Here’s some news for y’all. Firstly, over to Cinemart‘s Martyn Conterio:
“The British Film Bloggers Circle has been set up with the participation of major UK film blogs, writers, editors and experts dedicated to critiquing and discussing the greatest art form and entertainment ever known. The initial idea formed from the lack of community, respect and standards within UK film blogging.
We’ve announced nominations for the first British Film Bloggers Circle Awards (the Bloggies – if we’re going for a nickname) with The Artist, Shame and Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy leading the charge. Winners will be announced this forthcoming weekend.”
And what do I have to add? Well, despite pretty much none of my own nominations making the cut (I guess the brilliant Ballast was always going to be a bit of an oblique sell for Best Film), I’m delighted to have been asked to be a part of the circle, and I want to affirm my own support for the existence and development of good film blogs written by passionate, talented and enthusiastic film fans. Here are the nominations:
Drive Midnight in Paris Shame Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy The Artist
Tomas Alfredson – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Paddy Considine – Tyrannosaur
Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist
Steve McQueen – Shame
Lynne Ramsay – We Need To Talk About Kevin
Nicolas Winding Refn – Drive
Jean Dujardin – The Artist
Michael Fassbender – Shame
Ryan Gosling – Drive
Peter Mullan – Tyrannosaur
Gary Oldman – Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Michael Shannon – Take Shelter
Olivia Colman – Tyrannosaur
Kirsten Dunst – Melancholia
Tilda Swinton – We Need to Talk about Kevin
Jeong-Hie Yun – Poetry
Michelle Williams – My Week with Marilyn
Best Supporting Actor
Christian Bale – The Fighter
Stefano Cassetti – Love Like Poison
Ezra Miller – We Need to Talk About Kevin
Corey Stoll – Midnight in Paris
Nick Nolte – Warrior
Best Supporting Actress
Berenice Bejo – The Artist
Jessica Chastain – Take Shelter
Charlotte Gainsbourg – Melancholia
Carey Mulligan – Drive
Carey Mulligan – Shame
Best Original Screenplay
Midnight in Paris (Woody Allen) Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols) The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius) The Guard (John Michael McDonagh) Tyrannosaur (Paddy Considine)
Best Adapted Screenplay
Coriolanus (John Logan, screenplay; William Shakespeare, play) Drive (Hossein Amini, screenplay; James Sallis, book) The Ides of March (George Clooney, Grant Heslov, Beau Willimon, screenplay; Beau Willimon, play) Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Bridget O’Connor, Peter Straughan, screenplay; John Le Carre, novel) True Grit(Joel & Ethan Coen, screenplay; Charles Portis, novel) The Skin I Live In (Pedro & Augustin Almodovar, screenplay; Thierry Jonquin, novel) We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, Rory Kinnear screenplay; Lionel Shriver novel)
Best Film not in the English Language
Incendies Poetry The Skin I Live In Trollhunter Tomboy
Best British Film
Shame Submarine Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy Tyrannosaur We Need to Talk About Kevin
Richard Ayoade, Submarine (Director, Writer)
Jessica Chastain, The Debt, The Tree of Life, Take Shelter, The Help, Coriolanus, Texas Killing Fields(Actress)
Tom Cullen, Weekend (Actor)
Andrew Haigh, Weekend (Director)
Tom Hiddleston, Thor, Deep Blue Sea, War Horse, Archipelago, Midnight in Paris (Actor)
A dark-edged family comedy anchored by a fantastic lead turn from the ever reliable Paul Giamatti, Tom McCarthy’s Win Win is a movie for our recession-hit modern times; a character-driven and ultimately cheering melange of Only Fools and Horses-style pathos, Arthur Miller’s socio-political incision, and the rambling charm of peak-era Robert Altman. Its thunder will doubtless be stolen by Alexander Payne’s tangentially similar but immeasurably glossier The Descendants come awards time in 2012, but don’t be fooled; Win Win is the real deal. [full review]
Stunningly shot by British cinematographer Lol Crawley, this unorthodox, extraordinarily powerful drama about depression and the frailty of family relationships finally saw the light of day in the UK three years after its creation and subsequent success at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, where it picked up awards for Directing and Cinematography. With nods to Charles Burnett’s Killer Of Sheep and Lodge Kerrigan’s desperately underseen Clean, Shaven, Ballast is one of the great lost films of our time. Make it a priority to check it out. [full review]
Asif Kapadia’s doc about the life and death of charismatic Brazilian Formula One star Ayrton Senna is gripping from the first minute to the last, and achieved the unthinkable: people coming to the cinema in their droves to watch a film about the most boring sport there is! A haunting portrait of a driven, near-messianic presence, Senna is full to bursting with unforgettable scenes of tension and conflict culled from hours of archive footage (it was edited down to 100 minutes from 5 hours). It’s technically brilliant, illuminating about the politics of the sport, a nerd’s dream – just how many different film stocks were used? – and deeply moving. Senna is not just one of 2011’s best sports-themed films, but one of the best full stop.
7. THE ARTIST
The audience favourite of the London Film Festival was – by a mile – Michel Hazanavicius’ wondrously uplifting homage to the silent era, starring Jean Dujardin as a devilishly charismatic silent star left behind by the advent of the talkies. Although it flags slightly in the second act, it gets itself together with style for the big finale. The Artist is technically exceptional, incredibly funny (can dogs be nominated for Oscars?) and emanates the rosy glow of the pure cinematic joy of days of yore. It might be a bit of a novelty hit, but as they go, it’s more ‘Your Woman‘ by White Town than ‘Shaddup You Face‘ by Joe Dolce.
6. THE SKIN I LIVE IN
Taking nipping and tucking to unprecedented levels, Pedro Almodovar’s warped tale of a broodingly insane plastic surgeon (Antonio Banderas on fine, smouldering form) provoked the most entertaining audience reaction I’ve been party to this year; a veritable cacophony of gasps, howls of nervous, shrill laughter and the rattle of spilled popcorn. It would be wrong to go into too much plot detail, but let’s just say that this brutally funny satire of male vanity and controlling impulses goes where few films woud dare. Oh, it looks absolutely fantastic, too, with gleaming cinematography and astonishingly detailed production design which drops subtle clues everywhere you look. Fans of Franju’s Les Yeux Sans Visage and Cronenberg’s Dead Ringers will find much to admire here.
To paraphrase – or indeed completely misquote – the former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith: “do not underestimate the power of the quiet film”. In a year full of bluster at the box office, Andrew Haigh’s low-key, intimate gem tells of a whirlwind Nottingham romance between Glen (Chris New) and Russell (Tom Cullen). It’s fresh, beautifully shot and full of sparkling, honest dialogue which never crosses the line into verbosity or pretentiousness. Like a British Before Sunrise, Weekend is simply one of the most enjoyable, evocative and sensuous films of the year. Superbly acted, too.
4. THE INTERRUPTERS
Steve James’ documentary, which follows three hardy souls in Chicago who intervene in conflicts to stop violence, is the kind of engrossing, deeply-felt human story which makes us wonder why we even bother with fiction in the first place. Full of suspense, humour and unexpectedly galling moments, The Interrupters is marked by its bracing immediacy, memorable characters and the tangible bravery of the filmmaking team. It burrows deep under the surface of media hyperbole and music video posturing to remind us – tragically – that devastating violence is so frequently borne of insecurity, minor conflict and a fundamental lack of education. Utterly heartbreaking and totally essential, it’s a film for our troubled times. Furthermore, it’s no coincidence that a recent transmission of the film on the BBC was subtitled: How To Stop A Riot. [feature and interview]
The powerful Scottish actor Peter Mullan starred in one great film this year. Nope, it wasn’t the much vaunted Tyrannosaur, but rather his own directorial effect NEDS. While Paddy Considine’s beautifully acted debut often betrayed the signs of a novice (namely frequent recourse to crashing symbolism, and never quite knowing when to put the misery ladle back in the pain bowl), Mullan’s third film after Orphans and The Magdalene Sisters signals the development of a singular talent; brave, compassionate, and ear-to-the-ground earthy. Rather oddly titled and marketed, NEDS (Non Educated Delinquents) unspools the tale of an intelligent young man’s descent into psychological hell in the bleak environs of 1970s Glasgow. If you were expecting a tearaway lads-on-the-town romp, you’d be sorely mistaken. Unusual and disturbing with a few nods toward magical realism (and in some cases full-on hallucinogenic mental-ness – a punch up with Jesus, anyone?), NEDS is further distinguished by an excellent central performance from Conor McCarron.
