Tuesday, 10 November 2009

The Quietus LFF Roundup

A feature article that I contributed to for The Quietus has been published here: http://thequietus.com/articles/03176-the-quietus-london-film-festival-2009-roundup. Due to length the editor decided not to include all the reviews the contributors sent in, so here are the ones I did that didn't make it in:


The story of a theology student whose extreme devotion to God gets her kicked out of her convent for being a 'parody of a nun', Hadewijch is a frustrating mess of a film. Struggling to reconcile her love of God with His ever-deafening silence, Céline is taken down a devastating path by her new Muslim friend Nassir, who persuades her that God 'manifests himself through admiration'. The film starts as an insightful investigation into faith in the modern world before moving into its strongest section, in which Céline and Nassir find common ground between their faiths – surely an important message given the current political climate. It's all the more frustrating, then, when the film descends into fundamentalist stereotypes and, more crucially, stops making sense; taken on both a literal and a figurative level the last third of the film is problematic, confusing, and unsatisfying.

Alexander the Last
Although Alexander the Last might be produced by Noah Baumbach and be director Joe Swanberg's first film starring professional actors, it's still every bit as fiercely independent as one would expect a film from Swanberg to be. Dealing with an actress' struggle to keep her feelings for her onstage lover in check and her offstage marriage intact, it's hard not to read the film as a personal reaction to the making of Swanberg's previous film, in which he starred as a man in an intense long-distance relationship. Once again working with improvisation to create his material, Swanberg has managed to make an intelligent film which deals honestly with the emotional struggles faced by those attempting to be truthful and committed in both art and life.

The Time That Remains
Starting with the 1948 surrender of Nazareth to Israeli troops, and continuing up to the present day, Elia Suleiman’s new film is a deft mix of the personal and political, perfectly blending his family history with the political history of Nazareth. Although a knowledge of Palestinian politics probably helps, the family drama, stunning photography and deadpan, absurdist, and often visual humour ensure that there’s still plenty to enjoy for more casual viewers.

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