Saturday, 27 September 2014
As much as I like French cinema, one thing that has often been bothering me lately is its overt reliance on naturalism. Oh sure, it does it so well. But it is almost like all the film graduates from the grand old FEMIS cannot earn their stripes unless they go down that road. Yet where are the French Brian de Palma, Peter Greenaway, David Lynch, Apichatpong Weerasethakul even?... It is even more baffling considering how, within France itself, the new wave came up with such formally inventive films decades ago. I'm thinking Godard obviously, but also Alain Resnais, Jacques Rivette... Sure there has been a lot of genre films coming from France over the last decade, but they don't offer a great deal in term of formal experimentation (apart perhaps from Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury).
The Sundance Film Festival, America’s mecca of indie cinema, was never so-called for taking place in sunny times. On the contrary, January in Utah is the season of extreme cold and much snow, and Park City at that time attracts skiers as much as cine-hipsters. Rather, Sundance ultimately takes its name from one of the best known on-screen rôles by festival godfather Robert Redford. Still, the name of festival's transatlantic counterpart Raindance is an example of dry British humour about wet weather, in resigned recognition of the precipitation that tends to characterise the English autumn in which the festival takes place. Yet it needn't all be grim, damp and cold - for even as the sun sets on the British summer, this year's Raindance features a showcase of films from the Land of the Rising Sun, with special emphasis on filmmakers in the springtime of their careers.
Monday, 8 September 2014
The same week that quiet, diligent snowplow operator Nils (Stellan Skarsgård) receives Citizen of the Year from his local Norwegian town, his son is murdered by a drug cartel. Nils knows his son to have been innocent and just as diligently as he clears the snow for his fellow citizens, he begins to clear a path through the drug organisation that killed him to find out who ultimately gave the order.
This puts him in the sphere of the drug kingpin Ole also known as The Count (Pål Sverre Hagen) a highly strung, beautifully tailored vegan crime boss teetering on the edge of a nervous break down. As the body count increases causing a dent in Ole's staffing ranks, assumptions are made about the source of the saboteur which results in the involvement of a Serbian drug cartel led by a figure known as Papa (Bruno Ganz).
Sunday, 7 September 2014
It seems to be an enduring trend of film festivals that it is often the directors you expect the most who let you down, while it is those films you did not know anything about it that surprise you. And FrightFest this year was no exception. The best film I saw was one I did not know or expect anything from, Faults by Riley Stearns.
In it, Ansel (Leland Orser), an expert on mind control is enrolled by concerned parents whose daughter Claire (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) has fallen into the clutch of a weird cult. Having kidnapped her and confined her to a motel room to do his work, it is safe to say that Leland had not anticipated the turn of events, leading to a mental game of cat and mouse. Faults is Sundance-y to the max, but not in an annoying, kooky romantic comedy with a ukulele kind of way, more in a resolutely independent, creative and original way. And it is a tribute to the festival they have extended the boundaries of their selection to include some less obvious candidates such as this. If anything, I often felt during FrightFest that I was seeing a much more interesting snapshot of the US indie cinema than I did at Sundance London earlier this year.
As is now tradition, this FilmLandEmpire contributor and former Horror Film Shy Watcher, went along to enjoy a taste of the annual FrightFest in Leicester Square, this year at it's new home in the Vue Cinema. The five day festival of Horror is accessible to the most ardent of the genre's fans and those wishing to educate themselves as cinephiles. What is most striking about this particular film festival is the warmth and enthusiasm of the attendees as the full effect of sitting in a darkened room cringing, squealing, being enthralled, revolted, laughing, being impressed, unimpressed and applauding allows for a full cinematic group experience. By general consensus, this year's festival was less gore drenched and more psychologically affecting. The festival was brought to it's close by The Signal by William Eubank (who made an impression with his first film Love), and this was the film selected to be reviewed by this contributor.
Saturday, 6 September 2014
"At the end of the day, this is going to be normal," declares Josef (Mark Duplass), embracing Aaron (Patrick Brice), whom he has only just met, with a clingy firmness. "This isn't weird at all." In response to an ad on Craigslist, amateur videographer and all-round nice guy Aaron has driven up to Josef's woodland home, armed only with his digicam. Expressly invoking the Michael Keaton-starring terminal illness weepie My Life (1993), Josef explains that, owing to a brain tumour which will kill him within months, he wants, with Aaron's help, to make a posthumous video diary for his as yet unborn son Buddy. Everything that we see here is the result of this arrangement, shot on Aaron's camera, as these two strangers set off together to record who Josef really is and what he is like.
Friday, 5 September 2014
The festival made some bold choices this year, stretching the limits of what some might consider horror, and while there was some grumbling within a minority, this approach largely paid off. First off that day, The Harvest by John McNaughton. It was hard to know what to expect from the man still better known for one of his early films: Henry, Portrait Of A Serial Killer, and who has had a rather uneven career since. Thankfully, his new films turned out to be one of the many highlights of this edition.
In The Harvest, Samantha Morton and Michael Shannon play the parents of a housebound sick child, whose mundane daily life is disturbed by the arrival a pesky new girl in the neighborhood who, unable to fit in at school, strikes a friendship with him. But it is an understatement to say that his mother does not take kindly to this intrusion...
Tuesday, 2 September 2014
A new chain game has swept Twitter over the last few days (no, please don't mention the you know what challenge), the Cinephile Photo challenge. The aim is to pick a still from a film you love, and nominate three of your followers who in turn must publish a picture and keep the chain going. And the exercise of picking only two or three of them after being selected a few times was so hard-breaking, that I decided to dedicate a post entirely to those striking stills from the films I love, the ones that have stayed with me all these years.
While I am open-minded when it comes to films, to me cinema remains above all a visual art form, and you will notice that neon lights feature prominently. It has still proven impossible to decide which ones to publish, and tomorrow I'll think of plenty more I want to include. But I am hoping this will prove an interesting kaleidoscope of cinephilia, and that those stills will inspire you to discover the films featured if you don't know them already.