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AFI Mid-Fest Report: On the Red Carpet with ‘On the Road’ and ‘Silver Linings’; ‘The Hunt,’ ‘Hitchcock,’ ‘Our Children’ & ‘War Witch’ Reviews

AFI Mid-Fest Report: On the Red Carpet with 'On the Road' and 'Silver Linings'; 'The Hunt,' 'Hitchcock,' 'Our Children' & 'War Witch' Reviews

We’re in the thick of AFI Fest, with too many films to see and not enough time. TOH’s Anne Thompson reviews opening night film “Hitchcock” here, Matt Mueller reviews “Holy Motors” (which was delayed 90 minutes with a DCP problem), Beth Hanna tackles the devastating Belgian Oscar entry “Our Children,” and I checked out “Silver Linings Playbook,” “On the Road,” “War Witch” and “The Hunt.” Part One of our AFI Fest coverage is here.

Over the weekend I hit both the bright lights of the red carpet (see my IW video interviews below) and in the dark, several heavy-duty dramas. Bradley Cooper told me he’d “faint” if he got an Oscar nomination for fest fave “Silver Linings Playbook” (which TWC just pushed up a week to November 16). Between this and his starring role in Derek Cianfrance’s “The Place Beyond the Pines,” Cooper is finally kissing his “Hangover” reputation goodbye. His chemistry with co-star Jennifer Lawrence (who he works with again in Susanne Bier’s “Serena”), as well as Robert De Niro (who plays his father) is spot on. A lot of that grew organically on set, said Russell, who gives his son credit for pointing him to the book, but deserves to feel elated for performing at the top of his game.

A more nerve-wracking book adaptation was “On the Road.” At the gala screening Saturday night screenwriter Jose Rivera (“The Motorcycle Diaries”) told me he had to put the book’s iconic stature out of his mind in order to get the script written, so as not to be totally debilitated. Stars Kristen Stewart (Mary Lou) and Garrett Hedlund (Dean Moriarty) glowed talking about their director, Walter Salles, who is equally smitten with his cast. After Hedlund first auditioned, he felt an electricity that never dissipated through years of waiting and the actual shooting. Not present at the screening–but the stand-out of the film–was Sam Riley in the Kerouac role of Sal Paradise.

Sunday, Joachim Lafosse’s Our Children features one of the year’s best performances from Émilie Dequenne, who first broke our hearts in the Dardenne brothers’ “Rosetta” in 1999. Second was Canada’s Oscar entry “War Witch,” from Kim Kguyen, which also boasts an exceptional female lead. Rachel Mwanza, who won Berlin’s Silver Bear for Best Actress, plays a child soldier in Sub-Saharan Africa who recounts her horrific odyssey, beginning with being captured by rebels at the age of twelve, to her unborn child. Don’t be surprised if this one goes the distance until Oscar night.

As if the first two weren’t enough to leave me an emotional wreck, I finished the day off with Thomas Vinterberg’s “The Hunt,” which was the best of the three. The always great Mads Mikkelsen (who spoke with TOH in Telluride after winning Best Actor at Cannes) stars as a man wrongly accused of sexual assaulting his kindergarten student (and daughter of his best friend) in this finely crafted study of herd mentality and overwhelming, if not irrational, parental fear. Fans of Vinterberg’s “The Celebration” (whose Thomas Bo Larsen also stars) will rejoice in this stellar return to form. Count me a sucker for all films Danish.

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