There are few things I would drag myself out of bed at 4:30am for. The ‘Lost’ finale was one of them and the UK general elections were another (What? Stop looking me like that, I’m cool really) but today I made that special commitment to head down to the 55th BFI London Film Festival. The festival is one of the most prestigious in the world where the likes of The King’s Speech, 127 Hours and Slumdog Millionaire all got their national premieres and the likes of Colin Firth, Rachel Weisz and Gary Oldman have all graced the red carpet. 2011 marks a significant year for the festival with the departure of its artistic director Sandra Hephron and for showcasing more British films than ever before!
Half asleep and feeling a little like I was living in 28 Days Later it was so quiet, I just about managed to drag myself to the train station and catch the first departure down to London for the event’s opening weekend. Working on only 5 hours sleep I understandably wasn’t in the brightest of moods and nor was I feeling particularly well. Therefore, I decided to give myself a nice little treat to perk me up for the long day ahead…
Sure, I had to duck the ticket collector and try not to draw too much attention, but it was totally worth it.
Everyone who walked past me looked bemused; clearly wondering how a 21-year-old student could possibly afford to sit in First Class. In retrospect, I admit that maybe I shouldn’t have betrayed my fellow common folk back in Coach C to live it up with the rich business types at the front of the train. But, hell, I wanted my free tea and biscuits, dammit! *Throws Corduroy blazer on the floor in protest*
Just short of 9 in the morning I arrived to a beautiful sunny day in London.
After collecting my London Film Festival press pass, it was time to start what I came here to do: See the shit out of some new movies!
I named Shame one of my most anticipated release of the year, so there was no way I’d have forgiven myself for missing this. Thankfully, by waving my laminate around and demanding that people behold the power of the press pass, I just about managed to wriggle my way in to back row of this morning’s showing of Steve McQueen and Michael Fassbender’s second collaboration. And my God was it worth it.
The film stars the X-Men: First Class actor as an Irish born sex addict living in New York City who finds himself burdened by the appearance of his wayward sister played by Carey Mulligan.
It’s a beautiful, emotionally complex and moving portrait about two characters who desire to make a connection – whether it be human or sexual – that is incredibly well made by Steve McQueen. His eye for framing, lighting and the ability to bring a scene to life through tremendous direction is just as good as it was in Hunger with more than a few moments haunting you long after it cuts to black.
Both Mulligan and Fassbender shine in their roles with the former showing a new side to her that we’ve never seen before and the latter demonstrating a performance that, if it weren’t for the copious sex and nudity, would be hotly tipped for Oscar nominations this year.
And when I say ‘copious’ I really do mean copious. You’d expect a considerable amount of explicit content in a movie about sex addiction, but I can pretty much sketch Michael Fassbender’s pubic hair from memory now it was that frequent. But make no mistake; Shame isn’t pornography. It is, by contrast, a true piece of modern cinema and one of the year’s best movies.
After that, I made my way upstairs and into the new film from The Queen’s writer Peter Morgan and City Of God’s director Fernando Meirelles titled 360.
For any Liverpool FC supporter in London, the names Fernando and Meirelles carry a sting of disappointment and, sadly, so does this film too.
360 jumps from one group of characters to the next, all of whom are connected, exploring their loves and desires before coming around 360 degrees – get it? – and starting back where it began.
It might sound like a moderately clever idea on paper, but in practice it couldn’t be more dull. Imagine if Keanu Reeves narrated a documentary about drying paint; that’s the level of boredom we’re talking here.
The problem is that by having such a huge ensemble of characters and so many interweaving plot lines there’s not enough time given for the viewer to actually care about a single one of them. By the time we’ve just settled into a character, the film has shot us off halfway around the world to witness someone entirely new.
Meirelles tries his best to keep the lifeless storylines engaging by throwing in some stylish direction here and there, but while his visual approach worked in City Of God it ultimately feels a bit daft here as 360 lacks any interesting substance to complement it whatsoever.
Jude Law and Rachel Weisz aren’t bad in their segments, but judgement is hard when they are given so little to do. Anthony Hopkins, moreover, stands out due to a brilliantly delivered and emotional monologue, but it’s too little too late to make any kind of impact on your enjoyment of the movie. By that point, you’ll just want the damn thing to end.
Like Crazy (3.5/5)
With my spirits deflated after such a poor movie, I needed a spark in order to end my first day at the London Film Festival on a high note. So after grabbing some dinner all by myself – I felt like Dexter Mayhew circa 1992 – I headed into Like Crazy certain that I wouldn’t be let down.
However, while the Sundance winning film is a perfectly decent movie about a young couple struggling to maintain a long distance relationship after a British student’s US working visa expires, Drake Doremus’ indie romance isn’t really anything to write home about.
There are moments that anyone who has ever been in love will be able to relate to and its mostly improvised dialogue is brilliantly executed by Felicity Jones and Anton Yelchin but Like Crazy never strays too far out of the typical Sundance genre of film-making for it to be truly memorable.
Worst of all, it never gives its viewer enough reason to care about its protagonists’ relationship to really invest in the story. Therefore, segments of Like Crazy unfortunately feel a little like White People Problems: The Movie as we witness these characters mope, argue and sigh about a relationship that we aren’t particularly invested in. A little less of the twee-poetry-writing and quirky-gift-giving (Seriously? A chair? Come on, guys) and a bit more insight into the couple’s relationship and why they care so deeply about each other are definitely needed.
Still, it’s watchable enough with a few poignant moments and its two young actors – especially Felicity Jones – are so splendid in their roles that they manage to keep the narrative afloat. Just don’t expect any anything too special.