London Film Festival 2016: 5 Days, 7 Cinemas, 12 films, part 2

Posted on: 14 Oct 2016 by Philip Wyn Jones

Click here to read part 1.

Day 3

A DARK SONG (Liam Gavin, Ireland, 99min). A young woman travels to a remote Welsh (Irish?)  mansion. There, by means of some ancient and potentially dangerous rites, she hopes to establish contact with her dead child. Atmospheric music and sound effects go some way to establishing a sinister atmosphere. After the showing, the producer spoke eloquently about the film-makers’ ambitions. Perhaps this film will persuade backers to finance a more convincing feature next time.

WULU (pictured, Daouda Coulibaly, Senegal, 95min). This film was a delight from start to finish. Handsome, charismatic Ibrahim Koma portrays Ladji, a trainee bus driver. His pay is pitiful and his sister tries to support the family by turning to prostitution. Ladji decides he has only one option; he must take on the risky, but well-paid, job of transporting drugs from area to area and country to country. So we have a fast-moving thriller set against the background of abject poverty and widespread corruption. This is top-class film-making from Africa. I look forward to more in the future.

HISSEIN HABRE, A CHADIAN TRAGEDY (Mahamat –Saleh Haroun, Chad, 82min). This documentary, apart from occasional glimpses of the beautiful countryside, features a series of interviews and direct to camera statements with and by survivors of former president Habre’s regime in the 1980s. It became commonplace for people to be tortured and/or murdered and some simply ‘disappeared’. The suffering is recounted in harrowing detail and one can understand the widespread national jubilation when Habre, after twenty years of campaigning, was at last put on trial.

Day 4

SOUVENIR (Bavo Defurne, France, 90min). In the Q&A that followed this lovely film, director Defurne, dare I say it, spoke a lot of nonsense about its new approach to film-making. It was, in fact, a  homage , perhaps unintended, to the Hollywood of the 1950s, the era of Judy Garland, Doris Day et al. Isabelle Huppert portrays Liliane who many years ago was a pop star. Now she’s a lonely divorcee doing a hum-drum  job in a pate factory. Cue the clichés. Will she find a new romance and become a star once more? You know the answers and you’ll love the way this familiar story is retold.

CHAMELEON (Jorge Riquelmemin Serrrano, Chile, 82min). This film was inspired by newspaper headlines about likeable strangers insinuating themselves into peoples’ houses and proving to be extremely nasty. Two middle-aged women welcome an unexpected visitor into their home. This pleasant young man is a friend of a friend. Behind the opening titles we’ve already seen him murdering a middle-aged man during a sexual act. More of the same follows and several members of the audience walked out. During the Q&A an audience member asked the director if the sexuality of the victims was significant. They were all gay. Just a coincidence, was the reply. How strange.

Day 5

A WOMAN’S LIFE (Stephane Brize, France and Belgium, 119min). In this excellent adaptation of Guy de Maupassant’s novel, Une Vie, we share the trials and tribulations of Jeanne, from her late teens to her middle age. After a marriage engineered by her family, she marries a handsome, prosperous young man. Life seems to be great – until the maid becomes pregnant. We know who the father is, don’t we? Pressure is brought upon Jeanne to forgive him, but much worse is to follow and the local priest has a key role to play in this. Filmed using the claustrophobic small screen of yore, the film ends, mercifully, with a ray of hope for the future.

INTERCHANGE (Dain Iskandar Said, Malaysia and Indonesia, 102min). What begins as a straightforward murder mystery becomes something impossible to classify. A serial killer delights in pulling out the veins of his victims and using them to decorate the bodies in the style of weird early photographs.  The detective delves into the world of ancient superstitions and folk legends to solve the case. The unusual settings and a lively music score are not enough to save this film. It’s difficult for an audience to make sense of it and some of the acting is well below par.

Philip Wyn Jones.

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