2. ANIMAL KINGDOM
Although no thriller blew me quite as far away this year as Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet did last, this Australian crime family saga was the one that ran it closest. It stars Francis Jeffers lookalike James Frecheville as the deliberately blank canvas 17-year old J, who is swiftly drafted into a down-and-dirty family of robbers after his mother’s death from a heroin overdose. Following a measured start, it soon transforms into a gripping, unbearably tense monster. Despite the plaudits and Oscar nom for Jackie Weaver’s brilliant portrayal of the family’s evil, manipulative granny*, Animal Kingdom is stolen by Ben Mendelsohn as the initially unassuming, but soon terrifying uncle Pope. Blood is supposed to be thicker than water, but this film tests that theory to the limit, and sheds lots of the claret stuff along the way.
*Sometimes I wish they wouldn’t give films like this one token nom, because when they do it just draws attention to the fact that they should have nominated it for many, many more.
1. DREAMS OF A LIFE
Carol Morley’s haunting, unclassifiable (OK well, it’s kind of a Rashomonumentstruction if I must) and frankly rather weird film is that rare beast: a true original. Ostensibly an attempt by the director to discover more about Londoner Joyce Vincent (who died in her Wood Green flat in 2003 at 38, and was found an incredible three years later), what emerges is a chilling, poetic and determinedly personal parable about how we as humans (fail to) connect with each other in our supposedly hyper-connected world. Featuring amazing use of music and a radiant performance from Zawe Ashton as a near-ghostly iteration of Vincent, it’s disturbing, ultra-contemporary stuff, which I suspect will be studied in film schools for years to come. It also boasts the most powerful final shot I can remember for ages. [interview]
* * * * *
There was lots of great stuff that didn’t quite make the final cut, including Kelly Reichardt’s compellingly glacial Western Meek’s Cutoff [full review], the barnstorming cricket doc Fire In Babylon [full review], Errol Morris’ hilarious, confounding Tabloid [full review], the raw yet beautiful Blue Valentine and – however uncool it might be to say so – The King’s Speech, which I found to be a rousing, expertly crafted piece of filmmaking. Had Terrence Malick ditched the ludicrous NGO advert-style stuff and aimless shots of Bono Sean Penn wandering around, The Tree of Life would have been in there too, because the middle portion of the film, with its hypnotic, unique take on childhood and superb performance from Brad Pitt, was easily some of the best cinema of the year. Ben Wheatley’s Kill List had perhaps the best first half of any film this year, but sadly devolved into an enervating, overcranked and ill-disciplined mash-up of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, which would have been fine for a comedy, but less so for a hitman-themed horror/thriller.
Furthermore, there remains a handful of 2011 films I’ve yet to see which, according to a number of critics whose opinions I respect, would have almost certainly been in with a shout. These include A Separation, Poetry, Le Quattro Volte, Mysteries of Lisbon, Attenberg and Project Nim. They’re on my list.
EDIT 8/1/12: I’ve now seen A Separation, and it would certainly have been in competition for the Top Ten. On account of having seen them well over a year ago at time of writing, I also forgot to mention 13 Assassins which would have garnered an honourable mention, if not fought it out for a position in the lower reaches of the Ten.
