Monday, 23 October 2017

Call Me By Your Name - BFI London Film Festival

Sometimes the best films are the ones you don't expect to like or enjoy as much as you end up doing. I think I annoyed everyone with my gushing praise for Luca Guadagnino's latest film.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by André Aciman, the story takes place in the 80s over 6 weeks in the summer in Italy. Seventeen year old Elio spends his long summer days reading books, transcribing music, swimming in the river and waitin for summer to end. His father, a professor and mother invite a grad student each year to stay with them in their picturesque villa. Oliver, early twentives, radiates confidence arrives and captures Elio's attention. Over the summer together, they develop a passionate bond, exploring ther desire for one another but the summer has to end eventually.

Having seen Guadagnino's previous film, A Bigger Splash, which was a simmering tale of lust between four people in the heat of Italian summer, I thought Call Me By Your Name would be similar but more innocent. Where the former became a strange tale and uncomfortable atmosphere, despite a great cast, the story was good not amazing. Where as the latter finds something playful in and exciting in the smallest of gestures and expressions. Both films have a sense of 'waiting' set against a beautiful background and lets face it, attractive cast. But Call Me By Your Name is a story about a different sort of desire. 

At first it seems that Elio and Oliver don't get along but they are each curious by one another and subtly try to show the other, until Elio's impatience and eagerness to share his feelings break the barrier. Oliver tries to be more reserved despite, technically, making the first move. He says 'they've been good' meaning they haven't given into their desires yet and there is still time to hold back and pretend nothing happened. How they each deal with their feelings shows their ages, Elio, young and impulsive and Oliver slightly older but wary about what others will think. The heartbreaking scene at the end when Elio and his parents are back at their villa for Christmas and Oliver calls, knowing that they still feel the same way but Oliver due to obligation and most likely his father, can't stay true to himself, leading to Elio breaking down into tears as the credits roll. But hope is not lost, Elio is still young and has time to be who he wants to be and there is little but some hope in that. Another glimmer of hope is in the thoughtful poetic speech Elio's father (played by Michael Stuhlbarg) says near the end as he comfort's his son. Its a speech that you'll hear about and its something you have to hear for yourself to grasp the intensity of Elio and Oliver's bond.

The two leads, Armie Hammer and Timothee Chalamet, are beyond brilliant. The chemistry between is everything; beautiful, heartbreaking, lustful, innocent, everything the film explores. Special kudos to Chalamet who can speak French and learnt Italian as well as how to play the piano for the shoot. There was something so perfect about Hammer and Chalamet that, if you stripped the film back, its a simple story about love, without saying the word. 

I feel like Call Me By Your Name is a film that needs a second watch, which I hope to when it goes in general release this month. A brilliant, heartfelt story with great cast wrapped in a place with an amazing view. 

I Am Not a Witch - BFI London Film Festival

This was the first film of the festival for me, a brilliant intro the a great year. A mixture of UK, Welsh, French and Zambian production, an unusual mix. My full review can be read on VultureHound.

This film also doubles up on my posts.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Thursday Movie Pick Halloween Edition: Body Horror

This is a bit of a cheat one as I haven't seen it but had tried to when it was released. This film actually caused people to throw up in the screenings notoriously. I class it as 'body horror' as it is vile what is happening to her. Justine, a vegatarian, starts at a veterinary school. During a hazing ritual, she is forced to eat a raw rabbit kidney by her sister who also attends the school. From then on she is disturbed and craves the smell and taste of meat, any meat. I do still want to watch this one and hopefully will get to.

I remember seeing this at the PCC (Prince Charles Cinema) on a afternoon off and then regretting my film choice the minute I sat down, not just because I was worried about the subject of the film, but there was no one else in the room and I was slightly freaked out. Leaning to sci-fi, the story follows Syd, an employee at a clinic which extracts illnesses from celebrities and injects them into 'clients' so they can feel closer to their idols. The employee also sells viruses on the black market by injecting them into himself. When one of the most popular celebrities falls ill, Syd goes to extract a blood sample and again, injects himself only to find out that the celebrity has died. He navigates the strange underworld of growing cells of famous people and negotiates with rivals clinics before he suffers the same fate. Its disgusting to be honest, but its also fascinating. Commenting on celebrity failure and poison of today and all that.

