Added on Friday 25 Mar 2011
GFF was fantastic this year! Great line up, and incredible appearances by cast/crew and supporters of the films.
LWL is definitely one of the best films I have seen, not only during the festival, but of the last 12 months. A stellar French cast, including the stunning Marion Cotillard, Dustin Hoffman-lookalike Francois Cluzet (also seen in Tell No One) and this drama was directed by Cotillard's partner and Tell No One director Guillaume Canet (who's transition from actor to director has been seamless).
The film has a fairly straightforward plot - a group of friends decide to go ahead with their annual vacation despite a member of the gang's involvement in a serious accident. Their discussion regarding the go-ahead with the holiday is similar to that of the teenagers in a horror film, who all selfishly agree to cover up an accidental murder, only for it to come back and haunt them.
Cotillard brings to this film what Hollywood has yet to allow her to bring by constantly casting her as a glamorous/femme fetale character. In LWL she is at her best, raw and natural, providing both laid back charm, hilarious outbursts of anger and heartbreaking emotion. Personally, French cinema gets the best of Cotillard because they allow her to run around playing football, sweating in a pair of shorts and with her hair a mess! Cluzet is absolutely hilarious also, his chemistry with the young Vincent is great. One of the only downfalls for me was that the music for the film, including Damien Rice and CCR, may seen a little obvious to a British audience. A 9/10 for me!
Balibo was incredibly moving, with avery insightful and politically and historically informative Q and A from Anthony LaPaglia. The film, for its low budget of $3.5 million, has stirred many a feather in the Indonesian government and media across the world. It is a masterpiece, and a true homage to the six Australian journalists who were murdered when Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975 and the world turned a blind eye. A labour of love for LaPaglia, it took 7 years and 14 scripts to get the film made, and I truly enjoyed it. My only problem was that as the film is primarily focused on Roger East, the journalist who followed the 'Balibo five' to East Timor after they disappeared, it is at times confusing to follow who is who among the other five. An 8/10!
You Instead is, in a way, like no film you will have ever seen. Shot entirely on location at T in the Park, the humour is derived from many of the crowd shots, the ridiculous drunken antics and outfits, and the general banter that is synonymous with the festival. A really original idea and I have an incredible amount of respect for the cast and crew for being able to pull off this film, as it has an wonderful authenticity. Some great chemistry between the main actors, played by Luke Treadaway and Natalia Tena, and a solid support from local talent. The relationship between the two leads could have used a bit of expansion as their dialogue wasn't enough to convince me that their feelings would progress as quickly as they do. The situation in which they find themselves handcuffed also seems a little contrived, and could easily have resulted from a more realistic source. Not the best romance I've seen blossom in a film, but definitely one of the best backgrounds/locations/soundtracks and original idea for a movie. 7/10!
New Low was one of the quirky comedies I was looking forward to as part of the festival, having been likened to the sensational In Search of a Midnight Kiss. BLASPHEMY! New Low was funny, but in a way, completely redundant as a film. Borrowing/stealing the dark, borderline depressing humour of Kevin Smith films, New Low follows a video store worker an his relationship with the mean girl and the nice girl, all while confiding in his much-funnier-than-him best friend. Do you think I just read the synopsis of Clerks? I feel like that is what the writer of this film did. And then made a less funny version of the Kevin Smith classic. This film wasn't terrible, but it was recycled plot, characters and style of comedy. Trust me, just watch Clerks instead.
Howl was the film I was most looking forward to this year. As a huge fan of Allen Ginsberg, I was thrilled to learn that the man of the Hollywood hour James Franco would be portraying Ginsberg in this film following his early years at University in New York, how his writing of his most famous and controversial poem Howl came about and the consequent obscenity trial that followed its publication. Now Franco is really strong in the film, but he only features in about 1/3 of it. The rest is taken up by a rather anti-climactic court case with Mad Men's Jon Hamm looking exactly as he does in Man Men, and David Strathairn as a fumbling prosecutor who is trying to argue that the poem is unsuitable for public viewing. This feels completely disconnected to Franco's interpretation of the hours of interviews Ginsberg did regarding his work, life and the trial. The final third of the film is utterly ridiculous, absurd and so out of place in the film that I very much wanted to leave the cinema as a result. A CGI animated interpretation of the poem, set against Franco's recital, features all through the film. It is weird and does not seem to have any significance whatsoever to the rest of the film. The poem itself is chaotic in parts, but its flows. And it works. And it is brilliant even to this day. Howl, as a movie, does not achieve any of these things. Sigh. Trust me, just read the poem instead. (Or Supermarket in California!)