* * * * *
AND THE WORST?
The worst film I saw this year – bar none – was Whit Stillman’s airless, devastatingly awful Damsels In Distress (as the Surprise Film at the London Film Festival); a so-called comedywhich instead played like a bitter pseudo-intellectual old man raping the corpse of Heathers, while Mean Girls looked on in horror, bound and gagged with its brains bashed in. However, as it’s not released over here until ’12, it doesn’t qualify. Luckily, there’s another film all too ready to step into its diseased breach…
Less a turkey, more a strutting peacock with Jeremy Clarkson’s Malteser-sized brain jangling around inside its tiny head, The Hangover Part II went beyond unfunny laziness into the territory of indefensible offensiveness. I saw more boring and less technically competent films than The Hangover Part II this year, but none as vile or singularly hateful. A disgrace to the artform, and an insult to audiences – who still went in their droves – the world over. [full review]
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Just like that, the BFI London Film Festival is over for another year. It’s been a staggeringly enjoyable few weeks of film watching, note-taking, tiredness, putting Twitter handles to faces and socializing with some lovely, lovely people. Here, as promised, is a final round-up of LFF stuff: the good, the bad, the sad and the awkward.
PERMANENT PLASTIC HELMET’S FILMS OF THE FESTIVAL
My favourite film of this year’s LFF was Steve’s McQueen’s powerful sex addiction drama, which features an astonishing performance in the lead role from Michael Fassbender, who is emerging as one the very best actors of his generation. It’s not perfect (the final third veers perilously close toward moral melodrama) but it is exceptional, vital, haunting filmmaking, and New York has never looked like this before. [Read full review here].
2. DREAMS OF A LIFE
A good measure of how passionate you feel about a film is how you react when someone else criticizes it. So when a fellow writer sneeringly dismissed Carol Morley’s devastating documentary Dreams of a Life as “The Arborfor ITV viewers” and I flew into a Basil Fawlty-esque rage, it was pretty clear just how much the film had burrowed under my skin. In combining interviews, reconstruction footage and the director’s own research, Dreams of a Life is a dizzying attempt to piece together the sad story of 38 year-old Joyce Vincent, a North London resident who lay dead in her flat for three years without anybody coming to check on her. It’s about a million things (community, memories, loneliness, love, music, race, London), it’s brilliantly put together, and it will bounce around your head for days, if not weeks. Sad, staggering and totally unmissable.
3. THE ARTIST
The audience favourite of the festival was Michel Hazanavicius’ wondrously uplifiting homage to the silent era, starring Jean Dujardin as a devilishly charismatic silent star left behind by the talkies. Although it flags a bit towards the end, it’s technically brilliant, incredibly funny (can dogs be nominated for Oscars?) and totally in love with the cinema.
I had a clear top three, but there were lots of other excellent films I saw that I was unable to organize into a coherent top five or top ten. They included…
TAKE SHELTER – A slow-burn drama featuring Michael Shannon’s blistering portrayal of a family man on the edge. [Read full review here]
THE KID WITH A BIKE – The Dardennes Brothers’ affecting, naturalistic tale of a troubled boy coming to terms with abandonment by his feckless father. [Read full review here]
MISS BALA – More Gomorrah than Goodfellas, a bleak, punishing, deeply ironic Mexican drama about the evils of the drug trade. [Read full review here].
THE DESCENDANTS – George Clooney shines in a moving, yet satisfyingly dark Hawaiian-set tale of hard life lessons from the reliably excellent yet lesser-spotted Alexander Payne.
