BFI London Film Festival 2016

October 16, 2016

Well, I thought I’d write a little bit about all of the films I saw.  Some I watched over a week ago so I can’t promise to recall everything I thought at the time.  And I saw so many, I might get bored.  We’ll see.  A lot of films have taken place between then and now as well as some actual life too, so… with that said, here goes.  Rather than putting photos in here, I am going to link to the trailers (if I can find them) so you can see for yourself what you think you might make of them!  I haven’t watched any of the trailer, so sorry if they’re wrong or anything…!  Errr…

I write in the order I saw them..

Friday 7th October

A Monster Calls 9/10

Please go to see this film when is is released.  It really is something very special indeed.  I was utterly emotionally unprepared.  Particularly by where it gets to by the end of it.

One of the films I saw at LFF was Their Finest which I’ll talk about later.  In said film, a character talks of (something along the lines of) people liking to watch films because they resolve life in satisfying ways, whereas real life is unpredictable and terrible things happen randomly and for no reason.  I found A Monster Calls refreshing because films don’t always speak truths, but this film dares to speak some really painful ones. It is about there being no easy answers and I found a bravery in where it goes to.

A Monster Calls captures how it feels to lose someone close to you in a lingering way, where you know it is coming with such startling truth that even as I think back now (I saw it over a week ago) tears come to my eyes.  It really is a beautiful film.  If I tell you Liam Neeson plays a Groot-esque (but a tad scarier) tree here to help you through grief, I think that really that should be enough to sell the film.  But there is so much more the film has to offer.

Firstly, the artwork and animation in the film are simply stunning.  I can’t describe how beautiful it is (although it is a little redolent of the animation in Deathly Hallows, but with ore colour.)  The film is about a Mother and Son who are artists themselves and I would be surprised if a child were to watch the film if they didn’t feel inspired to make art themselves following it.

But the film itself is simultaneously a coming of age story and about grief and what it is to lose someone.  The real monster in the film of course is Death and it looms large from the start.  Everyone tries to protect Conor from death, as we try to shelter not only children, but everyone if we can from death.  Through the tree and stories he tells, Conor gradually gains a new and fuller understanding of life, death and of his own family.  In a full cinema, I heard many sobs around me because it really is incredibly sad.  And the final story which Conor has to tell… I mean, I have felt that.  And it is a feeling so awful that I have never spoken about it with anyone, ever.  This film really does go to a very difficult place and it gets to a place of such truth by means of storytelling, art, imagination and creativity.  It uses art as a means of addressing pain and as a way through it.  What more could you ask from a film really?

I hope the film does do well. I do worry regarding its target.  I think it is refreshing that it seems to have been made without too much concern for the target audience: concern being only for the quality and truth of the film itself.  At the same time, despite it focusing on 13-year-old Conor and revolving around a tree-monster who tells stories, thus you might imagine it aimed towards children younger than this, emotionally and psychologically this is tough stuff.  I just checked and it is rated 12A.  I’d advise either reading it or looking up the details of the plot if thinking of taking children much younger than this.  Not that it would be too much as all depends on the individual.  There were some children perhaps a little younger than Conor sat beside me as I watched who had clearly read the book already.  It was hard to ascertain how they felt about the film, but I think it got the boy next to me considering that he had enclosed his entire head with his hood by the end of the film.  I believe all films are equal though and I hope many grown-ups go to see this without children too.  It deserves it.

This is a big film with special effects and big name actors and not a single concession with regards to how the film tackles its subject by the end.  It is difficult and beautiful to experience and if you’ve ever lost someone close to you it addresses your darkest feelings at the worst of times.  And, well, I can’t speak for how you will experience it, but I also found it strangely cathartic.

I didn’t talk about the cast, but everyone is great in it.  I have to mention though that Lewis MacDougall who plays Conor is brilliant.

If you want to see a heartbreaking film that deals honestly with the toughest truths of losing someone you love and uses fantasy and art to address truths and pull a grieving child through his pain… here is the film.

I promise I won’t write this much about all of the films!  Or do I….

King Cobra 7/10

From the sublime to the ridiculous?!  Yes, on my first day of LFF I went from a child’s fantasy-monster to help him with grief to a film about the gay porn industry.

It’s harder to write about films that you found fine than those you have a strong opinion on either way.  King Cobra is, I’d say more than fine.  I am embarrassed to confess I think I may have dozed off briefly in it though.  Ooops.  However, I particularly enjoyed the performances of Christian Slater and Garrett Clayton.

The film is based on a true story which I won’t say too much about as why not see it for yourself!  What the film does best is capture character.  There are four main characters (James Franco and Keegan Allen playing the other two – they’re great too in the film) and you get some kind of insight into the inner worlds, drives and emotional experience of all of these characters.

For me, Stephen (Slater) and Brent (Clayton) were the most interesting though.  Stephen is exploitative, yet pitiable.  He’s a pretty repulsive guy really, enticing young boys into the industry and clearly getting his own kicks from it all at the same time.  Simultaneously you feel empathy and sympathy towards him.  And the guy does know what he’s doing when it comes to making a ludicrous, yet popular porn film, it seems.   Slater really does have to do a lot of lechery.  Shudder.  The Director spoke afterwards and said the real Brent hadn’t seen the film yet as he wasn’t happy with artistic licenses they took making it so withdrew any support.  However, I feel Brent ought to be happy as the film portrays him pretty much in a positive light – as ambitious, yet not mean and callous like the rest of the folk here.  There’s a sweetness mixed with drive that makes for a pleasing and amusing little ending to the film.

Overall, the film doesn’t really say enough for you to feel you love it.  It’s just too light.  I mean, as light as a film about gay porn with minors, involving stabbing someone to death and burning things to the ground can be.  Y’know…  Just another Friday afternoon at the flicks.

Can I say, people seemed angry at James Franco in the Q&A afterwards.  Why are you angry?!  It seemed people were angry because James Franco is playing a gay man, but not a nice gay man: a not nice gay man.  As though that means he hates gay men.  I don’t get the logic.  He is producer on this film so surely a big (or even THE?) reason it got made…  If an actor played a load of murderers, would you say he thought all men were murderers?  I just don’t see the logic… Aaaanyhoooo….

Saturday 8th October

The Secret Scripture 4/10

[I cannot find a trailer…]

Oh dear, The Secret Scripture.  Some fine acting here and it all looks beautiful.  There’s certainly no problem in imagining the beautiful Rooney Mara as a lady all the boys desire.  But the actual plot?  Oh my, I found it madly, bizarrely, ludicrous.  It is simply loopy!

Mara plays Rose, who has been locked away in psychiatric care for a long time after (although we discover also before) supposedly murdering her own baby.  Rose has written her own “secret scripture” as in the title in her many years locked away.

At first you’re along for the ride. Here’s Rose: free-spirited and determined to do things her own way in a war-time society in Ireland where everyone knows everyone else’s business and everyone would have ladies know their places and stay in them.  Every man loves Rose’s spirit and beauty and everyone wants her though, including the local priest who drives much of Rose’s fate.

Rose loves Michael (Jack Reynor) though.  He’s gone against the local feeling and has gone off to as a pilot to fight for the British in the war.  At one point, Rose imagines a plane flying overhead is Michael just flying over to let her know he’s OK.  Later in the film, a plane crash lands 20 feet from where she’s living and it is actual Michael.  What are the chances?!  No, I mean really.  What are the chances……  You wouldn’t get odds on it.  It was from this ludicrous moment onwards that I assumed Rose’s account of her past couldn’t be all there was to this story.  Your one true love is not in a zillion years going to crash land in your back garden.  This has to be the account of some severe psychosis or something, surely.  Is Mara going to get to do some really incredible acting here?  When will we get to the big reveal?

The film as well as being set in the 1940’s comes back to current day (ish) with Vanessa Redgrave playing current-Rose and Eric Bana playing an empathetic psychiatrist assessing Rose before she is moved to a new location after decades of being locked away here.

I may as well tell you so you don’t sit there, expectantly, like me.  There is no big reveal.  Rose’s story, as she tells it is, unbelievably, just how things were.  There is a twist at the end that rather than being a shocking revelation, just makes you want to laugh because it is even more ludicrous than the bizarre unreality of Rose’s account.

I mean, I am not sure, but I think I heard some people crying during the film, so clearly not everyone felt the same way as me.  But I just found it absolutely crazy and not in a good way.  The acting is very good, but really there’s no joy in that in a story that felt irritating and stupid to me.  Sorry, film.  Now I’ve written this, I want to mark it lower, but I think for the acting the film deserves 4/10 at least.

Quite simply, bemusing.  I was left simply shaking my head at it.

Manchester by the Sea 10/10

I’ve written more about this, here: My Manchester By The Sea ramble.

If you were thinking I couldn’t possibly have another word to say I didn’t already voice there, think again folks!

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was the first film of its nature I ever saw (not that I’ve ever seen another quite like it since.)  I’ve loved Casey Affleck (and Andrew Dominik) since this time.  The idea he might win an Oscar for it has been the one and only time I was particularly bothered about anything earning an Oscar.  I can’t believe I got to attend a UK premiere of a film of Casey’s. And such a brilliant film too.  I feel so lucky.  Another day, another film full of grief….

I wrote about the film in the above post, but I didn’t say a lot about facts there, so here I’ll say the film introduces us to Lee Chandler (Affleck) as a janitor, doing what he has to: doing a good job where he can, with absolutely no concern for social niceties and no desire to interact with any other human in any way whatsoever.  Lee does his job then sits in front of the telly or at a bar, drinking alone.  He speaks only when he has to.  But after a few drinks, perhaps uncharacteristically given the rest of his closed nature, he likes to start fights.  As though he’s looking for someone to put him out of his misery and bring an end to him.

Lee’s brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies suddenly, but not unexpectedly and Lee is pulled from his one-room existence and forced to return to Manchester By The Sea, a place that was once his home, to inform and then look after his sixteen-year-old nephew.

When people talk of this as a film about grief, don’t get the wrong idea.  Joe’s warmth in life and his absence for those who remain is really felt strongly in the film, even though we never see him except in flashbacks for he is already dead when the film begins.  However, his son Patrick (Lucas Hedges) and brother cope with his death as well as could be expected.  I mean, better than you might expect in the main, really.

Remember where we began, with A Monster Calls?  Lee could be a character in one of the Monster-Tree’s stories for sure.  Once upon a time Lee thought he knew it all; had everything worked out.  Life taught him otherwise.  (Oh gosh, this is what happens when you write about 5873 films one after the other!)

Manchester by the Sea is pretty remarkable because none of the characters are particularly remarkable, yet the film reveals inner experience in so sharp and raw a way that you feel it as though the pain is your own and you want to fix it for it hurts you as it hurts them and if you can’t fix it for them you feel like your own life might not be on solid foundations and could also at any moment slip into this abyss.

I don’t think there’s any actor who can do what Casey Affleck does here.  Doubtless, there are many roles he’s not suited for too of course, but in this kind of role.  It’s the kind of performance where you watch another film the next day and the folks in it might be fine or even good but you feel like they’re false after experiencing this.

This film is pure magic.  You want to fix Lee as though his pain were your own.  Sure he’s funny, but if you hadn’t felt this world of pain inside him, you’d probably see Lee as not a guy you’d want to know.  He’s silent, uncommunicative, abrasive and closed.  And after this film, I’ll wonder about people I meet from now on.  Wonder about what brought them to where they are now.

Manchester by the Sea is a harsh but tender look at the worst place life can take a human to.  It isn’t particularly hopeful in its ideas about whether it is possible to ever recover or move on from something unspeakably terrible, yet, bizarrely, at the same time it isn’t entirely without hope either.  I sobbed a lot.  And it manages to do that thing where nothing can be happening, yet everything is happening.  By the end, I kept starting to sob again when a million nothings of things made me think or feel something physically (or emotionally I suppose, but it felt physical) unbearable.

If you want more of my thoughts on this one, I have them aplenty!

Surprise film! Sully 7/10

Wahey! I went to a surprise film!  This was a last minute thing.  To be honest, Manchester by the Sea left me in a place where I felt afraid.  I was staying in a place that was £30 a night in central London and not a hostel.  From this you can perhaps imagine the quality of the room I was staying in.  It was in a dodgy area and when I’d arrived to check in the night before, the police were there in reception as I got there.  I checked in amidst a lovely, altercation betwixt police and non-police-based-human, sort of trying to pretend it wasn’t happening!  Joy!  I’d sat in my dark, smelly room that night and I have to say here the poor staff on reception at this place were proper lovely.  Just one man at night and a lady in the day.  Having to deal with incidents where they have to call the police and they’re the only person there…  Anyway, Manchester by the Sea felt like it had pulled my heart out and squeezed it in an attempt to end it entirely, but more worryingly, it made me feel afraid of myself.  Afraid to go and be alone in this dismal room.

So I got a last minute ticket to see the SURPRISE FILM!  It was Sully.  I’d like to thank Sully, because it was just what I needed.  It keeps your attention and I don’t think it is a spoiler since it is based on a true story to say that it all works out OK in the end.  It is tense and involving and it makes you worry for the characters, but you never worry so much you can’t bear it.  It’s pretty safe.  It isn’t going to change my world, but it was just what I needed at that moment in time to restore me to a psychological location where I was able to return to my dismal life.  Thanks, Sully!

Actually, I’m doing it a disservice: It was very good!  I’d actually rate it higher than 7, but when I compare it with the films I have rated 8, I enjoyed or felt them more, so sorry Sully.  You’re a 7, but rest assured, I like all films I rate 7 and above!  I thought this one was really well done.  I only didn’t rate it higher as I am at a film festival so every film here, I am giving a mark in comparison with the others in terms of how much it made me feel.

The lady introducing the film told us all to stay in our seats as there’d be a very exciting guest on stage afterwards.  Then a Tom Hanks film Directed by Clint Eastwood came on.  We didn’t really think Tom Hanks would be there.  But could we see Clint Eastwood, all of us thought.  Poor Aaron Eckhart.  That said, I saw him in Bleed for This the following day and he really is great there and so different to in this film.

Sunday 9th October

Souvenir 8/10

Gosh, what a pick was this one.  Given my ranting on and on and the fact that I adore Casey Affleck, I am sure it is a surprise to no human that I watched Manchester by the Sea again the next morning.  I had actually felt like it would be too painful to rewatch when I watched first time, but bizarrely I enjoyed rewatching and revelling in the pain.  On second watch I also took the most tentative sense of hope as well from it.

Even so, Souvenir was just what I needed to counter the heaviness.  This is such a sweet film.  Isabelle Huppert plays a lady who works in a pate factory, but decades ago she was a singer in the Eurovision song contest, the same year as ABBA won.  A young boy of 22 at the factory recognises her (his Dad is a fan) and there begins the sweetest love story which works so delightfully because there is a true and warm chemistry between Liliane (Huppert) and Jean (Kévin Azaïs.)

Let’s be honest here, Liliane was never the greatest artiste the world has seen.  She was a young singer in a little pop contest, there more for her beauty and charisma than musical wonderment.  Huppert does all her own singing I think in the film and there is a real charm to it.  Jean acts as her muse.  He enables Liliane to rediscover singing and music and as such, to rediscover life really.  And she’s not brilliant now, just as she wasn’t then, but through being creative again, she discovers living and the world rediscovers her for a time.  And though this love affair, Jean begins to grow from boy to man.

The film could easily veer to sentiment or seem false or one-sided, but the two leads make you feel that the age gap is nothing and there is genuine feeling between these people.  It really is adorable.  By the end of the film, what is left is that you feel genuine feeling between Liliane and Jean.  It is a happy film!

I am NOT a fan of the feel good film.  So I think it says even more that I was with this one all of the way.  If you’re feeling a little sad, this is the perfect film to cheer you.  It is quite simply a joyous little delight.  And you’re sure to leave singing too!

Bleed for This 8/10

OK, so I had about 20 minutes from the ending time of this film to make my train at Euston.  It was possibly a mistake to go see it as I sat through the whole thing, feeling STRESS, but I’m really glad I did see it!

Bleed for This is a boxing drama about Vinny Paz.  Normally in a drama about a real person, you’d have all kinds of focusses.  Perhaps some relationship drama.  Something or other external.  However, Bleed for This doesn’t particularly bother with any of that.  It sets out with Vinny in the late 80’s and it sticks with him through it all.  It is quite a simple film, just about Vinny’s boxing career and an absolutely incredible achievement of him fighting to return to boxing following a near-fatal car crash.

It’s not a showy film, but what it does is it makes you really feel the grit and determination of Vinny. And it doesn’t do it in a big effort of a way with a load of heavy drama.  It is pretty matter of fact with it all.  Viny knows what he has to do,  He does it.  It is a pretty difficult watch at times though.  There was one point in the film when I really thought I was going to faint.  I nearly had to leave the screening, but I could tell that if I’d have stood up right then I would have fainted, so I just slumped in my seat a bit and eventually the feeling passed.  I am not sure quite why it was, since it didn’t happen during an excruciating moment, but a little time after it.  But yes, there are screws in skulls and it feels pretty gosh real! Wah!  Somehow it is harder to watch because it feels real more than there not being anything more gruesome out there if that makes sense?

I was surprised how moved I was by the end of the film.  It made me cry.  It is genuinely inspirational.  Vinny says something about the biggest thing he’d learned having been that it’s simple.  You set your mind on something and you go for it and you get there.  Vinny does that and it truly is inspiring.  It really got me emotional.  And that’s despite my watching in a stressed and not feeling brilliant even by the end state.

The first film I ever saw at LFF (I went once before in 2014) was Whiplash, at 10am one morning.  Interesting that that film with Miles Teller was about drive and so is this.  I don’t think this film has thus far gotten that great a critical reception, but I really, really loved it.  I can’t recall a lot about the film Southpaw now to compare with another recent boxing film, but I do know I liked this a lot more, because I felt engaged, inspired and it got me emotionally.

Just like what Vinny learned, Bleed for This sticks with the simple story and it tells it in a way that is both powerful and where you really feel it.  Great film and great performances.  I recommend.

PS I had to miss the Q&A to catch my train but since I really liked the film, I’d have loved to have heard it.  I saw they were filming it.  Does anyone know if and where I could watch it?  Thanks in advance if so!

Friday 14th October

Their Finest 5/10

[Can’t find a trailer…]

Oh no.  I want to say I loved the film.  The Director spoke after it and she seemed proper lovely.  And there was nothing wrong with the film at all.  Everyone’s great in it and it’s about a strong lady too which is always nice.  I give my rating on this one entirely from a subjective standpoint.  Objectively I’d say it’s maybe 1 or 2 marks higher.  But it is just the kind of story that really is not my taste.  So for me, I’d only rate it this.

Set during the second world war, Gemma Arterton plays Catrin Cole, who initially gets a job writing the ladies lines in propaganda-ish films.  Oh, I feel like I can’t be bothered writing about it.  I mean it’s fine.  It all happens as you’d expect.  There’s a sad little twist at the end.  I couldn’t really tell you why I felt nothing from it.  Bill Nighy, I confess is delightful in it in particular.  But it just sort of happened around me and it was just alright.  I don’t have anything particularly bad to say about it.  Just really not to my taste at all.

I feel I should apologise to you, Their Finest.  I don’t want to say too much as I know it just isn’t my kind of film so I don’t want to be negative about it when it is me, not the film.

Brimstone 2/10

Oh dear.  A bit of an unhappy day at LFF.  Can we just begin with how much does Dakota Fanning in this film look like Marion Cotillard?  SO MUCH!  OK, I got that off my chest!

