London

Checking out of the hostel prior to 10:00 left me in a peculiar predicament: not having a lot to do. Nine days of solid work, thereabouts, have equally left me exhausted and left me baffled when confronted with a rare space of more than five minutes of free time. With my first film on my final day in London not getting underway until 15:30, I spent that time as wisely as I could – watching reality TV. When I’m not staring at a cinema screen, I’m staring at a television screen. Or, most often of all, a computer screen. I’m not sure I’d even be here were it not for online catch-up TV services.

Can we not go into The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom? Jacob Cheung’s wuxia film was, by some considerable margin, the weakest of the 23 films I saw at the festival (and I’ve seen film #23 at the time of writing, and it’s very good). Actually, it’s had rather more competition for the sad title of Worst Film of LFF 2014 than the selection I saw last year, though I’ve had perhaps even more fun. White Haired Witch stars Fan Bing Bing, whom I adore on a red carpet, less so on the big screen, and features Hark Tsui as ‘artistic consultant’. One can detect his penchant for maximalism in Cheung’s film, though with extraordinarily little of his sense of invention. This is a silly film. The Q&A (naturally, there was a Q&A, because when is there not?) after the film, which I could only attend part of (naturally, because when do I ever have the time to attend a whole Q&A?), didn’t shed much light on what artistry there was supposed to be in the film, so I don’t think there was supposed to be much. Cheung did reveal, during the first part of the Q&A, that Hark had been asked to serve as producer on the film, but had been tied up directing Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon, which is a far superior film, so more power to him.

On a side note, some grumpy old cunt seated next to me in the cinema groaned when he spied the packet of crisps I’d brought in with me. He wasn’t impressed either when I messaged my boyfriend as the trailers began, muttering ever louder and louder about the daft young kid beside him – alas, how could I ever know anything about cinema and what was I doing at a film festival? I just told him to mind his own fucking business. Funny how little it takes to shut people up.

If only I didn’t have to hurry from The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom to The Duke of Burgundy, because the hurrying was far from over. Hooray for Peter Strickland! What a revolting sweat I’d broken into, clad in my most generously-proportioned outfit of the week, lugging around a shoulder bag and a suitcase, sprinting around the tube. Peter Strickland saved the day. The Duke of Burgundy is dense, funny, erotic, playful, artistic, bizarre, confounding, enlightening, completely magnificent. It’s a puzzle that yearns to be solved yet begs not to be, a sado-masochistic curio to rival the central relationship in itself, a monumental work of art that sings the praises of non-narrative cinema (in glorious atonality), all the while with its own narrative, apparently simple yet remarkably multi-stranded. It’s as bewildering and as beguiling as all that sounds too. And it’s a great way to cap off my London 2014 experience.

It might not have been, though. After a slightly late start, I had a mere one hour and 45 minutes to make it onto my plane. After missing my homeward flight last year, it was looking precariously possible that the same might occur this year. I was perched, a few stairs already out of the screen, at the rear of Curzon Mayfair’s lovely Screen 1, waiting for the credits to roll. As soon as they did, I dashed all the way to gate 55D at London Gatwick airport. This involved a dearth of available taxis, several wrong turns at the airport, a queue jump and an inexplicable search of my hand luggage, and at last I could relax: against the odds, I’d made it in time, albeit only by one minute – not even exaggerating, one minute. Or it would have been a long, hard sleep on a long, hard airport floor.

For more coverage of all kinds of film, all year round, you can take a look at my blog – screenonscreen.blogspot.co.uk – or follow me on Twitter @screenonscreen. It doesn’t get any better there, alas, but it could hardly get worse.

Suck it, bitches.

Cheung 01 Cheung 02 Cheung 03

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I arrive back in Belfast tomorrow night, hopefully some time before 23:00. Fourteen hours later, I’ll be at work. I’ll have blog work to complete, including the remainder of my LFF coverage, films to see before they are removed from theatres, housework that I neglected, unwisely, before I departed for London, and sleep to catch up on, in my own bedroom, alone, nice and chilly. I want more time, I need more time. Not here, alas the festival finishes tomorrow, but just time to relax and come to terms with all I have to do before starting back at bloody work. Since festival season commenced at the end of August, it’s been almost non-stop graft for me. What will become of me over Christmas, I wonder? What to do when all of my favourite TV shows have ended, when there’s no film news to report on, when I’m – and here’s a word I genuinely don’t think I’ve used about myself for many weeks now, not once – bored? I don’t think anyone ever gets used to boredom. We human beings will always find something to make us happy, something to make us irate, something to make us sad, something to make us bored.

Is life in London ever boring? I don’t think I’d like to have grown up here – it’s just too big, in a standard, centralised kind of way. Not like, say, New York, with its districts. London is one massive city with one massive centre – however to feel at home in it? I suppose one must live within said centre, like the affluent new upper class, as inbred as they ever were but now with pretensions toward relevance and a supposed connection to the rest of the world. They turned out en masse for the 11:45 screening of Song of the Sea, the highly-acclaimed new film from Irish animated film director Tomm Moore, whose last film The Secret of Kells received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature five years ago. What’s more annoying than a cinema full of children? A cinema full of children with nannies. Not that the nannies are any extra bother, just that children with nannies are. They don’t just have nannies, they have £20 to fork out on a single ticket to a European gala premiere in central London… on a Saturday fucking morning. The exquisitely beautiful but dramatically lacking film is fun and full of delight; it’s not quite the classic it has been hailed as by some, not quite the equal of the Studio Ghibli films that the creative team, in attendance for a disappointingly frothy Q&A (they were playing to their audience, granted), needed to admit were their inspiration, but very much worth a watch. Just maybe not for £20. Any foreign audience would surely appreciate the lovely Irish humour strewn through Song of the Sea; not so much this crowd – I suspect what’s needed to tickle their funny bones is a daft old chap named Rafe and a jolly good case of misunderstanding involving a chimney sweep, a crystal decanter and a rather smashing plate of pork pies. Spiffing.

Are my diaries ever boring? I bet they are, especially when I go on about jolly shitty cases of faulty internet connections, misplaced pen drives and a rather horrid display on the ATM machine when I check my balance. I’ll move on to the second film of my busy day, and one which I rly rllllllly needed to start on fucking time. I knew precious little about Chiung Chiang Hsiu’s The Furthest End Awaits, also receiving a European premiere at LFF although not at y screening, prior to booking a ticket to see it – I only became aware of the Japanese film from the Taiwanese director upon reading about it in the festival programme I received in the mail some weeks back. It didn’t even have a proper IMDb page until recently. The film is about a woman who moves from Tokyo to remote coastal Japan to revisit her childhood home, the only asset left to her by her missing father, now believed dead. She forms a bond with a neighbouring girl living with her younger brother and her absent mother, and there’s a lot of learning and growing and moving on from the past etc. in the process. That’s not very kind of me, because actually the film is a total delight, made with a soothing sensitivity in every aspect of its production, rightfully causing many critics to reminisce on Ozu Yasujiro’s works in its fine depiction of family life in the Japanese countryside. But did it start on fucking time? Did it shit. I waited five fucking minutes for the introduction to begin, then another five fucking minutes before the director had been introduced and translated, leaving me with a mere seven minutes to get from Leicester Square to the South Bank. I had my belongings packed before the film had ended, forewent the credits and didn’t even get close to attending the post-screening Q&A. Like the one I’d unfortunately missed with Frederick Wiseman, and the one I’d had to cut short yesterday with Viggo Mortensen, it was a Q&A I was very keen to participate in, but was unable to. Still, the important thing is that I see all the films I’m booked to see.

Were those seven minutes of travel boring? Lol plz. I don’t think I’ve sweated so much nor smelt so bad since I was being given birth to. Despite making it to the cinema five minutes late – and that’s an impressively quick journey – the curtains were still pulled upon my arrival, a sure sign that, as expected, there’d be a Q&A after the film, and they were waiting for the special guests to turn up to introduce the film. Why as expected? Well, since Viggo Mortensen was in town for a Q&A yesterday for Jauja, he’d likely be here for today’s screening of Far from Men, David Oelhoffen’s film in which he stars opposite Reda Kateb as two unlikely outsiders caught in the Algerian war in the 1950s. It’s based on an Albert Camus story, and functions basically as a North African Western. The Q&A didn’t seem to have very much to elaborate upon, since the film is mostly just what one would expect upon, say, reading the synopsis or watching the trailer; those in attendance answered questions from interviewer Damon Wise and audience members, who reacted about as enthusiastically as any I’ve experienced this year, perplexingly. Actually, it’s not that perplexing – this probably wasn’t the type of audience that would have even stayed to the end of From What Is Before a week ago. The film’s panel did a good job, though, illuminating the film’s strongest and most persuasively intelligent points, if occasionally dodging the question. And what a panel, a truly international one, featuring Viggo, David, Reda, producer Matthew Gledhill and composers Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The only one who didn’t speak was Cave, but he had a lovely pair of shoes on.

An evening in which to work… at last! Lol fuck it I got a few bits done in between dilly-dallying, eating, listening to Gwen Stefani’s new song (naturally) and getting as early a night as I could. Only I couldn’t, because it was a legitimate sauna in that motherfucking dorm, I mean it’s October fs, what’s the deal here? Who did that? How am I gonna get up tomorrow morning at 8:30 to check out?

Not spiffing, not smashing, just poppycock. Utter poppycock.

Cast 01

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Chiung 02

Ellis 01

Kateb 01

Mericeau 01

Mericeau 02

Moore 01

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Mortensen 01

Odeon 01

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Panel 01

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Director Céline Sciamma talks about her film Girlhood at which received an honorary commendation at the BFI Festival Awards. Danny Leigh at ft.com says its “one of the LFF’s freshest experiences, a film with life in its bones and a vivid aesthetic zing. In place of wagging a finger at her audience, Sciamma shows us Mariéme and her friends miming rapturously to Rihanna in shoplifted dresses with the antitheft tags still attached. Do you want to judge them? La vie, Girlhood says, est complexe.

The official BFI summary seconds that emotion:

“Céline Sciamma (Water Lilies, Tomboy) continues her exploration of the effects of social conventions on delicately forming female identities in her triumphant third film. Sixteen-year-old Marieme (Karidja Touré) must navigate not only the disruptive onset of womanhood, but also the inequalities of being black and living in the underprivileged suburbs of Paris. Excluded from school and in fear of her overbearing brother at home, Marieme escapes into the shielding environment of a girl gang. She renames herself ‘Vic’ for ‘Victory’ and gives up on asking for the things she wants and learns to just take them. Formally meticulous, the film is divided into four distinct segments in which Marieme changes her physical appearance to suit the different worlds she must navigate (school, home, street). Each transformation magnificently captures the heavy burden that visibility and image play in Marieme’s life, whilst Crystel Fournier’s stunning photography that favours a distinctive blue palette ensures that Marieme remains a defiantly vital presence on screen even while it appears she is disappearing from society’s view. The jubilant soundtrack infuses the film with vigour and passion, from the opening juddering electro-goth of Light Asylum’s ‘Dark Allies’ to a full length lip sync to Rhianna’s ‘Diamonds’. With Girlhood Sciamma flawlessly evokes the fragile resilience of youth.”

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I woke up with a Cannes-do attitude. Sorry about the pun, but I’ve got to bulk these diaries out somehow. This is the second of three days, and the first of two consecutive, during my stay in London where I’ll be catching three films, a task that is made more difficult by the necessity to write reports on all three, plus a daily diary, and all without wifi on this malfunctioning laptop. What work I could get done before screening #1, I’d have to do quickly, as my film-watching day was set to commence at 12:00.

All three of today’s films were Cannes competition entries: from the official selection, Foxcatcher and Leviathan, and, sandwiched between them, Un Certain Regard selection Jauja. That’s the kind of thing that makes you question the Cannes selection process. First was Foxcatcher, a film which I’d been looking forward to as a promising mainstream American product, but was also approaching with a critical eye – would this studio film probe as deeply as the best films I’ve seen here at LFF, or would it be just atmospheric fluff, handsomely made but hollow, effective but forgettable. I was very pleased with how the film turned out to be: sharp, subversive, and most handsomely made indeed. It represents an even more radical deconstruction of the classic American man, whether defined by wealth, physical strength or decent, family-man integrity, than Miller’s first narrative film, Capote, and it’s a whole world away, thematically, from Moneyball. Though its real-life story and straightforward style may seem to reject the notion of multiple interpretations, there’s at least one that rings out very loudly – Foxcatcher is an alternative homoerotic tragedy, gay porn disguised as wrestling thriller, its three central characters each identifiable gay archetypes and each falling prey to the true foxcatcher, the culture that insists on their conformity, then punishes them when they fail to meet their expectations. That’s what I took from the film, at least. Perhaps I was just transfixed by the outline of Channing Tatum’s cock.

With the wifi remaining determinedly down on the laptop, I was forced to seek out an internet cafe. Not the first one, it was shit, the internet barely worked, which only aggravated my anxiety. I tried a second, and was much more successful, getting the work I needed to get done completed efficiently. So efficient was I that I even shed some weight in the process – not a lot, just the equivalent of a pen drive. It wouldn’t be until I returned to the hostel to complete my day’s work after the next two films that I’d realise my mistake. It didn’t end up making m work impossible, just another obstacle to overcome in what was already a stressful experience. Never mind, I have films to watch. That’s why I’m here, and I’m still enthused about seeing each and every one of them, and still exhilarated by the experience. Obviously I’ll be returning to London next year.

