Thursday 6 June 2024

Sundance: Make some noise

I completely missed last years Sundance Film Festival: London, because I was attending another festival at the time, so I'm enjoying getting stuck into the 11th edition of this mini festival, which shows a handful of highlights from January's festival over four days at Picturehouse Central, complete with filmmaker Q&As. The festival kicks off tonight with Kneecap, which goes straight in as one of my very best films of the year. Here are brief comments about that one and a few others. Plus Critical Week below...

dir-scr Rich Peppiatt; with Naoise O'Caireallain, Liam Og O'Hannaidh 24/Ire *****
An energising blast of fresh energy, this Irish comedy-drama fills the screen with characters who feel almost overpoweringly full of live. Rich Peppiatt writes and directs with an engaging urgency, propelling the audience through the narrative alongside these scrappy people, while at the same time making nuanced comments about important themes, personal issues and thorny political situations. This makes it an essential film for anyone worried about the future... FULL REVIEW >

I Saw the TV Glow
dir-scr Jane Schoenbrun; with Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine 24/US ***.
This surreal film is tricky to categorise, which is perhaps its greatest strength. It features elements of a coming-of-age drama and a wildly colourful sci-fi pastiche that's centred around a rather nutty vintage TV series. It's shot beautifully, with a gorgeous sense of light and colour straight from writer-director Jane Schoenbrun's imagination. And this moving and rather darkly powerful story explores how it feels to live outside of mainstream society, never quite knowing how to fit in. 

Sasquatch Sunset
dir David Zellner, Nathan Zellner; with Jesse Eisenberg, Riley Keough 24/US ***.
Defiantly offbeat, this is one of those one-off experimental movies that could only come from an extremely curious filmmaker. Make that plural, as brothers David and Nathan Zellner follow a bigfoot family over four momentous seasons. There's no dialog, although the creatures communicate with gestures, grunts and other noises. The film has a wonderfully deadpan sense of humour, even as the story turns dark and emotional. And the result is both involving and memorable.

Your Monster
dir-scr Caroline Lindy; with Melissa Barrera, Tommy Dewey 24/US ***
Mixing comedy, horror, romance and personal drama, this film by its very nature has an uneven tone. At least it's consistently enjoyable and engaging, recounting a funny-freaky narrative that takes on bigger themes surrounding loneliness, ambition and empowerment. But much of the story and many of the bigger moments feel a bit gimmicky due to the way they play on perceptions and fantasies. This means that the ideas resonate even if the characters and situations don't. 

Handling the Undead [Håndtering av Udøde]
dir Thea Hvistendahl; with Renate Reinsve, Anders Danielsen Lie 24/Nor ***.
A meditation on grief and letting go, this film is steeped in Scandinavian gloom; it couldn't be much bleaker if it tried. And filmmaker Thea Hvistendahl certainly tries. Essentially a zombie arthouse movie, the script isolates three families in their singular experiences, dealing with the death of a loved one followed by an uncanny resurrection. The downbeat nature of the story means that this is not an easy film to watch, and it holds its nerve by never offering much hope. 

Never Look Away
dir Lucy Lawless; with Margaret Moth, Christiane Amanpour 24/NZ ****
With a quick pace and a blast of rock-chick energy, this biographical documentary about no-nonsense warzone journalist Margaret Moth is both entertaining and compelling. As a gifted camera operator with a larger-than-life persona, it seems odd that her story hasn't been told before. Actor-turned-director Lucy Lawless skilfully fuel the narrative with Moth's distinctive energy, which is reflected in interviews with colleagues, partners and family members, as well as her staggeringly unblinking footage.

My Sundance London reviews will be linked on the website's FESTIVAL PAGE >

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C R I T I C A L  W E E K

This week's big press screening was a UK gala for Bad Boys: Ride or Die, which sparked a party atmosphere before the barrage of Will Smith/Martin Lawrence action mayhem on an Imax screen. The plot is as inane as expected, but the stuntwork is solid. There was also the smart and enjoyably bristly comedy-drama Reverse the Curse, written, directed and costarring David Duchovny; the British road story Cottontail, a moving look at family connections; the extremely quirky and entertaining fairy tale-style children's adventure Riddle of Fire; the achingly slow but sharply observant British drama Sky Peals; and the gorgeously shot Belgian drama Here, about two beautifully underplayed immigrants.

There will be more Sundance movies until Sunday, and then I am off to France for a few days at the  Annecy International Film Festival, which specialises in animation. So it's appropriate that I will also be watching Netflix's Ultraman: Rising and Pixar's Inside Out 2 on very big screens.

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