By Matt Arnoldi | October 2011
Junsui Films previews the 55th BFI London Film Festival (in partnership with American Express) which runs from the 12th to the 27th of October…
In London cinemas, audiences are about to forget money worries and pitch up instead for a frenzy of glitzy Gala, World and European Premieres in London’s glorious annual movie party.
The 55th BFI London Film Festival opens on October 12th with a showing of 360, a modern contemporary take on La Ronde depicted on a global scale by screenwriter Peter Morgan (Frost/Nixon) and directed by Fernando Meirelles (City of God, Constant Gardener). The film boasts a glittering cast with Jude Law, Anthony Hopkins and Rachel Weisz in a film that weaves the entwining loves of many different characters into a single narrative located over a multitude of continents.
Rachel Weisz also stars in the Festival’s closer this year on Thursday 27 Oct; an adaptation by Terence Davies of Terence Rattigan’s play The Deep Blue Sea. It looks at the passions and unpredictability of love in a period drama set in the 50’s that focuses on bonding and betrayal and co-stars Tom Huddleston and Simon Russell Beale.
This year’s fest continues to be hosted on a grand scale that rivals Toronto, showing the best of World Cinema, new British product, the best European films, a wide collection of shorts as well as Gala and special screenings of big West End films to be released in 2012.
This is also the last festival for Sandra Hebron in the role of artistic director and it’s clear from the selection chosen that Sandra wants to bow out on a high note. There are a total of 204 feature films being shown in the fortnight (and that doesn’t include the surprise film either), plus 110 short films. That formidable collection of features includes 13 World Premieres, 18 International Premieres, 22 European Premieres and a further 132 films receiving UK Premieres.
Sandra likens the fest to a quotation from Thomas Elsaesser who defined a festival as ‘an annual festival for reflection and renewal’. That’s largely true although others might potentially go further in defining a film festival as something akin to a cinematic gorge fest of everything in the medium from cutting-edge cinema, to gala presentations, workshops, interviews with famous faces and unearthed treasures from the archives. Certainly it’s looked upon keenly by the Capital’s cinemagoers.
So what are the highlights to look out for?
There are new films from esteemed directors such as Werner Herzog, Jonathan Demme, Nuri Bilge Ceylon, Chantal Akerman, Roman Polanski, Gus Van Sant and Aleksandr Sokurov.
Look out for Iranian filmmaking and films from Tibetan filmmakers whilst filmmakers producing their debut features at the fest are able to compete for the BFI’s coveted Sutherland Trophy which looks to reward originality and creativity in the medium.
In the Gala screening category, George Clooney features highly. He co-writes, directs and acts in The Ides of March, a film which entertainingly exposes dirty politics on the political campaign trail. He can be seen also in Alexander Payne’s drama The Descendants.
Vanessa Redgrave is present in two films linked by Shakespeare. She stars in both Ralph Fiennes’s feisty adaptation of Coriolanus in which Fiennes also co-stars as well as in period drama Anonymous which explores Shakespeare’s writings and co-stars David Thewlis, Rhys Ifans and Joely Richardson.
US comic actor John C Reilly meanwhile is in two films about difficult teenagers. Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher, Morvern Caller) has come up with a poignant family drama We Need To Talk About Kevin co-starring Tilda Swinton. Reilly can also be seen in Azazel Jacobs’ Terri, another subtly drawn tale about a teenage outsider.
Movies likely to play to packed houses…
Films that should be booked immediately include the likes of We have a Pope (25/27 Oct) directed by Nanni Moretti. It’s an amusing study of the Catholic Religion as well as an insight into just what it entails to take up the role of being the Pope.
A Dangerous Method – Lionsgate UK ©
There’s also David Cronenberg’s unhinging study of psychoanalysis A Dangerous Method (24/25 Oct) which includes Keira Knightley and Viggo Mortensen, and boasts a screenplay written by Christopher Hampton (Atonement).
Madonna’s film W.E. (23,24 Oct) is bound to be a hot ticket. It polarised opinions when first shown in Cannes and consequently has had a tough ride so far. It’s about two women living decades apart and the challenges faced through their love-lives. Whilst Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish) is trapped in a loveless marriage in Manhattan, she becomes obsessed with the life of Wallis Simpson (Andrea Riseborough) who famously captured the heart of King Edward VII leading later to his abdication. The social disapproval that Edward and Wallis Simpson faced will find an echo in Wally’s life when she starts to attract the attentions of another man.
Michael Winterbottom’s Trishna (22/25 Oct) is an interesting re-working of Thomas Hardy’s Tess and the D’Urbervilles starring Frieda Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) and Riz Ahmed.
Sarah Palin – You Betcha (14/16 Oct) is a documentary from intelligent British filmmaker Nick Broomfield, which sounds both perceptive and funny and follows Palin on the Republican campaign trails.
If instead, though, you just want an out-and-out decent action thriller, there’s Oren Moverman’s Rampart (15/16 Oct), set in 80’s LA, and starring Woody Harrelson as a dirty cop using unorthodox means to clean up the streets and coming into conflict with internal affairs. Taken from a James Ellroy screenplay, and co-starring Robin Wright, Sigourney Weaver and Ice Cube, the film sounds reminiscent of the recent role that Nic Cage enjoyed in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call (2009).
Take Shelter – Sony Pictures/The Works©
US Actor Michael Shannon meanwhile gives a quite brilliantly understated performance in Take Shelter (21/23 Oct), a film about a young man working for a mining town in Ohio with a wife and child, who starts to suffer from bad dreams which give him recurring premonitions of an impending disaster. As a result of the dreams, he starts to build a tornado shelter in his back garden. Is this wise planning or is he beginning to suffer from an episode of dementia which has previously appeared in his family?
The Awakening – Studio Canal ©
On a different tack, if you’re looking for a film to raise the hairs on the back of your neck, Dominic West and Rebecca Hall give strong performances in Nick Murphy’s British chiller The Awakening (25/26 Oct). Here, Hall plays spiritualist Florence Cathcart requested to investigate creepy goings-on at a boys’ boarding school by schoolmaster Robert Mallory (played by West). Cathcart has an effective record of exposing charlatan con-tricks in the creation of séances but is going to have her skills firmly tested in this country school. It’s a film that has echoes of the unhinging horror seen in The Others (2001).
Finally, arguably the hottest ticket of them all, is bound to be the Surprise Film (23 Oct, 8.30 pm) where director of the Fest Sandra Hebron will be able to comfortably fill a whole cinema venue with an audience not knowing what they’re about to see but willing to take a chance in the hope of getting a sneak preview of a real hottie in the flicks stakes.
World Cinema choices…
As always at the London Film Festival, there’s a large selection of World Cinema films. Among those that stand out particularly, is Jafar Panahi’s This is not a Film (18/19 Oct) where director Panahi has been sentenced to anti-government charges in Iran and banned from making films for 20 years but has still had the courage and bravery to get this film out about the challenges he is facing.
There is also China’s highest-grossing film Let the Bullets Fly (19/20 Oct) a comedy adventure set in the warlord era of the 1920’s, and Las Acacias (17/18 Oct) an engaging tale about a monosyllabic truck driver taking timber from Paraquay to Buenos Aires who picks up a woman and child needing to hitch a lift on the way, and finds himself drawn into conversation along the journey.
Films with a music edge…
Movies likely to get appreciated for their soundtracks alone include the likes of Marc Evans’ Hunky Dory (25/26 Oct) starring Minnie Driver and Aneurin Barnard about a Swansea secondary school’s 70’s re-working of The Tempest to the sounds of David Bowie, ELO and the Beach Boys. Lawrence of Belgravia (22, 23 25 Oct) is an amusing film that follows the efforts of the lead Singer of Felt towards his dream of indie chart success and Last Days Here (21, 23, 25 Oct) is a film about a Doom Mental band formed in the early 70’s.
There are three very different coming-of-age stories worth looking into. Sara Bleacher’s Otello Burning (21/23 Oct) is a coming-of-age drama set against the backdrop of political violence in post apartheid South Africa in the late 80’s. Back to Stay (15/18 Oct) is a striking debut feature from Milagros Mumenthaler following three sisters getting over the death of their grandmother who raised them. It won a Best actress award for Maria Canale.
Sket – Revolver Entertainment©
From Britain, and specifically produced by the Safe N’ Sound Youth Project in Peckham, Sket (22/23 Oct) is a bold urban drama about a group of girls growing up on a poor housing estate.
Check out the website for writers’ workshops, industry discussions, screen talks with Alexander Payne and Michael Winterbottom together with several Script Factory masterclasses. There are also Experimenta and Short Film sections and Treasures from the Archives. Hot off the presses, a You tube interview with Seth Rogan and Will Reiser takes place on Fri 14 Oct in the NFT.
Screenings take place in various places across London but principally are held in the Warner West End Vue cinema, Leicester Square and in the National Film Theatre on the South Bank.
The 55th BFI London Film Festival (in partnership with American Express) runs from the 12th to the 27th of October. Details, information about booking and news of the host of stars attending this year’s festival and last-minute changes and additions, can be found at the website www.bfi.org.uk/lff or by phoning 020 7928 3232.