London Film Festival

Or “How to watch four films in less than 7 days”

Now that my cinema-week has just passed, here are some rants about what I’ve seen on the screens of the London Film Festival.

Non pensarci” by the Italian director Gianni Zanasi, featuring an outstanding performance by Valerio Mastrandrea, is the story of a not-so-famous rock star who, at the edge of 35, returns to his home town after a final disastrous gig. But rather than finding a comfortable family life, he suddenly finds himself drawn into the personal mess of his brother (who runs the family business on the edge of bankruptcy and falls in love with a prostitute), his sister (lost in her passion for dolphins and completely unaware of anything else) and his parents (a naively good-hearted father and a surprisingly “modern” mother).
Incredibly, he turns out to be the most reliable, although (enjoyably) the funniest, of the whole family.

And now for something completely different! The second one, Aleksander Sokurov’s “Aleksandra“, is a slow, minimalistic film about the stupidity of war, embodied by the surreal journey of a grandmother to Chechnya to visit her grandson – a Russian army captain. Once there, she meets soldiers and civilians, all closely bonded by the toughness of life in a permanent state of fear and deprivation. Not a funny film, for sure… nor probably the best glance into human behaviour in a war context, if compared to other films on the same theme.

La graine et le mulet” was the third movie. Here we are in Marseille, with the north-African community of fishermen and shopkeepers living near the docks. When the main character is sacked, he tries to start his own business restoring an old fishing boat. This is supposed to become a floating cous-cous restaurant, where the man’s composite family (ex wife, multiple sons, plus new partner’s daughter) join forces in an effort to prepare a great opening dinner. But everything is destined to fail, including the film which misses its point, drags on and gradually slips from the director’s control…

Last but not least, since it is probably the best film, is “The edge of Heaven“, the last realease by the Turkish-German director, Fatih Akin. It’s the story of six main characters: a Turkish father and his intellectual son both living in Germany; a German mother and daugther; and a Turkish prostitute in Hamburg and her daugther – a Turkish political activist – all linked together by a powerful plot of which each character is unaware. The story is punctuated by two deaths and runs backward and forward between Turkey and Germany, past and present. Perfectly acted, filmed and written, it’s an incredibly moving yet measured piece of work.

[second version as amended by my favourite English consultant]



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