Leeds Film Festival 2009 - Day 9

Łódź Film School 2

The second of the shorts from the Łódź film studio.

Nice To See You - Magda, a young student living in Warsaw kids herself and her father into thinking they have everything covered, even though her boyfriend has just cleared off and there is money and rent worries. When Dad suddenly turns up, she has some facing up to do. 7/10

A Film With no Fly - Except there are several flies. An animation using scruffy pencil shading to realise a fly's aerobatics display around the kitchen for his friends as they dine on last nights food, until he gets a little too cocky. 5/10

Dunia - An beautiful animated tale of a little girl and her protective cat, using constantly painted and repainted scenes to convey movement, even in times of stillness. 7.5/10

Epizod - Another animation using pencil lines, about the hallucinations of a man undergoing surgery and the emptiness of the hole that is left after the work is done. It got extra points for having simply drawn yet adorable chick-like creatures featuring in his visions. 7/10

Tristis - A very arty-style black and white live action film, where a man is helping his mother in law care for his wife, who is in a vegetative state after what appears to be chemotherapy. Though just about coherent, the artiness got annoying. 4.5/10

Echo - A very powerful story of Damian and Arek, two young teens who are being questioned at the scene of a murder of a young girl, Victoria. The detective makes them relive their crimes and each confession reveals more grizzly details about the attack. 8/10

Luxury - 'Poppers', a local pimp drops off Lux, his casual sex partner at the airport where he picked him up. Also doing a line in child abductions, he is always on the lookout for strays, and when young Maly and his dog Jackal wander by, he makes a note in his book of contacts. The book ends up mislaid and in the hands of Lux and Maly, and together they might be able to use the information to get themselves out of their hopeless lives. 7/10

Louis de Prince Shorts 4

Hunger (Ger) - Bored with their lives, young Roland and Paul get a chance for escapism when the neighbours across the hall are quickly evicted on immigration orders. What happens when 2 children are let loose in a house of someone elses possessions.. 6/10

Lars and Peter (Dmk) - Enthusiastically baking a birthday cake for his widowed father, Lars is taking the death of his mother better than Lasse, his brother. Secretly desperate for company, dad Peter ends up making a fist of a drink with uninterested single neighbour Lisa, and his attempts to releive his unspent horniness in the nearest bush are overseen. 6.5/10

Poste Restante (Pol) - A nice, understated film about the thousands of badly addressed letters that cannot be sent to their intended destination. The Undeliverable Letters department is staffed by volunteers who open the mail and read the contents, which are often private insights into unknown people. The cyclic nature of this film was just gravy. 8/10

To Live a Little More (Bel) - A young gay couple, Nico and Paul live in the room above a bakers, where Nico works with his father, Pierre. Pierre has accepted the relationship with many unanswered questions in his mind, and when Nico inexplicably drops dead, he cannot find the right words to say when Paul starts asking where he has gone. 7.5/10

The Referee (Ita) - They love their football in Italy, so imagine a game where the referee makes the wrong decision at just about every point in the match, while prancing about like a fop in the few times he isn't blowing the whistle. 7/10

Day In Day Out (Bra) - A couple go about their monotonous daily chores. The wife, having left the husband to get to work, watches the world, and her life, pass by with the same things having to be done as they always have. When hubby doesn't return for the evening, she knows something is very wrong. A great, quietly discomforting film. 7.5/10

Megatron (Rom) - It's Maxim's birthday, and the Megatron robot toy is available in a happy meal, and it's all he wants. His under-assertive mother has agreed to take him on the long journey to the nearest McDonalds, but has worked to avoid having his distant father take any part. As they get nearer, Maxims suspicions grow that his mother isn't being honest with him. 7/10

Animation Shorts 2

A collection of animated shorts from around the world. A tip: If you go to a film festival and want to catch some short films, your best bet is usually the animation shorts.

