Thursday 8 September 2011

London Film Festival 2011: The Hidden Gems Part 1

Nobody Else But You (2011)

The London Film festival, which runs for a fortnight every October, has gone from strength to strength under the of artistic direction of Sandra Hebron over the last few years. Her knack for securing high profile screenings, coupled with her infectious enthusiasm, as well as her team's talents for unearthing a varied and satisfying line up, with a good mix up of obscure art-house and more mainstream titles, mean that the attendance has consistently gone up year after year, with a more youthful and eclectic audience.

While not quite in the same league of Cannes, Venise and Toronto, the festival is nevertheless a great way of catching up with films shown at all the festivals mentioned, as well as discovering some new gems. Many ask what is the point of seeing films there that sometimes get a release date a mere few days after their festival's screening, but the atmosphere is so informal yet electric and the buzz so exhilarating that I recommend watching as many films as you can there, especially since, more often than not, the cast and crew follow the screening with a Q&A. I will certainly be speaking a lot about the festival in the few weeks before it is due to start, and obviously during the festivities, with the target of 20 to 25 films to watch (but most certainly more!).

Rather than focus on big names that everybody who is interested in cinema will want to see (Shame, The Artist etc...) I would rather highlight some more unexpected titles. Indeed one of the biggest pleasure of flicking through the programme every year is discovering all these films I knew little or nothing about yet cannot wait to see. So I will be covering those over the next few days.

The Day He Arrives by Hong Sang Soo

Ok so this is cheating a bit as I know full well who Hong Sangsoo is, although I have shamefully never seen any of his films despite my passion for South Korean cinema. But I had not heard of this new one and it sounds fantastic. Watching films from Park Chan Wook and Joon-Ho Bong, you would be forgiven if you thought that every single Korean film involves bloody vengeance and family dramas. No such thing with Hong Sangsoo, whose cinema allegedly resolves around drinking, social embarrassments, seduction and rejection. His new film,  The Day He Arrives, follows a man returning to Seoul for a few days, meeting old friends, old girl-friends etc... and for what I understand, we follow his mental ramblings as he imagines variations of the same scenes loosely based on his actual experiences in a sort of mental scrapbook of ideas. I cannot really sell it any better than that!

Tales of the night by Michel Ocelot

This French animation is a collection of six short tales, all involving some degree of fantasy and fairy tales. This comes with an enviable pedigree, being directed by the man responsible for the much beloved Kirikou and the Sorceress. What I am the most intrigued about is the fact that the film is both using silhouette animation with modern 3D, which seems a bit of an oxymoron, and makes you wonder if the whole thing might end up looking like a really bad 2D to 3D post conversion with cardboard cutout effect, but I wonder if it might actually work well in the stylised context of an animated film.

Nobody Else But You by Gerald Hustache-Mathieu

The original French title, Poupoupidou (phonetical French for Poo poo pee doo) is even more of a clue that Marilyn Monroe is involved than the English translation. Except that in the film, the Marilyn in question is actually a local blonde celebrity/airhead weather girl, found dead from an apparent suicide in an snowbound village. A crime novelist, stuck in the area, goes on a quest to find out what really happened... The film has been described as neo-noir fun and as a stylish comic whodunnit/romance with a hint of Fargo. It does not get more intriguing than this...

I will cover a few more over the next few days, in the meantime, you can check the full programme on the London Film Festival website.

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