A True festival of Films
by Elizabeth Menon

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The love of films becomes a celebration in London for two weeks during 'The Times BFI 51st London Film Festival'. The capital city is buzzing with people who love films and filmmakers from all over the world. This festival gives a chance to view films, documentaries and provide opportunity to meet filmmakers and celebrity artists. It also promotes world films that may not be available for screening in the cinemas across the nation. The festival is an important venue for development and promotion of films from UK and abroad and it showed around 184 feature films and 133 short films from 43 countries, at various venues in London. The Festival Started on 17 October with the opening night gala showing David Cronenberg's 'Eastern Promises' and finished on 1 November with the closing night gala showing Wes Anderson's 'The Darjeeling Limited', a train voyage across India. Few films from the festival are reviewed below.

Closing The Ring: Richard Attenborough/ UK-Canada

Richard Attenborough has done it again. 'Closing the ring' is one of the most beautiful films I have seen in a long time. This film is about the value of love and the loss of it, inability to grieve, loyalty among friends and above all, the heartache and suffering brought on by war. Shirley MacLain and Christopher Plummer have excelled in their performance. Christopher Plummer showed his adoring fans that he could still win hearts, just as he did all those years ago as the handsome captain in 'Sound of Music'! 'Jimmy' (Martin Mac Cann) was a delight to watch along with Pete Postlethwaite. Richard Attenborough shows us that there is no shame in falling love and keep it live, no matter what your age is. 'A film that touches your heart and tells you something', that's what 'Closing the Ring' does and therefore, an example of good cinema truly at its best. Question & Answer time with Lord Attenborough after the screening was sheer delight.

The Darjeeling Limited: Wes Anderson/USA

A light hearted film that tells the story of three brothers who haven't seen each other for a year going on a train journey through the deserts of India. They are trying to bond with each other and with the beautiful but unknown conditions in India. Wes Anderson's film brings comedy, conflict among siblings and some hilarious moments. These brothers who love each other don't like each other very much and their odd behaviour comes as no surprise once you meet their mother (Angelica Houston), who gives a great performance along with Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson. A good laugh and a film you don't want to miss.

I'm Not There: Todd Haynes/USA

'I'm not There' means just that! It's a biographical journey into Bob Dylan's life, portrayed by six actors, but Bob Dylan, as the title says, is not there! If you think an 11-year-old black boy, Marcus Carl Franklin, who is splendid as Bob Dylan is odd, the worse is yet to come; but that's surely the best, Dylan played by a woman! Cate Blanchett in black and white turns up as Bob Dylan and you don't for a moment suspect that it's a woman. She is just magnificent and puts the other 'Bobs' in the shade. It's confusing and chaotic if you are not a Dylan fan, but entertaining till the closing credits. The music however is real stuff and as the closing credits roll in, songs like the original 'Knock knock knock'n on heaven's door' keeps you on your seat.

The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford: Andrew Domonik /USA

Definitely 'a Brad Pitt film' and everyone else fades away in the background. The film is based on the legend of Jesse James, 'the gentleman outlaw' who became an American icon. Brad Pitt has shown his acting ability yet again, only more so this time. He has graduated in the 'Jack Nicholson School of acting'! A film worth watching and the cinematography is at its best. Perhaps the film would have been even better, if it did not stretch that long after the assassination of Jesse James; great film, in spite of this and not to be missed.

In Memory of Me: Saverio Costanzo/ Italy

As the film is set in Venice one expects to see at least a bit of this beautiful city; but that was not to be. The camera has eyes for the outside world only when a large ship slips by the window of the seminary. 'In Memory of me' is a very intense film that goes into the inner depth of spirituality and the conflicts encountered. The story is about Andrea who is accepted into a Jesuit seminary, isolated in an island. The recruits undergo very strict training to prepare them for the disciplined work that awaits these soldiers of Christ. The rituals are repeated in a methodical fashion everyday and that includes cleaning of the corridors of that magnificent monastic building. The inmates' personality is analyzed to such an extent that they start to doubt their own spirituality and whether such mental cruelty is justified.

The silence that lingers in the magnificent corridors is mesmerizing, to say the least! We have heard of severe Mother Superiors, but the Father Superior in this film is frightening. Some find this fearsome training unbearable and decide to leave. Andrea too reaches his turning point, but finally realizes that he is made for better things and God has a purpose for him and decides to follow Him. This film is a lesson in itself in how one gives himself to God, and then loose that faith and ultimately regaining the love of God and the faith. An intense film that makes one think.

Things We Lost in the Fire: Susanne Bier/USA

It tells the story of Audrey (Halle Berry), her loss and how she tries to rebuild her life after loosing the love of her life in a tragic accident. Her envious life with her husband 'Brian' and the two beautiful children are shown as flashback. Audrey decides to seek help from her husband's childhood friend, Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), who is a drug addict and quite dangerous at times. Though she did not like him to be her husband's friend in the past, she felt drawn to him now as they both had one thing in common- the love they both shared for Brian. She asks Jerry to move into the converted garage that was refurnished following a fire at the house and Audrey and the children form a bond with him. Anyone would wish to have somebody like Jerry in a situation like this, but not a drug addict though! Complications set in and the emotional turmoil in dealing with the sense of loss, drug addiction, rehabilitation and the society's role in all this are portrayed very well. Halle Berry has given a magnificent performance. Benicio Del Toro was dazzling and he has given his best ever. It was a delight to see Halle Berry at the screening, looking gorgeous in a brilliant blue backless gown! Susanne Bier (Director) and Halle Berry answered questions from the audience after the film: a beautiful film not to be missed.

Richard Attenborough, Wes Anderson, Susanne Bier, Saverio Constanzo, Andrew Dominik, Shivajee Chandrabhushan, Shamim Sarif, Amitab Bachan, Robert Redford, Tom Cruise, Halle Berry and Adrien Brody were among the celebrities who attended the screening of their films. It was truly a festival of films, films that touched the audience and made them think. The two weeks of the festival was a stage for meeting the best filmmakers from all over the world, listen to them and see films of extreme diversity.

© E Menon

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