LFF Day 3 – Columbus | Abracadabra | Golden Exits | Manifesto

Columbus

A slow but pleasant start to the day with Kogonada’s cinematic debut about a man from out of town (John Cho) visiting his sick father who meets a young woman (Haley Lu Richardson) who can’t escape her hometown of Columbus for fear of her mother not being able to cope.

The two meet and spend long days exploring the Modernist architecture of Columbus and talk about their lives, hopes, dreams, and parental obligations. Their blossoming friendships feels incredibly real as their dialogue is punctuated with as much silence as it is insightful banter.

Kogonada has an amazing eye and the film is filled with exquisitely framed shots of beautiful architecture. As someone with the most amateur interest in architecture this film is an absolute delight. Cho’s character made a great brutalist pun at one point but sadly only myself and his character laughed.

I absolutely adore this film. It was gently moving and a feast for the eyes.

Columbus screens at the festival on 7th and 11th October.

Abracadabra

With my heart filled and brain sedated I moved onto Pablo Berger’s Abracadabra. Kat saw and reviewed Berger’s Blancanieves five years ago so I was intrigued to see what he had produced this time.

Abracadabra is a broad Spanish comedy about a woman (Maribel Verdú) whose selfish husband becomes possessed by a ghost. At first she is delighted by new elements of his personality as he takes an interest in both housework and dancing but before long she uncovers the darker side to her husband’s new persona…

The film is gloriously over the top and had some critics howling with laughter throughout. As for me? I did laugh along occasionally but it was all a bit too much. Perhaps the previous film was still in my head because I just couldn’t get settled into Abracadabra and its frenetic energy.

Abracadabra is a lot of fun but isn’t going to give you a spiritual awakening any time soon.

Abracadabra screens at the festival on 7th, 8th, and 14th October.

Golden Exits

Alex Ross Perry is becoming a festival regular; two years ago Listen Up Philip blew me away, and the following year Queen of Earth pissed Kat right off. This year’s entry falls back in the former category as Perry’s new drama deals with the arrival of an attractive young Australian (Emily Browning) and how she quietly disrupts the lives of the New York couples she entangles herself with.

This makes for a good pairing with The Meyerowitz Stories as both center on New Yorkers dealing with their siblings and the impact their parents’ successes have had on their lives. The influence of Browning on the older men is well-played as is the subsequent impact of those men’s wives. There are no big dramatic showdowns instead small moments of desire, doubt, and derision. Though Browning could come across as a harlot seeking the attraction of married men her character is instead more complex and confusing than that. It is never clear what her intentions are nor whether she should be sided with or railed against.

Everyone in the film is weak, flawed, and lonely. One character repeatedly describes the most mundane aspects of his life and work as “thrilling” but the subtext in his every glance betrays him. Golden Exits is very well observed and shows the less pleasant side waiting to be revealed in all of us.

Golden Exits screens at the festival on 7th and 9th October.

Manifesto

To end the day I saw Cate Blanchett in 13th different roles (and in the flesh) in Julian Rosefeldt’s art installation turned feature film. As she switches between characters and landscapes Blanchett performs monologues culled from various manifestoes on assorted topics; modernism, futurism, communism and Dogme 95 to name the few that the BFI have listed in their synopsis.

The result is a film without narrative and with a single speaking performer (just about). Blanchett changes her appearance as Rosefeldt changes the detailed settings and her new accent starts to deliver a manifesto on a different topic. I cannot pretend to have followed the whole film as my brain constantly fought to pay attention to the words rather than the meticulously crafted imagery that accompanied, and often clashed with, them.

As enjoyable and truly cinematic as a piece of art is likely to get, Manifesto will occasionally lose even the most well read individual but Blanchett is utterly captivating and their of flashes of genius to be found. A humourous and mind-boggling exploration of ideas that should stir something within.

Manifesto screens at the festival on 8th October.

Out Now – 12th July 2013

Monsters Rim

Pacific Rim
My gut reaction to any film about humans making giant robots to fight giant monsters that have emerged from the Pacific is to run in the opposite direction with my arms flailing as I emit a high-pitched scream. HOWEVER… I keep reading reviews which suggest that this film might actually be good but frankly I won’t believe it until I see it and I haven’t even been to see Emma Watson dance in slow motion yet.

Monsters University
Do you remember February 2002? Do you remember being thirteen and adorable? Do you remember seeing Monsters, Inc. in the cinema? Well I do and I bloody loved it. I’ve heard some rumblings that this Pixar films is less for families and more for kids but it’s Pixar so how bad can it be? Cars what?

Blancanieves (West End only until 19th June)
What’s this you ask? Why it’s a black and white Spanish adaptation of Snow White without many of its supernatural elements. Kat saw it back in October and described the film as “bold, beautiful, and brilliant”. You’ve got to admire the alliteration if nothing else.

Citadel (limited release)
“An agoraphobic father teams up with a renegade priest to save his daughter from the clutches of a gang of twisted feral children who committed an act of violence against his family years earlier.” How many renegade priests are there in the world? Do they not stop being priests as soon as they become renegade? Can anyone explain this to me?

