Monday 27 October 2014

London Film Festival 2014 Capsule Reviews: Pasolini, White God & When Animals Dream

Pasolini (dir: Abel Ferrara) Pier Paolo Pasolini’s brutal murder in 1975 was truly an ignoble and cruel exit for the firebrand cultural figure. On the surface, the criminally underrated Abel Ferrara might appear to be an odd choice to make a biopic about such a divisive intellectual artist. However, the NYC auteur boasts a controversial movie or two in his own filmography and shares with Pasolini a certain roughhewn, albeit, poetic vision. The two directors could be spiritual brothers.

For a man often charged by his detractors as an immoral soul, the screenplay by Maurizio Braucci – and actor Willem Dafoe’s portrayal – paint the man as a profoundly moral individual, whose last movie, Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom, was a doom-filled political allegory so shocking that its message was barely palatable, let alone comprehended.

Monday 20 October 2014

London Film Festival 2014: Decor, Eden & Björk: Biophilia Live

Eden sets itself to portray the French electronic scene of the 90's, which is such a great subject it makes you wonder why hardly anybody else has attempted it. Yes there was the rather poor Clubbed to Death, but tackling this subject now adds a layer of nostalgia that also makes everybody who partied at the time feel very old indeed (aherm). This is the mid 90's and we follow DJ Paul, one of the (fictional) pioneers of the famous French touch, a musical renaissance for a country that had made very little impact over the previous decades. Inspired by the rise and (SPOILER) fall of her brother and former DJ Sven Löve, Mia Hensen Löve charters the early excitement, the dizzying heights of success, and then the increasing indifference from a changing audience.

Sunday 19 October 2014

London Film Festival 2015: White Bird in a Blizzard/Spring

Gregg Araki remains one of the true survivors of the wave of US indie directors who emerged in the late 80's/90's, one who has remained faithful to his own style and never been tempted by the big bucks of Hollywood studios. Some have criticised him for essentially making films that are always about the same theme: teenagers, which is an unfair accusation, as if other true auteurs were ever subjected to the same complaint. Besides his visual talent has evolved from the early grubby, grungy days of the 90's to an almost purest, pop-art like simplicity, as witnessed by his previous film, the wonderful Kaboom.

Wednesday 8 October 2014

London Film Festival 2014: Hard To Be A God

"This is not Earth, it's another planet," announces the voice-over at the beginning of Aleksei German's Hard To Be a God (Trudno Byt Bogom), "About 800 years behind." That might sound like a minor variant on "A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" - but in fact the setting is some time in the future, and the hellish 'city' of Arkanar is behind only in the sense that the "Renaissance didn't happen here." As both city leader Don Reba's 'Greys' (soldiers so-named for the colour of their uniforms) and the 'Blacks' in the powerful religious Order all vie to round up, torture and execute any 'wise guys' (artisans or intellectuals), a group of Scientists from Earth go undercover as local nobles of divine descent, observing the atrocities all around them and trying to insinuate some sort of Enlightenment without resorting to their own violent interventions. Yet as one of these Earthlings, 'Don Rumata' (Leonid Yarmolnik), is discovering, it is relatively easy to go native, but hard to be a god.

Saturday 4 October 2014

London Film Festival 2014: The Duke Of Burgundy

His first feature, Katalin Varga (2009), is a rape/revenge story shot in Transylvania with exclusively Hungarian dialogue. His second feature, the metacinematic mystery Berberian Sound Studio (2012), is set in Seventies Italy and uses the grammar and tropes of giallo to explore the misogynies in and around an unseen horror film undergoing endless, infernal postproduction. Which is to say that writer/director Peter Strickland likes to inhabit the outermost limits of genre - and his latest, The Duke Of Burgundy, is no exception. 

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Gone Girl Review

One thing that is most imperative about reading anything about director David Fincher's new film Gone Girl is that one needs to avoid all forms of spoilers. So this review will strive to do the same while suggesting that if anyone attempts to tell you anything about the plot of the film, to firmly place one's fingers in one's ears and run swiftly away. Adapted from her novel of the same name, Gillian Flynn's script requires the full two hours and twenty nine minutes running time to tease out the relationship and stories that emanate from Gone Girl.

When Nick Dunne's (Ben Affleck) beautiful blonde Ivy League wife Amy (Rosamund Pike) goes missing, a media wave and then storm springs up around the story. Police are involved with suspicions raised as literal clues in envelopes turn up for Nick to solve. As the case progresses who Nick and Amy are is thrashed out via prime time seeking media shows and in the hearts and minds of the TV watching public.