Tuesday, 7 October 2014
At the LFF: "Ellie Lumme"/"The Princess of France"
Ellie Lumme, a forty-minute tester from film critic Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, initially seems to be moving in the same arch, wry, ever so slightly indulgent circles as Frances Ha or its mumblecore brethren: a small clutch of hyperarticulate white thirtysomethings contradict themselves and one another in passive-aggressive bursts of chatter some muddy sound quality hardly makes more appealing. It turns on a delayed revelation - not regarding the eponymous heroine (Allison Torem), who appears likely to drift through the film, but her squat, stolid would-be suitor Ned (Stephen Cone). At this point, matters become altogether more prickly and pointed, the kind of film you might expect a critic to make: the bohemian playground the first half sets up for Chicago's resident kooks and kidults suddenly acquires some shade, becoming a backdrop for a battle of the sexes more precise, involving and - for all its indie quirks - more dangerous than anything in Gone Girl. Vishnevetsky is finally alert to the foibles of his fellow humanoids, and Ellie Lumme (it's pronounced "loom-eh") winds up far more promising than its nothingy opening would suggest.
The Argentinian writer-director Matias Piñeiro has built up a reputation on the festival circuit for a series of scholarly contemporary riffs on the works of William Shakespeare: films that retain some of the Bard's text and plotting, but which mostly play out like latter-day proofs and demonstrations of the messages to be found within these couplets, rather in the manner of Kieślowski's Dekalog or the BBC's recent Canterbury Tales updates. The Princess of France, which is screening in an LFF double-bill with Ellie Lumme, extracts the themes of betrayal and regret from Love's Labours Lost: after a virtuoso opening shot - in which a five-a-side football game subty acquires new dimensions - it goes on to depict the shifting state of play in the relationships between a feckless actor and the various women in his life.
There's something fresh and not unappealing in its heterodox movement - it's a film as comfortable discussing the art inside a gallery as it is watching the thespian pals lay down tracks in a recording studio, something one might show to anybody doubting whether contemporary arthouse directors could ever rival the learned, inquiring minds of their 1960s forebears. What this generally effete venture lacks, however, is any real dramatic heft. Unlike, say, Rohmer's students in love, perhaps the closest reference point, Pineiro's creations rarely seem like anything other than the thinnest of pillars for the overarching directorial conceit: leading man Julián Larquier Tellarini, in particular, cuts such a sketchy, spotty figure that the female attention being squandered on him comes to seem mystifying.
Ellie Lumme and The Princess of France screen on Thu 9 at 1.15pm in NFT3, and again on Fri 10 at 9pm at Rich Mix.