The Cat Piano (Aus) - A smooth, beautifully drawn, Don Bleuth-style short about a world not unlike ours, but run by cats, where a human has begun preying on the vulnerable to create his monstrous musical invention. 7.5/10

Chick (Pol) - Like a White Stripes video, this was bold and garish, but smart and funny. Its three primary colours, black white and red, tell the story of a man and a woman with very different personalities, coming together and making whoopee. 8/10

The Necktie (Can) - Valentin works in a large office block, his floor increasing along with his age as a metaphor for getting old and staid in his work. As he realises his situation, he sees just what a rut he is in and a glimpse of what could be if he doesn't change. Charming, with a lot of French-Canadian influence. 7/10

Fard (Fra) - An innovative mix of live action and computer-generated line art set in the future where every inefficiency has been removed. Oscar is doing well at his job when his co-worker tells him to take a package home. After a hurried message left at his flat telling him to hide the package he looks inside to find a torch, which when shone on anything, dissolves away its simulated sheen to show the true state beneath. A highly accomplished and original work. 8.5/10

Slaves (Swe) - An audio documentary is given visual form. James Aguer liberates two children from their slave conditions in Southern Sudan, and the recording of the conversation between a pair of western journalists and the children and Aguer is put to animation in a shadowy, but somehow still realistic way. Very well done. 8/10

The Little Dragon (Fra/Swe) - A fantastic piece of stop-motion animation, as a smoke dragon inhabits the body of a Bruce Lee doll, complete with battle cry! Unfortunately, of the many other blokish toys strewn around the student's flat is a transformers-style mech robot, who doesn't take kindly to the rukkus. 8.5/10

The Heart of Amos Klein (Isr/Fra/Ned/Dmk) - A story told in reverse, of a fictional high-ranking general in the Israeli Army, in charge of erecting the Separation Wall in 2008. We see him die of a heart attack shortly after cutting the ribbon with a massively deformed and blackened heart. The film then works backwards through events to his childhood to show how an innocent young life with a good heart can be changed and darkened when all the wrong ingredients come together. 7/10

Trickster (Ger) - A short film that had just about everyone asking WTF?? at the end. Using the same level of near-real life computer graphics as with the latest Christmas Carol coming out this year, a slightly scary clown wakes up in the big top circle, and appears to be acting the fool, although to him he is just getting very annoyed. Then it just went mad. Mad, mad mad, and too mad to explain here, other than to say he at one point resembled Johannes Krauser II. It seemed to have little story to it and was instead all about showing off the computer graphics, which makes me yawn. 5/10 (and that's for it having some beautiful locations)

A Serious Man (US) (site/wiki)

There is almost never a Leeds Film Festival goes by without a Coen Brothers screening, and this years offering has many of the typical Coen hallmarks. Set in Minnesota in the sixties, Larry Gopnik fights to keep his head together as his Jewish family disintegrates around him. Wife Judith is sick of Larry's non-confrontational attitude and over-reliance on the subjects he teaches at college, physics and mathematics, to make his decisions for him. Sy Ableman, although older and fatter, is far more touchy-feely and they have been carrying on behind Larry's back for several years now, and she's sick of him not noticing. As well as his wife, Larry must put up with his pot smoking TV addict son and party-obsessed daughter; Clive, a chinese student who takes his maths fail grade as a personal family attack, his army toughnut neighbour who is taking more than his fair share of the lawn space, and Uncle Arthur, who has mild autism and an annoying snore, but might have a hidden talent expressed in his notebook, his fabled 'Memtaculus'. Things go from bad to worse, but when Sy is killed suddenly in a car accident, Larry might have chance to patch things up, but does he want to, and should he even consider it?

At the beginning, the viewer is given a short film set in the distant past, where the Gopnik family are cursed, as if to suggest it is being meted out on poor Larry for not being religious enough. But A Serious Man never takes cheap shots at religion or attempts to preach either way. Instead, it canters along with typical Coen brothers humour, style and attitude. Well worth a watch, especially if you are a fan of their work. 7.5/10

Stingray Sam
(US) (site)

Director Cory McAbee was present at the screening as he was four years previous for his low budget hit The American Astronaut. With a similar budget he tells the story of Sam, who lives in a universe some decades from our own where many planets have been discovered and colonised. Working as a lounge act on the wild west-themed planet Durango, his old colleague The Quazar Kid, who takes him along on a mission to save a little girl from a spoilt king on a far off planet. Told in an episodic format which is effectively a splice together of the original web episodes (including the identical start/endings) with narration by David Hyde Pierce (aka Niles Crane) the film shows moments of sparkle and style found in both H2G2 and Monty Python's animated segments. It's all bound together with an array of musical numbers to help push the story along.

It's hard not to see past the almost deliberately rubbish special effects and 'shot in an empty room' echoiness of the soundtrack to see a solid, if brief story underneath with a few laughs and plenty of good intentions. 7.5/10

Film Count: 82/150

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