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BFI London Film Festival 2017 Anne Fontaine’s Reinventing Marvin

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BFI London Film Festival 2017: Anne Fontaine’s Reinventing Marvin

BFI London Film Festival

BFI London Film Festival 2017: Anne Fontaine’s Reinventing Marvin

For anyone who's read Edouard Louis's 2014 novel The End of Eddy, a gut-wrenching account of growing up poor and gay in rural France, Reinventing Marvin will feel like a botched job. That's mostly because the book is so delicately diaristic, having been written by Louis when he was just 19, and before he shot into literary superstardom. Writer-director Anne Fontaine bypasses any attempt at faithfulness to her source material, cutting it into a million pieces and re-assembling the work like a postmodern collage.

As much as Fontaine's cinematic histrionics are beautiful to watch, like a Frankesteinian feast for the eyes, it's as if the soul of Louis's work has been diluted by the filmmaker's need to reinvent not Marvin, but the literary lineage that makes the project so striking in the first place. Because of the film's playing with temporality and style, the simplicity and linearity of Louis's prose is lost. We're certainly not allowed to spend enough time with the film's Marvin, played by the eerily melancholic Jules Porier, and ache with him—the kind of identification that The End of Eddy made possible.

BFI London Film Festival 2017 Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless

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BFI London Film Festival 2017: Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless

Sony Pictures Classics

BFI London Film Festival 2017: Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless

We tend to think of the family as a space for love and the child as representative of the new. Loveless exposes families to be, instead, havens of hatred and the child as nothing but a fresh container for an ancient history of gloom. Zhenya (Maryana Spivak) and Boris (Aleksey Rozin), soon to be divorced but still living under the same roof, repeat the same emotional indifference that was passed on to them by their parents. But their son, Alyosha (Matvey Novikov), stages an intervention in their genealogical tree of horrors by fleeing their home. No one seems to have ever wanted him—and it's only when he goes missing that he seems to merit parental attention. Not that he ceases to be a nuisance ready to be shipped to a boarding school followed by a military career, which is what Zhenya desires, but because now the adults have to respond to societal demands of his whereabouts.

BFI London Film Festival 2017 Annemarie Jacir’s Wajib

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BFI London Film Festival 2017: Annemarie Jacir’s Wajib

BFI London Film Festival

BFI London Film Festival 2017: Annemarie Jacir’s Wajib

For anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, society exchanges three fundamental things: words, women, and goods. Writer-director Annemarie Jacir explores those very objects of exchange in the most delicate of ways throughout Wajib. Although Amal (Maria Zreik) is getting married, neither her wedding nor the film itself is really about her. Both are about the men—her father, Shadi (Saleh Bakri), and her brother, Abu Shadi (Mohammad Bakri)—in charge of making the delivery of the goods: that is, the woman, her gown, and the invitations for the ceremony. Abu Shadi has returned home to Nazareth from Italy specially for the occasion, and the expatriate's homecoming serves as an opportunity for all sorts of words to be exchanged between father and son—namely those that have been bottled up for so long, or at least since Shadi and Amal's mother left them to pursue a love story in America.

BFI London Film Festival 2017 Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete

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BFI London Film Festival 2017: Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete

A24

BFI London Film Festival 2017: Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete

Though written and directed by Andrew Haigh, Lean on Pete belongs to young actor Charlie Plummer from start to finish. Plummer plays Charley, a poverty-stricken, motherless 15-year-old who moves to Portland, Oregon with his father, Ray (Travis Fimmel), and takes a summer job working with a horse trainer, Del (Steve Buscemi). The boy's life is built around abandonment and tragedy but also a relentless hunger for affection—human or equine. He's immediately taken with the most passive of Del's horses, Lean on Pete, who's described by his grizzled trainer as “a pussy.” From then on, a child-animal bond is formed where child-adult ones have been consistently broken, the horse's increasing incompetence to race working as a kind of guarantee against abandoning the boy, because that which can't run can't run away.

Reel Journeys: Sketches from the 2017 Camden International Film Festival

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Reel Journeys: Sketches from the 2017 Camden International Film Festival

BOGIE

Reel Journeys: Sketches from the 2017 Camden International Film Festival

Downtown Camden, Maine embodies a dream—derived from collective cultural osmosis—that one might have of northern towns as hubs of autumnal Americana. An atmospherically foggy view of the coast was my backyard for four days. Each morning after several good cups of coffee I made my way from the rear porch of the Hawthorne Inn down a slope dotted with chairs and a fire pit, crossing through a wooded area over to the neighboring amphitheater, where portions of Todd Field’s In the Bedroom were shot. From there, I passed the library (featuring a tribute to Mark Robson’s Peyton Place, which was also shot in Camden) over to the main strip of town, which is rich in 19th-century buildings housing a palm reader, an ice cream parlor, numerous gift shops, and a deli that serves a terrific lobster roll.

There are at least four bookstores within a quarter mile of the Hawthorne Inn. By contrast, the Virginia town where I live doesn’t have any, and I spent most of my scant spare time in Camden at the Owl & Turtle Bookshop Café, which suggests a Hobbit’s nook, as the stairs in the center of the shop wrap around the room, uniting the upper and lower floors in a cavernous pattern that turns the smallness of the place into a cozy, cuddled-up-with-hot-chocolate-on-a-Sunday-morning asset. Craig White, who co-owns the Owl & Turtle with his wife, Maggie, told me that the author Richard Russo lives close by and pops over to sign his books for fans. I felt like Dale Cooper in the first several episodes of the original Twin Peaks: exclamatory and ready to go native.

Isle of Dogs First Trailer: Wes Anderson’s Return to Stop-Motion Animation

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Isle of Dogs First Trailer: Wes Anderson’s Return to Stop-Motion Animation

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Isle of Dogs First Trailer: Wes Anderson’s Return to Stop-Motion Animation

“The Japanese archipelago, 20 years into the future,” intones the voice at the start of the delightful trailer for Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs, which sees the filmmaker returning to the world of stop-motion animation for the first time since 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Mox. Earlier this year, during a discussion about his carrer at ARTE Cinema, Anderson revealed that his follow-up to 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel was heavily inspired by the work of Akira Kurosawa, which is very much evident throughout the ornate trailer.

Toronto Film Review Louis C.K.’s I Love You, Daddy

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Toronto International Film Festival 2017: Louis C.K.’s I Love You, Daddy

The Orchard

Toronto International Film Festival 2017: Louis C.K.’s I Love You, Daddy

Louis C.K. loves a mess, and I Love You, Daddy, his first feature film as a director since 2001’s Pootie Tang, is exactly that. That’s not to say that each and every scene lacks purpose, but that chaos, mostly of the emotional sort, is C.K.’s preferred m.o. He’s certainly treading into hot-button territory throughout this often funny yet ultimately flimsy dark comedy about a flavor-of-the-month sitcom writer, Glen Topher (C.K.), whose spoiled 17-year-old daughter, China (Chloë Grace Moretz), takes up with 68-year-old Leslie Goodwin (John Malkovich), a film director who Glen worships, and also a known lech who’s equal parts Roman Polanski and Woody Allen.

Toronto Film Review Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Roman J. Israel, Esq.

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Toronto Film Review: Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Sony Pictures Classics

Toronto Film Review: Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool and Roman J. Israel, Esq.

Not all Oscar bait is created equal. Glenn Close trolling the Academy with 2011’s shameless Albert Nobbs isn’t in the same wheelhouse as her fellow always-a-bridesmaid Annette Bening, who actually seems, whatever the performance, like there are plenty of other motivators for her work beyond gold-plated statuettes. Make no mistake, Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, in which Bening plays aging Hollywood icon Gloria Grahame, is a tailor-made awards showcase, but the actress doesn’t settle for mere look-at-me mimicry.

Bening nails Grahame’s hyperventilator’s voice and flighty demeanor, as well as the seemingly out-of-nowhere sultriness that, for example, Nicholas Ray (Grahame’s second husband) used to striking effect in the 1949 noir A Woman’s Secret. Yet Bening also gives you a full sense of Grahame’s often-tortured depths, be it the obsession with her looks (her upper lip being the prime offender) or the scandal she courted. A prime plot point here is her marriage to Ray’s stepson, Anthony, in 1960, which led to the waning of a film career that included such highlights as 1950’s In a Lonely Place and 1952’s The Bad and the Beautiful, for which she won a supporting actress Oscar.

Toronto Film Review Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

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Toronto Film Review: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

Fox Searchlight Pictures

Toronto Film Review: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro is an ingenious crafter of dioramas, of which The Shape of Water, a Cold War-era drama tinged with elements of the paranormal, is no exception. Yet where Crimson Peak’s clutter of dilapidated, rotting luxury felt like the jumping-off point for the Mexican filmmaker’s imagination to run amok, here del Toro appears restrained by the concrete and steel of an underground research facility. The setting yields an inherent coldness that the film must work to overcome, and for the first time in his career, del Toro visibly struggles to reconcile his premise with its execution.

The film’s protagonist, Eliza (Sally Hawkins), is a mute woman who works as a cleaner in a classified government laboratory. Del Toro establishes her loneliness via montages of her daily routine that show her boiling eggs, swabbing floors, and, in the most obvious giveaway of her emotional state, vigorously masturbating each morning inside a bathtub. Limited in communication to signing with her co-worker, Zelda (Octavia Spencer), and neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), Eliza largely keeps to herself, rarely making eye contact with superiors and expressing herself only in private.

Toronto Film Review Paul Schrader’s First Reformed

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Toronto Film Review: Paul Schrader’s First Reformed

TIFF

Toronto Film Review: Paul Schrader’s First Reformed

Everything Paul Schrader has done throughout his career has led him to First Reformed, potentially the finest entry in what my friend and former Slant contributor Jeremiah Kipp refers to as the writer-director’s “men in rooms” films. These include 1980’s American Gigolo, 1992’s Light Sleeper, and 2007’s The Walker, all woozy character studies of not-quite-alpha males drifting through impeccably maintained, utterly empty lives that are summarily upended. The spaces these men inhabit seem an extension of their preplanned existences. Look at the way, for example, Richard Gere’s high-end sex worker, Julian Kaye, in American Gigolo organizes his California apartment as if it were a sun-dappled monk’s cell, with Armani suits as his chaplain’s wardrobe and a luxury-linened bed as his altar.