BFI Flare is just around the corner; the festival, now in its 32nd year, opens with Tali Shalom Ezer’s ‘My Days of Mercy’ on the 21st March. This year’s programme is bursting with wonderful queer content, ranging from cheesy teen romcoms, to sobering documentaries, to experimental short film. Flare takes great pride in its development from the “London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival”, to the “London LGBT Film Festival” and now, finally, to the much more inclusive “LGBTQ+”. This updated name is reflected in the diversity of the films on offer here – regardless of your label (or lack thereof), there’s something for all interests. Though we don’t have time to sink our teeth into everything on offer, here are a few feature films that we’re especially looking forward to:
Director: Elizabeth Rohrbaugh, Daniel Powell
Cast: Lena Hall, Dan Fogler, Mena Suvari
Summary: After a crushing breakup with her girlfriend, a Brooklyn musician moves back in with her Midwestern mother. As she navigates her hometown, playing for tip money in an old friend’s bar, an unexpected relationship begins to take shape.
At first, I thought this looked a little kitschy, especially considering the focus on music. However, ‘Becks’ has been getting some fantastic reviews since its US release last month even despite the natural lesbian movie backlash, with many stating it to be incredibly genuine and heartfelt. As a result, my curiosity is piqued; it could well be that ‘Becks’ joins the elusive club of cute lesbian indies to be held in in the hearts of gay women for years to come.
Screening Info: Thursday 29 March 2018 18:30 / Saturday 31 March 2018 16:00
As a mentally ill™ woman, stories about social otherness have always interested me. The complexities of the brain remain a mystery even to the medical profession, and the portrayal of communicative deviance on screen is always a bit hit-and-miss; such exploration is a minefield of offensive tropes disguised as well-meaning artistic choices. Whether through the simpering weakness of the protagonist, clumsily shoehorned romances suddenly providing a cure, or the assignment of villainous traits to all who cannot – or will not – bow to society’s expectations of them, there are a lot of places to go wrong with portrayals of mental illness on screen.
‘The Sounding’ avoids all of these, and instead provides a profound study on the beauty of our differences.
The true strength of the film is found in the character of Liv (actress/writer/director Catherine Eaton), who lives on a remote island with her grandfather Lionel. She is brilliant in many ways – as a proficient painter, actress, and dancer, her life is filled with artistry. She spends her days laughing amongst friends, and her nights listening to her beloved grandfather read Shakespeare, her sparkling eyes attentive, holding onto every syllable. She is surrounded by the natural beauty of her home, the affection of her community, and the passion she has for her interests. Her life is bustling with emotional prosperity.
And through all this, Liv has never spoken a word.
The tale of warring sisters is well-trodden cinematic ground by this point. These sisters are often opposite in nature – one is sensible, the other rebellious, one has a family, the other does not, one is emotional, the other logical. ‘Can’t Say Goodbye’ follows this pattern at first glance but adds a nuance that many similar dramas disregard; the relationship between the sisters in question remains loosely supportive despite their oppositional personalities. The intensity of these characters and the commitment of each actor transforms what could have been a bland melodrama into a touching commentary on the life of a fractured family.
Carla – strong, unruly, sniffs mysterious white substances in bathrooms – is living alone in Barcelona when she gets a call from her sister Blanca. Their father has been taken ill, and Carla must return to her childhood home in order to play the doting daughter. The relationship between Carla and Blanca is nuanced from the moment they reunite: they throw barbs at each other one moment, then compliment each other the next. (“You look great, bitch.”) Blanca informs Carla of her wishes to become an actress, and Carla half-heartedly confirms her approval. Their words are never emotional, but the link is there: they’re family, and they don’t need to be affectionate to show their bond. The pair form a strikingly real representation of two very different people who have grown together despite a clashing of personalities. When you’ve known somebody for that long, after all, they become part of the furniture.
Comedy can often be a difficult genre to transcend cultural lines. Luckily, the quirky premise of ‘Love is Dead’ – a one-man business dedicating to assisting people with break-ups – has enough promise to entice audiences of any background. At the heart of the Love is Dead company is Mathias (Benjamin Lavernhe) who, despite his reprehensible career, is immediately likable in his young, witty demeanour. Mathias is soon joined by the over-eager and quite frankly adorable Juliette (Elisa Ruschke), who is keen to learn as much as she can about the service that Love is Dead provides. Juliette, however, struggles to separate the harshness of work from her own morality – and this is where the film reaches past its unique foundation to discuss difficult topics with a sensitive, empathetic style.
