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London Film Festival 2014
Our round-up of the galas, films and interviews


London Film Festival 2014: Fury And Difret

Posted on Sunday October 19, 2014, 16:42 by Phil de Semlyen

Fury
 
David Ayer has carved out a niche as a creator of ultra-realistic thrillers, many tapping into his own experiences in the US Navy. Since the release of his submarine thriller U-571, which distorted history to credit America with cracking the Enigma code, Ayer has devoted himself to fairly meticulous truth. Ayer subsequently made his name as screenwriter of the Oscar-nominated Training Day and writer-director of crunching cop movie End Of Watch.

His latest movie – World War II drama Fury – is the closing film of the London Film Festival. Typically character-driven and potently realistic, it’s a solid piece of work.

In the last months of the war, deep within Nazi Germany, Wardaddy (Brad Pitt) finds his tank crew one man short and is assigned the jittery Private Ellison (Logan Lerman) as his new assistant driver. Tasked by Captain Waggoner (Jason Isaacs) with defending a crucial road junction, Wardaddy and his crew must fight off the ...

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London Film Festival 2014: Mommy, Song of the Sea, A Little Chaos

Posted on Friday October 17, 2014, 11:12 by Helen O'Hara

Mommy

Leading the ‘Dare’ category in the film festival, Mommy is a brave and powerful film that’s capable of knocking the breath out of your lungs. Tackling the impact of mental illness in a family, it features phenomenal acting, an unusual soundtrack and an inventive use of changing screen dimensions.

The young and prodigiously talented Xavier Dolan has made this the fifth directorial work of his already prolific career. Dolan has proved himself before as unafraid to tackle difficult topics and in Mommy he follows the life of single mother Diane (Anne Dorval), who is suddenly faced with having to home-school her son Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon). Steve’s severe ADHD has meant that due to his erratic and dangerous behaviour, he’s just come out of a youth detention centre. The situation threatens to get out of control until the arrival of their neighbour Kyra (Suzanne Clément) offers a new chance for both mother and son to rebuild th...

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London Film Festival: Whiplash, Son Of A Gun, Foxcatcher

Posted on Friday October 17, 2014, 10:36 by Helen O'Hara

Whiplash

Whiplash came rolling into the London Film Festival with real momentum behind it. It has already wowed audiences at several international festivals, and scooped the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance in January. Damien Chazelle’s tale of a wannabe drummer battling his way to the top of a jazz band deserves every accolade it has received thus far, and a load more.

Miles Teller plays Andrew, a talented but nervous youngster at the top music school in America. During a solo practice session, he catches the eye of ferocious instructor Fletcher (JK Simmons), who subjects Andrew to gruelling rehearsals as part of his award-winning jazz band. In order to impress Fletcher, Andrew must put his family, new girlfriend Nicole (Melissa Benoist) and indeed his own body on the line.

Whiplash is a hurricane of movie. As comfortable with zingy dialogue and raw emotion as it is with breath-taking musical cacophonies, director Chazelle has constructed...

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London Film Festival 2014: Testament of Youth, Ping Pong Summer, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them

Posted on Thursday October 16, 2014, 13:38 by Helen O'Hara

Testament Of Youth

Based on famed pacifist Vera Brittain’s earliest memoirs, Testament of Youth has admirable intentions of bringing a renowned story back into the public spotlight. It’s a pity then that the film doesn’t excel itself quite as it could have done.

Directed by TV veteran James Kent, the film explores Vera’s life during the time of World War I. Played by Alicia Vikander, Vera is left at home when her friends, brother and new fiancée Roland Leighton (Kit Harington) leave for the trenches. Not wanting to escape the troubles of war whilst her loved ones fight, she chooses to work as a nurse in France, an experience which inspires the lifelong anti-war views that Vera Brittain was best known for.

The biggest difficulty that the film has is in engaging the audience with Roland and Vera’s romantic relationship, an aspect of the story that is placed in centre stage. Their attraction isn’t given a foundation str...

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London Film Festival: The Duke Of Burgundy, Gente De Bien, Love Is Strange

Posted on Wednesday October 15, 2014, 09:43 by Helen O'Hara

The course of true love never did run smooth. It would appear that BFI London Film Festival decided that I wasn't sufficiently aware of this fact and could use a refresher course in love in its many forms. First up we had The Duke Of Burgundy, a smouldering slice of BDSM relationship drama from British auteur Peter Strickland. After that there was Gente De Bien, the story of a father and son thrown together after years of estrangement and how they learn to get along. To round off the day was Love Is Strange, the very softly spoken tale of two elderly gay men in New York who are thrown into turmoil when redundancy alters their living situation.


The Duke Of Burgundy
Peter Strickland's latest offering concerns the relationship between Cynthia and Evelyn, who are engaged in a dominant/submissive lifestyle. Cynthia plays master in the situation, engineering situations that are deliberately demeaning or awkward for Evel...

