London Film Fanatiq vs the London Film Festival: Part 7 – The Samurai That Night, Reality & For No Good Reason
As a direct result of Film Festival exhaustion, there were two days where LondonFilmFanatiq was unable to manage all three films each day. As a result, here’s a look at the films seen during those two shameful days. First Feature competitor The Samurai That Night from Japanese Masaaki Akahori turned out to be somewhat less-worth getting out of bed for than anticipated, but Italian “Debate” entrant Reality would go on to spectacularly salvage the day. Meanwhile For No Good Reason provided a good reason to get up early on a Friday morning with a striking look at cartoonist and Hunter S Thomson collaborator Ralph Steadman that will be up for top Documentary honours at the 56th London Film Festival.
The Samurai That Night: when his wife is killed in a hit and run accident, socially awkward Ken (Masato Sakai) spends the ensuing five years obsessing and loosely plotting his revenge. The resulting story begins full of potential for a unique revenge thriller, but becomes mired in a dearth of motivation and character development. Composing a panto-like villain out of Kijima (Takayuki Yamada) and attributing him with an unexplained magnetism that leaves The Samurai That Night impossible to buy into. The question of why his abused lackeys follow him around like puppies is asked and quickly dismissed with a shallow explanation that amounts to “boredom”. It’s a cheap, unconvincing tactic that decimates the narrative’s base and takes the viewer further out of the film. As the depth-less Ken, Sakai gives an adequately disturbed performance, but the character fails to offer viewers any reason to care about him, as Ken is detached from both his world within the film and and the audience who should be left feeling something as he grief plays out. With repetitive lines and situations, Akahori creates the kind of stimulus-vacuum that just might inspire its audience to find their own local psychopath to desperately cling to. While The Samurai That Night initially inspires an eager anticipation to see how the film will unfold, it quickly transforms that feeling into an even more eager need for it to please, just end already. This one is a completely missed opportunity. 3/10
Reality: obsession with celebrity and reality television is the target of Matteo Garrone’s brilliant new dramedy starring Aniello Arena as a fame-hungry family man from Naples, Luciano, who becomes obsessed with appearing on Italy’s next “Big Brother” series. Despite a pace that creeps along a bit too slowly, Reality makes for eye-catching, riveting cinema that satirises the cult of celebrity by drawing some stark, but splendidly amusing comparisons to Catholicism. With false idols and the Big Brother house standing in for heaven, symbolism is subtly employed to illustrate the levels celebrity obsession can reach. Striking cinematography and a sharp sense of humour successfully guide Reality through its slower moments as does Arena’s considerable charisma. With a script that contains opportunities for potentially dark turns, Reality is delightfully unpredictable and closes with a suspenseful dénouement that will leave most wondering what the reality of it truly is. 8/10
For No Good Reason: cartoonist Ralph Steadman is the subject of this ink splashed and booze soaked documentary that becomes a Hunter S Thompson biography by proxy. Of course, where there’s HST, there’s Johnny Depp and here the odd actor stands in as the onscreen interview of the British artist whose work has appeared in “Rolling Stone” and, along with presenting staunch anti-war views, has been a part of collaborations with writers such as Thomspon and William S Burroughs. Steadman discusses his career and walks viewers through his creative process, as Depp looks on, offering the occasional platitude. An entirely professional look at Steadman’s life, there’s little personal ground covered beyond his, at times, strained relationship with Thompson, who he created “Gonzo Journalism” alongside. Still, For No Good Reason is visually stimulating and offers a diverse soundtrack along with fascinating contributions from director Terry Gilliam and Richard E Grant. For fans of activist art (or Hunter S Thompson), For No Good Reason is essential viewing. 8/10
Check out Part 6