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Thread: MOSTLY BRITISH FILM FESTIVAL San Francisco 16-23 Feb. 2017

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    MOSTLY BRITISH FILM FESTIVAL San Francisco 16-23 Feb. 2017



    Mostly British Festival, San Francisco

    The Mostly British Film Festival was created by Ruthe Stein and Jack Bair eight years ago to bring to Bay Area audiences the best in cinema from the UK, Ireland, Australia, India, New Zealand and South Africa. For many of our films this is the only opportunity to see them in a theater. We have shown local premieres of such films as “56 Up,” “Hunger,” “Red Riding Trilogy,” “Lunchbox” and “London River.” The directors represented at the festival include John Boorman, Ken Loach and Mike Leigh and the actors are Colin Firth, Ewan McGregor, Cate Blanchett, Jim Broadbent and Charlotte Rampling, to name just some. Our guests of honor have been Malcolm McDowell, Minnie Driver, Michael York and Joel Edgerton.

    Filmleaf General Film Forum thread for the festival coverage.

    Festival web page

    Press Release

    THE MOSTLY BRITISH FILM FESTIVAL RETURNS FEBRUARY 16-23, 2017 TO THE HISTORIC VOGUE THEATER IN SAN FRANCISCO FOR ITS NINTH YEAR

    SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA. The Mostly British Film Festival heads into its 9th year with 26 new and classic feature films and documentaries from the United Kingdom, Ireland, Australia, India, New Zealand and South Africa. More than half of them, including opening and closing night features, are San Francisco premieres.

    The festival opens February 16 with Their Finest, the latest from An Education director Lone Scherfig. With a cast headed by Bill Nighy and Gemma Arterton, this delightful romantic comedy tells the story of the British film industry during World War II, charged with buoying the spirits of people living in constant fear of the Blitz. The festival closes on February 23 with the Australian family drama The Daughter about a grown son who returns home for his father’s wedding. Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill and Miranda Otto star.

    A special series on February 18, The Beatles on Film, commemorates the Fab Four’s final concert at Candlestick Park a half century ago. Consisting of a trio of movies starring or about The Beatles, the program culminates with the timeless magical documentary “A Hard Day’s Night” presented in a new digital restoration.

    Famed British film editor Anne V. Coates will be an honored guest on February 21. A five-time Oscar nominee and winner for “Lawrence of Arabia,” she is a current recipient of an honorary Oscar called “the Governor’s Award” from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Her career began with “The Red Shoes” in 1948 and she last edited “50 Shades of Grey.” Her other films include “Beckett,” “The Horse’s Mouth” and “Unfaithful.” Miss Coates will be interviewed on stage by film historian David Thomson (“The New Biographical Dictionary of Film”), followed by a screening of “Murder on the Orient Express,” which she edited.

    British Noir evening, a tradition at the festival, on February 17 will feature the classic thriller “Mona Lisa” starring Bob Hoskins and Michael Caine and directed by Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game”) along with a new Noir “A Patch of Fog” starring Conleth Hill of “Game of Thrones.”

    The always popular Irish Spotlight on February 19 features a coming-of-age drama “Twice Shy; an unconventional story of bereavement, “Mammal,” starring Rachel Griffiths (“Six Feet Under”); and two very different Irish high school outsiders striving to be true to themselves in “Handsome Devil.”

    Numerous Australian films will be highlighted including “Alex and Eve,” an adaptation of a hit stage play, and “Looking for Grace” starring Radha Mitchell (“Melinda and Melinda”) and Richard Roxbury (“Rake”).

    The pre-eminent British director Terence Davies, a festival favorite, will be represented by “A Quiet Passion.” Davies employs painterly tableaux to portray Emily Dickinson’s life of supreme intelligence undermined by social codes and convention. Those who know Cynthia Nixon only from “Sex and the City” will be surprised by her nuanced performance as the 19th century poet. Fans of “Glee” won’t want to miss “The Rehearsal,” about a prestigious New Zealand drama school and its students who aspire to be stars.

