It's the penultimate day here at the LONDON FILM FESTIVAL, and after a packed day that included the Coens Brothers' latest (not written up here, but let's just say I was... disappointed), Dave came back to the internet to discover than Anjelica Huston and her starry little jury had been busy giving out prizes. Gladly the new top prize for Best Film (or 'Star of London') went to one of my personal favourites from the fest, the stunning A Prophet. The Road, which left me a bit cold despite the technical prowess and solid performances, was their "special mention". (In Contention has the full awards round-up.)
But enough about awards. I'll have my own set of prizes to dish out tomorrow, when I finish off my coverage with a review of the closing night gala film Nowhere Boy, but for today, three more capsules for you from across the globe.
You might surmise from any whispers of plot you've heard that the title of Cracks refers to, well, unsavoury things (unless your minds aren't as dirty as mine). In actuality they prove to be cracks of the metaphorical sort - an oft-told tale of an outsider appearing and shattering the status quo. Ridley Scott's daughter Jordan proves that talent might be genetic in this family's case. Her delicate, sensuous styling suits this tale of boarding school lust and jealousy perfectly, and she does it without going overboard. It's a shame the script isn't quite up to the job, really. The passable plot goes limp for too long in its middle before picking up steam again, but none of it ever really sets alight in either a tawdry or an engaging way. Eva Green, though, makes for an enigmatic, troubling character, using her European bohemian allure to play Miss G, the youthful diving coach. Green's expressive eyes work particularly to make Miss G into a deeper characterization than merely the predictable little fraud she proves to be. Scott effectively portrays the youthful mystification of adulthood, and the dangerous precipice between the two stages of life, but something about Cracks never really blooms. C+
Vincere is BIG. It's DRAMATIC. It's GRAND. Basically it wants NOTICING, and if you're not already paying ATTENTION, it's got some opera music to make your ears pound. This flourishing Italian drama centers on Ida (Giovanna Mezzogiorno), the mistress-cum-wife of Mussolini (Filippo Timi), who fathers his son but, as he grows in power, is shunned and imprisoned in an asylum. Obviously such scandal is ripe for dramatization, but the stylistic approaches to the story is so cleanly sheathed in half you can almost see the join. Saturated, hued colour matches the plummy use of orchestral score flaring up when things get really dramatic, like when they have sex and Mussolini's eyes roll back into his head so that you understand he's a bit bonkers. Then we have the second half, which is the usual faded photographed and sodden despair of tone that's required by law to accompany stories of women being injustly stuck in a madhouse. There's no interest in Ida outside of her obsession with Mussolini, and there's no interest in politics at all - Vincere doesn't explore, it recites, but hopefully if it shouts loud enough you'll be convinced. (I wasn't.) D+
Has Ana Kokkinos changed much since her intensely miserablist Head On over ten years ago? It's probably easy to guess that the answer is no, or else I'd probably not have asked the question. Her latest film, Blessed, slowly descends from low evening light into pitch black darkness, but it forgets to create any kind of feeling for its characters. Split into two halves, 'The Children' and 'The Mothers', Kokkinos makes clear her point - that the relationships between the two need both to work to make them happy, and that just because you grow up doesn't mean you grow cleverer, or happier, or more able to cope with things - and that's about it. The mothers, perhaps because of the more distinguished actors playing them (Frances O'Connor, providing the most harrowing moment, Miranda Otto, and Deborra-Lee Furness), prove the more interesting side of the story. While Kokkinos comes up with a few interesting visual moments and plot points, it's hard to excuse such depressing pessimism when it only seems to exist for the sake of it. C