Nov 1, 2011

LFF 2011: Bottom 5

First of all let me apologise for not having more LFF coverage this year, I've been engaged by other sites quite a lot over the last few months (hence my decreased writing here) and was engaged to write a festival diary for Front Row Reviews. You can read all 60 of the mini-reviews I wrote over there by clicking HERE. All the diary entries are my reviews.

By way of compensation, here, over two posts, are the high and low points of the festival (or at least of the 62 films I saw)...

Bottom 5 Films
I've seen all of David Cronenberg's features bar the rare Fast Company and M. Butterfly, and his latest is far and away the least interesting film of the lot. It's perfect subject matter for Cronenberg; Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender) falling into an affair with a beautiful patient (Keira Knightley), just as his rivalry with Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen) is reaching its height, and yet the director fudges it. The sexuality feels unimportant, the psychoanalysis never really exposes the characters and the two never mix in an interesting way.

Stylistically this is just another period film; Cronenberg brings nothing to the table, and really, this could be any director's film. However, probably the worst thing is Keira Knightley's performance; so histrionic and so catastrophically terrible that I may have to rethink my general regard for her as an underrated actress. This is the most disappointing film of 2011.

I knew a few people who liked to get stoned when we were teenagers. I didn't hang out with them when they smoked, because I didn't smoke, and because when they did they became incredibly boring company, I'm sure the random bullshit stoners spout is funny when you too are stoned, but I haven't been, and wasn't when watching Dragonslayer. This being the case, 75 minutes of watching a perpetually stoned 23 year old skateboard and smoke weed wasn't a particularly edifying experience, despite a few nice shots.

I didn't feel like Dragonslayer showed me anything interesting, introduced me to anyone I wanted to spend time with or taught me anything - except that stoners are fucking boring, but I knew that - and a documentary that doesn't do any of those things isn't worth even 75 minutes of my time.

Ah, the prosaic, easily solvable,self made, relationship problems of two uninteresting and unsympathetic 23 year olds. It's like Before Sunrise, but insufferable. Felicity Jones has been inexplicably lauded for her relentlessly okay performance, it's even been suggested that she's an outside contender for an Oscar nomination, but despite the acclaim, she and Anton Yelchin are boring as a young couple; one English, one American, separated by her visa status (because she overstays on a whim).

The central characters aren't interesting or sympathetic, they both seem selfish, and there is little sense of what drives them to be together (the closest we get to seeing what they have in common is a 30 second conversation about their favourite Paul Simon album). I din't care what happened in these people's lives, and while after Before Sunrise I wanted to know where Jesse and Celine ended up, I'm simply glad to be rid of this dull, mumbling pair.

2: W.E.
Okay, so after the catastrophic reports from Venice I wasn't expecting Madonna's latest directorial effort (following the barely shown Filth and Wisdom) to be good... I went not so much to see the film as to view the corpse... but I hear that this is actually the re-edited version, which I thought was still in progress, and if that's true, Dear GOD, what must they have shown at Venice? W.E. tells two stories equally poorly; that of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough, at least a decade too young for the part), who, despite the fact that she was, at best, a Nazi sympathiser, Madonna seems to see as some tragically maligned angel, and that of a woman in 1998 New York named Wally (Abbie Cornish) who is obsessed with Simpson.

It's beautiful, but totally nonsensical. Madonna's cross cutting of the two stories is by turns inexplicably vague and thuddingly on the nose. The performances - bar Riseborough's valiant effort - are uniformly terrible, the dialogue is hilariously risible and the direction is ridiculously hysterical, as Madge drenches the film in a hideous score and steals her every daring move from other filmmakers (notably a use of The Sex Pistols' Pretty Vacant which... nods to... Sofia Coppola's use of music in Marie Antoinette. If this is the recut version of W.E. then it is still an utter disaster, if it is the original cut it is unsalvagably piss awful.


Stop The Future, I want to get off. I hated Miranda July's precious little piece of shit Me and You and Everyone We Know, and I didn't want to see her second feature, but I was dragged along by my friend and (now former) July admirer Mike Ewins. I'm not sure I've forgiven him yet. Amazingly, The Future is worse than Me and You; more twee, more cutesy, further up its own roomy arse. There is not a second of sincerity, not a frame of invention or interest. There's not one clever or thought provoking image or point. What there is is two near identical hipsters (July and Hamish Linklater), sitting around and fretting about the fact that getting a cat basically means the end of the fun part of their lives.

I want to slap these people, bellow "WELL DON'T GET A FUCKING CAT THEN YOU PRETENTIOUS, SELF REGARDING WANKERS" and leave them to the rest of their lives. But NO, July thinks this is ART, so we have to watch as she behaves like an insane person, and indulges her taste for the twee by having the cat narrate the film. It's pointless, meaningless, horrendously boring, cinematic water torture. I'm never watching another Miranda July film.

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