‘But, we barely dented the 200+ list!’ cry all of you – bar the mythical man said to have imbibed 102 films. Calm your tits. Although the festival is a wonderful showcase for tiny indies without distributors, it’s also a launch pad for soon-to-be megahits that you’ll get more chances to view.
It would be remiss not to mention impressive films without a UK release date as they may well get one. So without further ado, here are the highlights of the 41.5 films I saw. Where known, the UK release date is included within brackets.
My go-to post-screening state was harrowed. It’s impossible to say whether this represents the general selection or whether I instinctively gravitate towards punishment. Craig Zobel’s Compliance, an amalgam of the real American case of a man calling fast-food chains impersonating a police officer and manipulating managers into increasingly poor treatment of their staff, leaves you looking askance at people wondering what they would do to you in the wrong circumstances. One of the many people to walk out during a screening did so with the heralding cry, ‘Okay everyone, it’s time to go now.’
Wrenching for different reasons is Paul Andrew Williams’s Song For Marion (8 February 2013). This superbly acted character drama is uncannily well-observed in its portrayal of terminal cancer and how people get through it. Stamp is luminous and keeps you guessing at which path his character will take. A tweet from @Matt_Cinephile sums it up: ‘Message to the Baftas from Terence Stamp : “TELL ‘EM I’M FUCKING COMING!!”’
Back in the dark and twisted camp is Simon Killer. An electronic dream of a soundtrack accompanies the lead man’s post-break-up downward spiral in Paris. ‘If you’re not expecting graphic sex and unpleasantness, you’ll be disappointed,’ said director Antonio Campos. So expect graphic sex and unpleasantness and you’ll be okay.
I could go on in this vein (looking at you After Lucia and A Highjacking) but let’s move on.
For different reasons Don Coscarelli’s John Dies at the End and Sophie Fiennes’ The Pervert’s Guide to Ideology will push your brain into different and welcome shapes. The former will get you there with wit, weirdness and hilarity, the latter via the fascinating, stimulating, cinematically illustrated thoughts of Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek who leavens intellectual content by, amongst other things, dressing up as a nun.
We’ve already paid tribute to Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (30 November), Sally El Hosaini’s My Brother The Devil (9 November) and Brandon Cronenberg’s Antiviral but no harm in reminding you chaps and chapettes of their visceral enjoyability. The Hunt was my second favourite film of the festival (in case you were wondering) and I showed it by yelping in a room full of stoically silent critics. For My Brother The Devil, El Hosaini scooped the Best British Newcomer award. We sure know how to pick ’em’.
Top of this tree, and top of my whole festival tree is Beasts of the Southern Wild (out now!). This uplifting and hypnotic mood piece about the fate of little Hushpuppy and her pa Wink in their elemental home of the Bathtub charmed many, earning director Benh Zeitlin a First Feature Award, one of only four awards that LFF offers.
Continuing the ‘good Ben(h)’ theme, Ben Lewin’s The Sessions (18 January 2013) defies mawkishness in its representation of how a polio-ravaged man in an iron lung is taught to have intercourse with a sex surrogate. Universal lessons in intimacy and fortitude are there for all of us, wrapped in a poetic style as lines from the real poet the story is based on are woven elegantly into the narrative.
BEST OF THE REST
Shout outs absolutely must go to the visually splendid and engrossing 4K restoration of David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (available on Blu-ray), Eran Riklis’s darkly comic & involving Middle-Eastern genre-bender Zaytoun and Ira Sachs’s biographical gay relationship drama Keep The Lights On (2 November).
I apologise for not having seen Ben Affleck’s Argo (7 November), Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers (30 November), Xavier Dolan’s Laurence Anyways (30 November), Carlos Reygadas’s Post Tenebras Lux, Abbas Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love and François Ozon’s In the House (29 March 2013). I will be eagerly awaiting their release. Godspeed celluloid darlings…
Edit: Oh my Christ, I forgot about Amy J Berg’s West of Memphis which is essential viewing. Here’s my five star review.