Monday, October 8, 2007

‘Inspired’ doesn’t even come close


Michael Mooron, Jerry Seinfeld's grim-looking cartoon about bees, two fearless exposes of Western atrocities in Iraq and Tom Cruise in earnest mode - the most certain recipe for horror since they paired Karloff and Lugosi - in a Robert Redford film "that delves behind the news and politics to explore the consequences of war"... Once again the BFI have pulled out all the stops to make this year's London Film Festival the most uninteresting yet.

The big questions this year: Since when did A Clockwork Orange and Killer of Sheep qualify as 'Treasures From the Archive'?
And just how pretentious can independent cinema get before it ingests itself completely?
Here's some of what the festival organisers find especially intelligent and challenging this year; the blurb is direct quotation:

I'm Not There
'Inspired' doesn't even come close to describing Todd Haynes' unconventional journey into the life and times of Bob Dylan. Six actors portray Dylan as a series of shifting personae, from the public to the private to the fantastical, weaving together a rich, multi-layered portrait of this ever-elusive icon. Arthur (Ben Whishaw), Rimbaud-esque renegade symbolist poet, serves as the film's de facto narrator; 11-year-old Woody (Marcus Carl Franklin) rides trains and channels the spirit of Woody Guthrie; Jack (Christian Bale) is the Greenwich Village singer whose early success as the adopted figurehead of the protest movement is followed by disappearance; he resurfaces twenty years later as Pastor John, a born again Christian preacher; Robbie (Heath Ledger) rides motorcycles, loves women and rises to counter-cultural fame with his performance in a 1965 biopic of the vanished Jack; Jude (Cate Blanchett, superb) surrenders body and soul to a full throttle, fully amplified assault on his folk music following; Billy (Richard Gere) imagines Dylan in full retreat from the world, as 'Billy the Kid', having survived the famous showdown and taken refuge in metaphoric town of Riddle.

Exodus
Penny Woolcock's latest film looks to the Old Testament for its inspiration, contains a frighteningly convincing vision of the future, and addresses issues that could not be more relevant to the here and now, re-imagining the Bible book of Exodus in Margate, and exploring themes of identity, migration, terrorism and the search for a promised land.
Pharoah Mann (Bernard Hill) is an opportunist politician who sets up a contained ghetto for immigrants (evocatively filmed in Margate's Dreamland amusement park). Pharoah and his wife take in an abandoned child and name him Moses (Daniel Percival). When the boy grows into a man, he begins to question everything that the man who's acted as his father represents. Events lead him behind the wire gates of the ghetto, into the suppressed community and on to battle for their freedom.
The first feature film from collaborative artists organisation Artangel, Exodus is a visionary and ambitious triumph, containing stunning scenes derived from the building and burning of Antony Gormley's Waste Man sculpture, and elements from events where local people were invited to take part in live performances as part of the film's production.

Mister Lonely
Michael Jackson (Diego Luna) moonwalks, high kicks and yelps 'yoo-hoos' in the streets of Paris. While he is entertaining pensioners at a nursing home, Marilyn Monroe (Samantha Morton) teeters by, and tells Michael of a haven for look-alikes in the Highlands of Scotland, a commune where Charlie Chaplin, Shirley Temple, the Pope, Queen Elizabeth II and others work together and entertain each other in glorious seclusion, away from the misunderstandings and judgment they face in the outside world. Michael can't resist seeing the place for himself, and follows Marilyn there.
Meanwhile, in the jungle, a drunken missionary (Werner Herzog) leads some nuns on a high-flying adventure. Harmony Korine's first feature since julien donkey-boy in 1999 finds him in a playful, enjoyably mischievous mood, capturing a tone as reminiscent of his so-called 'novel', A Crackup at the Race Riots, as it is of his previous films.

Enticing stuff, eh? Not since I had to have a urinary tract examination have I felt more eager. Oh and by the way, I've seen a picture of "Cate Blanchett, superb" done up like Bob Dylan. Horrific.
Elsewhere, Barbet Schroeder has come up with a 132 minute study of Jacques Verger, an attorney who has "argued in defence of Klaus Barbie, Pol Pot, Carlos the Jackal and others" and is therefore - in the closest the BFI gets to fighting talk - an "apparently monstrous political figure." But there's two sides to every story - he's a "confirmed anti-colonialist, born in Thailand to a Vietnamese mother and a father from Réunion, who as a seemingly leftist young lawyer during the Algerian War of Independence decided to defend freedom fighters (or terrorists, depending on perspective)". In fact, he's "a paradox, an enigma and, it should be said, a witty charmer." So don't worry - "Schroeder never passes judgment". Thank Chomsky for that; they had me worried there for a minute.
Best for last: remember Michael Haneke's Funny Games, supposedly an indictment of the American approach to screen violence? Well, a whiff or two of mainstream success later, and he's taken the yankee dollar and remade it in Hollywood. And the BFI still think it's "confronting... and challenging us to consider our motives in watching violence"! It's showing October 22nd. Unfortunately I'm washing my hair that night.