Tag Archives: Little White Lies

The 10 best films from the 2018 Locarno Film Festival

As an indication of its ever-growing stature on the international film festival circuit, the current artistic director of Switzerland’s Locarno Festival for many years, Carlo Chatrian, has been snapped up to help programme the bigger Berlin Film Festival from 2020. As such, the 71st edition of Locarno seemed to have a bittersweet quality for the talkative festival veterans, as things might be very different next year. Even so, 2018 lived up to expectations of the event as an exciting space for new arthouse fare and as a celebration of older cinema that takes more offbeat choices in terms of paying tribute. We were particularly touched by the inspired choice to give the honorary Vision Award to title sequence designer Kyle Cooper (Se7en, among many credits), and not just because it gave programmers an excuse to screen Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man film from a 35mm print.

Our personal highlight was the wealth of delights in the festival’s extensive retrospective of American filmmaker Leo McCarey, particularly a screening of The Awful Truth (1937) that had a packed audience in hysterics. That said, the new films on offer were hardly lacking in quality. In an unranked order, here are nine premiering feature highlights, plus one short. We should mention we were sadly unable to catch Mariano Llinás’ 14-hour La Flor, perhaps the most publicised title in competition this year…

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Unicorn Store (Brie Larson, 2017)

Brie Larson’s feature-length directorial debut, Unicorn Store, centres on a grown woman and her pursuit of a pet unicorn, and if that short logline immediately sets alarm bells ringing in your head, this store is probably not worth visiting, even for a brief perusal of its goods. But for anyone left more curious than turned off, this portrait of the clash between childish things and adult pursuits has some merit, even if its wild veers in tone don’t always work…

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The Ciambra (Jonas Carpignano, 2017)

Director Jonas Carpignano broke through on the festival circuit in 2015 with Mediterranea, a tale of two refugees making their way from Africa to southern Italy. He returns to the latter environment with follow-up feature The Ciambra, an expansion of a 2014 short, which attempts to present a portrait of another marginalised group with a similar degree of verisimilitude: in this case, a small Romani community in the Italian region of Calabria…

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A new cult film festival is spotlighting forgotten cinematic gems

Cult film screenings at independent cinemas are fairly common, be it in the form of late night presentations of infamous gorefests or regular showings of established anti-classics like The Room with encouraged audience participation. Less common, and a far more enticing prospect, is a festival devoted to showcasing a diverse range of film that have slipped through the cracks of movie history – no pretending commercially successful John Hughes fare counts as ‘cult’ here…

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‘Grease’ at 40: A first-time look at a pop culture classic

We all have our blind spots when it comes to cinema – and that’s a good thing. Being passionate about film is being open to discovery and constantly looking to fill in gaps in one’s knowledge. But when you get to a certain age and also happen to work in film journalism, not having seen certain pop culture touchstones starts to stick out. Until very recently, my biggest blind spot – at least in terms of a film it seemed everyone had seen at least once – was Grease.

And yet, through cultural osmosis, I’ve always felt like I have seen Grease. Not only did I know most of the songs, I knew most of the words to most of the songs. What I didn’t know was what a peculiar musical it is. Take the title track, for instance, which plays over the opening credits and is one of the few songs I hadn’t heard before. One of four original songs written for the film (this one by Barry Gibb), the disco number feels surprisingly at odds with the late-’50s/early ‘60s style of the rest of the soundtrack. It’s a catchy tune, but seems as though it’s been included merely to forge a connection between the film and star John Travolta’s earlier Bee Gees-scored hit, Saturday Night Fever. It’s a curious identity crisis moment, but then perhaps it’s appropriate given the narrative arcs of the film’s leading pair…

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Eight films to watch before you see ‘The Shape of Water’

Combining fantastical romance with Cold War intrigue, Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water is both a loving tribute to all manner of movies and a swipe at societal woes – more so bigotry and the tyranny of toxic white male heteronormativity than disapproval of romancing an amphibian.

Here’s our guide to some films worth seeking out before – or after – seeing The Shape of Water: ones del Toro has cited as influences, a few explicitly referenced in the film, and the odd one that shares something of the same spirit…

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Why I love Nicolas Cage’s performance in ‘Bringing Out the Dead’

Released in 1999 to generally positive reviews but a poor box office, Bringing Out the Dead remains one of Martin Scorsese’s most overlooked films. His fourth collaboration with screenwriter Paul Schrader (here adapting a novel by Joe Connelly) acts as a fusion of the pair’s earlier efforts Taxi Driver and The Last Temptation of Christ. It is a frequently horrific odyssey through nocturnal New York, tinged with a desperate grasp at grace from a man teetering on the line between life and whatever lies beyond.

Instead of Christ, though, Bringing Out the Dead’s hero is Frank Pierce, a graveyard shift paramedic played by Nicolas Cage, an actor who probably qualifies as a deity to certain subsets of online fandom. The film follows Frank over three consecutive nights, at a point where he’s not managed to save any dying patients for months. During these hectic nights, he befriends the daughter (Patricia Arquette) of a heart attack victim he’s brought in and works in a two-man ambulance team with a slew of different partners, each as unhinged as him but in their own ways…

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