Glasgow Film Festival 2019...
It's that time of the year...when we all head North, anticipating what the weather will throw at us! Seemingly, there's going to be a heatwave...in Scotland, in February...that will be a first!
No matter what Mother Nature has in store, the Glasgow Film Festival will keep us cosy and entertained for the next 12 days...with a scrumptious selection of films.
Here are all the films on our menu:
Directed by Jonah Hill
Didn't love it, didn't hate it, didn't believe a word of it!
Jonah Hill's directorial debut is a watered-down version of Larry Clarke's Kids and, presumably, an homage to skateboarding culture. Yes, there are heaps of drugs, buckets of alcohol and too many words beginning with 'N' and 'F' - it really does become more of a critique on toxic [youthful] masculinity than an homage to a vibrant counter-culture.
If you can by-pass the chronic miscasting, the unnecessary [let's-do-it-for-authenticity] 4:3 aspect and strange song choices...Mid90s offers little more than a tissue of a story, delivered via episodic vignettes...they range from the plausible de-railing of a likeable kid to the totally implausible de-railing of this unlikeable kid. The seduction scene is nothing but absolute baloney. As for the mother, she 'cares' for one scene - shouting the odds - then, releasing her son back into the grips of extreme hedonism. A tiny, pre-pubescent body could not take this amount of abuse!
In truth, if Jonah Hill had not been the [famed] director...this film would have appeared briefly and disappeared quickly...without trace.
The Hole in the Ground
Directed by Lee Cronin
Many a fine film falls and fails in the final third...this is a classic example.
WTF happened!?! Everything was skipping around rather spookily...a good build of atmosphere, replete with madness and mystery...and, a massive hole in the ground [aka: A crater]. Fine performances, good writing...then, boom...WTF happened!?! Imagination malfunction and/or budget over-spend!?! Whatever it was...[film festival] audiences are far too sophisticated to accept this kind of belief suspension...
In the blink of an eye, an inescapable predicament goes all-out Houdini...and, the film - quite literally - goes tits up! Such a shame...this really could have been a wholly chilling tale...if only the ending had been re-thought...then, re-written...and, optimally, re-worked for the desired/best effect...the potential was there!
The Sisters Brothers
Directed by Jacques Audiard
Hooray...for a French take on an old, worn-out Hollywood staple: The Western.
Not a trace of the John-Homophobic-Wayne-Big-Ham-Style-of-Acting, no designer-damsels in distress, none of that 'there'll be injuns in dem hills' nonsense...instead, a story of brotherly love, idealism, greed and duty. Most definitely, not your usual kind of Western...this has intelligence, blooming bromances and a golden stream of rich subtext.
The 'Goodie' [there really is only one, although there is a convert to the good-side] is - perhaps - too good to be true...and, the 'Baddies' [there are many] are as savage and uncouth as you would expect...with the odd twist...with the oddest couples. John C. Reilly & Joaquin Phoenix - seriously - do do odd [assassin] brothers well...unlike [yet, like] oil and water, they mix their psychopathies with humour and violence towards a mesmerising conclusion. Simply, one of the best double acts of recent memory...and, most definitely, one of the best Westerns ever made!
Good to see Rebecca Root in a small but significant role...although the armchair activists will probably wail & moan about her on-screen treatment!
The Man Who Surprised Everyone [Chelovek, kotoryy udivil vsekh]
Directed by Aleksey Chupov & Natalya Merkulova
Here's a film that will challenge those who like to be challenged!
The message this film delivers is loud...but, not so clear! From the off...violence. Incomprehensible violence...in the opening minutes, two men are killed for poaching a deer. There are consequences...when you don't follow the rules, when you step out of line, when you dare to be who you are! At times, you would be forgiven into thinking that this is a Russian propaganda film...warning the radicals, the free thinkers, the individual against any kind of reaction against the machine! Putin's Russia is synonymous with homophobia...Putin, himself, is the poster-boy for toxic masculinity. Here, in this film, that toxicity is play-out in full...for all the world to see. It is not pleasant.
This is a trans*film like no other...the acquiescence of the character is as startling as it is muted. She does not say a word, accepts her lot without indignation...but, with a steadfast resilience. Complex characters do not come more complex than this...this transition is - for the audience - sensory. Perhaps, quite possibly...the best cinematic explanation of the force behind transition...breath-taking.
A bewildering, bleak, bizarrely beautiful film.
Directed by John Butler
Casting is everything...and, John Butler got it spot on with Matt Bomer & Alejandro Patiño...the unlikeliest of [lovable] duos!
Kudos to a writer/director who can lull their audience into a false sense of [comfortable albeit oddball] security...Mr Butler does just that. Messieurs Bomer & Patiño are the quintessential odd couple...the comedy is mostly derived from the reaction to a given line, to a given situation...it is a delicious thing to witness, actors reacting to each other and a director who is able to capture it all. Crowd-pleasing, heart-warming stuff.
And then, just when you least expect it...one short line changes absolutely everything. There's an audible gasp...as the reality sinks in. From where it starts to where it ends up, Papi Chulo is a finely crafted travelogue of the human coping mechanism. It veers [seamlessly] from the downright ridiculous to a heartfelt humanity...again, one line changes the perspective...empathy...and all that that remarkable word encompasses. Another audible gasp!
It really is just a beautiful, enriching and rewarding film...laugh, cry, empathise.
Mothers’ Instinct [Duelles]
Directed by Olivier Masset-Depasse
Oooh there's nothing quite like a psychological suburban thriller to get the brain-cells a-sparking.
Sweet domesticity, the perfect life...is shattered by a tragic accident. Mothers’ Instinct is all about style and substance. True to its obvious influence, this Hitchcockian homage will keep you guessing from the moment the [parental] paranoia set in. Even more...there's a little boy who could challenge the most patient of Saints. He is the angel and demon combined! And that's the power of the film, you never quite know what you're dealing with...until it becomes [perhaps, a little too prematurely] apparent.
No faulting the production values, the period is captured with a stylised eye and the cinematography is a joy to behold. Performance wise, everyone delivers...our only quibble is, the neatly-packaged ending...not every story needs to be tied up with string and bows...keep them guessing, that's the thrill of the thriller! But...a damn decent thriller nonetheless.
The Third Wife
Directed by Ash Mayfair
If ever a film had the potential to be something special...this was it.
Great premise, a young bride brought into a polygamous marriage, set in the breath-taking scenery of a distant Vietnam...the romance of it all...but, alas, there was absolutley no romance...and, despite the on-screen beauty, the constant battle with sleep was near-overwhelming and uncomfortably tortuous throughout. Why, oh why, did this happen!?! All the ingredients for a great film were there...except for a fully fleshed-out script!
It would seem that Ash Mayfair's cinematic punctuation is...when in doubt, film [interminably] a leaf, or a silk worm, or water...or, anything that fills the gap. Stick with the story!!! Yes, indeed, the sensitive souls will argue in favour of the mood, atmosphere and tone creation...but, when the effect is as soporific as this, a gross misjudgment has been made. Wake up!!! Why? For the lesbian scene...it comes out of nowhere, ends in a flash and is forgotten! Yes...all this film needed was a fully fleshed-out script and a brutal editor who has a particular distaste for leaves, silk worms and water. And then...it could have been a marvel.
Directed by Ali Abbasi
The less you know about this film...the better!
Watch with an open mind...as a tale of incredible cruelty, depravity and love-in-the-unlikeliest-of-places between an unlikely couple uniquely unfolds. They are not what they seem!
Ali Abbasi - basically - draws a very fuzzy line between man and monster. He mulls it over and presents a jaw-dropping treatise on humanity and plays with the whole concept that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and real beauty is within!
This is bold, challenging and daring cinema...in the wrong hands it could have disintegrated right before your very eyes...but, Eva Melander and Eero Milonoff deliver remarkable, grizzly performances.
It does have moments of extreme tenderness...but, on the whole, it's as unpleasant as can be...human depravity is an assault to the senses.
Here's a film that will touch all of your senses and make you think long and hard!
An un-missable achievement!
Tell It to the Bees
Directed by Annabel Jankel
Pre-sexual revolution of the 60s, setting: small-town Scotland...and, some Sapphic stirrings in the undergrowth. Oooh the scandal of it all!!!
Tell it to the Bees is a mixed bag of youthful loveliness and domestic trauma...with one major [and inexplicable] problem: The ending! Why change the perfectly good ending [of the book] into something so unsatisfactory and implausible?!? Or, perhaps, this man's mind is completely at a loss when it comes to the woman's psyche...and, the swarming instinct of bees!
Seriously, this is a lovely film that [sadly] asks [just a little] too much from its audience...when belief flies out of the window [and bees, literally, fly in]. Up until this point, the gentleness of the story is a delight, young Gregor Selkirk is a joy to watch as he confronts and computes the harsh realities of life. Anna Paquin and Holliday Grainger, they do the story proud. There is so much to commend this film...however, when the 'fantasy' hits the fan...aaargh! It's so frustrating, tripping before the last hurdle...it all boils down to...the bees had one scene too many!
Directed by Icíar Bollaín
Quite unlike the usual bio-pic...thank the lord-of-the-dance...and, Paul Laverty's script!
The film is punctuated [beautifully] with dance [the male pas-de-deux is a sensation not to be missed], reflection and invention. Having the man himself in his own film was a blatant and questionable risk...and, even Señor Acosta said he didn't want to ruin his own film. Well, he didn't and it was a risk that paid out dividends by the score. Sharing his story, on such a personal level, took guts...the lengthy applause he received...well-deserved.
Those lucky enough to have seen Señor Acosta dance...those who have not, well you are just denying yourself of something truly special...and, after watching this film...inspirational. Talent is given...but, success has to be earned...well-earned.
Yuli is a credit to the collaboration between subject, writer and director. This is a film that has been choreographed with precision and finesse...infused with reluctance and politics...and, a tough love between father and son. If that love had not been so tough, the world may not have gotten the intense pleasure [and release] of experiencing Carlos Acosta dance.
