BFI: London Film Festival 2020...Our coverage
by David Anderson Cutler
It's our favourite time of the year...LONDON!!!
Bugger...we're not going to be in London [physically]...but, we will be....in spirit, with Gin.
Our watch-list has been finalised...[don't be so silly] of course, there will be a few minor tweaks, changes, additions and subtractions...but, these are [some of] the films that will occupy our multiple senses for the next 12 days...
Join us, watch along...agree/disagree, debate/argue, praise/protest...just email us at [email protected] if you want your comments to appear on this page...
Let the festival begin...
by Chaitanya Tamhane
Knowing absolutely nothing about Indian classical music, The Disciple - on paper - presents itself [for an non-aficionado] as a rather 120-minute daunting task. But, yet...it has something rather alluring. So, with open mind and heart...hoping to be educated...perhaps, [even] enlightened...the ticket bought, the embarkation began.
There is an awful lot of 'singing' - had no idea if it was good or bad, heard many a flat note and many a weird run...in truth, it all sounded discordantly similar. But...that is the point of the film, to the untrained ear...this music cannot be appreciated. Even, to those trained ears, some [people] cannot differentiate between the sublime and the mediocre! Critics...they really are monsters!
This disciple is mediocre...who has sacrifices a sizable chunk of his life to the dedication of this ancient art-form. To become a cause célèbre means little notoriety, less renown and the financial dividends are meagre. The is an art-form for the worthy...success and appreciation are modest. Quick fame and fortune are not an option...and, this is where the film switches up a gear...this ancient art-form [actually] can be modernised, can create fame and fortune. Like everything...evolution is in command, those who don't embrace it are left behind and, eventually, become extinct.
One of the most surprising elements to Chaitanya Tamhane's film is...this disciple is a rather unpleasant chap...single-minded, dedicated...and, talentless. A scathing statement is made without any subtlety whatsoever. This is an in-your-face message...evolve, adapt...or die. Hey, it happened with Latin!
A finely directed film...with performances to match. It's not exactly pleasant...but, it certainly makes a stoic point...against elitism...and, for evolution.
by Miranda July
Off-beat, down-beat...call it what you will. Kajillonaire will certainly divide opinion...we absolutely loved it.
Basically, this is a lesbian love story that takes its time [it has the same kind of vibe as Little Miss Sunshine]...and, that time is taken up by the ludicrous and the inspired. Bubbles [aka the leak]...would you live in a place that leaked bubbles?!? Lots [and lots] of bubbles!?! Miranda July was certainly thinking [way] outside the box when she came up with that one...hey, filmmakers, that's what gets you noticed...thinking outside of that box! Surprise the critics, energize their flummoxed asses...we all want fresh...this is deadpan fresh.
The comedy is sleight...it's more visual than visceral...that [in itself] is how clever this film is...this is not about feelings. This is about learning to feel, about wanting to feel...about wanting to be wanted...to be felt. Evan Rachel Wood goes way beyond what you would expect...the thrice Oscar nominated Debra Winger...well, she delivers a downplaying, deadpan masterclass.
In truth, you'll either get Kajillionare or not...those lucky enough to get it...will understand.
by Steve McQueen
The question is: Why has it taken so long to bring this story to the big screen? Institutional embarrassment perhaps!?! Probably...that is, until someone had the balls to tell it to a new generation. Steve McQueen not only has the balls, he has the talent to do this story the justice it deserves.
The role of the 'beat' police officer has changed [rather radically] throughout the years. Once admired, latterly feared...now, if you can find one, tolerated [wholly dependent upon the neighbourhood]. Mangrove is set during the nadir of public opinion regarding their not-so-friendly beating Bobbies. The main culprit being the contemptible and corrupt PC Frank Pulley - a foul officer who couldn't progress further in the Force - because he couldn't pass the Police examination. So, with his limited intelligence...he bullied, intimidated and terrorised the Black community of Notting Hill. How he avoided dismissal from the force is a prime example of institutional cronyism...that still exists today. Will we [as in 'they'] ever learn!?!
After the essential background, Mangrove becomes a riveting courtroom battle. Heralding that well-used phrase: The law is an ass. Indeed, to some, it may be...usually those who lose. Rather than the law being an ass, the writers has shown the beauty of the law when intelligence is applied to it. The 'ass' here is the procedure and the pomposity of those who practice and malpractice it! Some of the monologues - courtesy of the transcript - are, truly, inspiring and deeply emotional.
'Truth and Reconciliation' was Nelson Mandela's [noble] mantra...reconciliation will always be difficult without justice. There are many who have evaded justice - here, most notably, PC Frank Pulley...isn't about time we named, shamed and blamed these people publicly...for the continuing sorry state of affairs that was then and, is, ashamedly...still now.
