Some more of our picks of films we've seen throughout the week at this year's BFI London Film Festival.
Alfonzo Cuaron’s attention to detail is mind-blowing as he recreates this early 70s semi-autobiographical, black and white epic drama Roma. Childhood memories are revisited, depicting the life of Cleo (played wonderfully by Yalitza Aparicio), the family’s maid and her intimate relationship with the family she works for. There is an element of downstairs/ upstairs, but professional lines are blurred as parallel traumatic events bring Cleo and the family closer. A romance with a young man sees her fall pregnant only for him to reject her; whilst the family’s matriarch Sofia (Marina De Tavira) is abandoned by her husband for another woman, leaving her and their children to fend for themselves. As we are swept away by Cleo's drama we get glimpses of Mexico’s restless political climate. It’s a visual and auditory retro extravaganza, at points its almost too much beauty to take in; opulently luscious and meticulously executed with infinite grandeur and finesse.
Perhaps not on par with director Olivier Assayas last two contributions, Personal Shopper and Clouds of Sils Maria, teaming up once again with Juliette Binoche, Non-Fiction is his latest film, a dialogue heavy, character driven story seasoned with occasional humour. However, Assayas fails to provide substantial depth to his narrative, characters and any philosophical idea he puts forward. Often verging into the ridiculous and implausible; characters engaging in extra marital affairs willy-nilly whilst debating the crisis gripping their publishing industry, the adage of digital verses physical, a conundrum that this film is unable to solve.
TWO PLAINS & A FANCY
The duo behind this film, Whitney Horn and Lev Kalman, brought us 2014’s genius offering L for Leisure. With similar arthouse film student vibes, Horn and Kalman continue to refreshingly bring something new to the table with Two Plains & a Fancy. They do so by implementing an intentional DIY filming style dressing their plot in a pseudo French western, following three hilariously self-involved intellectuals, Ozanne (Laetitia Dosch), Alta (Marianna McClellan) Milton (Bejamin Crotty) in search of natural hot springs, whilst engaging in existential conversations about spirituality, politics and art. A total gem of a film, Horn and Kalman subtly mock and subvert film genres by using overt pretentiousness, wooden acting and formalized montages to humorously address the societal status quo and alternative concepts.
Director Brady Corbet’s showcases his bold directorial talents with a slick endeavour in Vox Lux, exploring an unusual storyline where out of the horror of a school gun massacre unearths a pop megastar. Split into various sections it features a dry narration by Willem Dafoe, whose voice gives the sense of impending doom, signalling to something bigger is about happen than what actually does. The first part sees a young Celeste (Raffey Cassidy) miraculously surviving a gun shot through her neck, as she is recovering she writes a song and performs it at the school's vigil and instead she sings a song, which is broadcasted live, touching the hearts of people, catapulting her to pop stardom. Fast forward to present day, Cassidy’s character transforms to Albertine, the daughter of an adult Celeste (Natalie Portman), who is now spoilt, aggressive and jaded by the trappings of fame. At first Portland’s shouty, straight talking Staten Island accent which is rather jarring, but as the film progresses she finds her feet and settles into a remarkable performance.
The BFI London Film Festival runs from 10 – 21 October, 2018.
Words by Daniel Theophanous @danny_theo_.
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