Maria Sharapova Fanclub
In the end I only caught 9 of my intended 11 films (missing Women's Love and Hotel for various reasons). So here are my nine revisited:
- A Tout De Suite - Interesting actress, but overall plot not strong enough to hold together as a film.
- We Don't Live Here Anymore - Terribly worthy but dreadfully dull. The kind of film that the LFF feel you ought to watch, because outside such a closeted environment, no one else will want to.
- Chisholm 72 - I find it interesting how a film about the Black experience plays here to a predominantly White audience. Spank can confirm whether the same applies to Bullet Boy [not at the screening I was at, though that may be partly down to Asher D's fanbase - Spank]. Thus if there is a Black audience out there for a film like this, that is a telling comment on the unintentional exclusionist culture of the LFF in general.
- Visions Of Europe - Euro-directors given five minutes to jerk off, inevitably make a mess.
- Mondovino - Jolly but narrow wine doc. Certainly not the telling commentary on globalization it thinks it is.
- Edgeplay - Highly entertaining then-and-now rockumentary. Does suffer however from the non-participation of one former key member, and the total lack of the group's music in the soundtrack. Funnily enough, the fractious story told by those who lived it is at complete odds to the positive spin in the band's website.
- Los Angeles Plays Itself - LA movie clip fest, that whilst an interesting project, never gets to say as much as it would probably like to.
- Sideways - More wine aplenty in reasonably funny odd couple buddy movie.
- Melinda And Melinda - Woody plays the Manhattan arty crowd and their complicated relationships once too often.
Overall, part of the problem with this whole concept (which I think would apply for most people attending) is that one's choices are inevitably governed by when you are not working, rather than the best of what is in the programme. Similarly I can't help feeling that there are far superior films out on current release, that I have probably missed the chance to catch by attending this festival. Whilst in previous years the event had a certain novelty (being part of something) value for me, the fact that none of my choices really did it for me this time round, means I will have to think hard before coming again. Of the nine I saw Edgeplay would be the best of the bunch, with Mondovino and Sideways coming a (joint) distant second.
Finally a big thank you to Spank for his daily reviews, and also for indulging my train of thoughts on his website.
The Belated Birthday Girl
- Tony Takitani
- Czech Dream
Also liked (in viewing order) Vital, Mondovino, Day of the Falcon, Complete Japanese Showa Song Book, Aaltra and I Heart Huckabees
Biggest disappointment: Izo (although maybe it's worth a second view); followed by the Animation Programme. Hated: Napoleon Dynamite.
My feeling is that this wasn't as good a festival as last year's. Certainly last year's top 5 were all terrific films, and the ones knocking to get in were all almost as good, and several of last year's Best of the Fest will be in this year's Best of Year's Releases. But looking back at those lists above, maybe it wasn't so bad after all. Although there were a few not very good films, none were really bad enough to deserve naming and shaming. There was only the one film I actually hated, and I know other people will love it (which may be part of what fuels my hatred). Izo disappointed because I expect so much of a new Miike, and especially with Kitano in it, too, and the Animation programme just wasn't up to the standard of previous years, or of the McLarens I've seen in Edinburgh over the past few years. But as well as the films, there were some more excellent interviews this year (even if David O. Russell is a bit too fond of Jon Brion and needs to drag him on stage to play every time) and I did get to see films I wouldn't easily see any other way (even if few of them impressed enormously).
Well, my favourite film (of the 5 I saw) was surprisingly perhaps the one about female circumcision. Doesn't sound like the most promising subject but Moolaade was a wonderful film. It is shot in a beautiful West African village, with one of the oldest (if not the oldest) mosques in Africa, and the bright vivid colours and lush scenery are stunning. There are beautiful shots of everyday village life, with goats and chickens wandering around, and a fascinating insight into the complex relationships of the villagers - who is whose favourite wife? How much should a wife respect her husband's elder brother? What about the young man who returns from Paris with a huge amount of money, a Western suit and leather shoes? How will he settle back into a very traditional way of life?
