What to see at the East End Film Festival

Euro-horror, metalheads and a cinematic seance: the best of this month's indie flick fest

Metalhead film
Ragnar Bragasan's "Metalhead"

The East End Film Festival kicks off in London this Friday with two weeks of films hot off the global fest circuit as well as great homegrown fare. Here are our picks.

MISTAKEN FOR STRANGERS (2013)

The world tour of Brooklyn-based indie band the National is documented by roadie Tom Berninger, kid brother of lead singer Matt. An exercise in self-deprecation rather than hagiography, it’s more a wry take on Tom's job screw-ups and insecurity in his brother’s shadow than a portrait of fame and glamour. This deliberately ramshackle approach holds an undeniable charm.

THE DISTANCE (2014)

Inspired by Tarkovsky’s Russian sci-fi classic Stalker and set in a bizarre alternate universe, Sergio Caballero’s surreal, strikingly shot heist movie sees an Austrian conceptual artist imprisoned by a corrupt oligarch, and a group of telepathic dwarves hired to steal a mysterious device from an abandoned Siberian power station. 

PALO ALTO (2013) 

Privileged, disaffected Californian teens drift through a series of parties and reckless encounters in Gia Coppola’s moody feature debut, based on a short story collection by James Franco and starring him as a divorced football coach with an eye for his 16-year-old student (Emma Roberts). Newcomer Jack Kilmer plays the aimless teen with an undeclared crush on her.

BELLADONNA OF SADNESS (1973)

This cult Japanese psychedelic animation by Eichi Yamamoto, influenced by Gustav Klimt, tarot illustration and Jules Michelet’s writings on witchcraft, will be scored live by Charlie Boyer and The Voyeurs. Jeanne, a newlywed in a rural village, makes a pact with the devil for magical powers that enable her to take revenge on the baron who raped her and raise a local rebellion.

THE DANCE OF REALITY (2013)

Legendary master of psychedelic surrealism Alejandro Jodorowsky is back with his first feature in 23 years. A poetic reflection on his childhood in the ‘30s on the edge of the Chilean desert, subjected to humiliations by his tyrannical father and operatic mother, the boldly coloured film mixes memories of his own life with strange mythology and vivid imagination.

FREE RANGE (2013)

Estonian director Veiko Õunpuu’s third feature, shot on lush 16mm, is spiritual and sardonic by turns and continues his preoccupation with how to retain hope in a world governed by primal urges and stunted by consumerism. Dishevelled writer Fred (Lauri Lagle), fired from his newspaper job for an expletive-ridden review of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, finds his existential crisis compounded by his girlfriend’s unplanned pregnancy.

BEAUTIFUL NOISE (2014)

Iconic ‘80s innovators Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain and My Bloody Valentine and the shoegaze artists they inspired are the focus of director Eric Green’s long-awaited documentary, which blends archival footage with extracts from more than 50 interviews.

METALHEAD (2013)

The subculture of metal and the landscapes of rural Iceland make for a brooding mix in Ragnar Bragason’s elegantly shot study of grief and isolation. After seeing her brother die in a violent farming accident, teenager Hera seeks solace in his metal albums, adopting his wardrobe and dreaming of leaving small-town life to start a band.

INVOCATION OF MY DEMON BROTHER (1969) + NIGHT TIDE (1961)

Screening in Liverpool Street’s marble and gilt Masonic Temple is a possession-themed double bill. American underground legend Kenneth Anger’s occult-inflected short Invocation of My Demon Brother (soundtracked by Mick Jagger) is followed by Curtis Harrington’s Night Tide. Dennis Hopper is a sailor drifting around a misty seafront funfair, where he meets Mora (Linda Lawson), a woman working as a side-show mermaid who believes she’s descended from sirens.

THE STRANGE COLOUR OF YOUR BODY’S TEARS (2013)

Inspired by giallo Euro-horror, this hyper-stylised, blood-spattered dreamscape from Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani sees a man try to solve the disappearance of his wife amid the labyrinthine halls of his apartment building, encountering other residents with tales of sadism and sensuality in the process. You’ll love it or hate it. Screening with a new soundtrack, curated by Blanck Mass. Read our interview with Forzani here.

The East End Film Festival takes places June 13–June 25.

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