Friday, 19 October 2018

LFF: Do a little dance

The 62nd London Film Festival is wrapping up with a continuing parade of red carpet gala screenings and various celebrity talks and workshops. It's a pretty busy collection of venues from BFI Southbank into Leicester Square and beyond, and this weekend will see a final flurry of activity. Although on Saturday the festival may be upstaged by the People's Vote march, demanding that the British public has a say in Brexit. We'll see how that goes. In the meantime, here are some more highlights...

The Favourite
dir Yorgos Lanthimos; with Olivia Colman, Emma Stone 18/Ire ****
A fiendishly witty script and blazing performances brings this historical piece to riotous life as it delves into the political machinations of the British royal household. Anchored by riveting, awards-worthy lead performances by Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, the film looks terrific thanks to Yorgos Lanthimos' offbeat direction and Robbie Ryan's inventive cinematography.

If Beale Street Could Talk
dir-scr Barry Jenkins; with KiKi Layne, Stephan James 18/US *****
Barry Jenkins follows up Moonlight with an adaptation of the James Baldwin novel that's both deeply gorgeous and righteously furious. It's a gently romantic drama with a fiercely topical core, so while its staggeringly beautiful filmmaking tantalises our eyes and emotions, the film is also stirring something darker and deeper about the deep-seated injustice in American society... FULL REVIEW >

Assassination Nation
dir-scr Sam Levinson; with Odessa Young, Suki Waterhouse 18/US ***.
Full-speed from the opening shot, this riotously satirical action-horror veers dangerously close to becoming a Purge movie. But it's fiercely present-day, as writer-director Sam Levinson gives the film such a short attention span that split screens are often required to cram everything onto the screen. This makes it a kinetic, relentless thrill ride, even if it at times feels a little too viciously pointed... FULL REVIEW >

The White Crow
dir Ralph Fiennes; with Oleg Ivenko, Adele Exarchopoulos 18/UK ***
This biopic of Rudolf Nureyev is beautifully shot and acted, but it's both too specific and overly fragmented, which makes it difficult to engage with. David Hare's script has an oddly choppy structure that removes all momentum from the plot by jumping unnecessarily between periods, and it glosses over some important elements. Still, Ralph Fiennes' stylish direction keeps it watchable, and the climactic sequence is tensely riveting.

dir-scr Simon Amstell; with Colin Morgan, Phenix Brossard 18/UK ***
With a central character who is deeply annoying, this scruffy British comedy struggles to keep the audience on its side. It meanders through a loose, rather goofy story that continually threatens to erupt into a feel-good romance, but the tone is more bitter than it is sweet. There are plenty of terrific moments to keep the viewer entertained, even if the film never quite engages on any other level.

dir Zhang Yimou; with Deng Chao, Sun Li 18/Chn ****
Chinese filmmaker Zhang is back with another staggeringly beautiful historical saga packed with complex characters and a story that twists and turns right to the brilliant final shot. With costumes and settings that are simply stunning, the film has its own distinct visual sensibility, which brings the central themes into focus. It's a powerfully involving tale of love, betrayal, revenge and retribution... FULL REVIEW >

May the Devil Take You
dir-scr Timo Tjahjanto; with Chelsea Islan, Pevita Pearce 18/Ina ***
Riotously grisly, this inventive Indonesian horror plays with a variety of nasty elements that work together to produce a gonzo freak-out. So it's a bit frustrating that the movie doesn't make much sense, and especially that it has no subtext to make it memorable. But as a masterclass in effective ways to stage violent suspense, it's a treat... FULL REVIEW >

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