Wednesday, 13 October 2010

The Powers of Ten (London Film Festival)

As is the custom, the opening of the London Film Festival must be met with a mournful note, acknowledging the fact that the vast majority of LFF films that disappear from view (at least within the UK) once the red-carpet is packed away.

But whilst most of the 200 odd features screened in any given year struggle to justify inclusion, let alone wider distribution, a number of important works have regrettably been forced into this vanishing act. This year will be my tenth LFF, and so, with metric precision, I hereby offer, in no particular order, ten films that deserve some sort of resurrection:

1. Cargo 200 (Aleksey Balabanov 2007)

Violated is probably too strong a word, but I came out of the screening of Cargo 200 feeling pretty sick and angry at the whole ordeal. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. Probably Balabanov’s finest.

2. A Portugese Nun (Eugene Green 2009)

Far and away Green’s most audience friendly work (and also my favourite). Formal intellectualism warmed in the Lisbon sun.

3. Copacabana (2007) and Elementary Training for Actors (2009)  (both Martín Rejtman)

The recent Latin America season at BFI allowed me to take in Rejtman’s more traditionally fictive (and equally brilliant) The Magic Gloves. These two short exercises in absurdist pseudo-documentary would make an excellent double feature for an ambitious distributor.

4. Captain Ahab (Philippe Ramos 2007)

Denis Lavant plays a francophone Ahab (it’s pronounced Akhab) in this episodic, revisionary study. Due to a scheduling anomaly, I actually walked out of the last 10 minutes of this, convinced that it would find a home here. I was wrong.

5. Ox hide (Liu Jiayin 2005)

Liu Jiayin’s playfully rigorous study of a bickering Beijing family (her own) would undoubtedly be a tough sell. What saddens me more is the fact that her follow up, Oxhide II, has yet to screened at all in the UK.

6 Mister V (Emilie Deleuze 2004)

Ok, so I don’t really remember much about this film, and my notes went missing long ago. I recall a horse and the fact that it was made by Gilles Deleuze’s daughter. Attempts to track down a copy have remained frustrating.

7. Dealer (Benedek Fliegauf 2004)

By most accounts Fliegauf‘s new film Womb (to be screened this year) is a bit of a stinker, and his last one, Milky Way, was something of a disappointment. But this elegantly grubby tale of a drug dealer’s final hours hit the spot for me.

8. As I was moving ahead I occasionally saw brief glimpses of beauty (Jonas Mekas 2000)

Over the years I have become slightly more suspicious of Jonas Mekas’ self proclaimed Messiah status; but the experience of this six hour dairy film collage (spread over two days) was, without doubt, the highlight of my first LFF; and one that had a profound impact on my cinematic interests for some considerable time.

9. The Possibility of an Island (Michel Houellebecq 2008)

The author’s deeply odd adaptation of his own cult, cult novel was, I remember thinking, a bit like a French and Saunders parody of a Taskovsky movie. But in a good way.

10. Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors (Hong Sangsoo 2001)

The sad fact that not a single Hong Sangsoo film has gained full distribution in the UK was partially corrected by the brilliantly conceived ICO tour earlier this year. That said, the odd touring show doesn’t count, so I’ll name this – the first Hong I saw, and still one of my favourites – as my final choice.

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