The 57th BFI London Film Festival – from the people who brought you London Film Festivals 1 to 56 – could be the sequel of the summer. It’s a 12-day filmic fête that will deliver cinematic splendour to your very doorstep from October 9. Unless, of course, your doorstep is in darkest Peru, in which case you’ll miss the shiny galas, sparkly new feature films, shorts and documentaries on offer. But fear not, Peruvian pals! You’ll be able to follow all the filmy action here over the next month, beginning with this must-see guide to 10 of the LFF’s most exciting highlights.
For the full London Film Festival schedule and to book tickets visit www.bfi.org.uk/lff.
With his name no longer followed around by an annoying ‘No, Not That One’ tag, Steve McQueen has proved himself a craftsman behind the camera with the dazzling, Michael Fassbender-filled double of Hunger and Shame. He returns to the LFF with his third feature, already a hit in Toronto, depicting the casual brutality of the antebellum South with his usual sophistication. The artist-turned-filmmaker has fast become a darling of the festival circuit, but here he’s assembled a cast that could probably open a movie on the moon. An Oscar-buzzy Chiwetel Ejiofor plays Solomon Northup, a free man kidnapped and sold into slavery, while Benedict Cumberbatch, Brad Pitt, Quvenzhané Wallis and Fassbender – pants largely on this time – also appear.
brightcove.createExperiences();Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s directorial debut is Empire’s own gala – come join us for the party, folks! – and it’s promising a lot of laughs and some more serious bits in a morality tale about a man who finds himself in love with a beautiful woman while also mired in a nasty porn addiction. JGL hangs up the svelte suits and ditches the Bruce Willis prosthetics to plays the former, an iron-pumping ladies’ man called ‘Don’ Jon Martello; while Scarlett Johansson, a sassy, white bread girl called Barbara, is the latter.
A master of the modern handheld thriller, Paul Greengrass can turn the screw like few others. In this case, those screws are of the propellery kind as he boards the Maersk Alabama off the coast of east Africa to recount the events of April 2009, when US seaman Richard Phillips and his crew were hijacked by armed Somalis and placed very firmly in harm’s way. It’s the opening gala and bound to be an LFF hit, so get in early for tickets. Whatever you do, don't ask for seats to ‘Pirates! In An Adventure With Tom Hanks’.
Jesse Eisenberg and Richard Ayoade, a formidable pairing of IQs and hairstyles, combine for a drama that comes already highly-acclaimed by the Toronto crowds. The story, loosely adapted on Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novella, was the inspiration of co-writer Avi ‘brother of Harmony’ Korine. It sees Eisenberg’s doppelgänger (Eisenberg) finagling himself into the real Eisenberg’s life – think Being Jesse Eisenberg or The Double Life Of Jésse – and will presumably feature a scene in which he wanders around saying “Eisenberg! Eisenberg!” a lot. “In some respects it felt more personal to me than my first film, Submarine”, Ayoade tells The Guardian. “This was so loosely based on the [novel] that it felt more like our own take on it.”
If you didn’t see her unique vérité drama, The Arbor – and you should – Clio Barnard’s latest is showing at the LFF, offering the ideal opportunity to find out why she’s currently residing on any ‘One To Watch’ list worth its salt. Like Richard Ayoade’s The Double, it takes the loosest inspiration from the pages of literature, springboarding its themes into dramas of a more contemporary nature. Adapting Oscar Wilde’s eponymous story herself, Barnard brings together Arbor (no relation) and Swifty, two pals both struggling at school and home in the kind of Yorkshire town that will never get its own Hovis ad. It promises warmth and hardscrabble humour amid the tough stuff. Head for the horse and cart in Leicester Square.
"John doesn't write stories for pussies or women," says actor Sam Elliott at the start of Milius. "He writes them for men because he's a man's man." Directed by Zak Knutson and Joey Figueroa (can any documentarian partnership boast better names than that?), Milius the movie pulls together a ‘Who's Who’ of movie icons (Lucas, Spielberg, Coppola, Scorsese, Arnie, Dreyfuss) to discuss the writer of some of cinema’s greatest lines — "I love the smell of napalm in the morning", "‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do you, punk?" — and the director of some of Hollywood's most underrated movies (Dillinger, The Wind And The Lion, Big Wednesday). Described as both a "Zen anarchist" and "a teddy bear with an AK-47", expect a compelling multi-faceted portrait of one of the titans of '70s cinema.
A grizzled stalwart of American cinema, Bruce Dern is reason alone to catch Alexander Payne’s latest. Like the platform boot and the Bee-Gees, he was huge in the ‘70s, snagging an Oscar nomination for Coming Home and dominating The Great Gatsby with sheer Derny presence. That now time-weathered presence will be much in evidence in Payne’s whimsical black-and-white road movie. The Academy won’t need much of an excuse to bookmark his career with a second nomination – possibly against all Gatsby pal Robert Redford for All Is Lost – and by all accounts, he gives them plenty as a cranky retiree who drags his son (Will Forte) on a journey to collect his lottery winnings.
Orson Welles’ 1947 flick has been spruced up with a sparkly Sony Columbia restoration (even those mirrors got a polish) and is well worth catching at one of its two LFF screenings. Ripe with double and triple crosses, rich in hardboiled dialogue and noteworthy for pairing Welles with his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Rita Hayworth, it has all the ingredients of a silver screen masterpiece. If you can get past Orson Welles’ Oirish accent – and bear in mind he may have been voice-coached by the Lucky Charms leprechaun – you’ll be rewarded with a prize restoration of a noir classic.
The LFF’s unofficial Coen Corner, previously host to A Serious Man, offers delights of a folky bent this year. Swapping the wide-open space of their beloved Midwest for the claustrophobically hipster surrounds of 1960s Greenwich Village, Joel and Ethan spin a musical yarn of singer-songwriters, love affairs and bemused cats. Oscar Isaac, Justin Timberlake, Carey Mulligan and Adam Driver all star (and perform) as members of the folk fraternity, with music supervised by T-Bone Burnett of Crazy Heart and playing-with-Bob Dylan fame.
A stunning, five-Empire-star feast of sound and vision, Gravity will have LFF audiences reaching for new superlatives. Alfonso Cuarón reunited with his DoP Emmanuel Lubezki, the man who helped him to pioneer Children Of Men’s astonishing 247-second car-cam shot, to astonish us even further with zero-g camera work that will leave you all but floating above your seat. It’s not just a tech feast, however. Sandra Bullock turns in an Oscar-worthy performance as fraught astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone struggling for survival. Our advice? Book early. Bring space food.