Oh my. So many films. It was naive to think I stood a chance in keeping up with reviewing these. With hardly any time leftover for essentials like eating and sleeping, there’s no way I can write up full reviews of all of these films. I’m 24 films in already, having blogged properly about just 7. Ouch.
So rather than worrying about that, it’s probably time to take stock of what I’ve seen and fast-forward over a handful of things I’m just not going to review. So this is a round-up of the first 20 films I saw of LIFF31 (or LIFF2017 as they seem to insist on calling it this year).
The Square and The Killing of a Sacred Deer got their own write-ups. Veronica, The Bar, Dark Owl Shorts, Cold Skin and The Endless were covered under the Day of the Dead 11 post. Happy End was just OK. So what else?
Leeds United! was a moving tale of the 1970 Leeds clothworkers’ strike. Compelling viewing. And then animation day brought a whole slew of wonders. I think Lu Over The Wall (beautiful Japanese tale of kinda-vampiric-kinda-friendly mermaids) and The Breadwinner (Afghani girl earns for her family after her father is imprisoned) each merit their own write-up – watch this space – as they were easily amongst the best things I’ve seen. Likewise for Mutafukaz (a fast-paced crime-filled action romp through Dark Meat City. In French). Perfect Blue rounded out the day: a thrilling slice of anime crime-drama from the 1990s. The only real disappointment was Big Fish and Begonia which had a lot to like about it (crazy rat lady! dragon spells! crossing between the worlds of life and death!) but never really came together as an interesting film. Even so, animation day was great this year.
And that takes us to 14. Next up was The Lodge – organ accompanied Hitchcock murder thriller in a foggy 20s London (fab stuff). I was less impressed by Gabriel and the Mountain. G&tM follows the (true) story of Gabriel the Brazilian as he explores Africa. It’s actually a fantastically put together film. The landscapes are stunning, the scenes of daily life in Tanzania, Kenya and around are fascinating and its filmed sensitively: you never feel like a tourist, and nor does Gabriel. Instead you’re invited into people’s homes, out on hunts, and to marketplaces. It’s only really let down by Gabriel himself being such an utter… twerp that viewing becomes painful. He’s unpleasant to his girlfriend, short-tempered, arrogant and egotistical. Ugh. As he puts himself in danger by steadfastly ignoring sensible local knowledge and advice you (I) just stop caring about him.
Next up If I Think Of Germany At Night was a slice of behind the scenes techno documentary. It was a little thin. A handful of talking heads explain why they think their scene is important. A few scenes of techno playing in clubs and festivals. And that’s it. It felt a bit of a missed opportunity really: I can’t believe anyone watching learnt anything very new from it.
The first 20 was rounded out by a trio of retrospectives. We get classic Fulci giallo Don’t Torture a Duckling – child-killing mysteries in a small town. Is it black magic? Or something worse? – bonkers Czech political satire The Party and The Guests – I suspect this could do with another viewing. I think some of the cleverness went over my head a bit – and Almodovar materpiece Volver. It was absolutely stunning to see Volver on the big screen, from a 35mm print no less. The colours, the music! Penelope Cruz and Carmen Maura steal the show but every bit of this film is a treat. Especially Chus Lampreave’s bonkers old Tia Paula! This is classic Almodovar, combining social criticisms, Spanish superstitions and family drama to stunning effect.
And that’s it. First 20 done.
But what were the best? What’s up there as candidates to win one of the uh… much coveted Rum and Popcorn film awards? I figured I’d trim each twenty down a bit. So here’s the summary of chapter one:
In no order, best 5 new films:
- The Killing of a Sacred Deer
- The Bar
- Lu Over The Wall
- The Breadwinner
In no order, best 2 old films:
- Perfect Blue