Friday, 6 October 2017

LFF: Having an adventure on Day 3

The movie marathon continues, with three or four films per day during the 61st BFI London Film Festival. I know there are star-filled red carpets and lavish parties taking place somewhere, but the vast majority of working journalists never get invited to those. We shuffle from cinema to cinema all day catching what we can in a crowded schedule (usually having to select one of six or seven films screening simultaneously, and missing the rest of them completely). So far I've only missed a few things I wanted to see. Here are highlights tonight and tomorrow...

dir Todd Haynes; with Oakes Fegley, Millicent Simmonds (above) 17/US ****.
There's an intricate web of connections at the heart of this ambitious film, gradually building a expanding mystery that quietly sucks the audience in until a goosebump-inducing finale. It takes awhile to get there, but it's well worth the wait, augmented by director Todd Haynes' astonishing attention to detail in two iconic periods. And all of the central performances are powerfully moving.

A Fantastic Woman [Una Mujer Fantástica]
dir Sebastian Lelio; with Daniela Vega, Francisco Reyes 17/Chl ****.
With remarkable sensitivity, this drama by Chilean filmmaker Sebastian Lelio (Gloria) tells a vital story that carries a fiercely moving kick. Indeed, it's one of the most important films of the year, exploring a timely issue with dignity and grace: a cry for compassion in a callous world. It's also quite simply beautiful, written and directed with artistry and skilfully well-acted, most notably by Daniela Vega in the title role.

dir-scr Julian Rosefeldt; with Cate Blanchett 16/Ger 1h35 **.
Enormous ideas swirl around this experimental essay in which Cate Blanchett plays 12 distinctly different characters who launch into iconic philosophical rants about art and humanity. There are so many highfalutin words that the movie becomes a bit of a mumbly blur, but it's strikingly shot with sharply created settings that add witty touches all the way through. And filmmaker Julian Rosefeldt's point seems to be that of this arguing is pointless.

Beach Rats 
dir-scr Eliza Hittman; with Harris Dickinson, Madeline Weinstein 17/US ****
Despite a couple of slightly clanking plot points, there's the lovely aura of Gus Van Sant hovering around this loose, introspective teen drama. It's so finely observed that it can't help but draw the viewer deep into the story of a young man struggling to make sense of his identity while surrounded by his lifelong friends. The point of view is so strong that the other characters barely exist... FULL REVIEW >

The Double Lover [L'Amant Double]
dir-scr Francois Ozon; with Marine Vacth, Jeremie Renier 17/Fr ***.
Chameleon-like filmmaker Francois Ozon sets out this movie in the style of Almodovar doing a Hitchcock homage. And the double-layered approach is perfect for a sly, twisty plot adapted from a Joyce Carol Oates novel. Sexy and playful, the film spins around dualities, warping reality to present a story that keeps us both gripped and entertained.

A Moment in the Reeds
dir-scr Mikko Makela; with Janne Puustinen, Boodi Kabbani 17/Fin ****
Earthy and gentle, this drama runs to the quiet rhythms of rural Finland. Writer-director Mikko Makela relishes the natural elements of life in a natural setting, as two young men from very different backgrounds get to know each other without many distractions. Their conversations are profound and revealing, underscored with humour and a lovely sense of mutual understanding that's grounded and complex.

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