Friday, 20 October 2017

London Film Festival - Part 2

Just two films left to review taking my overall average to three and two halves (not really the same as four) out of six:

The really good choice was to see "Lucky", the swan song of Harry Dean Stanton who died last month at 91. No one knew at the time that this would be his last movie, but this character study of an old man living out his last days in the shadow of death yet managing to celebrate each waking moment is a wonderful and heartfelt testament to one of the great character actors. I suppose how one reacts to this film rests with how one feels about Harry himself. His only previous leading role was in the unforgettable "Paris, Texas" (1984), but his weathered face and caustic manner brightened many a film and I, for one, was always happy to see him. A case in point is his two-minute role in 1999's "The Straight Story", where his face registered a potpourri of emotions on seeing his estranged brother arrive on his tractor.

"Lucky" is a character study rather than a narrative and indeed very little happens. We just observe the daily routine of a cantankerous and opinionated old man in a small desert town. Everyone there knows this old fella and have learned to accept his atheism, bolshiness, and brutal honesty and he ekes out his days smoking, walking, stopping for a coffee, and enjoying an evening drink at the local bar. The film is graced with telling cameos from Ron Livingston, Ed Begley Jr, Tom Skerritt, and his old friend David Lynch who was always glad to feature Harry in his works -- most recently of course in the Twin Peaks sequel.  A highpoint in this movie is his spontaneously singing a Spanish ballad at a local birthday fiesta -- breaking everyone's heart. We will miss the old rascal.

The half mark goes to 1926's "The Prince of Adventurers" a recent restoration from La Cinematheque francais. Had I read the programme more closely I should have realised that this movie is actually called "Casanova" and I have had my own copy for some years. My copy runs 132 minutes (which is long enough) but the restoration runs a bum-numbing 159 minutes including some hand-coloured sequences. Of course these were worth seeing but I probably would not have booked tickets had I realised that I already knew the film well. It's a sumptuous affair from the French producers trying to out-Hollywood Hollywood, but I must confess I am somewhat impervious to the would-be roguish charms of its lead, the Russian √©migr√© Ivan Mosjoukine, with his narrow lipsticked cupid's-bow mouth. 

So that's it for another year. Four years ago I missed the Festival courtesy of a broken ankle. This year I managed to attend despite finding myself with a fractured wrist. I really must stop this damaging myself nonsense!
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