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London Film Festival

October 21st, 2010

I sat at the bar listening to an amazing live jazz band play at a big bar/restaurant in the Chinatown Area of London. I noticed a stack of large magazines on the bar and picked one up. They were magazines for the BFI London Film Festival, and I rolled one up and tucked it into my purse.

When I got home that evening I flipped through the publication and decided that I’d go to see some of the films whilst in London. Why not, right? I love foreign, independent cinema so this was a perfect opportunity. I got online and ordered tickets for four of the films playing throughout the next few weeks. I thought I’d give the synopsis of the films taken from the BFI website and then give my own thoughts of each film. I am so glad I had the opportunity to attend the London Film Festival and hope I can attend another in the future – maybe even Cannes someday!

BLESSED EVENTS (Thursday 14 October 2010)

Director: Isabelle Stever

Synopsis: Since Isabelle Stever’s previous feature played in the LFF a few years ago, we’re very pleased to be screening this, her third full-length film – co-written by the author of the novel that inspired Gisela. Again the film centres on a decidedly ordinary young woman – here, thirtysomething single Simone – caught up in an extraordinary situation: finding she’s pregnant after an anonymous (and evidently rare) one-night stand, she visits the hospital and unexpectedly bumps into the man in question. Still more surprisingly, this young doctor reveals he’d hoped to see her again and, told of the pregnancy, confesses he wouldn’t mind their becoming a couple. Nor would Simone – but is it all too good to be true? Few films have explored the psychological effects of pregnancy, planned or otherwise, and as with Gisela’s account of an extramarital affair, Stever steps into the fray bravely but wisely; steering clear of moral commentary, she allows actions to speak for themselves, while colour, lighting, landscape and architecture are deployed to evoke Simone’s swings between enchantment and alienation, desire and despair. Kuhl’s understated but eloquent lead performance fits the bill perfectly.

My Thoughts: This movie had very, very little dialogue and an interesting directing style. Most of the camera shots were on the faces of the actors, and not much body movement, scenery, etc. were captured. The movie was so slow paced and so quiet that one barely knew what was going on. It was also hard to identify with the characters of the story because there was hardly any character development and reason to CARE, really, about the characters. I was sort of disappointed with this film but enjoyed seeing it regardless as it was artfully done and interesting to watch. I couldn’t be bothered to stay for the Q&A with the director for this film because I had been so disinterested with the story and disappointed with the lack of character development.

LOVE LIKE POISON (Friday 15 October 2010)

Director: Katell Quillévéré

Synopsis: Small communities, Catholicism and burgeoning sexuality: not an unfamiliar combination in French debut features. But it’s rarely carried off with such confidence and subtlety as in Katel Quillévéré’s winner of this year’s Jean Vigo Prize for first features. Fourteen-year-old Anna (striking newcomer Clara Augarde) has returned home to her village in Brittany, where she and mother Jeanne (Lio) live with Anna’s ailing paternal grandfather Jean (Michel Galabru). Jeanne has fallen out with her husband over her Catholic convictions, and has developed a conscience-troubling attraction to the easy-going village priest (Stefano Cassetti). Anna, meanwhile, is caught between her own religious belief and sexual stirrings, awakened by a precocious choirboy friend. Life, death, desire and teenage confusion fuel a contemplative, atmospheric drama with a streak of rebellious black humour, with comic veteran Galabru excelling as the grandfather, irrepressibly raging against piety. Tom Harari’s photography captures faces and the Breton landscape with equal sensitivity. Love Like Poison (its title taken from a Gainsbourg song) is a genuine one-off, and a true discovery.

My Thoughts: Gorgeous, well done film. Plenty of character development and lots of food for thought. I enjoyed watching the protagonist, Anna, as she grew into her sexuality and herself as a woman. It was also interesting to see her rebelliousness towards her mother, separated from her father, who had cheated. It was almost as though Anna resented her mother in a way… even though her father had clearly done wrong. At the end of the movie as the credits rolled, an acappella version of the song “Creep” by Scala and Kolacny Brothers played, and it brought tears to my eyes. This was definitely an appropriate song for this film – so moody and gorgeous. Unfortunately there was no Q&A with the directors at this screening.

