Monday, October 19, 2009

LFF: Drenched in Death

If you thought Dave'd finally dropped dead from exhaustion, then, quite apart from that being rather insulting (I can last more than a week, thanks), you were wrong. I merely took a weekend breather, but I'm back headlong into the LONDON FILM FESTIVAL for its remaining two weeks. This week's hot tickets include Julianne Moore in Atom Egoyan's Chloe, Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon and one of my most anticipated of the fest, Jacques Audiard's A Prophet. Today's Gala screening was Jane Campion's Bright Star, but since you'll all have heard all about it already, I'll just say that this tender, romantic, fluid and poetic film is one of my favourites of the fest so far, and caught me just at the right moment. But onto darker, twistier, weirder things.

Gaspar Noé's latest, Enter the Void, is as baffling and lucid an experience as his films always are. But unlike the confrontational, violent, disorientating experience of Irreversible - which quite apart from the well-publicized shock moments was deeply immersive - his latest piece leaves less of an impression, despite the amount of time it requires you to sit there. After a heady start, shot in a point-of-view fashion, the character we're seeing things through the eye of dies. Thus we enter a circulating, pensive world after his death, possibly seeing things through his spirit's perspective. What starts as a promising, delirious 'thesis' (in as much as Noé's films can be said to have a discernible 'point') on death as a drug trip, remains a strong aesthetic experience but increasingly fades as any kind of engaging piece of work: moments repeat, the camera circles endlessly, this audience is lost. I like being left musing, even if forever, over a film - but being bored, being disinterested is a different story. Sometimes a filmmaker makes a film have no obvious meaning because he has none to give. C-

Catherine Breillat's take on Bluebeard is as delightfully, drolly morbid as fairy-tales are supposed to be. From the bright, measured camerawork of the early sections to a more claustrophobic, darker and more tantalizing richness as Marie-Catherine (a sharp Lola Créton) marries Bluebeard (Dominique Thomas) and enters his castle, Breillat weaves a coyly amusing, creepily unnerving tale. It's aided, somehow, by the weaving in of two modern sisters reading the story - ostensibly, this adds nothing, but the younger sister especially is so naturally, innocently hilarious that it reflects the autobiographical nostalgia Breillat's fairy-tales always engage in. It feels a little indulgent and inconsequential, but the skimping on character makes it all the more like the short, wicked fairy-tale it came from. B

It's a three-header of British talent (two of whom you might know, the other one you probably won't, or at least I didn't) in The Disappearance of Alice Creed, a twisty thriller that's overloaded with surprises. The film is dominated by violent close-ups (of just about everything) and an overbearingly percussive score, which relegate it to the realm of amateur production even before the plot has borne all its rote surprises, which occasionally do shock but not in a way that proves any more engaging. Gemma Arterton and Eddie Marsan are always nice to see on-screen and Martin Compston adapts well to a bigger role. Though that's the entire cast right there -- all three of them -- the film seems more interested in tossing them around along the plot's bumpy road than crafting any kind of character. D+



Though I suspect that Noé would be glad to hear that the mention of his name scares me away from Enter the Void (I couldn't really handle Irreversible) it's still true. Sometimes nihilism just feels so... easy a choice, like a shortcut to acclaim.

I tend to be mixed on Breillat within every film. But your description of Bluebeard makes me curious.

... excited to hear about CHLOE.

jbaker475 said...

Agh, this is so weird, I just watched (ie: tried to watch) Irrevsersible the other day. It was...interesting. Some of the camera work (mainly the opening scenes in the gay club) irritated the hell out of me, though. I'm still not sure what I think about it, but I'm now hesitant to see any of his other work.

Calum Reed said...

By circling endlessly do you mean the same menacing way as in Irreversible? Cause that scared me!

So looking forward to Bright Star!

Flosh said...

Right on about Enter the Void. I really loved the first 90 minutes or so - it's pretty thrilling, challenging, mind blowing stuff. But then the final hour happens and the whole movie basically collapses in on itself.