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London Film Festival: Wild, Salvation, Leviathan

Posted on Wednesday October 15, 2014, 09:18 by Helen O'Hara

Some days at festivals, you see a couple of films that all have a common theme or genre. Today was not one of those days. You could hardly pick three films more different than Wild, The Salvation and Leviathon. One is Reese Witherspoon's latest about a young woman who decides to walk 1,000 miles across America to escape her life, another is a revenge Western with a Danish cowboy at its heart and the final film is a politically astute and vodka soaked look at modern Russia.


Wild
This adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's 2012 memoir has been in production almost since the day the book was released. It was always designed as a vehicle for Reese Witherspoon to flex her acting muscles and the role is certainly different to anything she's played before. The role of Strayed is clearly a complex one with grief, addiction and divorce all working their way into the script and shown as flashbacks during her epic adventure which brings its own series of challenges.

All of whi...

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London Film Festival: Electricity, The Dinner

Posted on Wednesday October 15, 2014, 08:56 by Helen O'Hara

Electricity

British dramas have a habit of unfolding in fairly conventional ways. With that in mind, it’s hugely refreshing to come across a film as inventive and interesting as Electricity, which feels gritty and real without resorting to bland kitchen sink tropes.

Lily (Agyness Deyn) works a dead-end job in an amusement arcade, battling with her frequent and violent epileptic fits, which manifest as electrical storms in her mind. When she and her brother Barry (Paul Anderson) are presented with a huge inheritance, Lily sets off down south to find their estranged second sibling Mikey (Christian Cooke) to give him his share. Mikey proves a hard man to find, with Lily enlisting the help of friendly Londoner Mel (Lenora Crichlow) after she suffers from a fit on the Underground.

There’s a tendency in British cinema to simply point a camera at something bleak and watch terrible things happen. Electricity is not interested in doing that, with director ...

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London Film Festival: Goodbye to Language, My Old Lady, Serena

Posted on Tuesday October 14, 2014, 10:06 by Helen O'Hara

Goodbye To Language

Trying to describe Jean-Luc Godard's 3D feature Goodbye To Language is a difficult task. As you'd expect of the director, it's not a film that's kind to viewers, presenting a 70 minute-long barrage of confrontational style. In the end, it's difficult to interpret just what kind of narrative, if any, has been witnessed. Still, that’s probably the whole point.

As the title suggests, language becomes almost mocked in a film that strives for incoherence. Stories overlap with conversations that don’t make sense and the audio stuns the viewer with a blast of noise after irregular breaks of silence. The film's content - usually created with some clarity in order to communicate with the audience - becomes ridiculed in a mosaic that includes philosophy, historical reconstruction and low-brow humour. Inconsistent English subtitles for the film also deliberately add to the muddled tone, although those with a decent grasp of French m...

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London Film Festival: The Cub

Posted on Tuesday October 14, 2014, 10:03 by Helen O'Hara

As a bit of a horror film fanatic, The Cub (aka Welp) was one of the films I was most looking forward to seeing at LFF. Thankfully, the debut film from Belgian director Jonas Govaerts is everything I wanted it to be – a loving, gruesome homage to the dark heart of cinema.

At the centre of the film is Sam (Maurice Luijten), a temperamental outcast in a group of scouts led by Kris (Titus De Voogdt) and his slightly power-mad right-hand man Peter (Stef Aerts). The vulnerable youngster is terrified by the leaders’ stories of a mysterious boy, named Kai, who stalks the forest at night in werewolf form. Unfortunately for Sam and the rest of the troupe, the boy (Gill Eeckelaert) proves to be more real than anybody expected.

The beauty of Cub is that it is a film made with real reverence and respect for horror cinema. It combines the influence of classic slashers from the '70s and '80s with the timeless creature-feature subgenre. The summer camp setting recalls

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London Film Festival: Madame Bovary, Dearest, The Keeping Room

Posted on Sunday October 12, 2014, 12:22 by Helen O'Hara

Madame Bovary

Sophia Barthes’ Madame Bovary is a beautiful period adaptation of Gustav Flaubert’s novel that deals with its complicated heroine in a way that is both understanding and honest. The cinematography truly stands out as the star, making this film into a visual delight.

The story follows the new wife of village doctor, Emma Bovary (Mia Wasikowska), who finds herself bored of the limited entertainments of a 19th century French provincial town. Her disappointment in her situation soon drives her to live outside the appropriate rules of society. Wasikowska is allowed in this film to stretch her trademark understated performance, and she embraces both the initial quiet resignation and the later defiant fury that defines the character. Madame Bovary is not an easy character to empathise with, especially in comparison to her caring and well-meaning husband, but Barthes chooses to take away much of the original emphasis on Monsieur Bovary ...