A bio-pic quite like no other. Thank you.
Coincoin and the Extra-Humans [Coincoin et les z'inhumains]
Directed by Bruno Dumont
200 minutes of WTF!!! Is this a case of 'absurdism' being taken too far? Definitely, 100 minutes too far!
Because...the first 50 minutes are an explosion to the senses. This is mayhem...with some of the best visual gags in recent memory. The next 50 minutes, the gags start to repeat, over and over again. As for the final 100 minutes...well, let's just say they were unnecessary. Talk about stretching something out until the breaking point is well and truly reached...Bruno Dumont certainly reached that point and went over it. He even writes how repetition becomes monotonous...pity he didn't take his own words and applied them to this sprawling project.
It is actually a shame...because, Coincoin could have been something truly special...casting people with learning disabilities is something that more directors should do...but, everyone on-screen [still] needs to be directed. And, every director should know when they have taken it [all] too far!
Let Me Fall [Lof mér að falla]
Directed by Baldvin Zophoníasson
This is the bleakest of the bleak.
Well, drug addiction is no laughing matter...unless you're off your face and don't give a month-of-sundays about those around you. Those unfortunates, the family, those friends, the collateral...caught in the cross-fire...until they have no choice other than to walk away.
From the opening scene, these lethal lesbians [together with their toxic love] care for absolutely no-one but themselves and their habit...and, only for each other, when it suits! It would be crazy to say Let Me Fall is an enjoyable film, it's almost unimaginable to even 'like' this film...not because it's a bad film - it most certainly is not bad...it's just so unflinchingly desolate.
Baldvin Zophoníasson takes no prisoners and pulls no punches whatsoever...the critique he delivers upon State and Church and Rehab and addicts and their chain of supply are damning and absolute. This is 'sensational' filmmaking...and, as sure as Hell, it is not pretty.
Directed by Alex Ross Perry
10 minutes in the company of Becky Something is quite enough thank you.
She is exhausting, unpalatable and really rather talentless. Ironically, Elizabeth Moss is a damn fine actor and this may sound like an [unintended] insult...but, she does do 'talentlessness' very well indeed! It's just a shame that she is so damned irritating to watch...what's more is Alex Ross Perry's decision to have a perpetual [background] drone-like noise playing throughout the entire film...it just adds insult to injury.
As for the songs...of which there are [thankfully] few...it's difficult to find the appropriate word...but, 'dreadful' will do for now.
With a runtime of [an agonising] 134 minutes, this is - indeed - an unrelenting torture. This ain't Rock'n'Roll, this was as authentic as a Courtney Love tribute act.
Directed by Lukas Dhont
Be still my breaking heart...
There has been a recent uproar - by [those] anonymous, gobby, armchair activists [who scream and shout at everything streaming on Netflix] - demanding a boycot of this film. Listen to them not! A trans*character does not need to be played by a trans*actor...the best 'actor' for the job should play the role. And, Lukas Dhont found the perfect actor in Victor Polster to play Lara.
Breathtaking is not a word we use regulary...but, breathtaking is what Victor Polster is! Lara says little throughout the film, she has so much on her young mind...the transition, the secret...and, the ballet. All punishing on the body, the mind and soul Can she keep it all together? Or, will she break? The entire film leads up to that question...the answer is...well, you will have to watch it to find out.
At times, there's a real sense of this being a fly-on-the-wall documentary...Lukas Dhont observes...and, it so immersive that at no time do you disbelieve anything that is shown. Gleaned from his short film, Girl is one mighty fine debut feature. Let us hope he has more [quality] projects up his sleeve!
To be overwhelmed by a film is a remarkable achievement...be overwhelmed!
Everybody Knows [Todos lo saben]
Directed by Asghar Farhadi
Secrets don't have much mileage in small towns...and, with Asghar Farhadi in the driver's seat, low mileage is the least of his concerns - especially when his script runs out of fuel before he gets to the final destination!
Everybody Knows oozes quality - how can it not with Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem...they bring Farhadi's script alive. But, alas, despite their best efforts, it all leads to what only can be described as anticlimactic as a good film should not be.
The whole film is geared towards an unavoidable and obvious [but, with whom] confrontation...the only problem is...that confrontation never takes place! What a disappointment...it's akin to sitting in an Aston Martin that has two flat tyres and an empty tank!
Directed by Mark Grentell
Played almost entirely for laughs...with the odd dollop of cheesy sentimentality thrown in to crowd-please the crowd. What The Merger needed was a bit more gravitas...considering, at its core, this is a film about racism!
When the writer is the star of the film, the director has to take the bull by the horns and claim control over his film. Well, that just didn't happen. This is Damian Callinan's film...his writing needed a bite and a punch and a kick to the...well, you know where. It's all just too lightweight [and, weirdly, polite]. When tackling big, important issues [racism and immigration] a certain aggression is needed [with some killer put-downs] rather than what's on offer here, the spoonful-of-sugar approach accompanied by some gentle preaching!
