Friday, October 24, 2008

More Film Fest

After Liverpool and Tulpan, I've been along to a few more Film Fest delights. Here's a brief summary:

Dean Spanley

An absolute delight of a film, the unusual story revolving around a fantastic set of characters discovering that Imperial Tokay wine causes Dean Spanley to have flashbacks to his previous reincarnation as a dog.

Peter O'Toole plays a particularly eccentric highlight to this mad film based on a book by Lord Dunsany.

The film will go on general release later this year, playing at the Curzon Mayfair. It's so good that I will buy the DVD when it comes out.

Tricks (Sztuczki)


A truly charming and nostalgic film about a young boy and his attempts to influence fate, aided by his elder sister. Using non-actors, the director Andrzej Jakimowski, who was present at the screening for a Q&A, leads us through a story about a six-year old Stefek, who is convinced that a man he sees at a trains station is his father. He intends to play "tricks" to win him back for their family.

Based on the quality of this film I would strongly recommend the director's previous offering, Squint Your Eyes.

All Around Us (Gururi no Koto)

Ryosuke Hashiguchi directs this slow-burning study of a modern couple without much in common apart from marriage. Kanao, a shoe-repair man is married to Shoko, a publisher. She is all-controlling, even scheduling their amorous sessions on their calendar. He is laid-back, and takes on a job as a court-room sketch artist.

In court he finds himself exposed to some of the most disturbed people and crimes in Japan, and perhaps partly because of this finds much of what happens at home trivial.

Shoko, traumatised by a miscarriage, begins to have a break-down, and unbeknown to him aborts the second pregnancy. Only with time, and much support and naturing from Kanao does she recover and blossom. A sweet but awfully long film!

High Treason

Part of the deal of the Film Fest these days are free screenings in Trafalgar Square. Outdoor events are always a risky business in London, but right at the end of October is surely pure madness? Indeed, on the evening I went to see High Treason, it was cold, windy and ended up raining for most of the evening. This I wouldn't have mind but that firstly I was sitting on the ground and secondly I didn't have a coat or brolly.

Anyway, the 1928 silent classic High Treason was projected onto a screen held up by an inflatable frame, which was in itself interesting given the wind - bending about as the gusts came through.

High Treason, accompanied by a pianist, was an enjoyable flick set in the future (1950s) in London, revolving around the build-up to war between a Federalist Americas and Europe, instigated behind the scenes by arms dealers.

Particularly enjoyable were the model scenes of London with New York-eqsue skyscrapers, zeppelins floating about etc. Also the Channel Tunnel, modelled and envisioned much as it is in reality today. The war movement is protested by the International League of Peace, HQed in London, and again a vision of the League of Nations and later the UN, but will their leader have to make the ultimate sacrifice and commit High Treason to avert the war?

The film was preceded by a ten-minute short, The Fugitive Futurist (1924), about a chap who had invented a gadget to see into the future - and using the latest special effects in the 20s we were treated to the Strand underwater and Tower Bridge with skytrains running across the top!

Country Wedding (Sveitabrúðkaup)

A directorial debut for Valdís Óskarsdóttir, filming in a quite intimate way with hand-held camera for many of the shots, about a wedding party being transported by bus from Reykjavik out to a rural church supposedly only an hour's drive away.

Unfortunately no one is sure where the church is, and the priest, in the middle of watching a football game (and on the beers) does not provide much help, so slowly the tension mounts in the group as they drive further into the wilderness, arriving at wrong church after church fitting the correct description, tempers start to fray, and we are treated to various amusing or tragic revelations about members of the party.

Particular highlight of the film was the music, which I recognised as being by the unique and highly talented Tiger Lillies, they of Shockheaded Peter and a show at Edinburgh Fringe this year.

The London Film Festival - Back next year, same place, same time, for two more weeks of fantastic challenging and emotional cinema.

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