Film discussion of the week- London BFI Film Festival 2020

I do like a good film festival. I would go to the NZ International Film Festival every year to discover the latest in original cinematic experience. Thank goodness I found a UK equivalent. I presume now I have got a taste of European cinema my next stop is Cannes next May. I flicked through the BFI programme and chose the films that peaked my interest. Thought provoking documentaries, body snatching assassins, twists on the vampire genre and being raised by grifters are all to be explored in my take on this years BFI gems.

Release Date: October 2nd 2020

For anyone who has watched Altered Carbon this is not a new concept. Tasya is an assassin who body jumps to her targets using brain implant technology, executing the plan put in place by the corporation she works for. When she is not working she lives a normal life in a suburban neighbourhood with her family who are convinced that she has to travel a lot for her job. When strange things start to happen upon pursuit of her new target Colin Tate, Tasya starts to question the amount of control she really has. Written and directed by Brandon Cronenberg(Antiviral) this film depicts Tasya as an imposter in her own life. This is evident when she practises what she will say to her family before meeting them in between jobs, similarly to preparing for a target. This shows the audience how blurred the lines between her work and reality have become . The impact that being a secret assassin can have on your family life was brought across well throughout the story, you can see Tasya’s ex husband and son becoming frustrated with the lack of time she spends at home.

The weaponization of a sleeve was explored here, similar to what has been done in Altered Carbon. Nothing too original was brought to the table, the plot having many similarities. The twists were not thought provoking seeming like the standard plot we are all used to with not much else added to it. All the relationships explored are very surface like with 2D characters not evidencing any signs of development. The cinematography was engaging, that series of terrifying shots with the masks filling me with dread.

Fun, with some terrifying cinematography this would benefit from more interesting characters

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Rose: A love story
Release Date:13th October 2020

I didn’t think I would find a vampire love story I liked as much as Let the Right One but finally it has arrived. Rose: A love story follows couple Rose and Sam who live remotely and don’t have much contact with the outside world. They are harbouring a deadly secret and have made an agreement to live by certain rules. A film about the lengths a person could go to for the one they love. A deep expose of human connection ,unconditional love and sacrifice, I loved every snippet of relationship in joke and normality a couple could continue to live with while having to deal with a desperate situation. When they find a girl injured in the woods their whole existence is put into jeopardy.

Written by Matt Stokoe, this idea came to him when he watched a couple of vampire films back to back. He noticed that vampires were either violent or genre tropes were subverted to make them romantic and mysterious with someone always being attracted to vampirism. He thought it would interesting to make a film where vampirism is viewed as an illness rather than something romanticised. Directed by Jennifer Sheridan, the film was shot in a very remote location in Wales where the cast were living without internet for days. The forest with tall trees added a certain claustrophobia to the location. Stokoe evoked that the love felt is similar to the love in a couple when there is a terminal illness or someone going through an eating disorder. There is a sort of carer element to it where people have watched a love one suffer and have tried to help.

I felt like I was on an emotional rollercoaster of a journey with this one. The dialogue represented the intimacy of the relationship between Rose and Sam which left me hanging on every word of their exchanges. Both Sophie Rundle and Matt Stokoe added to the depth of the experience. Their chemistry is incredible and felt believable. Both actors had worked together before and had known each other for years . Rundle could go from normal to creepy in a mere instance adding to the believable nature of her situation. I felt this film was quite effective in showing the ins and outs of a couple’s relationship and how Rose knows Sam is risking everything normal for her. A quite compelling use of leeches is also evident in this portrayal of vampire life. Landscape cinematography was utilised frequently to represent the remote location of the couple adding to setting. The writer and director felt lucky they shot the movie at the most incredible time when it was snowing, although hiding footprints of the cast and crew presented challenges.

For an experience about the lengths you will go to for love try this one.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Industry-Episodes 1,2 and 4
Release Date: 9th November 2020(USA)

Created by Micky Down and Konrad Kay this focuses on the life of a few graduates starting off their careers at an elite financial services company. Set in London we follow these characters through the ups and downs of life as a banker in the big city. Thought provoking themes of competition and overworking are both aspects of the organisational culture in this case. Themes of harassment and the reality of party life in London are also brought to the forefront. For some reason only episodes 1,2,4 were screened with episode 3 missing which was quite odd. We miss a whole friendship developing between two characters which must have screened in episode 3.

While I thought the show accomplished what it set out to do showing the reality of life as a graduate in this fast paced, hectic environment it didn’t do much else and I feel I could be happy not watching the rest of the season. I thought most of the characters were a bit basic and didn’t generate too much interest to keep me watching. It however does show the reality of working life where women are automatically given lunch run duties.

A good effort that could have benefited from some further character development rather than basic characters and tropes. Lena Dunham is an executive producer and directed the first episode bringing a similar style to Girls which was definitely one of the plus sides.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Friendship’s Death
Release Date:17th August 1987

This is the remastered version taken from the original 16mm of theorist Peter Wollen’s film which was based on a short story. Set during black September during the time of the Jordanian civil war in 1970, this follows Friendship, an alien android sent to earth on a peace mission who accidently lands in Amman, Jordan rather than the MIT she was supposedly headed for. There she meets British war correspondent Sullivan and the two strike up many a conversation as the conflict rages outside.

