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 film’s bloody close.

The plot, as best I 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

The Zero Theorem – LFF Film Review

The Zero Theorem

Yes, a London Film Festival review. That should give you sense of just how behind schedule this review is. I saw the film back in October but it is finally out in UK cinemas this week so I had best get to reviewing it…

Typical for a Terry Gilliam film The Zero Theorem is anything but typical. The plot revolves around Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) a man living in what Gilliam has described as a Utopian future (but one that comes across as quite dystopian) working on complex computer nonsense while waiting for a phone call that he hopes will explain the meaning of life. When Waltz isn’t sitting anxiously at his computer terminal working on a bizarre computer hacking programme, sometimes naked, he is being distracted by Bob (a teenage prodigy sent by Management and played by Lucas Hedges), Bainsley (a sort of internet porn star cum prostitute played by Mélanie Thierry), and Joby (his manager played by David Thewlis).

As for what actually takes place in what little plot the film actually has… I’ll be damned if I know. As usual with Gilliam (my new catchphrase for this review) the whole film is vibrant, energetic, and filled with ideas. Whether the resulting film works for you or not will, I feel, entirely depend upon how much patience or sympathy you have for Gilliam’s aesthetic.

If I had to pick one of his previous films to compare The Zero Theorem to then I would have to plumb for Brazil as it shares a similar theme of a man fighting against the system as he chases his dreams, literally. Both exist within a future that feels quite practical and manmade as opposed to slick and sleek and neither feels the need to pander to its audience. When rewatching Brazil in preparation for writing this review I found it a lot easier to accept on its own terms when I could watch it as a piece of cinema history rather than as a piece of contemporary cinema. The two films are far from identical but Brazil as a film of the 80s is a lot easier to swallow than The Zero Theorem as a film of thirty years later. The eccentric randomness seems much less enjoyable now in the same way you will excuse a baby for dribbling but not the same person for doing the same when in their thirties.

This sounds like I am putting down Brazil which I really am not… I am putting down The Zero Theorem. The film is enjoyable to a degree (hence the three stars) but beneath the surface of wacky characters and big, empty ideas there is nothing more going on that some nice set dressing and a group of actors trying their hardest to be wacky.

A great big shrug from me.

The Zero Theorem is in UK cinemas on 14th March 2014.

BFI London Film Festival 2013

Kill Your Darlings – LFF Film Review

Kill Your Darlings

I think I had the wrong idea about Kill Your Darlings when I decided to trundle along and see it. What I knew was that Daniel Radcliffe would be starring as a young Allen Ginsberg who starts his university career and meets the likes of Jack Kerouac and William S. Burroughs. With this brief synopsis cluttering up my brain I was expecting to see the formation of the Beat generation unfold onscreen and what I got was something a little less defined.

At university Ginsberg becomes enamoured with fellow student Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan) who goes on to introduce him to Kerouac (Jack Huston) and Burroughs (Ben Foster) and it is Carr who suggests starting a literary revolution. For part of the film the idea of the revolution seems to be the focus but it always sits on the periphery in contrast to Ginsberg’s determined pursuit of Carr despite dismissive treatment in favour of Carr’s much older lover/stalker David (Michael C. Hall). The film seems to want to imply that everyone will go on to change the face of American literature but doesn’t want to get bogged down in showing that happen when there’s drug taking, sex, and murder to be amusing ourselves with. Yes, one of the characters another and the whole film suddenly doesn’t find the drug taking and casual harassment nearly as fun as it did before.

For me the films lacks focus and a proper plot. The performances are all fine and Radcliffe does good work as Ginsberg, despite him being writing a little too pathetic to be able to carry the film, but the writing forces every performance to fall short of believability. The major trouble lies in the fact that on the one hand we are supposed to be revelling in a period piece where poetry can be seen as a form of rebellion and drug taking and child abuse as decadent indulgences, and on the other hand we have the grim dramatics of the murder and Ginsberg’s mother’s psychological issues which pop up from time to time. Nothing like murder and potential paedophilia to ruin a party.

This was no doubt quite a dramatic period in the lives of the men who would define the Beat generation but perhaps the story could have been moulded a little more to form a clearer narrative. At the end of the screening I wasn’t too sure what to think. I had enjoyed the performances and various scenes in the film but didn’t know what it wanted me to take away from it. At no point in the film did I get a sense of the legacy that these men left on the world of writing and I didn’t get any incentive to devour their collective works.

What I saw was a group of self-indulgent individuals who were finally forced to deal with the real world when one is arrested for the murder of another. I’m certain this doesn’t do justice to the combined efforts of Ginsberg, Kerouac, and Burroughs and is unlikely to have been the intention of the filmmakers.

Not awful, and a worthy debut from Austin Bunn and John Krokidas, but Kill Your Darlings meanders a little too much to impress.

Kill Your Darlings is in UK cinemas on 6th December 2013.

BFI London Film Festival 2013