Wednesday, October 12, 2011

London Film Fest 2011 Day 1 - 360

Jude Law and Rachel Weisz as an estranged couple in 360
It has long been my experience that the most interesting and exciting films showing at the London Film Festival are those tucked away in the heart of the programme, rather than the red-carpet galas, where one suspects the programmer's hand has been forced by the exigencies of publicity and sponsorship.  Sadly, 360 proved no exception to this rule.  Worse than that, one suspects that Brazilian director Fernando Meirelles' early success with the dazzling CITY OF GOD was a fluke.  Ever since then, his films have maintained their visual style, but lost pace, energy, and tackled subject matter with a heavy handed earnestness that belies their insight.  One wishes that he would stop trying to be clever-clever with his narrative devices and just tell a good, simple story.  

The too-clever concept at the heart of 360 is to show the interweaving stories of people across the world  - the only commonality is how each of them experience a seemingly arbitrary event changes their lives.  The story takes us from a failing marriage in middle-class London (Jude Law, Rachel Weisz) to hookers and Russian mafiosi in Vienna (Moritz Bleibtrau) - from  sex offenders and grieving parents in Denver (Ben Foster, Anthony Hopkins) to forbidden love in Paris (Jamel Debbouze).  In each case, characters are introduced, their love affairs and dilemmas explained, an event occurs, its ramifications start to be explored, and the matter is dropped. Perhaps in a later strand we will meet the character again and see them from a different angle.  But by then, so much has been going on, so many characters introduced, so little time given to being able to emotionally bond with them, that we are past caring.  I left the cinema feeling totally "blah".  I had watched a parade of characters and frankly, didn't care about a single one of them.  And as for the "message" of this ponderous work, it's hardly revelatory or profound.  Some people are cynical sleazebags - some people still naively take a chance on love - the world keeps turning - and random events can change the path we move along. 

Jude Law and director Fernando Meirelles present
360 at the Opening Night of the BFI London
Film Festival 2011
The result is a film that is utterly unmemorable and actually rather tragic when one considers the talent deployed.  To be sure, cinematographer Adriano Goldman (JANE EYRE, SIN NOMBRE, CONVICTION) creates some arresting visuals, but the rest of the talent is below par.  The actors have little to get their teeth into and are rather unforgettable, except for Anthony Hopkins hamming it up. To be fair, Hopkins is only responding to one of those awfully obvious crass Academy-Award-aspirant speeches by screenwriter Peter Morgan (THE QUEEN) when he finally comes to an epiphany in an AA meeting. 

Overall then, 360 is yet another film by Fernando Meirelles that is technically accomplished, but fails to provide us with characters that we care about and situations that are compelling.  A serious own-goal by screenwriter Peter Morgan too, moving from his typically more straightforward biopic material into some more narratively ambitious, and clearly beyond his capabilities. 

360 premiered at London 2011 and will play Toronto 2011. It will open in Sweden on October 19th 2012.

1 comment:

  1. A brilliant film, hitting life at its most vulnerable aspects. Everything that happens is all around you, all the time. The initial dialogue becomes quite significant, so pay attention. Hopkins, finally setting himself free with a wonderful piece of work, alone rates the the ticket price. The surprising ending harkens you back to the beginning of this character's travail and makes the picture's point quite effectively. As you go through life, if something stops you in your tracks, go for it, rather than spend the rest of your days wondering "what if?"