Leeds Film Festival 2010: Day 10

Today was a big day for films.

Invention for Destruction (Cze) (wiki)

An ambitious classic adventure from the 1950's, inspired by the works of Jules Verne, and cited as the inspiration for several directors who have come and gone since. Its early steampunk machines and gentleman villains, grand locations and the age of exploration have clear descendants in the works of Hironobu Sakaguchi and Hayao Miyazaki (Laputa has clear parallels, especially the fantastical flying machines).

Professor Roch and his dashing young assistant Simon Hart are kidnapped by scurvy pirates and taken to the ship of Count Artigas, the equivalent of Capt. Nemo. Hidden from prying eyes, Artigas has made the most advanced submarine of the age, filled with the latest instruments and able to ram ships so they can plunder any cargo. While Roch naively revels in the brand new laboratory he is given to perform experiments in, Hart is banished to a run down shack and not allowed to contact the professor, which Artigas hopes can develop technology to bring the world to it's knees.

For a film made in 1958, it's special effects are superb, the visuals being a mix of stop-motion photography and live action, often overlaid with a watermark to give the impression that everything is drawn and lifted out of the pages of one of Jules Vernes' novels. It's also genuinely funny in places, and not down to cheesy effects either. If you are interested in the origins of the great works of fiction today, this film is a good start in tracing the lineage. 7.5/10

Best of British UK Short Film Competition

Fu(nd) This - A meta-film, a short film about getting short films made. A young and cocky producer pitches his script in front of two budgeting suits, while sharing his inner thoughts about their attitudes to what is and isn't allowed in something they put their name to. Sex, religion, politics, and the censorship thereof are all covered in a sneering style by a director obviously weary of the process himself. 7.5/10

Bodies - The itchiness of the ambiguity in a relationship are accurately conveyed in the musings of a girl, happy but insecure about her relationship. She stumbles and trips over the words to say, breaks up the sentences with a million conflicting opinions in her mind, telling us just how confused in her own mind she is. 7/10

Tad's Nest - An animation using sand on paper to create a fluid motion, where a young girl and boy, playing on the shore find a nymph in a tree. It wasn't clear what was going on, but it looked pretty. 6/10

The Birdman of Tamworth - A short documentary about Leon, a young soldier who was killed in Iraq shortly after arriving, whose short life was recounted by his mother who begins the film in full control of her emotions, but quickly breaks down. The scenes at the National Memorial Arboretum in are the most powerful. 7.5/10

Exhale - Shortly after being diagnosed HIV positive, Joel spends a night at friend Chris's house, but Joel is reluctant to tell anyone about it, his head understandably pretty screwed up. While Chris is out, the temptation of a bottle of Baileys becomes too much. 7/10

Inept - Joe's wretched life is described by the narrator as if reading a book, the depressing words coming to life on the screen as they are being read out. Drugs, sleep and dealers are all he sees from his bed, a life completely set to waste. 7/10

The Moonbird - Using haunting music and eerie glowy pencil drawings in the style of a child, the Moonbird is a realisation of a young girls' nightmare as she is transported to a creepy wood where crows dig up skeletons and witches want to capture her for her tears. Only the Moonbird can rescue her once she is caught. 7/10

Release the Flying Monkeys - Two girls from Albania who have clearly had too much Jesus Juice head to inner city London where they self-righteously claim to be able to rid people of demonic posession and get ready for Jesus' imminent return. They're clearly bonkers, almost as much as Aziz, who asks them to remove the curse from her tortoise. It was unclear which bits were plainly acted and which were the genuine beliefs of some people. 7/10

40 Years - As a child, David killed his friend by accident. 40 years later and his life plagued with problems (not least, just killing his wife), he sets out to try to banish the ghosts in his mind. 7/10

Conversation Piece - A BBC short film with John Henshaw and Celia Imrie, simply an argument over a broken vase between a long-married couple, but to the sounds of a Louis Armstrong-style jazz record, their voices replaced by instruments. It was good, but by the end the joke had worn thin, 7.5/10

Yorkshire Short Film Competition

15 Letters - A stop motion animation to accompany a music video of the same name, a man haunts the life of the woman who married him and then sent him to his grave. 7.5/10

Lets Launch Leonard - Two forceably geeky teens band together with one aim - to be the first amateur astronauts in space. Their spaceship is a rusty van with some tape on it, they're waiting for the money to make the wings. 8/10

Mr Bradley Mr Martin Hear us Through the Hole in Thin Air - A very odd and surreal journey using fragments of speeches by William S. Burroughs, set to the strange experiments taking place in a 1950's laboratory, interspersed with old photographs. It's all deeply odd and doesn't really make any sense unless you are familiar with the subtleties of the Burroughs' cut-up poems (which I wasn't). 5/10