A thought provoking exploration of human nature, friendship and war this piece of smart cinema brings forward some great ideas. The idea of humans only focussing on killing and dissecting things rather than peace is brought forward. Friendship conveys this in her anecdote about what happened to the people she was originally travelling with. Her dialogue with Sullivan about being scrapped for parts in America if she had gone to MIT also reflects this idea.

The dialogue represented the chemistry of the characters which Swinton and Patterson bring across through their acting. They exchange ideas easily between them as if it is second nature generating interesting conversation. This makes the piece an exploration of a friendship. There is so much in this film about machines as extensions of man’s will , a reality we can see in today’s technologically advanced world.

Tilda Swinton’s acting brings empathy and the peaceful nature of Friendship’s character to the forefront, while also bringing a mechanical tone as she is in fact a program. Costumes were incredible with a new one almost every scene as if Friendship was trying on identities for size. The cinematography was elaborate, particularly the part at the end with the vivid visuals( You will know what I mean, no spoilers promise)

A film about sacrifice, friendship , war and peace, this is a smart and delightful watch which tells a beautiful story coupled with engaging characters.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Release Date:9th October 2020(United Kingdom)

Imagine if your parents were grifters and they decided to name you Old Dolio ? Old Dolio has been involved in her parent’s schemes her whole life and starts to question the relationship she has with them, feeling something is missing. When the family meet Melanie on a plane she joins their grifting ways . Old Dolio starts to make sense of her life, developing a relationship with Melanie as she starts getting to know herself. Written and directed by Miranda July( Me and You and Everyone We Know, The Future, Nest of Tens) this idea came to her one morning when she woke up and envisioned two women with long hair, essentially creating the grifter family.

The film explores the complex relationship between a women and her parents who have never treated her with any love or nurturing actions. The film effectively represents the effect this has on Old Dolio’s life . She is shy and withdrawn, lacking the ability to be intimate with and trust others. The scene where her mother refuses to use endearing language towards her and when she attends a course for new parents and the course instructor brushes her hair show the lack of love and nurturing she is experiencing.

Kajillionaire is another example of what can be done with very few actors, with stellar character development and performances. The dialogue and plot bring you into the world of these grifters showing what lengths they will go for money, their dealings with old people being the case in point. Evan Rachel Wood is brilliant at representing the effect Old Dolio’s parents have on her. It was Rachel Wood’s idea to lower her voice for the character. Her natural voice was lower but it was trained up by a vocal coach as she was experiencing vocal nodes. Gina Rodriguez brings across a happy go lucky character that easily comes into the picture, enjoying her part in the schemes that ensue.

A thought provoking film about parenting and making your own decisions in life, this engages from beginning to end.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

If it were Love
Release Date:4th March 2020

A documentary about a dance troupe done right. Based on the ”Crowd” performance choreographed by Gisele Vienne it is a film about emotion developing from motion and an exploration of 90s rave culture in Berlin. Jumping from interviews with the dancers to footage of performances and rehearsals, the choreography is beautiful and packed with depth. I would definitely love to see the show as it looks amazing. Directed by Patric Chiha this explores what happens to people at a rave. It is meant to convey dancing as a permanent present as pictures of earlier times at a rave are the same as today, representing the timeless nature of dance.

Chiha toured five cities with the fifteen dancers in the ”Crowd” performance . He used a lot of closeups to keep the audience questioning if someone is acting or they are seeing the real person, something you can never really be sure of . He had to do a lot of editing as there were fifteen dancers and every spectator of the show would of course see a different piece. Chiha filmed the dancers like he would two people talking wanting to show how they talk together, look at each over and if people become closer in dancing or get further away. He wanted to explore what happens when people are together in a place where desire floats, a concept which can even go beyond the rave scene. The concept of music and dance as a form of wordless communication is also explored well. Chiha is currently working on a film which focuses on a couple stuck in a club for 25 years from the disco era to techno times.

I enjoyed how it was about living something representing dance as something we experience in the present. This show is about those good nights out a person has but can never describe. The show captures the emotions throughout the night in depth. I loved the emotional complexity, how a small movement where you are getting closer to another person slowly is intimate yet scary, capturing that moment of fear when you are expressing your feelings to someone. The slowed down scenes captured how these emotions were brought across by the dancers throughout the performance.

Interesting topics were discussed during the interviews. Two dancers that were in a relationship felt their connection is in a scary place on stage but not the same when they are not performing.

Interesting with incredible performances, this is worth a watch. If you enjoyed the dance sequence from the latest Suspiria, you will love this.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Hope you enjoyed my BFI film festival coverage. Next week I will discuss some drama and action flicks I have seen recently including Good Time and The Assistant.

View my Letterboxd to find an overview of my watched films and watchlist:

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