Wednesday, 26 March 2014

FLARE 3: Apples and oranges

On these mid-week days during the 28th BFI Flare film festival, I take a bit of a break from the festivities, watching films without indulging in the parties! I have to build my strength for the weekend that's coming, right? Here are some more programme highlights...

dir-scr Kyle Patrick Alvarez; with Jonathan Groff, Denis O'Hare 13/US ***
Based on a David Sedaris essay, this isn't so much a coming-of-age story as an odyssey in which a young man takes himself apart and tries to reassemble himself into something new. It's warm and full of darkly suggestive shadows, but filmmaker Alvarez never gives us the puzzle pieces that would make it resonate... FULL REVIEW >

Age of Consent 
dir-scr Charles Lum, Todd Verow; with Kurt Striegler, Guy Patrick Irwin 14/UK ****
This hilariously deadpan doc opens the door on something most people would describe as obscene, exploring London's original fetish club The Hoist. But the filmmakers expand beyond the bar itself to grapple with legal issues in the UK and the impact of HIV and Aids on the gay subculture. And of course the bigger issue of a personal pursuit of happiness. Since 1996, The Hoist has offered Londoners a German-style industrial bar, and the filmmakers take us on a tour of the empty venue (with rather explicit cutaways showing us what goes on here). Each person interviewed talks in a matter-of-fact way about their job, their personal experiences and how society has slowly shifted around the venue, perhaps hinting that its days are numbered. The ultimate message is that we should enjoy our liberty while we have it. Which is a more provocative and far more important statement than we expect from a witty 88-minute documentary about a leather bar.

Big Words 
dir-scr Neil Drumming; with Dorian Missick, Gbenga Akinnagbe 13/US ***.
This sensitive, straight-talking drama is packed with strong comments on issues that are both deeply personal and hugely important in society. Without coming to any glib conclusions, filmmaker Drumming and his adept cast tackle the kinds of things most men are terrified to talk about. So while it's an engaging story, it's also pretty strong stuff. Set on election day in November 2008, the film follows three men who have lost touch with each other for 15 years. Formerly in a rap group together, they've never properly dealt with their feelings about what broke them apart. And it takes some outsiders to help them both confront each other and move on. Performances are raw and natural, with energetic spikiness (Yaya Alafia is particularly engaging as a brainy stripper who relentlessly challenges Missick's down-at-heel lyricist). All of this is perhaps a bit too on-the-nose, but the approach constantly challenges our preconceptions.

dir Marcel Gisler; with Sibylle Brunner, Fabian Kruger 13/Swi ****
An intriguing exploration of past regrets and bad decisions in relationships, this Swiss drama drags on as it tells its story, but remains introspective and involving. And it has a lot to say about facing up to the truth and allowing yourself to move on with life. Rosie (Brunner) is a feisty woman who, after having a minor stroke, is suddenly back in the life of her busy children. Lorenz (Kruger) is a single gay novelist struggling to write something as brilliant as his debut, while Sophie (Judith Hoffmann) has a difficult husband and teen son to deal with. Most of Rosie's care falls to the 39-year-old Lorenz, who travels regularly to rural Switzerland from his home in Berlin. It takes quite a long time for each of these characters to realise what they really need to do to make their lives work, and the plot kind of meanders in circles before it finds focus in the final scenes. But it's thoughtful and introspective, with some surprisingly tough, darkly moving scenes along the way.

Blue Is the Warmest Colour
dir Abdellatif Kechiche; with Adele Exarchopoulos, Lea Seydoux 13/Fr ****.
Food, art and sex are the three elements of life in this evocative French drama, which takes a generous three hours to tell its story. This is an almost unnervingly honest film that holds us in rapt attention, shaking us even if we have nothing in common with the characters. Because it's about something much deeper than what's on screen... FULL REVIEW >

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