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

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