    The festival will be held at the Historic Vogue Theater in San Francisco, which at over 100 years is one of the oldest movie houses in the world. Mostly British is presented by the San Francisco Neighborhood Theater Foundation (sfntf.org). Festival passes and individual tickets are on sale at the Vogue and at mostlybritish.org and cinemasf.com.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-01-2017 at 10:35 PM.

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    HANDSOME DEVIL (John Butler 2016)

    JOHN BUTLER: HANDSOME DEVIL (2016)


    FIONNN O'SHEA AND NICHOLAS GALITZINE IN HANDSOME DEVIL

    The game's the thing

    Like the 1998 UK gay film Get Real, this tale from Northern Ireland concerns a school alliance between an outcast and a popular boy. The outcast is red-headed Ned (Fionn O'Shea), a sarcastic young man at the school for his second year, and his new ally is newcomer rugby star Conor (Nicholas Galitzine), who arrives from another school he's left for "fighting" with a fantastic scoring record, and is assigned to room with geek pariah Ned, who has no roommate. Coming upon Conor doing pushups on arrival, Ned, who's no wimp, puts up a "Berlin Wall" between them, not wanting anything to do with a jock. But Conor has a suspiciously gentle, sweet manner, and shared musical tastes bring the two unlike boys together with breakneck speed (the movie title is the name of a song by The Smiths). The division theme carries over with some split-screen shots emphasizing how sharply boarding school seeks to divide people up, the same visuals used in the opening credits.

    If Conor and Ned are two opposites who begin to attract, a third pole is the hardened young English teacher, also a newcomer, Mr. Sherry (Andrew Scott), who after a "get tough" start, begins "working with" the class and being "loved for it," according to Ned, who narrates the story. Eventually the mood Conor and Ned will emanate pushes Mr. Sherry to go with the times and become more open with the headmaster about himself.

    When rumors go around ("gay" of course is the word for everything bad anyway), pressure comes onto Conor to avoid Ned, and this leads to his being a no-show for their planned guitar duo organized by Mr Sherry at an amateur concert. Ned, with his weak voice and useless guitar playing, is pressed by Mr. Sherry to go on alone right after a fluent black hip hop performer, and it's very embarrassing for all of us.

    But who's the actual odd boy out? When the time is ripe the movie starts hinting Conor left his old school for reasons other than just "fighting." Ned finds out more about this on a school rugby trip, where Conor also spots Mr. Sherry in a compromising situation.

    Ned makes a public declaration about Conor, a gesture he deeply regrets that also gets him kicked out of the school. (But even that is turned to profit, because he goes on to win an essay contest with a description of his misdeed.) Conor is so disturbed by the situation that he disappears - on the eve of the rugby final where his presence is essential for the school's victory.

    Handsome Devil has a feel-good finale, alright, but who would expect a gay coming of age school drama to end in a victorious rugby match? Well, that's the way this movie is conceived. It makes no bones from the start about the fact that at this school everything revolves around rugby - or about its being simplistically constructed as a film. The rugby coach Pascal (the grimacing Moe Dunford) is the movie's resident homophobe, so maybe we need rugby to have one of those.

    Conor and Mr. Sherry are outed in different ways that both turn out to be positive. Though he's the narrator and engine of the finale, Ned remains unrevealed, unless we're to take a poster on his wall of two boys kissing that the rugby players tear down at Conor's first arrival as a statement of identity. (Maybe we could, but sometimes this film is a bit too tight-lipped about its gay theme.) From early on when Mr. Sherry catches him submitting a paper that's plagiarized from a song, Ned is learning you have to speak in your own voice, and this is passed on to Conor later. At times Butler's film seems to tell more clearly than it shows.

    With its mismatched gay schoolboys, Get Real had a different twist. Its outcast and school winner fall in love, but when the winner lacks the guts to be open about their relationship and even beats him up to hide it, the wimpy guy has to abandon him. In Handsome Devil, Conor, the handsome star athlete, comes out boldly in the end. But everyone is just beginning to find their way. Get Real tells a more empowering story with its brave underdog. But Handsome Devil's picture of pretty much everybody struggling to find who they are isn't untruthful. It's just that Get Real confronts gay issues in a more involving way, without the distraction of a climactic rugby match.

