A guide to the 57th BFI London Film Festival – Part 2
Day 8, Wednesday October 16th
It should come as no surprise that the effortless charming Joseph Gordon Levitt wrote a romantic comedy as his feature length directorial debut. The hero of Don Jon is a regular New Jersey guy but with an unhealthy obsession with porn. His love for the adult entertainment is so strong that he cannot find a romantic partner that can match up to the perfect bodies of porn stars. But then the beautiful Barbara (Scarlett Johansson) comes into his life. With a refreshingly honest attitude towards the carnal concerns of the male protagonist while also wearing its heart on its sleeve, the film succeeds in making the trite question “Will she become the one true love of his life?” shamelessly engaging.
Day 9, Thursday October 17th
In Parkland, the assassination of John F. Kennedy is told through the eyes of the workers at the Parkland hospital – where both the President and his assassin Lee Harvey Oswald were rushed to after being shot. This feature, by journalist turned director Peter Landesman, gathers together an intriguing cast that includes teen idols Zac Efron and Tom Welling as well as respected character actors like Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton and Marcia Gay Harden, so at the very least it should be an interesting experiment. If you are looking though for an ingenious deconstruction of the ubiquitous “based on actual events” though, look no further than the latest film by the Coen Brothers, Inside Llewyn Davis. Apparently the fabulous brothers wanted to make a film about Bob Dylan but as Ethan pondered in an interview: “what would you do with Bob Dylan in a narrative sense?” Enter poor old Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) a penniless musician who tries to make it as a folk artist and becomes the perfect person to navigate us through a biting but heartfelt satire of the renowned New York’s folk music scene of the 1960s. With the brothers’ regular collaborators John Goodman and music producer T-Bone Burnett placed alongside Justin Timberlake and Carey Mulligan, this may well be the new O Brother, Where Art Thou?.
Day 10, Friday October 18th
Asghar Farhadi and Steve Mc Queen may have different strengths but they are both captivating filmmakers. The former made his breakthrough with the multi-award winning A Separation. His new work The Past begins with another divorce procedure as Ahmad (Ali Mosaffa) arrives from Tehran to Paris to see his soon to be ex-wife Marie (Bérénice Bejo) and her daughters from her previous marriage. With a script that is almost as perfect as his previous one, this is another exquisite study of modern family life.
The filmography of Steve McQueen (Hunger, Shame) may not be regarded as an example of scriptwriting excellence but the director has rightfully been praised by film critics for his masterful technique (his wonderful tracking shots for instance can rival Kubrick’s in their perfection). Now with his 12 Years a Slave has the additional bonus of tackling a major historical subject (slavery prior to the American Civil War) and having assembled a dream team of male actors ( Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor and the director’s muse Michael Fassbender), McQueen is ready for his breakthrough into the mainstream (and the Oscars ceremony) without sacrificing his artistic integrity.
Click HERE for Part 3 of our guide to the 57th BFI London Film Festival