Tuesday, 16 October 2012

LFF 5: Dangerous blonde

At the 56th BFI London Film Festival last night, two quartets were joined by their directors for Leicester Square premieres. First there was the quartet from Quartet (below): Tom Courtenay, Maggie Smith, Pauline Collins and Bill Connelly with the film's director Dustin Hoffman. Then the Sapphires from The Sapphires (far below) appeared: Deborah Mailman, Shari Sebbens, Miranda Tapsell and Jessica Mauboy with Chris O'Dowd, who plays their manager. Tonight's guests include Argo's Ben Affleck, John Goodman and Bryan Cranston. Some more highlights...

In the House
dir Francois Ozon; with Fabrice Luchini, Ernst Umhauer 12/Fr **** 
Ozon playfully takes on the nature of storytelling in this black comedy about an unusual teacher-student relationship. Sharply written and directed, the film is a bundle of provocations, forcing us to think about the way we see, or imagine, the people around us. Luchini stars as a teacher who is bewildered by a student (Umhauer, above) who writes unusually riveting stories about a classmate's family. But are these stories true? Or is the student manipulating the teacher and his wife (Kristin Scott Thomas)? Ozon unveils the story expertly, with sure-handed direction that glides smoothly through the convolutions of the plot, keeping a tight focus on the characters. Yes, it's twisty and surprising, but we are held firmly in his grip all the way through.

I, Anna
dir Barnaby Southcombe; with Charlotte Rampling, Gabriel Byrne 12/UK ***
Rampling gets yet another terrific character in this dark British mystery-drama, which reveals its secrets very slowly as it goes along. Yes, this gets a bit annoying, since it's merely a filmmaker's conceit to manipulate the audience. But Rampling is so watchable that we go with it. She plays a woman trying to get her life back on track as a mature single woman, attending speed-dating while helping her daughter (Hayley Atwell) care for her granddaughter. And when she meets Bernie (Byrne) she has no idea that he's a cop watching her as part of a murder investigation. Annoyingly, the whole movie is a bit of a cheat, only holding together because the filmmaker lies to us at every opportunity, then pulls the rug out. Although we can see all of this coming. But Rampling never puts a foot wrong, and Byrne has a haunted quality that keeps us gripped.

dir Pablo Larrain; with Gael Garcia Bernal, Alfredo Castro 12/Chl ****.
Here's another fiendishly clever drama from Chilean filmmaker Larrain that continually subverts our expectations. Like Tony Manero and Post-Mortem, the film uses structure and genre-styles to throw us off its scent, entertaining us while giving us another haunting lesson from Chilean history. Here, it's 1988 and Chile is getting ready for a referendum to ratify Pinochet for another 10 years of rule - a simple yes or no vote. On the yes side of the right-wing establishment is an ad agency boss (Castro), while his top employee (Garcia Bernal) heads up the no campaign seeking freedom of expression and an end to human rights violations. Obviously, "no" doesn't have a chance of winning, but they take advantage of their 15 minutes of nightly television. The film is shot like a 1980s video diary that's been locked away somewhere for all these years, mixing real TV footage seamlessly with the comedy and drama in the script. It's smart, hilarious and utterly unmissable. Not to mention eerily timely.

Dead Europe
dir Tony Krawitz; with Ewen Leslie, Marton Csokas 12/Aus ***
An intensely dark, foreboding tone is the best thing about this perplexing thriller. While playing around intriguingly with issues of race, religion and sexuality, the film gets under our skin even though we are never quite sure what's actually going on. Kind of like the central character himself. That would be Isaac (Leslie), son of a Greek immigrant in Melbourne who travels to the home country against his parents' wishes. There he is caught up in his family's past, including a curse on them all, and his search for the truth takes him from Athens to Paris to Budapest. The film has a fable-like quality, playing with how guilt passes from generation to generation, although it remains enigmatic to the end, playing on the sinister overtones and leaving us a bit shaken.

Kelly + Victor
dir-scr Kieran Evans; with Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Julian Morris 12/UK ***
Based on Niall Griffiths' 2002 novel, this story of violent sexual obsession is too deliberately dark for us to sympathise with the central couple. But it's well-shot and nicely played by both actors. And its cautionary message, while rather heavy-handed, does leave us thinking... REVIEW >

No comments: