BFI London Film Festival – Reviews

By October 17, 2014Festivals, Film, News, Reviews

Cannes in a Van regular Janus Avivson once again reviews the films from the BFI London Film Festival and we are publishing the insights of the opinionated, often controversial producer / actor / director right here on Screen Social. We should say that any opinions or spoilers expressed here are entirely Mr Avivson’s!

UK-USA 1014 114 MIN dir Morten Tyldum

A true British film, almost a costume drama, made by the director of “Headhunters”, about code breakers of Bletchley Park and Alan Turing. An amazing cast, Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley,Matthew Goode, Mark Strong, Charles Dance. A great script, well chosen locations, perfectly designed production, one of signs of recognition is that the Weinstein brothers paid a record sum of 7 mil. US dollars for US distribution rights.

Film definitely worth seeing, only if to reflect upon a few ideas, like:

1. Winston Churchill allegedly said that “Turing made the single biggest contribution to Allied victory in the was against Nazi Germany”. So he was a war hero. Why then was he not protected by the government during his trial for being a homosexual in 1952?

2. In view of the above, Turing’s contribution to our freedom and saving of countless lives, why did it take so many years to issue a posthumous Royal Pardon, only at the end of 2013?

3. If he was treated so harshly and in Britain, which, by all means, was one of the most gay-friendly countries in the world, and only 60 years ago – can you imagine how homosexuals were treated elsewhere? And how they tend to be treated now, in Russia, China, Muslim countries? And what do we do about that?

UK 2014, 97 min, dir. Nick Fenton and Peter Strickland.

Forget Kate Bush, Bowie and Eno, the only music performer who will be remembered for the next one hundred years is Bjork. Why? Because, at the age of 49, she is best, and innovative, and profound, and not pop, and she dresses like a molusc, at least for the Biophilia performance from Alexandra Palace, film of which I just saw. With volcanoes and more, she explores links between music, technology, and nature.

Another reason is that she brought with her a choir of about twenty young Icelandic singers, each of them looking like Scarlett Johansson or better. And if this is true what I read as a child, about  a music in Cosmos originating in Celestial Spheres, this must be it. The film is made with modest help from Welcome Trust, the scientific part of it, amazing imagery of nature, grand and small, with the voice of David Attenborough. A true treat for eyes and ears, I promise…

10.000 KM
Spain-USA 2014, 99 min, dir. Carlos Marques-Marcet

During the several first minutes of the film the viewer participates in the couple’s lovemaking – a serious stuff indeed, as they are trying for a baby. A young, handsome middle class couple in Barcelona, she a visual artist, he is a teacher, they live together and plan for the future. But the times are rough and money is getting tight, after all it is Spain in 2014, economy, stupid. He goes to the loo and she goes to the laptop, where an email informs her that she’s got a one year residency in LA. And so the baby has to wait, he throws a tantrum, she starts packing, and for the most of the film we see people skype-ing like crazy. What makes the film a cheap and friendly instruction manual for young and impoverished filmmakers about how to make a film for two with pocket money. Amazing but true. And then the film, which is not even in English, goes to all kind of festivals all over the world, from Dallas to Bergen, Rio and Haifa, and people ask themselves the same question: why didn’t I do it myself like that !!!

USA 2013, 110 min, dir Jen McGowan

A punky housewife who realises that she is not getting any younger and a disabled teenager who developed a crush on her are typical examples of an American suburbia’s who shout for attention. Nobody listens, except people who came to see this feeble and innocent film, lovely to see Juliette Lewis in her second film role over 40, she keeps well, thank you, but then we knew that already…I’ll give it a miss…

Spain-France 2014, 136 min, dir. Daniel Manzon

A powerful intercontinental drama about drug smuggling between Morocco and Spain. A small time smuggler wants to graduate to another league but has no brains for it. He makes the first mistake of being ambitious, and second to undercut the business of a powerful criminal, with obvious results. A secondary story is of a local cop, who works for two years on a drug bust, and is lucky. Our Lovejoy Ian McShane, already 72 years old, got a role of…surprise Ingles, an Englishman, operating from a spectacular Gibraltar. I remember it was always windy there, the waters of the straits always dark and murky, not inviting, unless you are a smuggler. A well made policier, with a happy ending, bad guy goes to prison but the girl will wait for him, ha ha ha, they all say that…

Republic of Korea 2014, 119 min, dir-scr July Jung

A young and pretty policewoman arrives in the provincial dump, only to realise that she has to reckon with forces above her pay grade. Well constructed drama with universal themes, there is even a side line dealing with illegal immigrants, who are abused by locals, but are indispensable to the ageing population and so their human rights are neglected. The film has a twist but a good one and I am not going to reveal it, suffice to say that globalisation arrived in rural Korea with a full blast.

UK-Ireland-France 2014, 115 min, dir-scr John Boorman

He is maybe not one of the best known or most most profitable filmmakers we know, but, at 81, John Boorman is admirable to manage to team up with the Irish Merlin Films and to complete a second part of his diptych, a complementary to “Hope and Glory” of 1987. So, hats off and maybe a third part comes soon?

Bill, played by an admirable Callum Turner, is called up for National Service, just during the outbreak of the Korean War. His idea of barracks is to have fun, and a lot of it, at a cost to a dimwit and underclass conscript. A sad story indeed, which ends well, and includes an attempted adventure with a beautiful and hysterical  aristocrat, played by one of St.Trinian’s girls, Tamsin Egerton. An innocent film, well cast and often humorous, a reminder of good old times, between one troubled epoch and the other. Never again…

USA 2014, 73 min, dir One9

Surprisingly interesting and well done music documentary about the guy I never heard of, and the genre which I simply detest – however, full of misgivings, I ended appreciating the film. Interviews and music overlap, sad stories, twenty years later, of a successful rap artist, pointing his deceased and incarcerated friend on an ancient photograph, him being an example that one can do things and be someone, even in a ghetto. Inspired by this Tribeca Film Institute produced film I wrote the following verse, and am currently looking for a tune…I know it is a bit didactic but is best I can do now, after all this is my first rap:

“common Brothers let get this shit together

stop doing drugs and start going to school

let us pay taxes and have proper families

don’t go to prisons because it’s such a waste

we are not victims this is all a history

we are not products of the slave nasty stint

we are proud people but then we have to show it

we need respect but then we have to earn it

show it to others and they give to to us

we have a Brother who is a president

he is not clever and is bit of a fart

but he is trying and that’s what we’ll be doing

and his two terms are not such a bad start

don’t be a victim

don’t be a victim

of your history

of yourself


Know what I mean mthrfckrs?

France-Democratic Republic of Congo 2014, 92 min, dir-scr Dieudo Hamadi

An excellent documentary, a true African film – and how many do we see? We follow a group of ambitious high school students, who cannot pay corrupt teachers bonuses for preparation for an all important exam of National Diploma, without which one cannot get any government job. And so they pull some savings together, rent a house and start studying. However, very quickly a new young self styled tutor explains that their efforts are not worth the trouble, because chances to pass the exam are extremely slim, and what one should do is to buy the results and, well, cheat.

Consequently all their preparation for the exams consist of preparation for… cheating, paying money to corrupt people, and not learning anything anyway. Money is paid, and surprise surprise, all pass, get their diplomas, and start building a prosperous Africa. No, not really…

Brazil 2014, 115 min, dir Felipe Barbosa

A beautiful and huge house, in a lovely place, young man plans to study and more, but his life is disrupted by economy, his father is bankrupt and cannot pay bills anymore, servants are not paid etc, general demise. Directors semi biographical coming of age story is well told, a non-professional in the main role, amazing what he did. I like it, this was the Brasil I saw, rich and poor in the same instant, insecure. But the views of the icy and the country are great…

Mexico 2014, 106 min, dir Alonso Ruizpalacios

Black and white film, filming within the film, film references in improvised script, a few adventures, student-run occupation of the university, this is Mexico, man, people take “a strike from the strike”, another cheap feature (see 10.000 KM), something to imitate, but go and see it first, please…

France 2014, 106 min, dir Cedric Kahn

Based on a true story, a powerful drama about a family affair which did not end well, parents fighting for children, one of them wins – but then the other escapes, and so on and so on. Lovely Mathieu Kassovitz in the main role as Paco, all he wants is to bring his children in the nature, away from the consumer crap but no, society interferes, bastards, do children want freedom after all, and what is freedom? An excellent film indeed.

USA 2013 108 min, dir-scr Justin Simian

Oh man, this was bad indeed, a typical American sitcom, round sentences, all polished, clicks together, unreal, and the story os weird, like the Blacks on the campus demanding their rights in an exaggerated manner and the consequences of it. And who really cares, man…Nothing provocative or relevant there, believe me…

UK-Sweden 2014, 105 min, dir-scr Duane Hopkins

A follow up to Hopkins 2008 debut “Better Things” do not look much better, sorry. Tim is a weedy and softie product of a council estate, single mother terminally ill, silly younger sister and absent brother and father. No happy endings there except for the end of the film, with absolutely excellent George MacKay. Worth seeing though, but not to imitate. Funny, nobody wants to make a film in Hampstead, where I live…why?