Small-town, Australian-football-loving Australians will - no doubt - love it. It's not a film that travels particularly well.
Maria By Callas
Directed by Tom Volf
There was Maria and there was La Callas...two people in one person. And then there was the voice. Tom Volf's film is a celebration of that voice...accompanied by some previously unseen footage of the woman herself. For a fan, it is an utter joy.
Much has been written and said about Maria Callas...here, she speaks for herself...mostly as La Callas...but, snippets of Maria do creep in. Feminists will cringe as she talks about love and marriage and the Prince Charming who never materialised. It is amazing to [think and] hear this remarkable talent would have given it all up...for love. It seems to be true what they say: It's lonely at the top!
Seriously, you have to admire the staggering amount of work that went into the making of this fine film. Finding the 'lost' footage is an unenviable and admirable task. Maria by Callas is a labour-of-love...thank you Mr Volf for your labour. Sublime.
Directed by Simon Amstell
Well, well, well...Benjamin turned out to be an unexpected, awkward delight...with some surprisingly scathing swipes at 'creatives' and their [often questionable] 'produce' - performance artists and [read: experimental] filmmakers get it in the neck - all done in the best possible way...with wit.
Add to the mix a [frustrating] love-story: Boy woos boy, boy gets boy, boy dumps boy [TBC]...boy oh boy does this boy need a stiff glass of Red...and - quite possibly - a big juicy steak!
Yes, Benjamin is a duff filmmaker, a tea-totalitarian, an over-thinking meditating vegan. The archetypal fun-guy [ha ha]...yet [amazingly], he meets his 'yang' and he's adorable! Together, they are adorable. Due credit must go to Colin Morgan and Phénix Brossard [and, Mr Amstell's writing] for bringing alive - what would seem - two of the - quite possibly - most boring characters ever to appear on a page! On-screen...oooh you just want to tweak their cheeks...and then - gently, of course - smack them about their other cheeks!
And...the goodness doesn't stop there...there are some seriously immersive, original songs...to boot! The opening 'gag' is - really - rather brilliant. The audience member battling against sleep is - hysterically - familiar. The ending...well, no spoilers here!. But...the film does leave you asking one question...and, perhaps, it's a question that no-one should ask...especially in polite company, to Hell with it, we'll [royally] ask it anyway: Do gay [male, since everyone is-and-are calling themselves 'gay' nowadays] vegans spit or swallow!?! How uncouth! But...glad we got that one off our collective chests!
A damn fine wee film.
The White Crow
Directed by Ralph Fiennes
Rudolph Nureyev was given 45 minutes alone in a room...to contemplate his future - to defect or not to defect. The enormity of that decision is completely lost in this mismanaged film. And, it all boils down to the writing...which is all over the place with a scrambled timeline that simply confuses...one minute Nureyev has a broken leg in plaster, the next...he's bouncing around like a March bunny! Apart from the black & white flashbacks, there is no visible differentiation between the different stages of Nureyev's [earlier] life.
His homosexuality is [increduously] down-played, there's a brief bedroom scene with him in bed with a naked male 'friend' - however, the emphasis seems to be misplaced upon a clandestine relationship he had with his mentor's wife - the dynamics of this relationship are not explored, it was a very complex situation - the couple moved him into their home...alas, Mr Hare's writing only shows the surface of the story without digging deeper...rather than using Julie Kavanagh's biography, perhaps he ought to have spoken to more people [outwith the Ballet] who knew Mr Nureyev personally. A whole different story would have emerged.
If only Paul Laverty had written the script, if only Icíar Bollaín had directed it...if only Carlos Acosta had been the choreographer...too many 'if onlys'.
Directed by Charlie Paul
Utterly fascinating...to see an artist-at-work...still, breaking the rules. Peter Howson may have put his wild days behind him...thankfully, his art is still as striking [and recognisable] as ever...perhaps, even more so! If Prophecy is anything to go by!
This is a gentle film. There are no great revelations [regarding the art world], no artistic tantrams or traumas...just a portrait of a down-to-earth artist at the top of his game. It really is a rather spellbinding experience...especially with the animations of Mr Howson's art...from where they start to where they end up.
There is a great sadness to this film...Prophecy - quite possibly - will never be seen by the public-at-large. It is destined to remain hidden in a corporate collection, lost in an executive boardroom...where executives may glance and nod and say: Ah, a Howson...but, ultimately, pay-it-no-mind. The true tragedy of Art: Ownership!
Directed by James Kent
A film that will force you to question your national pride! Not what you would expect from a quintessential, period love story.
Martin Compston - who is rapidly becoming one of the best character actors we have - dishes it out...without reserve. His Burnham is a skin-crawling savage, devoid of compassion...and, a total stranger to the dignity of humility-in-victory. He is not alone...wars create deep-rooted and long-lasting hate. When such characters are pitted against humility-in-defeat and those unable to accept that defeat...tempers explode and tensions snap. And, with the hindsight that we all pocess, James Kent's film makes us squirm against something we hold dear: Pride.
