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Bfi London Film Festival (#110 of 14)

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 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.

BFI London Film Festival 2015 The Wave

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BFI London Film Festival 2015: The Wave

Fantefilm

BFI London Film Festival 2015: The Wave

Roar Uthaug’s The Wave is true to its maker’s name, with a seat-rattling Dolby Atmos mix and the upsurge of the thunderously orchestrated score easily scaling the 250-foot high of a spectacularly computer-generated tsunami that looks every inch a natural disaster. Even on a meager-by-Hollywood-standards $8 million budget, the titular cataclysmic event is so realistically rendered as to put the water-logged ruination of blockbusters like The Day After Tomorrow and the recent San Andreas to shame.

Submitted as Norway’s foreign-language Oscar entry, but with its eye clearly on the multiplex, The Wave is a perfect imitation of American studio blockbusters—and that’s exactly the problem. A slow-build first act promises more insightful characterization, but once the wave hits, everything that follows is submerged by the filmmakers’ blatant bid for an international audience and the crowd-pleasing clichés the film emulates almost too well.

BFI London Film Festival 2015 King Jack

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BFI London Film Festival 2015: King Jack

Whitewater Films

BFI London Film Festival 2015: King Jack

Confidently working a well-worn groove, Felix Thompson’s debut joins a growing cannon of derelict rite-of-passage films in which American adolescents ride their bikes around dilapidated areas of the U.S. (this time in New York’s Hudson Valley). Neither as meditative as Hide Your Smiling Faces nor as morose as Little Accidents, King Jack also can’t boast Mud’s wistful poeticisms of innocence lost, but its summer of embattled youth is shorn of sentimentality, with lead actor Charlie Plummer’s embittered eye lines casting a pall of diminished self-worth over his fresh features.

BFI London Film Festival 2015 The Here After

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BFI London Film Festival 2015: The Here After

Lava Films

BFI London Film Festival 2015: The Here After

When you’re a teenager, it’s easy to feel like the whole world’s against you, that you’re the only person on the planet without that special someone who understands what you’re going through. This feeling of isolationist angst is taken to pitiless extremes in The Here After, Magnus von Horn’s intelligently crafted and incrementally intense drama whose flame burns cold.

Just released from the correctional facility where he was interned for killing his girlfriend, John (Ulrik Munther) suddenly finds himself thrust back into a community that will never forgive him. Forcibly repressing the deviant strains of antisocial behavior he now engenders in others, this noble savage silently encourages attacks on his person as a pretext to show he’s no longer dangerous. Alone on his father’s farm, John sullenly stalks the rural flatlands, a forsaken ward of his own unknowable mental constitution, numbed more by the personal hostility of the people he grew up with than the consequences of actions his young shoulders can’t yet bear. As resentments and regrets are weathered under autumnal winds, John is steadily blown toward apathy and self-hatred.

BFI London Film Festival 2015 Bang Gang

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BFI London Film Festival 2015: Bang Gang

Full House

BFI London Film Festival 2015: Bang Gang

Press screenings at the 59th London Film Festival got off to a flaccid start earlier this week with Eva Husson’s controversy-courting debut Bang Gang, a total turn-off that’s neither as lewdly subversive or as raucously debauched as its provocative title. Living out their own summer of love, a group of gauche high school students get together for private sex parties, which despite being directed by a woman, play to phallocentric fantasies of three girls for every guy. Bridget Bardot-lookalike George (Marilyn Lima) is the one who instigates a game of “Truth or Dare with only dares,” just to get back at uninvolved boyfriend Alex (Finnegan Oldfield), who, at that moment, is upstairs taking the virginity of her best friend, Letitia (Daisy Broom). But instead of being appalled, unfazed Alex blithely takes ownership of George being railed by multiple partners, assuming host duties for the subsequent orgies and literally becoming the cock of the walk.