Jauja was the one film I resolutely did not want a Q&A for today. I’d have roughly 50 minutes to get out of Leicester Square and make it down the road to Curzon Mayfair; that’s a journey that can be made by foot in 20 minutes, but who knows, maybe the film would start late, and maybe there’d be an introduction, and maybe that introduction would be long, and maybe all that actually did happen and my travel time would be cut to 30 minutes. And maybe the Q&A would be with the film’s lead actor, producer and composer, Viggo Mortensen. And maybe he’d be eloquent and insightful and funny and personable and smartly-attired. By the time I’d ran to and from the tube to the Curzon for Leviathan, I bet he was still talking. He was worth listening to – it’s nothing to do with his stardom, it’s due to all of the above qualities that made his interview thereabouts the most illuminating and interesting of the festival so far, and he’s not even the film’s director or writer. Leaving that session early was almost as great a disappointment as needlessly missing the Q&A with Frederick Wiseman after National Gallery. Jauja, btw, is a beautiful, mystical, intoxicatingly wonderful film, director Lisandro Alonso applying his inimitable style to a narrative with more clarity than his former films, but with an equal amount of cryptic philosophical wisdom, so stylishly rendered via Alonso’s incredible mastery of cinematic language.

Here’s a foreboding detail: Curzon Mayfair don’t like to start their films on time. Last year, when I was late for a screening of Borgman at this cinema, I missed the first part of the film – that’s how it ought to go, right? Perhaps I could have hung around longer to listen to more of what Viggo Mortensen had had to say, because their screening of Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan didn’t get underway until 21:10, ten minutes later than officially scheduled. That’d be forgivable were there special guests to wait for, but there weren’t; that’d be acceptable for my final screening on Sunday, The Duke of Burgundy, were I not booked on a flight that leaves less than two hours after that film finishes. They’d better fucking start that screening on time. They’d srsly better. Leviathan was met at Cannes with such enormous critical praise that Jane Campion’s jury’s decision to reward the film with the Screenplay prize was considered, by many, to be a snub. What nonsense. Leviathan is a good film, ambitious and forceful, an epic satire on an intimate scale. One of the reasons I’d been so satisfied attending the Q&A with Viggo Mortensen was how he remarked on the increased power of cinematic text as universal allegory when its specificities are refined as diligently as possible – this is precisely how Leviathan functions, a narrow portrait of a family’s fight against brutish local authorities to maintain control over their land, but also an expansive portrait of humankind and our irresponsible, destructive nature, both over ourselves and over one another. It’s a film that comments on our species’ need to have a home of our own, but also on our outrageous self-importance in believing that we could ever own a piece of this planet.

And then I noticed my pen drive was missing. It had already been a long day. #sickofthisshit. The films were good, though, very good, in fact. I’d readily watch all of them again – they’d surely all reward repeat viewings. Leviathan has been touted as a potential Oscar contender – against all the odds, Russia selected it as their official submission for the Foreign Language Film category, their first smart choice in years. I’m not certain it’ll get in: it might have to rely on the committee vote, despite its broad appeal and frontrunner status, and that vote could be very competitive in a formidable year in his category. It’s gonna get a main category eligibility run too; the writers might pick up on it, as the Cannes jury did, and the critics’ groups could show it some love. Foxcatcher ought to make a splash in major categories come awards season, it’s good enough, frankly. All of the main performers are worthy nominees for big awards; Steve Carell is just marvellous, utterly outstanding. It’d be a worthier Best Picture winner than most.

Tomorrow, I see Tomm Moore’s animated Song of the Sea, Chiung Chiang Hsiu’s The Furthest End Awaits, and David Oelhoffen’s Far from Men. It’ll be a quick turnaround between those last two, so let’s hope The Furthest End Awaits kicks off on time. And let’s also hope that Viggo’s still in town, cos I’ve plenty of time after Far from Men and would love to hear more from this immensely talented artist.

Please come back tomorrow. Please don’t leave me here. Come back to cold mountain fs

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[Scroll down to find links to all seven of Paddy’s LFF Journal entries featured this past week – Ryan]

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Gates 01

Hippodrome 01

Odeon 01

Viggo 01

Viggo 02

Viggo 03

Viggo 04

Viggo 05

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LFF Day One
LFF Day Two
LFF Day Three
LFF Day Four
LFF Day Five
LFF Day Six
LFF Day Seven

Paddy Mullholland’s blog: ScreenOnScreen
Twitter: @screenonscreen

Sorry, Thomas. People who stay in hostels tend to be of a select few varities, two specifically. There are the loners, like myself, often silent and solitary, though occasionally the opposite: over-eager to socialise. And then there are the groups, usually between three and six in number, more often male than female, generally young, slim and Mediterranean. So, yeh, sorry Thomas, but I’ve been perving. There’s just too much talent in The Royal Bayswater Hotel for me not to. These boys deserve to be ogled. You’re not here, Thomas, I need something to look at. Plus, a lot of them wear tight white briefs. That’s not even fair.

Here are the rules regarding the films I’m seeing at LFF: they have to be films, and they have to be showing at LFF. Bruno Dumont’s Li’l Quinquin was made as a mini-series, and it’s easy to detect its mini-series structure even as it shows here as a feature film, since the four episodes are each preceded by a chapter title. It premiered at Cannes in May, though, as a feature, rather like last year’s Behind the Candelabra, and that was before its TV broadcast in France (or anywhere else in the world), so technically I’m justified in considering it a film. As a director, Dumont – whose films include 1999’s excoriating Humanity, and the recent Camille Claudel 1915, starring Juliette Binoche at her incomparable best – is tough to love, and sometimes even tough to admire, but his defiant singularity and his command of his craft always provide his films with much to ponder, far more depth than their stark, breezy aesthetic and enigmatic stares imply. Li’l Quinquin sees Dumont turn his hand to comedy, at least for as long as he can sustain it (his predilection for human horror eventually inescapable), and with impressive ease: Li’l Quinquin doesn’t feel like the work of someone stretching their abilities or testing their boundaries, and the humour feels ingenuous and wholly appropriate. The story involves one of Dumont’s specialities, a rural community in Northern France, and the fumbled investigation into an ongoing series of murders in the region. One can see why it was opted for TV – similar stories have been at the heart of so many recent European TV successes, like The Killing, The Bridge and Sean Durkin’s under-appreciated Southcliffe. I found the film as oblique as ever from Bruno Dumont, but unfortunately not as stimulating as his best work. It’s hilarious, though, absurd and politically incorrect, and also chilling – in particular the horrible, unforgettable final scene.

