To those of you wondering why AD is still posting London Film Festival diaries, I have two points to make. One is that, yes, the awards were doled out on Saturday, and yes, the festival ended on Sunday. But then I’m writing these diaries a day behind, and both Sunday and Monday were pretty packed for me, so this is being penned on Tuesday, and probably only being published on Wednesday, and maybe then you’re only reading it on Thursday, see? The other point is that ofc AD would still be posting LFF diaries, cos I’m fucking writing them. I could get to some fictional Day #274 and they’d still be chomping at the bit.
The pace has rather radically slowed here at LFF, with the festival winding down and my personal schedule now at its thinnest. But packing up, checking out and travelling across London, and then over the Irish Sea, is enough on my plate for one day, so there’ll be only one film on the agenda. Thomas and I revisit Vue West End, normally a frequent venue on my trips to the festival, although this only my second time here this year, for actor-turned-filmmaker Edgardo Castro’s directorial debut, La Noche. The crowd too was at its thinnest, though, like at other gay-themed films at the fest, such as Taekwondo and The Ornithologist, it was an almost exclusively male audience.
If what that audience was after was a film-full of boners and blowjobs, La Noche certainly must have satisfied them. Alas, I was after a little more, since I’m in possession of a handsome awareness of free internet pornography, and since I’ve seen my fair share of mundane, depressing, ‘cinema vérité’ expressions of daily life in the sad underbelly of society. I’ll respectfully infer that Castro’s story is one that deserves to be told, and I appreciate the respect that he invests in it, presenting it with honesty and sensitivity, and admirably engaging in the majority of the film’s non-simulated sex scenes himself (it is this reviewer’s individual opinion that subjecting yourself to a gob-load of fresh urine and downing one hard cock after another isn’t exactly sacrificing oneself in the pursuit of art, but then that’s just me). But La Noche is only a middling success as such. It’s tender, affecting, and made with a real feel for the soulless monotony of life on the oppressed outskirts of society, but that monotony sets too deeply into the film, and dulls its impact.
Castro attended a Q&A with what few audience members chose to remain after the film. He spoke of his desire to depict the reality of life for those in inner city Buenos Aires whose existences are made difficult purely based on their identity. With scant funding for the film, he was forced to ask of his performers that they participate for very low fees, or none at all; many were non-professional actors, and some were working girls in similar roles. He explained that, despite his trepidation about stripping off for the camera and taking part in the film’s many sex scenes, he chose to do so before his fellow actors, that they might trust in both him and his artistic vision, and feel more comfortable themselves about what was required of them. Yet otherwise, as I have generally found with films by which I wasn’t terribly enamoured, this Q&A failed to enlighten me as to the worth of La Noche, nor change my feelings about it.
I guess you’ve gotten what you came for, then. That’s 23 films seen and reviewed. Thomas and I went for a few daytime drinks with friends, Kate and Harry, before they headed off for home and we did the same, albeit by a much longer route. What with the loathsome mad dash I’d undergone two years ago in getting to the gate on time, we’d left a generous space between our final film and our train to the airport, and then onto the departure gate. There was time to pick up our bags and grab some sushi in between. Once home in Belfast, there was time for me to stop by the local takeaway for a chicken shawarma and salad with chips and garlic sauce, and then to sleep for the next week. There’s your rundown of my day. Fascinating, no?
The films I saw at LFF 2016 were wildly varying in style, tone, length, effect, country of origin, genre, subject matter, and quality. There were yet more masterpieces than in previous years; on balance, this was probably the most fulfilling selection in my four years here so far. There were disappointments too, which were respectfully trimmed down for publication on AD (no need to go in too hard, you know?), and which were mostly sourced from mainstream English-language projects and those low-budget international indies that aspired toward something similar. Word to the unwise: you’re unwise. Stop making unwise decisions, and stop making bad movies. But the triumphs were terrific: the sublime visuals of Terrence Malick’s Voyage of Time: Life’s Journey, the gleeful idiosyncrasy of Albert Serra’s The Death of Louis XIV, the deep emotion of Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, the brilliant provocation of Paul Verhoeven’s Elle, the unabashed peculiarity of João Pedro Rodrigues’ The Ornithologist, the incredible performances of Benedict Andrews’ Una, the sensational restraint of Cristian Mungiu’s Graduation, the astonishing power of Lav Diaz’s The Woman Who Left, the remarkable innovation of Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann, the wondrous sensitivity of Koreeda Hirokazu’s After the Storm, the fantastic force of Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius, the beautiful empathy of Marco Berger and Martín Farina’s Taekwondo, the excoriating thrill of Julia Ducournau’s Raw, the jaw-dropping intelligence of Bertrand Tavernier’s Journey Through French Cinema, the charming comedy of Eugène Green’s The Son of Joseph, the admirable independence of Rahmatou Keïta’s The Wedding Ring, and the pure excellence of Claude Barras’ My Life as a Courgette, certainly my film of the festival, likely my film of the year, and easily one of the best films of the decade.
See you at my blog, screenonscreen.blogspot.co.uk, on my Twitter @screenonscreen, and at LFF next year!