Monday, 16 November 2015

Closer To The Moon - Romanian heist with a twist

Closer to the Moon, starring Mark Strong and the excellent Vera Farmiga is the new film written and directed by Romanian, Nae Carafil. Set in in Bucharest in the late 1950's it follows the true story of a group of Jewish ex-resistance members who plan and execute a bank robbery from the National Bank of Romania, making it look like they are shooting a film.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

London Film Festival 2015: High-Rise & Bone Tomahawk

Two very different films with a cult-ish vibe, High-Rise and Bone Tomahawk also proved to be some of the festival's worst disappointments.

Bone Tomahawk was given the gala slot of the Cult section, a decision which I find baffling and ultimately proved to be working against it as I am still struggling to understand the cult elements about it. Set in the Wild West, the film charts the quest of Arthur O'Dwyer (Patrick Wilson) to find his kidnapped wife, enlisting a mötley crüe of accomplices, including the town's sheriff Franklin Hunt (Kurt Russell) to help him. They soon realise that the kidnappers are more savage and terrifying than they could ever imagine.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

London Film Festival 2015: Live from New York!

Live from New York was made just on time to coincide with Saturday Night Live's 40th anniversary, and will be a very different experience if viewed by an American audience as opposed to a foreign one. A comedy show with a record breaking longevity, and which has seen some of the best talent go through its door, everybody outside the USA has at heard from the show, or is at least familiar with its alumni, Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, Dan Ackroyd etc... whereas it is a real institution in its home country.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

London Film Festival 2015: A Shortlist

While not quite up there in the same league as the Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Toronto or even Telluride, the London Film Festival has seen its attendance increase steadily over the last decade, and his exposure grow in the process. It remains debatable how much it means to the outside world but it remains an unmissable event for any fan of cinema in London. The festival has a very large  and wide selection of films (over 230) over ten days, offering anything from prestige awards baits with red carpet glamour alongside it, to the most obscure and experimental films, and anything in between. The atmosphere is informal yet vibrant and passionate, and it also strikes a fine balance, screening most of the titles that had an impact at the major film festivals earlier in the year, while also unearthing its own small gems.

Of course most of the Cannes heavy hitters which I saw and loved are there, and I would obviously recommend them: Carol, The Lobster, The Assassin, Arabian Nights, Cemetery of Splendour... But I have looked further and I am offering you a shortlist of the weird, the experimental, the unusual...

Monday, 17 August 2015

BFI Cult: Blue Sunshine by Jeff Lieberman

In Taxi Driver (1976), the contradictory and unstable Travis Bickle (Robert DeNiro) - an ill-educated Vietnam veteran and porn-addicted romantic - is a product of the same gutter-level environment that he so despises. Though illiberal and unhinged, in his desire to clean up the streets Bickle is not unlike the idealistic political campaigners with whom he keeps crossing paths - and in the end, while we have seen for ourselves both his psychotic volatility and its bloody consequences, he will be publicly declared a hero. Made just two years later, Jeff Squirm Lieberman's eerie Blue Sunshine plays with similar themes, while inverting Taxi Driver's dynamics.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Theeb - Desert set coming of age story from Jordan

Winner of the best director award at the Venice Film Festival, Theeb (Wolf)  is a powerful story of one Bedouin boy's  journey to manhood, filmed in the stunning area around Wadi Rum and Wadi Arebeh. Part Western / part Lawrence of Arabia and set in 1916, there is a brutal raw honesty to the film, and you can't help but feel that it was made in the 70's. This is the first film from British director Naji Abu Nowar.

Monday, 3 August 2015

BFI Cult: God Told Me To by Larry Cohen

"I grew up at a Catholic Boys' School at the Bronx. Graduated to DeWitt Clinton High School. A year at Fordham University before I joined the force. Where did you go to high school, Harold?" The speaker is Detective Lieutenant Peter Nicholas (Tony Lo Bianco), but at this point, at the beginning of Larry Cohen's God Told Me To (aka Demon) all the focus is on his addressee, Harold Gorman (Sammy Williams), who is perched on a building-top water tower and has just shot dead, with eerie accuracy, a number of random New Yorkers in the streets below.

It is only after Harold has calmly explained his outrage with the words "God told me to" and leapt to his death that the film refocuses its attention on Peter - and now that brief introductory bio which Peter had given to Harold, expressly as a measure to humanise himself in the eyes of a killer ("I want you to know me. We don't kill people we know, do we, Harold? Only strangers. That's why I'm coming up, Harold, so you can see my face."), starts to resonate with the film's key themes of faith in crisis. Peter had even told Harold sadly, "We can't bring anybody back to life - nobody can," - suggesting his own conflicted attitude to the central tenets of his Christian upbringing.