BFI London Film Festival 2016

London Film Festival 2016

This site thrives on one 12 day event that occurs every year in October; the BFI London Film Festival. The festival is now in its 60th year and we are in our 7th year of covering the film bonanza in as much detail as we can without actually losing our minds. Each year the films get better and better, I see more and more films, and I get less and less sleep.

On Thursday the line-up for this year’s event was announced and I have gone through the various strands and pulled out a film for each that really has me excited. As for my overall list of films I want to see… I am currently trying to get that down to double digits.

Galas - Free Fire

Free Fire

The Gala films tend to be the hardest tickets to get your hands on but are also the most likely to get a cinema release so I advise you look elsewhere for gems at the festival. That aside I am desperate to catch this year’s closing film Free Fire as it unites the fearless Brie Larson with revolutionary Ben Wheatley. I’ve seen three Larson films (1, 2, 3) and two of Wheatley’s (1, 2) at previous festivals and cannot wait to get my eyeballs on this bloody, funny, and no doubt dazzling action comedy from a filmmaker like no other. Amy Jump has written a 1970s American crime drama shot just outside Brighton which looks as farcical as it does violent. Bring it on.

Love - The Son of Joseph

The Son of Joseph

Back in 2011 we found ourselves very briefly delving into a surreal and stylised world of Portuguese cinema. The film that ended this baffling cinematic education was The Portuguese Nun. I’m almost certain that we enjoyed it. That film’s director, Eugène Green, is back with a French film about a young man searching for his father. I guarantee that this will be a unique film that will be either tedious, hilarious, or a delirious mixture of both.

Debate - Lo and Behold Reveries of the Connected World

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Werner Herzog is the only documentarian that has both appeared as a baddie in Jack Reacher and as an estate agent in Parks and Recreation. So great is the caricature surrounding Herzog sometimes I forget that he is actually a skilled filmmaker who is not afraid to offer up his opinion and produces works of lyrical beauty. His latest is an exploration of our connected world; looking at how the internet has affected our real world personal relationships. Apparently it includes the line, “Can your dishwasher fall in love with your refrigerator?”. Sold.

Laugh - Lost in Paris

Lost in Paris

My favourite film of 2012 was a strange Belgian comedy called The Fairy which starred a limber comedic duo like nothing I had seen before. In their latest they play a couple who find one another in Paris and go on a series of absurd adventures. Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel thrive on genuinely funny physical comedy that relies on flexibility, ingenuity, and impeccable timing. I will not be missing this.

Dare - The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden

Park Chan-wook has brought us Korean classics including Thirst and The Vengeance Trilogy before impressing with his English language triumphs Stoker and Snowpiercer. Now he has taken the English novel Fingersmith back to his native South Korea to create an erotic and stylish period thriller that apparently involves some amazing wallpaper. No other director can wring so much tension from so little so I can only imagine what he does with this saucy source material.

Thrill - City of Tiny Lights

City of Tiny Lights

A crime thriller set in contemporary London starring Riz Ahmed and Billie Piper. This leapt out at me having watched Billie Piper give a career defining performance in Yerma at the Young Vic last week and feeling the need to double-check that she really is the incredible actress I saw that night. With a plotline involving a radical mosque, multiculturalism, and commercial development City of Tiny Lights sounds like a ripe and topical slice of modern noir set in the city I love.

Cult - The Void

The Void

There are numerous horrors I am keen to lose my composure to at the festival but the one that I keep coming back to is this throwback from Canada. Said to include the influence of John Carpenter and classic practical effects along with knowing nods to frighteners of the past The Void looks to be the perfect way for me to lose a few nights’ sleep.

Journey - Two Lovers and a Bear

Two Lovers and a Bear

Starring two of the most underrated and talented young actors working today, Dane DeHaan and Tatiana Maslany, Two Lovers and a Bear brings us magical realism in the Arctic. The two titular lovers are trying to overcome their childhoods in a remote and isolated town. Presumably a bear shows up at some point too.

Sonic - London Town

London Town

Imagine a time of social, political, and racial unrest under a Tory Prime Minister. Now stop thinking about last month and throw your mind back to 1979. Representing the festival strand dedicated to music we have a British comedy drama following a young teenager struggling with family life after his mother leaves the family home. What will help him get through this troubled time? Punk of course!

Family - Phantom Boy

Phantom Boy

At a film festival there are no BBFC certificates and as such there is no guarantee that the animated film you have chosen to see will not feature graphic sexual content. Thankfully the festival has the Family strand which is the only safe place for the young or prudish. Leo is a sick boy trapped in hospital who discovers he can leave his body and fly around like a phantom. A surreal animation about a new type of superhero.

Experimentia - Have You Seen My Movie

Have You Seen My Movie?

