Mark Stafford previews three films showing at the Raindance Film Festival.
This Will Sharpe/Tom Kingsley film is an odd little piece of work, mixing faux-documentary and drama, in which a rich and estranged couple’s encounter with a quietly damaged, mentally troubled man leads to tabloid notoriety, amid a tangle of miscommunication, unrequited love and poetry. Chiefly of interest for the welcome presence of Chris Langham, best known for TV’s The Thick of It and his spell in prison, as the well-meaning, clueless husband and father who takes the stranger in. Simon Amstell gives a disarming turn as an ethically dubious ‘psychiatrist’. Feels more like an over-extended short than a fully satisfying feature, and strays too far into shapeless whimsy, but there are nice flourishes, and it definitely has character.
The Most Important Thing in Life Is Not Being Dead
Very pretty, largely monochrome Swiss work set in Spain about an ageing piano tuner whose relatively frictionless life and marriage under the Franco regime turn out to be a whole lot more complicated than he thinks. As he loses sleep and his sub-conscious tries to tell him something, we get moments of animation and a fair few dream sequences in this contemplative, affectless film. It has a certain charm, but I could have used a lot more grit in the oyster.
Music from the Big House
Bruce McDonald’s b/w US documentary about blues singer Rita Chiarelli organising a concert at the Louisiana State Maximum Security Prison, where a group of lifers get to perform R&B and soul numbers for a largely captive audience, plus invited family members. The filmmaking is nothing new, though it’s well framed and looks fine. Its main appeal lies in the characters of Rita and the prisoners, and their interaction as they pull the various performances together. For a brief while they become musicians and singers, in a short respite from a harsh existence. These aren’t young men, for the most part, but old lags with decades of time under their belts, after they’ve found Jesus or lost hope of parole. We get to know them as people with favourite drummers and unexpected previous lives, only learning about their crimes at the close of the film.