The Skin I Live In 
I love Pedro Almodovar and I was super excited to see this film as was my sister BUT after the film we were both agreed it was a hell of a difficult watch. I ended wanting to see this film again but even a second time it was too much. Almodovar described the film as "a horror story without screams or frights" which is exactly what it is. Its about a plastic surgeon who has created an artificial skin resistant to burns and insect bites but he looses funding because he is already testing it on humans. He keeps a mysterious woman captive in his home and as the film slowly unfolds with flashbacks to six years previous, the hideous truth comes out about who the woman is and why she's there. Any one who has seen this will get this.

Don't forget to check out where it all started over at
Wandering Through the Shelves

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

August, September, October Watch Lists

Moon Dogs
Review is on VultureHound which can be read HERE. 2/5

What Happened to Monday
A science fiction story featuring over population and a deadly solution. I think we've heard this one before but its still great to see Noomi Rapace play seven sisters trying to survive. Named after each day of the week, each sister is allowed to go outside on their nominated day at the risk of being caught and taken to Child Allocation Bureau, which is basically a front of an organisation lead by Glenn Close. Seeing the sisters try and peice together what happened to Monday and then later Tuesday, is actually quite tragic, but its great they all have their own special skills to bring to the table. But as always with this sort of subject, there is a resolution for the characters, but no hint of a solution to the greater problem. 3/5

God's Own Country 
Anyone who hasn't sen this brilliant piece of Britich cinema has been calling it or comparing it to another film by Ang Lee but seeing as this story is nothing like that film, I won't mention it anymore. Johnny helps is ill father run the family farm in Yorkshire. He lives in a cycle of early mornings, work, casual sex, drinking at the pub, sick at home and back to square one. Things change when Gheorghe, a Romanian farmhand arrives. Johnny doesn't seem to know how to be loved and he finds comfort and love from Gheorghe. He wants to be better but doesn't know how. Its not a story about growing up but learning how to show affection and emotion. Also the Yorkshire moors never looked more picturesque. 4/5

The Exception
 Review is on VultureHound which can be read HERE. 3/5

Review is on VultureHound which can be read HERE. 4/5

The Bad Batch
I was a big fan of Ana Lily Amirpour's first film 'A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night' and was keen to see her second feature but...I have two great fears, the apocalypse and cannibals and The Bad Batch isn't exactly about the end of the world but it does feature a group cannibal body builders. Another desert set story, a wasteland, where criminals are left to die or survive. Suki Waterhouse's Arlen is soon caught and cut up but using her wits she escapes the cannibals minus an arm and a leg, she soon finds Comfort, a make shift settlement where people all hail the weird Dream, headed up by Keanu Reeves. But after Arlen takes revenge for her lost limbs, she ends up with a child in her care. One of the body builders, Jason Momoa's Miami Man comes looking for his lost daughter and finds Arlen instead. Its a strange horror, thriller slightly romantic even tale. 3/5

How do you even begin to decode this film, especially with all the ridiculous hype around it. Some have hated it, calling it a 'bad movie', others have liked it, even enjoyed it. I'm stuck in the middle. I didn't like it but but I don't think its a bad film, I just feel that it makes women not look in control and ultimately just a puppet and there for a man's purpose. What I find fantastic is that no one is named in the film which actually helps the overall style and 'stories' of the film. A man, a poet, and his wife, who is also creative as she designed and decorated theie house, live in a country home away from everything else. They are disturbed one day by an unexpected visitor and a little later his hostile wife. Later their sons arrive and argue, ending in a tragic and violent incident. From here, its painfully obvious what is happening as soon as you know the film is about religion. There are smaller, clever references throughout that work far better than the chaotic second half where all the poet's 'followers' decend upon the house and a distraught and heavily pregnant wife aka Mother Nature, has to scamble through the madness. You can see what Darren Aronofsky is trying to do but for me, Black Swan will always be something brilliant and cannot be outshadowed, not even with this hype heavy film. 3/5

The Invisible Guardian
 I read the book (without knowing it was going to be a series) by Dolores Redondo and always thought it would make a great TV series. A film was made instead but it was still exciting. The thrill of the chase mixed with the tragic deaths of young girls found in ritualistic ways, with a pair of shoes signalling there was another dead body, the killer has killed again. As I already knew the story, the sense of dread and excitement leading up to the arrest was less dramatic but the flashback scenes of Amaia remember her crazy mother were terrifying. This wasn't really captured in the book as well as it was on screen, adding to the tensions between sisters and pressure on the character to push aside her demons of the past. 3/5

Top Picks of the LFF

As I still have a couple of reviews still pending over at VultureHound, I can't put links up for them but I still give a brief run down of my top picks.

