At a bum-numbing 197 minutes Frederick Wiseman’s watchful documentary set at various branches of the New York Public Library requires you to give in to its gentle flow and not check your watch for fear of displacing yourself. When standing on a high bridge you only feel the drop beneath you when you peer over the edge and with Wiseman you only struggle with the length when you keep an eye on the time. If you give in the film with loosen you up and pull you along with its tide.
As with his many previous films Wiseman satisfies himself with no talking heads, no introductory title cards; just pure observation. The film starts at a talk by Richard Dawkins and before it ends passes through numerous other talks, committee meetings, community groups, and research projects. If there is a message to the film it is spoken by one of the library’s employees; “access to information is the solution to inequality”. We see all manner of New Yorkers make use of a hugely diverse set of services and get a real sense of the library as a place where nobody is excluded.
If you can get over the running time and find yourself a comfortable seat then this is a beautiful experience.
Throughout the festival I kept a notebook with me to help jog my memory in picking apart the 40+ films when it came to write them all up. Sometimes would inspire lots of scrawled notes either because of a plethora of amazing parts I wanted to remember or grumbles I needed to make sure I included. On the flip side an empty page either means a film was so enrapturing I forgot to make any notes, or was so inconsequential I had nothing to write. Sadly Three Peaks falls into this final category; a definitive three star film.
Mother, son, and step-father are on holiday in a remove mountain cabin. On the one hand the young boy and his new father-figure seem to get along but one another’s presence occasionally grates on the other leading to moments where they lash out. These scenes are very well observed and show the subtle clashes that can happen as a family goes through change. The film then takes a surprisingly undramatic dramatic turn leading to tense and suspenseful scenes that lack the necessary suspense and tension.
A peculiar film that fails to get up to speed when it needs to.
I don’t have any notes for this year’s Surprise Film either though thankfully for the completely opposite reason. Lady Bird is a delight.
Coming from the mind of Greta Gerwig Lady Bird is every ounce as offbeat and charming as you want it to be. We follow a year in the life of the titular Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan) in her final year of High School as she prepares to go to college and find her place in the world. Refreshingly the heart of the film is not Lady Bird’s love story with a classmate but her love-hate relationship with her mother (Laurie Metcalf). The two clash frequently but it is clear to everyone but themselves that they love each other deeply.
Metcalf and Ronan give layered performances as women at different stages in their lives, both equally selfish and selfless. Time spent in this casts company under the helm of Gerwig is time well spent indeed. Lady Bird is a film about learning who you are and trying not to hurt everyone you love in the process.
Lady Bird is in UK cinemas from 16th February 2018.