Wednesday, 22 March 2017

31st Flare: Pamper yourself

The British Film Institute's 31st Flare had a bit of a scare today, as a crazed madman attacked Parliament just over the river. But London carried on in defiance, and the festival had another busy evening. One major event was the Iris Prize party at Ministry of Sound, a lovely event celebrating the world's premiere LGBT short film festival. Here are some more highlights...

The Handmaiden
dir Park Chan-wook; with Kim Min-hee, Kim Tae-ri 16/Kor ****
Korean maestro Park Chan-wook adapts Sarah Waters' novel Fingersmith into a stylish, twisty drama set in Korea and Japan during WWII. It's a visually ravishing film about passion and subterfuge, told in three chapters that flip the perspective in unexpected directions. So even if the themes are a little thin, the film looks so amazing and has such a wickedly labyrinthine plot that it's thoroughly riveting... FULL REVIEW >

Out of Iraq
dir Eva Orner, Chris McKim; with Nayyef Hrebid, Hayder "Btoo" Allami16/US ****
This documentary tells the story of two young Iraqis who take a journey together in very different ways. It has two basic narratives, a romance and an immigration odyssey, and both are so compelling that the film becomes utterly gripping. It also packs a strong emotional kick as these young men struggle against cultural realities that are difficult to imagine.

dir Ashley Joiner; with Michael Salter, Peter Tatchell 17/UK ****
A fast-paced, pointed documentary about London's Pride movement, this film explores the rise in alternative events that have sprung up to avoid the crowds and commercialisation. And as it faces government budget cuts, the question is whether Pride has merely become a branding opportunity bogged down in bureaucracy. It's a timely, emotional and unusually balanced film that doesn't shy away from past and present issues.

Seat in Shadow
dir Henry Coombes; with David Sillars, Jonathan Leslie 16/UK ***.
Cleverly shot by rising-star cinematographer David C Liddell, and directed with quirky artistry by Scottish filmmaker Henry Coombes, this Glasgow-set drama is elusive and intriguing. It's nutty and outrageous enough to intrigue fans of offbeat cinema, and it's packed with deeper themes about human connections that resonate in unexpected ways.

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C R I T I C A L   W E E K 

In addition to Flare movies, I had my normal weekly releases to watch at press screenings. These included the police action-comedy CHiPs (comments embargoed),  the enjoyable sci-fi thriller Life with Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson, the earnest Armenian genocide drama The Promise starring Oscar Isaac and Christian Bale, the intriguing Amazon exploration adventure The Lost City of Z with Charlie Hunnam and Robert Pattinson, the murky London noir mystery City of Tiny Lights with Riz Ahmed, and the offbeat Finnish refugee drama The Other Side of Hope. Films this coming week, aside from more Flare titles, include Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell, Orlando Bloom in the thriller Unlocked, and more.

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