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London Film Festival 2016 reviews (2) – Free Fire; Nocturama; Blue Velvet Revisited; The Unknown Girl; Life after Life

London Film Festival 2016 reviews (2) – Free Fire; Nocturama; Blue Velvet Revisited; The Unknown Girl; Life after Life

October 21 2016

Films we saw at this year’s BFI London Film Festival 2016…

Free Fire
free_fire_02adjDIRECTOR Ben Wheatley is fast gaining a reputation as Britain’s obvious answer to Tarantino and this film pays homage and in some respects is too derivative.
Actually shot in an old warehouse in Brighton and not some redundant, dilapidated factory in Manhattan, there are still some things to admire.Not least the clothes and the soundtrack and the acting which is of a high order.
This is one rather long shoot em’ up film, it does have redeeming features but in the end the sheer unoriginality and predictability of it all drags it down.
What would have been so much better and more interesting is how those characters all came to be there in the first place – spend a good 80 minutes telling that and closing it with one fast shootout scene of about 10 minutes. But that might be too much like work for anyone… a bit harsh perhaps, but Wheatley is talented and it’s a shame to see it not quite squandered – yet not quite realised fully either, (even with Martin Scorsese as exec producer), in this. Some will delight in its quirkiness; others will be left unmoved. (SR)
ACV rating: ** ½ (out of five)

nocturama_tropicaladjFIXING its blank gaze on a group of equally blank young Parisians out to torch their city, Bertrand Bonello’s latest doesn’t want you to get inside their heads. These saboteurs exist in their own indifferent universe. Free of social, political, personal motivation, they are defined purely by their actions. It’s only when, left with nowhere to go, they seek refuge in a department store and start to comprehend the impressive scale of their destruction that conscience starts to creep in – or is it just the fear of what awaits them?
“Nocturama” doesn’t condemn, and it doesn’t sympathise. Anyone looking for answers to recent attacks in France won’t be any wiser, but its cold reflection provokes more, not less questions. (SC)
ACV rating: *** ½

Blue Velvet Revisited
WHEN shooting “Blue Velvet” in 1985, David Lynch invited German filmmaker Peter Braatz onto the set. Braatz shot reels of photos, filmed six hours of super-8 footage, but save for a short film, he left the material unreleased for 30 years. Three decades later, he’s assembled the material for what he’s dubbed a ‘meditation’ on Lynch’s classic.
Formed of stills and on-set footage, the film is swept together by an over-used, bland soundtrack by post-punk band Tuxedomoon and interspersed with interviews – Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini are compelling, but Braatz is most interested in Lynch’s predictions and stated desire to move into digital filmmaking. It’s ironic in light of the director’s decline in output since said technology has become the industry standard.
Such insights are disappointingly rare in “Blue Velvet Revisited” – Braatz’s interest in texture is fitting, and his wistful reverence clear, but mostly, ‘BVR’ tries too hard to be exquisite. (SC)
ACV rating: ** ½

The Unknown Girl
AN INTRIGUING step to the right for Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, this is a strange, inventive criss-cross of murder-mystery and the brothers’ usual clear-eyed social realism.
It’s odd, and suffers on both fronts, but it’s an intriguing attempt, introducing a new occupational hybrid to film – a doctor-turned-detective.
When GP Jenny Davin (Adele Haenel) discovers a young African woman she turned away from her surgery was murdered, and sees police fail to make headway on the case, she takes it up herself. Racked with guilt, her patient check-ups start to double as detective work – conveniently, the psychosomatic symptoms of those involved are relieved through their confessions.
As implied by the title, the murdered girl’s story remains elusive, but unusually for the Dardennes, our lead also remains enigmatic.
By the film’s end, the outlines of both doctor and victim are still waiting to be coloured in. If this is the Dardennes’ bid to take their stories to audiences outside the arthouse, they’re not quite there yet, but it marks an interesting transition point. (SC)
ACV rating: ***

Life After Life
life_after_life_slumpedadjTOUCHING, funny, and eerie, “Life After Life” is a lightly rendered musing on reincarnation.
When a young boy (Leilei, played by Zhang Li) tells his father (Zhang Minjun) that his mother’s spirit has entered his body, with instructions that he must uproot their garden tree when they move from their village to a tower block, it sets off a curious series of happenings.
Viewers familiar with producer Jia Zhangke’s work will recognise the musings – and bone-dry docu-fiction style – on modernising China’s rapid shift from rural to industrialised life (factory sounds are used for ominous ambience), but even as first-time director Zhang Hanyi mourns the death of the old, it’s the theme of returning spirits – and the calm, warm embrace of the supernatural – that makes it so moving.
A poetic film about big themes (life, death, nature, modernisation) told with simplicity, sincerity and some deadpan humour, like “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives”, it’s hard to forget. (SC)
ACV rating: ****

Reviews: Sailesh Ram; Sunil Chauhan

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Written by Asian Culture Vulture