With the pre-festival screenings done, the main event kicked off…
Widows got the festival off to a high-octane start with an excellently enjoyable slice of explosive heist action. But more than that – it was also a compelling exploration of systematic power imbalances, corruption, inequality and the perennially disappointing nature of men. Also; straight off the bat, the best dog of the festival. Much fun to be had in debating the best performance: Davis, Debicki, Kaluuya… for my money though, Cynthia Erivo steals it out from under them (ha!). Probably Steve McQueen’s least interesting film, but still better than 95% of the crime flicks out there.
More thrills, this time of a highly contained nature, in Norwegian single-location thriller The Guilty. Mostly focussing on the face of one man (an dodgy cop exiled to the boredom of emergency call telephony while under investigation) and the voices on the other end of his telephone line, this film milked its setup for all it was worth. Could he solve the riddle of what was unfolding? Could he, should he, go beyond his remit to try and save a life? White knuckle stuff, with nothing but two rooms a monitor and a Bluetooth headset.
Panos Cosmatos’s Mandy was one of my most-anticipated films of the festival – that trailer! – but for me it was a minor disappointment. Stylised to the point of slightly tiresome alienation, its characters never felt real to me, and so all their screaming and wailing ended up as light and sound signifying… if not quite nothing, then not a lot. Better in the second half, when it’s just pedal-to-the-heavy-metal (ha!) action, but even then they have Cage face off against his most interesting foes first, rather then build up to them as a climax. Still, the diluted-pupil aesthetic makes this a unique and memorable film, whatever its flaws. And Cage is as Cage does.
“It’s…. nnngggggggggg… crazy EVIL” – Nicholas Cage esquire in Mandy
The Surprise Treasure was a treasure indeed, but we were politely asked NEVER TO REVEAL what it was. It’s not hard to find out. It’s certainly one of the director’s best works and a classic of the biopic genre – now lovingly restored to clarity and caption-readability.
Note: film shown at the LFF was of a much greater clarity than the above screenshot…
Meanwhile, Happy New Year, Colin Burstead proved that while Kevin Wheatley is one of the UK’s most exciting directors, he only truly hits top gear when Neil Maskell is involved. This film has been described by some as “Mike Leigh on acid” (a comment repeated in the Q&A, to which sadly failed to catch the reaction of Leigh himself, in the audience), and is a darkly humorous and slyly observant slice of lower-middle-class savagery. Tea is served alongside booze, lies and recriminations in a hired stately home as Wheatley loosely plays with the dynamics of Coriolanus (the movie’s working title: Colin, You Anus). A very vaguely psychotic, Brexity Abigail’s Party, with Trap music.
Neil Maskell, above, radiates the potential for profound psychic violence. You know, like, arguments and stuff.
My LFF roundup continues with my third report…