The BFI London Film Festival 2012 was quite a ride. We’re not entirely sure whether that was because back then we were still doing it for the sheer hell of it or whether this year just wasn’t quite up to it. 2012 gave us the lunatic Seven Psychopaths, the gorgeous Frankenweenie and the spectacularly tense Argo. It also dragged us into the horrible world of Mea Maxima Culpa, the deranged world of Beware of Mr. Baker and the WTF? world of Room 237. And of course, it brought us the wonderful Wadjda. We were sent completely sideways by top strength (and free) Gonzo beer, left open mouthed by Ginger Baker’s Q&A, witnessed the most relieved and raucous round of applause ever (Argo) and sat dumfounded as a cricket film morphed into a full on Bollywood extravaganza (Save your Legs). We fell in love with Robot & Frank (and Frank Langella), Sparky, Wadjda, Sam Rockwell’s hats and Ralph Steadman. And then there was A Fish. In short, 2013 had a lot to live up to.
With more films this year, more venues and more difficulty getting those gala tickets, this year was a bigger task all around. And that was before the joys of Catch 22 accreditation.
2013 started well. Having being denied opening gala tickets, we sneaked in through the back door and did get to see the nerve jangling Captain Philips but we also picked out the Golden Lion winner Sacro GRA. We’re very glad we did. A wonderful observational documentary, dipping in and out of people’s lives as they go about their business on Rome’s ring road. Saturated with the sort of bonkers characters you can only find in real life, you will find yourself cheering on a man bent on weevil destruction through sonic weaponry. I made not one bit of that up.
Arguably the biggest gala we attended was Gravity. For once, George failed to show up (having been there in his lovely person for 2011 and 2012) but we did instead get Sandra Bullocks astonishing legs. George was not missed. The movie was incredible and set new standards for 3D filmmaking and solo female performances. We followed this massive (in every way) movie with a more low key affair but one that will retain its significance far longer than Cuaron’s. Mystery Road is simply an important piece of work. A director / writer / cinematographer / musician and a star both of aboriginal decent (Ivan Sen and Aaron Pedersen respectively) brought us a careful, measured, fascinating look at the racial problems still prevalent in small Australian towns. The movie looks beautiful and the fact that it uses aboriginal issues as a backdrop only serves to make the message more powerful.
One of the few films we saw that did not really live up to our expectations from the previews was The Spectacular Now. A coming of age film that we think will struggle to find any empathy on this side of the Atlantic. Unlike the wonderful Enough Said. Widely and rightly trumpeted due to it being James Gandolfini’s penultimate film, we found so much more to love in this, not the least of which is the magical Julia Louis-Dreyfus. If somebody doesn’t find her a big screen role soon, we will be very upset.
At the time of writing, Mistaken for Strangers may be our favourite film of the festival. This may change as it tends to. First time filmmaker Tom Berninger has made an at times excruciatingly self confessional movie, nominally about his brother’s band The National and we found him so likable in both the film and the Q&A afterward that it’s hard not to think this film isn’t some kind of weird genius. And we caught it at 9pm on a Friday night, mostly sober. Not prime favourite movie territory.
The premiere of The Last Impresario was memorable for a number of things. The first being the presence of the legend that is Michael White. Not that we’d ever heard of him before this. The second being the crowd. We’ve not been amongst such a large collection of highly strung people before but we’d recommend the experience. A Touch of Sin was a much more subdued affair. This one has grown on us a bit since we walked out of the screening feeling a bit baffled. It’s a cold, brutal, abrupt film but at the same time, it does have some room for hope.
Sadly there were films that we missed. The Rocket, Here Be Dragons and The Missing Picture all hit the cutting room floor for a variety of work reasons or in the case of the latter, sheer timetable incompetence. We will be looking out for them as and when they are released properly.
Which brings us to the movie that should win a prize for most manically passionate director of a film that never got made. We have absolutely no idea what sort of movie Jodorowsky’s Dune would have been but it would have been unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. That may not be a good thing of course, especially if it had come in at 12 hours long (perfectly plausible when you watch this) but it would have been unique. Jodorowsky himself makes for compulsive viewing in this endlessly watchable and fascinating documentary. We really hope somebody picks up his Dune at some point and makes it.
Kon-Tiki surprised us somewhat. A ‘based on a true story’ adventure, following on from an Academy Award winning documentary (from 1950 - it won the Oscar in 1951), this is a rip-roaring adventure yarn. Between the borderline lunatic adventurer Thor Heyerdal, gigantic waves, a creaking raft and some particularly mean looking sharks, it’s truly amazing that these guys made it across nearly 5,000 miles of ocean. The movie definitely had us wondering on many occasions if they would make it.
Both members of Broken Shark witnessed the Cohen brothers’ latest opus and neither one of us knows quite what to make of it. A close friend of BS described it as ‘warm and catlike’ which is probably a bit on the lean side for a review but does go some way to summing up Inside Llewyn Davies. A meandering, wonderfully detailed country and western love story, the movie is always beautiful but probably a little too enigmatic to elevate it to the greatest the brothers have shown us so far.
The second Australian film we saw at the festival had echoes of the issues tackled in Mystery Road but was very much more one woman’s journey with herself. The obviously talented Mia Wasikowska is on great form anchoring the entire of Tracks as she goes in search of the Indian Ocean. From Palm Springs. With only camels and her dog for company. Also starring our new favourite aboriginal actor Roly Mintuma as the irrepressible Mr. Eddie, Mia’s ‘old-fella’ guide through the sacred lands. Beautiful and affecting and another standout performance in a female lead role.