This year's Glasgow Film Festival had a host of great screenings. The films I caught were:
With it's title, a play on Stockholm Syndrome, this Australian drama directed by Cate Shortland suggests claustrophobia and danger. A tense thriller, that's only flaw is perhaps a set piece too long, it got a positive audience reaction and was an excellent drama. Actors Teresa Palmer and Max Riemelt were excellent and Palmer in particular gave a vanity-free performance.
Sparse and ominous, this adaptation of the Russian play Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (the Shakespeare connection is only in describing the titular character) is an impressive film debut for theatre director William Oldroyd. The striking performance by Florence Pugh was the driving force through the film and it will be exciting to see what she does next. After the screening, Festival Director Allan Hunter held a Q&A session with Oldroyd and producer Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly.
William Oldroyd, Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly and Allan Hunter during the Q&A session.
I asked the panel about casting the film, as the performances were universally strong. Paul Hilton, who plays the temperamental husband of Pugh's, was cast through Oldroyd's stage experience of working together. Oldroyd went on to say that Florence Pugh was cast through her impressive turn in Carol Morley's The Falling. This performance alerted the Lady Macbeth team to her potential, and O'Reilly said that once Pugh auditioned they could see, that further to this potential, there was a whole series of places Pugh could go performance-wise. This suits the range and darkness needed for her performance in Lady Macbeth, and I highly recommend the film.
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Screened as part of the Dangerous Dames strand at the festival, the 1946 film noir was introduced by Allan Hunter, who gave a summary of Lana Turner's incident-packed life (surely a movie biopic will appear at some point). The film itself had some tense moments but laid on it's themes thicker and with slower changes of pace than some of the examples of the genre. I would recommend the likes of Double Indemnity and Out of the Past (AKA Build My Gallows High) over The Postman Always Rings Twice.
I Am Not Your Negro
This powerful documentary was a timely reminder of the deep-rooted racism in America. Bracketed in with other recent releases 13th and OJ: Made in America (all three were nominated in this year's Best Documentary Oscar category), by nature I Am Not Your Negro was slightly more piecemeal due to being a combination of historical footage and an unfinished James Baldwin manuscript named Remember This House. Baldwin's searing words are used as a narration by Samuel L. Jackson, interspersing Baldwin's memories of the Civil Rights movement, Medgar Evans, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. The archive footage has lost none of it's capacity to shock and with the current political climate, the documentary is relevant and moving. I must read some of Baldwin's writing going forward.
A performance of dignity and strength from Sônia Braga enriched this Brazilian drama that was weighed down by an inert narrative that often repeated information we'd already been given. A real example of tell don't show, I didn't enjoy this at all. The critics have been unanimous in praise. I found the slow pace of the film frustrating, with characters listening to music for minutes at a time. The best example of the lack of drive I can give is that near the end of the film, Braga is given confidential information to investigate a location that will provide evidence for her point of view. Having been told this, we cut to her spending 2 minutes with her grandchild before the film picks up again on her having this information and acting upon it, which leads to the conclusion of the film. This indulgent, baggy storytelling really let the film down for me and I came away thinking of Aquarius as the disappointment of my otherwise enjoyable festival viewing.