With Li’l Quinquin running over two hours, I had mere minutes to use as wisely as I could before my next film, so obviously food. The National Film Theatre, or BFI Southbank, has an unnerving procedure of announcing upcoming films, declaring things such as “Last call for _____” about five minutes prior to the scheduled start time. For someone such as myself, obsessively punctual, that’s the sole ingredient required to create the perfect panic pie, though I understand why they do it – middle class people have a tendency to expect everybody else to wait for them, including cinema staff, and middle aged people have a tendency to be extremely slow to boot. The audience for Pedro Costa’s Horse Money reminded me of why I’d been so glad to return to dirty Belfast blockbuster audiences after last year’s LFF. Some guy who looked like he’d packed up have of South London in his numerous bags was in my seat for some inexplicable reason, so he moved over one into a seat which also wasn’t his, as I discovered when a late arrival resigned herself to taking another seat rather than asking him to pack up and fuck off, because we didn’t have all year. Two seats away from me sat a pair of bona fide nerds, essentially pimples with legs and opinions. Pleeeease not more opinions. Opinions on films! Definitive opinions, straight out of the school thesaurus by way of Total Film, real faux-intellectual bullshit. They discussed Ulrich Seidl’s In the Basement with a misplaced assurance that left me with the certainty that they’d never even heard of Ulrich Seidl before booking those tickets. Why were these philistines seeing a Pedro Costa film?

I felt like a bit of a philistine myself exiting the screen, though. I just have to keep reminding myself that I did explore Horse Money, I did examine it, I did attempt to interpret its design as something less obvious, more complex than it appears. I suppose I failed, and I don’t know if I’m to blame or if Costa is. Horse Money allegorically concerns the legacy of Portuguese occupation in Cape Verde, the film a heady sensorial and cerebral poem about a nation’s collective pain and grief. That poem is expressed in the disturbed and detached experiences of Costa’s lead, Ventura – a thoroughly magnetic performer. But, no matter the film’s considerable beauty in a great many regards, Costa’s technique is too blatant and too direct to probe as deeply and as broadly as it intends to, the themes he engages in too obvious. For a film of such artistic integrity, it doesn’t break any new ground, not really. As poetry porn, it’ll attract limitless raves, and hopefully extensive discussion over years to come, perhaps making it as viable an artistic document, in my eyes, as Costa’s other works to date.

I had intended to do quite a lot of work, plus catch up on quite a lot of missed TV shows, in the evening of Day Seven: Horse Money was over by 17:30, and I hoped to avail of the serviceable Wifi at BFI Southbank to achieve all of this. But this old laptop was not playing ball, not at all. Wifi issues at every location I visited made accessing the internet on this poor old dear an impossibility, and money woes prevented me, initially, from being able to afford computer access at the hostel’s internet cafe, this after a long and stressful journey back from the cinema. Eventually, I got as much done as I could on the hostel’s computer system, and tried to get an early night. I tried, but for the energy that an evening of anxiety, furious work and plentiful Dr. Pepper had stimulated in me, and there wasn’t a lot of hope that sleep would arrive soon. And then, this happened: a commotion erupted in the hostel room which, in my half-sleep and in whispered voices was fairly difficult to make sense of. By the time one of the hostel employees had arrived in the room and switched on the lights for a good half hour, the entire room learned – one particularly soused individual had pissed himself… in bed… on the top bunk. Basically, he pissed on some poor sod’s face, and all over his and his girlfriend’s belongings. Escorting him out of the room was far from an easy task. Getting to sleep was scarcely any simpler.

Writing this diary, on the morning of Day Eight, I still don’t know if Wifi plans to operate properly, and Im about to find out. I’m not sure that I want to. It’s been a relatively optimistic morning so far, despite the woes of last night, principally due to the fact that on my slate today I have Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher, Lisandro Alonso’s Jauja and Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan, three films which I’ve been very keen to see since they premiered at Cannes. Wish me luck with Wifi, bitches!

byeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee

Art 01

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It was the day I hadn’t been looking forward to. Isn’t it a shame that my LFF experience would entail such a day? The films, they were there, they always will be. The travelling, it too, this being London, and how great to be in London! The company, it was there too, and then it wasn’t.

I’m still pretty far behind on my work. With Thomas around, I’ve been making the most of what free time we have here to, well, make the most of him. As much as one can make in a hostel room with 18 others… Work would be forced to take a serious backseat in the first half of today, or as much of a backseat as I can bear to resign it to. Thomas’ flight leaves this evening, and Ulrich Seidl’s In the Basement, showing at 15:00, would be our final film together at the festival. What nonsense, that I should feel so downbeat as we explore the roads around Leicester Square, looking for a suitable place for lunch and a drink. What nonsense, that I should feel so bereft as I lie in my hostel bed, a snoring stranger where Thomas was lying not 24 hours ago. I’ll see him again on Sunday, and we’ll see thousands more films together in our lifetime. But fs I wish he could stay.

I’m a fan of Ulrich Seidl, to an extent. He can try one’s patience, but his films are regularly impressive and intriguing pieces of work, and his position within international cinema is important. No-one does sardonic distraction like him, not even his neighbour in both geography and style, Michael Haneke. In the Basement is interesting and enjoyable, not very probing but it doesn’t need to be – it may peel back the prim, pristine curtains of Austrian society, or in this case peer down the trapdoor ‘Im Keller’, to reveal dirty, shameful secrets we all suspected were there, but Seidl’s latest document is both his most concise and his most open-minded yet. It’s like a distillation of everything he’s done since he last produced a documentary thesis on the curious habits of his countrymen in 1996’s Animal Love, by now wholly lacking in freshness, nevertheless as incisive as ever. It’s caustically funny, and it shocked – most intentionally – many audience members (Thomas included, though did anyone in the theatre find scrotal stretching especially enjoyable?). I believe there was a sole walkout that caught my attention. This audience probably knew what it was getting itself into to begin with, and we Brits don’t normally make a habit of walking out of films, but I’d expected more. There were more walkouts during Hard to Be a God on Sunday.

We navigated our way to King’s Cross / St. Pancras (or, as Thomas unfailingly and unironically referred to it, St. Pancreas) Station to send my beloved away to the distant shores of Derryadd. They’re not that distant, but they might as well be. I see the charity ads on the Tube stating that 200,000 children a year die while fetching water, and I wonder if Thomas will be next. What if he drops his candle and falls in the well? Even with a breather of several hours between screenings, there’s still not enough time. We stop for refreshments at the station, and suddenly it’s time to separate. He descends the escalator toward the train, and I wonder if I’ll ever see him again. Not because something terrible might happen, just that he’ll probably catch the train to fucking Timbuktu by mistake or some shit. Lol jk I’m the one who got the wrong train (kinda) back to the cinema, to see Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s The Tribe.

A Ukrainian film featuring a cast of deaf actors, The Tribe is told entirely by use of Ukrainian sign language, and without translation, subtitles or voiceover. The packed screening included a high proportion of deaf attendees. Festival programmer Damon Wise introduced director Slaboshpytskiy and creative director Elena Slaboshpytskaya, alongside a vocal translator, to the stage to introduce the film. Between the translations and Slaboshpytskiy’s verbosity, this wasn’t a brief introduction, but it was a valuable and informative one. It wasn’t a popular one, though, as many in the audience were most dissatisfied with the lack of a sign language interpreter on the stage to accompany those already there. Too many speakers, too many languages, too few microphones and too little patience – it wasn’t wise of the BFI not to think to provide a signer for the planned post-screening Q&A, but who’d have thought that the introduction would stretch on for so long. The disquiet was dispelled as soon as Wise revealed that the film was going to make as little sense to speakers as to non-speakers anyway, and the film finally began. It’s a bold, intense film about tribal community values and structures, its themes and its plot highly effective in their given context, but also easily applicable to a limitless array of stories and situations in reality. Slaboshpytskiy’s decision to forego conventional verbal or written communication is, in fact, a terrific one, forcing the viewer to explore other aspects of the filmmaking in order to derive meaning, a requirement that is both simple and rewarding. It’s a powerful, perfectly-formed film. The Q&A was fairly short – a late start time, itself delayed, a film that ran over two hours, an enforced cut-off time of 23:30. Slaboshpytskiy’s responses to the questions posed were lengthy and veered off in any direction his mind allowed them to, but they were consistently intelligent and illuminating. He dismissed the notion that the film was an intentional allegory of recent political events in Ukraine, though didn’t dismiss the validity of such a notion in relation to his film should anyone find it suitable to it, and demonstrated a love for film that’s often at its strongest with debut filmmakers (as he is, extraordinarily). Perhaps most notable about the Q&A session was its accidental connection to the film, and to the process of understanding those who, either literally or figuratively, don’t speak our language. The BFI, by this stage, had gotten its act together and found a signer to interpret both questions and answers – signed questions verbally interpreted by the signer, translated by the translator, answered by Slaboshpytskiy, whose answers then went back along the same chain of translation. Curious to wonder what was getting lost, or altered, along the way. Curious to wonder if it matters.

The MPAA would have had a field day with these two films today – copious amounts of sex and nudity, and not of the kind they tend to appreciate. I hope to appreciate tomorrow’s movies, which include Bruno Dumont’s mini-series Lil’ Quinquin, being presented here as a single feature, and Pedro Costa’s Horse Money. And then I might have time to get some fucking work done again.

Night night bitches

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The pleasure of being able to relax, the quality of the films and the plain old good company made Day Five the best day yet at the London Film Festival, for me at least. I don’t think I’ll be able to top it during the second half of my ten-day stint here in the capital. Rushing from one location to another is, surprisingly, no less stressful when accompanied by a loved one – their welcome presence is mitigated by one’s concern for not only yourself but for them as well. So to be able to remain in Leicester Square, a homely hub of the LFF, for the duration of Tuesday was something of a delight. Thomas and I took in a few sights, had a few moderately-priced sit-down meals, and generally tried not to wander too far from Vue West End. At least, I did. Thomas has a curious habit of turning the wrong way out of near every exit we pass through; I don’t know if Londoners think he’s trying to escape, the number of times I’ve had to pull him off the tube in the direction of the Way Out signs.

A lunchtime stop at the imaginatively-titled London Chinatown restaurant (at least that’s what was on its menus, but don’t hold me to it), after which I had planned to scribe a review of yesterday’s A Girl at My Door, ran too close to the commencement of film #1 today, which left me worryingly far behind on my work. Never mind, once Thomas goes home tomorrow I’l have plenty of free time – too much, possibly, if I’m lucky! Film #1 was the documentary Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait, a film that I booked to see purely on the strength of its critical reception out of Cannes. It’s a compilation of raw video footage from the Syrian conflict in 2011, taken from dozens of video libraries from ordinary Syrian citizens, and new videocamera footage from the doc’s creators, Ossama Mohammed, a director in exile in Paris, and Wiam Simav Bedirxan, a woman trapped in the ravaged city of Homs. It’s the kind of film that rly should be thoroughly horrifying, and that it is. The heartfelt honesty of Mohammed and Bedirxan’s artistry and the sheer visceral power of the footage they’ve been granted access to combine to produce the most harrowing film I’ve witnessed in a very long time. The screen at Vue was unfortunately empty – it’s not a film that has received much publicity, and it probably never will, though it deserves to; it would probably have fared better in one of the festival’s many arthouses. The audience was remarkably still and silent, however, even for a British crowd, and, tellingly, there was no applause after the film. Not that it wasn’t appreciated by those in attendance: one viewer toward the rear of the screen tried to start up an ovation, but that was roundly rejected by the rest of us. It was clearly not only me who was so intensely moved by the film, and Thomas, who’d expressed that this had been the film he had least been looking forward to seeing, exited the cinema proclaiming it as his favourite of his trip so far.

With the time we had between screenings, I completed some work, indulged in a Costa Creamy Cooler, accompanied Thomas to Trafalgar Square – home of the National Gallery, the subject of Frederick Wiseman’s documentary which I viewed on Sunday – and stopped in at a pub for a few beers. After all, this evening’s film was Mia Hansen-Love’s French house music scene biopic, Eden, so what better condition to take it in than in utter inebriation?! That wasn’t my plan, ok, and it wasn’t what occurred either – I was only a little tipsy by the time the film commenced, thankfully. On the way to the cinema, we passed by the red carpet hosting the premiere of LFF’s centrepiece gala film, Testament of Youth, and caught a glimpse of Kit Harington, one of the film’s stars. Funny that he spends much of his year living in the same city as me, and it’s only now that we meet… lol jk we didn’t meet plz with all my bodyguards he couldn’t get fucking near me. And, inside Vue for the screening of Eden, I observed Mia Hansen-Love, there to introduce the film and to participate in a Q&A afterwards, and actor Alba Rohrwacher, who was seemingly there on recreational grounds, since she’s not in the film.

