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the times london film festival preview 2004
A taste of things to come.The Times London Film Festival’s position at the end of the festival circuit ensures that many of the films shown represent the full cream. Proceedings get off to a sobering start with Vera Drake, Mike Leigh’s study of a 50s East End abortionist, which grabbed top prize at Venice, having been rejected from competition by the bigwigs at Cannes. Beginning with much stirringly humane humour before plummeting into inky maudlin tones, it’s likely to have crowds either rushing home to weep or straight to the bar for a stiff one.
Of the four other British movies, Saul Dibb’s Bullet Boy stands out. Starring the artist formerly known as Asher D of So Solid fame, now Ashley Walters, the film has more going for it than curiosity factor. Dibb conjures some intense performances to illustrate a well-worn subject: inner city violence and dissolute bad boys.
Vera Drake and Napoleon Dynamite
Alternative America froths up in mixed film form. Todd Solondz tries to shock with paedophilia and a freak parade in Palindromes, while comedy Napoleon Dynamite, from a Mormon filmmaking team, explores the hidden world of high geekdom, time machines included. Greg Araki, provides another beautiful and uncompromising vision of doomed youth in the gay love story, Mysterious Skin.
Two must-see films of the festival come from women directors on opposite corners of the globe. Innocence is the first feature by French director Lucile Hadzihalilovic, Gasper Noé's missus. It's set in a girls’ school, where pupils arrive in boxes and are graded with ribbons in their hair. But what goes on with the big girls in the main building at night? And where do the subterranean tunnels lead?
Mysterious Skin and La Niña Santa
An equally original look at adolescence, La Niña Santa (The Holy Girl) is Argentinian Lucrecia Martel’s follow-up to La Ciénaga. The narrative is often baffling, with scenes and conversations starting in full swing, and extreme close-ups on enigmatic emotions. Still, her take on adolescent sexuality and small-town life is erotic, mystical and visceral, riding high on auteur vision.
Rockumentaries have wrung out a powerchord of originality in cinema this year and top of our list is Dig!, about The Dandy Warhols and their self-styled rivals, The Brian Jonestown Massacre. When BJM frontman Andre loses control of a once-promising career he starts sending his onetime friends bullets in the post and recording hate songs for them. In the wake of two great Ramones films and the brilliant Metallica doc, Dig! has much to live up to. Director Ondi Timoner dedicated eight years of her life to the project, and you can almost feel the spray from the mosh pit as sweat and blood flies.
Innocence and I Heart Huckabees
Wrapping up the festival is David O Russell’s existential comedy, I Heart Huckabees, about a soul searching environmentalist who consults a metaphysical detective agency to get to the bottom of some bothersome coincidences. What ensues is a philosophical gag-a-minute in quirky, cool packaging. The cerebral premise is chiefly brought to life by comic genius Jason Schwartzman, though the supporting cast includes Dustin Hoffman, Mark Wahlberg and French goddess Isabelle Huppert. Ingeniously scripted and buzzing with absurd humour, this should close the festival on a high note.
As usual, Collective will be covering everything of the remotest interest, so watch this space.
The Times London Film Festival 2004, 20 October – 04 November. Box office 020 7928 3232.
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