Archive | October, 2012

London Film Festival: Days Four to Seven

19 Oct

OK, so it’s been a while since you last heard from this blog- or as it has now become, me. I spent the first two days waiting for Dilworth to post, then I got a little freaked out and went looking for him. I admit it- I don’t know London. And hey, why should I? I’m a foreigner and I can’t get with the whole “chips/fries” thing you guys do here. I may not know the city, but I know Dilworth- after a coupla days spent around Leicester Square, I found him outside the Japan Centre on Haymarket with a can of cider begging for small change. I swear, give that man three minutes on his own and he turns into the biggest alcoholic since some apocryphal down and out picked up a dirty beanie and decided the old “quality v. quantity” equation didn’t apply to booze. I couldn’t get much sense out of him, but he claimed he’d taken up residence in an abandoned pub around the corner. It has no internet connection, he says. Yeah, right.

In the meantime, I’ve broken up my detective works with watching movies that fit perfectly into the categories good, bad and the ugly.

Of the last category, I think it’s fair to say that Swedish director Gabriela Pichler’s Eat Sleep Die, might be the most appropriate to mention; focussing on the daughter of an unemployed Montenegrin immigrant to Scania, it tells a heartbreaking story about a fringe of Swedish society that doesn’t once fall into fatalistic poverty porn but at the same time never gives us any true reason to celebrate. Ruzica Pichler is faultless as Rosi, the lead, and the photography is so ceaselessly inventive that it makes even the salad-packaging factory where she works so wonderfully cinematic that it made me want to wear a hairnet as a fashion statement. Then I realised I’d look like a dick.

White Elephant was another ugly motherfucker, this time set in Argentina and focussing on a flawed Belgian priest working in a favela. I enjoyed what I saw, but I fell asleep halfway through. Fuck Dilworth- I was up until 3am looking for him.

Of the movies which fell into the “bad” bracket… well, what can I say? It takes a lot of mismanaged money to get a movie that stinks into a film festival, but these were bad, and not in the Shaft way. Shot over a five-year period, Michael Winterbottom’s new picture Every Day took two interesting gimmicks (the five-year bit and some shit about the family patriarch being in jail) and did a great big NOTHING with them. Martin McDonagh’s Seven Psychopaths, on the other hand, took every gimmick in the postmodern director’s handbook and tried to do everything with them. It failed on almost every count. It turned stereotypes of both the Irish and the Californians into grotesque, annoying stereotypes of themselves while stringing us along with meta-plots that even a guy who’d just watched the seen-it-all-before new Rolling Stones documentary Crossfire Hurricane found it hard to care about. This, for me, marks the death of the Tarantino generation, the unfunny joke by which the Campbell’s Soup tin of split chronology and self-referential narrative was finally heated beyond boiling point. At one point, Quaker dog-kidnapper Hans (Christopher Walken) accuses author Martin (Colin Farrell) of writing women into his scripts only as window dressing- self-referential and knowing this may be, but it doesn’t make it OK. If you happened to be a female character in Seven Psychopaths, you’d either be killed off after thrity seconds of sex and dialogue or simply dismissed as a ‘cunt’. If this was funny maybe it wouldn’t be so offensive, but it’s not, so it is. It got a lot of laughs from the more jockish wing of the theatre- I’m guessing this is going to be a hit with the kind of cro-magnons who have a mistaken belief in their own intelligence. Oh yeah, and if you can find a more irritating supporting actor than Sam Rockwell in any movie that comes out in the next twelve months, I’ll buy you a beer.

What was good really was good, though. Movies like No by Pablo Larrain and Sergei Loznitsa’s In the Fog, for example. While the first completes the Chilean director’s Pinochet trilogy with the story of the General’s downfall at the hands of a stupidly handsome and annoyingly self-confident proto-Don Draper (Gael Garcia Bernal), narrating the transition to democracy through the medium of advertising and blurred film stock, the second must be Belarus’ first true Spaghetti Western . Just make that ‘lard’, rather than ‘spaghetti’ and attach the acronym ‘USSR’ onto the end of ‘Western’. This is also the best war movie since Downfall. Close-ups of partisans staring at trees and local policemen and ex-communist Nazi cronies also looking up trees must take up half the running time, but when the action comes, it comes like a man who hasn’t touched his penis in a decade. It’s the most devastating thing to come out of these parts since the Chernobyl fallout, and it has a body count to match. Enough with the national stereotypes- though I might just throw in a “Lukashenko” while I’m on the subject- if this movie does eventually screen in whatever country you have the misfortune to be in, you gotta see it. Ditto No- Larrain’s distinctive blend of mixed media and unconventional camera-work has come of age, and it defies everything anybody ever tiredly burps out about “Latin American Cinema”. It’s a feelgood picture with a feel-bad subtext- now that’s something I’d like to see more of.