There were a few changes to my line up this year, thrown in mostly because quite a few screenings only had two showings, one late at night and the other middle of the day during the week. I was also stretched a little as I had my course on Saturdays until 4pm AND I was shooting the second scene of my short film on the other. I had press accreditation this year which was very exciting. In fact, I still have some films to watch on the digital library so watch this space. I got to go to a couple of press screenings which were worth my time in gold. I ended up switching films last minute one night, going to see Thoroughbreds instead of Going West. As I wasn't very keen on the former, I wonder what I missed with the latter. Hopefully I'll get another chance to see it. I also got to go to a couple of screenings before the festival started. So things were very different to how they are every year. Hopefully they'll be as fun next year too.


Call Me By Your Name, The Shape of Water, The Breadwinner, How to Talk to Girls at Parties & You Were Never Really There (both appearing soon on VultureHound).

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Dark River - BFI London Film Festival

Set in Yorkshire, Alice is an expert sheep shearer. Drifting from place to place, travelling 'wherever there is sheep'. With news of her father's death, she returns home to the family farm where her brother Joe had been taking care of their father and of the farm. Still haunted by abuse she suffered, Alice can barely enter the house, but she wants the farm. She and Joe, with built up anger, both apply for tenancy. Joe resents his sister's presence, not fully understanding what casued her to leave and Alice unable to cope with the past.

Inspired by the novel Tresspass by Rose Tremain, the story uses flashbacks and ominous appearnces of Sean Bean as Alice and Joe's father. He drifts in and out of present day hallucinations to flashback moments serving as a memory that won't go away. The sight of him or anythingassociated with what happened to her disturbs Alice, making her unstable. She wants to farm but not what comes with it. Despite his hostility Alice tries to work with Joe, even after he tries to set her car on fire. Joe is on edge, etching some out of life, but clearly angry at his sister disappearing and coming back suddenly upsetting his way of running the farm. There are a few moments where the siblings calm down, when Joe shows Alice why he hasn't cut of the fields, expressing a sensitive side, but its all short lived. Its only near to the end where Joe finally understand Alice's unrest and realises that he may have made a mistake. The crashing ending is a slight anti climax as the siblings aren't able to find resolution. The last scene, near wordless, has a tiny glimmer of hope that the can find a way to be the way they were but it may take a long time.

Set up like a mystery which usually comes with a character returning home from a long absence yet the mystery is revealed almost straight away. The film then becomes more about the siblings fighting over the farm. This would have been rather dull to watch but thanks to Ruth Wilson and Mark Stanely's performances this isn't the case.

It's alway exciting to see British films at the festival as they carry an extra buzz about them and Dark River had someting special to offer, mainly the two leads who were utterly devastingly brilliant as the estranged brother and sister.

Monday, 16 October 2017

The Breadwinner - BFI London Film Festival

From Cartoon Saloon, the ace animation studio based in Ireland has created another beautifully crafted 2D animation. Based on the novel of the same name by Deborah Ellis, The Breadwinner follows Parvana, a young girl living in Taliban controlled Kabul, Afghanistan. After her father is wrongfully arrested and taken to prison, she, her older sister, mother and baby brother are left to fend for themselves. With the impossible and cruel rules forced on women, Parvana cuts her air and dresses as a boy in order to provide for her family.

Just like Song of the Sea, the animation is beautiful. Embarcing the sights, sounds, colours of Afghanistan, beyond the brutal day to day life, there is still hope and moments of joy to be shared. The fairytale like story Parvana tells her brother, later her friend, who also dresses as boy and finally to herself as war breaks out in the prison, binds the whole film together. It peices gether what happened to her older brother who died but no one will talk about him. The story comforts Parvana as well as othere around her. Forgetting for a short while the situation they are all in.

The attention to detail is superb, whether it is in the bedtime story Parvana tells throughout the film, slightly mirroring what is happening in real life or in the family home, when they sit down to share their meal or within the framing, their is pain and hope side by side. One particular moments which is cutting as well as heartbreaking, showing just how everyone is affected by the war, the regime, Parvana, dressed as boy, reads a letter for a stranger. We see the man sit next to her and all you can see are his hands peeling an apple, as she reads his wife has been killed by a bus hitting a landmine, he stops and slowly drops the apple and knife. Without seeing the man's face, his grief is hard hitting as he silents gets up and walks away. Moments such as this makie the film stand out in memory.

Director Nora Towmey bring together a story we haven't seen before in a setting we still don't see much about.