Kate Taylor, a festival programmer who has been a presence at a number of the screenings I’ve attended, is a wise and eloquent interviewer with an incisive understanding of cinema. She introduced Hansen-Love, who introduced Eden, which introduced me to a wealth of terrific dance music I feel ashamed at not having noticed until now. A film can do that to me, enhance my appreciation of music I’d previously ignored – I almost became a Stone Roses fan after watching Shane Meadows’ recent documentary on the band last year. But much of Eden’s soundtrack is right up my street, and it was perhaps that element, alongside the general excellent filmmaking courtesy of Hansen-Love, that elevated Eden for me, beyond being a basic biopic. It’s a vibrant and deeply-felt portrait of its musical subject, and the film’s human protagonist, based very closely on Mia’s brother Sven, who co-wrote the film. And the Q&A thereafter was an enlightening experience, no matter how urgent my need to go for a slash might have been. Mia’s responses, in a second language, were dense and detailed, and illuminated upon the very finest aspects of a very fine film, providing valuable contextual information, and enriching my appreciation of Eden and the events it catalogues with admirable precision and a palpable respect.

Thomas leaves tomorrow. I’m not looking forward to that, but I am certainly looking forward to the first film I’ll catch without him since National Gallery, Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s Cannes Critics Week winner The Tribe, which promises to be one of the most unique films on my schedule this year. Before that, though, we’ll together be seeing Ulrich Seidl’s documentary In the Basement, not to be confused with Todd Field’s In the Bedroom, by any means. More on that tomorrow, though. For now, just be happy I bothered to write five fucking paragraphs for your perusal. It’s more than you deserve!!

#rly #yesrly #yehiwentthere

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dearest

The process of selecting my programme when attending the London Film Festival, though I’m only in my second year here, is a complicated one. Between scheduling conflicts, tube timetables and the plain old ticket price, there’s also the question of whether the films I’ll elect to see are likely to be any good. From last year’s 18 films, I enjoyed all 18. By the fourth of 23 this year, there had already been one disappointment – Corn Island – though it was far from a dud. And it made perfect sense to see Corn Island too, considering that it had won the Crystal Globe at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the summer and had also been chosen as Georgia’s official submission to the Academy for their Best Foreign Language Film category. So I can’t say I was kicking myself that it made my selection – it just wasn’t a bad enough film to do that.

Today was my first day of three this year in which I have three films booked, though it thankfully came with a built-in lie-in. Thomas and I awoke as late as we could to start our day, which would be a busy one involving three different films in three different parts of town, and no time in between any of them to waste. What time we had beforehand, however, was not wasted, as it was spent in the honourable fashion of catching up on Strictly Come Dancing, which means, if nothing else, another translation: Strictly is the British version of Dancing with the Stars, and it is my lifeblood. There’s only so much culture a gal can take. If only I’d known that it was going to be about the most culture I’d get to take all day.

The bar at Vue West End was being prepared for what looked like an LFF photoshoot, though there were no stars in sight. Film #1 today was Peter Chan’s Dearest, a Chinese film based on a true story of a child abduction case that takes some unexpected, emotional twists. Why did this make my selection? The out-of-competition Venice screener had a promising trailer which showcased excellent acting, and reviews for the film confirmed as much. And though their general appraisal of the film wasn’t quite as positive as the majority of other films on my LFF programme, there was no reason to suggest that Dearest would actually be a bad film. And indeed, it is not a bad film, and that acting – the main reason I chose to fork out to see Dearest – was certainly as excellent as it had appeared. The cast of Dearest fully meets the emotional requirements made of them by the immense gravity of the subject matter; in particular, the child actors were heartbreaking, delivering the kinds of performances that make me wonder why trained Hollywood actors even bother. If Dearest sounds and seems like gratuitous melodrama – what I had hoped might be a welcome counterpoint to the intellectual austerity of many of the other films I had booked to see – that’s probably because it is just that, which, alongside some questionable directorial choices, brought the quality of the film down significantly from the high level of the performances. Chan was the only star on show, in a film pretty packed full of them, for a Q&A session in which he provided an eloquent commentary on the film and its role within contemporary Chinese society – exactly the kind of contextual material an audience would want to hear from a filmmaker. His detailed responses to questions were much appreciated, but he failed to elucidate on his technical intentions as a director, instead leaving one with the impression that his focus was as hazy and as wayward as it appears in the film.

Poor Thomas and his poor feet. Why had he brought such uncomfortable footwear? They’d done his feet right in yesterday, so today he sported a pair of my own (I found a boyfriend with measurements almost identical to my own, so he’s never getting away, oh no – Amazing Amy ain’t got shit on me). Not that that was much of a help – the next two cinemas were venues I’d never even come close to visiting before, and their locations in relation to whatever tube stations we could navigate to weren’t entirely clear, and even less so in the fucking driving rain. By the sounds of his relentless huffery and puffery, he was no longer in possession of feet by the time we reached Rich Mix cinema on Bethnal Green Road, he was instead in possession of two ginormous blisters. Tough shit, because I wasn’t about to miss a second of any of my 23 films this year. Showing a Rich Mix was July Jung’s A Girl at My Door, which was, by a clear way, the best film of the day. A police officer and alcoholic is reassigned from Seoul to a remote seaside town to serve as chief, after an unspecified event landed her in hot water with superiors. There, she comes to care for and eventually take charge of a teenage girl, rejected by the townspeople, ridiculed by her schoolmates, abused by her family, abandoned by her mother. Jung nicely juxtaposes the sweetness of their relationship and the delicacy of the environment she has created with an oppressing sense of fear and menace, and some provocative statements on the effects of abuse and on the individual’s response to it. A Girl at My Door is not the festival’s most psychologically rich film, nor its most compelling, but it’s a well-mounted, well-balanced human drama, written, directed and acted with insight and sensitivity.

