Film & TV

London Film Festival Blog – Day 7

Another very early morning — I’m not sure how many that is in a row now, but it can’t be a good for a student. This time I made my way to Odeon West End, where I had previously ventured to for Coriolanus on Sunday.

The queue was unexpectedly small. Today’s morning film was The Artist — if you haven’t heard about it by now you either don’t read enough about films or you live under a rock. Needless to say, it was one of the most exciting films of the festival, and I had expected a bigger turnout than I saw. The likely reason for this was the fact that it clashed with screenings of both Polanski’s new film Carnage and a French film called Low Life. However, while Polanski always draws a crowd, The Artist was unquestionably a bigger deal. Review time…

The Artist (dir. Michel Hazanavicius)

Like Shame, The Artist deserves a longer and more extensive review, which I will do in my festival roundup.

It is brilliantly clever — shot in black and white and silent (or is it?), the film harks back to the golden age of Hollywood, which also makes for its setting. Jean Dujardin shines as the protagonist, as does Bérénice Bejo, who plays the female lead. John Goodman is also good as the fat cat movie studio boss, but perhaps the best character in the film is Dujardin’s dog, who is quite remarkable (needs to be seen to be believed).

Set around the time the ‘talkie’ was invented, The Artist looks at what the spoken picture did for the industry, and what it meant for the biggest stars of Hollywood’s silent films — though it is more of a comedy and a romance, rather than a documentation of historical fact or a critique.

Throughout, you will find yourself laughing out loud on regular occasions and maybe even sobbing a little at the sugary, romantic bits. The plot isn’t exactly groundbreaking but what is to be admired about The Artist is that it goes beyond a homage; it inhabits its own, unique niche. Frankly, it’s a magical experience. It may not stay with you like Shame does, but if you have more fun at the cinema this year then you’ll probably be doing something you shouldn’t be doing in a public place.

After that joy I made the trip to the BFI with the idea of getting into a public screening of Dreams of a Life. No luck;completely sold out.

Seeing as the rest of my day consisted of going home, napping, then going to the Jameson Apartment for a few free drinks, there’s not much to blog about. However, it has just occurred to me that the embargo has been lifted on a film I saw earlier this week, so here’s that review…

Lawrence of Belgravia (dir. Paul Kelly)

The story of washed-up former lead singer Lawrence Hayward, Lawrence of Belgravia is more of a homage than a documentary, allowing the charismatic and disheveled ageing protagonist 90 minutes on screen of basically doing whatever he likes. The standout positives are the numerous one-liners Lawrence comes out with, including a harsh damming of the internet when he finds out that an interviewer makes no money from his work, “I knew the internet was crap.” Aside from those, however, it’s an empty and rather dull affair. Lawrence’s charms wear off about halfway into the film — comedy is replaced by a sense of tragedy; we see fleeting references to his drug-use (he has a prescription for Mephedrone, having been addicted to Heroin; whether he still is or not is not apparent) and it becomes clear that Lawrence is thoroughly, to reference the beginning of this paragraph, washed-up. The documentary never makes an effort to speak to Lawrence properly. Rather the emphasis is placed on his quirky jokes and anecdotes, and there’s very little said about the reality behind the character. It is evident that he still clings onto rapidly disappearing dreams of fame and fortune; to say his aspirations are delusional would be an overly optimistic viewpoint. The film itself often comes across as a collection of stills, and the overly frequent use of music betrays the fact that there just isn’t enough footage to fill a feature documentary. The worst case of this is the last shot — a zoom-out of Lawrence leaning out of his council flat window; it’s excruciatingly long and is clearly supposed to be poignant. It isn’t. Rather, it just represents another few minutes of “I can’t believe this is still going on. Why won’t it end!?” When the credits did eventually roll I found myself pondering the fact that I would have liked it a lot more if it had been a mockumentary. As a documentary I found it tiresome, contrived and a little depressing.

Tomorrow I’m off to see at least two films and then a press conference with George Clooney for The Ides of March — keep an eye out for the next blog to read about how that went!

Tom Grater

Film & TV

Tom is a budding film reviewer, hell bent on providing informed opinions on the latest movie releases to those who need them, whether they like it or not.

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