LONDON SHORT FILM FESTIVAL - London Lives 1
Wednesday 22 January 2020, by
Telling a friend where I was going on Wednesday, I had hesitated over the title – was it ‘London Lives, as in ‘many lives’, or could it be lives, as in ‘she lives’? After taking in these eight juxtaposed stories, I felt sure it was the former – the lives were multiple, intersecting but leading to completely distinct worlds, rather than coming together to form a unified and living whole. Their placement alongside each other felt more like counterpoint than synthesis. The films, curated from open submissions to the LSFF (of which there were 5,500), all navigate the paradox of living in a city so massive, where the heightened physical proximity of nine million residents often seems only to make the distances between them all the more unbreachably vast. Where this distance defines the way we interact, the intimacy of film becomes all the more valuable. Sitting in an audience of Londoners, all watching the city in ways we’d not done before, felt a strangely rare privilege.
Nobody’s Darling (Sophia Carr-Gomm, 2019)
The loneliness of the distance-in-proximity dynamic is addressed head on by this witty opening short, which follows a young woman in the days over the new year, navigating warm but not entirely harmonious relationships with her friends and flatmates. The film opens with old black and white footage of lovers kissing against the London cityscape. Cut to her waking up in bed alone, and farting. The rest of the film continues in this doggedly unromantic vein – unromantic about friendship as well as romance – which it achieves with a deadpan knowingness. Blank conversations are had in comic yoga positions and through unmanageable mouthfuls of spaghetti; one shot at the New Year’s Eve party shows her flatmate looking around searchingly while an out-of-focus couple snog so enthusiastically in the background that his glasses are knocked off. It’s not sexy. A highlight is the pastiche moonlit DMC between the protagonist and the guy she’s about to pull, where he keeps interrupting her to continue telling her about how much he hates when people interrupt, and how his mum raised him to respect women. There are moments where the irony feels slightly effortful – is it natural for their dialogue to be quite that severely muffled by so average-sized a mouthful of spaghetti? – but these don’t detract too much from the dry writing’s overall effect, which is very pleasing.
Talk to Leon (Murat Gökmen, 2019)
We’re in Camden Town, one evening in 1977. A group of kids call a helpline to ask directions to Hyde Park. They get Leon on the other end, who obligingly tells them which buses to catch. Camilla, who at thirteen is the most senior of the crew, goes home; the rest set off across the city, calling an increasingly exasperated Leon from the nearest phone box at regular intervals. They finally make it to Hyde Park for sunrise. Period design on a budget is hard, and this film pulls it off pretty well; the bus interior is particularly convincing. A few things do give it away, though, notably the contemporary lexicon (“butters” and “pussy” crop up a few times), which is a little jarring. But the kids are sweet, and their world of early teenage anxieties (“I’d like to reach second base by the time I’m thirteen”) is endearing enough that the film remains engaging despite the slight feeling that it was pushing towards something profound without ever really landing there.
More from London Lives coming up!