Total films seen so far this year: 361
Films seen in the last three weeks: Party Girl, My Brother The Devil, Untouchable, The Campaign, Hungarian Rhapsody: Queen Live In Hungary '86, Arbitrage, Clandestine Childhood, Amour, Blancanieves, Argo, No, Post Tenebras Lux, After May (Apres Mai), The Dead Man and Being Happy, In The House (Dans La Maison), Lines of Wellington, The Artist and the Model, Here and There, Foxfire, The Sessions, After Lucia, Thomas The Imposter, Shell, The Dead and the Living, Caesar Must Die, Bypass, The Attack, Rhino Season, 7 Boxes, The Impossible, Summer Outside, Le Capital, La Sirga, Atraco!, The Hypnotist, Io e Te, Therese, Quartet, The Bay, Judex, Ernest and Celestine, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, The Hunt, The Knot, Some Guy Who Kills People, Everything or Nothing: The Untold Story of 007, Robot and Frank, Beware of Mr Baker, Grassroots, The Shining, Paranormal Activity 4, Spike Island
FILM OF THE WEEK: LIBERAL ARTS
Ten Highlights of the 2012 San Sebastian Film Festival – Part One
As regular readers (both of you, etc) may remember, last year I went to the San Sebastian Film Festival for the first time and enjoyed it so much that I vowed to go back every year until death. Well, so far, so good, as I went this year as well. My tweets from the festival (offering, essentially, a blow-by-blow account of the whole thing) are archived here and all my photographs are here, but here are five highlights from this year's San Sebastian Film Festival, with five more to come next week. Viva Donostia!
1. The films. I managed an average of about four films a day and clocked up a whopping 35 films in nine days, all of which are listed above. The full top ten will appear next week with the second half of this post, but the best film I saw, hands down, was Ben Affleck's Argo, which is, apparently, already the front-runner for Best Picture at the Oscars. I wouldn't bet against it – it's absolutely fantastic. Affleck basically gets everything right, from pacing, to tone, to casting, to script, to performance. Don't miss it when it plays at the LFF next week.
2. Last year, whenever I told anyone I was going to San Sebastian, the first thing they said was “Oh my God, the food is amazing!” They were not wrong. This year, I was one of those people. But also, this year, I managed to actually check out a few recommendations from my foodie cousin, notably the cheesecake at La Vina and the duck at Borda Berri. Both were heavenly. Didn't get to check out the lobster on toast at Zeruko, but it's good to leave something for next year. We also got very lucky one night when a Spanish friend of a friend took us out to all the best pintxo places and I basically had the second best steak of my life.
3. The Franjus. One of the highlights of every San Sebastian Film Festival is their incredible, exhaustive retrospectives. Last year it was Jacques Demy, this year it was George Franju and I managed to see three wonderful Franjus while I was there: Thomas The Imposter, Therese (or Therese Desqueyroux) and Judex. Of these, Judex was by far the highlight and, actually, the highlight of the entire festival.
Conceived as a homage to the work of silent film pioneer Louis Feuillade, the film has everything: sexy cat burglars (the original Judex was surely an influence on the creation of both Batman and Catwoman), sexy acrobats, masked do-gooders, capes, detectives in deerstalkers, secret passages, people wearing GIANT BIRD HEADS and choice lines of dialogue such as: “Remember my evil uncle, the lion-tamer? The lions ate him! We are free to be together!" Wonderful.
4. Meeting random actresses. Okay, so perhaps you are quite likely to meet random actresses at other film festivals too, but the coincidence factor was extremely high in this case. I had literally just seen coming-of-age drama Summer Outside and was crossing the gorgeous bridge on my way to the Kursaal when I bumped into Maria Victoria Dragus, the star of the film I had just seen. We later met up again in the Keler Tent (see next week's blog) and had a lengthy chat and it turned out she was also in Michael Haneke's White Ribbon. We are now Twitter friends.
5. Crazy press conferences. Press conferences in the UK are usually very well behaved and any messing about is quickly dealt with. Press conferences in Spain are...well, they're something else. For a start, almost everyone asking a question starts off by giving a long-winded 'Welcome to Donostia, it's a pleasure to have you here, I really enjoyed your film because...'-style opening, after which they talk about their own lives for a couple of minutes and then, ONLY then, do they finally ask their question and it's usually something ridiculously inane. To give an example, one lady talked for a good five minutes about her life and experiences and then asked Oliver Stone, “How was your flight?” Crazy. And the stars are just as bad – Fabrice Luchini embarked on a monologue in answer to one question (possibly to stall for time as to avoid further inane questions) and ended up quoting Dostoyevsky, complaining about his hotel room, yelling for someone to bring him a Diet Coke and eventually shouting about ducks. Madness. Still, the press conferences did mean that I got to be this close to Monica Bellucci, so I'm not complaining. (Further annoying examples – at least THREE Spanish journalists asked Monica Bellucci for her phone number during their questions. You'd never get away with that in London. And rightly so).
I didn't really know what Argo was until I saw the trailer as part of the LFF preview reel at the press launch. After seeing the trailer, I was desperate to see the film, so I was delighted when it turned out that Argo was going to be at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Having now seen (and loved – see above) the film, it has to be said that this is a more or less perfect trailer, in that it gets across the plot, style and tone of the film without giving away any of the big moments, while still establishing the stakes and tension.
The film is based on a recently declassified true story and is set during the Iran hostage crisis, with six American embassy workers escaping and hiding out at the Canadian ambassador's house. A heavily bearded Ben Affleck (giving, for my money, his best screen performance to date) plays a secret service agent who specialises in extractions. Inspired by his son watching one of the Planet of the Apes movies on TV, he gets the idea to go into Iran as the fake film producer of a Star Wars-like fantasy movie and leave with the six refugees posing as the rest of his film crew. It's such a hare-brained idea that if you were to actually pitch it as a movie, it would be rejected as being too far-fetched, but no, it actually happened.
