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Friday, 16 October 2009

A Charmer and a Bummer

This is my first report from the London Film Festival having viewed two movies yesterday. There's a viewing gap today and tomorrow, but I have at least one film a day scheduled from Sunday forward, so further revelations will follow. The hit and miss procedure of choosing which films to book from the largely effusive blurbs in the Festival programe is highlighted by yesterday's selection which resulted in a gem and a stinker:



Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009): While I generally avoid mainstream offerings which will surface at the local cineplex shortly, I do occasionally seek out an early outing for some promising features. This film was the opening night gala and we went to see it on its second showing; it was really good fun. A two-year labour of love by a London East End studio, this stop-motion animation of some very realistic and hairy puppets from director Wes Anderson, expanded by him and co-writer Noah Baumbach from a popular short story by Roald Dahl, is a complete joy --possibly more so for an adult audience than for kiddiewinkies who might not appreciate its subversive family messages. Mr Fox, voiced by an ever-so debonair George Clooney can not resist the opportunity to steal more chickens, despite his pledge to the loving Mrs. Fox voiced by Meryl Streep. The voice cast includes Anderson regulars Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, and Owen Wilson. It also ropes in the distinctive British tones of Michael Gambon as one of the evil farmers -- Boggis, Bunce, and Bean -- who are out to catch and put an end to Mr. Fox's rampages, leading to a denouement featuring a rabid dog with foaming bubbles at the mouth and an attempt to retrieve Mr. Fox's brush which Bean has taken for a necktie. The story has the upbeat message of family loyalties and worth (as Mr. Fox's awkward son attempts to prove his fortitude like his formidible cousin) and as the various species of the woodland learn that cooperation pays. In short, the movie has more in common with Anderson's other family sagas than it does with any animation aimed primarily at the younger set. I'm sure kids will warm to this bright and cheery film, but quite possibly less so than the cineliterate adult.



Double Take (2009): This film falls squarely into the category that I reserve for pretentious twaddle. The programme notes made this Dutch/Belgian/German documentary sound like a fun tribute to Alfred Hitchcock combined with subversive archive footage from the 50s and 60s. The end result however was a poorly filmed -- lots of really blurry images, badly put together, and a repetitive mess. Some of the clips of Hitchcock from his vintage TV series were mildly amusing, if not unfamiliar, but these were combined with crappy ads for Folger coffee, black and white news footage of Nixon and Krushchev, and some stupid storyline of Hitchcock meeting his doppelganger in the shape of a latter-day impersonator. In short: a complete waste of time!
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