Tuesday, 21 October 2014

London Film Festival round-up: October 15

Stephen Puddicombe brings you the latest from the London Film Festival

- When Westerns are made these days they’re usually imbued by modern perspectives and post-modern twists on the genre. Not Kristian Levring’s The Salvation, which is instead traditional to a fault – the grubby anti-hero (played by a perfectly cast Mads Mikkelsen), sweeping landscapes, stylised violence, mythological tone, and a leading actress (Eva Green) who, after having her tongue cut off, quite literally has no voice, could all fit seamlessly into a Sergio Leone spaghetti western from the 1960s.

All this is beautifully shot by a director who clearly loves the genre, and the plot – about the aftermath of a Danish settler’s (Mikkelsen) avenging his wife and son’s murder – is straightforwardly entertaining.  It may not have much in the way of a fresh take, but is sure to satisfy genre enthusiasts.

- Set at the end of the American Civil War in what resembles a post-apocalyptic environment, The Keeping Room follows three young women hiding away at an abandoned farm.

From the very first scene an overtly feminist theme is established as the world is presented as hostile towards women, as lustful, cruel men, hardened by the war, prowl the landscape. Augusta (Brit Marling), Louise (Hailee Steinfeld) and their slave Mad (Muna Otaru) are adept at survival, but are pursued determinedly by two runaway solders (Sam Worthington and Kyle Soller).

The pace is ponderous and the tone foreboding throughout, with dark colours and ominous music ensuring a permanent sense of dread. Marling is particularly convincing in her empowered role while there are several moments of real horror, but proceedings could have done with being sped up from time to time.

 - The uproariously funny Wild Tales must surely be one of the highlights of the festival. Argentine director Damian Szifron constructs the film with six vignettes, all bound together by a mischievous, gleefully dark sense of humour.

The opening pre-credits sequence sets the tone – a mundane flight becomes stranger and stranger as the passengers realise the apparently freakish coincidence that connects them, before things go hilariously out of hand until a blackly comic climax.

Szifron takes on such modern concerns as bureaucracy, the super-rich and the fragility of marriage, all with an absurdist’s eye for the futility of people’s resolute efforts to amend what they see as unjust. The results are consistently hilarious, and outline the potential for this particular kind of episodically structured comedies. 


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