Affleck has cast the film to perfection and everyone gets a chance to shine – the trailer gives little glimpses of John Goodman and Alan Arkin as the Hollywood men (“If I'm doing a fake movie, it's going to be a fake hit”), while Bryan Cranston plays Affleck's line manager (or the secret service equivalent thereof) at the CIA (“This is the best bad idea we have, sir. By far.”) and Scoot McNairy, Clea DuVall and Tate Donovan all play hostages. The title, incidentally, refers to the name of the fantasy film they are supposed to be shooting. I'll hold off on saying anything else as I don't want this to turn into a full review, but it's a fantastic film and is a shoo-in for my Top Ten of 2012.
Top 10 Films On Release This Week (as recommended by me):
Given that there was no blog for the last two weeks, it's no surprise that it's all change in the list this week, with no less than six new entries. These include: Leos Carax's delightfully bonkers Holy Motors (you'll either love it or you'll hate it – I loved it), Josh Radnor's enjoyable returning-to-campus comedy Liberal Arts (which I confess I am basically the target audience for), coming-of-age teen drama The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Andrew Dominik's crime thriller Killing Them Softly, French Oscar hopeful Untouchable and Rian Johnson's time-travel thriller (except it isn't, at least not in the way you're expecting) Looper.
I can't honestly say I'm as crazy about Looper as others are (though I desperately wanted to be), but I've warmed to it since accepting it as the film it is rather than the film I wanted it to be and intelligent, offbeat films like this come along so infrequently that it deserves to be celebrated.
Interview-wise this week, we have a press conference interview with Emma Watson for The Perks of Being a Wallflower; a semi-exclusive interview with Liam Neeson for Taken 2 (which you shouldn't see, but the interview is good); a semi-exclusive interview with Taken 2 director Olivier Megaton; and an exclusive, hilarious interview with Twenty8K co-star Michael Socha, in which he confesses to getting his film titles tattooed on his arse.
Elsewhere you can still read our exclusive interviews with Twenty8K star Jonas Armstrong; an exclusive interview with Twenty8K co-director Neil Thompson; our semi-exclusive interview with Dredd star Karl Urban; a semi-exclusive interview with Dredd writer Alex Garland; an exclusive interview with Lawless director John Hillcoat; a press conference interview with Anna Karenina director Joe Wright and stars Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Matthew Macfadyen; our exclusive interview with Kris Marshall and Kevin Bishop, stars of A Few Best Men; an exclusive interview with Cockneys vs Zombies stars Alan Ford and Ashley Thomas; an exclusive interview with Cockneys vs Zombies director Matthias Hoene and writer James Moran; our exclusive interview with The Imposter director Bart Layton, and our exclusive interview with the legend that is Charlie Parker, P.I. (the private detective who plays a key part in The Imposter).
1. Holy Motors
2. The Imposter
3. Anna Karenina
4. Liberal Arts
5. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
6. Killing Them Softly
DVD/Blu-Ray of the Week: Moonrise Kingdom (out now, online RRPs
£10.99 DVD, £13.99 Blu-Ray)
This week's DVD of the Week is Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom, which, for my money, is one of the best films of the year. Co-written by Anderson and Roman Coppola, the film is set on an island in 1960s New England and stars Jared Gilman as Sam, a pre-teen orphan who falls in love with local girl Suzy (Kara Hayward) and quits his Scout troop in order to run away with her. When their disappearance is discovered, Suzy's lawyer parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) send out a search party lead by local cop Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), while Scout leader Ward (Ed Norton) puts his troop's scouting skills to the test and sends them off in hot pursuit.
Meanwhile, Sam and Suzy successfully fend off the heavily armed Scout troop and fall deeper in love as they continue their island-wide adventure, but things get more serious when it turns out that Sam's foster parents don't want him back and Social Services (Tilda Swinton) are called in. And as if that wasn't bad enough, there's also the small matter of an incoming storm.
Newcomers Gilman and Hayward are terrific as Sam and Suzy and their burgeoning relationship is both touching and sweet, sharply conveying the intensity of first love; their first kiss on the beach is just one of several highlights. Similarly, both Ed Norton and Bruce Willis make perfect additions to Anderson's de facto rep company, with both men displaying impressive aptitude for Anderson's peculiar brand of deadpan, melancholy-tinged comedy but also bringing unexpected warmth, particularly in Norton's scenes with Gilman.
The witty script is packed with delicious dialogue and quirky touches (such as McDormand's use of a loud-hailer) and there are several enjoyable movie references (specifically to French New Wave films, but there are elements of Richard Ayoade's admittedly Anderson-inspired Submarine, too), as well as some gorgeous production design work, heightened by Anderson's deliberately idiosyncratic cinematography in collaboration with Robert D. Yeoman.
There's also a typically brilliant soundtrack, coupled with a great score from Alexandre Desplat (and Desplat fans should definitely stick around during the final credits). In short, Wes Anderson's seventh feature is a delight from start to finish, thanks to a wonderful script, a typically fabulous soundtrack, achingly stylish direction, gorgeous production design work and terrific performances from a superb cast.
Extras on the Blu-Ray include: a three-minute behind-the-scenes featurette (A Look Inside Moonrise Kingdom), four short specially filmed character introductions presented by an in-character Bob Balaban (Welcome to the Island of New Penzance), a specially filmed three minute Set Tour with Bill Murray (“Oh, hello. I'm Bill Murray...” etc) featurette. No commentary or deleted scenes though, which is a shame. Note, too, that the DVD only has the Set Tour With Bill Murray featurette.