There are some very strong and enjoyable characters; Mercenarie, the travelling salesman who arrives on his bicycle laden with everything from pots to plastic shoes, dried bread to condoms to sell to the villagers. He starts off as a bit of a ladies man, but ends up one of the tragic heroes of the film. And Colle, who refused to let her daughter be circumcised, and then finds herself acting as protector for 4 young girls who are seeking refuge when their turn comes. It is a very powerful story, but subtly told with great respect - and I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to see a real film about real issues, with no special effects or computer animations in sight.
Personally I wasn't too impressed with Aaltra - too simplistic, too many loose ends, too many things that didn't quite add up - why did nobody in that family tell them to get lost? Why did nobody rescue them from the beach? Wouldn't their wheels have sunk into the sand anyway? How come their papers stayed dry after the soaking? It looked like it was made on the cheap. Why black and white? Loved the bit when they were in the bar though, and their discovery in the tractor factory.
A very enjoyable film festival this year. Did not feel rushed around to see things. Managed to see quite a lot of films. A number of favourites but Mondovino and I Like Working (Mobbing) were two good ones. Thanks to all the filmmakers, Spank The Monkey and all.
Appallingly late, of course. But I do have an excuse. Within 24 hours of seeing the closing gala of I Heart Huckabees, The Belated Birthday Girl and I were on a plane out of Heathrow, looking at London in flames below us as the Bonfire Night celebrations kicked in. We've just come back from a couple of weeks in Japan, on a whistle-stop tour of half a dozen towns on the west side of the country. I had a half-formed plan to try and put together The Wrap Party while I was over there, but to be honest we were having too much fun for that to happen. (Don't worry, you'll get to hear more about that fun very soon.)
So now I've got to try and assemble my thoughts about a film festival that actually finished over three weeks ago. The main thing that springs to mind is how few of the films I saw this year managed to sustain themselves for their whole running time. So Brothers started well as a family melodrama, but took a violent turn far too suddenly to keep me believing in it. On the other hand, Aaltra had a comparatively slow and weak first half, but improved greatly after that. Picking up on Yvonne's comment, I think it was at the halfway mark I realised it was less of a character piece and more of a framework for a string of gags: and once you realise that, the gaps in the story become gags in themselves. Lots of films started well and ended badly, or vice versa, but I mention those two because they had enough good material in them to persuade me both might improve on a second viewing.
So when it comes to picking the best of this year's selection, they have to be the ones that managed to keep my interest from start to finish. And the five that did that the best, in order of viewing, are 2046, Tony Takitani, The Woodsman, Czech Dream and I Heart Huckabees. Of those five, 2046 probably edges ahead as my favourite, but I'm including a still of Czech Dream here partly so I don't duplicate The BBG's choice, partly because it's rare that a promotional shot for a film shows the directors being beaten up. As for the films where I'd like to see the directors being beaten up, my 2004 shitlist would have to include South Of The Clouds, Woman Of The Breakwater, Tang Poetry, D.E.B.S. and A Hole In My Heart.
The usual thanks to finish up - to Sandra Hebron and all her crew for running this Festival to their usual high standard: to The Belated Birthday Girl, Maria Sharapova Fanclub, The Cineaste, Yvonne, Nick and Old Lag for their reviews: to Rose, Nigel, Lesley, Lee, Jon, Jill, Diane, Corinne, Seapea and Anna for joining us at the movies: to the non-twatty FU people who came along, including Luce28, FilmFan, Tanyaj, MaxFischer, Mr and Mrs Malcotraz, Leela, seldomseenkid and djo1: and finally to yourselves, for reading all this stuff and not getting too worked up about delays. I know it was a minor dereliction of duty to go running off to the other side of the world rather than write these four paragraphs, but I feel sure you'll forgive me. Being a monkey, and all.
|<-Back to Thursday 04/11/2004
|Return to LFF '04 Index