Love and loss, guilt and grief are additional characters that play their part in the clean-up after war. Here, in this aftermath, souls are bared, straws are grasped, realities are confronted. Indeed, the emotion displayed is touching to the core. The actors with their set monologues...deliver some noteworthy and impeccable performances. Ms Knightly - wow - does she deliver!
Stunningly photographed, The Aftermath is a romance with a twist and a sting...and, perhaps, a happy ending. It's about perspective and hindsight. A clever, rewarding and beautiful film.
Out of Blue
Directed by Carol Morley
When Schrödinger's cat pops up in a murder investigation, you take notice! Indeed, mesmerising stuff!
David Lynch also pops into mind...in this subtext-laden, not-your-average whodunit. That subtext is shattered with one killer line...involving a bar with some exotic dancers! With as many red herrings you could squash into a tin, Out of Blue doesn't take itself as seriously as you would expect...and, does become a little fantastical and - dare we say - fanciful in places. But, that's it's joy...Patricia Clarkson plays her defective detective [almost] tongue-in-cheek. And, when a film kills off Mamie Gummer in the first few minutes, expect the unexpected. Because, that's what Carol Morely delivers...a labyrinth of ideas with some philosophical existentialism thrown in just to bamboozle and bewilder. It's right up there with all the other bamboozlers and bewilderers! How we love those off-the-dial filmmakers!
Directed by Li Cheng
Winner of the Queer Lion award [@ Venice, beating The Favourite] and one of our most anticipated films in the festival...the word 'disappointing' doesn't even come close to describing it!
Nothing much happens...and, when something does happen [e.g. the earthquake] it's over in a flash with absolutely no dramatic consequences whatsoever...why bother!?! Li Cheng seems to favour filming [his actor] from behind...too too many shots of the back of José's head.
José is a closeted, duty-bound young man who likes to get his kit off whenever he can...yes, there is [needless] abundant nudity [& sex scenes]. However, the crux of the story is the relationship between mother and son...she, a God-fearing, emotional blackmailer...he, a closeted Lothario who can't see a gift-horse even when it smacks him across the face. Everything is ripe and set for the expected [coming out] showdown...the only problem is...it doesn't happen! What?!?
José is screaming out for conflict and confrontation...and, resolution. Nada. We get it, the conflict was inward, with himself...but, it all makes for some very dull viewing and duller story-telling. As for that ridiculous ending...Li Cheng obviously got bored with the telling of his dull story and - out-of-the-blue - just when you least expect it...ended it! Talk about an anti-climax! What a [frustrating] disappointment.
Under the Silver Lake
Directed by David Robert Mitchell
A prime example of throwing just about everything at the screen...hoping that something will stick! Ooops...what a mess of a film! Nothing stuck!
Andrew Garfield is - practically - never off-screen...and, he does a decent job at being the hapless layabout with too much time on his hands. And that's the problem...this writer/director - unwisely - decided to fill in the gaping gaps with 'classic' film references [they are - literally - all over the place]. So, if you love playing name-that-film...this film is for you!
It's not all bad...the suicidal squirrel is inspired stupidity, What's the Frequency Kenneth? - makes you want to dance in your seat...but, once it goes all 'cult' the derailing is terminal. Shame...because, it is a mighty fine looking [and sounding] film. Think: Hitchock on magic mushrooms. Many will probably think it's genius...those who do not partake in 'Shrooms' will not.
Are You Proud?
Directed by Ashley Joiner
The question is: Does this film answer its own question? Not quite.
This is a documentary for milennials...made by a milennial. Apart from the [fantastic] opening scene, where an elderly gentleman recounts his life led within a lie...Are You Proud? descends into a rather sweeping précis of LGBT history [with one glaring omission: The Age of Consent debacle] done via archive footage [most, if not all, all available on YouTube]...and, the obligatory, talking heads. Nowadays...everyone is seems to be an activist and Ashley Joiner reels them out, the old and the new. There are the usual suspects: Peter Tatchell, Michael Cashman & Co. Then, there are the new...moaning about how Pride has become overly commercial and underly political. Bless their cotton socks...they know not what they are fighting for! Commerce made Pride what it is today! Politics...well, it certainly looks like politics has bent to the will of the [LGBT] people. Boom Boom!
Are You Proud? is not a bad film...it's just a little under-researched and one-sided. Not everyone is [or was] a card-carrying activist...and, not everyone wants to hear from the activists alone. Give the non-activists a voice! It's called balance.
Once upon a time, many years ago...there lived a wicked witch, Margaret was her name. She ruled her land with tyranny...Y'know, the 80s were not as glum as many make out...yes, many of us [gay men] were 'illegal' [being under 21 years of age]...but, we danced and partied like there was no tomorrow. Bars, like The Bell in Kings Cross was a hub for the more politically-savvy...yet when the 'gay-unwashed' [as they were rather offensively known as then] came a-rattling their buckets for donations to this cause or that cause, most would run in the opposite direction...usually to the dance-floor, where we danced until tomorrow came! Pride is what Pride is now because...we just wanna f*&king dance!
