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So, Leeds International Film Festival is over for another year. As I retire my pass, I thought I’d blog my thoughts on the films I’ve seen in the second week and four days. I must add that I’ve been blown away by the standard of the selection this year; a massive thank you to the organisers and volunteers who make his great event happen. In the end I saw 19 films and even when I was dragging my tired self across Leeds not sure if I could face yet another film, I always left being thankful I did. If you’re a loiner try to catch some screenings next year, you won’t be disappointed. You can follow LIFF on twitter @leedsfilmfestival. So here they are, my scrappy thoughts and reviews and the big reveal of my LIFF 2012 Top Ten
Seven Psychopaths, Martin McDonagh, UK. 2011
The latest offering from the director of In Bruges, this film jumped out at me as soon as I opened the programme. So off I trotted to the Town Hall hoping and praying it would be as good as it’s predecessor I needn’t have worried. This movie lived up to all my expectations; great characters – superbly acted, hysterical, witty and the language and violence you would expect from a McDonagh film. Take the time to see this film; pacey and funny you won’t be disappointed. 5/5
Sightseers, Ben Wheatley, UK, 2012
I have a general rule that I don’t watch trailers for Film Festival films and this is the only film where I broke that rule. I was determined to see this as soon as I heard the line “He’s not a person, he’s a Daily Mail reader”. The premise; a new romance and a tour via caravan around the best (?) sites of Northern England; Fountains Abbey, Mother Shipton’s Cave, The Pencil Museum (ahem). All with an unexpected twist to the plan. I found this film very funny and unique, although it probably lost a star purely due to the fact I had seen Seven Psychopaths the night before and that wins hands down on the laughter front. A good British film, although expect some violence. 4/5
11 Flowers (Wo 11), Xiaoshuai Wang China, 2012
This is a beautifully shot film centred during the Cultural Revolution in China. The child actors in this film are exceptional, fantastic performances from them all. Beautiful to watch but I fear I missed something. The plot, for me, was sadly lacking and I felt a little bored and disappointed as I left. 2/5
The Ambassador, Mads Brügger, Denmark, 2011
Danish journalist, Mads Brugger, takes a trip to the Central African Republic after having bought diplomatic status. Once there he investigates the blood diamond trade via hidden camera. I really enjoyed his documentary, interesting content but not without a few laughs on the way. Brugger was reminiscent of Michael Moore with a hint of Sacha Baron Cohen. Well worth a watch. 4/5
The Hunt (Jagten), Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark, 2012
Oh my. Where do I start? I (like most of the UK at the minute) am a little addicted to Nordic TV and was really looking forward to this. I knew nothing of the plot, I’m glad I didn’t as I may not have seen it if I did. This film will anger you, shock you and leave you on the edge of your seat wondering if you can finish watching or if you have to leave the cinema. An extra warning for teachers; this will be uncomfortable viewing for you, like your worst nightmare on the screen. None of this detracts from the fact that this is an awesome film, superbly acted by Mads Mikkelsen, who won the Best Actor Award at Cannes for his performance. A must see. 6/5 (Just because)
Alois Nebel, Tomás Lunák, Czezh Republic, 2011
This film begins with the expulsion of Sudeten Germans from Czechoslovakia after World War II and then follows the story of the arrival of a mute passenger at a Czech train station at some point in the future. Strong themes of loneliness here and a sweet ending. That being said I found the storyline missing a certain je ne sais quoi. This film for me was all about the cinematography, a stunnignly beautiful black and white animation I ended up not caring about the story and just taking in every detail of the excellent production. Mesmerising. 3.5/5
Amour, Michael Haneke, Austria, 2012
Selected for the Closing Gala of the Film Festival, I’d never seen an Hanecke film before; I will definitely be seeking some out now. This film won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and rightly so. A touching story of old age and unconditional love. The emotions resonate from the screen and this is the first time that I’ve been sat in a packed out cinema and nobody has spoken as the credits rolled. Everyone, like me, appeared to be dumbstruck by this beautiful movie. Emmanuelle Riva gives a dazzling performance (I hope there is an Oscar to follow). This could so easily have become a tear-jerking film wallowing in the emotions, it isn’t. Hanecke cleverly constructs a film that is emotional without overdoing it. See this film. 5/5
Beauty Is Embarrassing, Neil Berkeley, USA, 2012
I perhaps wouldn’t have chosen to see this Art Documentary if I hadn’t seen such glowing reviews on Twitter after it’s first screening and had it not been selected for a Film Festival Favourite screening. I like art but I don’t like the pretentiousness that surrounds so much of the art world. This documentary has none of that. I’ve never heard of Wayne White but he’s certainly my kind of artist (see his art here), his personality shines through in this film – what a character! Full of laughs and highly inspirational, throughly recommended. You can watch the film online here. 4/5
Wolf Children, Mamaru Hosada, Japan, 2012
Another Film Festival Favourite screrening took me to see this Japanese animation. Again I wasn’t disppointed (those LIFF audiences know what they’re talking about!). Ame and Yuki are children with wolf blood. Part fairytale but don’t expected a smooth cutesy ride. Emotionally touching with plenty of laughs. Loved it. 4.5/5
Ernest and Celestine, Stéphane Aubier/ Vincent Patar, Belgium, 2012
My final screening, again a Film Festival Favourite and another animation telling the story of an unlikely friendship between a mouse and a bear. Much more fairytale than Wolf Children yesterday. A sweet film with great animation, reminiscent of The Snowman in that respect, it was a little saccharine sweet for my liking. Aw bless, happy ending, isn’t life wonderful (bleugggh). Good for the kids or the big (and soft) kids. 3/5
My Top Ten
You can view the LIFF Top Ten based on audience ratings here. For the record, here is mine….drum roll, please….
1. The Hunt
3. Seven Psychopaths
4. Rust and Bone
5. Wolf Children
6. War Witch
7. Beauty is Embarrassing
9. Robot & Frank
10. The Ambassador
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