Mathias’ stone-cold line on relationships is rooted firmly in his logical belief that if love is over, then the cleanest and kindest thing to do is end it painlessly. This is where Love is Dead steps in. Mathias approaches the victim (breakup-ee?), lures them into a false sense of security, and then rips the band-aid off quickly: “Your partner doesn’t want to be with you anymore. Please sign here. Do you need a tissue?”
‘Bernard and Huey’ is indisputably a film about women. The opening features a shot of an address book, detailing various female names and, presumably, phone numbers. Women are discussed in virtually every conversation, for their habits, their faults, their advantages. There are multiple female characters within the film, and a few of them even get the chance to talk.
Unfortunately, ‘Bernard and Huey’ fails to treat its female characters like actual people.
Set in modern day New York, the film introduces its protagonists through a flashback of the eponymous pair discussing how best to “make out” with a woman; whilst Bernard has never made out, Huey is popular with the ladies, a paradoxical achievement considering his misogynistic ways. He discards his women with an ease that Bernard approaches with equal disgust and awe – surely, women cannot keep falling for this abhorrent pig of a man?
Fast-forward twenty-five years and the tables have turned. Bernard (Jim Rash), now 49, is living a sparse lifestyle, caught in a cycle of break-up/make-up with a girlfriend. When Huey (David Koechner) turns up at his door, scruffy and drunk, Bernard does not recognise him: middle age has not treated his former best friend kindly. He’s now a divorcee with two kids that hate him and, though he frequently repeats that women would do anything to sleep with him, he cannot seem to find the spark he used to have when it comes to romance.
Happy Women in Horror Month! As I’m sure many others would agree, the horror genre can often feel incredibly male-dominated. Violence against women within these films is usually prominent, and in a world obsessed with inflicting this same violence in reality, being able to reclaim such a powerful tool as the horror movie is a very great thing. Besides which, this is a genre which naturally links itself to feminist thought. Traditional aspects of horror such as vampire lore, the final girl, slasher film tropes and the revenge plot all revolve around feminist themes, and it is not surprising that much academic discussion in this area concerns gender. In any case, after watching as many female-directed examples as I can find, I’ve firmly decided that women make the best horror movies. Take a look at the nine films below, and I’m sure you’ll agree.
A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), dir. Ana Lily Amirpour
Dark, stylish and atmospheric, ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’ is the Iranian vampire Western we never knew we needed. A sparse narrative cloaked in monochromatic tones illustrates themes of gendered violence, as the eponymous Girl hunts down villainous men. Vampire movies and feminist discourse have always gone hand in hand – the symbolic neck bite forming a transferal of agency – and Amirpour exploits this natural kinship whilst adding her own original mark to the genre. For ‘A Girl’ is a quiet, brooding movie, moving from character to character at a pace that some may find too sluggish. But this hesitance to over-embellish in a field that can so often be flamboyant is what gives the film its strength; the small moments form something so much greater, and it is the overall mood of the piece, rather than one scene or another, that marks it as a classic for feminist horror.
Love it or hate it, the best thing about Valentine’s Day is always the movies. From arthouse drama to cheesy rom-coms to depressing tear-jerkers, we all have our favourite kinds of romance film. There’s a wide variety of faves even amongst the Much Ado team, so hopefully our recommendation list will give you a new idea or two this February 14th!
(500) Days of Summer
Why conform to watching a traditional romantic comedy this Valentine’s Day? Why submit to Hollywood’s saccharine nature and settle down with a formulaic feature when you could instead confront the heartache that comes with unrequited love and the realisation that no person is ever really what you imagine them to be? If you’re looking for a bit of realism in your romance, then 500 Days of Summer is the film for you. Its central theme can be summed up in one line delivered by a young Chloë Grace Moretz’s character, the younger sister of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s hopeless protagonist Tom, as she tells him that ‘just because some girl is into the same bizzaro crap as you, that doesn’t mean she’s your soulmate.’ Truer words were never spoken, indeed. There is no doubt that every one of us is at least somewhat guilty of convincing ourselves that someone is the one for us simply because they share a few of our interests. What 500 Days of Summer does is show just how problematic this kind of thinking is and how disastrous it can be for us in the long run, by having Tom break his own heart in attempting to believe that the titular Summer (Zooey Deschanel) is the person he has made her out to be in his head. Summer may like the same music as Tom, she may enjoy the same kind of cinema as he does, but that doesn’t mean that the two are made for each other, or that they are even remotely compatible. Reality can never truly match our expectations, 500 Days of Summer reminds us, and people are not ours to mould into whatever we want them to be. It is the perfect antidote to the onslaught of Nicholas Spark’s adaptations that infiltrate cinemas around this time of year and shows us that love is, often, not what we believe it to be.