Friday, 17 October 2008

LFF2: Red carpet statements

More star power descended on Leicester Square last night. Spike Lee was in town to present his new film Miracle at St Anna (right), wearing a rather unsubtle hoodie - no surprise. Meanwhile, at the premiere screening of the British thriller Franklyn, the film's cast members Ryan Phillippe and Eva Green (pictured) plus Sam Riley made a very different statement as they strolled down the red carpet: namely that a bit of youthful global movie glamour was in town.

My day was a bit removed from all of this though - I had my brain stretched in the morning by Charlie Kaufman's bewildering but rather wonderful Synechdoche, New York, then took a witty and enjoyable journey from Turkey to Azerbaijan in The Market, then escaped the festival briefly for a regular press screening of Samuel L Jackson's underwhelming thriller Lakeview Terrace. In between, I interviewed Kiwi director Toa Fraser and actor Jeremy Northam about their work with Peter O'Toole on Dean Spanley, and then talked with James Toback about his frankly gobsmacking bio-doc Tyson. Which brings us to today's festival highlights...

Tyson ****
Rather than take an objective, documentary approach to the life of perhaps the most notorious sportsman ever, filmmaker James Toback takes us on a trip into Miky Tyson's mind. And the result is strikingly cinematic - as well as revealing and even emotional. On seeing the film, Tyson himself said it was like watching a Greek tragedy.

Better Things ****
British filmmaker Duane Hopkins creates a new cinematic language for this unusual drama about teens in an English village. The result is absolutely stunning - but it's not an easy film to watch.

Dean Spanley ****
This quirky period film centres on the idea that a local priest (Sam Neill) just might be the reincarnation of a dog. But this is actually just a distraction from the central plot, which is a moving and insightful look at the brittle relationship between a son (Jeremy Northam) and his father (Peter O'Toole). Brilliant performances and a light touch make this worth seeing.

1 2 3 4 ***
This shaggy British comedy-drama is about a geeky singer-guitarist who puts together a band and then struggles to make it. The characters are vividly spiky, and their interaction is both hilarious and a bit scary. Sadly, the plot kind of drifts away in the final act.

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