Wednesday, 22 October 2008

LFF7: On the carpet

It was Penelope Cruz's turn to bring some starry glitz to the London Film Festival red carpet last night for the gala screening of Woody Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona. Although with the weather turning suddenly icy, she must have been freezing in that frock. Keanu Reeves was also at the LFF last night, out to see the music doc Anvil, along with the band's metal-legend members Lips Kudlow and Robb Reiner.

Here are a few highlights from yesterday and today...

Tokyo! ****
This triptych is made up of three 40-minute films that bring the Japanese monster movie into the 21st century. Directors Michel Gondry, Leos Carax and Bong Joon-ho supply first-rate production values and plenty of inventively surreal touches to their fables, and each one is witty, involving and ultimately resonant. And a lot of fun too.

Two Lovers ***
Joaquin Phoenix is excellent as a guy who's either obsessive-compulsive or bipolar or both, but he's also extremely likeable, even when he's drifting into stalker mode over an intriguing neighbour (Gwyneth Paltrow) or accidentally blundering into a sweet romance with a nice Jewish girl (Vinessa Shaw). While slick and efficient, the film is made with no discernible style, and even the plot gives in to easy solutions to complex problems.

Let's Talk About the Rain ***
Agnes Jaoui and Jean-Pierre Bacri (Look at Me) assemble this comedy-drama with sharp insights and some terrific characters, but it's all a bit rambling and loose as it follows a film school graduate (Jamel Debbouze) trying to make a documentary about a successful business woman. The film cleverly uses this set-up to examine issues of racism and sexism, but it never quite comes together.

Genova ****
Michael Winterbottom continues with the hand-held video approach from A Mighty Heart for this introspective drama about a widower (Colin Firth) who moves his two daughters (Willa Holland and Perla Haney-Jardine) to Italy to get a fresh start after his wife (Hope Davis) dies in a car accident. The two girls are especially good in this film, which inverts Roeg's Don't Look Now by having a child ominously seeing the ghost of her mother in the narrow Genovan streets. And if it feels a bit slight in the end, there's plenty of strong emotion too.

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