The Deep (limited release)
“Based on actual events, a fisherman tries to survive in the freezing ocean after his boat capsizes off the south coast of Iceland.” Essentially an Icelandic sequel to Titanic then? Let’s hope whoever he is with lets him on the raft unlike selfish Rose.

We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks (limited release)
What can I possibly tell you that the title doesn’t already say? I guess that the film was made without the help of Julian Assange or his BFFs.

Trap for Cinderella (limited release)
Considering Cinderella lived in servitude for years and then ran away with the first man who gave her a second glance I’d say that trapping her wouldn’t be too hard. Obviously this film isn’t about that Cinderella but is a British drama about a young girl with amnesia.

Play (limited release)
Young boys steal from other young boys using “advanced role-play and gang rhetoric”. Kids are so sophisticated these days. And sound slightly pretentious too.

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (limited release)
“The true story of the “Flying Sikh” – world champion runner and Olympian Milkha Singh — who overcame the massacre of his family, civil war during the India-Pakistan partition, and homelessness to become one of India’s most iconic athletes.” The film is over 3 hours long. I would fall asleep at least twice.

Les Invisibles (limited release)
No jokes here as we have a documentary focussing on elderly homosexuals in France who made the brave decision to live openly as gay in a time when society was a bit more backwards.

The Moo Man (limited release)
A documentary about an independent dairy farmer that claims to be “a laugh-out-loud emotional roller-coaster of a film”. I don’t know about you but I find sheep much funnier.

Cleopatra (limited re-release)
Cleopatra, comin’ atcha! Or rather Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton coming at you in a ridiculously expensive and epicly long tale of triumphs, tragedies, and poor budgeting.

Blancanieves – LFF Review

Blancanieves

2012 has seen rather a lot of adaptations of Snow White but Blancanieves – literally Snow White in Spanish – carries genuine Oscar hopes for Spain. Silent (although accompanied by a gorgeous musical score) and black and white, this gothic tale has been drawing comparisons with The Artist but those two features aside, they’re nothing alike. While The Artist is a French film steeped in Hollywood and easily mistaken for American, Blancanieves with its flamenco dancing, bullfighting and Catholic iconography is so Sevillean as to almost be a tourist-baiting cliché.

Most people presumably already know the story of Snow White, and it is this general thread that the film follows. However, this flavour has stripped most of the supernatural elements and is 1920s in period style. Carmen (Inma Cuesta), a lovely and successful flamenco dancer, is married to Spain’s greatest matador, Antonio Villalta (Daniel Giménez Cacho). We open on the day Antonio enters the bullring for the last time, as he is severely gouged by a bull in its final throes. The shock sends Carmen into early labour and while the surgeons operate on the father, the mother dies in childbirth. Antonio survives his accident but grief-stricken and suffering quadriplegia, rejects the baby Carmencita, leaving her to be brought up by her grandmother – played by the fabulous Ángela Molina. Meanwhile, Antonio’s opportunistic nurse Encarna manages to wangle a position as wife number two and here we have our Wicked Stepmother.

Encarna - Blancanieves

The performances throughout Blancanieves are all very strong but special mentions go to Maribel Verdú, who is fantastically horrible as Encarna, and Sofía Oria who plays the young Carmencita. Some of the fun leaks away once Carmencita grows up and no longer shares a roof with Encarna and you can’t help but root a little for the evil stepmother, as adult Carmencita (Macarena García) is nothing like as appealing or peppy as her younger counterpart.

Carmencita - Blancanieves

In a post-film Q&A, director Pablo Berger said that when he was trying to sell the script back in 2004, those few producers who actually got past the monochrome, silent aspect, balked at the amount of money that would be needed, and you can see why. This film, which took six years to make, is huge and impressive to look at, with its massive bullfighting arenas and intricate costumes.

Apart from the first half being stronger than the second, as mentioned above, I do have two quibbles. One is that being an adaptation of Snow White, you’re inevitably pre-spoiled. (If you really don’t remember how the fairy tale goes, you might want to stop reading here.

Still with me? Okay…) It felt as if I was constantly waiting to see how Berger would handle the key points – how would Antonio die? What drives Carmencita to the dwarves? Without magic, how will the mirror moment be handled? When will Encarna bring the poisoned apple? It’s hard to lose yourself completely in this beautifully created world while looking out for these things. The other problematic aspect were the final scenes, which soured the ending for me. As true to the original story as it might be, it’s hard to stomach watching people kiss a comatose girl, especially as this is in a much more modern setting than the original. However, judging by the laughs amongst the rest of the audience, I am apparently in a minority that would feel that way.

Blancanieves is bold, beautiful, and brilliant but currently doesn’t have a UK release date. However, it’s hard to believe it won’t at least make it to the arthouses at some point.

56th BFI London Film Festival

And we’re off! The 56th BFI London Film Festival is in full swing and as is tradition Mild Concern will be turning into full festival mode for at least the next week. Armed with a press pass, a week’s holiday, and a small amount of disposal income we will be watching as many films as we can in an effort to breach the 30 film mark having successfully reviewed over 20 films last year.

To help make this deluge of reviews more manageable links to all the films we’ve watched will be placed below in a beautiful wall of hyperlinked images. Have a click around, it does wonders for our stats.

Films reviewed:

The SessionsHyde Park on Hudson