Friday, 23 October 2009

London Film Festival (Continued)

So what is there to say about the five Festival films I have viewed since last writing? Well, it probably says a lot about me that four of these could be classified as fantasies and it is true that I have a soft spot for fairy tales, flights of the imagination, and unreal worlds. So it is best to deal with the exception first:

Bellamy (2009): We chose this film from the "French Hitchcock" director Claude Chabrol largely because it was a new cinema outing for megastar Gerard Depardieu -- and my goodness he is getting more mega all the time, especially about the waist! He plays a renowned Paris police detective on holiday in Nimes, who gets involved in the investigation of a local crime in the most leisurely way. If I hadn't have known otherwise I would have assumed that it was yet another psychological study from a novel by Simenon, long on character and short on action. Still Depardieu was as always more than watchable and there were good turns from Clovis Cornillac as his wastrel younger step-brother and particularly from Jacques Gamblin in three major roles. However, Chabrol while still accomplished, is nowhere near the exciting filmmaker that he once was.

Micmacs (2009): This was the definite pick of the bunch and is another wonderful creation from French director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, most of whose films (we must ignore his mis-step entry into the Aliens' franchise) have been wonders of imagination: Delicatessen, City of Lost Children, and Amelie in particular. This film may well be his masterpiece and is an unbridled joy, filled with accomplished comic actors and eccentric machinery, as it tells the tale of the revenge on a pair of amoral armaments manufacturers responsible in turn for the landmine that killed lead actor Dany Boon's father and the bullet that is lodged in his brain. The cast includes Jeunet regular Dominque Pinon alongside a number of unfamiliar character actors, including an amazing female contortionist, essential to the plot. A true fantasy feast!

Bluebeard (2009): This was made for a French television Arts channel, but is receiving a cinema release elsewhere on the strength of its director's repuation -- Catherine Breillat. However unlike her earlier works, this is not an erotic drama, but rather a charming riff on the classic fairytale, beautfully filmed and richly costumed. It mixes the story of two impoverished sisters, the younger of whom becomes the new bride of the notorious ladykiller (literally), with an afternoon's exploits of two contemporary sisters as the younger one taunts the elder with the gory details of the fable. That Bluebeard's bride here is quite literally still a child might suggest some sort of no-no to a contemporary audience, especially as she is dwarfed by his bulk (Depardieu could have played the part!), but there is no sexual hanky-panky implied, and there is no real recidivism in the telling.

Metropia (2009): I guess I chose this Swedish-Danish-Norwegian entry, directed by one Tarik Saleh -- not the most Scandinavian of names -- for the strange look of its animation and the fact that its storyline was rooted firmly in adult Sci-fi. Indeed the largely monochrome animation is fascinating, as the characters with their realistic-looking hair and eyes totter about on puppet-like bodies, as is the storyline set in a Europe of the future, where the continent is connected by one large, rapid metro system. With the main characters voiced here by Vincent Gallo, Juliette Lewis, and Udo Kier, the movie and its unique artwork has definite crossover potential; however, the muddled plot and sporadic action may well work against it.

Who's Afraid of the Wolf (2008): That leaves this Czech movie about which I have little to say and which failed to hold my attention. It was a very slight story which seemed more appealing in its blurb, which suggested that it was some sort of modern Little Red Riding Hood. Unfortunately it was nothing of the sort and was the not overly absorbing tale of a young girl who suspects that her mother might be an alien, and the two men in her mother's life -- the one who acts like a father and the one who actually is the father. Either way it was hard to care.

That leaves another five Festival films to review, so watch this space.
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