    Handsome Devil, 99 mins., debuted at Toronto 11 Sept. 2016; several other festivals. Allan Hunter of Screen Daily called it "immensely likable"; David Rooney of Hollywood Reporter said that its "sweetness, poignancy and breezy humor" made it "pretty darn impossible to resist." The film shows Sunday, 19 Feb. 2017 at the Mostly British Festival at the Vogue Theater in San Francisco.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-26-2017 at 08:53 PM.

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    A PATCH OF FOG (Michael Lennox 2015)

    MICHAEL LENNOX: A PATCH OF FOG (2015)


    CONLETH HILL AND STEPHEN GRAHAM IN A PATCH OF FOG

    Never let him go

    Michael Lennox, a prize-winning short film director from Northern Ireland (with a 2014 Oscar nomination), chose a creepy tale of friendship by blackmail for his feature debut. It co-stars two actors from HBO shows. Conleth Hill of "Game of Thrones" plays Sandy Duffy, a well-off novelist whose only hit (same title as this movie) was 25 years ago. He now cruises on a late night TV talk show and lecturing on creative writing and has a secretive affair with the show hostess, Lucy (Lara Pulver). As a kind of side hobby he's hooked on the excitement of shop lifting. Along comes Robert, (Stephen Graham, Al Capone on "Boardwalk Empire") the security guard who catches Sandy on video pocketing a pen, and when Sandy begs not to be turned over to the cops, forces him to be his "friend." To show Robert's creepiness, his pet at home is a large snake. Both of these are characters you'd run to get away from, but Sandy can't get away from Robert, even when he begins to try.

    That describes the whole film, unfortunately. Technically speaking, there are a few surprises, but they are not changes in the expected trajectory. Hence this feels more like a spun-out short film (or short story), or expanded "Twilight Zone" episode that runs too long, than a feature film. The production is good, and the acting is good. Hill and Graham play their roles very well. But they just don't have quite enough to do to fill this run-time.

    A Patch of Fog, 92 mins., debuted at Toronto Sept. 2015; Edinburgh Jun. 2016, premiere on Japanese TV Dec. 2016. The reviewer for Hollywood Reporter wrote at Toronto that its "escalating implausibility is played too straight to even be enjoyably ridiculous." Scott Tobias of Variety noted an uncertainty of tone that is evident: he said the film can't decide if its stalker is "dangerously unhinged" or just "a social misfit." Andrew Pulver of the Guardian found the film "carefully constructed" but lacking the "lightness of touch" of Lennox's earlier work. Plays in the Mostly British Festival at Vogue Theater in San Francisco 17 Feb. US theatrical release 24 Jan. 2017.

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    TWICER SHY (Tom Ryan 2016)

    TOM RYAN: TWICE SHY (2016)


    ISEULT CASEY, SHANE MURRAY-CORCORAN IN TWICE SHY

    Painful choices

    In this mini-budget film from Ireland Andy (Shane Murray-Corcoran of King Arthur and Angela's Ashes) drives Maggie (first-timer Iseult Casey) from Tipperary to the airport foe London so she can get an abortion for an unplanned pregnancy that's happened during an on-off romance that has lasted a year or so. In small-town Ireland, an abortion isn't an easy decision, and Andy is against it. The drive bookends a series of flashbacks to their lives and relationship. Both their fathers have trouble making ends meet, especially Andy's, who has had problems with depression and attempted suicide several times, which the family tries to hush up. Andy, who was headed toward a career in art, has left college with a year to go to be close to his dad, and that preoccupation has interrupted the romance with Maggie. The couple seems painfully, touchingly, shy and innocent. Andy hasn't got much game, and for a weekend excursion, would rather check out Galway than Berlin. But they do go to London on one occasion, when the romance is fresh, and vow that they'd like to live there when they are more ready.

    A period when they don't see each other is handled ironically, with a relatively hard and sophisticated male friend from Dublin, Brian (Ben Harding) at a pub seen urging Maggie to force the issue and break it off crosscut with And out walking with a friend telling him the opposite, to revive the flame. Both actors, especially Murray-Corcoran, are good at differentiating between their fresh, hopeful earlier moods and the present time, in the car, with Andy at first sullen and silent and Maggie feebly trying to be lighthearted. As time goes on, a late flashback reveals more about the pregnancy and our understanding of what's going on deepens. The ending isn't very satisfying, but then, it's not meant to be. The performances are very authentic. The material has provoked much thought in Ireland - though there is too little about it so far online.

