October 21 2016
Reviews from this year’s BFI London Film Festival
A Quiet Passion
IF YOU ARE FAMILIAR with the poetry of Emily Dickinson, this really is unmissable. A biopic, it shows one of the earliest female poets from her teenage years right through to her demise in 1886.
In some ways the young Emily was a scandal; outspoken and critical of traditional ways of worship at the time, she cared not for convention. It’s easy to warm to her as a young woman, coquettish, confident and iridescently intelligent.
But in a time when no woman was prized for such, she becomes more craggy and argumentative as the years pass.
Terence Davies’ who is the director/writer, shows a great ear for tart and sharp dialogue and the use of poetry and classical music undoubtedly serves this narrative well.
Strange to find the rather familiar Cynthia Nixon (as Emily Dickinson) in this; but she does the part grand. There is a good supporting cast; it’s very solid, if a little unexciting. A Sunday afternoon sort of film for those who love words as much as pictures.
ACV rating:*** (out of five)
SOMETHING of an extreme immigrant tale, this is both highly amusing and unsettlingly macabre in its own way. Not a slasher movie, but not far off it in one sense, it’s an adroitly delivered, where everything from the characterisation to the plot and the cinematography all work in near cinematic harmony. That may be high praise indeed for Spanish director Carles Torras and screenwriter lead actor, Martin Bacigalupo (shades of Steve Buscemi) – but there is really very little wrong with anything because it does exactly what it sets out to.
Larry De Cecco (Bacigalupo) is your average Hispanic (not specified from where, exactly) immigrant trying to get on in the Big Apple. He attends auditions for commercials and has a regular day job as a removals man. We quickly learn he isn’t all that he seems; and when the attractive, young Alexandra (Lilli Stein) steps into his life as his flatmate – with a secret cam placed in her bedroom – you know there will be trouble and blood. Not just hers, either…
ACV rating: *** ¾
Women Who Kill
QUIRKY, dry, and quite a lot of fun, director-screenwriter Ingrid Jungermann’s step into celluloid from Youtube looks as assured and as accomplished as any other more traditional short film to feature debut and the film already has some fine festival awards to accompany it. Slightly slipping into TV like “Twin Peaks” territory, it’s an amiable mash-up of genre types. Neither horror nor mystery nor drama comedy, it has elements of all three and is the stronger for it.
The title is the name of a fictional web podcast with the two leads and lovers Morgan (played by Jungermann herself) and girlfriend Jean (Ann Carr), sharing their fascination for women who literally kill and are both something of a hit on the radio with their impulse to oppose each other.
Of course, the relationship cannot last (the show does), and Jean drifts into a heterosexual reattachment, while Morgan finds solace in the mysterious but rather obvious charms of the beautiful Simone (fast rising star, Sheila Vand) who carries as many secrets as a priest at confessional.
This is entertaining and its depiction of a lesbian group of friends is funny, tender and warm. Be interesting to see though if Jungermann’s range is more tested in different territory, for this is safe and works a treat because it is a world she knows well, maybe too well, and delivers charmingly on its own very sensible terms.
The Bacchus Lady
IT’S A LITTLE odd, and you would expect some sexual stuff – indeed there is but this film is really about death and old people. That sounds terrible put like that, but actually it’s very entertaining, amusing and really quite thought provoking. Director EJ Yong elicits great performances especially from the lead, Youn Yuh-jung.
Apparently in South Korea, there are a high number of old people living below the poverty line and some have to sell their bodies to make ends meet.
Our heroine is one, a chance incident in her doctor’s surgery leads her to look after a young boy. His care and welfare became the responsibility of the neighbours and they form an unusual family. All the while, our Bacchus lady has to negotiate with her clients, old and new.
Mostly it’s done well and asks questions of us all about sexuality, care and responsibility when old people enter into the last chapter.
ACV rating: ***
On the Milky Road
EMIR KUSTURICA’S latest film deals with the Yugoslav conflict of the 1990s. It’s very much a love and war number and for what else could you have the effervescent Monica Belluci. In some ways, Serbian actor Sloboda Mićalović gives her a good run for her money and in the beginning the younger woman dominates. Of course she makes way and that is because Kusturica’s character Kosta (played by Kusturica himself) finds the older woman’s charms more seductive than Mićalović’s – strange but it’s a case of the ‘Woody Allen’s’, where a much older man has to fight off the attentions of younger women just gagging for it – an exaggeration but still a very uncomfortable cinematic state of affairs.
Nevertheless, get over that and this has much to offer, it’s virtuoso filmmaking blending realism, magic and fantasy (not in the traditional sense) together to make an interesting spectacle and one well worth engaging with. The ‘milky road’ refers to Kosta’s daily task of delivering supplies to the front line from a farm.
ACV rating: ***