More Confessions of a Festival Junkie

Shadows @ Film Fests
Notes from the 43rd London Film Festival 3-18 November 1999.
Originally written for Cinezine.
by Rich Cline 19 November 1999
After being spoiled rotten at the St Louis Film Festival, I suppose I should have known that the London Film Fest would feel harsh by comparison. But what was surprising was how badly the press were treated--poorly scheduled screenings, little or no access to films that weren't screened for us (I missed some big ones), virtually no production information and a generally rude attitude that made us feel like we were intruding on their party.

Most of the 200 films were obscure and fascinating things we'd never get to see if it weren't for the LFF and its organising body, the British Film Institute. But mixed in there are a large number of mainstream Hollywood films to attract the paying public. This is great when the biggies are triumphs like Ang Lee's RIDE WITH THE DEVIL (opening night), Sam Mendes' AMERICAN BEAUTY (closing night), Spike Jonze's BEING JOHN MALKOVICH, Lasse Hallstrom's THE CIDER HOUSE RULES, Steven Soderbergh's THE LIMEY, Patricia Rozema's MANSFIELD PARK and David Lynch's THE STRAIGHT STORY. And I don't even mind the presence of failed attempts like Tim Robbins' shambolic CRADLE WILL ROCK and Antonio Banderas' loopy CRAZY IN ALABAMA. At least they have star value. But what were the festival programmers thinking when they included duds like BROKEDOWN PALACE? Not to mention so-so movies like Ron Howard's ED TV, Mark Illsley's HAPPY TEXAS and Spike Lee's SUMMER OF SAM?

But fortunately, the LFF majors in foreign and independent films, and there were some gems here: Andre Techine's romantic ALICE & MARTIN (France), Majid Majidi's gorgeous COLOUR OF PARADISE (Iran), Khyentse Norbu's infectious THE CUP (Bhutan), Santiago Lorenzo's wacky MY SILLY MOTHER (Spain), Zhang Yimou's amazing NOT ONE LESS (China), Javier Fesser's insane P TINTO'S MIRACLE (Spain), Antonio Serrano's clever SEX SHAME AND TEARS (Mexico), Lukas Moodysson's insightful SHOW ME LOVE (Sweden) and Gregor Jordan's searing TWO HANDS (Australia). And the American independent scene was well-represented by Kimberly Peirce's BOYS DON'T CRY, Jim Jarmusch's GHOST DOG and Myles Connell's THE OPPORTUNISTS (with Christopher Walken and, yes, Cyndi Lauper).

British talent was on display in Lynne Ramsay's stunning RATCATCHER, Martha Fiennes' terrific ONEGIN (starring brother Ralph), Michael Winterbottom's WONDERLAND (the director finally gets one absolutely right!) and Julian Simpson's THE CRIMINAL (not terribly original, but good fun).

As for disappointments, I was surprised at how mediocre the Cannes Palme d'Or winner ROSETTA is (even Emilie Duquenne's Best Actress-winning performance isn't much of a stretch). And there was also a plethora of unoriginal British fare such as Mike Figgis' oddity THE LOSS OF SEXUAL INNOCENCE, Vadim Jean's dire ONE MORE KISS, Shane Meadows' just-alright A ROOM FOR ROMEO BRASS, Peter Schwabach's dull THE SECRET LAUGHTER OF WOMEN and Michael Winderbottom's uneven WITH OR WITHOUT YOU.

Enough! Since October 18th (LFF screenings started two weeks before I went to St Louis), I've seen 77 films. That's two and a half per day. So I think I'll read a book this weekend....

See also Confessions of a Film Junkie (St Louis Film Festival)
And the Shadows @ Film Fests page

1999 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall