You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger – Bradford International Film Festival

Opening night gala

Once a year, for about ten days, my lunchtimes and evenings consist of running five minutes down the road from the office to the National Media Museum, and diving into the darkness of a luxurious cinema for an hour or two (a proper cinema, not one of those sticky-floored tantrum arenas I usually frequent) to watch something strange and interesting, before falling back into the street, blinking, and trying to continue with life as usual At the weekends, a marathon of movies each day, washed down with enough coffee to make a sloth jittery.

Bradford International Film Festival is now in its 17th year, which is impressive considering that it’s not the most obvious city to have a film festival – or at least it wasn’t, until it was named the first UNESCO City of Film a couple of years ago.But even before this, it’s been a favourite event of mine – a sort of holiday for my mind, in the plush surroundings of the Media Museum. It’s a strange thing to do to your brain, to make it process two films a day on top of its regular duties. Particularly when its regular duties seem to cause enough problems as it is.

But here we go. As many films as I can fit into my face – more where possible – will be covered  from the point of view of someone whose celluloid intake is usually no more nutritious than the latest 3D animation for 5-year-olds.

You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger

The opening film must necessarily be a universally appealing one, since this is likely to be extremely well attended by stakeholders – nothing too niche or challenging, but something promising enough to contribute to a pleasant evening.

In this instance, it’s a Woody Allen offering, starring Naomi Watts (off of The Ring), Josh Brolin (of off No Country for Old Men), Frieda Pinto (off of Slumdog Millionaire), Gemma Jones (off of Bridget Jones), Lucy Punch (off of Vexed), Antonio Banderas (off of Spain), and Anthony Hopkins (off of cannibalism).

It’s essentially a film about delusion, in an Oscar Wilde vein, with some fantastic lines, some neat twists, and not much action.

Alfie (Hopkins) is deluding himself that he’s both young and that his new wife Charmaine (Punch) wants anything from him but expensive furry and/or shiny accessories. His ex wife Helena (Jones) is deluded into believing the predictions of a phoney (or is she?) fortune teller called Cristal who is telling her everything she wants to hear about the imminent improvement of her life.

Helena and Alfie’s daughter Sally (Watts) and her husband Roy (Brolin) begin by deluding themselves that they don’t need a divorce, before mutually deluding themselves into falling for other, highly unsuitable people, and making mutual tits of themselves in the process. Failing author Roy additionally deludes himself into committing a crime against a competitor that seems at first to be evil, genius but could in fact be the end of him.

The best thing about this film, in my opinion anyway, is every scene with Alfie and Charmaine, with Anthony Hopkins going through a cringeworthy three-quarter-life crisis, and Lucy Punch ramping up the bubbleheaded blonde stereotype. Together they set the tone of the film, along with jumpy Helena, while Sally and Roy’s painful relationship doesn’t really seem to belong here.

Without giving away too much of the plot, what I will say is that the ones who delude themselves into believing the most ridiculous things do a lot better than the rest.

As much as I was entertained at first watch, I’m not sure that I’ll suggest it draw anyone else to the cinema, but I’d suggest watching it when it comes on telly.

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