Marcus P. Hernandez

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London Film Festival: Day Three

14 Oct

So Dilworth didn’t show up here last night, huh? He didn’t show up anywhere else, either- I came out of Lore and spent  20 minutes trying to get through to him on his cell. It went straight to voicemail, so I checked my A-Z and went down to Leicester Square to find him.

There are no tents in Leicester Square.

So I called his mom. She hasn’t seen him, but she says he called her to remind her to take out the trash. The way I see it, this is just unprofessionalism rather than something for your “bobbies”. Anyway, wanna hear about the movies I’ve seen?

If the amount of French shit “Digby” (I know you guys have some pretty WTF names over here, but that can’t be real) writes up here is any indication, I’m guessing you readers are pretty hot up on your croissant-munching art cinema, right? You’re gonna love Rust & Bone, the latest Jacques Audiard picture. I saw it at Cannes and I’ll most probably see it again. Trust me on this, it’s awesome. Audiard has a real genius for slipping in crucial viewing information through details in the mise-en-scène. You know the facts, but you can’t remember how you learned them- a lot like reading a primer in movie criticism after a college ketamine party. This movie opens with two figures walking up the kind of nowheresville street that could be anywhere between Saigon and San Diego. By the next scene, you know you’re in Belgium- how? Through reading the license plates of the cars that pass- they are the only images in focus. That got me scratching my head at Cannes, and it was good to clear it up in London. I could give you a plot synopsis, but for me the movie’s main shock comes too early on (and is waaaay too crucial to the rest of the narrative) to reveal to you poor saps of the general public.

I can’t tell you what happens in For no Good Reason, either, but that’s because I didn’t see it. I gave my ticket to a friend, who said it was ‘basically OK but all the cartoons made it too kooky’. This is a movie produced by Johnny Depp, for chrissakes- what do you expect? The idea is that Depp and the British artist Ralph Steadman sit around drinking beers (‘Raging Bitch’, specially produced by Steadman for the launch and very kindly distributed to members of the press at the screening) and talking about Steadman’s life. Sounds wild.

Antiviral is less- MUCH less- sedate. This is the directorial debut from Brandon “Son of David” Cronenberg, and lawdy is it nasty. Sometime in the near future, an extremely stylised clinic is charging customers for the privilege of being infected with celebrity viruses- and, we come to believe somehow, the suckers are lapping this helpful service up. Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) cuts a vampiric (if ginger) figure as a lab employee who steals and modifies traces of the viruses for sale on the black market. Courtesy of the biggest celebrity of them all, Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon), he’s about to shoot up more than he can stomach…

The cinematography has an ulra-clinical tone, which makes the movie look like a cross between Mary Harron’s American Psycho and an early ’90s Volkswagen commercial. It’s a near-perfect Horror picture, and if you need the proof, here it is: I stayed put in my chair for the duration, but I spent the next 15 minutes puking up in the john of the Hayward Gallery. I don’t do that often.

And then there was Grassroots. It’s a small-time political movie made by Jake and Maggie Gyllenhall’s pop that features Jason Biggs from American Pie playing nursemaid to a kooky hippie who wants to be governor of his neighbourhood in Seattle (Joel David Moore). The comedy is unfunny, the grammar is incorrect (think !?!?!?), the photography unimaginative and the acting and screenplay worse than your ex-best friend from school’s “hilarious” YouTube videos. Don’t go see it- let’s kick this genre of US indie flick off the life raft.

I saw François Ozon’s In the House today but Dilworth made it clear that HE was gonna write about it here. If you’re reading, big boy, knock yourself out. I liked it- a lot- by the way. He said the same for first-timer Jeremy Teicher’s Tall as the Baobab, for which I believe “Digby” has done interviews and everything. I didn’t see it.

I did see Zaytoun thoughSet in Lebanon in 1982, it’s the feelgood exotic hit of the year, an Israelo-Palestinian Slumdog Millionaire, if you like. Fahed (Abdallah El Akal) is a preteen Palestinian refugee zealously involved in the activities of the PLO after the death of his father in an Israeli airstrike. After an enemy fighter jet is shot down over the camp, Fahed challenges its captured pilot (Stephen Dorff) to lead him back across the border so he can see the village his family came from for himself. It’s corny as hell, but I wasn’t the only one reaching for the (insufficient) Kleenex supply by the end. This movie is almost heroically mawkish, and it totally works. At the least, it deserves a nomination for one of those patronising minor Oscar categories.

Midnight’s Children is the other side of the cultural imperialist coin. It stays faithful to Salman Rushdie’s novel (no surprise, seeing as it was him who wrote the screenplay), but sucks it dry of every drop of its grotesque glory. The straight reading also gives it a 3-hour running time- you have-what?-70, 80 or 90 years to live. You can do better things with them, because apart from the deadpan humour of the Rawalpindi scenes in which our hero Saleem (Satya Bhabha) plays the foil to his uncle General Zulfikar’s (Rahul Bose) ridiculous military strutting, this is cinema as imagined by a clipart-crazed travel brochure. I’m telling you to read the book- which I swear I actually have. Just because I’m American doesn’t mean I’m illiterate, you snobbish bastards.

Marcus P. Hernandez

London Film Festival: Day One

11 Oct

WTF?!? That bastard Dilworth DIDN’T go see Frankenweenie? He won the frickin’ toss up! AND he told me he loved Tim Burton- love Tim Burton. I gotta come clean- Edward Scissorhands changed my life, and for all the failures, Burton is a genius. You don’t miss his premier. Fact.

I haven’t even got onto the shit he spewed about ME. Festival or no festival, who wants to live in a tent? There are people out there busting their asses just to get out of tents, for chrissakes. Who cares if I want to stay in a hotel for ten days? My room in the Gloucester Road Holiday Inn isn’t exactly Babylon, I’ve gotta say- in fact, it looks a little like an annexe of the Big Brother house from  Reality, Matteo Garrone’s (Gomorrah) new movie about reality TV, life, selling fish, going crazy and stuff like that. More of that in a second, once I’m through with Dilworth…

His ‘American colleague’? They pay me three times more where I work (and yeah, I am under contract- sad to tell y’all that ‘Marcus’ ain’t my birth nameΦ), and anyways, I only know him from covering Venice last year. Must I mention that I’m 24 years younger than he is? Asshole.

I may not be qualified to tell you I’m at the center of things, but this is because I’m back at the hotel listening to the new John Cale CD (awesome) and typing this onto my Mac Book Air (because I can afford one, Dilworth). What I can write is that have actually seen some of the movies screened today. Wanna hear?

The Hunt is the new feature from Thomas Vinterberg, the guy who made Festen. I haven’t enjoyed his movies for years, but this was something, and make no mistake- guys, if you don’t leave the theater with your balls in your hands and a reflex to hide your face from every preteen kid who walked past, you should most probably be locked up. The story has Lukas (Mads Mikkelsen, from Casino Royale), a recently-divorced preschool teacher, getting caught up in a web of very serious accusations by a fuck-up, throwaway remark from one of his students- can you call a three year old a “student”?- and watching everything around him fall to pieces. The movie is shot in that blurry-then-super clear European style, of which Vinterberg was a pioneer, and the suggestions given by what we actually SEE are problematic. Did Lukas molest these kids? We just don’t know, and even without the fudged outline, Vinterberg has produced his best movie in ten years. It makes me glad to be a child-phobic homosexual, I’m telling you.

Then there was Amour: well, what can I say? It’s a Michael Haneke movie. It won the Palme d’or at Cannes. It gave me an early-onset midlife crisis. I’m on expenses only for this assignment, for chrissakes.

