Sunday, 21 October 2018

LFF: Fancy footwork

The 62nd London Film Festival wrapped up tonight with the world premiere of Jon Baird's Stan & Ollie. It seems to have gone by in a blur for me this year, mainly because I missed about two thirds of the festival due to my travels. Although I still managed to see 35 of the films! And I am catching up with a few more over the coming weeks. There are eight more films listed below, beneath the award winners (none of which I've seen) and my own best of the fest.

Best Film: JOY
Sutherland Award - First Feature: Lukas Dhont (GIRL)
Grierson Award - Documentary:

1. If Beale Street Could Talk
2. Colette
3. The Favourite
4. Won't You Be My Neighbour?
5. A Private War
6. Dogman
7. Border
8. Shadow
9. The Breaker Upperers
10. Stan & Ollie

Stan & Ollie
dir Jon S Baird; with Steve Coogan, John C Reilly 18/UK ****
With a gentle tone, this biopic traces Laurel and Hardy's final stage tour. The focus is on their relationship, and Jeff Pope's script beautifully captures their rivalry and deep affection. Director Jon Baird stages the film as a loving homage to the iconic duo, replaying their best bits and thankfully resisting the temptation to over-egg them for a modern audience. So the film remains warm and, yes, funny.

A Private War
dir Matthew Heineman; with Rosamund Pike, Jamie Dornan 18/UK ****.
Filmmaker Matthew Heineman (City of Ghosts) brings his documentarian's eye to this biopic about noted war reporter Marie Colvin. Played with earthy intensity by Rosamund Pike, Colvin was a powerhouse who shined light on people caught in the crossfire. This film is sharply well-assembled to throw the audience into both her life and her perspective... FULL REVIEW >

Can You Ever Forgive Me
dir Marielle Heller; with Melissa McCarthy, Richard E Grant 18/US ***
Based on an extraordinary true story, this low-key comedy-drama is a terrific showcase for Melissa McCarthy's acting skill, something lost in the silly mayhem of her usual projects. It's a punchy tale about artistic frustration and the need to find an outlet for expression, even if it might be an illegal one. And while the events are actually rather serious, they unfold with plenty of offbeat wit and warmth.

Sorry to Bother You
dir-scr Boots Riley; with Lakeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson 18/US ***
There's a loose, surreal nuttiness to this film, which mixes topical drama and edgy comedy to create something bracingly original. It starts out as an office satire, but shifts gears along the way as writer-director Boots Riley plays with fantastical imagery and thematic parody. Sometimes, the pastiche becomes a little too insane for its own good, and where the story goes is deliberately confrontational... FULL REVIEW >

The Hate U Give
dir George Tillman Jr; with Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall 18/US ***
Despite an oddly simplified script and glossy mainstream direction, this film tackles a huge issue in a way that will engage a wide audience. It's a take on Black Lives Matter that helps illuminate the issue with a warmly involving story packed with solid characters. So even if the ideas are obvious, the film may help audiences understand the topic with more clarity... FULL REVIEW >

dir-scr Camille Vidal-Naquet; wtih Felix Maritaud, Eric Bernard 18/Fr ***.
Observed in an offhanded, almost documentary style, this French drama traces the day-to-day experiences of a French prostitute who is looking for love. Filmmaker Camille Vital-Naquet takes an unflinching approach that catches details in the characters and the relationships between them. With minimalistic dialog, the film features skilful naturalistic performances from a cast of brave rising stars.

Ut√łya - July 22
dir Erik Poppe; with Andrea Berntzen, Aleksander Holmen 18/Nor ***.
This film explores the events of 22 July 2011 in Norway. After CCTV footage of the Oslo car bomb, filmmaker Eric Poppe traces the right-wing extremist's subsequent attack on a summer camp outside the city. Shot as a single take matching the 72-minute attack, events unfold in real time through the eyes of the (fictionalised) young people. It's a harrowing film that vividly puts the audience into an unthinkable situation.

dir Lee Chang-dong; with Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun 18/Kor ***
It wouldn't be too difficult to cut an entire hour out of this dramatic thriller. While the meandering approach does add some realism and earthiness, plus a lot of fascinating detail, it also leaves the audience unable to piece together disparate, seemingly irrelevant elements into something coherent. Still, it's finely written, directed and played, and it's packed with superb moments.

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