Sunday, 16 October 2011

More on the 2011 London Film Festival

Magic Trip is an archive doc from 1964 about Ken Kesey's (author One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) road trip with his band of " merry pranksters". Fascinating film, the restoration and ingenious edit by directors Alison Ellwood and Alex Gibney is to be applauded. Tom Wolfe 
immortalised Kesey's trip without ever seeing the footage or being on the trip (psycho-hallucinogenic or literal). I came away from this film full of admiration for the late Kesey - after his arrest for possession of marijuana he is asked to speak out publicly and condemn drugs, he cleverly does so with integrity and without a trace of hypocrisy, a great political manoeuvre. Kesey took responsibility and did not blame the CIA exploitation of students by the CIA "Project MKULTRA" The same system that introduced him to LSD condemned him for the use of it. Lucky for the CIA that Kesey was as "kool" as he clearly was. Great film, try and see it if you can.

Wanda (1970) by Barbara Loden was simply awe-inspiring. It was actually Elia Kazan's name in the LFF programme that first drew me to Wanda. Loden was married to Kazan. Perhaps when she wrote the script Lodan thought, "There but for the grace of God go I...", I'm sure many women watching this film 40 years after Loden made it, would reflect on this sentiment too, for times have not changed as much as they should have. Loden wrote, directed, produced and played Wanda, (the lead) an impoverished and attractive woman whose personality is such that she cannot conform to the control of men. But in spite of the moments of psychological freedom and hope that her idiosyncratic character provides, she knows only too well she is an object for men to use, enslaved by the patriarchal society in which she lives, were women had/have little choice no matter how much they keep running.  In a courtroom scene the male Judge (a disembodied voice) is fully supportive of the husband’s criticisms of his useless wife and Wanda believes the criticisms and thus feeling worthless gives up her children. Loden identified with Wanda and her lack of autonomy, stating "I used to be like Wanda, I used to try to please people and be what people wanted me to be." Tragically Loden made only this one feature, she died young of cancer. There isn't one cliché or stereotyped moment in this highly original and nuanced film. With a vérité style and shots that linger and scenes that journey into the character’s internal world, if ever a film was owed the critique, "this is a film only a woman could make", Wanda is it. 

At the BFI South Bank excellent film fest I also saw Fuschia. A children's film from Disney Netherlands, great fun for the young ones, all about wizards & witches and children being closer to nature and caring more about the natural world than nasty adult Anglo Saxon males with chain-saws and concrete mixers. I'm a bit of a sucker for that idealised score... The opening was a homage to Spielberg's ET, in fact Spielberg’s influence can be seen in all of the film’s best moments. 

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