LIFF29 Day Summary - Sunday 15th November - The Day The Projector Died
Before we get there though, the mitigating circumstances, which I suspect left many regular LIFF-goers with a smaller festival total than they might have preferred.
The Leeds Abbey Dash, co-ordinated by Age UK, took part in the city in the morning and meant that many road closures were in place until 12.00. A great cause (which you can donate to here), and I believe typically well attended and ran, but it did rather leave the traffic in the centre of Leeds at a bit of a loss when it came to deciding where it should park itself. The weather (have I mentioned the weather enough yet?) also played its part, not least in the fact that the main entrance to the Leeds Town Hall venue was shut due to flooding.
Having not been swept away in floods, nor having got caught up in the transport chaos, I made it in time for Youth, Paolo Sorrentino's follow up to 2013's The Great Beauty, though I suspect more than a few festival-goers did not. Whether the man who wandered into the balcony fifteen minutes late, lit up his phone and proceeded to shine it into the face of everyone else up there to see whether you might be his friend or not, had been caught in the same traffic/flooding chaos was left unresolved.
Sorrentino's earlier film searches for profundity amongst Rome's relics (which, the film's protagonist, Jeps, muses, may include himself) and finds it. The Great Beauty could easily have been excessively obtuse and rather up its own naval, but as it was it really found something and I loved it for that fact.
Youth goes on the same search, this time in the company of Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel and the English language. It's also more interested in ageing (or perhaps 'youthing') than it is in life itself, beauty and culture, though those features are still there. There are some great moments, and plentiful unexpected laughs along the way, but there's no doubt that this is a less accomplished, less successful film than Sorrentino's 2013 effort. The director also rather gets a little sidetracked apparently trying to say something about film (Keitel's character is a director), which didn't really work and for which we are never given a reason to care.
Come the conclusion of that film (at which point, wandering phone man did seem to find his friend) it was straight back into the Town Hall for Room. For whatever reason I hadn't been looking forward to this. Frank showed that Lenny Abrahamson is quite a spiky director and for some reason his style just doesn't quite sit well with me. The quotes on the poster too, which speak of the film being simultaneously 'harrowing' and 'transformative' reek of hyperbole. Still, for just over an hour, I was pretty much entirely absorbed by the film. There's an extremely tense sequence which takes point just before the hour mark which had me gripped more so than I can remember any similar sequence doing in quite some time.
And then something died. There had been a couple of small warnings during Youth, when the screen went black and the film re-emerged a few moments later and about five seconds behind. Because of these, Room was ten minutes late starting, but the problems continued and, after what must have been ten or so similar cuts, and one major outage to try to fix the problem, the team at LIFF called it apologetically as a dead duck that wasn't willing to be resuscitated.
There's not much you can do in such a situation and so, on a slightly maudlin note, that was it for my time at LIFF29. Next year's 30th outing for the festival promises to be an occasion to mark with much celebration and no doubt LIFF will want it to be seen as such. Until next year then.
The 29th Leeds International Film Festival runs from 5th-19th November 2015 at venues around the city, including Hyde Park Picture House, Cottage Road Cinema and Leeds Town Hall. Tickets and more information are available via the official LIFF website.