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London Film Festival 2014 Highlights

Our resident film buff Lisa Balderson was at this year’s festival, picking the best of the fest…

Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf closed down this year’s London Film Festival with their WW2 tank drama, Fury and helped cement this year’s festival as having the highest ever audience turn-out in its 58 year history.  In it’s 12 day run, the festival was attended by over 770 filmmaker guests and Jennifer Lawrence even made a surprise appearance at the screening of her new film Serena.  Here’s a few of my top picks from the rest of the fest.

A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, USA 2014 | 100min

Dir. Ana Lily Amirpour | Starring Sheila Vand, Arash Marandi

A_GIRL_WALKS_HOME_ALONE_AT_NIGHT_1

Set in the fictional Iranian town, Bad City, the film follows, from the outset, the mysterious and nocturnal ‘girl’ of the title as she stalks the city streets and its residents under cover of darkness and cloaked in a hi-jab.  It’s worth mentioning that the ’girl’ in question also happens to be a vampire, and a vampire seemingly intent on correcting the gender imbalance of her culture in the most grizzly of ways.  But along-side the themes of retribution, an unexpected love story is also unfolding, between the ‘girl’ and the film’s down on his luck protagonist Arash, who is amusingly dressed as Dracula when the two first meet.  The dialogue is sparse, but the beautifully shot scenes and amplified audio tell the story itself.  The package together seems to just somehow work.

A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night is an effortlessly cool, genre-crossing (part western, part vampire film, part classic noir) wonder of a film, shot in black and white, with a haunting soundtrack and unconventionally beautiful cast.  

In the words of programmer, Michael Blyth, ‘if you only see one Iranian vampire western this year, make sure it’s this one’, he’s got a point!

The Salvation, Denmark-UK-South Africa, 2014 | 91min

Dir. Kristian Levring | Starring Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green, Eric Cantona

The Salvation

A curious coproduction that plays out like a classic western with a Nordic twist (think Danish dialogue and bleak visuals), via the traditional theme of good versus bad.  

Danish brothers, Jon and Peter have left their post-war homeland for a new start in the promised land of America.  Having established themselves in the small town of Black Creek, Jon sends for his wife and son to join him.  But, before they even reach their new home, his wife and child are kidnapped and killed by two men with whom they share a stagecoach to Black Creek.  Jon, of course, exacts immediate revenge, not knowing that one of the men happens to be the brother of local land baron and all round bad guy, Delarue.  From this point on, Delarue is determined to hunt down the man that killed his brother and terrorises the occupants of Black Creek until they give up the offender. 

The body count is high, the gun fights are epic and the action swings equally in favour of the protagonist Jon and his opponent Delarue.  Who will win out in the end is anyone’s guess…right?  But the ride in the meantime is well worth it.

Worth watching too, for the solid performance by football legend, Eric Cantona, as one of, the villain Delarue’s, band of wrong doers!

Foxcatcher, USA 2014 | 135min

Dir. Bennett Miller | Starring Channing Tatum, Steve Carrell, Mark Ruffalo

FOXCATCHER

Based on the true story of the relationship between USA wrestling world champions Dave and Mark Schultz and their wealthy benefactor, John E du Pont, Foxcatcher is an epic, and often taught, psychological thriller that draws out surprising performances from its unexpected cast. 

Though both Schultz brothers won Olympic Gold medals for wrestling at the 1984 Olympics, Mark seems ever to be over shadowed by his more amiable older brother Dave.  When the mysterious millionaire, John du Point, invites Mark to train for the 1988 Olympics at a purpose built facility on his sprawling ranch (Foxcatcher Farm), he jumps at the chance to step out on his own. The two soon form a highly toxic relationship and du Pont, though seemingly in awe of the young wrestler’s athletic prowess, becomes increasingly controlling and obsessive of his guest while building him up with praise at the same time.  When older brother Dave is finally convinced to join the Foxcatcher training camp too, the dynamic between the three becomes a ticking time-bomb that the viewer can only sit back and observe.

For those of you more used to seeing Steve Carrell in comedic roles (The 40 Year Old Virgin) will find him barely recognisable in his role as du Pont, his portrayal both sinister, yet mesmerising at the same time.  The film is already gathering Oscar buzz for its three male leads!  A definite must see. 

Until next time, that’s all folks!!

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