Friday, October 09, 2009

Report: A Girl Explodes In London

Dave here, noting that I've hardly been the best guest blogger around, but I've got the three of diamonds up my sleeve and now's the time to play it. (Assuming we're playing snap and you played the three of spades.) Next week sees the start of the LONDON FILM FESTIVAL, and I'll be reporting from the front line, so to speak, mixing up the big show-offs with little treasures (or disasters) from the selection of British and other smaller films on offer. Press screenings have already been going on, which is why I'm here now with my first round-up.

Easily the most notable of those I've seen so far is Werner Herzog's completely left-field remake of Bad Lieutenant, which shows off its flamboyant impulses right from the elongated title, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans. I had every intention of watching the original beforehand, but time ran away from me, so I went in without any preconceptions, apart from my long-term hatred for Nicolas Cage. Put a strike through that one, though: not that I actively seek out Cage movies, but he doesn't seem to be doing anything different here - rather, it's the movie around him treating his acting 'style' in a completely reversed manner. His oddities are seen as odd, and, what's more, they comply with Herzog's unpredictably mad approach. As he takes more drugs and gets deeper in some labyrinthine plot, Cage's weirdness only gets weirder - his speech becomes tougher, as though he can't unstick his teeth, his hunch almost becomes a hunchback, his grins grow more demented. And it's all absurdly wonderful. You can only think that this is all meant to be hilarious - how else could 'iguana cam' make any sense whatsoever? With the awkward camerawork, slapdash plotting and a floridly orchestral score, this isn't a good film, but it certainly provides a hell of a two hours of rollicking entertainment. As such, grades are rather irrelevant, but take your B and roll with it.

Wah Do Dem's main calling card seems to be the appearance of one Norah Jones, but given she's in it for all of two minutes, that's rather irrelevant. Max (the slightly goofy but charming Sean Bones) is dumped by her just before they're due to go off on a cruise to Jamaica, and, despite scrabbling around trying to find another 'cruise partner', Max ends up going alone. Which of course means we enjoy all the (largely true) cruise cliches of old people and utter boredom and SHOCK! a gay person. Things get brighter for us as things get worse for Max (especially once he gets to his destination), but what value the film emits is less hilarity than a surprisingly felt message about embracing the unpredictability and liberating danger life can hold. The over-saturated colour makes the film, the debut of duo Ben Chace and Sam Fleischner, seem a little amateurish, especially as it clashes with the handheld camerawork, but it's not an unpleasant little film. C

She, A Chinese was a disappointing way to start to my festival - the roving, restless camerawork paints some pretty pictures and Lu Huang's solid performance can't conceal the aimlessness of the film. Admittedly, the central character is aimless and the film charts her search for something better, for some purpose, and I suppose the vague non-conclusion is making some kind of meaningful point. But it never latches onto any kind of insight about the clash of the various cultures and social milieus Li Mei settles in, dealing instead in lame cliches and droll, detached moments, even when her life veers into the darkest of places. C-

And last on today's this-is-longer-than-I'll-usually-talk-for report is the not-nearly-as-exciting-as-it-sounds The Exploding Girl. It's not entirely a metaphor, though - she's exploding because stress and drink and suchlike provoke an epileptic fit in her. 'She' being Ivy (Zoe Kazan), a young college-going girl who plunges into herself when the combination of a long-distance boyfriend and a visiting male friend she might be attracted to starts to implode before her. Bradley Rust Gray's film is sweet, low-key, maybe a little dull at points, but the observational, placed camerawork (if something gets in the camera's way, be it a car, a tree or an ass, it stays in the way) and Kazan's sympathetic performance make it a pleasant sit. B-

I'll be back on Monday, when the festival will really kick in; impending highlights include the world premiere of Fantastic Mr. Fox, as well as A Single Man, Stale Popcorn favourite Samson & Delilah and some men staring at goats. See you then.


Guy Lodge said...

It's funny to think that we've been sitting in the same movie theatre for these ... perhaps we'll get to meet.

Nice writeup, Dave, and I look forward to comparing your notes with mine as the festival unfolds. (I must admit that I found "The Exploding Girl" more than just a little dull this afternoon.)


Dave I love the terribly misleading post title! Seriously. It's like the rest of the post comes as total relief.

Speaking of titles, what's up with the title WAH DO DEM? Am I missing the meaning? Nice to see some new titles popping up after all the Toronto and Cannes reports though. I hadn't heard of any of these but Bad Lieut.

Glenn -- are you aware that SAMSON AND DELILAH is always followed or preceded by some variation of 'Glenn's favorite' and how do you feel about that?

Glenn said...

I really liked The Exploding Girl when I saw it at MIFF although the characters could easily have been annoying (and in retrospect, they sorta are - what's up with her wanting to keep this dead end relationship, and the platonic friend is a bit strange). Nevertheless, liked it I did.

Nathaniel, yes I am aware and I like that. I means I've been doing my job and making sure people know about this movie. I like inserting it into as many Oscar-watching sites as possible just to get people paying attention. Maybe I'll get a thank you when it wins an Oscar (not likely and, also, not likely).

Dave said...

Guy: I did think you must be there somewhere, but not knowing what you look like, staring at the rest of the audience wouldn't have got me very far! Hopefully we'll bump into each other. I'll be the one looking aloof and sheepish.

Nat: I've got to get people's attention somehow! "Wah Do Dem" is Jamaican for "what they do". Makes sense once you see it, I was baffled too.

Kath said...

Glenn: Thank you!

From Kath & Warwick

Glenn Dunks said...

That's Kath Shelper, Samson & Delilah's producer!