WOMB (Thursday 20 October 2010)

Director: Benedek Fliegauf

Synopsis: Hungarian director Benedek Fliegauf (Forest, Dealer) makes his English- language debut with this exquisitely designed and photographed drama. Shot on the spectacularly bleak but beautiful German North Sea coast, and described by its director as a kind of fairy tale, Womb is a love story with Oedipal overtones and a sci-fi twist. Rebecca (Eva Green) and Thomas (Matt Smith) are passionately in love, but a fatal accident robs them of their future. Rebecca, unable to bear being without her lover, resorts to cloning to produce herself a ‘copy’ of Thomas. All is well while Thomas is young but, as he grows-up, unaware of his history, he naturally enough finds himself a girlfriend, leaving Rebecca to battle with feelings that are distinctly more than maternal. Fliegauf excels in creating a hermetic, claustrophobic world for his protagonists, set in effective contrast to the wide open spaces that surround them. And while social attitudes towards cloning are touched on, it is the complexity and intensity of the central relationship that really hits home.

My Thoughts: Impeccable execution and a gorgeous film. Amazingly well done, despite the sticky content. The scenery where the film was shot was dark and cold, but with bursts of blue sky occasionally through the clouds. The ocean waves and the cold snowy beaches juxtaposed with beech wood forests was definitely a sight to behold. Rebecca, our protagonist, gave birth to and raised Thomas’ clone as her son, even though she must have known she’d feel something other than motherly instinct for him as he got older and looked exactly like her deceased lover. The ending of the film was a bit shockingly Oedipal but also gorgeously executed and just all around well done. I really enjoyed the Q&A with the director and two of the actors because it provided more insight to the location where they filmed as well as what the director wanted to convey with the ‘fairy tale’ aspect of the film, which he said was a love story.

ELISA K (Thursday 21 October, 2010)

Directors: Jordi Cadena and Judith Colell

Synopsis: Elisa is almost eleven, but her contented world shifts overnight when a friend of her father’s makes her cry and promises her a bracelet if she stops. No one knows what has happened; only that Elisa is not her normal self: her grades suffer and her confidence plummets. But it takes fourteen years, four months and a few days before what really happened comes back to haunt Elisa. Adapted from the novel by Lolita Bosch, Jordi Cadena and Judith Colell’s striking film offers a sensitive and daring treatment of the subject of child abuse. From the elegant black-and-white photography and voiceover narration of the first half that works to position the viewer outside of the action, to the emotionally pulsating second half that lets loose a whole series of complex sentiments and feelings, Elisa K beautifully handles the fragility of the self coping with a past that imposes itself when least expected. Cla√πdia Pons and Aina Clotet are both hugely impressive as the child and adult Elisa while Cadena and Colell – co-directing for the first time – inflect Bosch’s novel through a discerning but empathetic poetic eye.

My Thoughts: Beautifully done film done in two parts. The first part is the day Elisa is abused by her father’s friend. This half of the film is done in a haunting, arty black and white. The second half of the film is in colour and Elisa is now an adult heading off to college. The scene when she remembers her abuse is gorgeous, wrenching and something I could completely identify with, strangely. The pain she shows, her crying, her dry heaving, the banging of her head against the wall, breaking a glass, and cutting her feet by walking on it – this grief is palpable and real. It’s an amazing film and I really enjoyed watching it. The Q&A with the directors afterwards added another layer to the film and helped me to understand even more what they were trying to convey.

One Response to “London Film Festival”

  1. Medusa says:

    Hi Naomi!

    Thanks for your most recent comment on my blog. It’s nice to hear from you again and to know that you are (still) reading my blog. Your travels sounds great! Have lots of fun!

    P.S. Will you be returning to the U.S. anytime soon?

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