Of course Black Live Matter. Black histories matter. Mangrove matters.
by Ming-liang Tsai
An example of slow cinema. In this instance...excruciatingly slow.
The film is book-ended by two immensely static shots...first, the opening, an older man stares out of a window [accompanied by an indescribable cacophony]...it's motionless and goes on for far too long. You would be forgiven in thinking that the film is stuck, buffering...but, there is no little buffering sign. Second, the ending, a younger man waits at a bus stop...for an absolute eternity, for a bus that never arrives. The end.
What goes in-between...domestic doldrums. It all leads to the highlight of the film...a same-sex, inter-generational, possibly gay4pay [possibly not] 20 minute, erotic massage...replete with the happy ending, Well, he did pay for it. The only problem is...it's not, in the slightest, erotic. Neither is it pornographic...for that we can be thankful, but it might have spiced things up a bit! There is minimal dialogue...and, the little there is...is deliberately un-subtitled. Oooh...it's that filmmakers' pretension reigning [redundantly] supreme.
Days is 2 very long hours of relentless tedium.
by Phyllida Lloyd
Possibly inspiring...but, to be truly...inspiring, innovation and invention need to be two vital ingredients, not just luck!
A self-build story that is built against a backdrop of domestic violence and socio-economic disparities. The socio-economic strand is a little difficult to accept...Herself is a cleaner for a wealthy doctor who gives her a chunk of her garden and a loan to build a house. The domestic violence is difficult to watch...but is, by far, the film's power...especially the long-term effects it has on children.
The Law gets a bit of a bashing...surrounding custody issues. But...Family Law is [and will always be] an unpredictable minefield of trip-wires. A child's safety is first and foremost...all avenues, all sides of the story have to be investigated to ensure that safety. This is where the film falters a little...he is an absolute swine of a man...but, does he have a legitimate cause for concern? Of course he does...but, the writers simply paint him as a spiteful, vengeful thug. However...they do deliver a line that every lawyer should heed: Ask better questions!
Herself is competent...in all departments. It just needed that special moment...when you just want to stand up, punch the air and cheer. A story that really did deserve a more satisfying [visual] ending.
by Talya Lavie
On paper...this sounded like a bland, newly-wed rom-com. On screen...it's works like a charm.
She, the newly-wed bride, is the Crème brûlée of high maintenance. He, the regretful groom, is the Brighton rock of indecisive dependence. Together, they are a mis-match...separately, they may [or may not] be pining for their respective exes...who met at their wedding and - seemingly - hit it off! She's as jealous as Hell...he, not so much [or, is he?].
Everything takes place over the course of one unimaginable night...a night that is crammed and stuffed with both the plausible and the wildly implausible. Talya Lavie drives her story straight down the daft street, round the roundabout leading to dark, murky alleyways...and, back again. Her imagination went into overdrive...and, without Avigail Harari, it all could have gone horribly wrong. She delivers a relentless force comique - a dizzying delight.
A surprising film...for all the right reasons!
The Painter and the Thief
by Benjamin Ree
There's nothing stranger than fact...especially when you manipulate the situation to your advantage! Ever heard the Francis Bacon and George Dyer myth? No? Watch Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon - or, watch this! They are remarkably similar!
Restorative justice is contentious at the best of times, even more so in the worst of times. Where - on that spectrum - does The Painter and the Thief lie? This is not about finding forgiveness for murder or violence...2 paintings were stolen by a relatively unknown artist. They meet...obviously, the artist wants to know where the paintings are...and, the thief hasn't a clue - due to his drug addled state! But...in his drug addled state, had the ability to meticulously remove each [rather large] painting from their frames...nail-by-nail, rather than by cutting! A few warning bells do ring throughout the film - why is she [the artist] being so kind? Why is she so gullible?
Look...if this thief had been a podgy wee man with no teeth, no hair and no personality...it is highly unlikely that she would be asking him to model for her! Karl [the thief] is a bad boy, a cheeky chappy, a lovable rogue...and, not too unpleasant on the eye! It's a relationship that is equally fascinating and bamboozling to watch. And that's the warning bell that really chimes...this is all being filmed. Is this a grandiose publicity stunt? The cynics may think so.
Whatever you may think...the final shot will make your jaw drop to the floor. The answer...is a little chilling, a touch creepy...wholly sad and painfully truthful.
by Josephine Decker
Eeew...what utterly ghastly people! Academics playing mind-games...it's both unpleasant and compelling.
The only question that has to be asked: What would Shirley Jackson have to say about this fictional account of herself and her life? A helluva lot...if this depiction is anything to go by. Her venom would be spewed - quite rightly - into the faces of those responsible.