    A solid supporting cast includes Ardal O’ Hanlon, Pat Shortt, and TV stars Mary Conroy (Ros na Rún) and Paul Ronan (Love/Hate) making appearances. O’Hanlon and Shortt play the pair's fathers.


    Twice Shy, 76 mins., debuted at the Galway Film Festival 8 July 2016, where it was reportedly enthusiastically received. It has played at five Irish festivals and in London and LA. Screened for this review as part of the Mostly British Film Festival, San Francisco, at the Vogue Theater. 5:00PM
    SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2017.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-01-2017 at 10:15 PM.

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    THE REHEARSAL (Alison Maclean 2016)

    ALISON MACLEAN: THE REHEARSAL (2016)


    KERRY FOX, JAMES ROLLESTON IN THE REHEARSAL

    Playacting too close to real

    The Rehearsal is Alison Maclean's long-delayed sequel to her 1999 debut Jesus' Son. While that adapted Denis Johnson's linked story collection, this one is a free screen version of Mann Booker winner Eleanor Catton’s technically playful debut novel. The story about an Aukland acting "Institute" and its untoward interactions with a neighborhood scandal is a slow-burning ensemble piece. It has an admirably fresh and unpredictable quality.

    Students at the Institute most work through the year to create and stage a joint end-of-term production that can not only blow away their demanding lead teacher Hannah (Kerry Fox of Shallow Grave, Bright Star) as drama but impress her and visiting talent scouts with participant students' individual skills. Likewise this ensemble movie impresses as a study of local society and a school, but highlights a few main characters, chiefly Hannah, with her Method brainwashing and tough love, and Stanley (James Rolleston, who's already starred in three films, Boy, The Dark Horse, and The Dead Lands), a "pretty" young Maori-heritage acting student she takes a liking to.

    The Rehearsal is an intriguing mix of emotional and cool, like an actor who can engage an audience without personally losing it - perhaps like Stanley. It resembles a classier version of "Fame," but is unusual not only in its clear-headed look into how acting works but in being a New Zealand film whose offhand complexity has found it a place in some of the biggest international film festivals.

    During early class exercises Stanlay comes off as hopelessly bland and without feeling, unable to access emotion or theatrical effects. But he turns out to be quite otherwise. It's a growing surprise when Stanley does show talent and access emotion - initially through channeling his macho dad in a class improvisation where he tells a dirty joke and comes on to Hannah. She likes.

    In contrast when his mercurial housemate and pal William (Kieran Charnock) just tells a jokey family story to the class about a spoiled lamb roast that avoids real emotional revelation, Hannah creams him and he's devastated. Basic lesson: if you can't access deep feeling or aren't strong enough to be vulnerable, maybe you can't be an actor at all. Or maybe arts schools profs should be more careful about crushing young artistic spirits.

    So that's one of a number of angles. Another, a key focus, is the term-end project. For it, Stanley gets the idea early on of depicting a tennis instructor who seduces his 15-year-old student Victoria (Rachel Roberts), a new local scandal. What he holds off revealing to the class or to her, is that he knows the story first hand, because he's dating Isolde (Ella Edward) Victoria's slightly older sister whom he met on a bus when coming to town. And come to think of it, Isolde is underage to Stanley, so he may be no better than the tennis coach. The story plays with a lot of these angles, delving into group sexual and teen personal issues and jumping around in a somewhat experimental way. And, if it all seems a bit too scattered, it does end up with a great final musical segment.

    The Rehearsal, 102 mins., debuted July (NZIFF), Aug. Sept., and Oct. in subsequent festivals including Toronto, New York, and London. Included in the Mostly British Festival in San Francisco showing Sat. 18 Feb. 2017.

    A limited US theatrical release from Mongrel International is scheduled Friday 7 July 2017 starting at the Metrograph Theater.

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