With the dark months of Autumn approaching, it is time not to grieve the summer blockbusters of Batman and his cloaked friends but to look forward to some of this years most stimulating and provocative films. The coming months offer a rare gap between a Hollywood saturated summer and Christmas holiday period. So we welcome this opening by discussing the prominence of the best new films from around the world.
The Documentary and Biography genre is particularly interesting this season with three important films that should not be missed. The first to be released is W., directed by Oliver Stone, it chronicles the life and presidency of George W. Bush. Stone’s preoccupation with American politics and culture is evident throughout his films. JFK in 1991 and Nixon four years later, as well as Wall Street in 1987 all depict strong men chasing the American dream, something we can undoubtedly expect from W. Controversy has been spreading regarding the films pertinent US release set just before the forthcoming election, Stone insists that W. is a ‘fair, true portrait’ of the current America president, but will the public agree?
Waltz with Bashir, directed by Ari Folman, is the second in our list of highly anticipated documentary films. Nominated for the Golden Palm at this years Cannes Film festival and praised for its groundbreaking animation documenting the horrors of the 1982 Lebanon war. Folman narrates the film from his own personal experiences with war which is said to create a deeply personal and political anti-war message.
The third film, Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, directed by Alex Gibney, is as the title suggests, a biography of the infamous journalist, author and icon of American counterculture Hunter S. Thompson. Hunter’s most famous novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, was adapted by Terry Gilliam in 1998 starring Johnny Depp who narrates for Gibney’s Gonzo. Along with insights from Tom Wolfe and Jimmy Carter, the film looks to create a deeply moving and interesting portrait of a lost American hero.
The upcoming collection of films with humour are varied and refreshingly absent of Adam Sandler. The anticipated adaptation of Toby Young’s How to Lose Friends & Alienate People, directed by Robert B. Weide, is released in October and showing at the Arts Centre. The Story follows a British writer, Simon Pegg, struggling to fit in at a high-profile magazine in New York. With echoes of Ugly Betty, it will be interesting to see if this grabs the attention of the American public as well as the British. Weide’s work with writer/ comedian Larry David and involvement in Curb Your Enthusiasm, should give Young’s novel, which is a parody of Dale Carnegie’s, How to Win Friends and Influence People, the satirical tone it deserves.
The Brother Blooms, directed by Rian Johnson, is the highly anticipated follow-up to his award-winning feature debut, Brick (2005). Moving from the hybrid genre of teenage-noir that was Brick, Johnson takes on the con man movie in The Brother Blooms with an all star cast. Adrian Brody and Mark Ruffalo play the two brothers who lead a life of deceit and witty crime until the former decides to retire. Nominated for the International Federation of Film Critics award, this is one comedy that should exceed in script, performance and charm.
Fans of film should visit the arts centre on the 11 Oct for an intimate discussion from Adrian Wootton, Chief Executive of Film London, on the career of Frank Sinatra. Followed by a screening of new digital print of Some Came Running (1958), Vincente Minelli’s tale of the soldier coming home to the Midwest. Minelli’s vibrant aesthetics along with Sinatra, Dean Martin and Shirley Maclaine’s acting abillity’s should warm up any autumn day.
Lake Tahoe, directed by Fernando Eimbcke, details the story of a young lost boy who embarks upon a journey to come to terms with the recent loss of his father. With numerous nominations from the Berlin film festival and support from the British film festival, this intimate and understated portrait of human relationships and friendship should not be overlooked.
The Wave, directed by Dennis Gansel, and showing in the Arts centre from Friday is an unusual cautionary tale of youth and fascism. When a teacher in a German secondary school devises an experiment to help his students understand what life is like under a dictatorship, events spin out of control when the movement he creates take on a life of their own.
Summer Hours was highly anticipated due to the success of Olivier Assayas former Paris, je t’aime (2006). Juliette Binoche stars alongside Charles Berling and Jérémie Renier in a subtle French film of bourgeois family life.