I am wary of the Experimenta strand as the films veer away from narrative cinema and towards pure art. For a novice like me this can be a challenging experience and writing about it is almost impossible. I get an abusive email roughly once every six months from one artist whose work I didn’t enjoy back in 2013. A film my brain might be able to comprehend is Have You Seen My Movie? which consists of a two-hour montage of scenes from other films that either feature people going to the cinema or in the act of making film themselves. How can this last for so long? Will it be enjoyable or tedious? This is the joy of Experimenta; you have to take the plunge and risk being proven wrong.

Treasures - Born in Flames

Born in Flames

Truly embracing the risk I am even tempted by a film that straddles both the Experimenta strand and the Treasures collection. In the latter group are older films that have been remastered or simply need to be revisited, perhaps having gained greater relevance since their initial release. This example is a slice of 80s feminist science fiction in which women never gained equality with men and so turn to violent revolution to fight for what is rightfully theirs. Anyone mocking SJWs online might want to watch their step.

The festival runs 5th – 16 October 2016 and tickets go on sale 8th September for BFI members and 15th September for everyone else.

BFI London Film Festival 2014 Line-up

BFI London Film Festival 2014

It has begun. Booking for BFI members began for this year’s London Film Festival this week and it was the usual bloodbath as cinephiles fought to obtain tickets to this latest collection of cinematic delights. There are plenty of gems to be found among the hundred of films within the line-up and plenty that don’t star Benedict Cumberbatch or Brad Pitt. Ticket go on sale for the public on Thursday 18th September and you can peruse the full catalogue online at bfi.org.uk/lff. Each film is assigned to one of eleven strands at the festival. Below I take you through the strands one by one and pick out a personal highlight for each.

Love

Love is Strange
Love is Strange

The love strand is all about love, lust, and everything in between. What greater examination of love can there be than looking at a couple 39 years into their relationship? The couple in question are Alfred Molina and Footloose‘s own John Lithgow, a pair who find themselves looking for somewhere to live when one loses his job. During the hunt for a new home each stays at a different apartment and this new distance puts their relationship to the test. From what I have read this is the film to make you fall in love with love again and so is a must see at this year’s festival. Both Molina and Lithgow are hitting career highs and to have them come together as a couple promises to be unmissable.

Debate

Rosewater
Rosewater

Jon Stewart is best known for presenting the scathingly truthful comedy news show The Daily Show, a show that far too often feels like the only honest coverage world news can get. Who better than to present his directorial debut as part of the strand designed to spark debate. Focussing on world politics rather than comedy Stewart explores the incarceration of BBC journalist Maziar Bahari who was arrested for treason while covering the 2009 elections in Iran. If there is anybody who can cover such an event in a balanced way it is Jon Stewart.

Dare

Thou Wast Mild & Lovely
Thou Wast Mild & Lovely

When looking for a daring piece of cinema you can’t go wrong with what the writer-director calls a “magical-realism-romcom-mumblecore-western-with-horror”. The plot involves a married man taking a summer job on a ranch staffed by just the ranch owner and his daughter. I can only imagine what unfold as the BFI give it the just as baffling description of “a rural erotic horror romance”. Sign me up.

Laugh

Night Bus
Night Bus

I’ll let you figure out for yourself what this strand is all about. Night Bus has a simple enough premise; for ninety minutes we follow a double-decker through the streets of London at night. As passengers get on and off we meet a variety of characters, all travelling through the capital when most people are asleep. This appeals to me simply because I know first-hand the joys of the night bus and am curious to see how they translate to the big screen. Possibly one of the most “London” of the films at the festival.

Thrill

The Salvation
The Salvation

An actor that most befits the word “thrilling” is the great Dane Mads Mikkelsen. Mads is taking his chiselled cheekbones to the old West in the what the BFI have dubbed a “smørrebrød western”; I just hope they don’t say that to the director’s face. Fleshing out the international cast are Eva Green, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and the increasingly prevalent Eric Cantona. If you weren’t convinced at the first mention of Mads Mikkelsen then you clearly haven’t watched enough of his work.

Cult

The Town That Dreaded Sundown
The Town That Dreaded Sundown

You’ve to be careful with cult cinema as what one fan might watch on a weekly basis, you might struggle to sit through once. My pick in this strand is the perfect example of this; a remake of a 1976 horror film set in a world in which the original film is not only true but exists as a film. Call this a sequel, remake, or reimagination, I call it a future cult classic.

Journey

My Old Lady
My Old Lady

There are a few things make a film extra-appealing to me and one prime factor is the presence of a British actor over a certain age. Kevin Kline plays an American writer who inherits a Parisian flat but is unable to sell it unless he can convince its current tenant to move out or die. That tenant? Why it’s Maggie Smith! I’m sold. The Journey strand is filled with journeys, destinations, and beautiful locations.

