And it is part two of the London Film Festival Round-Up! Plenty more to come on an almost daily basis for the next 8 days or so. Here and There written and directed by Antonio Méndez Esparza is set in a small town in Mexico and centres around Pedro (Pedro De Los Santos) who has returned to his wife and two daughters after a long period working in the U.S. With some savings he hopes to remain with his family and to set up a band to play local events along with working as an agricultural worker. The 'here' is Mexico and the 'there' is the USA which remains a hopeful enigma throughout the film. The film concentrates on the re-establishment of family connections as Pedro works to get to know his daughters and wife once again.
The performances and direction in Here and There are so naturalistic as to border on being nearly documentary. This is a real strength in the film as the poverty and struggles facing this loving family are not made melo-dramatic but shows the challenges people in such a financial position face on a daily basis. However, with a running time of one hour and fifty minutes, Here and There becomes an appealing short film stretched beyond patience levels by an hour and twenty minutes. Had the film been captured as a short film, it's message would have kept it's obvious impactful social commentary. But with such a long running time, the film sadly, becomes more of a lesson in endurance and a drudge which some keen editing could have corrected.
Save Your Legs! is an Australian film about Teddy Brown (Stephen Curry) a cricket obsessive dreaming of playing internationally for his country and having his childhood cricket team mates there by his side to do so. Now in his mid 30s Teddy is appalled to realise that his friends are moving on via marriage and children. Desperate to fulfil his life long ambition, Teddy convinces his Indian boss Sanjeet (Darshan Jariwala) to sponsor his team for a cricketing tour of India. Cue white Australian men abroad being fish-out-of-water with some loving it, The Prince (David Lyons) and happy go lucky Rick (writer and actor Brendan Cowell) and Stavros (Damon Gameau) making the experience their own. Save Your Legs! is meant - presumably because it includes an exclamation mark in it's title - to be a comedy and though there are the normal chuckles derived from seeing a pasty white person suffer food poisoning erupting from both ends, there is nothing new here. It's a coming of age film for 30 Somethings playing up both Australian and Indian stereotypes. The cricket action does make this game appear appealing but this film seems far more appropriate to the Straight-to-DVD section of the movie world than being part of a film festival's bill.
Doomsday Book is a Korean anthology film with three main sections. Directors Jee-woon Kim and Pil-Sung Yim look at the possible end of days for humans via a Zombie outbreak; a robot reaching Enlightenment and a meteorite/internet order partly destroying the Earth. There are moments of fun and funny Korean humour but each section does tend to be overly long. The discussion raised in the second section of whether or not a robot could be considered a Buddha and what that would mean for humans who have designed robots to be servile to them creates an interesting debate. The Zombie section is a comedic tinged look at our current food production methods and is like an Asian comedy sketch based on Steven Soderbergh's Contagion. The third section brings up entertaining notions of black holes and ordering products on-line which does work for most of the section. But again, the films chosen for this year's London Film Festival seem to really fear letting an Editor do their job and this anthology though having some good elements, feels overly long and run out of steam.
Good Vibrations makes good on it's Beach Boys song title intentions as the film based on the stories of Terri Hooley (Richard Dormer) recounts the establishment and evolution of Punk music in Northern Ireland in the 1970s. A DJ and believer in music, Terri Hooley's non-sectarian Belfast resident navigates the Troubles and life with a relaxed glee and enthusiasm. Having met and married Ruth (Jodie Whitaker) Terri decides to buck the trend of abandoning bomb threatened entrepreneurialism in Belfast and opens up his own record shop. Unaware of the growing Punk scene in Belfast, he discovers it one evening and he is inspired and transfixed by the new music. The film follows Terri through the highs and lows of recording and distributing local Northern Ireland bands and being the person to give BBC DJ John Peel the best 2 minutes 16 seconds of his musical life via The Undertones 'Teenage Kicks.' With two directors on duty for this film, Lisa Barros D'Sa and Glenn Leyburn, Good Vibrations mixes excellent period detail with surreal musical dreams as seen from Terri's point of view.
As can but be expected, the soundtrack for the film is excellent and though often lost on the London audience that this Irish reviewer was sitting amongst, the nature of black Irish humour flows freely throughout the film. Comedian and actor Dylan Moran pops up in the film but the real star force in the film is Richard Dormer who captures the lightness and joy of the flawed but loveable Terri. The supporting actors Liam Cunningham and particularly Jodie Whittaker do credible Belfast accents and keep the tone of the film intentionally light while not ignoring the political situation surrounding the story. Good Vibrations certainly doesn't stray too far away from a music based memoir. However, as a different perspective on the Troubles in Northern Ireland and the impact of the Punk movement had on the music world Good Vibrations does have it's place and raises a sense of joie de vive which is always a pleasant thing.
Rating: 3 The Loves of Pharaoh or to give it it's original German title Das Weib des Pharao is a 1922 huge melodramatic saga by German director Ernst Lubitsch. Set in Ancient Egypt, to secure peace between Egypt and Ethiopia the Ethiopian king offers his daughter as a wife for Pharaoh Amenes (Emil Jannings). However, the political plan goes awry when Amenes falls in love with the Greek slave girl Theonis (Dagny Servaes) after she has met and fallen for Egyptian Ramphis (Harry Liedtke). Regimes rise and fall and rise again due to this love triangle and there is much hyperventilating actors emoting the passion fuelling this exceptionally dramatic melodrama. The film is interesting in terms of the size of it's production with easily hundreds of extras for all the huge set pieces. This Silent film has been pieced back together with missing footage being filled in by intertitles and subtitles by the film restorers. As a piece of film history, The Loves of Pharaoh certainly is important as an example of large scale, ambitious film making in European Silent Films. However, as a film itself it's Six Acts might well wear down a modern audience and when the tragic ending eventually comes for the main characters, one might have to work to not join in with the stone throwing crowd.
Rating: 2 Stars
Join us tomorrow for Round 3 of the London Film Festival!