Wednesday, October 22, 2008

London Film Festival: Genova, The Possibility of an Island, and Let's Talk About the Rain

The festival experience is starting out beautifully, with oodles on offer and efficient organization and careful projection and big, appreciative crowds. I've never seen so many people in a theater for a James Gray or a Michael Winterbottom film. There were more paying customers at a weekday afternoon screening of The Possibility of an Island, Michel Houellebecq's fantastical, philosophical, theoretical smorgasbord of hogwash, than there were at my evening showing of Tropic Thunder last month in Chicago. I wish the actual movies had been better so far: in addition to Island, which I lay into here, I had a disappointing experience with what I hoped was a sure thing, Michael Winterbottom's grieving-family drama Genova. Winterbottom and regular producer even popped up like gophers after the screening to answer the questions of an almost all-student audience, which would have been a transporting experience for a fan like me if Genova had anything to say or if Winterbottom even now seemed sincerely invested in what he'd created.

Ah, well. The beginnings of festivals are the easiest parts, because the general excitement level is still so high that you can stomach your share of mediocrities. And truth be told, lesser works by Gray or Winterbottom are still illuminating about the medium and dotted with memorable grace notes. And blazing, idioglossic trash like The Possibility of an Island is impossible to conceive under almost any other circumstances, unless Ursula K. Le Guin and Slavoj Žižek dropped a little acid and made a filmed homage to an Iron Maiden album cover. Who would want to miss that?

P.S. Another esteemed director, another subpar product. Is it turning into a curse? Agnès Jaoui puts a foot wrong, for me, by putting her feet so safely and modestly right for a lot of other people. This screening of Let's Talk About the Rain at least drummed up some laughter and warm applause of a kind I hadn't heard in the last 36 hours, but it's the definition of a movie that you wouldn't want to write home about. Next up at bat: Oliver Stone.

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Blogger Glenn said...

That's disappointing to hear about Let's Talk About the Rain. I absolutely adored Comme une image (like, a lot!) and am a quiet fan of The Taste of Others.

Winterbottom, however, I've never quite gotten a grasp of. I still don't quite know how he made Tristram Shandy such a chore to sit through.

10:41 PM, October 24, 2008  

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