Film FestivalFilm Festival Reviews: London ’02

46th London Film Festival: reviews are listed alphabetically
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Back to the SHADOWS FILM FEST page • FESTIVAL SHORTSlast update 18.Nov.02

back to the top ALL ABOUT MY FATHER [Alt Om Min Far]
dir Even Benestad
with Ebsen Benestad/Esther Pirelli, Even Benestad, Liv, Elizabeth Skaflem Benestad, Elsa Almas, Tone Maria Hanson
release UK Nov.02 lff • Zentropa 02/Norway 1h17 3 out of 5 stars
even and esther This odd Norwegian film blurs the documentary genre, in the way it's made and in its subject matter. Basically, it's the filmmaker examining his feelings about his father's transvestism. There's a certain objectiveapproach, with Ebsen recounting how he secretly put on his mother's dresses when he was a young boy. Then after he married Liv and had two children, he continued wearing her wardrobe. Until she caught him! She simply could not cope with it, and after trying to compromise she still left him. Ebsen's second wife Elsa is a sex therapist who obviously has more understanding, but even she is starting to get fed up, as Ebsen now spends more time as Esther than as a man.
The dynamic between these people is so complicated and tense! We get the feeling that Even doesn't want to make this film; he lurks in the corners, trying not to confront anything even though he's a major player. His sister Elizabeth is just as uptight; she seems to accept her father, but she battles with her stepmother. And at the centre, Ebsen just blindly continues his quest to understand who he is--both male and female. We get several telling scenes with him, including a remarkable transformation and his musings on a recurring dream he had as a young child about being on the Titanic, left to drown because only women and children were allowed in the lifeboats! Visually the films is fascinating, with documentary footage in black and white DV, while the home movies, arty inserts and musical interludes are shot in vivid colour film. In the end, the most intriguing thing about this uneven, surprisingly emotional movie is how it grapples with issues of parenthood, gender and acceptance. What it misses is the chance to really establish the small-town community in which Ebsen/Esther lives and the religious issues that are so obviously important, but are never mentioned at all. [themes, language] 15.Nov.02 lff
back to the top CHINESE ODYSSEY 2002
dir-scr Jeff Lau
with Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Faye Wong, Vicki Zhao, Chang Chen, Roy Cheung, Eric Kot, Jing Ning, Rebecca Pan
release UK Nov.02 lff • 02/China 1h45 3½ out of 5 stars
wong Wong Kar-Wai produced this outrageously silly spoof of Chinese epics, which is like a Mel Brooks version of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. We're in the days of the Ming Dynasty, and Yilong (Leung) is a guy who has never made much of his life. To mend his ways, he decides to find his tomboy sister Phoenix (Zhao) a husband. Soon he meets and becomes best friends with a wanderer who is actually the Princess in disguise (Wong). Thinking she's a man, Yilong arranges a match between them. But the Princess has escaped from the palace, and soon her brother, the Emperor (Chang, who was actually in Crouching Tiger), comes looking for her. But even he is running away from his responsibilities; he'd rather be a designer and trendsetter than run the country.
Every scene is so jammed with little jokes that you can hardly take them in, from throwaway dialog and ludicrous fight sequences to hilarious music and over-the-top costumes. Basically it's a silly gender-bending farce, as almost everyone is forced to confront stereotypes ... and no one is quite sure who's a man or who's a woman. Eventually, there are two rather sweet romances as the four main characters end up with the people they belong with, but there's a lot of mayhem and hilarity on the way there. Director-writer Lau keeps things colourful and witty from the very beginning, then gets surprisingly plot-heavy at the end, which weighs it down and gets unnecessarily confusing. But there's so much fun to be had along the way that you don't mind much. [themes, language, violence] 18.Nov.02 lff
back to the top GLOWING EYES [La Chatte à Deux Têtes]
dir-scr Jacques Nolot
with Vittoria Scognamiglio, Jacques Nolot, Sebastien Viala, Frederic Longbois, Olivier Torres, Lionel Goldstein, Fouad Zeraoui, Jean-Louis Coquery
release UK Nov.02 lff • 02/France 1h27 2½ out of 5 stars
scognamiglio and nolot This quirky French film has virtually no plot; it feels rambling and pointless, but it's still somewhat entertaining. The action takes place on one evening in a Paris porn cinema. Inside, about half of the men sit and watching the film La Chatte à Deux Têtes (The Two-headed Pussy), while the other half circle around them like sharks. Sexual activity is sudden, and the clientele range from old drag queens to closeted young men. All seem to be hiding from the world; and sex is basically just self-gratification, no matter how they get it. Meanwhile in the lobby, the seasoned, sardonic ticket seller (Scognamiglio) is chatting with the youthful, naive projectionist (Viala) and a 50-year-old regular (Nolot). Both the woman and the old man are lusting after the younger guy, who they find out is rather confused about what he wants.
The film moves very slowly, with long takes don't always go anywhere, just letting the camera drift around the cinema, casually and dispassionately capturing the action but never reveling in it. There are some hilarious sequences, catching bits of dialog between the camp characters, and of course the conversations at the ticket desk give the film some sense of structure, although they talk about everything under the sun, and mostly in a sing-song drone that gets annoyingly preachy when it touches on an issue. Writer-director-actor Nolot takes an irritating all-encompassing approach--we have to see every possible scenario, from ageism and sexism to gay-bashing, from group sex to a police raid. Even though this makes the film watchable--it's both funny and tense--it prevents it from being authentic. And in the end, it just feels so meaningless that we're left cold, empty and unsatisfied. Sort of like the customers. [strong adult themes and situations, language] 14.Nov.02 lff
back to the top THE YEAR OF THE DEVIL [Rok Dábla]
dir-scr Petr Zelenka
with Jaromir Nohavica, Karel Plihal, Jan Prent, Jaz Coleman, Frantisek Cerny, Karel Holas, Radek Poboril, Michal Pavlik, Radek Klucka, Sasa Mika, Jitka Obzinova, Jan Hrebejk
release UK Nov.02 lff • 02/Czech 1h28 3½ out of 5 stars
coleman leads an indian ritual This unhinged and very funny film is like a Czech folk-rock version of Spinal Tap, combining a documentary with zany comedy. All of the central characters play themselves, and the free-flowing narrative follows a Dutch filmmaker (Prent) making a documentary about famed Czech songwriter Nohavica, a recovering alcoholic, and his guitarist friend Plihal. But Plihal wigs out, taking a year-long vow of silence, so Nohavica invites the folk-rock group Czechomor to tour with him instead. The Czechomor guys, meanwhile, are being courted by Killing Joke frontman Coleman to perform with a Prague orchestra. Oh, and there's a running joke about spontaneous combustion.
All of these people have hilarious eccentricities, from strange obsessions to seeing dead people. And Zelenka gives the film such a playful tone that we can't help but laugh all the way through it. Sometimes it's almost too subtle and dry, while a lot of the humour is obviously lost on non-Czech audiences who haven't a clue who these people are. But there are memorable scenes throughout the film: A hilarious discussion of whether Nohavica wears boxers or briefs brilliantly sends up media intrusion; Coleman leads the band to an outrageous Native American ritual in the middle of a Czech "desert"; band member Cerny slowly transforms himself into Nohavica; Prent gets caught up in his own odyssey, taking quirks from both Nohavica and Plihal. The film is consistently hilarious both as a social satire and as an absurd comedy. Several gags are set up early and come back later with amusing punchlines, all of which quietly masks a film that's actually very well written and directed, and which showcases the music (a kind of Euro-bluegrass) brilliantly. [themes, language, brief nudity] 16.Nov.02 lff
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© 2002 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall