Thursday, October 30, 2014

58th London Film Festival: 8-19 October 2014

Having missed last year's Festival completely, we possibly saw one or two more films this year than
we would usually do.   The basic criterion remained - avoid films probably having a full release here.
Our first film on 9 October was 'Black Coal, Thin Ice', a Chinese murder mystery.   Body parts have
been found in a number of widespread locations leaving the police baffled;  one lead results in a
shoot-out leaving the lead character injured and a journey through a road tunnel elides to the present
day of the film where he is now a security guard.   The murders start up again and suspicion falls on
a widowed laundry worker whom the detective befriends even though she is not that attractive and
he is an unprepossessing heavy drinker.   Rather slow-moving but with some fine atmospheric shots
and a strong leading cast, unappealing though they area.
Next came 'French Riviera' on 11 October.   Based on a real-life event from the 1970s, it has Catherine Deneuve as a casino owner which she inherits on her husband's death, Guillaume Canet as
the lawyer she employs though they fall out when she does not appoint him as her general manager.
He has been going out with her recently divorced daughter, Adele Haenel, whom he then marries.
The daughter then vanishes but only after she has given her husband an irrevocable power of attorney
which allow him to force the sale of the now failing casino to her main, and shady, rival.   Deneueve
is convinced that he has murdered her daughter but has no proof.   Time passes and Canet goes to
live in Panama but 20 years later, Deneuve is able to get him accused of the murder.   He returns
willingly to clear his name which he does though, on a later appeal, he is finally convicted.   The
director, Andre Techine, has a glossy style which is well in evidence here with the naturally scenic
surroundings though the varying interplay between the three main leads does provide the meat - and
rather slowly cooked.
'Cub' on 14 October tells of a camping trip by a small troop whose expected site has been appropriated by two local louts so they end up deep in the woods.   The action centres around one of
the cubs who is something of an outcast.   On  their second day, their camp is ransacked and the local
gendarme is called in but finds nothing.   Meanwhile, our outcast cub has found a strange structure up
in the trees which he investigates to find many of the missing items and a wild incoherent young man
who had obviously taken them.   That night they are attacked by a man and mayhem occurs with most of the troop being killed.   On reflection, a muddled and rather unlikely sequence of events.
'The World of Kanako' finds a fired cop trying to work out what has happened to his daughter, the
Kanako of the title who seems to be a very attractive, polite model student.   The almost cartoon-
like efforts of the father to find out what happened with various youths being beaten up and then
returning the favour are intercut with what actually was happening.   Far from being a victim, the
daughter was the victimiser.   Flashy and not very good.
'Why Be Good' from 1929 was the first Colleen Moore film I have knowingly seen.   Very typical
of the time with a threadbare story and hammy acting, it is a curiosity and not the wonderful film
that the BFI curator responsible for the restoration claimed, as she would have to do.
'3 Hearts' directed by Benoit Jacquot has Benoit Poelvoorde as a tax inspector whomisses his train home.   He bumps into Charlotte Gainsbourg and, overnight, they fall in love arranging to meet in Paris a few days later but, following an odd scene between him and two Chinese who have no French, he gets to the rendezvous too late.   Gainsbourg, distressed, then goes off to the USA with
her boyfriends whom she had effectively dumped a day or so earlier.   This leaves her sister, played
by Chiara Mastroanni, to run their antique shop on her own.   Lo and behold, who should turn up at
the local tax office offering to help - Poelvoorde.   They get engaged and marry with, this time,
Gainsbourg, arriving too late and thus not seeing the groom.   Some years pass but she then comes
back again for her mother's (Catherine Deneuve) 60th and her 40th birthdaycelebrations where she
does at last discover that Poelvoorde has married her sister.   They keep quiet about it at first but the
attraction is still there and they have a surreptitious affair but everything comes apart with no one
ending up happy.
'The White-Haired With of the Lunar Kingdom' is a remaking of a classic Chinese novel which has
previously been made as 'The Bride with White Hair'.   Brilliant fight scenes recall the days of the
classic Hong Kong historical masterpieces and the films stands up well to the comparison with fine
performances in particular from the two female leads.   A change from the earlier films which were
very much studio based and limited to the territory of Hong Kong is the use of some magnificent
Chinese scenery as backdrop.  

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