‘How I Ended This Summer’ takes top prize at London fest

Posted by · 6:39 pm · October 27th, 2010

“We chose our winner last night,” London Film Festival jury president Patricia Clarkson told me yesterday, an evasive  smile on our face, as we eased into our lunchtime interview. (More on that in a few days.) “I’m very pleased with it — it’s a wonderful film.”

Naturally, my fellow lunch guest, Daily Telegraph critic Tim Robey, and I tried to tease some clues out of the estimable character actress, but she wasn’t budging. She was, however, keen to know which of the shortlisted films we had seen. When Tim declared Alexei Popogrebsky’s two-hander character drama “How I Ended This Summer” his favourite film of the festival,  Clarkson’s eyes glazed over ever so slightly. “Oh, the Russian film?” she said unenthusiastically.

Well, Clarkson really is quite the actress. For as it turns out, “the Russian film” she so slyly shrugged off at lunch is the very one that she — together with jurors Sandy Powell, John Hillcoat, Shekhar Kapur and Gabriel Byrne — had already voted the winner of the fest’s Best Film trophy, following in the footsteps of last year’s champ “A Prophet,” and beating such heavyweight competition as “Black Swan,” “Another Year,” “The King’s Speech” and “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.” The choice was unveiled at tonight’s festival closing ceremony.

I am led to believe by multiple critics that Team Clarkson have chosen wisely, though annoyingly, they’ve also picked the one film on the 11-title shortlist that I haven’t seen. Back in February, I managed to miss “How I Ended This Summer” at the Berlinale — where it took two major awards — and was determined not to do so again. However, word had evidently spread about the film to the extent that Monday’s screening was booked out, with pleading press members denied access. A repeat showing has been scheduled for tomorrow; hopefully, it’ll be third time lucky.

I have, however, seen the film that Clarkson’s jury singled out for special commendation. I’ll write more about “Archipelago,” a bitterly funny, near-brilliant family drama from British writer-director Joanna Hogg, in my festival wrap-up piece, but for now, I’m thrilled to see it get some recognition.

Another female British filmmaker, Clio Barnard, picked up a pair of the festival’s differently juried awards: her freshman feature, hybrid docudrama “The Arbor,” took both the Sutherland Trophy for debut filmmakers and the Best British Newcomer award. I’m not as enamored of the film as many local critics: in examining the tragic life and legacy of working-class playwright Andrea Dunbar, Barnard uses lipsynching actors to enact real-life recorded testimonies, and the effect is alternately eerie and gimmicky. Still, the Sutherland Trophy claims to stand for originality of vision, and the film is a bold aesthetic gamble.

I was rather more impressed by the film the Sutherland jury accorded an honorable mention: Michael Rowe’s “Leap Year,” an explicit, painstakingly observed portrait of an ordinary life crumbling between four apartment walls, that  took Camera d’Or honors at Cannes earlier this year. (Confuse it with the identically-titled Amy Adams romcom from earlier this year at your peril.)

Full list of winners below. Tomorrow the LFF closes out proceedings with the European premiere of Danny Boyle’s “127 Hours,” and I’ll round up my favourite finds of the festival.

Best Film: “How I Ended This Summer,” Alexei Popogrebsky
Special Commendation: “Archipelago,” Joanna Hogg

Sutherland Award: “The Arbor,” Clio Barnard
Special Commendation: “Leap Year,” Michael Rowe; “Don’t Be Afraid, Bi!,” Phan Dang Di

Best British Newcomer: “The Arbor,” Clio Barnard

Grierson Award (Best Documentary): “Armadillo” Janus Metz

BFI Fellowship: Danny Boyle

[Photo: New Wave Films]

→ 11 Comments Tags: , , , , , , | Filed in: Daily

11 responses so far

  • 1 10-27-2010 at 7:22 pm

    Speaking English said...

    Interesting. “How I Ended This Summer” also took the top prize here in Chicago.

  • 2 10-27-2010 at 8:19 pm

    Nick Davis said...

    “Oh, the Russian film.” Clarkson is already hoarding enough Cool Points for twelve people, and now I find out she’s the fest-jury equivalent of a top-flight poker player. If she’d just cough up her address, I’d send her 100 valentines.

    It really is a remarkable movie: image, sound, acting, assembly. There’s a conceit of the dramatic scenario that requires you to accept one character’s increasingly disastrous decision, and if you can get over that, the film just sweeps you along. I sat right in front of the Chicago Film Festival jury when they saw it at one of the public screenings, and you could feel them jiving to it. Didn’t hurt that they were visibly all smiles on their way out.

  • 3 10-27-2010 at 9:30 pm

    slayton said...

    How is Monica del Carmen in Leap Year, Guy? The film, and her performance, are two of my most anticipated filmy prospects of the coming year.

  • 4 10-27-2010 at 11:31 pm

    Nick Davis said...

    I know you’re asking Guy’ s opinion, slayton, but from one reader to another, I think she’s pretty great in a gutsy part. And I liked the movie, too.

  • 5 10-28-2010 at 12:37 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    What Nick said — the film hinges entirely on her ability to sell a sometimes pretty inscrutable character, and she does so, without it ever feeling like a self-platforming exercise. Certainly one of the year’s more difficult female leads.

  • 6 10-28-2010 at 4:12 am

    Bradley said...

    I have one ticket to Biutiful at 6pm and 2 tickets for How I Ended This Summer at 8.15pm tonight at the London Film Festival.

    I can’t go and I can’t afford to forfeit the tickets. Does anyone want them? £10 each!!

  • 7 10-28-2010 at 10:50 am

    Dao said...

    Still can’t believe how they neglected How i ended this summer and venice well-received cometition title Silent Souls and chose all-but-forgotten The Edge instead as russian entry in the race. I think our oscar branch is just corrupt.

  • 8 10-28-2010 at 9:13 pm

    Angry Shark said...

    Oh man, Patricia Clarkson is the coolest. She’s just like “oh, that? meh.” when she already voted for it to win? amazing. I always think it’s funny and cool when actors apply their talents to real life.