By all accounts, she was neither bisexual nor lesbian - why portray her as such? This whole project - book and film - has that shabby stink of slash/fan-fiction about it - the writer of the book, Susan Scarf Merrell never met Ms Jackson...so, she created her own version of her! Why? Not only is this plagiarising someone's life...which is pretty bad form...but, to create such falsehood is downright disrespectful, irresponsible...even criminal.
It really is difficult to say anything complimentary about this film...yes, it is well-acted...but, with such erratic direction [and the concept as a whole]...not even the acting can save poor Shirley's reputation.
by Natalie Erika James
Indeed...a metaphorical horror that needed less metaphor and more story.
3 generations, 3 states of mind...and too much mother/daughter rivalry. Just get on with the horror! Patience...this is akin to waiting for the kettle to boil [powered] by candle-light. Does the patience pay off? It does...if you want to be unsubtly smacked repeatedly across the face by a great big giant metaphor...then, this is terrifying.
Dementia is terrifying...alas, this film is not. It is a debut feature by writer/director who directed better than she wrote...surprising when you see the litany of producers...none of whom employed their right to a re-write!
An above average film...in terms of where it is destined to be seen...The Horror Channel.
by Bassam Tariq
Perhaps...the performance of the festival. Riz Ahmed gives it absolutely everything.
I am Samuel
by Peter Murimi
The most weirdly framed documentary seen in recent times!
The film opens with graphic, gut-wrenching and horrific footage...of a public, ultra-violent, homophobic attack. Seemingly, these kind of attacks are a common occurrence in Nigeria. Peter Murimi certainly sets the tone of his film, from the off...this is not going to be pleasant. However, it ends with two, gay, grown men [joyfully] playing Hide & Seek...
What lies in between the harrowing start and the happy ending is...more bizarre than uninteresting. This is NOT about that poor man so brutally attacked and humiliated. This is not about that poor man's recovery. This is about Samuel...who was not brutally attacked...but, as he says himself, it could have been him! But...it wasn't.
Samuel's story is nothing surprising, it's the same-old same-old...tradition and religion doing their very best to screw up people's lives. Only, they actually don't screw up his life...after a bumpy moment, when his parents 'see the light' and cast him out...a couple of weeks later, after a phone-call, they are reunited and all is hunk dory. He even takes his partner to meet them and they end up playing hide and seek. The end.
Mr Murimi missed the boat with this one. Why he chose Samuel's story to tell is a question only he can answer. There was a roomful of young gay men, living in Lagos, living in fear...their stories sounded far more interesting than the one told. It really was a case of: Choose your [main] subject more wisely!
by Abel Ferrara
Laden with symbolism and mysticism...the result is a cryptic, incomprehensible mindf&*k!
Not got much to say about this...simply because, had no idea, not even an iota of what was going on. It's a dream, Abel Ferrara's dream...and, just like every other dream, it's personal and really doesn't need to be shared.
Yes...the cinematography is fantastic. Some of the imagery is inspired and controversial, well, it wouldn't be a Ferrara film without the obligatory controversy...and, alas, it all amounts to a monumental anti-climax. Make what you will of it...many have slapped their own interpretations down on paper...as futile as buying a cheap paperback entitled: Understand Your Dreams!
Only Abel Ferrara understands what the Dickens is going on.
Sound for the Future
by Matt Hulse
A toe-curling vanity project...bamboozling as to how and why this got funded by both Creative Scotland & England...
Never Gonna Snow Again
by Malgorzata Szumowska & Michal Englert
Is he the second coming or just a masseur with gifted fingers?
by Harry Macqueen
Be still my broken heart...two seasoned pros, do what they do best: Act.
by Lena Dunham, Tinge Krishnan & Ed Lilly
Think: Billions...with more grit, spit and sex!
by Matt Fifer & Kieran Mulcare
Troubled and damaged...a bisexual hypochondriac bares and shares his soul!
by Christian Petzold
A modern take on an old myth...it's quietly potent!
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
by Bill Ross IV & Turner Ross
Not pretty...nor, unfortunately, is it very interesting, unless you enjoy watching people get absolutely plastered!
by Jennifer Sheridan
This certainly keeps you guessing...could have benefited from a little more backstory, just a few holes that needed plugging.
If It Were Love
by Patric Chiha
A dance film that needed more dance!
by Fratelli D'Innocenzo
Life in the suburbs...painted with cruel brushstrokes and incredible bad taste.
by Bohdan Sláma
Last year, London Film Festival presented the harrowing The Painted Bird...this is an equally tortuous companion piece.
by Thomas Vinterberg
This is not just an emotional rollercoaster ride...but, one very special film indeed.
David Byrne's American Utopia
by Spike Lee
Seeing this at 9am was not ideal...dancing just after 9am made my day come alive. This film will make you come alive...genius.
by Ben Sharrock