Unlike Their Finest, which is not to my taste but will be to many people’s, Brimstone is plain bad.  What was everyone thinking?  The most unfortunate element of the film, as I see it is that it is a very serious subject matter (incest and sexual feelings towards one’s own children and grandchildren) but it is handled in a rather bizarre way in which the film initially and at several later points, feels like a horror film where all the terrible things that happen feel as though they may have some mythological cause.  The Reverend (Guy Pearce) from the outset looms like a Vampire (accentuated by his accent – the family emigrated to the US from the Netherlands) whilst Liz (Fanning) wanders the landscape looking terrified, mute and using sign language and I’m thinking it is a very bad version of The Piano.

It’s such a strange film.  It feels like it lasts for about a day.  The structure I suppose works for the story.  But the story just keeps getting more and more awful, yet not in a way where you’re particularly shocked by where it goes.  But indeed in a very gruesome way.

I’m honestly not sure how to talk about the film.  I could talk about Kit Harrington who pops up briefly playing a proper Yee-Haw cowboy.  Don’t take it as too much of a criticism as I saw Kit in a play recently and he was great, but I couldn’t stop giggling at his comedy cowboy here.  And I assume he’s not meant to be particularly funny…?  But amidst all of the horror, I just wanted to giggle.

Almost everyone ends up dead.  It’s blooming miserable.  The reason Liz is mute is pretty grim and The Preacher is more like a Vampire than a human he is such a caricature of evil.  In fact at one point he gets his throat slit but still survives.  I think his throat was just not slit with enough force to kill him, but I think it would possibly have been a more interesting film had he been unequivocally dead and you knew all that chronologically followed this was more metaphorical than literal and Liz was driven to her own destruction due to the terrible events that had been her entire life until this point.

Ho hum.  It’s brutal, intentionally misogynistic, hopeless, gruesome, relentless and not a nice watch and it hasn’t got anything interesting to say that I took from it at least.  I give it 2/10 not 1/10 as I think Dakota is alright….  And the young teenager who plays young Liz (Joanna as she is known then), Emilia Jones  is particularly great.

But really, don’t watch it.  Unless you like to watch women and children (and the odd man too who has the misfortune to get too close to Liz) relentlessly tortured and killed for three hours, with no point at all to it all.

Nocturnal Animals 5/10

I think the cast and crew of this film stayed in the screening and watched it with us.  I think they may be the only people of all the stars of films I attended who did that.  I’m not sure if they did for certain as they didn’t come on stage again at the end, but they all sat down at the start at least and I love that.  Watch your films with us, please.  I’d have thought it’d be lovely to hear the audience’s reaction to your work.  When cast and crew come in, speak for about 10 seconds and leave, I mean, I think what’s the point in your having come at all.  May as well have not bothered with the air fares.  All it achieves is to make us, audience feel even more like the meaningless ants I have seen the film industry considers the general public to be.  Stamp on me!

Anyway, Nocturnal Animals.  It certainly has a couple of jump out of your skin moments.  It is sort of unfortunate in that it is a film which is involving as you experience it as you’re wondering where it is going to end up, but it makes you want to think about it afterwards, and the more you think about it, the more of a sour aftertaste it leaves.

The film begins with lots of naked, red haired, overweight and/or older ladies dancing in a burlesque style, completely naked.  Then they’re all lying on slabs.  Not in a sexy way.  In a way like they look dead.  It is art in Susan’s (Amy Adams) gallery.  She doesn’t think much of it.  It goes on for ages.  And when I think back on the film, I can’t shake the disconcerting notion that this is how this film sees women.  As meaningless pieces of meat.  It is certainly how it uses women….

The film’s main character is in fact Susan (does this make it better or worse?!)  She was married maybe twenty years ago, for two years to Edward.  Back then Edward wanted to be a writer.  Eventually Susan and he divorced.  Susan committed a heinous act.  She implied he was “weak”.  She got her just desserts though because now Susan is in an unhappy marriage and is generally unhappy with her life.  She receives a novel in the post, from Edward.  He’s about to publish it.  It’s called “Nocturnal Animals.”  Edward used to call her his nocturnal animal (she doesn’t sleep much.)  It is dedicated to her.

