LFF: Day 3 – The Ides Of March, The Artist and Trishna
Today was my third and most anticipated day at the London Film Festival, one that would see me checking out two of 2011’s most talked about movies and a film that has been intriguing me for a long, long time. From talky political drama and silent black and white comedy to radical adaptations of classic literature, this Saturday in the UK’s capital promised some great movies in store for me.
First up was the George Clooney directed The Ides Of March, a film that has been gaining considerable awards buzz since its premiere at the Venice Film Festival just weeks ago.
The Ides Of March (4/5)
Harking back to the style of his Oscar nominated Good Night And Good Luck, Clooney’s film is a smart, sophisticated and mature political drama.
Sealed together by an amazing script that boasts sharp dialogue and a great awareness, it’s a story that unearths the reality of American politics. Through the eyes of a young campaign staff member, it examines how morals and ideals often give way to back room deals and dirty tactics when the possibility of power is in reaching distance of politicians’ hands.
Furthermore, it’s one of those rare films – especially in this genre – that doesn’t reflect on a bygone era so much as it intends to tackle a theme that is contemporary and timely. Its feet are firmly placed in the Obama era, for example, with intelligent insights into how the modern political game works.
Ryan Gosling stars as the aforementioned staffer on the political trail of a Democrat presidential candidate and he continues to demonstrate why he’s such a highly regarded young actor here. His transformation over its 90 minutes is incredibly compelling. Nonetheless, it’s Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman who steal the show as rival campaign managers whose desensitized cynicism about how to win an election is fascinating.
It’s not riveting or brilliant by any means, but The Ides Of March certainly sees Clooney return to form as a director. From beginning to end, it’s a gripping piece of drama that is sure to inspire political debate.
Next up was The Artist.
The Artist (4.5/5)
Back in May, The Artist was the surprise hit of the Cannes Film Festival and it’s since been gaining an incredible buzz with some calling it an Oscar contender. It’s no surprise it has got people talking either because The Artist is a black and white silent film made in the style of an old Charlie Chaplin classic.
At a time in which grand special effects are commonplace in cinema and 3D is being hailed as the future, The Artist comes as a beautiful flashback of cinema at it’s very purest. More than that, however, Michael Havanvicious’ film also manages to feel surprisingly timely. George Valentin’s struggle to do what he loves in a changing environment – he’s an actor trying to find work in the world of the ‘talkies’ – is one mirrored by creatively minded independent films such as The Artist during this era of cinema. Similarly, Valentin’s story isn’t one that solely exists as nostalgia; his drop from riches to rags is one that is relatable for anyone during this economic climate.
But, more importantly, The Artist is just a pure delight to watch. While the last two weeks of movies have been packed with school shootings, child abuse and rape, the fact that this film is so filled with great slapstick humour and so deliriously uplifting comes as a welcome breath of fresh air.
Watching The Artist, one would be right to question of why no one has thought of revamping the silent film before. However, though Havanvicious makes it looks simple, his decision is certainly one that took both a big set of balls and an extraordinary talent. The latter is visible in spades as he is able to bring his concept to the big screen with a perfect balance of playful sensibility, bittersweet nostalgia and incredible storytelling.
The Artist avoids feeling like a gimmick because it’s such a well-made piece of cinema. It refuses to take itself too seriously, for example, with a fun self-awareness of its purpose as a throwback to the silent era in contrast to a grand art statement. Furthermore, its direction is so brilliant, its music is so infectious, its acting is so fantastic and its cinematography is so beautiful that you’ll quickly stop questioning whether it’s necessary to make a silent film in 2011 and just enjoy the hell out of it.
The Artist is easily one of the best films of the year; a roaring and creative crowd-pleaser that will inspire laughter, joy and cheer.
Also, can we please get this dog nominated for Best Supporting Actor at this year’s Oscar please?
Then, after grabbing some pasta and taking a short break away from the buzz of Leicester Square, I made my way back to the Vue for the UK premiere of Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna.
Winterbottom is a director who I admire far more than I actually like. His films are constantly challenging in style and content and he’s not a man afraid of pushing his own boundaries with every release. This adaptation of Tess Of The D’Urbervilles set in a modern day India, however, offers very little to admire.
His immediate style and portrait of what contemporary India is like are all compelling at first, but as the story goes nowhere and its robotic characters never develop Trishna quickly becomes mundane.
Both of its main characters, a poor working woman who needs to provide for her family and the rich son a hotel owner who falls in love with her, are so underdeveloped that their actions as the film progresses are confusing and extremely vague. The former, moreover, terribly performed by Freida Pinto, frustratingly appears to let herself be pushed over by anyone and everyone around her because of this same inability for Winterbottom to really explain his protagonist.
Trishna is also an incredibly messy film. I get the feeling Winterbottom’s work mostly comes together in the editing room with the actual shooting remaining loose and unfocussed. However, with so little drama, conflict or narrative here, even the most skilled of editors would be unable to arrange this into anything other than a jumbled clutter of images.
A disappointing effort from the director that won’t live long in the memory.