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« 8 Short Docs & 63 Foreign Films Advance Toward Oscar | Main | the link i live in »
Thursday
Oct132011

London Film Fest: "Pariah" and "Weekend"

Craig here (of Take Three fame) reporting for Nathaniel from the BFI London Film Festival which opens today. I started my festival with two gay themed dramas from a couple of emerging filmmakers from the US (Dee Rees) and the UK (Andrew Haigh). They've both made invigatoring narrative debuts. 

Dee Rees’ New York coming out drama Pariah shows its mettle from the start: we’re dropped right in the thick of it, headfirst into a lesbian strip club (we hear, ♪ Lick my neck, my back, my pussy and my crack... ♪” on the soundtrack), and introduced to feisty Brooklyn girl and poetry student Alike (Adepero Oduye) thoughtfully yet gingerly sizing up her surroundings. She’s going through identity issues and finding it hard to open up to her warring parents about her sexuality. Solace comes through friendship with Laura (Pernell Walker) and the possibility of love with local girl Bina (Aasha Davis).

It’s an affecting if familiar story, tinted with romantic longing and full of the kind of sorrowful spirit that often goes hand in hand with this kind of urban indie debut. But it’s incredibly likeable and there are no needless lulls in the narrative or indulgent first-timer pitfalls. The camera rarely veers away from the main drama at hand. The highs and tribulations of city life come through the attitude of the characters more than via establishing shots to indicate environment or insert shots to give reflective pause. The camerawork’s tightness on the actors – their faces, mannerisms, actions – help ground the characters as the film’s key revelatory component; it’s an actors’ piece. Rees understands this and gets both amicable banter and fraught temper from her cast who are never less than solidly engaging, not least Oduye who is excellent as Alike. It’s wonderfully shot (by Bradford Young) with a vivid, melancholic intimacy that brings out the hard-earned warmth and tenderness inherent in the lives of the characters. Rees has a bright career ahead of her. (B+)

Pariah is showing at the LFF on Friday 14th and Saturday 15th October

Tom Cullen and Chris New in "Weekend"

Another gay-themed tale of burgeoning love, Andrew Haigh’s Weekend (after documentary Greek Pete), makes its way to the LFF this, ahem, weekend.

more after the jump...

Two independent, easy-going guys hook up and fuck. They make cups of tea (in mismatched mugs) and chat about love, life and the little things that make gays tick; all the while not letting on about bigger, bolder, heart-shaped room-sized elephants that might just get in their way. There are no ponderous pronouncements on love and little happens outside the flats and social haunts of the many meet-ups the pair keep over the 48-hour time span. (This is one film where the idea of insularity perfectly informs the central couple’s budding personality dynamic; as with Before Sunrise/Sunset, an obvious influence on, and straight precursor to, Weekend, external pressures and influence are astutely avoided.)

Elegantly straightforward in form and evocative and emotional in content (a few brief moments have the gut-clenching romantic kick of truly lived experience), its genial simplicity is its trump card. But its hazed and unfazed, languorous vibe holds the attention right up till its last open-hearted frame. It’s lean, efficient, aerated filmmaking... two days of believable, deeply-felt idyll. Both lead actors (Tom Cullen, Chris New) are as captivating as they are entirely natural. The film packs a lasting punch, too. Perceptive, handsomely shot and brim full of romantic charm, it revels in the hard and soft pangs of love. (A-)

Weekend is showing at the LFF on Saturday 15th and Monday 17th October. On Friday the 14th "Weekend" adds screens in a few more US markets as well.

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Reader Comments (7)

I really wanna see Pariah!

October 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Awesome it's good to know that Pariah is getting some good ink. I really want to see this.

October 13, 2011 | Unregistered Commentertwinzin

Saw WEEKEND last week. LOVED it. Definitely one of my favorite films of the year.

October 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I liked Weekend enough, but I thought it got a little too heavy in its pronouncements about modern gay life (it's why I vastly preferred Tom Cullen and his character to the very talky character of Chris New).

But most of all, I lost a little respect for the movie when, after (in my mind, correctly) indicating that gay men often patronize gay art for the reason of wanting to see hot men/gay sex, the film totally catered to that base with sex scenes.

I'm curious though to see what happens to Tom Cullen in the future.

October 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

Well I guess that settles it. I've got to get my ass down to the IFC Center this week and catch Weekend.

October 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMichael C

I saw and loved loved loved Weekend, its story and its humanity wow'd me. Weekend and Tyrannosaur are my favourites of the year.

October 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterKeegan

Yay for Pariah! I also just discovered that Aasha Davis is in Friday Night Lights, which makes me regret that I never followed the show.

October 14, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterPaolo
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