Films seen today: 4
Films seen so far this festival: 33
Films seen so far this year: 224
Dead Man's Cards
British film about an ex-boxer who becomes a bouncer at a seedy nightclub.
Quite possibly the worst film of the festival. A badly acted, badly written, badly shot and badly edited mess. It reminded me a bit of Guy Ritchie's appalling Revolver (officially the worst film of the year) in that there seemed to be something "important" going on that you were supposed to pick up on (e.g. minor characters 'shooting' the lead with plastic guns or fingers, or people telling him "You're dead!"). However, the script is so painfully inept that you're none the wiser as to what it all means (if anything) by the end. James McMartin (who looks a bit like Joey "The Lips" Fagin, from The Commitments plays Tom, an ex-boxer whose dodgy eye injury has forced him into retirement. He's married to Samantha Janus but he doesn't seem all that happy about it and she's barely in the movie anyway. Then a chance encounter with the bloke from The Full Monty (Paul Barber, playing, er, Paul) leads to a job as a nightclub bouncer and from then on the plot is all about pissing off the local crims to the point where they want revenge with "shooters". Frankly, I lost interest long before the end, largely thanks to McMartin's abysmal performance - I can only assume he once saved the producer from drowning or something. Barber's usually pretty good in support, but he's given too much to do here and he ends up giving a weirdly monotonous performance. Tom Bell fares mildly better as nightclub-owner "Billy the Kid", but the guy playing the lead crim ("Chongi") isn't remotely scary and is guilty of some seriously bad Grange Hill-style acting. There are plenty of other reasons to dislike this film (Tom's "I can't work here anymore" scene comes from nowhere; characters are frequently just forgotten about etc) but I'm tired of talking about it. I pity anyone who went to see this based on the programme’s promise of “a poetic melancholy that recalls early Wong Kar-wai”. One star.
Low-budget American indie movie about a musician bumming around Brooklyn and developing an attraction for his best friend's girlfriend.
Admittedly, Dead Man's Cards had put me in a foul mood by this point, so perhaps I wasn't quite in the right frame of mind to enjoy this. Written and directed by Andrew Bujalski, it stars Jason Rice as Alan Peoples, a Boston musician who comes to Brooklyn after the acrimonious break-up of his band and spends his days bumming around Brooklyn and crashing out with his friend Lawrence (Bujalski) and Lawrence's girlfriend Ellie (Rachel Clift). Bujalski's influences are writ large for all to see - his characters spend the whole film talking and not actually doing much, cf Jim Jarmusch, John Cassavetes, Whit Stillman, Eric Rohmer, etc. This would have been fine if a) the characters had been likeable instead of incredibly annoying and b) if the film had been 80 minutes long instead of almost two hours. Instead by the 100 minute mark I was stifling shouts of "Just SHUT UP! You are saying NOTHING!" There were, admittedly, a couple of good scenes (Bujalski taking the director's role that little bit further by exposing his arse so Alan and Ellie can decide whether Lawrence has ass-cancer; Alan being bullied into dressing up as a girl; Alan's brief relationship with Seung-min Lee's cute radio DJ) but these scenes are few and far between. Two stars.
Drama starring Tilda Swinton as a forensic psychologist investigating the case of a 16-year-old girl charged with murdering her newborn baby.
This is an intriguing, thought-provoking and ultimately devastating drama with superb performances by both Tilda Swinton and Amber Tamblyn (from The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants). Swinton plays forensic psychologist Liddy Crane, who is in the midst of recovering from her own recent stillbirth when she’s asked to investigate the headline-grabbing case of “Ski Mom” Stephanie Daley (Tamblyn), a 16-year-old girl who gave birth while on a ski-ing trip and was subsequently accused of murdering her newborn child. As Crane gradually gets Stephanie to open up, she uncovers several disturbing details, such as the fact that she was coerced into sex by an older boy at a party (the film stops short of crying rape by deliberately obscuring the issue of consent, but it’s an uncomfortable scene to watch). Ultimately the case hinges on whether Stephanie knew she was pregnant and whether she was conscious of her actions at the time of the birth. The film is directed by Hilary Brougher, who has a real eye for visual detail – the scene of Stephanie’s blood-soaked footsteps through the snow makes an extremely effective opening sequence and there are several other arresting shots, such as an unusual close-up of a frog in the grass. There are a number of terrific scenes – highlights include a game of Murderball, Stephanie’s exchanges with her best friend Rana (X X, who was wonderful in The Squid and the Whale) and a horrific sequence that plays in total silence, with Stephanie giving birth in a toilet. The performances are superb – Tamblyn, in particular, is something of a revelation, while there’s strong support from Timothy Hutton (as Liddy’s husband), X (please cast her in more films, casting directors), and X X as Satin, a fat girl who used to be Stephanie’s best friend. It also has a chilling final line, which I’d be tempted to include, except for the fact that it gives too much away. Four stars.
Steven Soderbergh Reel Talk
Someone gets hit with a boom in both Iceberg and Summer of ’04.
Day Eight - Hotel Haribati, loudQUIETloud: A film about the Pixies, Air Guitar Nation, Wide Awake, Walking to Werner, The Oh in Ohio.
Day Nine - Next Door, Snowcake, Who Needs Sleep?, This Film Is Not Yet Rated, The Treatment.
Day Ten - The Page Turner, The Killing of John Lennon, Sheitan.
Day Eleven - The Ring Finger, The Prodigy, Brian DePalma Reel Talk, The Uncertain Guest.
Day Twelve - Brothers of the Head, Lives of the Saints, Black Brush, Cargo, Surprise Film: Keane, Air Guitair Nation Aireoke Party (complete with pictures).
Day Thirteen - An Inconvenient Truth, 3 Degrees Colder, The Aura.
Day Fourteen - Driving Lessons "Tea Party", Life and Lyrics, Shut Up And Shoot Me.