Thursday, 17 September 2009


A quickie on the LFF. The launch was last week and after a few days of digesting the programme, here are a few of the things I'm looking forward to (and not).

As per usual the galas are nice for star-spotting (though you'll be spending most of your time at the Vue West End, while the Odeon is redeveloped to include a hotel, flats, restaurants and, sadly, smaller screens) But in reality, wouldn't you rather see the very beautiful restoration of Asquith's Underground, with live music from Neil Brand and ensemble? - actually, in a welcome reappraisal of the archive strand it is a gala! Or how about Hollis Frampton's epic seven-film sequence Hapax Legomena?

As to the East European stuff, for the minute I'll limit myself to brief details:

Tales from the Golden Age (Amintiri din epoca de aur). A Romanian-French black comedy set under Ceaucescu, that's been picked up by Trinity Films. More info here.

Help Gone Mad (Сумасшедшая помощь, Sumasshedshaya pomoshch'). A Beckettian-Kaurismakian 'bleak and lugubrious comedy' from Boris Khlebnikov.

Morphia (Морфий). Balabanov's latest, scripted by the late Sergei Bodrov Junior and based on Bulgakov. Must be a candidate for proper distribution but, as yet, hasn't been picked up.

Osadné. A documentary about the titular Slovakian village and its relationship to the rest of Europe.

Protektor. A Czech drama about a journalist and an actress who gradually realise the implications of the Nazi occupation of Bohemia and Moravia.

A Room and a Half (Полторы комнаты или сентиментальное путешествие на Родину, Poltory komnaty ili sentimental'noe puteshestvie na Rodinu). A fantasy that realises exiled poet Joseph Brodsky's imaginary incognito trip back to Russia. Director Khrzhanovsky is best-known for his animation (The Glass Harmonica is a classic) and this live-action film interpolates animated sequences.

St George Shoots the Dragon (Sveti Georgije ubiva azdahu). A WW1 Balkan epic from Srdjan Dragojevic (director of Pretty Flame, Pretty Village). It's allegedly the most expensive Serbian film ever, though if East European cinema teaches us anything, it's that there's no necessary connection between budget and quality.

Sweet Rush (Tatarak). Just as Britain belatedly gets to see Wajda's Katyn, the LFF launches his new one. Counterpointing the fictional story are Krystyna Janda's meditations on the death of her husband, cinematographer Edward Kłosiński, As yet, nobody's picked up up, but hopefully we won't have to wait too long for a proper release.

Who's Afraid of the Wolf? (Kdopak by se vlka bál?) A Czech family drama that merges into a fairy-tale world, and specifically Little Red Riding Hood. Sounds intriguing, and the LFF listing specifically mentions the score by Jan P Muchow.

Meanwhile, there's the Russian Wolfy (Волчок, Volchok). Another redemptive, fantasy-tinged childhood story, this time loosely based on the dysfunctional family of lead actress Yana Troyanova.

The Ferrari Dino Girl (Holka Ferrari Dino) is a welcome return for Jan Nemec. An autobiographical look at the footage he shot of the 1968 Soviet invasion, how he smuggled it out of the country and its fate thereafter.

Victor Alampiev's enigmatic avant-garde 8-minute My Absolution will be shown on a loop in the studio on 25 October for anyone to drop in for free.

As for shorts, there are three Polish and two Latvians. I wish they'd put them on as supports to appropriate features (like the LFF used to many years ago - even if they were often unannounced so you might end up seeing the same thing three times). But unless there's been a change of heart, here are links to the programmes in which they appear. From Poland: Chick, Don't Look Back (Nie Patrz Wstecz) and A Story of a Missing Car (Historia a Braku Samochodu). The Latvian pair, both children's films (When Apples Roll (Kad Aboli Ripo) and Magic Water (Dzivais Udens) are at least gathered in the same strand. Also, Romka-97 is a Finnish film set in St Petersburg.

In the British film Perestroika, Sarah Turner re-enacts her Trans-Siberian rail trip from twenty years ago, and readdresses the footage that she shot at the time.

Elsewhere, Trimpin: the Sound of Invention, a doc about the sonic experimenter looks worthwhile. Again, no distributor but it's showing at the ICA who, if they have any money, might be tempted to give it a week or so.

Double Take, a Hitchcock mockumentary-found-footage-CGI-mash-up looked hilarious in the LFF trailer.

Another mash-up - this time about love and creation, destruction and death - comes from Gustave Deutsch with FILM IST: a girl & a gun.

I'm hoping no-one holds me to the rash predictions I made about the 'inevitable' inclusion of Terry Gilliam's The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus, but there's always the possibility that it's the surprise film.

Another change is that there'll be a proper awards night (again, back to the future). Fest director Sandra Hebron said "The idea is very much to raise the festival both in terms of its public address but also in terms of its relationship with the industry. A lot of the things we’re doing are about trying to bring the festival up to a level of parity with festivals internationally that operate on a similar scale." But at the same time:"We are not an A-grade competitive festival and at the moment we are not aspiring to be one" and that she would personally resist copying the likes of Cannes by having a high-profile competition strand because it would not be true to London's aim to be a festival for audiences. So, is this the start of a (slow) march towards making the LFF more Cannes-ish, Venetian or Berlinian? We shall see.

Finally, I would say that Nowhere Boy, Sam Taylor-Wood's John Lennon biopic (though the LFF brochure denies it that description) has divided the people that I've talked to. Except I can't. Perhaps it's just who I knock around with, but everyone is shuddering with horror at the prospect. Certainly the trailer makes it look like a standard biopic, with no evidence of the 'authorial signature' that the programme cites. But who knows...

No comments: