17 October 2014

LFF 2014 - London Film Festival Cinehouse Highlights

Away from the red carpets, A-List actors and star directors there was still plenty going on at the 58th London Film Festival to attract the most discerning of cinema fan. While the glitzy premieres massed together much of the media attention, huddling under umbrellas to catch a glimpse, a photo and a few words from talent including the likes of Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Adam Sandler and Jennifer Lawrence there were hundreds of other films showing in 15 venues spread out across the nation’s capital.

The LFF’s timely positioning towards the end of the year often allows it to soak up some of the big hitters from earlier festivals such as Cannes, Venice or Toronto. This year these included Mr. Turner, Whiplash, Foxcatcher and Hungry Hearts among others. Outside of these though and away from the guaranteed hits, what were the films that, if viewers were brave enough to gamble on, really paid off?

Here are just 5 of films that may not have garnered many headlines but certainly proved a hit at the festival.
It isn’t everyday that a black and white Iranian vampire film comes along so it’s safe to say that this is, without question, the best one around. Ana Lily Amirpour’s debut feature is an incredibly stylish and wonderfully photographed film that calls to mind early Jim Jarmusch films while simultaneously being completely unique. Its blend of genres, considered soundtrack and impressive cinematography ensured this was a film completely of its own, and completely fascinating.

By the time it was shown at LFF, there was unfortunate news that this lo-fi gem of a Spanish film had not been chosen to represent the country as their entry into the Academy Awards. While you can see why voters opted against the play-like structure and modern conceit you cannot help but feel they missed a trick. Simply told it is a story of a couple trying to maintain their relationship over the enforced 10,000km distance of the title but its success is the tenderness, believability of the performances and the use of modern technology that ensures we are behind them 100% throughout.

It may be a slight cheat including Mommy on this list as its prodigiously young director, Xavier Dolan, already has four acclaimed films under his belt but his latest topped them all. It’s expertly told tale of a violently troubled teen and his testing relationship with his widowed Mum could, and deservedly should, be the one to push the 25 year-old further into the limelight.

Before Daft Punk became everyone’s favourite disco-revelling, Nile Rogers-featuring, family friendly band, they were electronic pioneers of Parisian house music. Mia Hansen-Love’s Eden traces the fictional account of aspiring DJ Paul from the burgeoning French dance scene of the 90’s to the global phenomenon it became, uncovering the robotic duo amongst others. This thumping musical love letter takes in clubs, drugs and relationship woes along the way to dizzying effect.

Shot in black-and-white with stylistic overtones and plenty of fourth wall breaking, this Mexican film certainly has an air of French New Wave about it. The backdrop of student protest only furthers its Gallic likeness but Alonso Ruizpalacios’ feature is much more than an imitated knock-off looking for credit by association. When teenage Tomas gets sent to the City to live with his student brother and roommate the three inadvertedly end up on the road in search of a forgotten rock legend and take in the sights and bright lights along the way.

Matthew Walsh

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