SUPERHEROES – Michael Barnett’s consistently amusing, moving and surprising documentary about the ever-growing community of have-a-go caped crusaders that are taking, rather foolhardily, to the streets of America to enforce their own brand of justice. [Read full review here]
MOST OVERRATED FILM
I was debating whether or not to include this category, because a) the concept of ‘overrating’ something is essentially meaningless, and b) it just feels a bit like more needless negativity thrown in for good measure. However, when I heard that WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN had beaten the far superior Shame and The Artist to the prize of LFF Best Film, my mind was made up. We Need To Talk About Kevin is a weirdly middlebrow horror film, which overdoes the symbolism to a ludicrous degree, and offers practically no further insight into its characters than Eva: not very nice, Kevin: bit of a nutter, The husband: a bit of a twat. Not terrible, then, but certainly not a ‘best film’. A bizarre choice. [Read full review here]
DISAPPOINTMENT & TURKEY ROLLED INTO ONE OF THE FESTIVAL
After the 360 opening night boondoggle, I was convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that I’d been exposed to the very worst that the LFF had to offer. At 10.06pm on Sunday 23rd October, however, as I stumbled out of the VUE cinema, confused and furious, it became apparent that I was wrong.
What was it that had discombobulated me so? Well, in a nutshell, a Surprise Film that had somehow managed to trump the previous years’ one-two punch of Capitalism: A Love Story and Brighton Rock for sheer disappointment. As surprises go, Whit Stillman’s appalling DAMSELS IN DISTRESS was less a turn up for the books, more like finding a cockroach in your soup.
It felt as though Stillman had begun writing it in the early 90s after watching Heathers, slipped into a coma while Clueless, Mean Girls and even, for Christ’s sake, Juno redefined self-reflexive, ironic teen-girl sass, and then farted this out in a half-sentient state after hoovering up the Wikipedia definition of ‘Mumblecore’.
It’s ostensibly a tale of four airheaded college girls at a privileged establishment, but the basics – coherent structure, narrative, characters you can invest in – are entirely absent, and countless scenes sputter to an unsatisfactory conclusion before they’ve really begun. If it deserves any credit, it’s for a singularity of aesthetic style, with the pastel colours and costumes and cloying TV-movie vaseline glow complemented by the relentless muzak on the soundtrack. (A plus point also for bringing The Wire’s tragic Dukie back to our screens in a small role).
Furthermore, it’s not just unfunny, it’s actively offensive, making light of such delightful topics as anal rape and suicide without providing any context for doing so. It’s also rare to find a film that has as much contempt for its own characters as it does its audience; none of the characters seem to learn anything, improve or even develop. Unclear whether it’s supposed to be a parody of college films or simply of its own staggering awfulness, Damsels in Distress is would-be modish, pretentious, vapid garbage that’s destined to become the favourite film of people you’d jump in front of the 159 bus to avoid.
Despite my hatred of the film, however, the distribution company have been kind enough to provide me with its official trailer. Here it is:
DOWNER OF THE FESTIVAL
I’ve written about it here already, but it’s worth repeating that watching certain films first thing in the morning takes a bit of getting used to. The winner of the IT TOTALLY RUINED MY ENTIRE FUCKING DAY™ award this year was Justin Kurzel’s true-life Aussie crime drama SNOWTOWN. Its veritable cornucopia of paedophilia, incestuous rape, animal abuse and graphic scenes of torture were, quite frankly, a bit much for a 10 a.m. start. [Read full review here]
MOST AWKWARD MOMENT
As anyone who has ever been to the BFI will know, there’s a certain contingent of the audience who likes to laugh a little too hard and a little too loud at the most innocuous things, just to prove that they really got it. However, the daddy of all inappropriate laughs came during a screening of EARLY ONE MORNING in NFT1, a downbeat French drama concerning a depressed, humiliated banker who goes on the rampage. The film is barely two minutes old when said psychotic banker played by Jean-Pierre Darroussin (a hangdog genetic splice between Billy Bob Thornton and Iain Duncan Smith) storms into his office and guns down two colleagues in cold blood. You could have a heard a pin drop in the audience. Well, you could have, had it not been for the absolute bellend who let rip a monster guffaw at the first gunshot, probably imagining that by doing so he was striking a blow against capitalism, rather than embarrassing himself and shattering the spell of an incredibly powerful scene. Arse.
FILMS THAT I REALLY WANTED TO SEE BUT SADLY MISSED FOR WHATEVER REASON
Harry Belafonte in activism documentary SING YOUR SONG, Sean Penn Robert Smith-ing it up in THIS MUST BE THE PLACE, low-budget love Brit story WEEKEND by Andrew Haigh, Werner Herzog’s death row doc INTO THE ABYSS and Dexter Fletcher’s directorial debut WILD BILL. Hopefully the chance will come around soon for me to see all of these.
I couldn’t be arsed didn’t have time to review everything I saw, so I’ve also given everything I did see a handy score, using the rating system of favourite culture website The A.V. Club:
The Black Power MixtapeB
Martha Marcy May MarleneB
Dreams Of A LifeA
The Kid With A BikeB+
We Have A PopeC+
Hara-Kiri: Death Of A SamuraiB
I’m Carolyn ParkerB
Early One MorningB
The Ides Of MarchB-
We Need To Talk About KevinC+
Damsels In DistressF
A Dangerous MethodB
And… that’s all folks. I hope you’ve enjoyed the PPH @ LFF coverage. I certainly have, and I’m already looking forward to next year’s festival which will be the first under new Artistic Director Claire Stewart, who replaces the outgoing Sandra Hebron. Thanks for the memories Sandra!
I was lucky enough this week to attend the London Film Festival’s Archive Gala, which presented us with the latest in line of the BFI’s fine restorations of neglected British films, Miles Mander’s directorial debut The First Born.
The reappearance of this fascinating 1928 silent drama is timely, as the LFF audience has been treated to Michel Hazanavicius’s brilliant new homage to the dying days of silent film, The Artist. While Hazanavicius focuses on Hollywood, The First Born is a very British film which consciously reflects its era’s societal changes, while unconsciously finding itself in the midst of a vast sea change in the history of cinema itself.
Mander stars as the caddish Sir Hugo Boycott opposite a pre-blonde Madeleine Carroll, who plays his wife Maddie. With Maddie unable to produce an heir, and the couple quarrelling, Boycott leaves the country to travel to Africa. Retreating into London society, Maddie discovers a rather perilous solution to her problem, along with the attention of an admirer, and the film goes on to explore what were surely considered to be somewhat scandalous issues at the time with sensitivity and sophistication.
At the time that filming on the The First Born began, it would have been at the cutting edge of silent cinema. By the time of the film’s release, however, Al Jolson’s The Jazz Singer, shot the previous year, had opened at London’s Piccadilly Theatre and the age of the talkie had begun. Just as The Artist covers a brief period when an established art form was about to be hit by the tidal wave of modernity, Mander’s film marks the end of an era in British cinema, while reminding us just how valuable much silent era British film was and is.
The issue of our attitudes to these films is reflected in the BFI’s excellent current campaign to “Rescue the Hitchcock 9”; the silent works of perhaps Britain’s greatest director, which have been much neglected and require substantial restoration. However, as Pamela Hutchison has observed in The Guardian (while previewing The First Born), the recent discovery of film reels by British director Graham Cutts in New Zealand was barely reported, and what coverage there was tended to concentrate on the footage’s Hitchcockian connections, rather than the reputation of Cutts himself. As Hutchison says, “by overstating [Hitchcock’s] influence we risk casting his peers into oblivion”. This new version of TheFirstBorn is certainly a step towards redressing that balance.
The shadow of Alfred the Great does fall across this film all the same. Mander appeared in films including Hitchcock’s The Pleasure Garden and Murder!, and his filmmaking style is clearly influenced by the director, while Carroll made perhaps her most famous appearance in Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps. The most important link to Hitchcock comes with Mander’s choice of co-writer, Alma Reville. Reville was married to Hitchcock, but she was also a long-established screenwriter in her own right and her work on The First Born showcases the thematic influence she would later bring to her husband’s films. Furthermore, one particularly memorable scene features a voyeuristically Hitchcockian handheld camera shot, as Sir Hugo searches for his wife through the marital bedroom; a cinematographic device which seems well ahead of its time.
The BFI’s restoration of The First Born, aided by the loan of a 16mm print of the film from George Eastham House in the United States, features expertly restored lost scenes and repaired damage, and returns the beautiful amber, pink and lavender tints which would have decorated 1920s showings. This makes for a compelling and good looking film, but one of the real stars of this new screening was not part of the original. A brand new score by composer Stephen Horne was performed for the first time as part of the Gala screening and provided a rich, unusual compliment to the film’s many moments of romance and suspense.
Performed by a three piece, including Horne himself on piano and various other instruments, Maddie’s melancholy and despair are reflected by a mournful oboe motif, while the trio manage to work up an edge-of-seat racket during moments of suspense and even segue into World Music-style percussion during the Africa sequence. The score also weaves in elements of well-known melodies, with the use of ‘Rule Britannia’ during a scene in which budding politician Sir Hugo unleashes his rhetoric on a crowd both effective and amusing.
The First Born’s denouement delivers a couple of delicious, unexpected twists regarding the fate of Sir Hugo and Maddie’s initial attempt to win back his love, and despite its vintage, it’s a surprisingly modern film, not least its refusal to cast judgement upon its female protagonist. This restored version offers a ringing endorsement of the BFI’s work, as well as confirmation that the era of British silent cinema deserves more of our attention, both as a record of a time of cultural and technological change and for the relevance and power it can still offer today.
Hundreds of eager journalists and bloggers crammed into Leicester Square’s Odeon cinema this morning to enjoy pastries, chocolate and each others’ company, as the full programme was released for this year’s BFI London Film Festival – the esteemed event’s 55th instalment. This year is notable for being the last that long-serving artistic director Sandra Hebron will be in charge of. Following a speech by BFI director Amanda Nevill, Hebron introduced a tantalising clip reel comprising some upcoming festival highlights.
The festival, which runs from 12-27 October, and will be hosted in selected cinemas across London, opens with Fernando Meirelles’ multi-character opus 360 and concludes with a veritable Terence-fest: Davies’ much-anticipated adaptation of Rattigan’s play The Deep Blue Sea. (Watch out for cameos from Stamp, Howard and Venables).
A more considered LFF preview will appear on PPH in the coming weeks, but for now, here’s a hastily cobbled together list of some films I’m particularly looking forward to.
Shame – Steve McQueen’s long-awaited follow up to his debut Hunger, starring the not unpleasantly ubiquitous Michael Fassbender as a New York-based sex addict. The clip we saw featured Fassbender giving his best shark eyes across a crowded dancefloor to the strains of Blondie’s ‘Rapture’.
The Artist – Michel Hazanavicius black-and-white homage to silent cinema, which went down a storm at Cannes, and has a rapidly growing reputation as a serious crowdpleaser.
A Dangerous Method – David Cronenberg’s latest – a tortured tale of the relationship between famed psychologists Freud and Jung, starring Viggo Mortensen and that man Fassbender again. I’ve been a bit worried about Cronenberg recently – I think he’s been on the slide since roughly an hour into A History of Violence – but this looks as though it could be a rum, camp treat.
The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 – a fascinating looking Swedish documentary featuring a mountain of eclectic testimony and archive footage relating to the American Black Power movement. Director Göran Olsson has form with the excellent, underseen Billy Paul documentary Am I Black Enough For You
Surprise Film – Each year, the Festival has a secret film in the programme, and it’s always an exciting occasion. I live in hope that this year’s fare is better than the one-two punch boondoggle of the last two years (the woeful Brighton Rock and the uninspiring Capitalism: A Love Story)
W.E. – Madonna’s latest directorial effort; an account of Wallis Simpson starring Andrea Riseborough. Intriguing, if only to see if it’s quite as dreadful as indicated by the likes of estimable critics Guy Lodge and Xan Brooks.