1. Not just Another Year…
In a first, the London Film Fest goes nationwide this year with a special multi-screen premiere of Mike Leigh’s latest, Another Year. The red carpet premiere will be broadcast live from Leicester Square to nine additional London venues and 25 more regional cinemas across the country, followed by the film itself, and a Q&A with the inimitable Mr Leigh. Jim Broadbent, Lesley Manville and Ruth Sheen star in this moving film about getting on in years.
2. Go British
If you look at the British section, at first glance it seems a bit sparse. That’s because there are so many British films spread across the Galas and Festival On the Square – including such hot tickets as Danny Boyle’s intense 127 Hours (an American film, I guess, but made mostly by his regular British collaborators), West Is West (the belated sequel to East Is East), and The King’s Speech, for which Colin Firth has been tipped to double his number of Oscar nominations. All these will be opening in the upcoming months of course, but who wants to wait for the inevitable backlash? See ‘em while they’re good and hot!
3. Real Deals
Sticking with the British theme, the stand out in the documentary lineup is Clio Barnard’s boldly innovative approach to the legacy of playwright Andrea Dunbar in The Arbor. Dunbar was still a teenager when her first play was produced at the Royal Court, and like all her work it was an unvarnished autobiographical piece about life on a squalid Bradford estate. She went on to write Rita, Sue and Bob Too (filmed by Alan Clark) while keeping her neglected kids locked up in their bedroom. Barnard interviewed the kids and friends of Dunbar, but then employed actors to perform this testimony direct to camera on the very estate where the writer lived and died. It shouldn’t work, but does it ever!
4. Other docs worth a trip
The Trip (Coogan and Brydon play themselves, sort of, in Michael Winterbottom’s hilarious comedy), and Errol Morris’s Tabloid, a wildly entertaining true shaggy dog story about a beauty queen who kidnapped her ex from the Mormons and her way with him in a Devon cottage for three days.
5. Horses’ Mouths
The stars of the show at this year’s LFF come from behind the camera. Darren Aronofsky, the director of Black Swan and of course Requiem for a Dream, and Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go) will be talking about their work, as will Peter Mullan and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Lisa Cholodenko, and (our pick) Olivier Assayas, the versatile director of Summer Hours and Carlos.
Uncle Boonmee Who Recalls His Past Lives
6. Foreign Affairs
Aside from offering home audiences their first look at the Thai Palme d’Or winner, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, the LFF includes several great and near-great films, including Poetry (from Korea), Of Gods and Men (France), My Joy (Russia), Aurora (Romania) and Carancho (Argentina).
A Brighter Summer Day
7. Something Old
It might seem odd to go to a film festival to watch an old film, but you probably won’t see a more extraordinary movie than Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera, from 1929. The LFF also offers a rare chance to see Edward Yang’s Taiwanese masterpiece, A Brighter Summer Day, one of the greatest films of the 1990s and not available on DVD anywhere in the world.
Up in the Air
8. Music Man
It sold out almost immediately, but beg, borrow or steal a ticket to see Randall Poster’s Film School of Rock. Who is Randall Poster? You may not know the name but he’s served as music supervisor on hundreds of movies, including The Aviator, The Royal Tenenbaums, Zodiac, I’m Not There, Up in the Air, and (naturally) The School of Rock. There is not much this man doesn’t know about putting music and pictures together. Maybe if enough of us ask they’ll add a second performance…
9. Some to Avoid
Yes, I know Julian Schnabel made The Diving Bell and the Butterfly and Basquiat, but his contribution to the Israel-Palestine conflict, Miral, is a laborious slog which pins hackneyed storytelling and an unruly shooting style to its liberal political convictions. I haven’t seen Hilary Swank’s Conviction, but the trailer sent alarm bells ringing. You might also bear in mind that the excellent films Africa United, The Arbor, Carlos, and The Kids Are All Right are all opening before the month is done…
9.5 Shorts Is Sweet
Do remember to check out the short programmes – the international animation shows look especially tasty this year – there is also a special kid-friendly animation programme.