60th London Film Festival – Preview Round-Up
The LFF is thrown open to the press and industry for two weeks before the public can get their hands on tickets. Here is Close-Up’s guide to what’s hot and what’s not from the vast array of films available. The titles are arranged in their strands as designated by the LFF:
(tbc, 92min, USA, Dir: Justin Kelly, Cast: James Franco, Christian Slater)
The words ‘based on a true story’ often precede eye-opening films and documentaries; even in regards to a subject as alien as the machinations of the gay porn industry in the mid-2000s. Possibly without difficulty, it is probably best to know as little about this researchable story as possible. From the creepy grooming from Christian Slater to the paranoiac ‘Viper Brother’ James Franco, the events are bizarre and acknowledge the clichés associated with porn. As Slater reels in the prodigal ‘Brent Corrigan’ into his world, Franco and Keegan Allen are living a simultaneously precarious lifestyle and the two pairs are drawn together. This is an examination of, on the face of it, four troubled men in a troubling business. The result is very compelling, if a little graphic. ‘Dare’ is a self-reviewing strand from the LFF on this occasion – probably one not to attend with your mother.
(15, 132min, India, Dir: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Cast: Harshvardhan Kapoor, Salyami Kher)
Blending the classic tragic Punjabi romance ‘Mirza Sahiban’ with a rather blunt reimagining of ‘Romeo & Juliet’, this film is inflated to an epic scale that switches between two versions of the same hybrid story. If this sounds a little strange and convoluted, that’s because it is. One strand is a CGI videogame-style battle of Classical proportions and the other is set in a vibrant contemporary Jaipur. The musical soundscape is arresting, doing most of the heavy-lifting in creating a degree of credence to the augmentation of the simple narrative. To add to the Shakespearean twist there is even a Chorus in a courtyard providing sung commentary on events as they unfold. It’s ambitious, vivid and an assault on the senses. However, it doesn’t quite hit the bullseye.
(tbc, 173min, Romania-France, Dir: Cristi Puiu, Cast: Mimi Branescu, Judith State)
Spare yourself three hours of reading subtitles by dodging this particular title which has pretentions above its station. A stultifying static camera follows a large Romanian family at the forty-day traditional reunion after the death of the patriarch. The eye of the camera is meant to represent the spectre of the dead father ‘saying goodbye’ to his family, with doors opening and shutting representing inordinate kevels of metaphorical symbolism. However, without the director explaining this to you, it just feels like three hours trapped in one small apartment with all of your family arguing; an experience which you may prefer to wait until Christmas for.
(tbc, 97min, Norway, Dir: Erik Skjoldbjaerg, Cast: Agnes Kittelsen, Henrik Rafaelsen)
Here is a thoroughly solid and well-executed psychological drama. It has an air of a detective story and has a few shocks, but it does not quite class it as a thriller as there is no real mystery to it – the interest is all gathered inside Dag’s head. It’s a great slow-burner with Trond Neilson as Dag onscreen for practically every scene. It intrigues constantly as to why a fire chief’s son would set fires in order to extinguish them. Clues abound in the beautiful landscape of Finsland, where 800 people all know each other. The opening sequence is sure to singe your eyebrows. Give it a go, but it might not make the final list with such a plethora of mainstream flicks at the festival.
A Dark Song
(tbc, 99min, Ireland-UK, Dir: Liam Gavin, Cast: Steve Oram, Catherine Walker)
Hmm, this is a weird one and not in a good way. An extremely contrived preamble in which black magic and the occult are apparently possible in contemporary society leads Sophia to hire a beanie-wearing Mr. Solomon to aid her in a dark ritual of some kind. It takes itself way too seriously and is overloaded with creaking doors and shadows. The ending is in-keeping with the premise but only really leads to Sophia annoyingly learning an eye-rolling ‘profound’ lesson from the whole experience. Go and see Into The Forest instead, or even Pyromaniac for more interesting versions of this type of claustrophobic psychological drama. No ancient chalk circles in those…
I Am Not A Serial Killer
(15, 104min, Ireland-UK, Dir: Billy O’Brien, Cast: Max Records, Christopher Lloyd, Laura Fraser)
For more information look out for our long-form review, coming soon. (Hint, it’s a positive one.)
