LFF 2018 Day 8 – Madeline’s Madeline | The Fight | Angelo

We’re in the final sprint now, not long to go. Before you know it this blog will regrow its cobwebs and my Instagram will revert from me bragging about the films I’ve seen to me bragging about the plays I’ve seen. Until then, there are film to discuss.

Madeline’s Madeline

Madeline’s Madeline is indefinable, indescribable, and a bitch to write about. The focus is on Madeline (Helena Howard), obviously, a teenager who struggles with her home life but thrives when rehearsing with her improvised theatre troupe. At home her mother (Miranda July) struggles to relate to or control a daughter whose mind works in a different way to her own. At the theatre she looks up to the leader, Evangeline (Molly Parker), who starts to use Madeline as her creative crutch.

Writer-director Josephine Decker infuses parts of the film with a dreamlike quality as we see Madeline’s world through her eyes. The result is a film that may not be telling us the truth all the time and that contains scenes that some might find pretentious. You have been warned. This is a film involving an improv theatre troupe after all.

Theatre nonsense and dreamlike qualities aside this film has three complex female characters at the forefront; each brilliant played to imperfection. The real revelation is Howard who, in her first professional acting role, becomes the film’s anchor and has to both act and act at acting. Howard is a phenomenal talent and allowed me to put aside my initial trepidation at being told, “You are not the cat, you are inside the cat”, and instead let the emotions of the film pull me in.

A masterpiece or low-key pretentious? Maybe both.

Madeline’s Madeline screens at the festival on 17th, 19th, and 21st October.

The Fight

Jessica Hynes has always been a major writing talent but often gets forgotten, especially when people are talking about how much they love Simon Pegg’s Spaced. At last Hynes has fully struck out on her own with a film she has written, directed, and stars in.

With the title of The Fight and promotional images like the one above it can be easy to mistake this for a film about a boxing champ, or at the very least focus on someone learning to fight. Whether this is a deliberate misdirect or not it’s far from the truth. The Fight is actually about the everyday fight to raise your children, deal with your parents, reconcile with your mistakes, and occasionally to learn to box.

Hynes plays Tina, mother of three, daughter of two, and wife of one. Her parents (Anita Dobson & Christopher Fairbank) are perpetually on the verge of breaking up and her eldest daughter is struggling with a bully at school. Stuck in the middle of various conflicts it is up to Tina to keep everyone, and her sanity, together.

The Fight has an easy charm and a healthy dose of sentimentality that thankfully never tips over into tweeness. Far from the mum-turns-boxer story I had been expecting I instead got a humble tale of family, humanity, and a tiny bit of boxing too.

Almost criminally engineered to get tears out of you by the end.

The Fight screens at the festival on 17th, 19th, and 21st October.

Angelo

Angelo is a film told in three acts; intrigue, tedium, and nausea. In 18th century Vienna an African slave boy is plucked from a line up to be raised in high society as an experiment and an oddity dubbed Angelo.

In the first act we see Angelo taught the ways of his new world. He learns languages and instruments and is dressed in fine clothes so that he can be paraded at parties. In the second act we see Angelo as a young adult, starting to question his identity and wanting to step out on his own. In the third and final act we see something I will never forget, something that had me recoiling physically in my seat.

Prior to that Angelo is relatively placid. The film is two hours of quiet scenes and painfully long shots. Perhaps this is to highlight the tedium of Angelo’s life but it brought out audible snoring from one critic sat behind me.

Angelo is a singular creature, much like Angelo is treated in his high-class world. The film is admirable but at no moment enjoyable. To enjoy the film would feel like a betrayal of its central character. I’ll leave it up to you to decide if that’s something you want to experience or not.

I gave a similar hesitant recommendation for director Markus Schleinzer’s last film Michael back in 2012. You have been warned.

Angelo screens at the festival on 17th, and 18th October.

Lizzie and Sarah, The BBC’s Secret Sitcom

On Saturday night at the odd time of 11.25pm on BBC Two the pilot of a new comedy aired. The show was Lizzie and Sarah which was written by and starred Jessica Hynes and Julia Davies. The pilot was… quite good.

British comedy these days is an odd thing, most shows either falling into classic sitcom formats that ultimately don’t satisfy or are quite dark and disturbing experiences that alienate most viewers. Lizzie and Sarah was the latter. I did like the show but for the most part didn’t really see it as a comedy, at least not entirely. The greater part of the episode was taken up with showing the dire state of the lives of the leads, which was admittedly done really well and was genuinely moving. It seems that if you present something that is both emotionally effective and a bit surreal it has to be classed as a comedy. Psychoville was similarly a bit genre-confused.

Obviously the pilot was designed to set up an, as yet uncommissioned, series and so can’t be fully appreciated until that series is made. The weirdest thing about the whole debacle was that it was broadcast so late on a Saturday night; it’s not the best place to test out a new comedy as it takes a lot of effort to watch. Even odder is the complete lack of promotion which made sure that no one would know to watch it and the late time slot ensured no one would stumble across it.

I imagine the BBC thought these two comedy queens, who have brought us Spaced and Nighty Night, would write a great comedy together then got cold feet when they saw the dark humour that was produced. To look like they were giving it a fair chance they aired the pilot, but hid it sufficiently so it would get few enough views to not have to pick it up for a series. Personally I’d prefer a bit more Lizzie and Sarah and a bit less Big Top-esque comedy.

You can watch Lizzie and Sarah on BBC iPlayer, but I’ll warn you it won’t suit everyone.