Saturday, September 15, 2007

My Picks From The London Film Festival

The full programme for the London Film Festival was unveiled this week. Here are my choices of must-see selections from the roster.

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days - the Cannes-rocking neo-neo-realist drama. A suspenseful drama about abortions in 1980s Romania. Incidentally, the screening is presented by Sight and Sound magazine, the one monthly purchase I can guarantee I will always feel stupid and guilty about but will never give up.

The Band's Visit - apparently a real charmer of a farce. An Egyptian police band are on their way to put on a show at an Arab culture centre but end up stranded on the Shabbat. Hilarity ensues - no, really, it does. People love this film and I can't wait to see it.

Boy A - recently purchased for US distribution by the Weinsteins, this is an adaptation of the novel by Jonathan Trigell that deals with the life of a murderer leaving prison some years after he committed his crime as a child.

Brand Upon the Brain! - Guy Maddin's latest. Hasn't he become popular lately? Good. A mystery set in a lighthouse-orphanage this seems to mix memoir and fantasy in a similar way to Maddin's own Cowards Bend the Knee.

Chaotic Ana - a reincarnation mystery (only one phase away from Maddin's film in that respect) from Julio Medem. Seems to harken back to The Red Squirrel in its exploration of identity and fatalism.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - this one needs little introduction at this stage. Julian Schnabel realises the supposedly unfilmable memoirs of Jean-Dominique Bauby.

Does Your Soul Have a Cold? - a documentary study of attitudes to, and treatment of, depression in Japan. Mike Mills is one of the most underrated directors at work today, in both fiction and documentary.

Eastern Promises - David Cronenberg's latest screens just days before going on general release but it is, after all, Cronenberg.

Fay Grim - Hal Hartley's latest has long since been available on DVD from the US but it is, after all, Hartley.

Grace is Gone - John Cusack's Stanley takes his kids on a roadtrip after his wife Grace is killed in Iraq. An entire narrative of denial, structured as an American roadtrip - the politics aren't hard to miss. No idea if this will be the pre- or post- Clint Eastwood scoring sessions version.

I'm Not There - Todd Haynes' Dylan 'biopic'. Of sorts.

Juno - I waxed lyrical over this one's trailer earlier today, but I doubt I've seen the best of it yet. A fiercely stylised script waffles away uncompromised - and probably won't be to everybody's taste - while Jason Reitman shows us how he's grown. And the cast look simply superb too.

Killer of Sheep - Charles Burnett's classic. Confident, assured and steady, and something I got excited about a few months ago.

Lions For Lambs - Robert Redford's war thriller promises to go beyond "torn from the headlines" business to truly get under the skin of the subject matter, as well as the audience.

Persepolis - an animated film for grown-ups that, apparently, isn't also suitable for young audiences - despite a young lead character. This is Marjane Starapi's adaptation of her own graphic novel sequence about growing up in the shadow of revolution.

Planet Terror - Robert Rodriguez' half of the Grind House project, this is supposedly something like a long lost John Carpenter adventure. Can it live up to Death Proof?

Redacted - or, How the Critics Were Convinced De Palma Got His Groove Back. This looks like vital stuff: a genre bending assault on media attempts to filter the horrors of war, particularly the Iraq war.

Rescue Dawn - Werner Herzog's fictionalised account of the story he already addressed in Little Dieter Needs to Fly. Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies are in the cast so you'll definitely find me in the audience.

The Savages - a reputedly very heavy-going but deeply rewarding family drama. Laura Linney and Phillip Seymour Hoffman play estranged siblings forced back together to care for their father.

The Surprise Film - every surprise film I've ever attended at the London Film Festival has turned out to be a real populist gem, from Pleasantville to Sideways. This year has no reason to be any different.

You, The Living - the new Roy Andersson has been a long time coming, and probably features some slow bowling sequences that will convince you it still isn't here but if Andersson's Songs From the Second Floor was anything to go by, this will be one of the best at the fest and undoubtedly one of the funniest.

I skipped over Hammer and Tongs' Son of Rambow, but yes, it's screening, and yes, I'm keen to see it again, and yes, it's still the best film I've seen all year long. If you can, go see it at the festival - of this lot, it's the one recommendation I can guarantee 100%, not least because it's the only one I've already seen.


Anonymous said...

Are the critics convinved by Redacted? I think I've read 3 reviews of it so far and they were all middling or negative (and the middling ones were leaning that way too). Personally I'd love to see DePalma make a decent flick again, it's been far too long.

Brendon said...

Of the eight or nine reviews I read of Redacted four were overwhelmingly positive, and the middling couple seemed to lean that way too, to me.

David said...

Yeah, I've seen nine or ten reviews of Redacted now, and the majority have been raves. I think I've only seen three outright slams of the film, and - surprise! - they've been from publications that lean to the right. I'd imagine the attempts to discredit De Palma will only increase in the run-up to the film's release in America, which is depressing, but a fact of life these days.

Marina said...

Excellent choices. I'm particularly excited to see "The Band's Visit" which I've added to my VIFF (Vancouver International FF) viewing schedule.