Are You Proud? Yes...because I danced until the cows came home and was dragged - by the police - from the steps of Parliament...because, my boyfriend - at the time - was committing a crime for loving me. He was 22 and I was 18. Then, the age of consent was 21...Proud? Damn bet I am...we, all of us, helped to change that. Pride? I remember when it was free...I remember when it was cancelled because of the idiots running it. Pride, now...should be free, paid for by the corporates. Pride has evolved from being a political statement into a cause-for-celebration...stop the moaning...and...dance! That's what we call: A Party Protest!
Real Love [C'est ça l'amour]
Directed by Claire Burger
A slow burner...but, definitely worth the wait!
Teenagers...difficult things at the best of times...but, when you are in the middle of a mid-life meltdown...they [can and usually do] become unbearable and exasperating. Not the case for this malfunctioning father. Despite his wife upping sticks and buggering off, he hunkers down and deals with the situation the best way he can.
All dads can [and usually do] do the most embarrassing things...Claire Burger gives her 'dad' a free reign...as he travails the perilous slopes of his teenage daughter's sexuality. After all, what does he know about being a woman? Yet, his tenderness and care [and his shoulder] are never far away...no matter how flummoxed he gets. He might be boring...but, when it comes to his kids, he's rock solid.
This is a deft wee film, its simplicity belies its complexity...all families are complex, we just learn [as a family, as a team] to work around all the follies and foibles...and, how to ignite and extinguish the flames of fury.
The last scene manages to encapsulate everything that a family should be...it's beautiful, full of warmth and deep paternal love.
Directed by Tom Harper
If it's a crowd-pleaser you're after...then, this is just about as good as it gets. A homegrown tale about a lass who was born on the wrong side of...the Atlantic!
She's 'Country' [not Western] through-and-through with flaws and fringes aplenty...recently released fae tha Big Hoose, she sets out to follow her dream. Nashville beckons...but, the lack of money and her wee daughter are hurdles...will they or won't they get in her way?
This is grit and spit with strong accents...and, Jessie Buckley grabs the bull by the horns and delivers a powerhouse performance. This ain't no rags-to-riches, dream-like drivel. This is the hard slog of playing the cut-throat, teeth-cutting dives and dens that [may] pave the way to fame and fortune...or, at least, pay a living wage! Some get lucky, some fail, some persist...and, some just accept that the dives and dens is exactly where they should be!
This is all about when ambition clashes with the reality...as Rose is so often reminded...courtesy of her [semi-supportive, sure-footed] mother [Julie Walters doing what she does best...character]. The humour is brash, the sentiments are lush and the whole thing will make you want to enroll in your local line-dancing class. Kerchiefs at the ready!
Happy as Lazzaro [Lazzaro felice]
Directed by Alice Rohrwacher
Every now and then a film comes around that will affect you deeply. This is one such film. And, quite possibly, the best film in the festival.
Alice Rohrwacher's scathing parody is a remarkable, deeply moving, cerebral achievement. This is a film of two halves: The ordinary and the extraordinary. The less said about it, the better. Because...in places, it simply takes your breath away as you realise and think...what the Hell is going on? Once you get your head around it all, it all starts to make perfect, brutal sense...in the most gentle way imaginable...so surprising, since this is a tale about greed pitted against innocence, criminal exploitation by mean-spirited manipulation.
Adriano Tardiolo is prefect as Lazzaro, beautiful, innocent and adorable - he carries the film from the humble beginning to the bewildering end. If ever a character could bring out the 'protector' in all who bears witness to this tale...then, Lazzaro is it! You would - without hesitation - take a bullet for this young man.
This is nothing short of a masterwork. Alice Rohrwacher should be extremely proud. Do whatever you can to experience this film...you will not - by no stretch of the imagination although your imagination will be stretched - be disappointed. It really is that good!
Making Montgomery Clift
Directed by Robert Anderson Clift & Hillary Demmon
This will definitely ruffle the feathers of all Monty's [many] biographers...charlatans, each and all. Newsflash: He was not a self-hating, miserable homo...with his finger permanently hovering over the self-destruct button!
According to this film: The 'longest suicide' of the 'beautiful loser' was a fiction...created by those [parasites] who wanted to sell their books. Let's face it...who wants to read about a happy, handsome homo?!? Tragedy sells!
This is a rather loving portrait of the Uncle by his nephew, although they never met. Still, the affection is clear to see...and, hear. Montgomery and his brother, taped everything...telephone conversations, you name...they taped it. That's just plain old weird. The other weird thing is...there's not a mention of Ethel Clift McGinnis, Monty's twin sister...she died in 2014, aged 94. If anyone ever 'knew' Monty, it was her. Not even mentioned...such a screaming omission as this...well, it kind of throws a whole lot of shade on this entire project.
Robert Anderson Clift has done exactly what Monty's biographers did...re-invented the man to suit his audience. And, what a pleasant re-invention it is...but, is it true?
Who knows what is hidden in all those tapes? Well, Robert Anderson Clift knows...and he has chosen what to release and what not to release. Perhaps, Ethel would have something to say about that!?! We'll never know.
Still, a refreshingly, positive portrait...perhaps, not as authentic as it purports to be!
The Third Marriage [Troisièmes noces]
Directed by David Lambert
The plight of economic émigrés is a difficult subject at the best of times. Add duplicity and deceit...with these two [extra] ingredients, every case instantly becomes a minefield for heated debate and furious argument...and, a terrifying resurgence of a right-wing politic! The question that the 'angry' never ask themselves is: What would you do for a better life? If they answer truthfully...all that rage should evaporate.
Indeed, a massive and contentious subject...not exactly the required material for a comedy!
These oh-so disparate lives - they don't come any more disparate - gay/straight, white/black, man/woman, European/African, oil/water...nor do they come any more desperate. Money matters, money talks...money can make [some of the] problems go away. Money and desperation make people do crazy things...like marrying your complete opposite...not out of love...but, for a little bit of security.
This is a film that shifts form in the blink of an eye...from being an endearing, gentle comedy [of manners] to scorching social comment to something that cannot be mentioned...as it will ruin the film! Expect a few surprises...the biggest one being how perfectly matched this oddest of odd couples actually are!
It's a wee delight...and, the chemistry is electric!
Buy Me A Gun [Cómprame un revolver]
Directed by Julio Hernández Cordón
Buy Me a Gun is a little bit too much of everything and not enough being itself. Being littered with so many literary and cinematic references, it simply loses its own voice...which is a shame...because, Julio Hernández Cordón certainly has something to say about Mexico's current predicament [and its future] because of the drug cartels.
Take a slice of Mad Max, a bit of Peter Pan, a splash of Lord of the Flies...and, a great big dollop of Huckleberry Finn...and, hey presto, you have this Dystopian tale that - initially - revolves around the devastating cycle of drug addiction.
A drug-addled father tries to protect his daughter [from those cartels] by disguising her as a boy and chaining her up. That's what's called tough love...her mother and sister fell prey and disappeared. Being a woman - in this place - comes with a very hefty price tag!
This is when the film works best, that interaction between father and daughter...unfortunately, the whole thing goes too far off-piste...with neither the budget nor the time to fully develop what the director had in his mind's eye.
It's not a bad film in any shape or form...just - perhaps - a little too ambitious for the available resources.
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles
Directed by Chantal Akerman
200 minutes of mind-numbing monotony? Or, a 200-minute [feminist] masterpiece?
Well, that all depends on which side of the academic fence you find yourself on. The bulk of Chantal Akerman's work is for an acquired taste, for those who like to wiggle their toes in the various pools of cinematic pretension...Jeanne Dielman is no exception.
Call it what you will...an art film, experimental, avant-garde, the original Dogme [that should ruffle a few feathers]...to some, it's all of these. To Joe Public, it's the quintessential film festival film...in other words, it's the one you want to avoid at all costs...because, time and money are precious!
Many have tied themselves in knots explaining why this is a masterpiece and, in so doing, have earned themselves a Masters Degree or even a PhD [in Film Studies or some feminist branch of Sociology]. C'mon, preaching to the converted isn't exactly an achievement...
Sitting through these 200 'masterful' minutes is an achievement...akin to torture.
Directed by Philippe Lesage
Special...very special indeed. And so very chilling.
Be warned...this is not an easy film to watch. Philippe Lesage challenges his audience by creating challenging characters and situations. This is the shambles that 'first loves' can create...the emotions herein range from sheer devastation to utter confusion...from happiness to incredulity.
Those giant steps we all must take from childhood into the big wide world, obeying those rules that bind us to conformity...but, when you are a gay kid, those rules blur.
This is a brother and a sister...he, the irrational...she, a voice of reason. Together they contrast and compare...until a defining events change absolutely everything. Then, they are separate, bound only by their bloodline. Their lives will - undoubtedly - veer off, far from where they started. But...that's life, it just such a painful thing to learn, that startling realisation of the reality: We ain't kids anymore!
And then...Philippe Lesage throws all caution to the wind and takes us to a place where life is sweet and love so gentle...it's a little bamboozling at first...this in-your-face comparison, this contradiction with what has already been shown before.
Is this optimism...or, plain old pessimism? Let's root for the optimistic...not all stories of first love end the same way! Or, do they?
A truly hypnotic and difficult film.
Directed by Brady Corbet
Here endeth the directorial [and writing] career[s] of Brady Corbet. What a load of absolute drivel!
Vox Lux is a cross between the Columbine shooting and the Eurovision Song Contest [yes, you read that correctly]...with a Madonna-cum-Gaga crossbreed...singing Sia-penned songs that [even] the record company rejected.
So...with Natalie Portman & Jude Law onboard, what went wrong? Well...this film is the cinematic equivalent of the Titanic [the ship, not the movie]...it's launched and everything seems to be well and dandy...then, it hits that creative ice-berg and sinks like a boulder.
Call it a satire, a parody, allegorical...but, whatever Brady Corbet was trying to say he went about it in such a roundabout way and ended up being a bit of a laughing stock...selling your soul to the devil in return for fame and fortune...[that old dead-in-the-water chestnut] you have got to be joking Brady? Right? Please say you were joking!?!
Float Like a Butterfly
Directed by Carmel Winters
This wee film certainly packs a few impactful punches...with a knockout performance by Hazel Doupe.
Toxic masculinity, domestic abuse, tradition...and, putrid discrimination [that can also be read as: Racism]...it's all here...plus Mohammad Ali!
Now...you could be forgiven in thinking that this is an intense tale, it is and it isn't. There is a lightness of touch by the director and a mischievousness by the star...however, that lightness is sacrificed when it comes to the 'villain' [aka the police/guarda]...this is police corruption and brutality delivered with a sledgehammer. Carmel Winters captures the 'light' pretty well...as for the shade...more, a whole gamut of hues, darker, bluer, greyer...something to sink your teeth into, rather than just a one-dimensional caricature of bad.
What this Butterfly needed was a few more risks, a bit more danger, more surprises. It's all just a little too safe. The potential to raise more than just eyebrows was there...it really just needed that jab below the belt, right in the goolies...to be a memorable pain!
A Bread Factory, Part 1 & 2
Directed by Patrick Wang
Patrick Wang has a habit of letting his camera roll on and on...his previous film, In the Family has a runtime of 219 minutes.
A Bread Factory [parts 1 & 2] runs for 242 minutes...4 hours long...that really is a big ask! The big question is: Is it worth spending that amount of time [and money] in company of these characters?
Put it it this way...if Mr Wang had entered the editing suite, hellbent on cutting his film down to 2 [and, possibly, a wee bit] hours...then, there would be smiles all round. Because...there is so much goodness in these two films...but, unfortunately and infuriatingly, - the good bits are surrounded by too much dough!
Mr Wang certainly has something to say about all kinds of artistic endeavours, practitoners and institutions...with 'perfromance art' [seriously] getting it in the neck. Hey...everyone has the right to their opinion, everyone has the right to compliment or criticise [especially if they had to pay for the pleasure/displeasure]...and, let's be truthful here, the world would be a thoroughly drab place if everyone thought the same. So...let Mr Wang speak...even if he does so at length!
The 'absurd' and the 'mundane' are not usual bed partners, they are in this here tale. The little 'peculiarities' are [mostly] charming and serve as a foil to the financial crisis that has beset this arts centre...however, in part 2, they really become a little too much. And, with the overly-lengthy performance of Hecuba...this second instalment really does become a bit of a chore.
There is some much to like and there's too much that will [simply] drive you up the wall. No faulting the performances, Tyne Daly delivers a solid, stalwart character...hellbent against change...well, everything changes - especially art. The only thing that needed changing with A Bread Factory Parts 1 & 2 was...the runtime!
Directed by Brian Welsh
Yes…we will probably be accused of reading subtext into everything…but, this is loaded with the stuff, it whizzes off the screen and slaps you bang on the forehead.
Two lads…born, raised and living on different sides of the tracks are best mates…with subtext! Their love of music is equalled by their [mutually unrequited] love for each other…it’s both joyous and agonising to watch.
There are moments when you think that those [sexual] barriers will come crashing down…remember, this is 1994…coming out and expressing your feelings wasn’t as easy as it is now… the internet was still in its infancy…and, the only mobile phone were those great big, bulky boxes that weighed a ton, cost a fortune and [usually] died mid-call! Kids were isolated in their own communities…pirate radio stations [remember Kiss?], disparaging TV [rave] reports, word-of-mouth and [to a certain extent] Section 28 of the Local Government Act all helped whet the appetites…for change.
In 1988, rave culture was born [I was a member of Shoom…gloriously sweating in the fitness centre]…really, that second summer of love was a revolution, dancing on Clapham Common, finding yourself in the middle of nowhere, lost…until you heard the music, found the byre and threw yourself into those uplifting, high-as-a-kite beats. Glorious. It was l-o-v-e…fuelled by Ecstasy. And, it was.
Slowly [but surely]…rave spread up and down the land. The kids were having fun, the establishment didn’t like it one iota. They reacted…and then came: The Criminal Justice and the Public Order Act 1994…basically, banning raves. Whatever/whoever beats me…makes me grow stronger!
This is when Beats is set…in the dying days of the ‘illegal’ rave. Capturing all the madness, the music and camaraderie…of the time. The [mostly] inexperienced cast rise to the occasion, they give it absolutely everything. But…Lorn Macdonald and Cristian Ortega steal the show, they are polar opposites who bond-like-superglue…together, to the inevitability of the last days of rave and the last days of being together. This is the bitterest/sweetest sweet to swallow.
Brian Welsh has delivered a chiming story and a damn fine film. For those who attended those ‘illegal’ raves…let this wave of nostalgia wash over and submerge us back into the good old days.
As usual a great big thank you to Galsgow Film Festival, to all the volunteers, to Ruth [Press office] and her team...simply, a great festival. Glasgow...you never let us down!