LFF 2015 - Day 9! King Jack / The End of The Tour / Desierto / Youth / Green Room

So far into the festival now and we can't tell one day from another. We're pretty sure this is day 9 but hell, it could have been any of them. I don't think we're fooling anyone into thinking we're updating this thing on the fly. One of us is already back at proper (paying) work and the other is in LA. Rock n Roll. Hope we haven't ruined the illusion. Either way, Day 9 saw teenage angst, middle age angst, border angst, old age sort of angst and holy christ, what just happened?! Big day.

KING JACK

KING JACK

A coming of age story with strong visuals and a great central performance from Charlie Plummer as the eponymous Jack; King Jack is a confident and accomplished first feature from writer / director Felix Thompson.

Fifteen year old Jack is surviving in a tough existence. Engaged in a war with the town’s local bully Shane, Jack insists on fighting back and the bullying is reaching new worrying heights.  Jack’s single other clearly struggles to make ends meet and his brother doesn’t really want anything to do with him and has kindly bestowed the nickname scab upon him. Looks like another crappy summer for Jack. Things take a turn when his younger cousin arrives to stay and Jack is forced into doing some growing up really fast.

King Jack isn’t particularly showing us anything new or ground-breaking but it does manage to not patronise youth with this portrayal if the hardships of being a teenage boy. This is mainly down to the subtleties and complexities with which Charlie Plummer bestows his Jack. This boy is complicated; multi layered and learns a lesson. This is hard to pull off in 81 minutes and it’s a job well done. Plummer has a touch of the young River Phoenix and Jacob Lofland about him which can only be a good thing.

The supporting cast are all great, particularly Cory Nicholas as little cousin Ben and Yanis Ynoa as Harriet. It was also commendable to see nice, normal shaped young ladies of all colours represented. 

So as we said, King Jack isn’t breaking any ground here but it’s an honest, unflinching look at what it’s like to be a teenager, it also has a brilliant soundtrack. Definitely worth a look.

Jo  

THE END OF THE TOUR

THE END OF THE TOUR

I love Jesse Eisenberg, I really do. This year I was hugely excited for American Ultra which I kept missing as the release date kept mysteriously changing, not the sign of a good film and subsequently meant in the end I just missed it. Anyway I was also excited about the End of The Tour and made it to this one and on the whole it didn’t disappoint. 

The End Of The Tour is not about a rock and roller having an almighty live it up but David Foster Wallace, author of Infinite Jest, and the last stop on the book tour in the American Midwest and David Lipicky, also an author and writer for the Rolling Stine. Lipicky was a fan of Wallace, a little in awe, and suggested it his RS editor that he should go do a piece on the last stop of his book tour. What culminated from this was an intense love/hate relationship between the men that makes for compelling, intelligent viewing, if sometimes a little slight. Writers are often mysteries, romantic figures in film, the tortured artist is a typical suggestion and one we are often happy to go along with. The End of The Tour does a good job

It’s everything you would expect from a Jesse Eissenberg movie, it’s smart, it’s intelligent, and it’s unconventional. Scripted by Pulitzer Prize winner David Margulies and directed by Sundance Vet James Pondstadt The End of The Tour is eccentric and smart. I’m not sure I entirely bought Jason Segal as Wallace but the two men make for interesting sparring partners and it’s certainly a more cerebral outing than some other films out there. 

Jo

I haven't read the book.

Si

DESIERTO

DESIERTO

We were vaguely sniffy about this one purely from a worry about a lack of meritocracy when a director’s son pops up with an A list Hollywood star headlining his debut movie. Well, far be it from us to shout about Cuaron Snr’s influence here… but…..

So Jonás Cuarón has somehow managed to cobble together Gael García Bernal and Jeffrey Dean Morgan for his US / Mexico border set chase movie Desierto. Bernal is Moises, what can best be described as the obvious one to survive in a group of Mexican immigrants making their way illegally across the border into the good old US of A. When the truck breaks down in the middle of nothing, two of the smugglers are tasked with leading the group across the border in order to secure the transport money. One of the smugglers is less than pleased with the direction he is ordered in.

En-route, the group manage to split into two as the fitter ones forge ahead, leaving the weaker or less able to care about anything ones to straggle behind. Moises is in the latter group as he is fretting about the overweight guy and the guy who’s molesting the woman. Meanwhile, Morgan’s white power crazy is cruising around the border attempting to alert the bored border patrol that there are illegals everywhere dagmanit. Sadly the only border guy around isn’t particularly interested so Sam and his dog Tracker mooch off, see if they can’t find themselves some game.

You can pretty much guess where it goes from here. Sam and his hound gradually and pretty graphically pick off the front lying group whilst the lame group are watching and then head off after team B. Who then get picked off in particularly obvious order. Want to guess if the molesty guy survives? Nah, you won’t get any odds on him coming through this in one piece. So we get Morgan doing an admittedly good job of being unpleasant and Bernal being utterly wasted as the Good Guy.

The photography is impressive, the script almost non-existent, the characters wafer thin and the conclusion obvious but at times Cuarón manages to inject a decent amount of excitement into proceedings, I’m just not convinced it’s the nihilistic thriller that I think he was going for. It’s all as subtle as the title really, which ominously appears on the horizon at both ends of the movie.

Si

YOUTH

YOUTH

This one on the other hand we were very much looking forward to as director Paolo Sorrentino’s previous effort was one of our movies of the year for 2013. To be totally honest, the previous movie and the prospect of the final movie had sent us running for the pub so memories of this one are a little hazy but we’re entirely sure it was great and Harvey Keitel isn’t really one for a Q&A session.

Youth then tells the story of Sir Michael Caine’s retired maestro Fred Ballinger, on retreat in the Swiss alps with his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz). Having composed his ‘Simple Symphonies’ (we’re trying not to compare that title in any way to Looney Tunes) some years ago for his wife to perform, he quickly discovered that all of his other work before or since has been eclipsed by the genius of that moment. When an emissary from the Queen turns up to ask him to play at Prince Phillip’s birthday, he is forced to admit that only his wife could sing the Symphonies and therefore he must refuse.

Knocking around the retreat is old friend Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel), a movie director clinging to some past glory that may or may not actually exist and Paul Dano’s Jimmy Tree, a young actor who believes his path in life and the maestro’s are treading a parallel path. Things start to go a bit awry when Lena is dumped by her boyfriend, who happens to be Mick’s son and Mick’s film begins to unravel as his travelling student writer group struggles with the script and a final surprise appearance by his star actor (great to see Jane Fonda back on our screen) sends the entire enterprise south.

I would very much like to watch this movie again sober as I suspect I may have missed out on agood number of subtleties. Having said that, although the review may suffer in the short term, I will get to rediscover the whole thing all over again which has to be a result. Not to be put off by my fuzzy memory though as I still thoroughly enjoyed this movie, despite possibly the most horrifically jarring appearance of a pop star playing a pop star and a subsequent dream sequence pop video. I can only assume that Sorrentino either owed Paloma Faith a MASSIVE favour or her appearance in the movie guaranteed some sort of funding that would otherwise have scuppered the whole enterprise.

Pop videos not withstanding though, if you’ve seen The Great Beauty, you’ll be on good ground here. Sorrentino has a wonderful eye and ear and the luscious photography of the Swiss countryside, coupled with a delightfully eccentric mix of contemporary and classically styled music add to a gently insightful script and the sort of performances you’d expect from Caine and Keitel wearily comparing how many times they’ve managed to piss that day. 

The script, also by Sorrentino, is alive with droll observations on the nature of ageing and memory and the writer / director has done a superb job of filling his characters with enough history for us to buy their fifty plus year friendship. Caine’s troubled relationship with his wife is mostly seen through his relationship with his daughter but the anguish is written across Caine’s magnificently expressive visage and when the full relationship is revealed, it’s a genuinely moving experience.

Youth lacks the gorgeous rhythm of Sorrentino’s previous movie and I’ll always pine for Toni Servillo but with a genuinely impressive cast, spot on minor characters (the wise beyond her years masseuse is a masterstroke), poignant and intelligent script, oddball moments and a suitably opulent canvas, one of my favourite directors has once again delivered a movie worth watching and, certainly if you were half-cut the first time, re-watching.

Si

GREEN ROOM

GREEN ROOM

So, if I was half-cut for the previous movie, it’s not going t take a genius to guess that I was well on the way for the final movie of Day 9. Which is kind of completely suitable and kind of a shame given that it is the latest from the lunatic genius behind Blue Ruin - one of the most surprisingly brilliant movies I’ve seen in recent years.

Green Room is writer / director Jeremy Saulnier’s third movie. I haven’t seen Murder Party but based on movies two and three and considering that he is too cool to even fill in his biography details on IMDB, I’m going to assume he’s way too young and way too cool to be this good. Which is my way of saying I hate him.

Rapidly becoming a master of modern grime / horror movies, Saulnier’s latest is a simple take about a down on their luck punk rock band (the Ain’t Rights) who accept entirely the wrong gig invitation after their previous one falls through and arrive in their Scooby Doo esque van at a new-nazi dive in the middle of sweet nothing with the promise of an actual payday. The money isn’t great but it’s a whole lot more than they were getting, all they have to do is not talk politics. Of course, opening their set with a rendition of the Dead Kennedy’s ‘Nazi Punks Fuck Off’ doesn’t bode too well but when the reception is generally positive (that is, nobody gets killed on stage), all looks well for the band. They collect their money and then remember that guitarist Sam’s (Alia Shawkat - Maeby from Arrested Development) mobile phone is still plugged in charging in the green room…..

Needless to say, swinging back for the phone precipitates a pretty bad evening for the team. The discovery of a girl with an ice-pick rammed in her head (grimly hilariously demonstrated to be entirely dead), leads to the band being locked in the green room whilst the denizens of the bar call their leader to work out how to tempt them out in order to kill them away from building. What follows is a spiralling, horrific whirl of suspense, violence, gore and, well, general grimness

Saulnier’s ace in the hole here is that he knows exactly what his movie is and plays it to such an extent that it becomes more than the genre flick it starts out to be. The band are a wonderful bunch of individuals, trapped in a situation they have little control over and Patrick Stuart’s Nazis, with the exception of a conflicted Macon Blair (returning from Blue Ruin), are all as horrible as you’d expect them to be. The fun then lies in the suspense and the inevitable releases of the next, overtly nasty death. As stated in my half review of Evolution, I’m not good with the blood but Saulnier gets away with it somehow.

Green Room is outrageously violent, relentlessly suspenseful, grimy to the extreme and, in its own horrible way, great fun. I have a strong suspicion that my next viewing of this will be through half closed eyes…. 

Si