We (members of the press- suck on it) were loaded with an embargo before writing about Blood the new feature from your beloved BBC. Seriously, what is it with you Brits? You produce good enough character actor fodder for Hollywood, and then go take it as if it’s the Lord’s blessing? GET SOME FUCKING CONFIDENCE! Your commercial movies stink- and none stinks worse than this pile of crap. Paul Bettany is totally unconvincing as a smalltown cop who kills an innocent suspect with some help from his improbable brother (Stephen Graham from Boardwalk Empire) and descends into an ass-wipingly clichéd moral crisis. The photography is dark and moody (surprise surprise) and the dialogue is as awkward as a bum in the Ritz. To see Al Capone reduced to this shit is more embarrassing for an American than the whole 8 years in Vietnam put together.

And then there was Reality- now THIS is a movie. If you’ve seen Gomorrah, you’ll know what to expect from a technical point of view. If not, just see the damn thing already. Luciano (Aniello Arena) is an outgoing guy who runs a fish store in Naples. He likes his life. He sells fish. He goes to parties. He does a transvestite act. And yet… and yet… when his family bully him into auditioning for Big Brother, he’s at first reluctant and then OBSESSED. He gets through to the second round and is called to the sacred ground of Cinècitta. He’s sure he’s made it into the final selection. So he waits. And waits. And waits. And then… all I can say is that he gets WAY too into the Orwellian implications of the show he’s competing for. This is a parable about the fever of attention, the lure of celebrity and the shopping habits of Romans on holiday. And for all that, it’s just waiting to be called a masterpiece. And I don’t do that when I’m writing for ”different” British wordpress blogs under pseudonyms.

It’s one day in, but already it looks a lot like the London Film Festival is trying- and almost succeeding- to get itself taken seriously. Cute. I’ve had a party- no, seriously, a party. I must’ve drunk twelve cognac miniatures back there. Could Dilworth do that? Ask again when he fails to post his copy tomorrow night.

Thanks. You’ve been great- and don’t answer back.

Marcus P.Hernandez

ΦI wanted to pass myself for a Brit- but thanks to a certain SOMEBODY, the secret’s out. I’m happy, you betcha- hell, I can be as much of a dumbass yankee as you Europeans seem to think I am! Kiss my ass, Dilworth.

London Film Festival: Camping it up

10 Oct

… And so the London Film Festival begins. The excitement is palpable- And I should know. For the next week and a half, I shall be living in a tent in Leicester Square, surveying the crowds and accosting movie goers, assuring them that yes, I am a professional film critic and no, I don’t want their spare change (although if they have 50p, it wouldn’t hurt). As I’m sure you’ll come to infer, I take these events rather more seriously than my American colleague Marcus P.Hernandez. He’s staying at the Holiday Inn on Gloucester Road- does he not know what a festival is? A hint of jealousy, perhaps, clouds my judgement, but it is I, Jon Dilworth, who has chosen to be here: in more ordinary circumstances, my mother and I inhabit a very fine second floor flat in Tufnell Park, thankyou very much.

Perhaps I should explain how I came to be here: I do not know Digby well, but I like to perform the odd favour to the youngsters. This blogging lark certainly seems to be catching on, and I need to bring myself up to date: I am 54- by no means beyond the call of duty, but nonetheless susceptible to being left behind. For those new to my work, I am the author of the now-classic Smoking Cigarettes, Wearing Hats and Talking Rubbish: A Beginners’ Guide to New Wave Film, as well as the unfairly overlooked Naked Men, Naked Men: The Cinema of Ken Russell, and my 30-year career has taken me across Europe in the services of many a publication; I have supped with the great and the good and hobnobbed with the most foul-mouthed of industry figures from Los Angeles to Lahore. And yet hear I am in Leicester Square, depressed by the knowledge that it is only my duty to you, readers, that keeps me from slipping into the Underground Station and taking the last Northbound train, from escaping the White Lightning, the pale fire and the students outside my tent who won’t shut up about something called ‘dub step’.

But I shall stay put. Until the Police force me off, I shall stay unwaveringly loyal to you; I shall brave the drunks, the fools, the cold- the dirt collected on the mean streets of W1 will on its own keep me stuck into my cinema seat. I shall live to review, and review to live. Unless, that is, Hernandez gets there before me.

As for the film… well, I’m afraid to admit that I didn’t see Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie because I was asleep and when I did try to enter the cinema, the security guards told me that vagrants weren’t welcome. More fool them! By all accounts, though, it wasn’t quite Citizen Kane. 

Anyway, I must go- I must call my Mother to make sure she’s fed the cat. I look forward to bringing you all the latest.

Yours,

Jon Dilworth