Locarno Film Festival: London clichés the only problem with Joanna Hogg's new film Exhibition


The growing number of film festivals that insist on showing world premieres in competition has meant that apart from the so-called “A-list” festivals of Venice, Cannes and Berlin there has been slim pickings for other festivals in Europe.

Trying to find enough quality films to make a competition programme sufficiently interesting is a huge struggle for any Artistic Director outside the powerful triumvirate. The Moscow Film Festival was slated by sections of the Moscow press corps, although the anger was not just at what was seen as a poor programme, but also because three of the films selected had homosexual themes. The festival organisers complained in an interview with FIPRESCI (The International Federation of Film Critics)  about the struggles festival programmers have to find world premieres.

One festival that seems to be successfully adapting to the challenges is the Locarno Film Festival, set against the backdrop of a picturesque lake in Switzerland. During the 90s, the festival had a reputation for launching new talent and curating an eclectic and diverse programme. The explosion of new entrants onto the film festival circuit over the past decade coincided with a drop in the quality of the programme. Then over the past four years, first under the custodianship of Oliver Père, a former head of the Cannes Director’s Fortnight, Locarno found its footing again, positioned as a launch pad for edgy independent fare.

In his debut year, new artistic Director Carlo Chatrian has continued the good work with a competition selection of 18 films, featuring 16 world premieres and 2 international premieres.

The main interest from Britain was in the unleashing of a third film by Joanna Hogg, whose previous efforts were the Tuscany set romance Unrelated (2007), which won her the award for Most Promising Newcomer at the Evening Standard British Film Awards and Archipelago (2010) set around a family trip to the Isles of Scilly.

Her new film Exhibition is set in a modernist house in London owned by an artist couple, who have decided to sell. The interesting casting sees two acting debutants take on the roles of principal protagonists D and H: Turner prize nominated conceptual artist Liam Gillick and Viv Albertine, the onetime guitarist of influential all-English punk group The Slits. There is also a minor role for Hogg regular Tom Hiddleston as the estate agent charged with selling the unique house.

This though is essentially a two hander about a couple whose decision to sell their house evokes memories of the past highlighting the rut of their current relationship. The couple also work in their house, communicating with each other via telecom. H has the more successful career and his performance artist partner reveals a tension in their relationship when she states that she can’t ask H to review her work as he is constantly undermining her confidence. Their sex life is poor. Friends constantly talking about their children annoy them. The problems with the film come from the use of too familiar clichés about London life.

Hogg is an expert in the cinema of suggestion and from their actions and the sounds we hear off-screen, it becomes apparent that there has been a significant trauma in their common past, something that leaving their house may alleviate. The story and characters haunt long after the credits roll and it’s a picture that takes some time to sink in.

Less successful is Mary Queen of Scots directed by Thomas Imbach. The Swiss director takes a sombre, austere approach to a period drama about royalty, eschewing elements of the story that need big set-pieces and lavish costumes. Instead the director tries to get into the mind of Mary but is on a hiding to nothing because of the performance of French newcomer Camille Rutherford (who struggles with the English dialogue scenes) and a poor script.

It was clear why an exception to the world premiere rule was made for Short Term 12, an American independent set in a foster-care facility starring 21 Jump Street star Brie Larson. Written and directed by Destin Cretton, who based some of the characters on his own experiences working at such a facility, the story tells of a care worker’s struggle to cope with problems in her own relationship and past whilst also looking after kids in her care.

Away from the competition one of the highlights of Locarno has always been the open-air screenings at the Piazza Grande. The criteria for choosing these films are that they can get several thousand bums on seats each evening. This year the festival benefitted from glorious warm evenings with stars beaming in the night sky. Only the opening night film, 2 Guns starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg suffered because of bad weather. There was a mix of new films and classics, including those from the two directors receiving a retrospective at the festival, Werner Herzog and George Cukor. Fans of revenge thrillers should definitely look out for the American independent Blue Ruin. One should definitely have a sweet movie tooth for two of the other selections, the closing night film was Richard Curtis’ About Time and also screening was the Michael Caine starrer Mr Morgan’s Last Love, in which the British actor plays a Paris-residing American (with a dodgy accent) who following the death of his wife befriends a young dance instructor on a bus in Paris.

Locarno Film Festival ends 17 August

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Christopher Eccleston (centre) plays an ex-policeman in this cliché-riddled thriller

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey looks very serious as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

TV This TV review contains spoilers
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Wiz Khalifa performs on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park in Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury


Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars creator George Lucas


Arts and Entertainment


Arts and Entertainment
A shot from the forthcoming Fast and Furious 7


Arts and Entertainment
The new-look Top of the Pops could see Fearne Cotton returns as a host alongside Dermot O'Leary


Arts and Entertainment
The leader of the Church of Scientology David Miscavige


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Arts and Entertainment
Could Ed Sheeran conquer the Seven Kingdoms? He could easily pass for a Greyjoy like Alfie Allen's character (right)

tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros

Arts and Entertainment
Beyonce, Boris Johnson, Putin, Nigel Farage, Russell Brand and Andy Murray all get the Spitting Image treatment from Newzoids
tvReview: The sketches need to be very short and very sharp as puppets are not intrinsically funny
Arts and Entertainment
Despite the controversy it caused, Mile Cyrus' 'Wrecking Ball' video won multiple awards
musicPoll reveals over 70% of the British public believe sexually explicit music videos should get ratings
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister and Ian Beattie as Meryn Trant in the fifth season of Game of Thrones

Arts and Entertainment

book review
Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
  • Get to the point
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.

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions