Sunday, 19 October 2008

LFF4: Pure class

French filmmaker Laurent Cantet faced the media last night at the gala premiere of his acclaimed film The Class, which has already won acres of awards - with more to come. I'm sure there were a few parties on the festival's first Saturday night, but the London Film Festival doesn't invite mere journalists to these things. Frankly, a few parties would make the festival feel a lot more festive - and it would be nice to stop working for an hour or two. I'm already shattered and it's only day 4.

Anyway, here are some highlights from today's line-up...

Lake Tahoe ****
This quirky and charming Mexican film blends the simplicity of Italian neorealism with the wit and emotion of new Mexican cinema as it follows a young guy on an odyssey to fix his car. And his soul. Beautifully understated, very funny and ultimately very moving.

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist ***
This wilfully offbeat rom-com tries far too hard to be this year's Juno, right up to borrowing that film's leading man, the engaging Michael Cera, for this all-night romp through the back streets of New York. There are some genuinely hilarious characters and extremely well-written dialog, but it's so constructed that it never feels remotely real.

Hunger *****
Easily my best film of the festival (and of the year so far), this harrowing drama about the 1981 Belfast hunger strike is directed by Turner Prize-winner Steve McQueen with a distinct cinematic language that constantly surprises us with its astute observations. And at the centre, the performance by Michael Fassbender (as Bobby Sands) is truly unforgettable.

I Am Alive ****
From Italy, this riveting and wrenchingly black comedy is another all-night odyssey, this time following a guy who's been hired to watch over a dead woman in her father's house, but is distracted beyond reason. As it progresses, the filmmakers create an intriguing relationship between our hero and the corpse - and let him discover his own inner strength. A gem of a film.

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