LFF 2010: And It Hurts With Every... Cannon

Posted by julian On 1:30 PM
David from Victim of the Time, reporting from the 54th BFI London Film Festival.

I've been engrossed in this festival for so long now, it already feels like it's winding down; in fact, there's another week to go, with Danny Boyle's 127 Hours the closing night gala next Thursday evening. Perhaps my feeling comes from the fact that my most anticipated film is just around the corner: yes, I too fell under the spell of the Black Swan trailer, and it hits my eyeballs tomorrow. I'm at fever pitch. Today, though, we visit Italia and Quebec, but not before a British perennial delivers once again...

Lesley Manville.

I realise I have a tendency to waffle, so I thought I’d get straight to the point.

I had my problems with Another Year, but, as you’ve heard (and heard, and heard), Lesley Manville is absolutely superb in it. I’d heard that too, but it still didn’t prepare me for the density and devastation mustered by Manville in this character. Manville’s Mary is so magnificently imagined that, despite Leigh’s insistence in the post-screening Q&A that what you see is what was shot, and nothing more, there is the strong suspicion that the film shifted during its realisation to centralise on her. (Echoed by this review – I didn’t set out to focus it so immediately, but it felt honest to do so.)

Perhaps it's reductive to talk solely of Manville. The rest of the cast, from the connecting contentedness of Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen to the chirpy Karina Fernandez, give assured performances just the same, and surely only boost Manville’s power through Leigh’s famous workshopping process. The cinematography expressively, if rather obviously, differentiates the seasons the film shifts through. The editing is extremely deft within the restraints of Leigh’s improvisational approach, notably giving a sparky energy to scenes like Broadbent and Sheen’s first meeting with their son’s new girlfriend that contrast with the more sober, gentler feel of much of the film. But I can’t escape that it is Manville, her mousey, skittish walk, her nervous, misdirected laughter and her sad, defeated glances that are what struck me most heavily, and what continue to live mostly strong in my head. (B+)

If only he wasn’t gay! That seems to be the central lamentation of Ferzan Ozpetek’s dunderheadly jaunty Loose Cannons, which doesn’t just have one gay son of a traditional Italian pasta-making family to pretend to support; it has two! Oh yes; before Tomasso (Riccardo Scamarcio) can make his shocking announcement, his brother Antonio taps his glass and is promptly thrown out, leaving Tomasso to run the business and suffer suggestions he should get it on with the business partner’s daughter Alba. Of course, with its longing musical montages of the pair drinking, eating and laughing together, you could be forgiven for thinking the film is even more desperate for the heterosexual harmony than Tomasso’s oddball family are – even when Tomasso’s boyfriend Marco and their camp friends crash the… well, you can hardly call it a party. Framed with a seemingly irrelevant flashback device involving the wise, accepting grandmother, the unexpectedly poignant finale almost redeems things by not tying up every loose end in a neat little farfalle, but it can’t erase the tiresome, laboured schematics of what precedes it. (C-)

I confess. I have a weakness for young, attractive French people giving themselves over entirely to their lustful urges. Xavier Dolan himself is a young and attractive Canadian person, but he’s from Quebec, and I do believe that’s included in Subsection 1B of my confession. After his vaunted J’ai tue ma mere, Dolan again directs himself in Les amours imaginaires (feel free to explain the disastrous English title, Heartbeats). Dolan’s style boldly cribs from Wong Kar-wai – they may not be accompanied by In the Mood for Love’s striking musical theme, but you can almost see a pot of noodles swinging from the hand as we follow a posterior in slow-motion down the street. Dolan doesn’t merely copy but adapts the techniques he apes, sexualising the characters in saturated single-colour sex scenes; but there’s also a sense of irony and pity in the fierce emphasis on the desperation of the two friends both in lust with the same man. Dolan consumes you in sensuality and focuses you on the mistrustful dynamics of love, so that while you might not match the lust for the particular figure, you lust for this mood in general. It isn’t about liking these characters – the sneering ending makes that clear – but about identifying with how low these familiar feelings have made them, and can, have, and will make you. (B) [edited from full review]

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