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the times london film festival roundup two
The good, the bad and the downright disappointing.As the London Film Festival closes a fortnight of sparkly fresh film work, two movies in particular have sent out dizzying shockwaves of originality. Jonathan Caouette’s Tarnation continues to leave its brazen imprint in the cinephile consciousness. This director’s life has so far been one beautiful, crazed filmmaking odyssey. Using photos, Super 8 film and answerphone messages from 19 years of growing up with his damaged mother Renee, plus movie clips and tracks culled from a monster CD collection, Cauoette edited it all on his computer to create this heartrending masterpiece. His experimental film gallops along to a soundtrack that includes Cocteau Twins, Johnny Cash, Joni Mitchell and Marianne Faithful. Guaranteed to induce a rush to the head and a pang in your chest.
Striking a quieter, but no less powerful chord, Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s long-awaited Innocence looks, sounds and feels like nothing else out there. Hadzihalilovic is Gaspar Noé’s partner and long-term collaborator, and this marks a complete break from their work together, such as Carne and I Stand Alone. Innocence is an adaptation of Frank Wedekind’s story Mine-Haha, about a school for little girls set deep within a dark walled forest, but the less you know about plot specifics the better with this. Her film is an enchantment pitched on the edge of fairy tale nightmare in a visual language that is at once familiar and totally alien. Charming, unsettling and never less than artistically electrifying, suffice to say it’s a once-in-a-lifetime piece of cinema and we can’t wait for her next film.
Innocence and I Heart Huckabees
Less exciting in the originality stakes was François Ozon’s “mature” offering, 5 x 2. Following the story in reverse, 5 x 2 explores the breakdown of a marriage in five scenes from finish to start. It’s highly polished and suitably weighty, with French-flavoured discussions on sexual mores, but its impact rests heavily on how much you identify with the central couple. This reviewer did not. The fated pair are into “hilarious” Butlin’s-style holiday antics and Gaelic folk dancing, truly raising the bar in mediocre coupledom.
Perhaps most disappointing is the closing night film, I Heart Huckabees, which tries far too hard to be the zaniest kid on the block. This latest from genius director David O Russell (Three Kings, Spanking The Monkey) purports to be all about what it’s all about. We follow comic dynamite Jason Schwartzman, an environmental campaigner on a quest for meaning. While dealing with corporate brown-nose Jude Law, he suffers some strange coincidences and enlists the help of existential detectives, Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin. Performances are all excellent, the Charlie Kaufman-style gags relentless. But the cleverly scripted chicanery whizzes round a hollow, soulless core. Who knows? Perhaps that’s Russell’s point.
The Times London Film Festival 2004, 20 October – 04 November. Box office 020 7928 3232.
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