Film FestivalFilm Festival Reviews: London 03

17th London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival:
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Back to the SHADOWS FILM FEST page FESTIVAL SHORTS last update 16.Apr.03

back to the top GASOLINE [Benzina]
sansa and orioli
dir Monica Lisa Stambrini; scr Monica Lisa Stambrini, Elena Stancanelli, Aneritte Ciccone
with Regina Orioli, Maya Sansa, Mariella Valentini, Chiara Conti, Marco Quaglia, Pietro Ragusa, Luigi Maria Burruano, Pasquale Zurlin, Osvaldo Livio Alzari, Giovanni Mastrangelo, Gina Larocca
release Italy 31.May.02; UK 14.Nov.03; US 27.Jun.03 02/Italy 1h28 3 out of 5 stars
There's a fantastic dark and desperate tone to this Italian thriller--heavy shades of lovers-on-the-run B-movies. It opens with a tense sequence in which a glamorous woman (Valentini) arrives at an airport then tracks down her daughter Lenni (Orioli) where she works at a service station with her girlfriend Stella (Sansa). Understanding turns to worry then anger and violence, and the mother accidentally ends up dead in a puddle of blood. The rest of the film centres on Stella and Lenni trying to dispose of the body and dodge the attentions of a trio of joyriders (Conti, Quaglia and Ragusa) who are at first just playing but grow increasingly vengeful.
Director-cowriter Stambrini gives the film an urgent biker-chick vibe as these increasingly distressed woman struggle to hold onto their love for each other amid the chaos and panic. Orioli makes Lenni slightly simple and very nervous, while Sansa's Stella is a more tough-skinned hothead ... until her beloved dog is threatened. Even so, the film isn't completely successful; most set pieces are over familiar, and while the film plays heavily with Hitchcockian ideas (a pesky dead body), it never generates the black humour that Hitchcock used to so memorably get under our skin. On the other hand, there is bleak irony in the disembodied advice Lenni's mother continues to offer from the beyond, as well as the fact that they end up giving a lift to a chatty priest (Burruano). And the bumbling youths on the girls' trail have no idea what they're really playing with here. Stambrini is definitely a filmmaker to watch. [15 themes, language, violence] 7.Mar.03 llgff
back to the top MA VIE: THE TRUE STORY OF MY LIFE IN ROUEN [Ma Vraie Vie Rouen]
dir-scr Olivier Ducastel, Jacques Martineau
with Jimmy Tavares, Ariane Ascaride, Lucas Bonnifait, Jonathan Zaccai, Helene Surgere, Nicolas Pontois, Frederic Gorny, Marcelle Lamy, Frederic Sendon, Hanako Bron, Camille Dumalanede, Frederic Voldman
release France 26.Feb.03; UK 18.Jul.03 02/France 1h42 3 out of 5 stars
tavares and bonnifait The latest from the duo who brought us The Adventures of Felix (2000) is filmed as a teenager's video diary--insightful and engaging, even if the requirements of the plot let it down somewhat in the end. Etienne (Tavares) has just been given a video camera and decides to document his life, getting increasingly on nerves of his family and friends. No one else notices, but we become increasingly aware of Etienne's troubled sexuality--he quite obviously has a crush on his geography teacher Laurent (Zaccai), his best friend Ludo (Bonnifait) and his ice skating partner (Pontois). But Laurent starts to date Etienne's single mum (Ascaride) instead, and Ludo goes through a string of girlfriends in his quest to lose his virginity. Which leaves Etienne frightened and rather desperate ... and hiding it from everyone.
The film is shot in a cheeky, comic, brightly colourful style that echoes Etienne's personality. As a result, we can fully identify with him and even follow him over the brink into obsession and voyeurism as he continually sticks his camera in people's faces, getting increasingly intimate and resorting to hidden camera invasions of privacy. Newcomer Tavares is charming and energetic (and obviously does all his own skating), while the rest of the cast is so natural that it's almost difficult to see this as fiction. Indeed, the imagery is exactly like raw footage from a teen's camera--fragmented and random, capturing both scenery and milestone events, even poking gentle fun at home video pitfalls ("Don't just stand there, move!"). But more importantly, it cleverly captures Etienne's teen angst, his developing sexuality as he gets more aggressive, exhibitionistic and eventually possibly pathological or suicidal. This last bit isn't exactly subtle, and the film suffers as the plot takes over at the end . It starts to feel like a movie, not a diary. But it's still a perceptive and fascinating glimpse into a teenage mind. [15 adult themes and situations, language] 6.Mar.03 llgff
back to the top DO I LOVE YOU?
gornick and cassidy
dir Lisa Gornick
with Lisa Gornick, Raquel Cassidy, Ruth Posner, Sarah Patterson, Brendan Gregory, Kamal Sylvester, Katherine McGoldrick, Harri Alexander, Caitlin Morrow, Sophie Grymer, Aimee Cowan, Olivia MacDonald
release UK 23.Apr.04 03/UK 1h13 2 out of 5 stars
Quirky and offbeat, this London romantic comedy is endearing and enjoyable ... even as it becomes rather irritating! It centres on one relationship amid a spidery network of friendships and liaisons. Marina (Gornick) is in a period of self-examination, wondering why she's a lesbian and whether she wants children. She's toying with the idea of getting pregnant even if it means infidelity to her girlfriend Romy (Cassidy), who is herself flirting with an ex-girlfriend. Meanwhile, their circle of friends and exes are also entwined in love chaos, seeking approval even though they all know they're guilty of betrayal. Guilt, blame and trust all play a vital role in that happens for each woman. (The men are fairly irrelevant!)
