The LFF Blog: Day Two

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Take a quick peek at the A-Z list on our LFF microsite, and you‘ll notice that we at the Time Out film section have managed to watch and review about 80 per cent of this year‘s programme. A lesser magazine might well have decided to hit the showers at this point, and enjoy the remainder of the festival, but we want to give you the 4-1-1 on every single film, even if it means going to (brace)… a public screening! So we did

Now, if all this sounds a little smug and self-congratulatory, don’t take it too seriously, as it’s actually the perfect introduction for a report on the new film by Japanese icon 'Beat' Takeshi Kitano. Popping along to a satisfyingly packed Odeon West End 1 to catch the first UK screening of 'Glory to the Filmmaker' (a decision that, we couldn’t help but notice, the venerable Jim Broadbent had also made), the film opens on a scene of a life-size fibreglass effigy of Kitano being given a CAT scan and then keyhole surgery. Yes, for those of you who were able to catch the as-yet-unreleased 'Takeshis’' at last year’s festival, the director is back in introspective self-examination mode, bringing the second (and, fingers crossed, final) phase of his technicolour sojourn into auto-destruct territory to London.

Kitano, it seems, is a sad, sad man at the moment. He saunters glumly across a large bridge with doppelgänger dummy under arm as a narrator sifts though a fictional (or is it?) list of the director’s many abandoned genre projects, starting with a sombre, Ozu-inspired relationship drama, then to an old-fashioned tearjerker, straight on to a chop-socky Zatoichi refit, then to a ’50s period yarn about boyhood reminisces, and on to gaudy J-horror quickie, to name but a few. But, before the stories are allowed to hit their stride, the narrator announces that Kitano buckles under the genre constraints and decides to cut his losses.

The first half of the film takes up this portmanteau-like structure, and it’s an absolute deadpan hoot. The film concludes with the longer and more out-there screwball/sci-fi spectacle, ‘The Promised Day’ which – for better or for worse – evokes memories of the director’s ill-advised and little-seen foray into broad sex comedy, ‘Getting Any?’ It also follows an almost identical narrative route to the earlier 'Takeshis’', as coherence is substituted in its entirety with a stream-of-consciousness barrage of half-fleshed-out skits which are often more infuriating that rewarding.

Still, it’s a knowingly indulgent yet visually arresting piece of work which is somewhat hindered by the fact that its content, though openly comedic from the outset, too often provokes feelings of unwanted nervousness: Are we watching a director having the time of his life, making the art that he’s always wanted to make? Or have we been roped in to some cryptic cinematic suicide bid? Or, perhaps, is the film an admission of failure, presenting a director who just can’t think in straight (well, semi-straight) narrative terms any more? The telling final shot reveals a cartoon movie camera etched on the director’s brain as it crumbles to pieces.

It’s almost fitting that we weren’t able to see 'Glory to the Filmmaker' in time to give it a proper, formal review, as the medium of the blog – with its personalised nature and potential for narrative digressions – seems perfectly suited to an appraisal of the film. For those still looking to see it (and it is worth it), it’s playing tomorrow (Saturday) night at BFI Southbank. There are plenty of other treats to look forward to over the weekend: Saturday offers up screenings of Haneke’s 'Funny Games' and Ang Lee’s 'Lust, Caution' and on Sunday there’s the excellent Egyptian comedy 'The Band’s Visit' as well as the TO gala screening of 'The Diving Bell and the Butterfly '.

Another film to look out for in the later days of the festival is Geoffrey Smith’s British brain-surgery doc, ‘The English Surgeon’ (née 'Russian Roulette with Two Revolvers'), about which I recently received this comment, in an email from TO stalwart Trevor Johnston: 'Definitely one of my better decisions to go and see this yesterday. Applause at the press show from an audience reduced to emotional jelly (myself included).' An assurance of quality if there ever was one.

Author: David Jenkins



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