Monday, 10 October 2016

LFF 5: Stare into the abyss

Amy Adams was on hand to lend some Hollywood glamour to the red carpet for the 60th London Film Festival tonight - with the gala screening of her new film Arrival (pictured above). And she'll be back later in the week for Nocturnal Animals. There are quite a few actors pulling double duty this year, including David Oyelowo and Natalie Portman. Meanwhile, those of us in the ranks of the film journalists are starting to look like the walking dead, as too many movies and too little sleep begins to catch up with us. Here are some highlights from Monday...

dir-scr Jim Jarmusch; with Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani 16/US ****
Evoking the poetry of William Carlos Williams, this whimsical comedy-drama explores the profundity of everyday details in Williams' hometown of Paterson, New Jersey. Writer-director Jim Jarmusch lets this hilarious story unfold gently, taking the time to soak in the small things that liven up both our seemingly monotonous lives and our seemingly similar personalities.

After the Storm
dir-scr Hirokazu Kore-eda; with Hiroshi Abe, Kirin Kiki 16/Jpn ****
Japanese filmmaker Hirokazu Kore-eda continues his string of gently revelatory dramas with this story about a rather typical modern family. As they explore the connections between them, the characters are pondering the past and the future, and realising that they may need to live in the present if they're ever going to be happy. There are no fireworks in this movie, but Kore-eda's writing and directing are simply beautiful, as always.

Sweet Dreams [Fai Bei Sogni]
dir Marco Bellocchio; with Valerio Mastandrea, Berenice Bejo 16/It **
Italian maestro Marco Bellocchio makes bold movies, and this one feels deeply personal as it explores the very Italian topic of the mother-son bond. It's beautifully shot, with insinuating performances and an ambitious approach to the narrative structure. But it's also oddly over-serious, and the fragmented style of storytelling stubbornly refuses to properly let the audience into the characters' inner lives.

Being 17  [Quand On a 17 Ans] 
dir Andre Techine; with Sandrine Kiberlain, Kacey Mottet Klein 16/Fr ***.
An intriguing teaming of French filmmakers Andre Techine and Celine Sciamma, this drama tackles a series of emotive issues head-on with strong characters and striking honesty. The problem is that it feels like two separate films have been mashed together, so each storyline undercuts the power of the other one. Is this about the challenges of a community doctor whose husband works abroad? Or an edgy romance between two teen outcasts?

The Ornithologist [O Ornitólogo]
dir-scr Joao Pedro Rodrigues; with Paul Hamy, Xelo Cagiao 16/Por **.
This experimental film from Portugal starts promisingly, as it follows a bird-watcher on a trip into a spectacular wilderness. It's an intriguingly internalised odyssey, beautifully shot and played, with tantalising clues about a variety of issues. But as it continues, writer-director Joao Pedro Rodrigues drifts into pretentious metaphorical nuttiness that overwhelms any sense of narrative drama and loses the audience deep in the forest.

And two more films I saw in Venice that are showing here in London: Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner in Arrival and the Italian road movie These Days.

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