21 October 2009

Clive Is Back

LoFiFest screenings/events attended: 3
Red carpets crossed: 2
Directors sighted: 2
Clive Owen sighted: 1
Questions posed by me during Q&A: 1

This London Film Festival lark sure is fun, if tiring. Having sprung--rolled, at least--out of bed at 7.05, just four minutes after my alarm went off, I jaunted over to Nowheresville for another day of fun, games and eight-legged creatures (well, the last part was true, anyway). Just before the next 7.05, I left the office, realised how late I was and sprinted for my train. I did catch it and perhaps it was thankful that a combination of my heavy breathing and the BBQ chicken salad I'd bought from M&S for dinner meant I got a double seat to myself.

On to Leicester Square for the real excitement. As soon as booking opened for LoFiFest, I logged on to book tickets for the Screen Talk with Clive Owen (which I'm assuming will involve a live interview with Clive followed by audience Q&A), along with several other films. I didn't try to book for Clive's latest film, The Boys Are Back, because a) I thought I should restrict the number of events I was attending involving Mr Owen and b) I didn't think the film looked that interesting. But then when the BFI sent an email announcing more tickets had become available for The Boys Are Back, I gave in and booked.

Leicester Square was even busier tonight than on Monday and the Vue cinema, where TBAB was being screened, had a bigger red carpet than Monday's Odeon. I stood around outside for a while hoping that Clive might walk past but no such luck--I decided he'd probably already gone in or would only go in after all the audience had entered and I definitely didn't want to miss the film. A very pretty woman with short, dark hair and a gorgeous dress did walk past, though, and as all the paparazzi were calling, "Laura! Laura!" I assumed she was famous. As soon as the film started, I realised she was Laura Fraser, who plays Clive's wife in the film.

In the auditorium, each seat had a bar of Green and Black's chocolate and a bottle of posh and Icelandic (yet carbon-free) water in the cup-holder. Nice! The gala was sponsored by MoFilm, who presumably provided the goodies; they make short films optimised for smart phones and had also sponsored a competition to make a 60-second, smart phone-friendly advert and the winner was announced and screened at the gala. I'd have preferred more of Clive, personally, but I suppose it was only fair. Eventually, the director was introduced and he came up on stage, followed by Clive and, I think, by the writer. Unfortunately, I was sitting in the 11th row and the lighting in the cinema was really low so all my photos came out really badly. I would have been more upset but I'm hoping I'll be able to take plenty more from closer-up and in better light conditions tomorrow at the Screen Talk.

As for TBAB, I enjoyed it as a film, although I wasn't really expecting to. Clive plays Joe, a sports reporter married to an uptight violin teacher, who meets Katy, an Aussie horse-riding champ whom he knocks up before leaving the violinist and their son to go Down Under and live on a ranch with kangaroos and other crazy stuff. Seven years later, all is perfect for Joe and Katy until, inevitably, she finds out she has a horrible, aggressive and advanced form of cancer and soon dies. This happens within the first ten minutes of the film and the rest of the film focuses on how Joe and his younger son Artie (and later, his elder son Harry) deal--or more often, don't deal--with life without Katy, who does appear from time to time as a hallucination.

This description sounds really corny but it wasn't an overly maudlin film. Sure, there were sad moments and tears were shed but there were far more sweet and funny parts, and so TBAB certainly wasn't depressing or clichéd but the intense, excruciating and incessant pain felt by Joe and also Artie (although the latter's tended to be expressed either as acting out or trying not to think about it) came across very well. The situation is complicated by the arrival of 15-year-old Harry from his English boarding school. He and Artie get on well but he hardly knows his father who left when he was eight and whose parental contribution since then has consisted of paying the fees for the boarding school he hates.

It's a startling revelation to Joe how much effort it takes to run a house and parent two children alone, especially while trying to keep his journalist job. His his ability to balance the two is challenged when his boss insists he attend the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne; there are no flights or hotel rooms so Joe can't take the boys, and his mother in law doesn't want to look after Joe's ex's son. Equally, the single mother of a classmate of Artie's, with whom Joe had started a tentative friendship, felt she was being taken advantage of and refused to babysit in his absence. So, Joe watches streams of the event online and gets reports from his friend at the tournament and writes his stories from this. Unfortunately, his boss decides to attend the final so to Melbourne Joe must go and he leaves Artie under Harry's watch. Of course things go wrong and events--and living arrangements--soon come to a head.

I was engaged throughout, though--I didn't check the time on my phone even once, which is usually a good sign--and my only complaints were: a) the structure could have been a little tauter--it tended to meander a little too much for my taste, and b) the soundtrack, which consisted mainly of Sigur Rós (which fitted the mood of the film well) and other pieces from the likes of Kasabian and Mayfield, was generally great but the addition of the Carla Bruni song, You Belong To Me at the end really irritated me. Partly because it's not my favourite song but partly because it played in a scene where Joe was packing away Katy's clothes and if the point was that he still belonged to her, it didn't seem to fit with a scene of him moving forward (if not at really moving on). Maybe it was intended to show that even though he was packing her things away, he'd never forget her and she'd always be his; this makes more sense but even so, I'm not sure it was the right song.

Now, I've got the Screen Talk to look forward to. I've even thought of a proper question to ask him so I hope there is an opportunity for audience questions and if so, I hope I get picked. What a glamorous life I lead...

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