Det borde finnas regler – There should be rules

As a rule, I avoid anything which has the tag ‘coming of age’ – I don’t want my leisure time to be filled with precocious teenagers.

And while there is an element of that with one of the friends, Mia – who takes centre stage – is fortunately more interesting than this and is played very competently by 14 year old Anna Hägglin.

As you would expect in a film featuring three teenagers, the adults in their lives are usually absent or messed up, but the fact that the young people themselves aren’t miraculously perfect helps this film a lot.

Despite the Falling Snow

I wonder if Sam Reid will ever grow up to play himself? He’s been a young Peter Firth in Spooks, a young Stellan Skarsgård in The Railway Man, and here he’s a young Charles Dance.

But this cold war/thaw film, which jumps around quite a bit in the first third between the early 1960s and the 1990s, actually revolves around Rebecca Ferguson in a dual performance, with one foot in each time frame.

In the 1960s scenes she has a look of Ingrid Bergman, and carries herself in a reserved and understated manner as she steals state secrets from the government. She was less successful in the 1990s scenes, where she plays an artist in search of information about her aunt, and I put this down to her struggling with accents, and a slightly annoying character. The American characters have American accents, and Ferguson’s slipped quite a bit – but then, she is Swedish; the Russians mostly have plummy English accents which which she was fine.

The stand-out performance was Anthony Head – his vodka-soaked Mikhail oozes self-loathing and demands our sympathy.

And for anyone on the #52filmsbywomen trail, this is directed by Shamim Sarif, so add it to the list.

Broke

A washed-up former rugby star is given a chance at redemption when he is offered shelter by a fan who remembers his glory days.

Match-fixing is apparently a real problem in Australian rugby, so this is addressing topical issues, some of them head-on.

I liked the performances, particularly the daughter (Claire van der Boom), and the general direction the story took (apart from the fact that it should have ended 5 minutes before it did).

But there were also some events which were just a little too convenient, which softened the narrative and were a little implausible. Nevertheless, I didn’t mind that I watched it.

No Limits – Impossible is Just a Word

If you take this at face value, then Alex Zanardi is nothing short of a iron-willed saint.

A former F1 driver who lost both legs after an accident, who went on to become Paralympic and World para-cycling Champion, he is now embarking on his next challenge – being part of a 3 man driving team entering the Spa 24 hour race.

We see him exhausted, but never angry, stressed or bitter. There must be times when he doubts, when he’s in pain, when he’s just had enough? No-one, particularly not a competitive racing driver, is that good-natured.

And with the exception of his dog, we never see him with anyone outside of work. Does he have a family? Children? An assistant?

I’m not a fanatic, but I do watch F1 racing and knew a little about the man’s history. But the film assumes a whole lot of prior knowledge. I wanted to know how the team came to decide to work with him? How did they get security clearance for him to be part of the team? How big a risk was it for the racing team? So many unanswered questions.

Vince Giordano – There’s A Future in the Past

For anyone even remotely interested in jazz music of the first half of the 20th century, this will be an interesting watch.

According to Manchester Film Festival’s website, ‘Vince Giordano is responsible for the period music in Todd Haynes’ “Carol”, Martin Scorsese’s “The Aviator”, Robert DeNiro’s “The Good Shepherd”, Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Cotton Club”, Gus Van Sant’s “Finding Forrester”, Sam Mendes’ “Revolutionary Road”, Terry Zwigoff’s “Ghost World”, half-a-dozen Woody Allen films, and HBO’s Grammy-winning “Boardwalk Empire.” ‘

The music is without doubt what makes this film work – it’s glorious, and authentic, and brilliant.

The directors have used the space between the musical interludes to try to get inside the man himself, and they succeed to a certain extent, with some of the band members explaining what it’s like to work with him. I’d like to have heard from his partner Carol a little more though – she’s part of his business and is on screen quite a bit, but she’s allowed to say very little. I was also curious to know why the band consists entirely of white men.

Still, great music!

All Rise

 

Mildly interesting documentary that would have whiled away 90 minutes in the background on Netflix.

Each year, law students form all over the world face each other in a moot court to argue the case for an imaginary nation embroiled in an international dispute with its imaginary neighbour. This film follows a selection of students from a variety of countries as they win or lose their case to progress to the final and ‘win’ Jessup (the name of the competition).

While there is no doubt that these young people are intelligent and committed, and that some of them may indeed go on to play significant roles in shaping the future, on occasion it felt like a school play; for all their self-belief and determination, it felt a little amateurish, with more than a few divas on display.

In short, there were many more interesting stories hidden among the characters that weren’t allowed to or didn’t emerge, but which were hinted at.

Martin Sheen presents – The World is My Country

A still-in-the-editing stage screening of a film featuring a wonderfully inspirational character whose story should not be forgotten.

Garry Davis used The Universal Declaration of Human Rights to proclaim himself a citizen of the world, not of any one nation. His position is that if there are no individual countries and we are all citizens of the same place, then law can take the place of war.

Very apposite, given the thousands of refugees who currently find themselves fleeing from war without documents. Garry’s organisation provides them with what they need to try to start rebuilding a life – see here for information – it’s worth a look, as I can’t explain it properly here.

As far as the film goes, it’s a bit difficult to tell how it will play once it’s completed. It revolves around Garry telling his story on stage, interspersed with clips and images from the past to illustrate his talk. And although Davis is clearly an inspirational and entertaining speaker, this felt like an extended TED talk – very informative, and had me looking up things on the internet afterwards.

And the Martin Sheen connection? I guess it’s to get bums on seats.

Dennis Rodman’s Big Bang in PyongYang 

In which extrovert non-conformist Dennis Rodman offers North Korean despot Kim Jong-un a visit of an NBA All-Stars basketball team for his birthday.

Rodman is an unlikely friend for Kim Jong-un but for reasons which are never confirmed (obviously), the North Korean leader is happy to be seen smiling and hugging Rodman – at least until the basketball star falls off the wagon big style and creates a highly embarrassing scene in front of welcoming dignitaries.

While Rodman believes he’s doing this “to open the doors” (and there’s no doubt that the young Korean sportsmen will remember this for the rest of their lives), he is oblivious to the wider political picture and unable to cope with the inevitable criticism he receives. The same can be said of the players who support him, though presumably they are also receiving a lot of money (although no mention is made).

There are some beautiful images of North Korea and of PyongYang and its grand architecture. But despite the euphoria towards the end, not just Rodman but the whole film manages to avoid mentioning the repression endured by the ordinary people of a North Korea, and missed an opportunity in my opinion.

Still, one of the best images I’ve seen in recent times has to be Rodman riding through The Vatican in a Popemobile. You had to be there.

Manchester Film Festival begins!

It’s about to start!

Thursday 3rd March sees the beginning of Manchester Film Festival, which runs until Sunday 6th March.

Thanks to the generosity of the festival organisers, I’ve been given a free pass to a good selection of the programme (for which I’m very grateful) – enough to keep me in a cinema for most of the three days. I’ve never had this experience of such intense cinema-going, so although I’m really looking forward to it, I’ve just realised that I’m not sure when I will be able to eat between films! Tips from old-timers are very welcome!

I’ll be trying to blog each film as soon as I can, but I bet I fall behind almost immediately. Until then, I’ll leave you with an introduction to just one of the films I’m desperate to see.