LFF diary: Dylan, Redford, Haynes and war

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The latest news and gossip from this year's London Film Festival

A US indie kid grows up – sort of…

Harmony Korine took to the stage at BFI Southbank on Sunday and tried to explain away his long absence since ‘Julien Donkey-Boy’ in 1999: ‘I was a lifeguard for a few months… but then someone died.’ The 34-year-old director of ‘Mister Lonely’ also batted away questions about the reputed and unfinished ‘Fight Harm’ project, for which he invited members of the public to beat him up. ‘I was doing a lot of narcotics that enhanced my sense of comedy.’ He also had some good advice for budding filmmakers: ‘Get involved in some petty crimes, maybe rob a bank or two, go to jail. Everything you can learn about life, you can learn as a criminal.’ The crowd lapped it up. So, how does Korine pass his time now that he’s cleaned up his act and put a life of debauchery behind him? ‘I got married, I got a lovely wife, I have a bunch of friends in Nashville, I listen to a lot of country music, I play basketball, I tried church but that didn’t work out, I tried temple but that didn’t work out, I swim every Wednesday, I read books.’ The festival showed a clip from ‘Kids’, the film written by Korine as a 19-year-old in 1995, in which a teenager chats away about a girl he’s slept with and invites his fascinated friend to sniff his fingers with the line, ‘Butterscotch!’ Korine’s response as the lights went up? ‘It’s like poetry. It never gets old.’

Lambs slaughtered, embarrassment avoided

Robert Redford’s ‘Lions for Lambs’ played as the Times Gala film last week and went down like a liberal at a gun fair. But full marks to Times film critic James Christopher for giving the film a damning two-star review in the same edition of the paper that LFF staff were handing out at the door of the post-film party. Luckily for the Times and the festival, both Redford and the film’s star, Tom Cruise were already on a private jet to Rome.

Bob Dylan in Leicester Square

Just like that fateful night at the Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1966 (‘Judas!’), the Centrepiece Gala screening of Todd Haynes’ ‘I’m Not There’ on Saturday evening was followed by a few boos amid the cheers. While the director’s audacious, scrapbook approach to biography irritated as many as it amazed, it’s certainly the conceptually heavyweight work that many Dylan fans will have been waiting for and the soundtrack, as you’d expect, is a toe-tapping treat. After the screening, Haynes took to the stage for a Q&A and was joined by arch method man, Christian Bale, whose claims that his preparation for the role were minimal and that he was never really a fan of Dylan’s music provoked a few titters.

A surprise for the Surprise Film

Yes, yes, we know. We got it wrong. But then, so did pretty much everyone. Not ‘There Will Be Blood’. Not ‘The Kite Runner’. Not, er, ‘The Golden Compass’. But happily, this year’s Surprise Film came out of the left-field and straight out of the top drawer: the Coen brothers’ brutal, splendid ‘No Country For Old Men’. A return to form and certain to be one of the best films of 2008, the Coens’ fascinating spin on the neo-Western features stunning performances (Javier Bardem’s villain especially) and the sort of sophisticated blood-black humour you’d expect. Audience members who’d managed to grab a ticket on Sunday night were suitably wowed. Missed out? Then anticipate January 18…

Finally, good news from Iraq

The festival saw the first UK screening of Nick Broomfield’s ‘Battle for Haditha’, a drama that reconstructs events in Iraq in November 2005, when 24 Iraqi civilians died following a roadside bomb that killed one US marine. The film is balanced, compassionate and invites meditation on the experiences of all involved – but ultimately accuses the marines of needless slaughter. Bravo to Broomfield for making the first great film about the war in Iraq.

Author: Time Out


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