LFF 56: Wrap opinion

The London Film Festival was shorter this year, films were oddly and confusingly hammered into ill-fitting themed categories (“Love”, “Dare”, etc.), and the BFI’s continued woeful online technical implementation caused significant frustration. But the festival continued to do what it does, as it does – not as one of the world’s leading festivals but as an exhibition of international cinema that the general public can enjoy.

The Big Films

The festival bucked a trend of recent years by opening with a film that wasn’t a complete dog. Frankenweenie was infinitely more enjoyable than 360 (last year) or Never Let Me Go (2010) although its special appeal was marred a bit by the fact that the Tim Burton animation went on general release just a week after its festival premiere.

Seven Psychopaths, from In Bruges’ Martin McDonagh did not disappoint, the extent of the quality and entertainment of End of Watch was quite a surprise and Argo, deftly made and featuring a standout cast, surely must be a big Oscars contender.

As for specific disappointments, although Bill Murray impresses in Hyde Park on Hudson, the film is flat, uneventful and felt like an attempt to create an American The King’s Speech. The characters in Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday also lacked adequate strength to carry such a tedious “slice of life” drama and an almost comical intrusive score didn’t help.

Hotly-tipped films The Master and To the Wonder failed to make an appearance although Silver Linings Playbook did turn up, impressively, as the festival’s Surprise Film.

The Little Films

The most interesting aspect of the festival, really, is its presentation of smaller, low-key movies that may not ever see a public release – unlike the bigger films, this could be one of very few opportunities to see these productions.

Several highlights have already been mentioned (and again) but, if I had to choose one favourite from the bunch, it would probably have to be Broken.

It is difficult to comprehend how some of the films passed quality control and made it in to the line-up with the likes of Black Rock (which actually probably grabbed attention because of the involvement of indie lovie Mark Duplass) being almost completely devoid of accomplishment. And whilst I found Helter Skelter (Japan) and Short Stories (Russia) to be nearly unbearable, it is quite possible that some offerings are culturally specific to the extreme – the audiences in these two films, which were made up of a sizable number of people from, or with roots from, the respective countries in which the films were made, certainly seemed to enjoy them.

Finally, just to get this off my chest, as pretty and as well-acted as The Wall is, watching it was like reading a book with lots of pictures in it. Sometimes a book should just stay a book. Sometimes you can’t adapt a book into a film. Or, at least, this director couldn’t.

In Competition

Rust and Bone won the festival’s Best Film award, a rather eyebrow-raising choice; Jacques Auidard’s latest has been highly anticipated (especially since A Prophet, his last film) and although it certainly carries merit its subject matter is somewhat forced down the throat of the viewer. However, mirroring the lack of tantalising big films in general, the Best Film shortlist wasn’t exactly full of mind-blowing contenders.

Beasts of the Southern Wild predictably and deservedly won the First Feature award. It is a shame there is no runner-up prize to recognise the magnificent Wadjda.

And Best British Newcomer went to Sally El Hosnaini for My Brother the Devil, an above-average but hardly ground-breaking film. Personally, I would have gone with Broken all the way, either for Rufus Norris (director) or Eloise Laurence (actor), both of whom were nominated.

22nd Oct 2012

Comments

My favourite is probably a coin-toss between Robot & Frank and Sightseers. I liked Seven Psychopaths but the first half is a bit messy - although everything falls satisfyingly into place at the end.

Daz, 22nd Oct 2012