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London Film Festival: The Drop, Décor, X+Y

Posted on Sunday October 12, 2014, 11:27 by Helen O'Hara

The Drop

There’s something beautiful about the way that deceased actors can live on in their films. Philip Seymour Hoffman is currently in cinemas with A Most Wanted Man and has two Hunger Games sequels still to come, despite his sudden death this year. In the same vein, James Gandolfini posthumously wowed critics with romance Enough Said and now gives us his swan song with solid noir thriller The Drop.

Gandolfini is Cousin Marv, the owner of a popular Brooklyn drinking hole, staffed by Bob (Tom Hardy) and a regular “drop” for criminal cash handovers. Their business is running swimmingly under the control of some Chechen gangsters, until a suspicious robbery and Bob’s discovery of a stray dog throw several bloodied spanners into the works.

The story comes from a novel by Dennis Lehane, whose work has appeared in cinematic form many times, including Gone Baby Gon...

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London Film Festival: Men, Women & Children; Mr Turner; The Possibilities Are Endless

Posted on Saturday October 11, 2014, 11:59 by Helen O'Hara

Jason Reitman brings together an impressive cast in Men, Women & Children, a feature that has ambitious plans to tackle the impact of technology on modern relationships. It's a disappointment then that the film feels muddled in its execution despite the best efforts of the actors.

The film is an ensemble drama, focusing on separate characters' individual plotlines whilst stringing them all together by the association of a single shared town. Bored married couples, tormented teens and worried parents all face the ambiguous qualities of the internet and technology.

The problem first lies with the name of the film, which is itself misleading. The action revolves around a clash of cultures between adults and teenagers, not children, and the younger generation in the film are very much coming to terms with their burgeoning adulthood. Unfortunately, the sheer number of separate stories mean that the most interesting characters get very little screen time. Not only that, ...

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London Film Festival: The Goob, Something Must Break

Posted on Friday October 10, 2014, 12:28 by Helen O'Hara

British social realism comes to a Norfolk field in The Goob, which is the debut feature from Guy Myhill. It’s a film that boasts a lot of atmosphere, but very little in the way of significant plot as it traces a dysfunctional family over one sun-drenched summer.

The presence of Prometheus star Sean Harris looms large over every moment of the film. Harris plays Womack, the aggressive, intolerant boyfriend of Janet (Sienna Guillory). When he isn’t cheating on Janet or masturbating in his truck, Womack can usually be found verbally abusing Goob (Liam Walpole). With one hand permanently resting on his crotch and the other poised for a fistfight, Harris is excellent, helping to imbue the film with the consistently unsettling feeling that we are witnessing the calm before an inevitable, violent storm. Unfortunately, the payoff is little more than a light breeze.

Myhill’s script is like an excitable child. Every time it starts to chisel away t...

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London Film Festival: Timbuktu, White God, Listen Up Philip

Posted on Friday October 10, 2014, 11:53 by Helen O'Hara

Contrary to popular opinion, film festivals are not just an excuse for critics to go out, get merry and make bad decisions. That does happen, of course, and more than we should admit, but the main reason for festivals' existence is to promote new and interesting films from all over the world to eager audiences. So to escape the downpours that are plaguing the big smoke, I hit the cinemas hard.

Timbuktu

First up was Timbuktu, a witty but incredibly brutal film that chronicles a fundamentalist Muslim group that takes over the titular town and the repercussions it has on everyone. With the rise of Isis over the last year, Timbuktu feels like essential viewing. Discussions revolving around interpreting the Qu'ran, Sharia Law and Allah are all punctuated by scenes of both distressing violence or candid normality – football, local gossip and farming practices are all brought to the fore. Fragmented stories become tied together through ingenious camera work and strong imagery....

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Venice 09: The Movie Orgy, Plus Awards Round-Up

Posted on Sunday September 13, 2009, 19:51 by Damon Wise

The awards were handed out last night (Saturday), and there were few raised eyebrows when it was heard that the big award had gone to Lebanon, a tense, atmospheric war movie set entirely inside a tank containing four rookie Israeli soldiers during the first days of the 1982 conflict. I didn't get to see it, but I hear it will be in the London Film Festival, along with Women Without Men, an offbeat drama from Iran that divided audiences with its pace and strange use of magic realism (a character dies, is buried, and then mysterious rises from the grave – apparently to no one's surprise). I saw half of the other winners, though, and agreed strongly with both the main acting choices. Colin Firth, as I have said elsewhere, is overwhelmingly terrific in A Single Man, and it might be worth putting Bafta bets on him now, assuming the film gets a release in time to qualify....

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Earlier Posts  

RECENT POSTS

London Film Festival 2014: Fury And Difret
By Phil de Semlyen

London Film Festival 2014: Mommy, Song of the Sea, A Little Chaos
By Helen O'Hara

London Film Festival: Whiplash, Son Of A Gun, Foxcatcher
By Helen O'Hara

London Film Festival 2014: Testament of Youth, Ping Pong Summer, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them
By Helen O'Hara

London Film Festival: The Duke Of Burgundy, Gente De Bien, Love Is Strange
By Helen O'Hara


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