BFI London Film Festival 2019...
by David Anderson Cutler
The BFI London Film Festival is upon us again [that was a quick year!]...with a staggering choice of LGBT films and short films. It will be nigh on impossible to cover every [LGBT] film...but, we will try to do our very best. So...here are the films on our watch-list...subject to changes and clashes...enjoy!
Wednesday 2 October 2019...
The Personal History of David Copperfield
By Armando Iannucci
Here's a book...a wild re-imagining of an absolute classic...
Undoubtedly, the purists will loathe it...it's akin to a cubist doing an interpretation of the Mona Lisa. Mr Iannucci has been a tad extravagant with the original material...rendering it into mainstream comedy [with generous dollops of sentimentality] rather than the satirical/cynical wit that he is best known for.
Those, unlucky enough to have never read the book...will be duly entertained. It is a fine production for the uninitiated. But...there remains that great big elephant [in the film] that needs to be addressed: The casting. Certainly, [one of] the boldest casting decisions ever made. In Mr Iannucci's defence, as he explained in the Q&A, he wanted to reflect a modern-day, multi-ethnic London...in Dickens' time! A bold move, a bolder decision...but, does it work? Yes, it [in part] does...in that ethnicity should never matter...and, for that [alone], this film should be applauded.
Thursday 3 October 2019...
by David Michôd
Take a piece of history, give a nod to William Shakespeare, oomph it up with a few big names, some [historical] inaccuracies [aka poetic licence] and a budget to die for...the result is this...The King - a rather savage, sweeping and assured version of the 'facts'.
This is a film about manipulation and masculinity...moreover, this is about the brain behind the brawn. Watching Timothée Chalamet jostle to the tune of the puppet master(s) - until the penny eventually drops - is as revelatory as the revelation itself. This young man can act...it will come as no surprise if he receives the nod from Oscar. In fact, this film has Oscar-worthiness written all over it...even Robert Pattinson's small [as in role] but perfectly formed Dauphin may bag him an award for best supporting actor! He steals the show...with his heavily accented menace.
Joel Edgerton deserves due praise for both being [gruff and amiable] John Falstaff and co-writer...the script manages the complexities of the story without being overly complex...now that's clever. Sentimentality does get a look in, without it being soppy. As we all [should] know, Prince Hal's mighty moment was Agincourt...the film's climactic battle scene does not disappoint. Filmed with breath-taking savagery while still retaining the absolute futility of it all. Impressive to say the least...and that is what this film is...impressive.
The Miracle of the Sargasso Sea
by Syllas Tzoumerkas
Structure is everything...especially in film! Strong foundations are crucial...without them everything falls apart. Ironically, this film has the strongest of foundations - the opening scene is fierce. And then, sadly, it literally falls apart...for a while...waiting for something to happen...when that 'thing' eventually does [belatedly] happen, the audience couldn't care less. Why? Because...what Syllas Tzoumerkas [erroneously] did is to make his central character so bloody unlikeable that you don't give a hoot if this drunken police chief solves the [long awaited] crime or not. Obviously, she does...in an absolute [inconceivable] flash!
All this film needed was a brutal script editor, someone who could see the wood behind the trees. Quite possibly, Mr Tzoumerkas' intention was to present humdrum daily monotony as a foil against the abject disturbia that follows. It certainly is as disturbing as disturbing gets...but, the lead up, all that flaff...well, disappointingly so, let's just say that there was way too much flaffing around before the final event and leave it at that!
Matthias & Maxime
by Xavier Dolan
Xavier, Xavier, Xavier...where have you been?
After a cacaphonous and dissenting win at Cannes with the divisive It's Only the End of the World [although we loved this film]. And, following the full-on flatulent disappointment of The Death and Life of John F. Donovan, Monsieur Dolan [thankfully] returns to what he does best...with one almighty problem!
That 'problem' is none other than that old chestnut itself...being too close, doing too much. The importance of a script editor can never be exaggerated...M&M desperately needed one to shave off all the unnecessary bristle. In John F. Donovan, Monsieur Dolan infamously cut Jessica Chastaine from the entire film [he lost quite a few Hollywood Brownie points with that manoeuvre]...if he had employed that same tactic with M&M, by cutting out the entirely unnecessary scenes with Harris Dickinson...and, by listening to and acting on a script editor's advice, M&M would have been a far better film than it is.
Saying that...M&M is [still] a fine film...with so much heart and wounded soul. Boys born on different sides of the tracks...friends with aspirational benefits, friends destined to become so much more. Monsieur Dolan infuses his character with a decent, deep-down delicacy...he is everything that Matthias is not and vice versa. Yet, they fit. Their relationship is as lovely as it is frustrating to watch...with their histories concluded and their futures yet to be decided...this is all about will they or won't they.
All Matthias & Maxime needed was a closer shave to be more of a marvel than it already is...!
Friday 4 October 2019...
by Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonça Filho
When you cheer at someone's head being blown off...you just know that these directors hit the nail squarely on that head!
Take one tiny pueblo in the middle of nowhere, populate it with some 'savoury' characters...throw in a flying saucer, some mind-altering drugs and a few murderous guns...Bacurau is a place you wouldn't want to visit...but, will definitely want to experience...from afar, from the comfort of your living room!
From where it starts to where it ends up is akin to popping a pill [or two] downed with a bottle of Mezcal...this is definitely a trip into foreign and strange territories. The cruelty is unnerving, the corruption is soul-destroying and the twists and turns are a hallucinogenic rollercoaster return to normality.
As a statement on poverty, Bacurau is relentless. This is a community that is - quite literally - preyed upon...by absolutely everyone, in ways you couldn't imagine. Yes, it's political. No, it's not a head-spinning whine against captialism. This is a thrilling, often hysterical, shot-gun approach to social commentary. This is what happens when evrything goes barking mad and the underdogs collectively raise their hackles. Seriously...the is sensational filmmaking.
by Alejandro Landes
Lord of the Flies with a bit of Johnny Mad Dog, snippets of Deliverance and a soupçon of Apocalypse Now...yip, a sensorial smörgåsbord of cinematic references...with a [vital] difference. This is Colombia's dilapidated state-of-affairs...thrown out, for all the world to see...made accessible through the power of film.
Alejandro Landes grinds his axe...into a searing and scathing edge. For this is not fiction, this is the reality that Colombians have been living with for decades. The exploitation, the brain-washing, the arming of children is a practice so heinous...yet, it [inexplicably, criminally, negligently] persists all over the world.
Monos is a difficult film to watch...as it should be. It's finely crafted with some remarkable performances. There is little in the way of sympathy for these kids, there are a few nuggets of vulnerability...but, bearing in mind that these are just [manipulated] kids, the sympathy should gush...Señor Landes presents it as it is...asking the question: What would you do if this happened to your own child? A tough one to imagine, this film will help.
by Mariah Garnett
The trouble with Trouble is...there really isn't a very interesting story to be told.
Sorry to have to say that...but, what may have had potential [to be made into a film] proved to have little-to-no potential at all...rendering this to be a masterclass in getting blood out of a stone...with some bizarre [gender] identity issues thrown in, along with some drag queens, simply [it would seem] to increase the run-time to that of a feature.
For Mariah Garnett, this is a personal travelogue into her family history and beyond. After many years, she reunites with her estranged father...you would think that this would be an emotional journey...surely, an emotional reunion...for the audience, it's not. If it was for her, she certainly doesn't show it on camera.
Apologies...but, some [most] familial stories really ought not to be shared...they are only interesting to those involved...even with the 'artistic' flourishes!
Saturday 5 October 2019...
by Robert Eggers
Madness...pure and utter madness! You'll either love it or loathe it...we loved it!
Apart from a few brief appearances by a mermaid, this is a duel of words and a jousting of minds...between [equally matched] Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson...bothknock it out of the park unreseveredly. Robert Eggers sets the malignant tone from the off...stern black and white, claustrophobic aspect, wildly angular sets and a soundscape that will shake the bejeezuz out of you...that bellowing foghorn!
So...it's two men alone on a rock for weeks...surely, there's got to be some kind of subtext!?! Oooh there is, a smidgen. But, if you let your imagination run wild [as Mr Eggers did], that subtext is as subtle as a brick banged into your face. Robert Eggers, as he said himself: "Nothing good can happen when two men are trapped alone in a giant phallus." And nothing does!
It ain't pretty, it is bizarrely comic and it will invoke a few WTFs...all-in-all, this is just a brilliantly realised nightmare. Not one for the more prudish nor bird lovers!
This is Not Berlin
by Hari Sama
One for the underage kiddies who [all] desperately want to be overage!
The year is 1986 [in Mexico City]...for those of us who lived, loved and partied through the 80s, This is Not Berlin had the potential to cause a wave of nostalgia to wash over us. Apart from some of the song choices, it [sadly] didn't. And, for those of us who lived in big cities, balancing on the various stepping stones to full-out-and-proud homosexuality, This is Not Berlin will - quite possibly - infuriate...perhaps, even anger.
So...why all this negativity? This is Not Berlin is a victim of these politically correct times. This [film] may be set in the 80s...but, the sentiment is distinctly present day...the obvious target audience being the queer kids now. Hey, there was none of that [reclaimed] queer then...we were all just 'gay' trying to get on and feeling a bit safer in [big city] numbers. Remember, the 80s [and 90s] were decades of horror...no matter how much we [all] partied and rocked the establishment...the spectre of HIV/AIDS was never far away...no matter where you were, machismo Mexico or hedonistic Berlin...
Hari Sama lays it on thick, too thick...his vision of the 'sexuality revolution' is more pastiche than the then reality. Still, the queer kids [of today] will probably give it an approving nod...because, none of them were born when this film took place...and, few of them realise and/or respect what their older generation did for them!
by Hong Khaou
Story-telling takes on many forms, Hong Khaou has his own style and voice...infused with delicacy and, surprisingly, [considering the many themes explored] serentiy. Quite easily, Monsoon could have slipped into a melodramatic deluge of emotion...thankfully, it doesn't. Instead, we are given room to think, moments just to watch a process of exploration and self-realisation. This is a carefully constructed mood, a thoughtful sense of being. The three tenses are given a voice...past, present, future...as are the conditionals...what could/should/would have been/be...as for the future...well, that all depends on the here and now...those 'ifs' - this all sounds terribly complex and that is the innate beauty of this film, Hong Khaou manages to demystify the complexity...via a gentle and poised performance by Henry Golding...
Monsoon may [or may not] sweep you away emotionally...but, it will linger...asking - politely - where are you? Where is your place? Not many filmmakers are bold enough to ask such questions...Hong Khaou does, politely.
A lovely, careful film.
Sunday 6 October 2019...
by Alma Har'el
It's no surprise when Shia LaBeouf surprises...here, he surprises in a way you wouldn't expect!
There is nothing wrong with the film per se...it is a [fairly] finely crafted piece with two standout performances from Mr LaBeouf and Noah Jupe [playing father and son]. There are even moments of deft directorial flourishes. The only problem is...after all of his antics over the years, can you really take Mr LaBeouf seriously?
This is Shia's catharsis...thrown into the public realm...for all to see, for all to dish out their sympathies and empathies...of course, it's an uncomfortable film to watch. It is just as uncomfortable to witness...a child being utterly exploited presented via the cinematic equivalent of a tabloid front-page.
If this had not been written by the man himself, if this was not his story, if he had not played his own father...so many 'ifs'...then, it wouldn't be the film it is. This is a head-line grabbing testimony. It's just that...that formidable reputation gets in the way...perhaps, wishfully, this is exactly what Mr LaBeouf needed...a grand venting of all the crap that life prematurely threw at him. Hopefully, this release will be followed by the 'relax' he so obviously needs. And then, who knows, he could become a credible, seriously-taken actor...here, he shows [amply]...he has the talent.
Still, as a statement on the consequences and repercussions of 'child stardom' - it packs a mightily powerful punch.
Sid & Judy
by Stephen Kijak
Seriously, she didn't stand a chance...being surrounding by vultures...who pecked and picked the very flesh off of her bones.
Gleaned from [some would say a dubious] memoir [by Sid Luft], personal photographs and archival footage...Sid & Judy is both pleasure and pain. Her star shone so brightly...she died, June 22, 1969, aged 47.
Judy Garland needs no introduction, her story is familiar territory for many...yet, Stephen Kijak has rooted and rummaged and assembled...Judy as you've never seen her before, Judy as you have never heard her before...and, Judy...a version of events, you did not know.The impeccable highs, the death-defying lows...the drugs, the alcohol, the marriages, those men...who eagerly snatched the money she earned without offering a helping hand...something she so desparately needed. Judy will always be an icon...when she sang...she sang with her heart on her sleeve. Torch and tragedy have never been so painfully [nor painstakingly] portrayed.
This is an astounding homage...punctuated with highlights; live on stage, singing with Ms Streisand. Truly, un-missable.
Don't Look Down [Haut perchés]
by Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau
Odd...strangely compelling...but, definitely odd...in an absurdist sort of way.
Olivier Ducastel & Jacques Martineau seem to be channeling Jean-Paul Satre, there's a whiff of his 'No Exit' surrounding Haut perchés - so, you wouldn't be wrong in thinking that an existential vibe permeates throughout this peculiar offering. Not everyone's cup of tea and - quite possible - not everyone's cup of coffee either...it is a challenging bit of work that would have benefited more from the few [rather bizarre] scenes of levity...the 'flossing' scene is an instant, weirdly and insanely out-of-place [in a good way] classic. The film just needed a bit more of that insanity.
Saying that...this is an insane film...and, considering there is only one set [an apartment with a rather lovely Parisian rooftop view], the cinematography is slick and colourful. The performances...each character has their moment...and, can't be faulted. It's an interesting, technically accomplished film...it [too] has its moments, it just needed more of them and, perhaps, a few less words.
by Roger Michell
Get the hankies ready...this is raw emotion with a [last-minute] realised dysfunction that really screams: It's never too late to make amends.
A re-make of the Danish film, Silent Heart...with some big names attached. This is ensemble acting at its absolute best...held together by a director who knows how to treat his actors. This is the peeling off of layers until you get to the heart of the matter...
Again Once Again
by Romina Paula
The word 'sparse' comes to mind.
Monday 7 October 2019...
The Two Popes
by Fernando Meirelles
The writer should get an Oscar!
And Then We Danced
by Levan Akin
A bold, brave and brilliant rage against traditionalism!
by Lukas Moodysson
The exploitation of kindness.
The Disappearance of My Mother
by Beniamino Barrese
A life so full of contradictions, it will make your head spin!
Tuesday 8 October 2019...
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
by Céline Sciamma
End of the Century
by Lucio Castro
Lucio Castro demands - perhaps - too much from his audience. Quite literally...nothing happens in the first 10 minutes. An overwhelming sense of dread creeps in...maybe...nothing will happen in next 74 minutes!
As they say, patience is a virtue...and, all good things come to those who wait. Señor Castro takes his time, his actors - also - take their time to settle into their roles...and then, the magic starts to happen. Seriously, this story will resonate with many...those with emotional baggage, those with regrets, those who let 'the one' get away!
Ever wondered where [your] ex-lovers are, what they're doing, how they got to where they are wherever they are? Those moments of quiet reflection accompanied by a sad [or wry] smile...perhaps, a tear?
This is exactly what Lucio Castro has captured...'what ifs' and regrets mixed with temporal joy and ever-lasting sorrow...because of the man who got away! The road gets rougher, it's lonelier and tougher...where's Judy when you need her!?!
This is torch song without the song, this is agony without the pain...this is magic with all the trickery that illusion requires. This will ache - possibly break - many a heart...and leaves you quietly reflecting...
What a way for a film to leave you...wiping those bittersweet tears from your cheeks. Moving...so very moving.
by Nathalie Biancheri
A tiny budget...a wealth of talent.
Wednesday 9 October 2019...
Walking with Shadows
by Aoife O'Kelly
A film from Nigeria dealing with homosexuality...now, that is both bold and brave!
by Ala Eddine Slim
Bamboozling, infuriating...a wasted opportunity!?!
Thursday 10 October 2019...
by Oliver Hermanus
Perhaps...the best South African film ever made!
by Claudio Giovannesi
Boys will be boys...poor boys who want to be rich boys...aye, there's the rub! Crime pays...temporarily.
by Dermot Lavery
Quite simply...a work of extraordinary emotion and art.
by Wash Westmoreland
What could have been...isn't. It simply fell apart in the final third!
Fanny Lye Deliver'd
by Thomas Clay
Strong beginning, strong ending [until that final voice-over]...what happened in the middle!?!
Friday 11 October 2019...
Yves Saint Laurent: The Last Collections
by Olivier Meyrou
Filmed in the late 90s, a [pulled] release in 2007...then, duly, shelved [due to it being too revealing]...until now! Was it worth the wait? Erm...no.
Two of Us
by Filippo Meneghetti
A true and utter heartbreak...
Saturday 12 October 2019...
A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood
by Marielle Heller
What an unexpected and [pleasantly] surprising film...this is not a warts-and-all bio-pic of Fred Rogers. It's something entirely different...an unlikely friendship...that packs an emotional wallop.
Death Will Come and Shall Have Your Eyes
by José Luis Torres Leiva
A film that will challenge the most alert...this film has the same effect as a dozen sleep pills quaffed down with a pint of Gin!
Sunday 13 October 2019...
by Martin Scorsese
The films we wanted to watch...but, alas, those damn clashes!!!
by Jean Epstein