This year’s Opening Night gala will be Academy Award- winner Steve McQueen’s WIDOWS. The International premiere will take place on Wednesday 10th October at the Cineworld, Leicester Square. Co-written by McQueen and best-selling novelist and screenwriter Gillian Flynn and starring Academy Award®- winner Viola Davis, WIDOWS is a complex thriller about a group of women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities. A star-studded ensemble cast includes: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya and Jacki Weaver with Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson.
One of the unofficial laws surrounding biopics is the more complex and rich the subject, the more reductive and superficial the treatment of the life. Redoubtable is ostensibly about a great cinema revolutionary, Jean-Luc Godard, but his life and art are alas interpreted by Michel Hazanavicius, a director who wears his slim talent for pastiche heavily.
Hazanavicius is best known for The Artist, one of the least deserving Best Picture Winners in recent times. The Artist was an amusing idea for a short film inflated into a bland caricature of silent film comedy. Before The Artist, he was best known in France for the OSS117 films, the kind of James Bond parodies that make a rainy Sunday afternoon bearable when there are no real James Bond films on TV. After The Artist, Hazanvicius reached for the stars and fell from his stepladder with an unwieldy remake of Fred Zinnemann’s The Search. Not without ambition (or humility) he now gives the world his take on Godard’s mid-sixties period and marriage to actress Anna Wiazemsky with a few rear-view glances of the political ferment of France in 1967/68.
Reviewed by Lee Hill
The bitterness of separation, divorce and the all too common legal battles between former spouses has made for familiar terrain at the movies. Shoot the Moon, Kramer Vs. Kramer, The War of the Roses, Blue Valentine and Boyhood are a few titles that spring to mind and of course, television drama would be crippled without domestic strife as convenient narrative fodder. Given the countless variations on a theme, Xavier Legrand’s stunning first feature is even more of an achievement and will resonate with a wide audience.
120 BPM is a film you tend to admire rather than love. Robin Campillo’s film deals with the rise of Act Up in France in the late 80s and early 90s as the activist group tackled the complacency of government, medical and pharmaceutical establishments in dealing with the crisis. If the film veers towards being a polemic at times, it contains many scenes that remind one of the anguish and rage the early years of the epidemic unleashed across the LGBT community world-wide.
Anyone who thinks protestors just blindly show up to cause trouble will have their consciousness seriously expanded after watching this film. Campillo’s camera plunges the viewer into the centre of the practical and ideological debates that drive organisations like Act Up. Like Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom, 120 BPM features several scenes of young adults in meetings refining and discarding ideas and arguments as they move towards political action. When an intervention at a medical conference doesn’t go as planned, the activists hold a post-mortem to determine what went wrong.
Malena (Barbara Lennie), a doctor from Buenos Aires, travels to a remote village to complete an illegal adoption arranged through the seemingly benevolent Dr. Costas. The adoption falls apart when the family of the biological parent asks for more money due to an accident affecting one of its chief wage earners. With the aid of a reluctant, but still supportive common law husband, Malena tries to meet this new demand, but the ground rules continue to shift, and desperate measures seem her only logical response.
Diego Lerman and co-writer Maria Meira have crafted a seamless mix of docudrama, character study and thriller that transcends the usual limitations of social realism. We see most of the action through the sympathetic, but middle-class eyes of Malena, who struggles with both her near inexpressible desire for a child and liberal good intentions. The poverty and corruption of life in rural Argentina, the film implies, is part of the same system that allows Malena and her husband to enjoy the good life in the city.
Let The Sunshine In is an unapologetic meditation on the philosophy of love; the kind of film that French filmmakers seem to be able to do in their sleep. Inspired by rather than adapted from Roland Barthes’ influential A Lover’s Discourse, the free-floating plot tracks the messy love life of Isabelle, an attractive, single artist in her forties, played with an effortless blend of intelligence and sensuality by Juliette Binoche. As is often the case in real life, Isabelle seems so much better than the men in her romantic orbit. Yet her passion, idealism and loneliness yield to the gravitational pull of a group of suitors that run the gamut from harmless fantasists to indecisive or emotionally disconnected jerks. The most egregious offender is Vincent, who bears a strong resemblance to a recently disgraced studio head. When Isabelle eventually tunes this narcissistic banker with artistic pretensions out, most members of the audience will cheer.
In her 60s prime, Nico was the formidably beautiful Wagnerian queen of avant-garde rock, breaking not only the hearts of her fellow Velvet Underground bandmates, John Cale and Lou Reed, but inspiring Jackson Browne and Leonard Cohen to write some of their best songs. Alas by the 80s, she was barely a cult survivor – addicted to heroin, trying to reconnect with her son by Alain Delon and touring with a motley crew of young musicians in dives across Europe.
Italian director, Susanna Nicciarelli, largely sets Nico’s life story in these final days before her accidental death in Ibiza, but we catch glimpses of the heady glamour of the Velvets and Andy Warhol’s Factory through archive footage. Despite a charismatic performance by Danish actress, Trine Dyrholm, in the title role, this film never quite solves the problem of making Nico’s aimless life dramatically compelling. While Dyrholm is supported by a strong cast of supporting players including John Gordon Sinclair as Nico’s long-suffering manager and Annamarina Marinca as the band’s vio-linist, their efforts are not rewarded by a script that largely consists of grim vignettes of life on the road.
In Grain, cinematographer Giles Nuttgens provides a stunning visualisation of director Kaplanoglu’s dystopian vision, using black and white film shot on three continents, blended seamlessly into bold, harsh landscapes which immediately suggest an odyssey. The City is also a composite of Detroit, industrial German (e.g. Essen), and Konya, Anatolia (This is a Turkish production). These are perfectly assembled into an urban version of a colony ship. The city is now the only civilisation, with the individual nation-states long since abandoned in order to deal with a much bigger crisis – a total lack of food.