Ikiru, directed by the acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, is an established masterpiece, made in 1952, between Rashomon (1950) and Seven Samurai (1956). Ikiru, details the lonely life of Kanji Watanabe, a long time bureaucrat who, along with the rest of the office, spends his entire working life doing nothing. Ikiru, meaning ‘To Live’ is an insightful look into a repressive 1950s Japanese society. Kurosawa explores the human suffering that evolves from a life of emptiness and depicts mans struggle ‘to live’. An digitally improved print of Ikiru is showing at the arts centre in October.
Slumdog Millionaire is Danny Boyles latest and most versatile of films so far. Based on Vikas Swarup’s best selling novel, Q&A, and adapted for the screen by Full Monty scriptwriter Simon Beaufoy, Slumdog is a modern day love story. The Indian version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire acts as an interesting catalytic backdrop for a young peasant boy who encounters the possibility of wealth, fame and judgement. With numerous films placing pity and sorrow on people living in poverty, Boyle comments that he ‘tried to tell it from their perspective…because they’re happy like that. It’s there home!’ The upbeat perspective of what Boyle calls ‘very proud, and very industrious people’ gives a refreshing viewpoint on squalor, not as an unfortunate occurrence, but a cheerful embracement of what one can achieve rather than cannot.
The talents of George Clooney, Frances McDormand, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton and Brad Pitt combine in Burn after Reading, the latest film from the Coen Brothers. Malkovich plays Osbourne Cox, a dismissed CIA agent who’s disgruntled wife Katie (Swinton) replicates files from his computer on the request of her divorce lawyer. On these files are secret government documents which then fall into the hands of gym employee Chad Feldheimer (Pitt) and his colleague Linda Litzke (McDormand) who proceed to blackmail Cox. After the blackmailing fails Chad and Linda decide to take the files to the Russian embassy with the promise of bringing them further information – which they do not have – at a later date. This black comedy doesn’t stray far from the Coen Brothers’ style which brought them Oscar winning success earlier this year, though Burn after Reading is more akin to The Big Lebowski than No Country for Old Men. But the film promises to be another trophy to their already bulging cabinet.
Woody Allen divided critics but mostly attained praise for his 2005 film Match Point. Cassandra’s dream which was released earlier this year was perhaps one of the years major failures. The dialogue seemed trite and rehashed and neither Colin Farrell nor Ewan Magregor were in the slightest bit convincing as brothers in peril. Allen has moved away from the dark London settings of these two previous films and Vicky Christina Barcelona is instead shot in the luminous bloom of the coastal Catalonian city. Two friends, played by Rebecca Hall and Allen’s current muse Scarlet Johansson go on holiday to the titular city where they both become enamoured with a resident artisan, Juan Antonio, played by the husky Javier Bardem. As well as competing with each other for the Juan’s attention, they must compete with his ex-wife Maria Elena (Penelope Cruz). The film has already received a warmer, complementary reception and is released later this year.
Bobby Sands, a member of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, led a hunger strike in 1981 whilst a prisoner in the HM Prison Maze as a protest to allow himself others to gain status as political prisoners. His story is told in Steve McQueen’s controversial film Hunger which is released at the end of October. This film won the Camera d’Or at this years Cannes despite a mixed audience response that included both walkouts and standing ovations. The film paints a dark picture of Thatcherite Britain and life inside the prison for Sands, mainly due to Sean Bobbitt’s dark cinematography and McQueen’s long, lingering takes. Hunger invited further controversy surrounding Michael Fassbender’s physical preparation for the character of Bobby Sands, who’s depleting weight meant he had to go on a careful but debilitating diet.
Perhaps the most anticipated release this Autumn is the latest Bond film Quantum of Solace. Released October 31st nationwide, Daniel Craig returns as Bond after predominantly popular reviews for his previous outing Casino Royale and the action picks up where the latter ended. Bond, after having been betrayed by his lover Vespa, goes in search of the crime organisation behind her blackmail, the titular Quantum, influenced by the villain Dominic Greene (Mathieu Amalric.) Marc Forster is at the directorial helm of the film, whose past works include the dark and disturbing Monster’s Ball and Stay but also the tamer, family films Stranger than Fiction and Finding Neverland. It will be interesting to see Forster work on an action genre but the more subtle acting style of Daniel Craig and what promises to be a more personal and psychologically driven script should allow him to build on the success of Casino Royale.