superficial. When the visitor misses his last train home, he has to stay the night, which forces them to get to know each other a bit. It's beautifully played, and very nicely shot to bring the audience right into the story, revealing truths that transcend the gay setting.