Entries in LFF (13)
A couple more reports from London and Chicago festivals heading your way. Here's David on three new films starring either Alicia Vikander or Mads Mikkelsen, who formerly sizzled together in Denmark's recent Oscar nominee "A Royal Affair" - Editor
That Testament of Youth was made the Centrepiece Gala at the festival seems, sight unseen, predictable: supported by the Mayor of London, the Gala slot is one of the few that really demonstrates the festival's support of homegrown cinema, and the story told here is as British as you can get. 2014 marks the centenary of World War I, and with it comes this adaptation of Vera Brittain's iconic memoir. James Kent's film keeps his focus to the period of the war itself, beginning at its end; Vera (Alicia Vikander) looks oddly distraught amidst the celebrating crowds packing London's streets. Testament of Youth is a compassionate reminder of the emotional and physical toll of war on a whole nation - which is what Brittain's memoir proved too, in 1933, not long before the second, more devastating war hit.
While the film is impeccably upholstered, with Consolata Boyle's costumes and Robert Hardy's photography particularly impeccable, it's the character work that makes Testament of Youth such an involving experience, especially through the veil of a 'period' film. Vikander is quite simply luminous, but the camera is drawn as much to the stubborn, robust manner she gives Brittain as much as it is the softer romanticism of the character's winsome independence. The film is decorated with familiar faces giving sturdy turns along the way: Miranda Richardson, Dominic West, Emily Watson and Hayley Atwell all have their striking moments.
Emma Thompson is an exquisite crier. Friends, acquaintances and enemies still cite her strand of Love Actually as easily the film’s strongest aspect, and her reaction to her husband’s thoughtful but incorrect present as one of the actress’ finest moments. There’s something about the way the composed, somewhat remote attitude crumbles, drawn all over Thompson’s face, that makes it so sympathetic and wistfully beautiful to witness. And it’s due to this, partly, that Saving Mr. Banks is as successful as it is – the experienced, perceptive way both Thompson and co-star Tom Hanks have of selling their monologues and close-ups, which in less experienced hands could so easily have seemed hackneyed and manipulative.
John Lee Hancock’s tale of the negotiations between Walt Disney (Hanks) and Mary Poppins author P.L. Travers (Thompson) is pretty standard sentimental stuff, quickly establishing the hearty transatlantic binary between uptight Brit and liberal American. Travers insists on being called “Mrs. Travers”; Walt, his employees whisper to her, only works on a first name basis. Kelly Marcel and Sue Smith’s screenplay mines this for as many laughs as it can possibly produce. [More]
The crown jewel in the archive selection this year is the BFI’s pristine restoration of J.B.L. Noel’s overwhelming 1924 documentary, The Epic of Everest. It’s one of those films where the sheer audacity of what’s being filmed, as opposed to any technical prowess, is what really impresses. And when the intertitles (it’s silent, of course, though outfitted with a gorgeously minimalist new score from Simon Fisher Turner) announce that a particular shot is brought to you using a revolutionary telephoto lens, that’s quite an achievement. Though no words are spoken, and faces barely seen, it’s hard not to become enthralled in Noel’s recounting of their journey through Tibet and up the mountain, with breathtaking long takes of some passages of the mountain gripping in the simplicity of distant figures precarious movements. Andrew Irvine and George Mallory died in the attempt, a tragedy captured in a climax that combines painful distance – the camera could only be taken so far up the mountain – with melancholic intertitles that seem to reach out through time. The BFI restoration is released in the UK this weekend, with a detailed DVD and Blu-Ray release sure to follow – in any format, it’s an awesome experience of an extraordinary expedition.
Charlie Cox (remember him?) in Hello Carter plus two more new films after the jump...
In writing you must kill all your darlings."
The dilemma of how to literally take William Faulkner’s melancholy quote is the central crisis point of John Krokidas’ debut feature Kill Your Darlings. The film is a playful, confident but messy tale of Allen Ginsberg (Daniel Radcliffe) and his obsessive friendship with Lucien Carr (Dane DeHaan), a fellow student at Columbia University. Krokidas makes this relationship the heart of his film, aesthetics and narrative bound up in their complex bond, relying heavily on the two young leads who have reached this point in their careers by markedly different paths. Despite the presence of some more seasoned hands in the cast - Ben Foster, Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Cross - this is a strikingly youthful film, effectively matching the burgeoning talents it explores.
Since Kanye West just brought The Truman Show and its climatic sailing sequence into public parlance again, it’s perfectly appropriate for me to refer to All is Lost as an enlarged version of that scene. The manipulator of the heavens here is not a flatcapped Ed Harris, but writer-director J. C. Chandor, fleeing from the immensely talkative boardroom of Margin Call to the vast sea of a practically wordless one-man-show. ‘Our Man’ (as the credits call him) is Robert Redford, in an Oscar-buzzed performance that is certainly his most remarkable in many years. Not only for the physical commitment - the rough winds of the sea buffet the sailor every which way - but for the restraint with which he crafts a stolid and complex man who barely says a word.