BFI Flare 2016, part 2

Posted on: 04 Apr 2016 by Philip Wyn Jones

Philip's second selection of highlight's from this year's festival.

Day 4

Loev (Sudhanshu Saria, India, 90min). This is a simple love story. Two very close friends meet for the weekend and try to decide whether they have a future as lovers. We learn practically nothing about their backgrounds and history and when the film ends we have no idea as to what might happen next. One of the film’s producers was present and this extremely affable and enthusiastic young man claimed that the lack of background information was a virtue and that audiences would enjoy filling the gaps. I disagree. Loev was like an outline of a feature, not the real thing.

Like You Mean It (Philipp Karner, USA, 90min). This splendid film derives from a semi- autobiographical novel penned by Karner and he takes the lead in the film. We witness the deterioration and collapse of a relationship when his character tires of his partner, goes unwillingly to therapy sessions and mocks the therapist. One must admire Karner for being so publicly honest about his past. A visit by his sister tells us a lot about his background and his fluent German gets an airing. Family ties are very important to him, as he pointed out in the Q&A afterwards.

Day 5

The Girl King (Mika Kauriskmaki, Finland, 106min - pictured). The director, together with French Canadian dramatist Michel Marc Bouchard, scripted this interpretation of the life of Kristina, Queen of Sweden during the 17thcentury. She was a thorn in the side of her advisers. They wanted war, she sought peace. They urged her to get married and produce an heir. She preferred the company of women and handed the throne to her nephew, saying that she regarded him as being her son. The film was shot on location in a Finnish castle and the costumes are spectacular.

Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (Stephen Cone, USA, 86min). To celebrate Henry’s 17th birthday his parents put on a party for friends, neighbours and fellow church-goers around their spacious swimming pool. We are in evangelical America and Henry’s father is the local pastor. Church business crops up in various conversations and we have the occasional prayer but under the surface we discover adultery, self-harm, an allegation of rape and a sizeable helping of holier-than- thou hypocrisy. Whether we like it or not, we are drawn into these people’s lives in this remarkable film.

Day 6

Model and fashion photographer Lee Miller, whose photos are currently on display in the Imperial War Museum, began the Second World War as part of the British propaganda machine. Her photographs of models with short hair made the point that the long hair made popular by Hollywood stars might well prove to be dangerous when working in factories. In France she took a photograph of muscular young men hard at work in a cellar. By pedalling energetically on their bikes they were creating enough electricity to power the communal  hair-dryers in the shop above. In one of Miller’s celebratory German photographs, taken in 1945, an American soldier is embracing a female Soviet soldier. Another picture is quite worrying. A group of German civilians have been forced, by the American authorities, to visit Buchenwald concentration camp. One very smartly dressed young lady strides through the place as if enjoying a day’s holiday.

From Afar (Lorenzo Vigas, Venezuela, 93min). In its initial stages this appears to be a conventional film. A middle-aged man seeks out street boys for sex. One of these lads makes enough money in this way to buy an old car, but is this his only dream? Why is the man who pays him so interested in an old man who has recently appeared in the area?  Is sex with the lad his only ambition or is this a means to a rather sinister end. This was a first-rate mystery thriller with which to end my BFI Flare.

Philip Wyn Jones

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