Saturday, 19 March 2016

30th Flare: Taking pictures

The 30th BFI Flare: London LGBT Film Festival heads into its first weekend with strong crowds and lots of filmmakers in attendance. The selection this year is especially varied, with high-quality documentaries (that's Robert Mapplethorpe, above) and foreign films alongside dramas of every conceivable budget. Here are some more highlights...

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures 
dir Fenton Bailey, Randy Barbato; with Edward Mapplethorpe, Nancy Rooney 16/US **** 
In documenting the life of photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, filmmakers Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato open with Senator Jesse Helms' hysterical rant in Congress in 1990: "Look at the pictures!" he screamed in outrage, demanding that they be censored. It's a clever approach that finely explores the line between art and pornography, skilfully painting a detailed portrait of a notorious figure.

dir Sasha King, Brian O'Donnell; with Matthew Frias, Edmund Donovan 15/US ****
With a bright, easy approach, this Midwestern drama never makes an issue of its central teen same-sex romance. Instead, this is a story about a wide range of people trying to overcome a shared past tragedy. It's a bit melodramatic, and also rather straightforward, but the characters are engagingly realistic and the message is important.

From Afar [Desde Alla]
dir Lorenzo Vigas; with Alfredo Castro, Luis Silva 15/Ven ****
Twisty and unexpected, this Venezuelan drama stars acclaimed Chilean actor Alfredo Castro as a lonely man who strikes up a tentative relationship with a young street thug. It's a remarkably involving film, because the characters have so many sides that they lead the audience on a quest for understanding. Equally impressive is how first-time filmmaker Lorenzo Vigas never sensationalises the subject matter... FULL REVIEW >

Girls Lost [Pojkarna] 
dir Alexandra-Therese Keining; with Tuva Jagell Louise Nyvall 15/Swe ***.
Gorgeously shot with a clever fairy-tale tinge to it, this Swedish teen drama explores the complex issue of gender identity from an offbeat angle that's both challenging and thoughtful. The plot kind of meanders off the rails along the way, but the themes and characters remain strongly resonant and vitally important.

B E S T   O F   Y E A R
dir Todd Haynes; with Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara 15/US *****
With delicate precision, this story unfolds in a way that's both true to its period and fully relevant now. A beautiful companion piece to director Todd Haynes' Far From Heaven and Mildred Pierce, this is based on a Patricia Highsmith novel about two women trying to live their lives the best they can, but finding themselves against the grain of society. And it carries a powerful kick... FULL REVIEW > 

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