September 20, 2017

Continuing our look at the LAUGH strand of films at the London Film Festival #LFF -Part 2

Read Part One here

The story so far…One of the strands of films at the London Film Festival is called Laugh. I am watching as many of these films as possible to see if they make me laugh. Unfortunately they don’t. Laugh quotient (LQ) scores out of ten.

Live from New York

LQ – 3

Live from New York is a documentary about the very successful Saturday Night Live, the sketch show originally described as a ‘cross between Sixty Minutes and Monty Python’. Many American comics came to popularity on the show and this documentary has many famous names reminiscing about their time on SNL.

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Some of the clips from the shows are hilarious, particularly the sketch where journalists ask a Gulf War commander ludicrous questions that would help the enemy. My favourite of these – a man puts his hand up and innocently asks Where would you say our forces are most vulnerable to attack, and how could the Iraqis best exploit those weaknesses? (You can see the whole sketch here and it is hands-down funnier than any of the films at the film festival).

The documentary is mainly a dry examination of the programme’s history and its most memorable moments – for example Sinead O’Connor ripping up a photo of the pope. It also looks at the way this rowdy comedy programme managed to react to the events of 9/11. But although it contains some of moments of great hilarity, the laugh quotient is low. You have to sit through a lot of talking heads to get a laugh. But you do at least get a laugh.

Burn Burn Burn

LQ – 3

When twenty nine year old Dan discovered he was dying of cancer he started planning a posthumous road trip. On the day of his funeral Seph and Alex – two of his grieving friends – learn he wants them to accompany his ashes to various places around the UK. This leads to several random events around the country. They start in Glastonbury where the ashes scattering doesn’t go smoothly and continue to bizarre stop-offs around the country in a Volvo estate. Of course this being indie twentysomething territory both girls have relationship issues to cope with as well.

Dan, played by Jack Farthing, has recorded a short video for the two girls to watch at each location. Imminent death has made him more appreciative of life. Seize the day is his message, encouraging honesty and speaking up for reconciliation.
Some of the events feel forced. The events that end up with Alex supposedly a stand-in Jesus at a Passion Play rehearsal (with no other actors) being particularly non-sensical. It becomes a sequence of cameos, including Alison Steadman and Julian Rhind Tutt, until the biggest question in your mind at every stop is which famous actor will they bump into here?
Burn Burn Burn is in the Laugh section of the London film festival. Though the drawn features of Dan’s dying face linger longer than any amusement, the film actually has some laughs – something that can’t be taken for granted with the selection of films being shown.

Cronies

LQ – 1

A tedious hour and a half in the company of three friends who drive around St. Louis in a jeep. They spend their time smoking weed, messing around with guns and gambling. Everyone swears continuously, most are hard to understand and all demonstrate bad parenting, bad manners and bad relationships. It’s mostly shot in an insipid grey and black though it does improve at the end when it switches to colour and loses the mono affectation. There is one amusing moment but otherwise this film is laugh-free.

Ruben Guthrie

LQ – 1

A waterfront house in Sydney looks a nice place to live. A lot of the things in Ruben Guthrie’s life look good. He is an award-winning advertising creative with a glamorous lifestyle. But he is an alcoholic and after one drunken escapade too many his girlfriend walks out and leaves him to reevaluate his life. She issues an ultimatum – stay sober for a year. Taken to Alcoholics Anonymous by his mother he celebrates the first meeting with a glass of champagne. But he is soon taking it seriously and dealing heroically with the friends and colleagues that encourage him to continue drinking.

Funded in part by the Australian government much of the film feels like a lecture to Australia. It is twice referred to as this alcoholic country and the Alcoholics Anonymous movement gets a good advert. Ruben Guthrie does muse a little on where alcoholism comes from, but here there is a convenient, easily-remembered and easily talked about trigger that doesn’t ring true. There are other anomalies. Surely it is odd for a man trying to avoid drinking to leave his impressive better-than-most-pubs drinks selection in the kitchen? And the late change in his mother’s attitude towards his drinking is hard to fathom.

Adapted from his own hit play by writer-director Brendan Cowell Ruben Guthrie shows the extent to which Australian society is underpinned by alcohol. England of course is no different (though better at cricket, if worse at rugby). But it’s unclear who the target audience for Ruben Guthrie is. The lecturing tone seems aimed at making people consider whether or not they are alcoholics and to usher in sobriety to the nation. But the script ultimately undermines that message.

A Perfect Day

Laugh Quotient (LQ) – 4

A Perfect Day receives the highest Laugh Quotient of any of the fiction feature films. It’s the funniest of the lot, yet it still only rates a 4, because it’s not that funny. But compared to the others it comes out on top. Full review here.

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