Mini Reviews from BFI London Film Festival 2014


It’s that time of year again and as always, our trusty CIAV father figure-with-a-dark side Janus Avivson lets rip into the movies he’s loving, hating and eeerr… not so fussed about.

We have to stress any opinions expressed by the sometimes controversial Mr Avivson are not necessarily those of Cannes in a Van… but his opinions and chat are always great so whatever is published here will be entertaining at the least.

KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON – USA 2014, 84 min, did. Alan Hicks.
The film producer, legendary Quincy Jones, was Clark Terry’s first student of trumpet. Clark Terry is a legend, such a caliber that other legends, like Miles Davis, acknowledged his influence on themselves and his importance for the last sixty years of jazz. So if you are a jazz person, this is a film for you. Below is the full text of a listing from film’s ImdB file written by film’s director, camera operator, writer and music supervisor, simply because I cannot possibly write a better text than his own:
“First-time director/drummer from Australia, Alan Hicks, convinced his surfing mate and cinematographer, Adam Hart, to travel to the U.S. to follow and film 89-year-old jazz legend, Clark Terry (Quincy Jones’s first teacher) over four years – to document an unlikely mentorship between Terry and a driven, blind piano prodigy, Justin Kauflin, 23. Clark, now 93, mentored Miles Davis as a young musician and is among the few performers ever to have played in both Count Basie’s and Duke Ellington’s bands. In Keep On Keepin’ On, as Justin is invited to compete in an elite, international competition while battling terrible stage fright, Clark’s health takes a critical turn for the worse. Over the course of filming, Clark loses his sight, which deepens his bond with Justin. As clocks tick, we are suddenly witness to two great friends tackling the toughest challenges of their interwoven lives. The film, from the producer of The Cove and Chasing Ice, captures the passing of the torch from a cultural icon to potentially his last student, inspiring viewers in climactic, cinematic fashion.” END OF QUOTE.

An intelligent film, on several levels, well timed, with a wealth of archival footage. A few good sentences from Clark, like “if you don’t succeed maybe you will suck-seed” who, each time seeing Quincy, asks him “are your lips greasy ?”, which is an impossibility for a trumpet player. I strongly recommend this film, and then you will know what Clarks’ lucky socks are…

By the way, this film was successfully funded on Kickstarter!
BLACK COAL, THIS ICE (BAI RI YAN HUO) – China/Hong Kong 2014, dir-scr Diao Yinan
This is the tale of an unsuccessful police investigation into the series of incidents, when parts of human body were discovered on conveyer belts transporting coal into several powers stations in one region in Northern China. Because this is a thriller, I am not going to reveal any secrets of the script, except that the plot is tight and well told, acting is superb and well, go and see it.
The film is already famous and was awarded a Berlin Golden Bear last February, and a Silver Bear for main actor Lio Fan. I think we will have to learn a few Chinese names from now on, and this film is worth seeing if only to confirm how competent art of cinematography is there.

CAMP X-RAY – USA 2014, 117 min, dir-scr Peter Sattler.
And now image a large long table with several nice and clever people who plan to make a smart and politically correct film. They choose a fashionable and recognisable female actor, young and cute. They place her in an improbable situation and location, like a jailer in, say, Guantanamo Bay. She obviously volunteers, because she “wanted to do something important”. So did most of the inmates, but that’s beside the point. She befriends one of them, and they are called “detainees” and not “prisoners”, because “prisoners are subject to a Geneva Convention”. The guy of her choice is an eight years tenant, a vociferous reader, of everything, and especially Harry Potter, maybe because he has a University degree in his country. I do not have to say that he is innocent, as he was told by one who interrogated him. Now, normally we can be certain that someone is guilty of a crime, we have evidence, witnesses etc, but how do we confirm someone’s innocence? Well, this is a Hollywood production, with Kristen Stewart, who actually does the job. However, the Long Table Committee made a list of cliches, as long as the table, and squeezed them into the script, which was thin to start with. There is a happy ending, two actually, the second one that Kristen named her dog Cole, after name of her character…OK, forget I ever mentioned this film, please…

Janus Avivson


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