Into The Forest
(15, 103min, France-Sweden, Dir: Gilles Marchand, Cast: Jeremie Elkaim, Timothe Vom Dorp)
Scandi is cool and the French are pretty cool, even if the British don’t like to admit it. So when a French father takes his sons on a hiking trip to Sweden it would be easy to think this was going to be one hell of a holiday. However, things become pretty dark and a building distrust towards the dad sets the (actually beautifully tranquil) scene for something harrowing to happen. It’s quite slow which is a little annoying and it takes an awful long time to find answers to the clues thrown up along the way, if indeed there are answers to find. Some may find this too unsatisfying, but there are other ways to view the experience: for instance, the refreshing way in which the film does not spoon-fed every detail. There’s a lot of confusion, or what might be dubbed ‘multiplicity’ to the ending. The haunting and haunted presence of young Timothé Vom Dorp as Tom is particularly interesting. This will divide; it’s not a banker if you are looking to please everyone with your festival picks.
We Are X
(tbc, 102 min, UK-USA-Japan, Dir: Stephen Kijak, Cast: (as themselves) Yoshiki, Toshi)
A remarkable documentary charting the incredible story of the band ‘X Japan’ brings one of Asia’s most avant-garde rock bands under a Western lens. As Gene Simmons of ‘Kiss’ remarks, they could have been the world’s biggest band, bigger the ‘The Rolling Stones’ had they an English-language speaking genesis. Most inspiring is the background to Yoshiki, the band’s talismanic frontman, as he battled against the death of his father and constant crippling pain. Pain so bad, as the footage shows, he would often collapse after the climax to live shows. With scenes depicting lined streets of crying fans when a bandmember left, makes Robbie leaving ‘Take That’ look like a children’s tea party; X Japan are more than just a set of musicians. Told primarily through Yoshiki himself, it’s a fascinating insight into a concert-level pianist who thrashes drums with a neck-brace as well as a demonstration of how they transcend music in Japan, much like Yoshiki’s idol David Bowie did the world over.
All This Panic
(tbc, 80min, USA, Dir: Jenny Gage, Cast: (as themselves) Lena M., Dusty Rose Ryan, Ginger Leigh Ryan)
Wow, what a brilliant documentary depicting three years in the real lives of a set of Brooklyn girls. They candidly discuss with each other, or directly, everything from boys, sex, parties, “all this panic” over college, drink, and drugs to family, love, life and even death. It’s profound, sweet and worrying. This is not just a film for girls as it discusses the pressure of modern adolescence both earnestly and humorously through Jenny Gage’s brilliant vision. It is also beautifully shot, with Gage there are no ‘Diary Room’ style vlogs which would break the fluid movement between the group of girls. The finish is actually very filmic. It is voyeuristic and the cinematography actually suggests a little articiality. However, the candour of the girls as they open up to the camera somehow remains staunchly truthful. It’s miniature Lena and the Girls, but real life. This needs to go near the very top of the smaller films available to see.
First Feature Competition
(15, 106min, France-Qatar, Dir: Houda Benyamina, Cast: Oulaya Amamra, Majdouline Idrissi)
This slick debut from Benyamina is a social commentary on the deprivation of urban France brought to the screen with tremendous warmth. This is generated through the two teenage girls, the wickedly ambitious Douina and the hilarious Maimouna. Cameraphone footage of their friendship opens the film and sets the tone for their mirthful bond throughout. However, sex, drugs and poverty are all factors in Douina’s attempt to rise from the urban slums. Much like Girlhood, a dangerous journey is tempered by the passionate friendship of the leads. With an ending that will break your heart, this is a little gem worth seeking out.
(12A, 107min, Japan, Dir: Makoto Shinkai, Cast: (voices) Ryunosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi)
For more information look out for our long-form review, coming soon. (Hint, it’s another positive one.)
For information on what’s on and when, visit the complete list of films on the BFI website here.