Kiomars Vejdani's Capsule Reviews of Films from the 59th London Film Festival
Director : Yorgos Lanthimos
UK-Ireland -Greece 2015
Films of Yorgos Lanthimos are always odd (the good example is Dogtooth) but here he pushes the boundaries of oddity up to the absurd. The film is set sometime in the future when celibacy is condemned. Anyone without a partner has 45 days to find one. Otherwise (with advanced surgical methods of future) he will be turned into the animal of his choice. The animal that film's protagonist has chosen is lobster (hence the title of the film). The setting can be seen as a hotel or a luxury prison and residents as guests or prisoners. The rules are as arbitrary and irrational as the those imposed by the father on his children in Dogtooth. The result is an environment which dehumanizes the people. Irrational rules and absurd behaviour are at the roots of film,s dry humour. But in the end film moves towards a more serious tone and sincerity of feelings when the protagonist chooses the woman he loves against all regulations and in the process makes the biggest sacrifice of his life.
Director : Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Taiwan-China – Hong Kong 2015
Winner of Best Director Award in this year's Cannes Film Festival Assassin is another example of skilfully made martial art film by Hou Hsiao- Hsien. Set during the ancient dynasty of Tang in
9th century China, it revolves around the character of woman trained in martial arts and equipped with highest level of skills to act as assassin and carry out missions as commanded by her master until she is given a mission which is against her moral beliefs and personal feelings. The story of her moral awakening is told in slow measured pace against the background of classical splendour of ancient China. A visually rich and stylish film,beautifully photographed scenery and skilfully choreographed scenes of fast pace martial arts action.
CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR
Director :Apichatpong Weerasethakul
In the hazy heat of tropical area, a group of sick soldiers in a hospital which used to be a school, a mother visiting her son who is in coma, a volunteer visiting girl who has the power of heeling and the ability to see the past. With these elements the director creates his familiar world. In a dreamlike state boundaries between sleep and wakefulness,reality and fantasy, past and present, life and death are all blurred. People change their identity without changing their appearance. Ghosts look like living people while real environment turns into a dreamlike one with neon lights which change colour non-stop. Film ends in a cemetery which has vanished long time ago and now only exists in our memory As his usual Apichatpong Weerasethakul leaves us somewhere between dream and wakefulness
Director :Sean Baker
A hilarious film about two transsexual hookers on New Year,s Eve are trying to find a girl who has an affair with boyfriend of one of them. In their search for the girl they go through a series of funny situations with odd characters. A fast moving film,bursting with energy, having jokes at every moment. But in the end slowing down to stress the value of true friendship.
VERY BIG SHOT
Director : Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya
The film begins with something like Goodfellas in Lebanon with plenty of violence. But soon it changes its tone to become a comedy about film making with the protagonist acting as the producer. But at the last few moments of the film, as the protagonist decides to enter politics,yet another another aspect of the film is introduced. So the film that started as a gangster thriller ends up as a social climbing satire.
Director : Jonas Cuaron
Mexico – France 2015
Film is about a group of Mexicans being killed by a sadistic mentally deranged sharp shooter while illegally crossing the border into America. Director Jonas Cuaron uses their massacre as a basis for a thriller, increasing the film,s tension as the acts of killing progresses without much attention to dramatic depth. Despite the superficial current of excitement the plot is too incredible to be convincing and the protagonists too stereotyped to arouse our sympathy.
Director : Johnnie To
China – Hong Kong 2015
The film with the help of elaborate sets,cast of hundreds, bright colour photography, and added
3D technology shows us how not to make musicals. Its only use is as a proof that making of musicals is best left to Hollywood.
Director : Pablo Larrain
The film begins with a quotation from Bible stating that God after creating the light liked it so much that He decided to keep it separate from darkness. The new film of Pablo Larrain concentrates on this area of darkness. In a house by the seaside in the remote part of the country live a group of priests ( and a nun ) who because of some sinful act in their past are barred from active duties.
Pablo Larrain uses such a setting and characters to create an infernal atmosphere. Film,s dramatic tension is created out of contrast between attitude of characters and strict rules of church ( represented by a visiting supervisor, an upright priest with strong religious faith ). Larrain's priests are a mixture of evil beings committing acts of extreme cruelty,and normal human people who enjoy pleasures of life and are honest and frank about their sexuality ( the film,s dialogue is sexually very explicit ) Through their characters and the resulting moral ambiguity Larrain gives us a controversial picture of church and its rules.
Director : Paolo Sorrentino
Paolo Sorrentino's new film, like The Great Beauty is about looking back at life after reaching the summit of one,s creative career, With the difference that here we have two protagonists. A retired composer (Michael Caine) and a film director (Harvey Keitel) Being close friends for many years they enjoy each other,s company while staying in a spa hotel in Switzerland. Like the previous film they encounter a range of colourful characters,each with their own idiosyncrasies. They go over their ups and downs of life, remember their happy and sad moments. In the end they reach to the conclusion that at the their old age there is not much more to do but to look back. One of them accepts the situation and compromises. The other does not. Another stylish film by Paolo Sorretino, as beautiful as the Great Beauty.
Director : Dagur Kari
Iceland – Denmark 2015
The film takes us through stages of emotional development of a young man from a childlike existence to full maturity and total independence. Director Dagur Kari in portraying the character of his protagonist pays a great deal of attention to psychological details, taking his time to build his process of development into a mature man. A very humane and heart warming film.
LAND OF MINE
Director : Martin Zandvliet
Denmark - Germany 2015
With the liberation of Holland at the end of second world war the Allied faced the problem of a good number of mine fields in need of detonation and decided to give this task to German prisoners. Director Martin Zandvliet bases his powerful drama on victimization of German soldiers. The prisoners ( mostly teenage boys ) are treated insensitively and cruelly by Allied officers, using them as a target for aggression and to retaliate for crimes of German army while the were victorious. The film by such a reversal of roles raises the morally controversial issue of consequence of victory and its effect on victors. Our sympathy is with young German prisoners.
The film's tension escalates with each occasion that the group goes through fear of death or sorrow of losing yet another friend. The film,s change of moral tone is personified in the character of the camp,s warden and his change of attitude from hostile prejudice and angry cruelty to sympathy, affection and kindness. It is a film which by condemning the consequences of war, whether victory or defeat, puts maximum value on humanity