LFF Friday – Guilty and Return Reviews
It is friday so here is my weekly round up of the films I have been able to see at 55th BFI London Film Festival.
I went into the festival all bright eyed and bushy tailed. I was going to be up there everyday, seeing 4 films a day, getting as much of it as I could muster. This, as most good plans do, has not panned out at all. I have only , until today, been able to make it up for one day, Monday.
OK, I am in London today as the SHAME galas and press conference, which is being attended by Mr Fassbender (No I am not kidnapping him), but, what has happened is this.
The press screenings and good stuff starts at 9am. This is great as you get to do a lot more during the day. But for someone like me who is traveling into London, it means the train fair goes from £20 to £50 as I need to travel during PEAK time. Paying £50 just to see a film at a festival has kind of taken some of the shine off the event. I am almost thinking of sacking the whole idea and sticking to more local stuff, we are in the middle of a recession you know.
Anyway moaning aside I have seen some great flicks so far, here are my reviews from Monday…
TITLE – Guilty (Presume Coupable) YEAR – 2011 DIRECTOR – Vincent Garenq CAST – Philippe Torreton, Wladimir Yordanoff and Noémie Lvovsky WRITERS – Serge Frydman, Vincent Garenq
Seeing this film in the morning, just after breakfast is pretty hard going. Not beacause it is a badly made picture, far from it, the story is so unbelievable that it can only be true. No, it is just such a hard-hitting drama that it will have you mouth wide open within three minutes of the opening credits.
Guilty tells the riveting tale of a group of people in northern France in 2001. The group all who did not know each other were arrested and accused of constructing a pedophile ring, raping and buggering young boys. I know sounds great huh? Well it gets worse. The whole case is built on the accusation of one family and is totally circumstantial with no hard evidence at all. The case is an utter farce as it would seem is the French judicial system as it allowed this group to be held and questioned for over 4 years.
The worst hit was Alain Marecaux, it is his memoirs that are the source of the narrative film in Guilty. The film opens with him at home with his wife and children, it is late at night and everyone has gone to bed. All of a sudden there is loud banging at the door. It is the police, they quickly storm the house arresting Allain and his wife for raping and prostituting young boys. From that moment on, I guarantee your mouth will hit the deck and you will be shaking your head in disbelief at how anything like this could ever have happened.
Guilty has the feel of a docu-drama as it is filmed on handheld cameras through out. The restricted narrative conveys the claustrophobic and cut off emotions that Allain sustained whilst going through this ordeal. Stuck in a prison cell, receiving rejection letter after rejection letter, completely cut off from his children and wife, who is released much earlier. Allain’s predicament shifts from awful to disgusting whilst in prison, the amount of legal blunders and contradictory testimonies from the accusing family ring massive bells with both the viewer, Allain and his Lawyer. Standing in their way is a young judge who believes he has his hands on a career building case and quickly brushes off these glaring errors.
When the trial does eventually arrive, it is a complete travesty. Based solely on a troubled young boy and his parents, who look like they have stepped straight out of the Texas Chainsaw massacre.
Director Garenq does an amazing job of showing the audience the harrowing physical and psychological trauma the accused endured during this time. Out of the 17 accused many saw their private and professional lives destroyed. One even died in Prison.
I have not seen Phillipe Torreton before, but his turn as Allain Marecaux was fantastic and inspiring. He reminded me of Christian Bale in The Machinist, the amount of physical transformation was scary to see. He is a typical man, he finds it hard to let emotion and turmoil out, so much so that it actually starts eating at him, from the inside. Towards the end of his incarceration he decides to go on hunger strike and he looked like a shell of the former actor. ALthough the camera is centred on him for the duration, you never get bored with him, such a subtle performance.
The film is not short. 100 minutes for this viewer is verging on numb bum theatre but I really enjoyed, if I can use that word, the ride. The ending felt a little flat, but then again it is based on a true story and it has to be true to life.
GUILTY IS SHOWING AT LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2011 ON 21ST AND 22ND OCTOBER AS PART OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTIONS SEGMENT
TITLE – Return YEAR – 2011 DIRECTOR – Liza Johnson CAST – Linda Cardellini, Michael Shannon and John Slattery WRITERS – Liza Johnson
Liza Johnson, the artist and short film maker, writes and directs Return. The story of Kelli, a soldier who returns home after a tour of duty with the US Army.
The film opens with Kelli being greeted by her loving family and friends. Kelli is overwhelmed by the love being shown her way. She is very happy to be back, to feel carpet between her toes, to have her own chair and a bottle of beer. She has missed the home life. But it become quickly apparent that Kelli is broken. She finds it impossible to connect to the things and people that she longed to be near. On a total whim she decides to jack her job in, which her boss had kept open for her for a year, as she just felt it completely pointless. But this is just the start of her downward spiral.
I must say I enjoyed the premise of the story, it reminded me a lot of the Hurt Locker. There was a little scene where the main character goes home at the end of a tour and loses control staring at a cupboard of breakfast cereal. He has become so used to the theater of war that the mundane existence of everyday life feels pointless. Liza Johnson’s idea to stretch this idea out to feature-length works, to a point, but adds little new. Towards the end it almost feels a bit TV drama in its style which I didn’t like.
Kelli is convinced that she was not effected by WAR. She says numerous times through the film, that others had it a lot worse than she did. But it is quite clear that she is very broken. It is not a new story at all, but the characters are very different, Johnsons decision to show the film form a female soldiers point of view was quite a nice touch. A female returning home is expected to show emotions in a different way. She is told to channel her anger, where as male soldiers are often told to vent their RAGE. Interestingly RETURN is not littered with dramatic flashbacks, Johnson made the decision to show the blunt emotion felt by Kelli, she feels the warmth and security of home, but now there is an added distance and alien feeling.
Linda Cardellini is brilliant as Kelli. She plays the bubbling broken soldier trying to hold on to her sanity and her kids superbly. Understated but also emotionally drawn in. Michael Shannon also is in excellent form, this guys deserves an oscar soon! He is subdued, caring but also detached. Completely different to the roles I have seen him in before.
Return is a good film, it is well performed by it’s leads which more than make up for any short comings. It is not a master piece by any means, but it is still a very compelling story.
RETURN IS SHOWING AT LONDON FILMS FESTIVAL 2011 ON 19TH, 20TH, AND 22ND AS PART OF THE WORLD CINEMA SEGMENT.
Are you going to LFF? Have you heard of these films? Comment below…