Outside - In a future run by computers, most people have decided to join the 'Inside', a giant virtual online community, but a few have not. One woman leaves the inside and tries to adjust to life outside in the desolate, empty earth, but finds temptation in strange squares of material which seem to be connected to the hive somehow. A slightly dull film made a bit better by its use of old real-life tower blocks and beaches to simulate the desolate environment we will be living in. 5/10

Scent - John, a pensioner has lost his wife, who died presumably in the night. He can't bear to let her go. When we join him, the house has begun to smell, but trapped by his love and fear of being alone, he bathes and sleeps with her as normal. A truly upsetting but powerful work. 8.5/10

The Astronomers Sun - Showing again (I saw it at the animation shorts), a beautiful old fashioned stop-motion animation about a man trying to follow in the footsteps of his astronomer father who disappeared when he was young. It deservedly got the Yorkshire Short Film award. 8.5/10

The Good North from Jonathan Entwistle on Vimeo.

The Good North - An uncomfortable film about the relationship between a right-wing skinhead father and his son and daughter, the former failing to follow his passion for football rioting, and the latter carrying on with an Asian boy. 7.5/10

Like Joe, Loathe Joe - Joe is a teen with some inner problems, but he's trying to make the best of it by losing himself in the football team at school, but when a friend's dad starts seeing his mother, anger threatens to send him over the edge. 7/10

Uncle David - A mini documentary about a pensioner doing litter picks around the streets and parks of Devonshire that warms you up on a cold night. David became sick of the litter around the area, and asserts an interesting fact, that the more litter there is in a place, the more people will litter it. Handling mouthy teens and used condoms without being phased, with only a litter picker and a bouncy dog for company, he's pretty much cleaned up his town. An affectionate look at one man's standing up to fight the apathy. 8.5/10

Aint Got No Sole - A short music video about a man trapped in a circus as the ringmaster. It was quite nice, but over before you knew it and didn't really do anything. 6/10

Sweet Little Lies (Jpn) (site)

Ruriko and Satoshi are in a comfortable but loveless marriage in their small flat in the Tokyo suburbs. Ruriko tends the house and creates stuffed dolls for sale and exhibition, while Satoshi has an unforgiving office job. When he returns home, Satoshi acts like a child, leaving his wife to pick his dropped clothes and shoes up, and make his tea, which he eats alone in a locked room playing video games all day. Though Ruriko puts a brave face on it to both her husband and her friends, it is clear that she is not content. She illustrates with the custom in Japan to have red and white roses in the gardens of happy couples; red for passion, white for truth. Those with passion and truth will be happy.

Both partners appear to get their wish as they find themselves the attention of others, even though they initially resist, both become involved in affairs while openly telling the other everything except for the kissy kissy parts. Satoshi has his passion slowly ignited from diminutive Miura, while Ruriko finds truth in the confessions of love thrown at her by Tomiko. However, the fleeting nature of these relations cause the couple to re-evaluate just who they really love.

It's a film that will appeal to those who have had relationship problems, felt the love and excitement in the relationship get forgotten and sidelined in favour of the mundane aspects of a busy life, and offers hope that, with a change in perspective, what is important will bring them back together. 8/10

The Beluga Whale at the a Tokyo aquarium steals the show at the end.

The American (US) (site)

George Clooney directs and plays dashing agent Jack, who appears to have rubbed the Swedes up the wrong way, and now they want to kill him. Shooting both the agents sent after him and the girl he was just getting friendly with (a cold-hearted insurance policy to make sure no witnesses) he rings his boss to take some time off in Rome, to which his manager repeats the mantra 'don't make any friends'.

Trying to stay away from people for his own good, he attracts the attention of a very perceptive priest who puts his life at risk by asking too many questions, and falls in love with prostitute Clara, a definite no-no in the hitman's book of rules. During all this the boss has tasked him with putting together a modified rifle for a beautiful and mysterious woman who wants a very specific weapon to do her job. As Jack gets more involved with Clara, he puts himself at risk of becoming a target for both the vengeful Swedes, and his boss who doesn't accept resignation letters.

Though Clooney does use some artistic license to turn the original book into a show of his manly physique and what a cool expression he has when he has a gun in his hand, he also delivers a very good performance as a ruthless killer trying to get some peace. The American is well scripted and takes place in the beautiful countrysides and towns of Sweden and Rome. It's a high-quality assassin thriller and well recommended. 8/10

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