Monday, 20 October 2014

BFI Film Festival - White Bird in a Blizzard

A late evening showing of Gregg Araki's White Bird in a Blizzard, adapted from the novel of the same name by Laura Kasischke, may have seemed like an odd way to end a day but it was strangely peaceful.

After the delights of Kaboom, I was looking forward to this next venture, especially after the trailer. It felt to me, a little bit drama, a bit of suspense and then that touch that Araki seems to have where even the most traumatic experiences seem peaceful, for this film, its the disappearance of a parent.

With a great cast, a brilliant atmospheric soundtrack (yes, I said that) set in 1988 and 1991, to me this was period piece that felt understated, no overly obvious cultral references were screaming out and that gave room for the (I thought so) simple story. A teenage girl relates her memories from when her mother disappeared one day when she was 17. To me, this film was not about the actual disappearance, it was more about memories and lack of true emotions, especially from the main character. That's what made it such an intriguing film. I couldn't tear my eyes away from the screen.

Kat (Shailene Woodley) narrates the story, stating what is said on the poster, 'I was 17 when my mother disappeared'. Her mother (a brilliant character from Eva Green) is crazy, repressed bitter women. Kat relates memories of her parents, some she wasn't even present for and later, more recent ones that give a background and set up for the present. Then one day her mother is gone. Her father (Christopher Meloni) is quietly distraught or in shock, sometimes its hard to tell. But Kat carries on as normal, apart from her strange dreams where she sees her mother. It's a very visual film, especially in flashbacks and the dreams sequences. I don't want to give too much more away about the story, it's something that you should watch and interpret (unless you've read the book) for yourself.

As the film is set in late 80's and early 90's, I loved everything Woodley was wearing. Mixed with the amazing soundtrack, I was in throwback heaven.

After this film, I am very much looking forward to seeing Araki's next film, as the more I see, the more impressed and immersed I am in his style.


Sunday, 19 October 2014

BFI Film Festival - Spanish Affair

I admit, this breaks my 'rule of three' rule, sort off. The poster ruins it but, in a way, I can still argue that this is really about 3 people, plus so many lies.

I read that this film had broke records at the box office in Spain and thought the premise sounded amusing. Most of the people going into the screening were speaking Spanish and I started to worry because, to quote Ron Burgundy, 'I don't speak Spanish'. I thought for a horrible moment there was no subtitles. I calmed down once I had reached my seat when I heard a few English voices.

From the first few lines, people (mainly the Spanish viewers) were laughing their heads off. I thought I missed something but again, more laughter. I didn't get it. It seemed that most of the jokes were very, Spanish. A little bit into the film, I understood what the jokes were but throughout the film, there were a lot of references that, I think, only a Spanish audience would know. Despite this, I still really enjoyed it and I was laughing out loud at the universal jokes.

Spanish Affair is Directed by Emilio Martínez-Lázaro, the film starts with Amaia, who has been jilted by her fiancé, Anxton, but her friends still decide to take her on her hen night. They choose a bar far outside of their home town in the Basque country and Amaia gets very drunk and argues with the barman, Rafa. But of course, they end up back at his place. In the morning he decides to follow her to win her over. Rafa ends up having to pretend to be Anxton for Amaia's father, so that he doesn't know she was jilted. What follows is classic romantic comedy, lies, pretending to be other people and of course a wedding. 

The rule of three refers to Rafa, Amaia and her father. Plus lots of lies. 

I'm not actually a fan of romantic comedies but after Obvious Child, which was one but better, I wanted to see this film. It was typical but not for me as there were, as I said, quite a few references to very Spanish things. The actors were all hilarious and the setting was beautiful and it was a laugh. I can see why it was so successful in Spain and I'm hoping that means theres a release date for the UK.

Friday, 17 October 2014

BFI Film Festival - My Old Lady

Each year, the film I see there always seems to be a theme. Two years ago it was all about 'fathers', last year seemed to be about personal journeys usually centred around a young guy. This year seems to be the rule of three.

My second screening was at one of my favourite cinema sights, Mayfair Curzon, such comfy seating but very small foyer. The film, from the Journey section of the film, My Old Lady, adapted from the play of the same name. Tragic and in some places humorous, bitter sweet to taste and the cast, no one under 50. Brilliant. Sounds strange to say, but it was a film with damaged characters you do care about but I didn't tear up.

Kevin Kline, Dame Maggie Smith and Kristen Scott-Thomas (forgotten how good an actress she is) are the players. I say players because the film felt like a play, but I'm glad I saw the film version. Jim (Kline) arrives in Paris after his father's death and goes to the apartment he was left in the will hoping to sell it. Jim is nearly 60, divorced three times and has nothing in the world except the apartment. But it's is a "viager", which is an old French system for buying and selling apartments. A property bought cheaply but the catch is, a old person resides in it. The occupant is Mathilde (Smith). When Jim says he wants to sell the place, Chloe (Scott-Thomas), Mathilde's daughter, has another plan.

The set up seems simple, the characters you've seen before and a story that seems to have a simple or little solution. But, just like a play, after the surface is scratched, more information is given, the truth comes out and finally a satisfying conclusion. 

The rule of three that I refer to is that the story at first seemed to revolve around just Jim and Mathilde but the poison of history soon infects Chloe. The story is lighthearted at first, Jim is portrayed as selfish, Mathilde as naive and gentle, Chloe as bitter but the revelation about the apartments sale origins, Jim's childhood and heartless father, the tale quickly becomes tragic for everyone. Two adults' lives are ruined and a naive old lady thinks they did the best thing. The line 'it was different times back then' couldn't be more hurtful and careless.

Thankfully, after all the truth is out in the open, the characters can heal and the ending, though a bit too sped up for liking, makes sense and is lighthearted once more. At first I was puzzled why the film was in the 'Journey' section but this is a personal journey and a brilliant film.

It was great to see Kevin Kline again too in a much more sensible role than the ridiculous  roles in 'Last Vegas' and 'No Strings Attached'. Maggie Smith was also impressive as Mathilde, a woman with a vibrant past who had 'modern' views, even 'back then'.