Our reviewer in…Maysa Moncao has been at the London Film Festival this week and reports back on the highlights of the event. Her review of the Hollywood/McCarthy witchhunts drama Trumbo starring Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren is underneath.
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BFI London Film Festival concludes today with the headline gala presentation of Steve Jobs. Danny Boyle’s new production was seen before in Telluride last month, but they didn’t show the last cut, so there are great expectations for the closing night.
Speaking about my personal experience, I have to adapt to a new routine far from coffees along with critics I see once a year and rich tea breaks in the May Fair Hotel, where I interview the stars. No doubt that my hightlights were The Lobster, seen for the second time. I could definitely agree with the protagonist Colin Farrell on the point that “it is an unusual film”. The second viewing allowed me to conclude that Yorgos Lanthimos is capable of creating pure cinema.
My second highlight was the talk with Paolo Sorrentino this week at Curzon Soho. Rewatching some of the clips put together by the host Adrian Wootton (Film London Chief Executive), I was able to realise why I love Sorrentino so deeply. He is the director I come back to whenever I forget who I am. He tells me that nothing is absolutely funny or sad in life. There are sad moments in happiness and happy moments in sadness.
Other titles you should go after, once you have a chance, are: Room (Lenny Abrahamson), Carol (Todd Haynes), The Wait (Piero Messina), Couple In a Hole (Tom Geenes), Land Of Mine (Martin Zandvliet), He Named Me Malala (Davis Guggemheim) and Sembene! (Samba Gadjigo). I’ll keep an eye on the UK release dates of these movies and come back to you for more discussions.
I chose Trumbo to drive your attention to this time and you can sense my reasons reading the review below.
Director: Jay Roach. Entertainment One (PG)
Cast and credits:
Producers: Monica Levinson, Michael London, Shivani Rawat, Jay Roach, Janice Williams, John McNamara, Nimmit Mankad.
Writer: John McNamara.
Camera: Jim Denault.
Music: Theodore Shapiro.
Sets: Mark Ricker.
Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, John Goodman, Elle Fanning.
A fascinating portrait of one of the most emblematic figures of Hollywood’s Golden Age, Trumbo stars Bryan Cranston as the prolific screenwriter who paid a terrible price for his political convictions.
Hollywood loves a metalanguage. Trumbo is about the Golden Age in Hollywood as well as making justice. In other words, Trumbo will have for sure an indication for the Oscars (Academy Awards). It is that simple.
Cranston plays Dalton Trumbo, one of the highest-paid scenarists of his time. He is the author of Kitty Foyle (1940), Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo (1944) and Our Vines Have Tender Graves (1945). Unfortunately, his political ideas were to be confronted by senator Joseph McCarthy, leading to a series of interrogations by the House of Un-American Activities Committee. Persecuted by the state and by the press, here in the character of the gossip columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren), Trumbo received a year-long sentence penalty, which would unable him to obtain employment under his own name.
Talking to the press in London, Helen Mirren says: “It’s also a story about fear of press. My character plays with fear and paranoia. It shows us how very dangerous that power can be. (…) I read an interesting book about the letters that were sent to Hedda Hopper which gave me a view of the mindset of ordinary peopke in America at that time.”
The film explains that as soon as he could, Trumbo returned to writing under many others pseudonyms. He would find jobs thanks to the producer Frank King (Goodman), occasion in which he won many awards without any credits. Some of the movies he wrote were Roman Holiday (1953) and The Brave One (1956). In 1960, Trumbo saw his name on the credits for the first time after 13 years of being on a blacklist. The production would be known as Spartacus.
In order to keep up with a crescent amount of work, Trumbo exploits his own family to work for him and turns into a clumpsy alcoholic. The pressure and the days in prison would gradually reveal the consequences of being blacklisted to his personal life.
What Trumbo brings to current days is not only a knowledge of how Hollywood worked at that time. Most of all, we begin to become aware of what patriotism and paranoia can do to a system as a whole and to individuals in a small sphere. Even regimes like democracy can fail.
Asked if there is anything similar in Hollywood nowadays, Cranston points out that “there is a self-imposed black list. For instance, Mel Gibson. His behaviour imposed that. If you have skeletons out of your character exposing you to abnormal behaviour or any kind of criminal behaviour, you could put yourself in a blacklist, because people don’t want to work for you.”
Trumbo’s speech at the end of the film is a ready-made clip for the Oscars. It is a compelling message to inform what lies underneath a powerful society. The moral paradoxes of remaining silent or complaining can only reveal the essential human condition: in tough times, all that matters is survival.
See the official trailer on Youtube.