The London Film Festival 2011 has finished and as usual there was a strong mix of films and plenty of choice. In no particular order, here is a run down of the films I saw and my ratings.
Snowtown – based on notorious Australian serial killer John Bunting, this is a brutal film which is uncompromisingly bleak. A good film, and a strong directorial debut from director Justin Kurzel. 8/10
ALPS – the follow up film by ‘Dogtooth’ director Yorgos Lanthimos, which again focuses on a quirky subject matter demonstrating how Lanthimos is one of the most talented directors in European cinema today. It doesn’t have quite the visceral impact of his previous film, but this remains essential viewing. 8/10
Hara Kiri: Death of a Samurai – a re-telling of the Yasuhiko Takiguchi original story by director Takashi Miike. The first 20 minutes of the film represent one of the best pieces of cinema this year. It lags a little in the middle but the story telling is powerful and extremely well made. 8/10
Rampart – Woody Harrelson plays a bad cop based on a true story. A good film but ‘Bad Lieutenant’ is better. 6/10
Without – a low budget indie thriller, this focuses on a girl who looks after an old incapacitated man living in a remote house in the woods whilst his family is away. Not bad but a bit slow. 5/10
Shame – without a doubt the best film I saw at the London Film Festival this year. After the fabulous ‘Hunger’ by the same pairing of director McQueen and star Fassbender this ups the game even further. Not to be missed. 10/10
Beauty – a slow but absorbing drama set in South Africa, about a husband and father who is secretly homosexual. Superbly shot with a build up that has an undercurrent reminiscent of ‘This is England’. A must watch. 9/10
Guilty – a powerful French drama about a husband and father wrongly imprisoned for sinister crimes, and the failure of the French justice system. Based on actual events this is a film you must see. 9/10
A Dangerous Method – David Cronenberg is back with his dialogue heavy take on the birth of psychoanalysis. With a strong cast (Knightly, Mortensen, Fassbender) this is good but it may not appeal to everyone. 7/10
Surprise Film (Damsels in Distress) – some people liked the surprise film but for me it was a disappointment. Whilst quirky and with a few laugh out loud moments, overall it felt like a poor mans ‘Napoleon Dynamite’. 5/10
Michael – middle aged Michael by day acts a normal life going to work and returning to his house. Secretly however he keeps a boy locked in his basement. This is a difficult subject matter told in an affecting and quietly disturbing fashion. It deserves to be seen. 8/10
Shock Head Soul – generally films about mental illness can be powerful to watch. Shock Head Soul however just didn’t work for me. 2/10
Asshole – an Indian film which dares to be different and focuses on the impact of sex and drugs of the main character Gandu. Some interesting ideas and concepts although it doesn’t work at times. 5/10
We Need to Talk About Kevin – Based on the original novel, this British film is one of the most powerful and disturbing films you will see this year. Tilda Swinton is incredible as Kevin’s mother Eva. 10/10
Headhunters – based on the Jo Nesbo book this is a cracking Norwegian thriller and great fun. Don’t be surprised if this becomes an American remake soon. 9/10
The Last Screening – shades of ‘Peeping Tom’, Polanski and Argento in this low budget French indie thriller make this a nice watch. 7/10
Into The Abyss: A Tale of Life, a Tale of Death – Warner Herzog makes his latest documentary about the life of two inmates living on Death Row. This is an interesting film which provokes a debate about the death sentence in today’s society. 7/10
Martha Marcy May Marlene – a big hit at the Sundance Festival in 2011, this atmospheric drama looks at the after affects of life for Martha after a prolonged period living in a cult like community. It builds up nicely but loses its way towards the end. 7/10
The Descendants – With his wife in a coma and not certain to recover, George Clooney seeks to rebuild his relationship with his children, coupled with the discovery that she was having an affair with a local businessman. This is the type of film that Clooney does best and is a heartfelt comedy drama. 8/10.
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