The rest of the film follows Susan reading the novel a lot instead of sleeping and it seeping into all aspects of her daily life (hence the jumps.)  Jake Gyllenhaal plays Susan’s husband in the past and also the husband in his novel which is filmed.  Isla Fischer though plays the wife in the novel rather than Amy Adams doing this too.  Not sure the reason for this, but there probably is one. …?

I shan’t tell all the details of the novel Edward wrote.  But basically, it isn’t brilliant and given the fact that it involves a character very like Susan herself who is brutally murdered, and Edward dedicated the book to her, it is difficult to ascertain quite what Susan is feeling and why this novel all of a sudden means that Susan decides Edward was the love of her life and she needs him back.  So she’s unhappy.  We get it.  But when your ex sends you a novel he wrote, named with your pet name, dedicated to you, in which you’re brutally murdered and callously discarded of in the first few minutes… why do you want to get back with him again…..???

The story Edward writes is quite odd too.  The husband in the book is just taken along by the cop on all the investigations.  Surely that wouldn’t happen?  I would have thought that at least at first the cops might have been a little suspicious of Tony (the character he plays.)

There are a couple of scenes of Susan and Edward in the past too and they genuinely do look decades younger.  It’s kind of disconcerting… Was it just me?

It’s all just pretty bizarre.  I’m happy those involved watched the film with us and I definitely jumped and was intrigued as I watched, but if it sometimes feels like the film-world sees the general public as ants, I can only assume those who wrote this film see women as the fleas on the back of an ant…?  I dunno…  I could easily have just not understood….???

It’s Only the End of the World 6/10

I saw Tom at the Farm at the cinema and I adored it.  I was so intrigued it lead me to discover the work of Xavier Dolan.  Dolan is the sole reason I discovered London Film Festival was a thing that existed in the first place.  The reason I attended in the first place was to see Mommy in 2014.  I even saw Mommy again at a foreign film festival.  I love Dolan’s work – how he gets you to feel.  I love the melodrama and big emotions but how at the depth he gets at something true.  (The only film of his I didn’t like quite as much was Laurence Anyways.  I still liked it but didn’t feel it quite as much as every other one.)  I think he’s incredibly talented and I adore Mommy, I Killed my Mother, Tom at the Farm and Heartbeats (which even though it is about lust essentially, I still feel something real from it.)

So, I am sad to say that I just didn’t like It’s Only the end of the World very much.  I am really sad to say it.  And when I say it, know that I mean I didn’t like it in comparison to Dolan’s other films.  I wasn’t horrendous.  I just didn’t feel much from it which is totally unexpected when it comes to Dolan.  All of his other films I really feel.

So the film is about Louis (Gaspard Ulliel) a writer who returns home after a 12 year absence to see his family and to tell them he is dying.  In the end he never does this.

What I felt from the film was how Louis wants to be there for his family and wants them to be there for him in an emotional sense.  And his family want Louis to be there in a physical sense.  They’d do anything to encourage him to stay.  They all dress up as if they could dress themselves up as the perfect characters that could keep him here.  Louis listens to everyone, sadly, but unable to really connect.  Home after all this time, memories flood in.  But he can’t stand being here and wants away.

It is like a never ending Christmas day, post lunch, when all the arguing begins in this film.  There is an awful lot of screaming.  Everyone is hysterical and shouts and cries and rails at each other and although there is some nice acting going on, it is hard to feel much from.  Both because everyone is screaming and because nobody is saying anything of much importance or truth.

There are some nice scenes, for example when Suzanne (Lea Seydoux) gives in and does a silly aerobics dance with her Mother (Nathalie Baye) – Dolan can always capture these little family touches.  I liked Catherine (Marion Cotillard) the only (other than Louis, I guess) quiet character – nervous and caring.  The most interesting character I think is Antoine (Vincent Cassel) – also the most prickly and difficult, he is the only character (and this definitely included Louis who I felt I probably understood the least about who he was inside) who you get something of a sense of who this man is as opposed to just how he is acting.  There’s something really sad about Antoine inside and it is like he’s covered it up with this other personality.  He also seemed to me to maybe understand Louis in a way none of the others do or can.

Really though, the only scenes where I felt much were Louis’ memories.  There are not lots of them, but when they impinge, Louis remembers a family picnic or a first lover and it is all colours of emotion, textures and fragments and is almost like you can smell the situation.  The soundtrack swells as memory takes over.

Maybe I just didn’t get it.  I felt how Louis and his family were pulled to each other yet Louis can’t live here (I mean, who could in this hysteria!!?!)  But it’s just not enough.  Dolan’s other films all have some sort of powerful feeling or atmosphere or something I feel deeply.  This didn’t.  At all.

Did all these stars say they wanted to work with Dolan and the project was picked that way rather than being something Dolan desperately wanted to do?  Does the play just not work so well as a film?  Is the play just not that great itself?  Is the film?  I don’t know.  But it didn’t do it for me.

I thank Xavier for being the only person in all the Headline Galas I saw at the Odeon Leicester Square who stuck around after the film and spoke for ages about it with interesting and insightful words.  But I am so sad I don’t adore the film like I do most of his work.  Also, when I think about the number of people outside when Mommy was first screened and compare it with the hoards we had to get through to get in this time it makes me scared to think this may be the first Dolan film some people have seen.

If you saw this and it was your first Dolan film, please watch his others.  Even if you loved this one, I find it hard to envision there’s not some other of his work you’d love more.

Saturday 15th October

Lady Macbeth 9/10

[Can’t find a trailer, sorry!]

The final film! And a great one!  You’ve never seen anything quite like this film.  I almost don’t want to tell you anything at all about it.  Florence Pugh is fierce and incredible.  Cosmo Jarvis has a little bit of the Tom Hardy to him.

Set in the days when a lady belonged to her husband, we quickly see Katherine (Florence Pugh) has a dismal time of it.  Even the way her servant harshly drags a brush through her hair, or painfully tugs at the laces in her corset convey harshness Katherine exists in.  Said servant is also told to watch Katherine so she doesn’t fall asleep before her husband comes to bed.  It all shows Katherine has no life: maybe less of a life than even her servants.

Katherine is always falling asleep.  She loves to be outside.  We’re in Yorkshire and she likes to wander the moors.  But none of the men want to let her outside or to do or be anything at all.

Katherine’s husband likes to get his young bride to undress.  But he never touches her.  One day away goes her husband and away goes his Father and Katherine is left alone with the servants in this sparse abode.  At last, out into the moors she can go.

A new servant arrives, Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis.)  He’s a bit feisty.  But nowhere near as feisty as is Katherine.

The film is called Lady Macbeth so you can likely imagine what kinds of things begin to go on from this point.  There is an absolutely adorable little boy in the film at one stage, but don’t get too attached!

With difficult themes and mounting atmosphere, this film really, really works.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it and I loved it.  I don’t want to say too much.  Watch for yourself, but it is dangerous in the best kid of ways: a dangerous, unique film with fierce, always interesting performances.

I had another film to rush to but am so glad I stayed for the most delightful Q&A I have ever been present for, in which Florence sparkled like a star of true charisma, Cosmo talked about his dead pet cat, Polly and the filmmakers discussed having to wait ages to obtain a horse that died of natural causes and then having to paint said dead horse because it was a brown horse and the dead horse in the film was a white horse.  We all giggled away and kind of forgot about all the DEATH as we heard them talk about chemistry, Victorian soap and not washing before sex scenes due to being METHOD mateys.

A good choice.  Well done me.  Well done folk who made it.

Catch this film!

And that folks is all I saw!  Take from it what you will.  I do not know what I wrote, but I know it is a LOT! Ooof!  Clearly I am no film reviewer so these are just random thoughts as I recall them now.

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