We Are the Best! – LFF Film Review

We Are The Best

“Fun” is not a word I use a lot when talking about the film festival experience. Often films are better described by words such as “worthy”, “important”, “dull”, “oscar-worthy”, “impenetrable”, or “borderline pornographic” but with We Are the Best! there really is no better word to apply to it than “fun”.

It is Stockholm in the early 1980s, everyone is wearing amazing jumpers, and punk is dead. Or is it? Two young girls, Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin), team up to form their own punk band purely to spite a group of boys who want to use the same rehearsal space. With no musical skills to speak of they recruit friendless guitar-playing Christian Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne) and a new punk band (NOT a girl band) is formed.

The film focusses on the trio as they rehearse their only song (an angry tirade against sport and other less important issues like poverty), punk up their hair, and grow together, and occasionally apart, as friends. Incidents and plot points that might otherwise be taken too seriously are handled with a lighthearted touch as the girls experiment with alcohol, flirt with punk boys, and get ready to perform at a Christmas rock concert.

This is a film with no deep message, that doesn’t ask you to feel anything but joy at the antics of three excitable young punks as they try to rebel against a world that isn’t very oppressive. The film is gorgeously shot by director Lukas Moodysson; the colours are vibrant and one rooftop view of a wintry Sweden is breathtaking. My only criticism is that without a strict plot to adhere to the film runs roughly 10 minutes too long and feels a little baggy in the middle.

Like putting on a warm, slightly baggy, jumper We Are the Best! is good clean fun and a real treat when sampled in amongst some of the London Film Festival’s grittier offerings.

We Are the Best! is in UK cinemas from 18th April 2014.

BFI London Film Festival 2013

The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears – LFF Review

The Strange Colour of Your Body's Tears

I don’t think I was properly equipped to watch this film let alone review it. The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears is a French giallo-inspired body horror sexual thriller ordeal that spent the better part of two hours putting me through a lot of brutal images and intense tension that failed to relent from the brutal opening titles to the films bloody close.

The plot, as I best managed to grasp it, revolves around Dan (Klaus Tange) a man whose wife has gone missing somewhere within his apartment building. As Dan hunts for his wife he meets a variety of neighbours who each seem to have a violent and sexual tale to tell as the very walls of the building seem to emenate a visceral and violent sexual energy.

Writer/directors Bruno Forzani and Hélène Cattet have concocted a film that is both beautifully crafted and almost unbearable to watch. The images are beautifully composed with creative use of colours, kaleidoscopic imagery, split screens, and frantic editing which is all married with meticulous sound design to culminate in a horror film that is as well crafted as fine art but as terrifying as any film I have ever seen.

The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears easily beats any horror I have seen before in terms of how ruined it left me feeling. While I could never quite look away I felt as though the film was putting me through an ordeal as Dan got closer to discovering the truth about his wife and scenes became endlessly more violent in a deeply intimate way. I felt every onscreen cut and quite often silently begged the film to end. Some audience members didn’t wait for the film to finish but provided their own finale by simply walking out of the cinema.

I can’t honestly say that The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears was an enjoyable experience but it most certainly was an experience. It was an unrelenting beast wrought with the kind of tension that has a physical as well as an emotional impact. I feel beaten up and abused by the film and am not sure if I can forgive it.

How many stars? I have absolutely no idea.

1-2-3-4-5-Stars

The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears is in UK cinemas from 11th April 2014.

BFI London Film Festival 2013

The Double – LFF Film Review

The Double

Only a few minutes into Richard Ayoade’s second film as director I wrote in my note book in capital letters “I LOVE THIS” and ninety minutes later I did not disagree with myself. Ayoade’s first feature Submarine was a hilarious story of young love that was very much grounded in reality but shot with a distinctive style that stood it out from the crowd. With The Double Ayoade has truly evolved as a film-maker as he has taken his unique eye for film and run with it to create a surreal masterpiece that David Lynch would be proud of.

In The Double Jesse Eisenberg plays Simon James, a man who is so dull and unremarkable that no one notices when his exact double, James Simon, starts working at his office and slowly begins to steal his work, win over his coworkers, and steal the love of his life. The Double is set in a universe similar to ours but slightly askew as the world resembles a vision of the future from forty years ago. The technology is timeless in that it has not nor ever will exist; computers are resplendent with knobs and dials and the underground train stops inside the office building. Ayoade has created an entire world in which to set his doppelgänger thriller.

While the entire cast, and many more of Ayoade’s friends, pop up in minor roles this is far removed from Submarine. Everything within The Double from the lighting and set design to dialogue and camera movements is heavily stylised and the film moves with an occasionally dreamlike, occasionally frenetic pace. At first the film was a little jarring, and I never quite found myself connecting with some of the characters, but this is a film that isn’t here to patronise its audience so you have to hold on tight with both hands and let the film take you where it wants you to go.

