Sunday, 23 October 2011

The London Film Festival and the India-set Thomas Hardy

I tend to go a bit crazy at this time of year. Work and the outside world get put on hold, while I spend two weeks and far too much money on the London Film Festival. Now that I’m a student again, I’ve tried to be a bit more sensible and I’ve just allowed myself one week of LFF films, instead of the usual two.  I love to see big films that I’ve been waiting ages for, small films by actors and directors I’ve never heard of, world cinema that I probably wouldn’t choose to watch normally, and new British films. I’ve been moved and delighted as Colin Firth finally won me over with his incredible performance in A Single Man and Tom Ford didn’t fail to disappoint with his first feature, I’ve cheered as (spoiler alert) James Franco was eventually free of his arm in 127 Hours, I managed to hold back tears as I watched Brilliante Mendoza’s Foster Child, and failed to hold them back as Abbie Cornish shook my core in Bright Star. LFF 2007 was also the first time I cried at the cinema, at the beautiful film Grace is Gone, which I believe sadly never got a UK distributor. And now LFF 2011 is the first time that I’ve left a film dry-eyed, but wept when I got home.
I’ve talked about Jude the Obscure before – it’s a beautiful David Austin rose, and a depressing Thomas Hardy novel. Tess of the D’Urbervilles is also both of these – it’s a dark red rose, a little bit like William Shakespeare 2000. The book was adapted by Roman Polanski in 1979 and the BBC in 2008, and now Michael Winterbottom has used the story as inspiration for a story set in modern day India. The film screened on Saturday at the festival to two packed audiences.
I absolutely loved Gemma Arterton’s Tess in the BBC series. She was strong, feisty and outspoken (and on a superficial note, she was the reason – along with Karen Carpenter – that I took the plunge and decided to get a fringe). Freido Pinto’s Trishna is quieter, more passive, but also a little more difficult to read, which is not a bad thing. As there are some significant changes from the book, and some clever updating, I don’t want to spoil the film by talking about the plot. However, I will say that there was a point when I thought, ‘For goodness’ sake, Michael Winterbottom, don’t you know when to stop? This is why you get accused of misogyny!’ But then something happened, and I wasn’t thinking that for much longer.
If you’ve not read Tess of the D’Urbervilles or seen any filmed versions, but you were one of millions who were moved by Little Mo’s plight in EastEnders or Jackie McQueen’s in Hollyoaks, then you may enjoy Trishna. Although ‘enjoy’ isn’t really the right word.
I saw my last film of the festival today – Richard Linklater’s wonderful black comedy, Bernie, in which Jack Black plays an assistant funeral director who the whole town loves. I’m pleased to report that there were no tears today!