Festival Focus: London Film Festival 2017

Posted September 29th, 2017 by Mark Ryan

The BFI’s London Film Festival is shaping up spectacularly this year, with screenings across 15 cinemas in London’s West End showcasing a whopping 242 films. We’ve trawled through the catalogue and selected five films that are well worth watching on the big screen.

The Sadie Brothers’ latest flick Good Time has received lots of attention to date, and for good reason. The directing duo have managed to do a fresh take on a cliched premise; subverting the tropes of the heist-gone-wrong scenario through farce and biting political commentary. A brilliant score from experimental producer Oneohtrix Point Never drives this frenetic, vibrant epic, which is bizarre as it is unpredictable.

Similarly colourful and intriguing is Jenny Suen’s debut feature The White Girl, a ‘tropical-noir love story’ about a beautiful teenager who is supposedly allergic to sunlight, and the peculiar other inhabitants of the picturesque fishing island she inhabits. Co-directed by Wong Kar-wai’s legendary muse Christopher Doyle, the cinematography looks absolutely stunning, as does the setting; Hong Kong’s Pearl Village. Their last collaborative project, the short film anthology Hong Kong Trilogy, was an experiment in narrative; drawing inspiration from hundreds of real stories from the people of Hong Kong to weave a ‘quasi-fictional’ narrative of three generations of people, which some dubbed incoherent, others brilliant. That said, The White Girl certainly seems a lot more grounded from the trailer alone, but effectively quirky nonetheless.

Nothing short of quirky is Chen Zhou’s experimental venture, Life Imitation; a bold allegory on the modern social condition, and simultaneously a washed-out visual exploration of how identity and boundaries can be bent in both real and virtual worlds. Quoting from Little White Lies, “grounded in the real, but distinctly dreamlike, Life Imitation has a sense of profound, sedated eeriness that spreads across the scenes painting a sensitive picture of a specific psychological terrain, the detached mindset of a digital melancholic, and all the anxiety, depression and solipsism therein.” The film itself seems paradoxical; an uncanny, yet familiar descent into the virtual subconscious many of us reside in.

Lea Mysius’s Ava is another surreal exploration into identity; following a young girl with a degenerative disease that will eventually result in the loss of her eyesight as she explores her sexuality. Despite it’s dark undertones, Ava’s cinematography is rich, vibrant and striking, perhaps particularly so due to the exceptionally rare 35mm DP colour stock it was shot on. Nostalgic, melancholic and frantic, this fantastically rendered tale of adolescent love and tragedy is perhaps one of the most contrarian and exciting works in the whole programme.

Similarly intriguing is Everardo Gonzalez’s Devil’s Freedom, a documentary in which victims and perpetrators of the Mexican drug war tell us their horrifying stories, clad in surgical masks and posited in intimate, strange environments. The homogeneous appearance of both sides cleverly strengthens a sense of the hostile environment where violence has become so commonplace that everyone has been devastated by it, even those who actively perpetrate it. Though minimal in form and budget, this film is reported to hold immense power, in a way rarely seen.

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