The Films You Should See At This Year's London Film Festival
Posted on Wednesday September 9, 2009, 14:05 by Chris Hewitt in Under The Radar
So I’ve just returned from the glitzy launch of the Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival, held this morning at the Odeon Leicester Square. All went well – the goody bag contained a bar of milk chocolate Green & Black’s, which always goes down well, and a copy of some rag called Empire. But I wasn’t just there for sweetie goodness and yet another copy of the world’s greatest film magazine – I was there to hear the LFF’s Artistic Director, Sandra Hebron, announce the line-up for a festival that is rapidly becoming one of the biggest in the world.
Mind you, with 191 features and 113 short films screening during this year’s Festival, which runs from October 14-29, going through the entire line-up would take ages. We’d probably still be there, in fact. Handily, a half-hour clips package, showing some of the highlights to come, helped make our minds up about the films we’d most like to see at this year’s LFF. In fact, why wait? Now, if you please.
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Wes Anderson’s stop-motion take on Roald Dahl’s classic children’s tale will open the LFF on October 14. While we’re still getting used to the herky-jerky animation, in this world of Selick/Aardman stop-motion smoothness, we can’t wait to see how Anderson can transpose his unique visual style to this new medium. Oh, and it marks the start of George Clooney’s domination of the Festival with not one, not two, but three movies in the line-up.
Up In The Air
The second of which is Jason Reitman’s comedy drama, about a business exec who undergoes something of a personal transformation as he criss-crosses the country in pursuit of his Holy Grail: one million frequent flier miles. It’s been getting raves at Telluride, and the clip shown today – a cute and sexy back-and-forth between Clooney’s Cary Grant-cool Ryan Bingham and Vera Farmiga’s similarly-minded Alex about the size of their air mile accruals – recalled Tracy and Hepburn at their best. Must. See.
44 Inch Chest
The follow-up, of sorts, to Sexy Beast reunites Ray Winstone and Ian McShane with that film’s writers, Louis Mellis and David Scinto (but not co-star Ben Kingsley, or director Jonathan Glazer), for an equally sweary crime drama that promises to be every bit as barmy as its predecessor. And hopefully as brilliant. We saw a brief clip – perhaps the only clip not featuring any F-or-C-bombs, according to our on-set spy - featuring Winstone’s Colin Diamond, lying on his back in his trashed living room, while Nilsson’s Without You plays on the soundtrack. At first, we think he’s dead, but as the music reaches a crescendo, Colin moves his eyes, then closes them and smiles, beatifically. Intriguing…
Bunny And The Bull
As seen at Empire’s Movie-Con, Bunny And The Bull is an extremely low-budget British movie from Paul King, the director of The Mighty Boosh and Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, that manages to be a road movie without actually going on the road, thanks to an inventive use of painted backdrops and lo-fi animation. It’s very quirky, but with cameos from Booshers Julian Barratt and Noel Fielding, and Dean Learner himself, Richard Ayaode, this looks like it could be worth a peep.
One of the big hits of the showreel, this short film from French filmmaker Bruno Collet follows the fortune of a Bruce Lee action figure, mysteriously imbued with the soul of the late, great martial artist, 35 years after his death. The clip, which showed the Little Dragon burst out of his cardboard box before activating Lee’s trademark battle cry, was hilarious. We can’t wait to see the other 7 minutes, 30 seconds.
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s latest film – we really shouldn’t have to say any more than that – is bathed, as usual, in his golden brown sheen. Otherwise, though, this story of a group of misfits who band together to take out two arms dealers, looks like a true original – quirky, funny and visually stunning.
The LFF’s not all about new films, you know. This BFI restoration of Anthony Asquith’s 1928 romance should be high on your must-see list, as evidenced by the charming and sweet clip in which Brian Aherne’s Bill and Elissa Landi’s Nell meet on different sides of a moving escalator. Be warned, though – it starts to mine deeper, darker territory, so don’t expect 82 minutes of jaunty meet cutes.
The Festival’s closing film is the debut of acclaimed British artist, Sam Taylor-Wood. A biopic of the early, pre-Beatles life of John Lennon (played by Kick-Ass star, Aaron Johnson) and his tempestuous relationship with his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott-Thomas) and his mother, Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), this looks like it could have more depth than your usual biopic, even if Johnson doesn’t really look or sound like Lennon.
A Serious Man
The Coens’ latest boasts arguably the finest and most original trailer of the year, and looks to be some kind of unofficial companion to Barton Fink, as a Jewish professional (Coen newcomer, Michael Stuhlbarg) mounts a movie-long panic attack, driven there by strange and baffling events in his life. It looks none more Coens, and we’re so there.
An intriguing clip from Johan Grimonprez’ offbeat documentary, in which Alfred Hitchcock (played by a composite of body double, face double, archive footage and voice artists) is marched into a holding cell and accused of a crime he didn’t commit (very Hitchcockian), piqued our interest. A look at the synopsis on the IMDb – “Subverting a meticulous array of TV footage and using 'The Birds' as an essential metaphor, DOUBLE TAKE traces catastrophe culture's relentless assault on the home, from moving images' inception to the present day.” – lessened it again. Still, benefit of the doubt, and all that.
The Men Who Stare At Goats
Clooney again, in Grant Heslov’s wacky, Catch-22-esque satire about the lengths to which the U.S. Army is prepared to go in order to gain an advantage, i.e. developing psychic soldiers who actually have all the ability of a dozen Mystic Megs. Getting raves from Venice, it looks very sharp, very funny and waves a mind-spell so powerful that we don’t mind Ewan McGregor’s American accent.
The Boys Are Back
Clive Owen, who’ll take part in one of the TalkTalk Screentalks series, stars in Scott Hick’s gentle drama about a dad who becomes a single parent after his wife dies. The featured clip showed Owen playing with his son in an overflowing Jacuzzi (but that’s less dodgy than it sounds). Our editor has already seen this, the lucky bugger, and has been raving about Owen’s performance for weeks. He’s even mentioned ‘Oscar’. Time will tell, but for now this should definitely be on your list.
Atom Egoyan’s latest will attract attention for all the wrong reasons – it’s the film Liam Neeson was working on when his wife, Natasha Richardson, tragically died earlier this year – but this sharp drama about a wife (Julianne Moore) who suspects her husband (Neeson) is having an affair, and hires Amanda Seyfried’s eponymous escort to seduce him as twisted proof, should be noticed for all the right reasons.
A TV journalist reports from a battered village. After a while, a shell explodes behind him. He races, with his crew, into a jeep. They are utterly terrified. Shells explode all around them. It’s visceral, it’s realistic, it’s terrifying. It makes us want to see more of this Australian film, in which director Robert Connelly traces the real-life exploits of Aussie TV journalist Roger East (Anthony La Paglia) and his friendship with Jose Ramos-Horta.
And that’s it. Not a bad little lot to be going on with, and you’ll notice that we deliberately excluded any films that played at Cannes or Sundance (so no The White Ribbon, no An Education, no Precious, no Taking Woodstock). Add those into the mix and this year’s LFF could be one of the best in years. Time to start prepping for those videblogisodes!
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Posted on Wednesday September 9, 2009, 14:42
"[Chloe]'s the film Liam Neeson was working on when his wife, Natasha Richardson, tragically died earlier this year"
Good work, chaps. I didn't give a shit about this film until you said that. Top marks for not sensationalising that one – apparently – unnecessary detail.
Posted on Wednesday September 9, 2009, 15:15
Seems like a very decent line up this year - I'm planning my trip already!
Watched the trailer for The Boys Are Back last night actually, hadn't heard of it before, noticed that it had London Film Festival on it, but assumed it had shown last year or something and was only getting its US release now. So I got a sneak peak of sorts of today's programme launch without evening realising!
Posted on Wednesday September 9, 2009, 16:14
"this year’s Festival, which runs from October 14-29 September"
Almost a year long festival? Maybe I can find the time to pop down and catch something during my Easter holiday!
Any prize for spotting your 'deliberate' mistake Chris? ;)
Posted on Wednesday September 9, 2009, 16:24
RJ, I go out of my way to point out that the film should not be remembered or noted for that reason. Of course, you don't mention that. The quality of the film should not be overlooked just because of the circumstances surrounding Neeson. Sadly, as with Heath Ledger on Parnassus, I suspect that you'll find very few pieces that don't mention those circumstances.
As for Matthew, the deliberate mistake was down to Word's stupid auto-date thingy. It has now been rectified. Thanks for that.
Posted on Wednesday September 9, 2009, 17:42
Chris, do you not think that *specifically drawing attention* to that detail yourself is doing quite the opposite of what you intended? I mean, it's like picking a scab. Perhaps I would have eventually found out about Neeson's wife in due course, which is fine. Leave it to those who feel the need to sensationalise such details in order to draw a crowd.
But, it seems pretty counter-intuitive to mention that you feel the detail you're mentioning, in conjunction with the mention of the film, shouldn't be mentioned in conjunction with the mention of the film, which is, obviously, what you are currently doing. Y'know?
Posted on Friday September 11, 2009, 14:08
I never thought i'd hear Clive Owen and Oscar mentioned in the same sentence
Posted on Friday September 11, 2009, 17:26
What about The Road???
Posted on Friday September 11, 2009, 17:28
Oh, and Orlainarama, I'm guessing you're not aware that Clive Owen was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for Closer, right?
Posted on Sunday September 13, 2009, 18:50
i cant wait to see fantastic mr fox. and on a more mature note, a serious man, the trailer was one of the best i saw this year.
Posted on Monday September 19, 2011, 01:43