I've been sluggish with the pre-festival press screenings, but now that this thing is in swing, I'm going for broke. Look to the sidebar for my undoubtedly over-ambitious viewing planner for the next two weeks -- I'll add in grades as and when each film is ticked off. Today's morning slot brought us John Hillcoat's The Road, which is a lot better than you may have heard, while stalling some way short of greatness -- I was impressed by all sorts of things, but certainly frustrated by its rather strained emotionalism. The best news so far is Claire Denis's White Material, which I only just sneaked into this afternoon, and left me nursing a crick in my neck from straining to read the subtitles past the head of the extremely tall man just in front. To anyone suffering a similar fate behind me, I apologise, but whoever designed Screen 9 of the Vue West End was either oblivious to the whole idea of foreign cinema or a seriously impressive polyglot. More to the point, the rest of the fest will have trouble trumping White Material: I think it's Denis's best movie since Beau Travail, which is saying quite a lot, though the juxtaposition of this scorching territorial tug-of-war with the recently released 35 Shots of Rum does actually back up my belief that the latter film, despite contaning one of her single most gorgeous sequences, was otherwise a teensy bit overpraised. Meanwhile, Huppert, with this, the excellent Home, and Benoît Jacquot's not-yet-screened Villa Amalia (she plays the piano and divests herself of all worldly possessions -- sold!) is clearly on a major roll. Looking forward to some proper cramming next week: do get down there in the comments with any tips or disagreements, or just to say hi.