Sonic

The 78 Project Movie
The 78 Project Movie

Sonic is a collection of films and documentaries that surround the subject of music. My pick of these musical delights is a documentary about American folk music in which the film’s director travels the country recording all manner of musicians performing folk songs on retro recording equipment. The film promises to be a love letter to folk music and analogue technology. Sounds lovely to me.

Family

The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow
The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow

The Family strand is precisely what it sounds; a collection of films the whole family can enjoy. As someone without children to hand I would also like to point out that a film suitable for children isn’t automatically out-of-bounds for an adult. The more I read about this particular film the more I want to see it. A satellite crashes to Earth and turns into a girl who, along with a cow that used to be human, seeks help from a wizard who has been turned into toilet roll. Pure joyful madness.

Experimenta

Vampire Bat
Imitations of Life

In Experimenta art meets film to create something that doesn’t necessarily feel the need to contain a narrative, character, or any of the usual cinematic devices. Do not go into this expecting the usual collection of shorts, Experimenta is something else entirely. This particular collection of shorts takes existing films and remixes, reshapes, and remakes them. Some will delight you, some with infuriate you, but none will be anything you have seen before.

Treasures

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre
The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

Here’s what I love about the London Film Festival and the BFI in general. When hearing that part of the festival includes the screening of classic films you might presume that the chosen features would be those held up as artistic masterpieces; beautiful but not necessarily fun. Instead what we have, amongst the artistic, musical, and masterful, is one of the most intense horror films committed to film. While lacking in the gore and nudity more common nowadays Massacre instead maintains a tense, almost unbearable, tone of absolute horror and suspense.

57th BFI London Film Festival 2013

BFI London Film Festival 2013

It has begun.

The line-up looks fantastic, the press screenings have begun, and the BFI London Film Festival starts for real this Wednesday. We will as usual be covering the Festival incessantly over the next two weeks as I try to finally break through the 30 film barrier. Keep your eyes peeled as the reviews we publish over the next fortnight will cover the best that cinema has to come for the next year and, if the past three years are emulated, will include the winner of the Oscar for Best Film. Unless Gravity wins… I don’t think I’ll manage to see that one.

Below you will find the usual wall of hyperlinked images so you can more easily navigate our glut of review.

Films reviewed:

12 Years a SlaveAfternoon DelightThe Armstrong LieAt BerkleyBlue Is the Warmest ColourCinema Re-ActedComputer ChessDon JonThe DoubleFloating SkyscrapersInside Llewyn DavisThe Invisible WomanJeune et JolieKill Your DarlingsLabor DayMay in the SummerMe Myself and MumNEBRASKANight MovesSAVING MR. BANKSShort Term 12Starred UpThe Strange Colour of Your Bodys TearsUnder the SkinWe Are The BestThe Zero Theorem

BFI London Film Festival 2013 Line-up

BFI London Film Festival 2013

It’s that time again! Yesterday the line-up for the 57th BFI London Film Festival was announced to a lot of press that didn’t include ourselves. Last year’s festival was a lot of fun and I successfully saw more films than I could handle but there was no one film that got me properly excited like there had been in previous years. 2013 looks to be different.

A quick perusal of the festival brochure reveals a long list of films that I have been anxiously awaiting the arrival of from a number of writers, directors, and actors who are at the height of their game or at the beginning of what appear to be very promising careers. The line up for this year’s festival, running from 9th – 20th October, has got me properly excited and it looks like it will be easy for me to find enough films for me to finally break the 30 films in a festival barrier.

Below I have picked out ten films from the extensive list that the BFI are screening. What follows is far from an exhaustive list but rather is made up of films I have been waiting to see for a while or anything that caught my eye as I frantically scrolled through the festival brochure. My advise to you is to download the full brochure and give it a thorough read through so that you are ready when member’s booking opens on 12th September. Tickets go fast and some BFI members (ahem) are very quick with their keyboards.

Philomena

Philomena
Judi Dench stars as a Irish Catholic woman on the hunt for the son she gave up against her will more than fifty years ago. Steve Coogan is the jaded journalist who accompanies her on the journey in this film he co-wrote. Dench and Coogan are a double act I refuse to miss out on.

Gravity

Gravity
Alfonso Cuarón directs George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in a drama about a pair of astronauts whose space shuttle becomes damaged leaving the pair stranded and unable to contact earth. Lots of good buzz surrounding this film and it could well be only the second film after Life of Pi to use 3D properly.

The Invisible Woman

The Invisible Woman
Ralph Fiennes returns to the London Film Festival with his second feature as director in which he also takes a starring role. The focus of the film is on Charles Dickens and his secret love affair with a young actress played by Felicity Jones as she looks back on the affair later on in life. I think we all know why this film interests me.

Blue is the Warmest Colour

Blue Is the Warmest Colour
This year’s Palme d’Or winner is coming to London. A film about a love shared by two teenage girls that stirred up a lot of controversy in Cannes thanks to extended graphic sex scenes. Those scenes aside this film promises to be a tender look at young love that captures all its messiness and turbulence.

Don Jon

Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes on the triple role of writer, director, and actor in his first foray behind the camera. He plays the title role of Jon, a porn obsessed young man who falls for a woman equally obsessed with romantic comedies. The woman in question is Scarlett Johansson who seems to be channelling the cast of Jersey Shore. A confident debut from a strong young talent, I’m there.

The Double

The Double

Early this week I was Googling The Double in the hopes that it was coming to UK cinema’s soon. I adored Richard Ayoade’s debut film Submarine and have been eagerly awaiting his follow-up ever since. Now we have it in the form of a film about a man who goes unnoticed at work until his exact double joins the company. Witty and romantic as only Ayoade can be.

Under the Skin

Under the Skin

Scarlett Johansson’s performance as an alien hunting for men in Glasgow has drawn a lot of praise and excitement in the past week. The film is described as “a brilliant amalgam of fantasy and reality” and from the sounds of it not all the men in the film who fall for the alien’s charms were aware they were in a film at the time. I’m baffled enough to be intrigued.

Kill Your Darlings

Kill Your Darlings

Daniel Radcliffe has come a long way since Harry Potter and has showcased his ability to act on TV and on stage. Now it’s time for his to prove himself on the big screen. Here he plays Allen Ginsberg in his first year at University as he meets fellow future heavyweights of the Beat Generation and embarks on a tumultuous affair.

Afternoon Delight

Afternoon Delight

Any film with Juno Temple in is worth a second look which is why this film finds its way into this list. Temple co-stars as a stripper who is taken into the home of a bored housewife played but the too often ignored Kathryn Hahn. Darkly funny and the debut film from a female writer/director this should not be a cheap or sleazy affair.

Short Term 12

Short Term 12

Much like Juno Temple, Felicity Jones, Judi Dench, Richard Ayoade, or Joseph Gordon-Levitt there is another artist whose work I find myself absolutely needing to see and that is Brie Larson. Too often resigned to the role of love interest or comic relief Larson is finally getting a proper meaty role as a supervisor at a foster-care home who finds herself having to deal with her own past as she helps a new resident with theirs.

After Lucia – Film Review

After-Lucia

Lucia is a wife and mother. Lucia is dead. Confronted with their great loss father, Roberto (Hernán Mendoza), and daughter, Alejandra (Tessa Ia), move to Mexico City to get a fresh start. Things do not go well for Alejandra after one night’s mistake spirals out of control and she becomes the target of her new classmates bullying. With her mother gone Alejandra is taking a more parental role looking after her father than he is when it comes to looking after her. Alejandra is adrift in a new school, terrorised by her peers, and with no-one to turn to for help.

I first saw After Lucia at last year’s BFI London Film Festival and was so stunned by it I couldn’t bring myself to write about it. How can a short review do justice to this film and how do you recommend a film that had you writhing in your seat with discomfort?

Writer/director Michel Franco shot this film with a very simplistic style that allows the actors and their characters to take precedence. Almost every scene is shot with the camera fixed in place; a single voyeuristic eye that never looks away and never moves. The space this creates for the story to unfold allows for no distraction by way of fancy editing or suave camera moves. The result is a much more believable story, a story that explores the cruelty children will inflict on each other in order to ensure they are not the one being picked on.

After Lucia 2

As the bullying escalates to extreme degrees (the picture above being a prelude to some of the most uncomfortable cinema I have seen) I was begging the camera to move, to give me the chance to look away, or for the scene simply to end so that I was no longer bearing witness to these horrors. The horrors are not the sort to have you jumping in your seat or wincing at the sight of a bloody wound. These are the horrors of real life, the horrors that could actually come true.

With a film focussing on the loss of a parent and extreme bullying Franco was never going to make a film that is enjoyable to watch. The acts we see committed are brutal and unsettling and so quite rightly the film is too. To make it all the more difficult for the viewer the fact that we are a static eye in the corners of the story watching it all unfold makes us somehow complicit in what is happening. The same way you would be if you were a character at that school, watching the bullying but not stepping in to help.

After Lucia 1

Almost painful to watch After Lucia is a masterclass in pulling the audience into the story and not letting them go until it has come to its shattering conclusion. It has been 9 months and I still feel a little unsettled. A beautifully tragic tale that won’t let you look away, no matter how badly you might want to.

After Lucia has no UK release date yet but is playing at the MexFest in London this weekend. For tickets and more information visit the MexFest website.