LFF 2016 reviews: Your Name, Mercenary, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, The Birth of a Nation
James R | On 16, Oct 2016
From Netflix’s Black Mirror and Amazon’s originals to MUBI’s Cannes acquisitions and Dogwoof’s live-streaming premiere of Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold, the 2016 London Film Festival is embracing VOD like never before. We head to Leicester Square to check out some of the films and TV shows on offer.
Newcomer Toki Pilioko is remarkable in this sports drama about a young rugby player who moves from his New Caledonian home to France, after a talent scout comes knocking. The film premiered in Cannes’ Directors’ Fortnight strand this year and was promptly snapped up by Netflix for global release in the future.
Screenings: Sun 16 Oct 20.30
Anime has always struggled to find an audiencen in the UK and other Western countries, mostly because of a lack of distribution – sites such as Crunchyroll and Viewster have become essentials for fans to keep up to date legally. Makoto Shinkai’s Your Name, though, already has a UK theatrical release in place this November – no surprise, given that it is currently breaking box office records left, right and centre in Japan.
The film follows two teenagers (Taki in Tokyo, Mitsuha in the country), who find themselves able to exchange places when dreaming. Shinkai seizes the opportunity for some body-swapping comedy, but the phenomenon paves the way for something more cosmic than their smartphone diary entries to each other – a journey that combines the emotional fallout of 2011’s tsunami and earthquake with the uplifting rush of young romance. Part sci-fi, part traditional Japanese culture, it’s an epic of wit and weight. But all that substance is wrapped up in an impeccable surface, as Shinkai’s team of animators craft a visually dazzling experience, which ranges from watercolour-like flashbacks to rotoscope-style images, not to mention stunning visions of a comet flying through the sky overhead. It’s charming and funny and bursting with imagination, but Your Name is, quite simply, one of the most beautiful animations ever made.
Screenings: Sun 16 Oct 18.15
The Birth of a Nation
In some cases, it’s extremely difficult to separate the artist from their art, but with The Birth of a Nation, it’s perhaps worth making the divide. The film, which is written by, directed by and stars Nate Parker, reappropriates the title of DW Griffith’s 1915 silent film, considered now to be racist propaganda. It’s oddly apt, then, that this can sometimes have a similar feel, as Parker plays Turner, a slave who led the first revolt in 1831. The bloody uprising is depicted with religious symbolism (Turner was a preacher) and justified by rapes of undeveloped female characters, all of which lacks the calm, understated depth of Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave. But there’s power in Parker’s performance and a daring quality to the way he presents Turner’s life as the direct line to the later Civil War that is undeniably stirring.
The Autopsy of Jane Doe
After the fantastical fun that was Trollhunter, director André Øvredal heads to Hollywood (well, a set in Bromley-by-Bow) for this fantastically taut horror. Set entirely in a morgue, we follow father-son coroners Tommy (Brian Cox) and Austin (Emile Hirsch) as they slowly unpick a mysterious corpse that has turned up on their doorstep in the middle of the night. With each new cut, they uncover another medical impossibility, as her innards seem tortured but her exterior remains flawless. Cox and Hirsch sell their morbid relationship, with Ophelia Lovibond always excellent as Austin’s girlfriend, waiting in the wings for him to carve out time from his work schedule for her. But Øvredal is the real star here: after the free-wheeling realism of the improvised Trollhunter, the Nordic helmer switches things up, choreographing genuine scares with a devilish wit and an unerring precision. This is terrifying stuff.