Cannes in a Van regular Janus Avivson is reviewing 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!

Here are the first six reviews…

USA 2014, 84 min, did. Alan Hicks.

The film producer, legendary Quincy Jones, was Clark Terry’s first student of trumpet. Clark Terry is a legend, such a caliber that other legends, like Miles Davis, acknowledged his influence on themselves and his importance for the last sixty years of jazz. So if you are a jazz person, this is a film for you. Below is the full text of a listing from film’s ImdB file written by film’s director, camera operator, writer and music supervisor, simply because I cannot possibly write a better text than his own: “First-time director/drummer from Australia, Alan Hicks, convinced his surfing mate and cinematographer, Adam Hart, to travel to the U.S. to follow and film 89-year-old jazz legend, Clark Terry (Quincy Jones’s first teacher) over four years – to document an unlikely mentorship between Terry and a driven, blind piano prodigy, Justin Kauflin, 23. Clark, now 93, mentored Miles Davis as a young musician and is among the few performers ever to have played in both Count Basie’s and Duke Ellington’s bands. In Keep On Keepin’ On, as Justin is invited to compete in an elite, international competition while battling terrible stage fright, Clark’s health takes a critical turn for the worse. Over the course of filming, Clark loses his sight, which deepens his bond with Justin. As clocks tick, we are suddenly witness to two great friends tackling the toughest challenges of their interwoven lives. The film, from the producer of The Cove and Chasing Ice, captures the passing of the torch from a cultural icon to potentially his last student, inspiring viewers in climactic, cinematic fashion.” END OF QUOTE. An intelligent film, on several levels, well timed, with a wealth of archival footage. A few good sentences from Clark, like “if you don’t succeed maybe you will suck-seed” who, each time seeing Quincy, asks him “are your lips greasy ?”, which is an impossibility for a trumpet player. I strongly recommend this film, and then you will know what Clarks’ lucky socks are… By the way, this film was successfully funded on Kickstarter!

China/Hong Kong 2014, dir-scr Diao Yinan

This is the tale of an unsuccessful police investigation into the series of incidents, when parts of human body were discovered on conveyer belts transporting coal into several powers stations in one region in Northern China. Because this is a thriller, I am not going to reveal any secrets of the script, except that the plot is tight and well told, acting is superb and well, go and see it. The film is already famous and was awarded a Berlin Golden Bear last February, and a Silver Bear for main actor Lio Fan. I think we will have to learn a few Chinese names from now on, and this film is worth seeing if only to confirm how competent art of cinematography is there.

USA 2014, 117 min, dir-scr Peter Sattler

And now image a large long table with several nice and clever people who plan to make a smart and politically correct film. They choose a fashionable and recognisable female actor, young and cute. They place her in an improbable situation and location, like a jailer in, say, Guantanamo Bay. She obviously volunteers, because she “wanted to do something important”. So did most of the inmates, but that’s beside the point. She befriends one of them, and they are called “detainees” and not “prisoners”, because “prisoners are subject to a Geneva Convention”. The guy of her choice is an eight years tenant, a vociferous reader, of everything, and especially Harry Potter, maybe because he has a University degree in his country. I do not have to say that he is innocent, as he was told by one who interrogated him. Now, normally we can be certain that someone is guilty of a crime, we have evidence, witnesses etc, but how do we confirm someone’s innocence? Well, this is a Hollywood production, with Kristen Stewart, who actually does the job. However, the Long Table Committee made a list of cliches, as long as the table, and squeezed them into the script, which was thin to start with. There is a happy ending, two actually, the second one that Kristen named her dog Cole, after name of her character…OK, forget I ever mentioned this film, please…

France 2014 102 min dir-scr Christophe Honore

It seems like this is the director’s pet project many years in making, unfortunately there are not many informations about that. Many if not most of the readers know of Ovid’s famous work, its general idea being that everything is transvestited. Gods change into humans then into beasts, they talk poetry to each other, they fornicate and run, well, a usual stuff if you live in rural Greece or Wales. I have once tried to read a poetry to a very beautiful white cow, she did not reply and I left it at that, some people obviously go further.

I think that the win reason for this feeble and poetic, rather that feeble-poetic, film, was to get as many beautiful young actors of both sexes into various stages of undress, and if this was the aim, the film definitely succeeded. There are many beautiful faces and bums on the screen, the story is following the ancient poem and the music is interesting, I am sure that the director, who also wrote the script, was content.

I was not.

Spain 2013 80 min dir-scr Alfredo Montero

This is a good forewarning to any tourists to any cave in the world, and not only Mediterranean islands like in this film, to prepare, before enter, a ball of a strong string, and to attach it to the rock at the cave’s entrance, and then go.

This film shows what may happen if tourist don’t do that. They are a casual bunch, arguing ad swearing badly at each other, dull and boring, with private issues and with a strong desire for a adventure. Well, they got what they desired, pretty well. Again, it is a thriller, and however I am tempted to reveal the secret I decided not to, so if you are really determined to find out, see the film. It is also a good example to see how inexpensively one can make a movie, five people and a camera, a few rocks, a simple script, half amateur actors, no extras, no helicopters falling..

But why?

New Zealand-UK 2014 109 min dir. Toa Fraser

One of very few films made entirely in the Maori language and describing a story before the colonisation of New Zealand this is a wonderful tale reminding me of Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, except better. Lots of running and fighting and a few bad and ugly spirits to top the cake of violence and amazing natural beauty. A leader of a pack of warriors come to the king of a tribe in order to give tribute to kings ancestors, but instead he desecrates the skull. This is seen by Hongi, a young son of the king, who is seen by the warrior. An energetic exchange takes place, warriors leave, and at night return and wipe of the tribe – which was their plan to start with. The boy is saved by a fall into a ravine and survives, then swears to avenge his father and his tribe, and follows the warriors, who, stupidly and without respect to spirits of the dead decide to traverse the land of the dead, hence the title.

Little did they know that the lands were inhabited but various crazies, most crazy of them a huge mthfckr nut, whom I remember from The Lord of the Rings and other New Zealand movies. He is a descendant of another wiped off tribe, who decides to help the boy, and to train him in warfare as well as assist him in his task. They both attack the warriors, superior in number and armour, but with help of the dead justice prevails. During the final confrontation Hongi, pretty well matured during the last hour of the film, discovers two unique concepts: first a forgiveness in order to stop the senseless circle of vendetta’s violence. Then, hearing that the dying fighter is worried about ancestors not accepting him in afterlife, Hongi offers a promise that his ancestors will. All very Shakespearean if not in English, quite believable and well acted. Verdict – an enjoyable experience throughout.

Janus Avivson

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