Thomas’ feet were in for another battering as we rushed to Islington to catch my first English-language narrative film of the festival so far, and perhaps its most commercial overall: David Robert Mitchell’s It Follows. The buzz-heavy teen horror film appeared on my radar when it premiered in May at Cannes to exceptionally strong reactions for a film of its nature. Mitchell impressed critics with his handling of both the dynamics of American teenage social circles and the conventions of horror filmmaking, all set against a piquant comment on that nation’s attitudes toward sexuality. Whomever the introducer was, I’ve mercifully forgotten, but as soon as he described the film as ‘batshit terrifying’, I knew I wasn’t in for a fun evening. Not that I don’t like a good hard scare in the cinema, just that I dreaded more having to spend time in the presence of someone who uses phrases such as ‘batshit terrifying’ than I dreaded whatever terror the movie had in waiting. It had some, indeed, and the film’s sexual slant is presented with thoughtfulness and intelligence, indeed, and Mitchell handles the dynamics of American teenage social circle and the conventions of horror filmmaking simultaneously, indeed, but so what? It Follows establishes all of the above early on, before descending into a fairly average teen horror movie. The origins of what banality Mitchell resorts to are smart and original, but the devices he uses to enliven the film, once he has put those origins in place and subsequently declined to develop them, are tiresome and derivative – the self-conscious referentialism of It Follows and the naff ’80s-esque soundtrack and aesthetic aren’t half as fresh nor as clever as Mitchell seemingly intends them to be. He was in attendance at this showing for a Q&A, which mostly consisted of horror buffs and so-called movie nerds asking hollow questions for the sake of hearing their own sad voices, followed by Mitchell exalting his craft by using terms like ‘really cool’ a lot. Now there’s a disappointment: to detect an inherent shallowness in a film’s conceit and in its execution, and then to have that confirmed by the director themselves. Mitchell claims to have scripts in a lot of genres which he’d like to try out – I’m not interested in a filmmaker who’d like to ‘try out’ genres just because he’s interested in them. The session’s interviewer is looking forward to a potential sequel to It Follow – I’m not interested in sharing a planet with people who’d like to see a sequel to a film just because they liked it.

Rant over… for now. Tomorrow, I see acclaimed documentary Silvered Water, Syria Self-Portrait in the afternoon, then Mia Hansen-Love’s house music film Eden in the evening, separated by several hours and no tube journeys. Those films sound much better than today’s three – I ought to be a lot happier as a result. Thomas’ feet ought to be too.

loveyouuuuuuuuuuuu x

Nelson's Column 01

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Though the two films that I saw today both edged three hours, they could barely be more different. That’s what makes festivals like LFF so great, and what makes keeping up to date with the full breadth of international arthouse cinema so great – this ain’t the multiplex mid-May, this ain’t the Oscar Best Picture slate. No matter how many critics awards Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery picks up come December (At Berkeley got plenty of attention last year), no matter how much acclaim Aleksei German’s Hard to Be a God receives, neither will reach significant audiences outside of the festival circuit, at least not for several years, and neither would stand much of a chance at reaching any audiences were it not for festival bookings like these. Two such different films, not given a purpose by their presence at LFF, but whose purpose is made real by their presence here.

You’ll know, if you read yesterday’s diary entry, that I’m not a fan of hostel roommates. My hostel this year is a marked improvement on my hostel last year, though the company resolutely is not. And it’s not just their inane banter, it’s their nighttime habits. But I didn’t pay £11-odd a night for luxury conditions, so I guess I’ll just appreciate the fact that, snoring and farting and inexplicably bright phone lights being shone directly in my face aside, since Big Brother ended last month, I’m finally being permitted the time to get at least seven hours sleep per night. This morning’s lie in was cut short, however, by the arrival of Thomas. Thomas’ current occupation is as my boyfriend, a duty which he undertakes with considerably more patience and respect than he ought to, though he was pushing it by claiming that I could find him at Victoria Station on the phone. No, that won’t do it. This is central London. This is not North Armagh. We were reunited after a whopping two days apart, only for me to abandon him to attend a screening of National Gallery.

Veteran American documentarian Frederick Wiseman turns his incisive eye to the UK for the first time, though issues of national identity are irrelevant in National Gallery, prompting one to query why Wiseman hasn’t ventured outside of the US more frequently in his career to date. His portrait of London’s legendary art gallery, only a short walk from the BFI Southbank cinema at which this film, which is screening as a part of the festival’s documentary competition, was showing, is a typically long (though relatively short for this particular filmmaker), typically broad-reaching portrait of a portrait gallery, of all things. How intriguing to see Wiseman explore the nature of an institution that presents works of art, many of them as straightforwardly narrative in their nature as his own works. There’s a deep and thorough self-reflexive quality to National Gallery, then, which may explain why Wiseman chooses to jettison the variety of his film’s early scenes in favour of a more focused depiction of the art within the gallery and its presentation as the film progresses. It thus lacks the insight that one remembers his best films to possess, though itself possesses a more persuasive raison d’etre, as though Wiseman were using this experience as an opportunity to turn his camera on himself – scenes involving another camera crew interviewing employees show an expectedly non-glamorised view of working life in the National Gallery, yet also hint at Wiseman’s own processes as a director, and the nature of what he captures in such a supposedly unobtrusive manner.

Would that my brain were working properly. Not so long ago, I gave Thomas the details of all of the films that we would be seeing together in London. The first of these was to be Hard to Be a God, showing at 17:00 at Cine Lumiere, situated at l’Institut Francais, a short walk from the South Kensington tube station. Would that I had not informed him that the film, instead, and incorrectly, began at 15:00. Would that I had not misread the time on the tickets that I had packed in my laptop case the night before as 15:00. Would that I had not decided, as a result of my mistake, to stay for the post-screening Q&A with Frederick Wiseman for only as long as it took to capture a few hazy photographs, taken from a side aisle – another mistake, since this was not the extremely central seat A7 but seat B7, not nearly as close to the famed director as he began his interview session. I hastily departed for a sprint to Cine Lumiere, only to be told by the usher that I was not at the correct screening. One proper glance at the tickets, and I realised my mistake. Though I had enjoyed the privilege of a Frederick Wiseman Q&A last year at LFF, after a showing of At Berkeley, which, like this one, was also attended by his long-term DP John Davey, I had no good reason at this stage not to regret missing that event. Dipshit.

The cheap Italian meal Thomas and I enjoyed between films was tasty, though the service was poor. Never mind, I got a review written in the extra two hours and still got good seats for the late Aleksei German’s Hard to Be a God. The film premiered at the Rome Film Festival last October; a strictly niche product, it has only enjoyed a theatrical berth in German’s native Russia since that debut. And that was after over a decade in gestation, between arranging the complex production, working with it, then dealing with post-production, and German’s death, alas. His widow and son, who is also a filmmaker, completed the film, which deserves to be remembered as his magnum opus. It’s certainly his most ambitious film, and wholly worthy of the immense amount of time it took to create. An overload of effluvia, a symphony of sensory stimulation, a film of inconceivable depth and density in almost every respect, the only other films to bear any resemblance to this brilliantly crude, profane, singular work of art are German’s own, sparsely-distributed other features, and even they don’t bear any similarity to the glorious depravity of his extraordinary vision on this project. Most striking of all about it is German’s ability to turn primal, physical, visceral matter into matter whose primary mode of interpretation is intensely intellectual. Here is a film that will not merely reward repeat viewings, but effectively demands them, and many of them. What a pleasure that will be!