The performances are all so natural that we believe every scene and character fully. It's lively and funny and very sharply written and played. The big problem is that it's impossible to keep all the characters straight. There are at least 15 female characters all involved in various relationships and none of them are simple (besides Marina's terribly understanding parents). And as the film skips around between the plot threads, it loses its focus by trying to include pretty much every conceivable wrinkle. This has the reverse effect, making the film feel superficial and padded out with extra characters and scenarios. If Gornick had stayed more centred on Marina and her own quest, the film might have carried more of a punch. It's still a fairly charming rom-com about the compulsive nature of cheating. But perhaps she should have taken her superb central thesis more to heart: Don't deconstruct love so much that you lose it. [18 adult themes and situations, language] 6.Mar.03 llgff centrepiece
back to the top LUSTER
dir-scr Everett Lewis
with Justin Herwick, Shane Powers, Sean Thibodeau, Willie Garson, B Wyatt, Jonah Blechman, Pamela Gidley, Susannah Melvoin, Nicole Dillenberg
release US 17.Mar.02 (premiere); UK Apr.03 (llgff centrepiece film) 02/US 1h31 3 out of 5 stars
herwick the morning after This rough-hewn movie has a decent story and excellent characters, but it's made with a rather heavy hand that prevents us from really giving in to its charms. Jackson (Herwick) is at the centre of a collection of people all suffering from love at first sight. Or is it lust? His hunky cousin (Wyatt) has just arrived from Iowa, he's met the boy of his dreams (Blechman) at a party and a customer (Thibodeau) at the record shop where he works has fallen head over heels for him. Meanwhile, his boss (Powers) is trying to control his own passions and his poetry has been noticed by a big-time pop star (Garson, who plays Stanford on Sex and the City).
There's a decent story here, but there's a nagging effort by writer-director Lewis to make this much more unusual than it really is. It's just a standard romantic comedy plot really, with several people entangled in love chaos. But Lewis plays it straight, taking it all terribly seriously and trying to make the characters quirky and arty. The title at least gets it right--this isn't a film about love at first sight; it's a story about lust. We never believe anyone has anything besides sex on their minds, so how can we swoon at a physical connection or flinch at the pain of rejection? It's all completely superficial! That said, the cast is excellent, creating authentic and believable characters even when they are continually required to do and say unbelievable things. And the film does have a dark graininess that makes it at least look good, even if the direction isn't particularly sharp. Jackson's journey is obviously the film's main plot strand, but all of the surrounding stories distract from it and weaken it badly. With a bit more focus and perspective, this could have been a much more insightful and engaging drama. [themes, language, nudity, drugs] 9.Mar.03 llgff See also: FAQS
back to the top SHAKE IT ALL ABOUT [En Kort en Lang]
dir Hella Joof; scr Hella Joof, Klaus Bondam
with Mads Mikkelsen, Troels Lyby, Charlotte Munck, Jesper Lohmann, Peter Frodin, Nikolaj Steen, Ditte Grabol, Morten Kirkskov, Henning Jensen, Pernille Hojmark, Ellen Hillingso, Oskar Valsoe
release Denmark 16.Nov.01; UK Apr.03 llgff; US 17.Oct.03 01/Denmark 1h38 3 out of 5 stars
lyby and mikkelsen This light and breezy rom-com plays by all the standard conventions and keeps us laughing as long as we don't try to take it remotely seriously. The story centres on the gay couple Jakob and Jorgen (Mikkelsen and Lyby), who are blissfully happy until Jakob starts an affair with Jorgen's sister Caroline (Munck), who's married and has a young son. Naturally, this throws their entire community--family and friends--into a spin. Jorgen tries to cope, and to give Jakob a second (and third) chance. But it looks like he's lost Jakob forever.
This is a guilty pleasure sort of film--lively and entertaining, even though we realise it's not very good, actually. (It's been a mammoth hit in Denmark!) The problem is that director-cowriter Joof tries to deal with serious issues of infidelity and betrayal in the skin of a goofy and predictable rom-com. The actors are excellent across the board, but Mikkelsen's Jakob isn't nearly sympathetic enough for the central role--we don't really want him to get back together with Lyby's incredibly nice-guy Jorgen, who seems willing to put up with far too much of Jakob's selfishness. Meanwhile, Munck's Caroline is pretty dreadful herself, abandoning husband and son (Lohmann and Walsoe) to shack up with her "brother-in-law". Still, there are scads of colourful, less important characters around the fringes to keep us laughing, as well as a script and direction that plays on the strengths and tries to hide the formulaic story. And if the plot's resolution is both obvious and improbable, at least it's romantic. In a trite, cliche sort of way. [themes, language] 13.Apr.03 llgff
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2003 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall