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.

Top 10 Films of 2012

2012

It’s finally here! Welcome to my obligatory annual blogger’s list in which I try to rank incomparable films that share one thing in common – a 2012 UK release date. I tried to limit myself to just 10 films this year after finding 20 a bit too many in 2011. I managed to whittle my list down to 10, then added two I felt I just couldn’t leave out. It’s my top 10, I can have 12 if I want to.

12 - Holy Motors

Holy Motors starts the list in a cautious manner. I slept through a lot of the film and confessed as much in my review. Watching a famously mind-boggling film in French while half asleep was a terrifying experience. I could barely read the subtitles and would often wake up to find the lead actor was playing a different character to when I was last conscious.

The film follows a mysterious man as he travels between appointments in a stretch limo. What appointments are these? I couldn’t even begin to explain. Suffice to say that each time the limo stops a different character step out to play a minor or major role in someone elses lives. The end is so bizarre I thought I had actually dreamt it. One of the Jo(h)ns I saw the film with has tirelessly defended it over the past three months and I couldn’t not include it in my extended top 10. In Jon’s own words:

“It came out of nowhere, it was beautiful, strange, intriguing and was utterly compelling even though I don’t think I really understood it. Just like a girl I used to fancy.”

No other film on this list includes two erect penises.

11 - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

How could I not? This film about a retirement home in India catering only to British actors of the finest pedigree. It was a film featuring both Dame Judi and Maggie, comprised of a myriad of storylines and was consistently funny and touching for the entirety of its two-hour running film.

Many have said that the success of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is down to its ability to pick up the grey pound. While I admit that this is one of very few films last year that could be said to specifically cater to the older generation I think the appeal expands far beyond the wrinkled amongst us. As I exited the screening at 20th Century Fox in Soho Square (ahem) I instantly texted both my mum and my sister (such is the life of the single blogger) to let them know that their new favourite film was hitting cinemas in a couple of months.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a warm hug that everyone can enjoy and famously (well, not really) made me want to whisk Judi Dench off to India and retire in a dilapidated hotel.

And now for the proper Top 10: Continue reading

Out Now – 29th June 2012

Storage 24
A British monster movie set in a storage facility. The Guardian loves it and the Daily Mail hates it. I know who I trust.

Friends with Kids
What to Expect When You’re Expecting with the cast of Bridesmaids. Boom.

We Are Poets (limited release)
Documentary film looking at UK teens who are involved in spoken poetry. The Leeds youth poetry team compete in America’s most prestigious poetry slam event. Poetry slam. Poetry. Slam. What?

Joyful Noise (limited release)
Glee for grown-ups starring Dolly Parton and Queen Latifah. *shudder*

Killer Joe (limited release)
I can’t tell you what the plot is but I can tell you that the cast includes personal favourites Juno Temple, Emile Hirsch, and Thomas Haden Church alongside Matthew McConaughey looking like he might be about to do something right for a change.

The Fairy (limited release)
A man falls in love with a fairy after she grants him three wishes. A joyous comedy which completely won me over. A non-silent tribute to silent comedy films filled with slapstick and silliness.

Your Sister’s Sister (limited release)
This is billed as a comedy but the trailer and storyline suggest more of an angsty drama as a man sleeps with his best friend’s lesbian sister despite having feelings for his best friend. Expect 5 minutes of sex followed by 90 minutes of guilt, regret, and anger.

Dark Horse (limited release)
A deliberately detached comedy about two people falling in love (almost) that I found too detached to really engage. It’s been eight months since I’ve seen it, and it hasn’t been on my mind once since.

Lovely Molly (limited release)
Don’t let the title fool you, this is a horror that contains strong language, sex, violence, gore and hard drug use. Sex! Violence! Gore! Phwaor!

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (limited release)
70s comedy re-release. “A surreal, virtually plotless series of dreams centered around six middle-class people and their consistently interrupted attempts to have a meal together.” Sounds delightful.

King of Devil’s Island (limited release)
Uprising in a Norwegian boys home! Stars that nice Swede from Mamma Mia! but features less singing and more sexual abuse.

Glastonbury The Movie (In Flashback) (limited release)
It is 17 years after its original release and Robin Mahoney has “retooled” his documentary about Glastonbury.

The Athlete (limited release)
Biopic of Ethiopian Olympic runner and Paralympic archer Abebe Bikila. Something tells me Bikila has trouble sometime in between the running and the archery.

Last Flight to Abuja (limited release)
“Mid-air difficulties forces a Nigerian commercial plane into an emergency landing with devastating consequences.” Don’t worry though guys, British Airways actually have a flight leaving from Heathrow tonight at 22:50.

Exit Humanity (limited release)
“A young man’s struggle to survive in the aftermath of a deadly undead outbreak during the American Civil War.” I have to admit to knowing very little about the American Civil War so for all I know it did involve an outbreak of the undead. I did Geography. Ask me about longshore drift sometime.

The Fairy – Film Review

The Fairy is the third collaboration from Belgium-based trio Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon and Bruno Romy and in short it is absolutely fantastic. Hotel clerk Dom lives a boring life until one night Fiona checks into his hotel, tells him she is a fairy, and grants him three wishes. Dom and Fiona fall in love (during an underwater dance sequence) and must fight to stay together.

The Fairy is unusual in that it is a comedy relying mostly on visual gags and slapstick yet somehow it does this without ever seeming too broad, juvenile, or lowbrow. Instead the physical humour is almost clown-like – it is graceful, controlled, and truly hilarious. It’s hard to get across just how wonderful the film was, to describe any sequence in too great detail might ruin the effect should you see the film yourself. What I will reveal is that the film contains the funniest birth scene, car chase, foot chase, disguise, blind bar man, musical number, dance sequence, and dog smuggling I have had the pleasure of seeing.

The film came from such a fresh direction that the audience in my screening didn’t quite know what to do with themselves. A large proportion sat in stony silence while a few of us laughed loudly (and at times snorted embarrassingly) and a couple on the back row repeatedly exclaimed, “Oh my god, what on earth is this film?”. When I try to draw comparisons between The Fairy and other things I have seen I find it hard to find another work that sufficiently matches the eccentricity and energy on display here. If you can imagine the physical humour of Peter Sellers’ Inspector Clouseau combined with the fun-loving slap-stick high-energy double-barrelled fun to be found in the stage version of The 39 Steps then you’re almost going to get a sense of how The Fairy will make you feel.

Wacky, unique, touching, and with funny ingrained deep in its soul The Fairy reached deep down inside and touched me somewhere I’m ticklish. Much like I felt after first seeing The Artist I left the screening with a broad smile and a warm heart.

The Fairy is on limited release 29th June 2012. Make the effort and see a modern comedy marvel.