Thursday, 30 October 2008

LFF15: Everybody who's anybody

The cast of the new Noel Coward comedy Easy Virtue showed up to support their film at the London Film Festival (that's Kimberly Nixon, Kris Marshall, Ben Barnes, Colin Firth, Jessica Biel and Charlotte Riley standing around director Stephan Elliott). But last night all eyes were across Leicester Square as virtually everybody who's anybody in London attended the royal world premiere of the new James Bond movie Quantum of Solace, which then had its first public screening at the LFF. In addition to the whole cast and crew, the rather random selection of stars on the red carpet included: Princes William and Harry, Mayor Boris Johnson, Elle Macpherson, Saint Bob Geldof, kilt-wearing cycling god Chris Hoy and, erm, Harrod's boss Mohammed al Fayed.

Meanwhile, here are a few notes on films from yesterday and today...

Che: Part Two ****
The second half of Steven Soderbergh's epic biopic (subtitled Guerrilla) is a more linear tale than part one, detailing Ernesto "Che" Guevara's year in Bolivia as he gathered and trained rebels in an attempt to ignite a Cuba-style revolution to overthrow the tyranical, US-backed government. Nothing much happens in the film, which follows the scruffy guerrillas through the mountain forests as they try to evade American-trained commandos and drum up support from peasants who are too terrified to trust them. It's a slow-burn movie, building tension gradually and never boiling over into big movie action scenes - most of the time we are just as impatient for something to happen as the rebels are! But it's also bracingly well-made, with strong performances and strongly relevant themes about standing up for justice in an unjust world - no matter what it costs.

The Betrayal ***
Cinematographer Ellen Kuras spent 23 years filming this documentary about a family from Laos that was caught up in and shattered by American intervention during the Vietnam War. Kuras worked with Thavisouk Phrasavath to write and direct his own story - combining family photos, newsreel footage and new scenes shot with his mother and nine siblings, who escaped from Laos and moved to New York, where their life has taken some surprisingly dark turns. It's a beautifully assembled film, perhaps a bit too earnest but also vitally important.

The Good the Bad the Weird ***
From Korea, this unhinged, high-energy tribute to the Western is great fun to watch even as its raucous pace wears us out. The story centres on 1930s three bandits (see the title for clues) who cross paths during an epic train robbery and then chase each other into the wilds of Manchuria while battling Asian gangs and the occupying Japanese army. The story races at full speed from the start, with mind-bogglingly complicated battles and outrageous stuntwork, plus lots of slapstick humour and plenty of surprising twists and turns. It's utterly mad, but thoroughly entertaining.

No comments: