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.
You Don't Nomi
By Jeffrey McHale
Definitely...a film for a small niche market...to be part of the intended audience:
1. You have to have seen Showgirls.
2. You have to have either loved, liked [or - at least - appreciated] what Paul Verhoeven was trying to say!
3. You have to be able to - willingly - digest absolute fantasy...courtesy of Adam Nayman and his book: It Doesn’t Suck: Showgirls - without which, this film would probably never have been made.
The big question is: Does Jeffrey McHale's [almost] academic reappraisal - of one of the worst films ever made - manage to change hearts and minds? No, it's a simple as that!
No amount of analysis, re-analysis and proselytizing will change the fact that Showgirls is...garbage. Apart from some archive footage, Paul Verhoeven does not take part...shouldn't the man - himself - defend his own film instead of these two flunkies?!?
Without his input, You Don't Nomi is reduced to nothing more than mere [flunky] fandom...and, just like its inspiration, is laughable...for all the wrong reasons.
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.
by Taika Waititi
Rib-tickling and spine-chilling...both, at the same time!
Taika Waititi has outdone himself...here's a director, an actor, a writer at the top of his own game...and, thankfully, doesn't take himself too seriously. His performance on the red carpet [@London Film Festival] was...nothing short of bizarre...and, a breath of fresh air!
From Charlie Chaplin to Mel Brooks, not many have taken on a caricature of Hitler [and succeeded]...Taika Waititi joins this 'elite' - with his camp, crazed, comical führer...it's sure to offend many.
It's a tricky road to navigate, war & Nazism seen through a young boy's eyes & mind...where do you draw the line? Well...it would seem, you don't...throw it all up into the air and if you have the gift of being able to direct young actors [especially in comedy]...then, for sure, you're quids in! Taika Waititi directs kids with a stuffed wallet. Roman Griffin Davis is a wee marvel as he jumps between naivety, innocence and curiosity...all awhile sensing the penny starting to drop...it's a daft and dark road to his enlightenment.
There are even a couple of gay Nazis...Sam Rockwell and Alfie Allen, are a not-so-subtle couple of contrasting screaming, sweet-and-sour Nellies...the uniform re-design [scene] is an instant classic in absolute absurdity.
Jojo Rabbit is absurd...and [weirdly], has garnered much [undeserved] criticism from critics [what do they know!?!]...way too cantankerous and analytical to enjoy a film that [brilliantly] mixes the highs and lows of childhood with the absolute horrors of war.
Kids will love it. Everyone will love it...apart from those daft critics! A wee gem of a 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 hearts of all that matters...love, sexuality and fidelity all take their respective bows...but, it's the assisted suicide that takes centre stage. Taking charge, taking control...before it's too late...Susan Sarandon gives everything and more.
There are no judgments...each states their case, for or against...and all just want one [maybe two] more days, weeks, months. But, when that indelible line is self-drawn...it would take something and more to back down.
Sam Neil delivers a quiet and contemplative performance...both as husband and doctor, he segues away from the Hippocratic Oath and marital vows...further strands to add to the complexity of the situation.
And, this is a situation that most will neither want nor be able to contemplate...yet, Roger Michell's direction offers a familiar hand...family squabbles and family secrets persist even in the face of finality.
How would you cope? That's what the film asks, there are no right or wrong answers. There is only respect and to be respectful...indeed, a difficult film to watch...all kinds of emotions will well up...but, ultimately, it will leave you with only one...respect.
Again Once Again
by Romina Paula
Not much ado about practically nothing!
This is a bit of a peculiar hybrid...a playwright/theatre director's first film...part fiction, part autobiographical, part documentary, part drama. As a whole, it's underwhelming to say the least.
It's a bit of everything...it's a bit static, it's a bit sparse. She's a bit lesbian, a bit heterosexual...probably, although unstated, totally bisexual. She's either left her partner or is [just] on a little break...and, it all amounts to a dithering disinterest.
If this had been a straightforward documentary about Romina Paula's mother [her actual mother plays her mother in the film]...then, yes, something interesting could have been gleaned from this mundane misadventure. She [the mother] certainly has a rich and untapped history about immigration and re-settlement...but, alas, the director's creativity got in the way.
All in all, this is a mid-life crisis that is neither mid-life nor critical. It's just a film that doesn't know what it is! Not exactly a glittering debut!
Monday 7 October 2019...
The Two Popes
by Fernando Meirelles
Complete and utter fantastical fiction...encased in fact!
Pope Benedict vs Pope Francis vs Pope Benedict...and, the words of Anthony McCarten [surely, he must get the Oscar!], this is like a court transcript with all the theatricality you would expect from two of the most high-profile defendants/claimants...ever!
Fernando Meirelles - miraculously - makes his audience the judge. God doesn't feature [much]...perhaps, he's the lone [unnecessary] juror...a little lost in the struggles of defence, duty and destiny. This is not about 'Him' - this is about two men with [questionable] histories [possibly & probably] unbefitting of the office in which they occupy.
Anthony Hopkins is - truly - terrifying as Joseph Aloisius Ratzinger [Benedict], from Hitler Youth to the Holy See, an intellectual homophobe and the 'cleaner' & 'fixer' of many of the many child abuse crimes. How he 'fixed' them is an entire film of its own...and, Señor Meirelles & Mr McCarten deliver a masterstroke, eschewing any presumption and/or controversy...they simply leave this man's [full] story open for investigation by the audience. It's clever...so clever in fact that Ratzinger becomes - in front of our very eyes - a darling little old man who has a child's excitement for new discoveries.
Pizza. Fanta. ABBA...wholly hysterical.
More worldly-wise, Jonathan Pryce's Francis is a stark contrast. Benedict is painted from shade to light...Francis, quite the reverse. A different kind of homophobe...but, still...a homophobe. The great reformer...but, still...has not reformed. His part in the Dirty War...and, yes...more sex abuse scandals...Julio Grassi, convicted by the State, admonished but not laicized...by him. Really, the question simmers for a while...then, boils to the point of asking: Is this man fit for his office?
Massive questions, massive intellect...and, massively entertaining...with equal amounts of laughter, tears and anger. Expect the unexpected...for it does come! Superb direction. Performances without criticism. But...the star that shines brighter is...the writing.
And Then We Danced
by Levan Akin
Where [exactly] did tradition get us? Absolutely nowhere, that's where! Okay, okay...a slight concession [for the purists]...it's a good place to start [evolution] from! Evolve...we must.
Levan Akin's film is startling...in its view of [toxic] masculinity within a context that turns its back against any form of toxicity...the world of dance. But, in Georgia...a country landlocked by tradition, constrained by conservatism and dominated by religious devotion...dance is manly, dance is tradition. Dance does not deviate from its origin.
This is a country that sits on a geographical crossroads...and, as Western influences unrelentingly flow in, the strict orthodoxy is being challenged...by the youth...and, by the President who has declared his desire to join the European Union. In 2000, Georgia adopted the Council of Europe's standards relating to the decriminalisation of homosexuality. However, homophobia is a major cause for concern...the Georgian Orthodox Church does not shy away from expressing its [absolute] revulsion of homosexuality.
So...this is where a young, gay, talented dancer finds himself...quite literally, stuck between a rock and a hard place. He finds [requited] love, a [reviled] community and [repressed] expression...he is the 'new' Georgia...with an unenviable fight on his hands.
That fight is expressed through a sensational dance routine...a dance that pays homage to the tradition while daring to evolve. It is dazzling.
And Then We Danced is not an easy watch...but, it is absolutely gripping from start to finish. There are moments of joy, of cruelty, of anger, of frustration, of heartbreak and sadness...of determination...by a determined young man. Levan Gelbakhiani, a professional dancer, in his first film role, simply excels in the vast array of emotions that his character is forced to face, manage and, possibly, conquer.
Levan Akin's film is the voice of the disgruntled. It's bold and brave and beautiful. Easily, one of the finest films of the year.
by Lukas Moodysson
If ever a TV series was made to make you scream at the screen...then, this is it! Mr Moodysson shows humanity in all of its glory...and, all of its horror. This is the undiluted exploitation of kindness. It's horrible, heart-warming and hysterical.
Gösta is kindness with a capital 'K' - and, at every opportunity, his kindness is abused...and yet, as trodden upon as he is...he goes into every situation with a smile and an out-stretched helping hand. You would be forgiven for screaming 'sucker' - but, because he is some damn lovely, you actually feel the pain that he should feel. Those deep-rooted protective instincts certainly do kick in...Mr Moodysson manipulates both his characters and his audience. The effect is a little unnerving...unsettling even, asking: Have you ever abused the kindness of strangers, of friends, of family? Look inward, answer truthfully...this is what Gösta achieves...some serious soul-searching. How remarkable is that!
Our only quibble...only 4 episodes were screened. Talk about leaving you wanting more!
The Disappearance of My Mother
by Beniamino Barrese
Benedetta Barzini does Greta Garbo...I want to be alone! She wants to disappear.
What makes this film/portrait a little bizarre [and hard to swallow] is that she throws herself...onto any old catwalk, in front of any old camera...and then, there's this film! Not exactly the way to go when you want to disappear!
It would be an understatement to say that Ms Barzini is a tough, difficult, opinionated woman...she's definitely hard-work...as is this film. It's all just a bit too oedipal...her son, the filmmaker, is besotted with his mother and - weirdly - decided to share his feelings with the rest of the world.
And...just when you think it can't get any weirder...it does. He brings in younger models and dresses them like his mother [as she was in her heyday] replete with fake mole! Absolutely bamboozling and pointless.
Although this is a film about Benedetta Barzini...but, with all the various detours, it really does become more about the filmmaker himself. Now, there are two ways of interpreting this film...is this a premature obituary? Or, a vicarious stab at fame? Whatever it is, there's something not quite right about it...whether it be the abject invasion of privacy or the unnerving obsession, it's film that needed some objectivity. Being too close to the subject is fraught with difficulties...here they all are!
Tuesday 8 October 2019...
Portrait of a Lady on Fire
by Céline Sciamma
As delicious as it gets! This is direction!
Céline Sciamma's back catalogue is mightily impressive, especially her writing. But, with this portrait, this [daring] auteur leaps out of her comfort zone and jumps into the world of period drama and romance...
And, breathtakingly, reveals her alarming [an enviable] artistry...too few films have, too many directors forget [or, are incapable of]...the artistry. Portrait of a Lady on Fire is paint-by-emotion...
This is a film to watch and feel. There are no deafening abstractions, there are no unnecessary words...all that there is...is craft, precision and delicacy. It just seems so effortless...and, as a result, becomes as immersive as any film can be.
What's more startling...this is a political film...without the throat-ramming politics! This is feminism...without the adjunct aggression. But...there is anger...and, as resigned as it is...it's there, knee-deep in the futility of the situation. This about familial expectations and reluctant acceptance...this is about love...unmentionable, unexpected, intolerable, intricate love. Nothing last forever...but, as long as it lasted for a time...no-one can take that away. This bittersweet, cinematic memory.
A tear-inducing beauty.
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
This is a bit of a head-scratcher...an 'Irish lass' [that's how she describes herself] directs a story about a gay man...set in Nigeria, adapted from the 2005 eponymous book by Nigerian writer, Jude Dibia.
So...a few firsts. First feature by Aoife O'Kelly. First Nigerian book and the first Nigerian/British co-production ever to deal with homosexuality...yes, there is a great big elephant in the room that needs to be addressed, how on earth did Aoife O'Kelly get involved?
In these days when [a growing number of] voices are [quite rightly] screaming about more inclusivity and more diversity [within the film industry]...here's an African, black gay man's story...directed by a white [northern hemispherical] woman! Yes...we do want more women directors...but, at the risk of sounding like a bit of a reactionary...couldn't 'they' [the producers] have found someone more suited to this material? Perhaps, someone who wasn't so far out of their [cultural] comfort zone?
The other big question is: Does the film suffer because of the director? In some ways it does...rather than getting under the character's skin, it's more a case of looking in on him...in other words, everything is shown rather than felt. This story needed tangible and monumental feelings of...anger, frustration, betrayal...desolation and disappointment. For example, the exorcism scene had all the necessary ingredients for a potent [and pivotal] duel between fury and terror, doubt and devotion. It should have been climactic...but, alas, no. What Walking with Shadows lacks is...passion. It's just a little too safe and understated.
It's not a bad film [especially for being a first feature]...and, it has to be applauded for its obvious bravery. Look...it could have been...but, it's nowhere near to being a Moonlight...a multi-Oscar-winning [small] film, directed by a gay African-American man about a gay African-American man. When you can get this close to the subject, you can get right under the skin.
by Ala Eddine Slim
Bamboozling, infuriating...a wasted opportunity!?!
Thursday 10 October 2019...
by Oliver Hermanus
When a filmmaker hits the nail on the head, capturing an experience, a memory, something that will resonate deep within...that is a filmmaker who demands and deserves attention.
This goes out to all the 600,000+ boys and men who were conscripted during the South African Border War which lasted for 23 years, 6 months, 3 weeks and 2 days.
This goes out to all the men who remember their first instances of same-sex attraction...Oliver Hermanus captures that moment with harrowing perfection and precision.
Way before the nude-infested internet, a naked man rarely [mostly never] appeared on screen. Swimming pool changing rooms were the place where young [gay] boys could - furtively - glimpse at a mature naked man. It was thrilling, dangerous, heart-thumping...and, breath-taking. Being 'caught' was unimaginable...because, we really did not know what we were really doing...but, we knew it was [somehow] wrong. It was an amalgamation between looking, wishing, hoping and desiring. It was curiosity and innocence all rolled into one...it's all here, in Moffie.
And...this goes out to all those boys and men who ended up in Ward 22. A 'hospital' where gay and conscientious objectors were 'treated' by Aubrey Levin...a man most foul.
Here's to the survivors of that war and of Ward 22...and, here's to the dead on both sides. It's time for your stories to be told...Christiaan Olwagen's [exceptional] Canary brought South Africa's contemporary history to a new audience. Oliver Hermanus continues the story...two very different films, different voices...both, mighty fine films of the same inexhaustible story.
Easily, one of the best films to come out of 2019.
And, finally...here's to all those who opposed Apartheid. Let your voices and stories continue to ring out!
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.
No judgments. No sides taken. No political statements. Just testimony and remembrance of lives lost...through fault of their own, through no fault of their own...by being in the wrong place at the wrong time, by being in the right place at the wrong time. This 'war' - euphemistically called 'The Troubles' - call it what you will, it was/is and will always be a war...and, war is as indiscriminate as it is a profound indictment on humanity's ongoing and persistent failures.
This is a requiem...that soars. This is a monument...and, a monumental piece of work wrought out of concern and compassion. Visually beautiful. Audibly gracious. Emotionally...rivers of tears...respectful, reflective...and, hopefully, reparative.
Let this not just be a film to mark the 50th anniversary of 'The Troubles'...let this be an end and a beginning. And, as the 3,700+ names roll...whoever you are, wherever you are, whatever you may think...life is precious. The very last name...Lyra McKee. RIP...each and all.
by Wash Westmoreland
Earthquake Bird has [nearly] all the ingredients to make a mighty fine film, Oscar-winning actress, a director who directed Julianne Moore to Oscar glory, Ridley Scott as producer and Chung-hoon Chung as the cinematographer...so, what went wrong?
The script...that's what went wrong. It's so...lacklustre and, in places, [totally] incomprehensible...not in an intended psychological way either. For example, Alicia Vikander goes on a weekend trip to a small island with her boyfriend and friend...climbing up a hill, she becomes all woozy and - basically - conks out. When she wakes, she finds that her BF and friend have buggered off to continue - without her - their sightseeing! WTF! Ask yourself: What would you do if that had happened to you? C'mon, it would be an abrupt end to both relationships. But, no...she goes chasing after them [and finds them rather quickly]. Duh!
Then...there's the big reveal. Sharp in-take of breath, it wasn't as predictable as it seemed. Phew. The only problem is...the big reveal turned out to be a major glitch in the script! And from that point on...the film and the story [totally] collapse in on themselves.
But...hey...it sure does look good! Just goes to show...even with the best recipe, no matter how good it looks, the proof is in the tasting. Eathquake Bird leaves no lasting, pleasure-inducing flavour.
Fanny Lye Deliver'd
by Thomas Clay
Think back to those films that left a distinct chill in your bones...The Wicker Man, Witchfinder General, The Devils and the ilk...this is the territory where Thomas Clay is going with this one.
Alas...a hodge-podge of style and theme is the result. As they say, less is more...and, Mr Clay dishes it out in great big generous dollops...in other words, he throws everything at the screen...some material sticks and some...lands on the floor with an audible splodge.
There are two couples, one spewing religious repression, the other extolling the virtues of free and unbridled love...cue: Lesbian/bisexual pas de trois. And...rather graphic it is too...with Freddie Fox displaying [in the blink of an eye] a rather large, engorged, prosthetic willy...only to be upstaged [and blinded] by his gleaming white teeth. Dentistry in 1657 was state-of-the-art, it would seem!
Not only do we have these co-habiting, incongruous couples...throw into the mix, a badly acted, laughable [for all the wrong reasons] comedy duo...as Cromwell's law-men. They dish out the law with neither remorse nor compassion...nor any credulity whatsoever.
With a strong start, a [too] theatrical middle, a rather rushed, ultra-violent ending and an epilogue that ought not to have made it into the final cut...Fanny Lye delivers too much more and not enough less...rather than feeling a chill in your bones, you will feel as if you have been walloped across the face with a muddy shovel.
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.
by Bertran Bonello
Quite easily the most boring 'zombi' film ever made...but, to be fair, this is - most definitely - not the zombie flick where decomposed corpses drag themselves slowly towards fresh juicy flesh. This goes behind that myth, into the voodoo, delving deeper to uncover the zombie truth!
It sounds quite interesting, doesn't it? Alas, frustratingly, no...
Cut to...present day, a privileged, Catholic girls school...replete with a vile teen sorority imbued with sapphic desire. Back to Haiti in the 60s. Back and forward it deliriously goes. It's a film of two halves that never - satisfactorily - come together. Contrasting and comparing between the then and the now...
Yes, we get the message, loud & clear...this is cultural appropriation and the bastardisation of that culture...done to satiate that white privilege bloodlust.
What was Bertrand Bonello thinking? This is shabby allegorical mayhem...rather than zombie mayhem. And, good grief, does Monsieur Bonello - quite literally - like to lecture!?! To such an extent, he actually presents an elongated scene of a teacher delivering a fatuous, meandering, historical monologue...
More back and forth...and, then, it becomes horrible horror...with - quite possibly - the worst demonic lyp-synching ever to be seen on the big screen...way back in 1973, The Exorcist managed to do a damn fine job with demonic possession...what happened in 2019?
It has to be said...this a director who has produced some [truly] remarkable films...this is not one of them.
Zombie fans will loathe it. Anthropologists will probably consider it a masterwork!
Two of Us
by Filippo Meneghetti
Perfectly laid plans crushed by reluctance, secrets and circumstances [and people] beyond your control...this is Filippo Meneghetti's [mighty] debut feature.
This is poised and elegant film-making. A film that will rip at your heartstrings and make you consider the bigger picture...if this was you, what would you want? When decisions are taken away from you...what else have you got left?
Life is all about choices...you pick and choose, rightly or wrongly, rejoice or regret...and, with age, there is the opportunity to take stock, to reflect, to smile, to grimace...perhaps, even, to make amends.
Two of Us delivers many a potent message...
Don't dilly-dally, grab the bull by the horns...before it's too late. Because, you never know when it's too late!
Be prepared for the unthinkable...because, sad but true, the unthinkable invariably [and eventually] happens.
Respect your mother, her life, her wishes, her past, her secrets, her wishes.
And, finally, respect those who love those you love.
This is a monumentally mature piece of work...graced by two precise and comparative performances. Opposites attract and the hand fits perfectly inside the glove...this is love...in all of its joy and terror.
This is immaculate and heartbreaking film-making...merci pour cela.
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
The great leveler...Death. It comes to us all.
This is - truly - an agonising watch. Not just because of the subject matter...a woman with terminal cancer refuses any further treatment...she has reached her enough-is-enough. Her wife has to grin and bear her decision. When someone makes such a mighty decision as this, to disagree with it is akin to shouting at clouds...it's pointless, it's worthless...and, a little selfish. But...every minute together counts.
This is not one of those bucket list finales. This is like reading the final chapter of a tragic book, José Luis Torres Leiva - quite literally - gives these ladies neither background nor backstory. Leaving you to guess [or, colourfully imagine] the series of events that led to where these ladies are now. That - indeed - is a very big ask.
The success of the film really does rely on your own state of mind...some will - indeed - find it too slow and excessively morose. Others will be able to relate and contemplate...to and over this finality. It is a difficult and paradoxical film...you see, there really is nothing difficult about death, it happens...regardless.
Definitely...a film that supplies much food for existential thought.
Sunday 13 October 2019...
by Martin Scorsese
The films we wanted to watch...but, alas, those damn clashes!!!
by Jean Epstein