Film: Of luvvies and lawnmowers

From the inside of John Malkovich's brain to a Belgian trailer park, Kieron Corless looks at the cream of the 43rd London Film Festival

Being John

Malkovich - US

Warhol's 15 minutes of fame is given an absurdist spin by first-time director Spike Jonze, in this superbly executed satire on the pitfalls of celebrity. The premise is fantastical. Thwarted puppeteer Craig Schwartz (John Cusack) discovers a hidden door which leads into the brain of John Malkovich (playing himself), allowing visitors 15 minutes' occupation of the actor's identity. From this offbeat starting-point, the film ventures into ever deeper and stranger territory, sustaining dazzling levels of invention and stylish wit right up to the final shot. The casting is spot- on and Jonze's decision to play everything straight is what makes the film so funny and surreal.

A Room for Romeo

Brass - UK

Shane Meadows hits top form with his second feature, based around an incident in his childhood. Two schoolboy neighbours befriend a local eccentric. When one of them falls ill, events spiral out of control and the jaunty tone takes on a darker hue. Meadows displays a sure touch, blending humour, lyricism and violence into a highly original whole. Newcomer Paddy Considine, as the loner, is a revelation - Nottingham's answer to the young Robert de Niro, only scarier!

Shattered Image - US

Chilean auteur Raul Ruiz recently dished up his most commercial offering to date, a tricksy, handsomely-mounted adaptation of Proust's Time Regained. Shattered Image pre-dates that film and couldn't be more different. Like Sliding Doors and The Double Life of Veronique, it explores the theme of parallel lives, but through the conventions of an erotic thriller which veers closely at times to self-parody. It's a brilliantly perverse concoction, using stylistic excess and anti-naturalistic performances to push against genre limitations.

The Straight Story - US

A David Lynch film devoid of his trademark film noir atmospherics is strange indeed. Still, it's a total delight, not least because it's so unusual to see a mainstream film deal with old age. Old-timer Alvin Straight's health is failing so he decides on one last trip, to see his ailing estranged brother in the next state. There're a couple of typical Lynchian flourishes but for the most part, the film does play it straight - if travelling across the Midwest on a lawnmower is anyone's idea of straight. Richard Farnsworth came out of retirement to take the lead and gives a perfectly- pitched performance of quiet authority. The understated climax to Straight's journey resonates long after the credits - and contains a lovely surprise cameo.

L'Humanite - France

Director Bruno Dumont was roundly booed when he collected the Grand Jury prize at Cannes for his second film L'Humanite. It's a slow-burning, hypnotic meditation on the big themes - love, death, the nature of guilt - which centres on a small-town policeman's investigation of a young girl's rape and murder. The film achieves a strange, entrancing power through its combination of painterly compositions, flattened performances and a spiritual apprehension of landscape. L'Humanite has yet to secure a distributor in Britain so this may be your only chance to catch what many regard as this year's art house masterpiece.

Flowers of

Shanghai - Taiwan

Hou Hsiao-Hsien's reputation here rests mainly with The Time to Live and a Time to Die, a subtly moving exploration of recent Taiwanese history. In his latest, he turns his attention to the elegant flower houses of late 19th-century Shanghai, where married civil servants gather to flirt over tea with flower-girl prostitutes. As the film unfolds in a series of ravishing tableaux, the formal etiquette is gradually revealed to mask intrigues, conspiracies and horrifying exploitation. As ever, Hou's finely- tuned antennae register the seismic shifts occurring beneath the seemingly unchanging surface of the present. It's an exquisite film which boasts a stellar cast of Asian talent, including the incomparable Tony Leung.

Moloch - Russia

Huge claims have been made on behalf of Alexander Sokurov, regarded by many as the legitimate heir to Tarkovsky's visionary mantle. His last feature, Mother and Son, had the likes of Scorsese and Schrader rushing to proclaimits rejuvenating minimalism. Where that film tended to eschew dialogue and story, this latest feels more conventional. It's 1942 and a holidaying couple must face the impasse their relationship has entered. That couple is Hitler and Eva Braun, and their deliberations will effect more than just their own lives. Whatever your opinion of Sokurov's peculiarly Slavicsolemnity, in his uncanny ability to evoke atmosphere, he is virtually without peer.

Bleeder - Denmark

Nicholas Winding Refn's debut, Pusher, was one of the best films of 1996, a thorough-going assault on the senses reminiscent of early Scorsese. He adopts a slower tempo for this raw study of masculinity and its discontents. A young woman becomes pregnant and her partner is unable to cope with the fact. He witnesses a shooting which precipitates his downward spiral into some disturbingly violent encounters. Refn elicits fearless performances from his cast which, in their sheer full-blooded commitment, call to mind those in Festen. Refn belongs right up there with the cream of Danish directing talent - proving too that there's life outside Dogme.

Show Me Love - Sweden

Written and directed by Lukas Moodysson, this modest, beautifully-observed comedy depicts the roundabout course to true love taken by two girls at opposite ends of the social spectrum. It's set in the sleepy Swedish town of Amal, not the ideal place to embark on a teenage lesbian affair, as the girls discover. Astonishingly, it was a big box-office success in Sweden, giving even Titanic a run for its money!

For information on LFF ring (0171) 928 3232


JULIAN SIMPSON, first-time director of a new British film, The Criminal, which stars Eddie Izzard: "I'm looking forward to Steven Soderbergh's The Limey. I've read that he uses clips of Stamp's younger self lifted directly from Poor Cow. I wish I'd come up with that! Soderbergh makes genre films but he never dumbs down."

Krutin Patel, director of ABCD, a US/India co-production starring Madhur Jaffrey. "Cotton Mary, directed by Ismail Merchant, is my choice. Like my film, this one stars Madhur Jaffrey. I think she's one of the greatest actresses to come out of India, and in a way her versatility has still not been fully tapped. In Cotton Mary, she plays a nurse who wants to become British, to strip herself of her culture and become something she isn't. It's the opposite of my film, where she plays a quintessentially Indian mother, trying to hold on to her culture in the US. I'm a big fan of Merchant-Ivory. They always deliver quality. In the States their films have enormous prestige and can attract the biggest stars."

Aisling Walsh, Dublin-born director of the British film Forgive and Forget: "I want to see American Beauty. I like the idea of a big Hollywood film which looks at the problems faced by people in their forties, their relationships and family ties. It's a grown-up movie where so many today just aren't, they're trying to be hip and targeting themselves at twenty-somethings. It's also interesting that it's directed by an English theatre director."

Richard Jobson, the producer of Tube Tales: "It's got to see Spike Jonze's Malkovich. Coming from a musical background myself, I'm pleased to see so many people from promos, like Jonze, breaking into film directing. They can bring a freshness and an iconoclasm which really shakes things up."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump


Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas