Random Ramblings; books, music, films, other stuff…

Leeds International Film Festival 2012: Week One

I’m no film critic but I bought a pass for the Film Festival this year for the first time (usually I’ve utilised the 6 for 5 deal). Half the joint pass on early bird deal was £75 which meant I needed to see 11 films to make it worthwhile. I need not worry. It appears that this whole film festival business is a little addictive. The programme this year looked awesome and I happily pre-ordered 21 tickets for the 18 days. I thought I’d blog a little about each of the films I saw and my (uneducated) thoughts on them. Here are my thoughts on the films seen in the first seven days…

Rust & Bone (De Rouille et d’os), Jacques Audiard, France, 2012

I’m a huge fan of Audiard’s last film A Prophet, which if you haven’t seen, you really should, so was happy when LIFF announced they’d be showing this film. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at Cannes, I had high expectations. It didn’t disappoint. Marion Cotillard gives a stunning performance, as always, in what is essentially a love story. There’s a magnificent scene with her character and an Orca whale about halfway through which is just fabulous and as Audiard explains in this interview with Radio 4s Film Programme, was shot in one take and completely natural. The sign of a good film for me is one that you will rave about to anyone that listens. I woke up the next morning still thinking about it. Stunning. Must see. 4.5/5

Rust & Bone on IMDB

Argo, Ben Affleck, USA, 2012

Immediately after Rust & Bone was the official opening gala of LIFF. Now, I’m a red blooded woman and partial to a little Affleck (blatant objectification of actors, apologies) and although I’ve always loved everything he has done on an acting front I must admit I was cautious of how he would fare as a director, particularly with such a historic event as subject matter. I was pleasantly surprised. The film was well shot, laugh out loud funny in parts and suitably tense throughout. Telling the (almost true) story of the invasion of the American Embassy in Iran in 1979 when 56 Americans were taken hostage, I must admit I knew little about the history. Whilst watching the film I was acutely aware that all this was taking place when I was a few days old. The storyline (no spoilers) of how the US intended to release the hostages seemed a little far-fetched but after a little Internet research is actually true. Which makes it even more remarkable. The acting was great. Hell, it even has the John Goodman factor! A little over-Hollywoodised perhaps (if you want to know how read this) but I can forgive that artistic licence. The one thing I can’t forgive is the very final scene. Far too twee and fairy tale for my liking and completely irrelevant to the actual story. Still a great film. I recommend. 4/5

Argo on IMDB

King of Pigs, Sang-ho Yeon, South Korea, 2011

On paper this film looked great; an animation about class wars and bullying in a Korean high school. I actually think it probably is a good film but it was severely let down by the quality of subtitling which ranged from highly comical mistakes to completely incomprehensible. The animation itself was clunky and once the big reveal was made near the end, the final ending was predictable. So much promise but little in delivery. A disappointment. A generous 2/5.

King of Pigs on IMDB

War Witch (Rebelle), Kim Nguyen, Canada, 2012

Another great film. Komona is kidnapped from her African village by the rebel army and forced into life as a child soldier at the age of 12, this is her story. It’s harrowing at times, touching throughout and not without shades of comedy. The two lead actors give stunning performances and cinematographically it looks amazing. 4/5

War Witch on IMDB

In The House (Dans la Maison, François Ozon, France, 2012

Oh my. This is a film I will be raving about for years. Hilarious, layered, complex. I left the cinema wanting to immediately rewatch so that I could get my head around the intricacies of the story but alas it isn’t even set for release until March 2013. The theme of the film is storytelling. This is a story about a story to the point you don’t know if you’re watching the story or the story of the story. Confused, you will be but not to the point of giving up. It kind of all made sense even though I’m not sure I completely understand (yet). Watch. Watch. Watch. 5/5

In The House on IMDB

Avalon, Axel Petersén, Sweden, 2011

Confession time: I had a ticket, I didn’t stay. I decided four films back-to-back was too much. I know people that stayed. I’ll pass on their message: avoid this film. So without seeing it 0/5 (I trust these people)

Avalon on IMDB

Additional note: I may be spotting a theme here – are 2011 releases all dodgy?!

Robot & Frank, Jake Schreier, USA, 2012

An elderly man is bought a robot as a home help in order to prevent him being taken into a care home. This is the story of his initial reluctance and a blossoming friendship, with unexpected consequences. Touching and funny, a feel-good indie film. Nothing overly deep here in terms of storyline but well worth a watch. 4/5

Robot & Frank on IMDB

Charles Bradley: Soul of America, Poull Brien, USA, 2012

This caught my eye in the programme, having first encountered Charles Bradley’s music on Later…with Jools Holland earlier his year, but wasn’t in my original schedule. I got a ticket of the cuff to fill a lull between films. I’m glad I did. This is a great documentary charting Charles’ rise to fame, set against the backdrop of a life story of considerable disadvantage and sorrow. I found the scenes about his brother paricularly touching and there’s the obvious happiness that comes with watching his rise to fame at the ripe old age of 62. Charles’ personality and talent shines through. An uplifting story with a moral of “it’s never too late”. Great music too, expect spontaneous toe-tapping throughout. 3.5/5

Charles Bradley: Soul of America on IMDB

The Shining, Stanley Kubrick, USA, 1980

LIFF’s theme for their retrospectives this year is Stanley Kubrick. I’ve never seen this film and truth be told I’m not a fan of scary films. I was convinced to see this by some lovely people over on Twitter so I scheduled it in. As the screening drew closer I got quite excited about seeing this classic in the specacular surroundings of Leeds Town Hall. How I was disappointed. Let me explain why. As a teenager I went through a phase of reading Mum’s Stephen King’s novels, this included. I found them highly disturbing and lost many a night’s sleep thanks to their genius. For me the film lacked this edge. King’s talent is not through what the prose says but what your mind fills in between the gaps. It’s all about psychology and imagination. For me this didn’t translate onto the screen. I can’t place why but I found this film farcical and almost comical at times. I was closer to laughing than screaming. Perhaps it hasn’t translated well to the modern era. I’m sure this was ground-breaking in it’s day. I also know that Kubrick is a legend of cinema and there are far more people out there who will disagree with me ragther than agree with me. No for me. 2/5

The Shining on IMDB

Barry Lyndon, Stanley Kubrick, USA, 1975


Next up was another, Kubrick. Running at 3 hours I was prepared for the long haul. The fact that this was an 18th century period drama intrigued me, as well as the fact that is’s a lesson known title from Kubrick’s back catalogue. I don’t mind a slow burn of a film, but boy his film is sloooooow. Nothing really happens. I was slowly losing the will to live and was pleased when I realised Kubrick had scheduled in an intermission about 2 hours in. Pleased because it gave me a chance, for the first time ever, to leave before the film finished. A friend tweeted me later to tell me I’d missed “a sheep drawn carriage and a fight over a pencil”. I think I’ll live. On a positive note, there’s no doubting Kubrick’s eye for stunning cinematography. Every scene looked like a beautiful oil painting but not enough plot or substance to maintain my interest. 1/5

Barry Lyndon on IMDB


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