In this bizarre, almost dystopian reality, we watch as Eisenberg struggles to battle his much more successful double. While Simon finds himself gradually removed from people’s memories and his employer’s computer system his double James is being heaped with praise and is romancing every woman in Simon’s life. Simon’s life was bleak enough as it was without someone coming along and showing him how he could have been living it. As Simon finds himself pushed to the brink of his mind and his existence the conflict comes to a head and the film ended with me just the wrong side of baffled. The only trouble with truly surreal cinema is that it will never quite connect on the same level as a film about a young boy falling in love.

I really can’t do justice to the unique visuals of The Double here in writing. Or for that matter the sound design which was INCREDIBLE, trust me. Instead you are going to have to seek out this gem for yourself when it get’s a UK release.

Some may find it impenetrable but I absolutely love this timeless masterpiece. Slightly too baffling for five stars but a bold and brave film by a director who seems set to continually impress and surprise. Actually… go on then, have your five stars.

The Double is in UK cinemas from 4th April 2014.

BFI London Film Festival 2013

20 Feet From Stardom – Film Review

20 Feet From Stardom

Left to its own devices then 20 Feet From Stardom would come across as a solid documentary about an interesting subject. Focussing on the life and career of the backup singer 20 Feet From Stardom explores how these underrated performers have over the years been both celebrated and exploited and tries to explain what stops these singers from breaking out as artists in their own right, or why they might not want to.

The film is fun and occasionally quite touching but more importantly features and epic soundtrack filled with dozens of tunes that will have you dancing in your seat and joggling the legs of the person sitting behind you. Vanessa Feltz took the role of dancer and I was the joggled when I saw the film but I don’t bear a grudge. If you want a fun hour and a half spend in the company of women with big personalities and even bigger voices then 20 Feet From Stardom is the documentary for you. Heck, it even won the Oscar for Best Documentary as predicted by me!

Sadly it is that very Oscar win that lets the film down. Without an Oscar win I would have enjoyed the film in isolation without over thinking it and could have moved on with my day. But no, it went and beat The Act of Killing to the top award and as such has become firmly lodged in my head as a film that must be superior to Killing and justify its win. Unfair as this maybe that is how my brain works.

Unfortunately The Act of Killing was an inventive and important feature in which Indonesian death-squad leaders were asked to dramatise their mass killings for a non-existent film project in the hope that they would finally be able to understand the horror of what they had done. Killing plays with the genre and as a result in a peerless examination of human nature and all the flaws and cruelty that come with it. By comparison 20 Feet From Stardom is much more traditional, staid, and ultimately trivial.

On its own 20 Feet From Stardom is a lot of fun but in context lacks enough punch to compete with the best.

On its own:
In context:
20 Feet From Stardom is in UK cinemas from today.

The Machine – Film Review

The Machine

After last week’s thoroughly mediocre releases of Starred Up and Labor Day I decided to have a look at new British sci-fi The Machine. A lot of the reviews I’ve seen on the smaller sites are very positive, I was supposed to review it weeks ago, and I have a hankering to give something above three stars. Three stars are not fun. Three star films are not bad enough to rant about nor good enough to gush about. Three star films are only of mild concern; nothing to write home about and tricky to blog about.

Sadly (spoiler alert) The Machine is very much a three star film.

Set in a near future version of Britain The Machine focusses on artificial intelligence developed by the Ministry of Defence as a scientist played by an angsty Toby Stephens builds humanoid robot killing machines for the good of mankind. Initially working on human-robot hybrids the troubled doctor eventually builds a robot with the digital personality, and shapely form, of his fellow scientist played by Caity Lotz.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that creating robotic killing machines to protect mankind ends up not quite going to plan.

The Machine Still

In many ways that is the film’s major flaw; the sheer lack of surprise from start to finish. With the burgeoning success of HeKniSciFi we have collectively moved on from the days when robotics were looked at as a fearful development and everyone stopped worrying so much about the machines rising against us. This isn’t the era of RoboCop and Terminator any more… Except it is as both of these once nostalgic franchises rumble on into the 21st century. Regardless, the idea of mankind playing God and finding themselves in trouble is not new and The Machine has little new to offer to the familiar storyline.

Weirdly The Machine actually felt like a film made back in the heyday of its thematic predecessors. The soundtrack has a definite feel of 80s sci-fi to it and the general visual style is impressive but somehow fails to hide the low budget nature of the film. The overall effect was not that of a film released in 2014 but of a classic piece of sci-fi made a few decades ago. Maybe this is to the film’s credit, maybe I should actually embrace the traditional feel of the film and enjoy it for what it is; a solid example of a sci-fi thriller made on a tiny budget.

Sadly the film failed to connect and left me with nothing to gush about and no real rant either beyond my own personal bugbears. Three stars it is then.

The Machine – in Cinemas / VoD 21 March and DVD/Blu-ray 31 March www.themachinemovie.com