BFI London Film Festival 2015 – Final Days
Ungodly, that’s what it is – ungodly. To awaken at the hexing hour of 7:00am on a Sunday, to sacrifice a well deserved lie in after a hectic week scoping Guildford’s recently costed £1.2 billion first phase of the future, in order to make one final push on this years festival as it draws to its conclusion. I’m still faintly furious that I missed Carol, The Witch and Room, not to mention I didn’t really manage to pull off a elite acquisition – as in seeing something totally unknown and unheard of which turns out to be one of the quiet gems of the year, but so it goes and all three of those will pick regular distribution so it’s just a matter of time. So while I didn’t see nearly enough of what I wanted the good news is there were no misfires, everything was a three star or better movie, and I had a particularly strong final push over the last weekend. There was also something of a lesson learnt which has fallen away over the past few years, and that is to mix it up a little and see films with regular punters rather than just the continual dreary early start of the press screenings, sure it is a gamble with the potential of some nearby jerkward fucking about with his phone & talking and/or breathing inappropriately, but you do get more audience engagement and more importantly the talent Q&A’s following the screenings. Still, next year I vow to book the entire fortnight off come hell or high water, so none of this pesky career nonsense can continue to violate the truly important things in life. First things first my last tranche of reviews have dropped here and here, now on with our final weekend schedule;
I started the weary road with Crimson Peak but that wasn’t in the festival line-up and deserves its own separate review, so let’s snuggle up with Yorgos Lanthimo’s warmly received The Lobster instead. If you’ve seen Dogtooth then you know what to expect, a scenario revolving around a bizarre, surreal concept – recently heartbroken individuals check into a hotel with 45 days to establish new relationships before they are transformed into an animal of their choosing – as a metaphorical framework to reveal deeper truths about human relations, the social construction of the family unit, the emphasis on the primacy of sexual and legally enshrined relationships in contemporary society. Alienating Brechtian and satirical Bunuelian techniques aside this was absolutely hilarious, in the same brutal, very nasty and dark way that Dogtooth was. I and the audience was bent double at certain points and gasping at others, as when the concept is absaorbed and accepted it pump-primes a potent land of absurdity to explore. I’m not sure all the queries that Lanthimo raised were fully appreciated or exploited, as in the second phase of the film when the core character (a playing against type subdued Colin Farrell) links in with some anti-couple liberation fighters in the wilderness the plot and level of interest started to wane alongside Rachael Weitz’s sharply efficient voiceover. Nevertheless this was probably the funniest and at times most painful film I’ve seen this year, physically as well as mentally, and its nice to wheels back in cinema after being lost in Kill List and A Field In England.
Did we save the best for last? Well, kind of, at least in terms of events if perhaps not material. The closing night gala film of this years festival was the star-studded Steve Jobs biopic called, remarkably, Steve Jobs. Directed by Danny Boyle and armed with a machine gun script from everyone’s favourite walker and talker Aaron Sorkin this has been eagerly awaited in some quarters, while Job’s widow has added a frission of controversy by publicly opposing the project. To begin I have read the ‘official’ Jobs biography purely due to a charity shop acquisition and my relatively lengthy commute to Colchester earlier in the year, so I was already well versed with the algorithms of Jobs personal and professional career. I’m not a particular Macolyte – well, so says the man whom has moved through all 6 generations of his telecommunication device, whom owns a Mac-Mini, a 2009 iMac, two iPod’s, an iPad and has recently invested in an Intel Core i5 1.6Ghz Processor, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD MacBook Air. Nevertheless I find him interesting as a modern-day Thomas Edison, a man whose influence as a synthesiser of the competing areas of marketing, design and technology have forged our modern world in an undeniable way – all I had to was scan the audience during the conference and see how many iPhones and iPads were in attendance recording the event just to anecdotally scope the companies pernicious penetration into our world. In a spectacularly contrived fashion the film is programmed around Jobs life in the hours and minutes run up to three critical product launches – the Apple II in 1984, the strategically (and some speculate intentional) disastrous NeXTcube in 1988, and his phoenix like return to the fold in 1998 with the launch of the iMac. Like some sort of Dickensian visitation the film oscillates between the personal interactions and infractions with the key people in his life, starting with the mother of his initially disputed child played by Katherine Waterston, followed by Seth Rogan as fellow Apple garage-hobbyist pioneer Steve Wozniak. Then we have Jeff Daniels taking on the mantle of Apple CEO and chief architect of his 1986 ousting John Sculley, while Winslet rounds out the cast as his long-suffering confidante & senior marketing guru Joanna Hoffman.
Despite the absurd call sheet I thoroughly enjoyed this once I’d adapted to the rhythms of the film, at the start I admit I was a little irritated at the structure and the exceptionally clumsy crowbarring in of exposition and history into characters mouths – ‘But Steve, ever since you took the company public three years and earned yourself a personal fortune of $414 million a gamble like this is crazy’ – but to be fair not everyone has read the biography and some of the broad strokes are quite cleverly crafted. It has some big laughs, some armour-piercing Sorkinesque exchanges if you like that sort of thing, and it seemed to do a reasonable job (heh) of showing some of the different sides to the man, including just what an utter twat he could be in the way he treated people (not least his daughter and her poverty-stricken mother), the influence that his adoption may have had on his psyche, and the unrelenting fanatical pursuit of perfection which ensured why he is in the history books and not just the corporate executive lexicon as one of the most influential human beings of the past fifty years. Danny Boyle largely restrains his signature style, covering with long takes and steadicam stuttering around the backstage of the launches, the only real directorial flourish being film stock selection for each historical phase – 16mm in 1984, 35mm in 1988 and of course digital for 1998. The conference was rather odd, one of those contrived industry situations which I’ve still not quite got used to, and I must confess to being a little star struck of being within 10 feet proximity to that bird from Titanic, Ace Rothstein from Boardwalk Empire, one of Dumb & Dumber, Mr. West Wing, that upcoming actress from Inherent Vice and the oirish chap who keeps getting his wanger out whom is something of a hit with the ladies. It was quite a frisky affair as you can see above with a few more laughs than the Suffragette conference, Winslet swears like a docker, Daniels falls asleep and as a heterosexual male I will say that Fassbender does have that elusive quality when he enters a room, so that roguish charisma on-screen is also emitted in real life. I also espied Bill Nighy in the lobby of the Mayfair hotel on what seemed to be completely unrelated business, and in a bizarre coincidence when I connected back through Canary Wharf they were shooting a movie at the foot of the main escalators – weird. Now, as I understand it the full trailer for a certain anticipated December release is dropping at 8:30pm Eastern seaboard time with some European souls even staying up until 1:30am GMT to see it, I will not joining them but will naturally have some comments when I arise from my meditation chamber tomorrow morning….