Repeat drinks were on the cards tonight, or at least just two – it’s a Sunday night, so last orders came sooner than we might have liked. On trips like these, the definitions between specific days have little or no meaning. Downing pints at least allows one to comprehend just how bloated one is with satisfactory rapidity. It also makes the hostel room company, chattier than ever, that bit more bearable, even the arse-crack-bearing paralytic in the doorway, whose belongings have been scattered over the bed that Thomas had marked for himself. Never mind, another bed had been freed up, right next to mine. We’d hoped to at least be sharing a room; as I write this, his head is right next to mine. My LFF experience today, as it shall be for a few days more, was not defined by the films I saw, no matter how good they were. It was defined by Thomas.

ugh gross #barf #getaroom #technicallywekindadid

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I hate opinions sometimes. Coming from me, that’s a slightly ridiculous statement to make – I spend half my fucking time typing up my opinions, and the other half forming them. It depends partly on what the opinions, partly on whose the are. Staying in a hostel bedroom with 19 others, one becomes acquainted with a lot of opinions very quickly. The kind of opinions I hate the most are one’s opinions about oneself, the kind of opinions that people too unintelligent to form cohesive opinions about anything else naturally formulate in order to convince the rest of the world that their self-assurance can define the perception others will create of them. I perceive these such people to be abhorrent. Luckily, today, I perceived something far more appealing, in Lav Diaz’s From What Is Before.

After the best night’s sleep I’ve had in weeks (only because I finally had the time to get some sleep at all), I was well-rested for a chock-filled day at the cinema. Film #3 at the 2014 London Film Festival for me came from Lav Diaz, the Filipino auteur whose super-long features tend to cater toward only the most devoted arthouse attendees – not so much due to their content nor style, but their duration. Last year, I opened my LFF experience with Diaz’s Norte,the End of History, which managed to be over four hours long yet over an hour short of From What Is Before’s runtime; on very little sleep, I very nearly dozed off during that screening, but emerged after eight days at the festival having seen what would remain my favourite film of 2013 for the rest of the year. From What Is Before has a strong chance at achieving the same feat. Fully awake, alert and enthralled for the entire 338 minutes, I felt an intellectual stimulation at the artistry and the psychological depth of Diaz’s latest film that sustained the whole way through. Dealing with a series of peculiar, portentous events in a remote Filipino barrio leading up to the 1972 declaration of martial law in the country, the film represents Diaz’s most elaborate and most expert rumination on, appropriately, time and duration yet. Past and future fill Diaz’s concerns and our thoughts, his characters (from his trustworthy ensemble of Diaz regulars, uniformly excellent) drawn inescapably to linger on both, as they are enveloped by the natural world, itself unceasing, timeless, memorably captured in the director’s own sodden cinematography. What an absorbing watch, beginning at 12:30 and not finishing until after 18:00.

What few snacks I’d purchased last night would have to wait – a long lie-in, plenty of work to catch up on, a packed schedule and a misbehaving laptop (that’s no opinion, now, that’s just a fact) meant that food would have to wait. It’s not often you’ll hear me say such a thing. I made my way, gradually, through a bag of sweets (*GRINGO ALERT!* – to translate: candy) during From What Is Before, and got to work on what little I could on the laptop prior to my second of two screenings today, which was due to start just ten minutes after I’d exited the first one. Luckily, the two films were showing in the same cinema, BFI Southbank, the British Film Institute’s headquarters. It would have been entirely like me to arrange to see two films at opposite ends of the city mere moments apart, but I rallied together all the brain cells I could come upon (not all of which were my own) to avoid such a scenario. As with From What Is Before, film #4 was a water-drenched, one-location, often dialogue-free drama about humankind’s relationship with nature; also like the aforementioned film, it was a summer festival award-winner: Diaz’s film won the Golden Leopard at Locarno, and George Ovashvili’s Corn Island won the Crystal Globe at Karlovy Vary.

From what was before it, Corn Island didn’t stand much of a chance. But I had rather suspected that, so I entered the screen with as open a mind as I could manage, finding a relatively clear path through all those opinions to common sense and acceptance. Cramming my last few sweets into my mouth at once, since this particular screen does not permit either eating or photography (and, yes, I was eating Canons, if you must know), I settled into Ovashvili’s film, introduced by co-screenwriter Roelof Jan Minneboo, with anticipation and apprehension. The film regards a man and his granddaughter, who spend their summer on an island of washed-up soil in the Enguri River in Abkhazia growing corn and living out of a wooden shack they built upon discovering the island. An ostensibly simple film, it’s a poetically-shot account of a curious old tradition, filmed with a direct but considerate style by Georgian helmer Ovashvili. Also central to the film, alongside the production of the corn crop, is the tension between Georgians and Abkhazians in the region, as troops from either side of the divide come by the island in boats, their suspicion and passive-aggression lending the film a layer of tension it might have suffered without. As engaging, as attractive and as well-intentioned an artistic experiment as Corn Island may be, it’s also shallow, and reverts to cliches and conventions too easily to make Ovashvili’s better intentions sing out. He handles just about any and all additional strands to the narrative core with no discernible inspiration, and renders them predictable and, frankly, uninteresting. A post-screening Q&A with Minneboo shed light on some of the filming details – it was shot not on location but in a reservoir, and actually featured no Abkhazians in the small cast, despite being a highly international production – but only confirmed what thematic material was already clear in the film itself, suggesting, to my disappointment, that I hadn’t missed the point of the film, but that its point just wasn’t that compelling instead.

Any other day, two films approaching three hours would seem daunting, but could anything after From What Is Before’s five-and-a-half? Anyway, tomorrow’s bumper-length selections come from legendary directors, so whom might I be to complain (no, not me, never)? In the morning, I head off to National Gallery with Frederick Wiseman; in the afternoon, I see Hard to Be a God by the late Aleksei German. And I won’t be alone – my boyfriend’s arriving shortly before the National Gallery screening, though he won’t attend that particular film, so I’ll have company, if you don’t mind. And, with that, I’ve a tighter sleep schedule tonight than last night, so I must be off. My eyes are halfway closed, so as long as my ears can quit their burning over the endless self-reflection they’ve been subjected to by my roommates this evening, I should be asleep in no time. I’m hoping for at least 338 minutes. If there’s one thing better than a Lav Diaz movie, it’s sleep. Actually, make that two: sleep and sex.

And doughnuts.

kthxbye 😉

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ICYMI: Day One of Paddy’s LFF excursion

Visit ScreenOnScreen to read other startling things Paddy writes, and follow on twitter if you want to stalk him or vice versa.

 

 

puiu

London, Wednesday 3 September 2014: – The programme for the 58th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® launched today, with Festival Director Clare Stewart presenting this year’s rich and diverse selection of films and events. As Britain’s leading film event and one of the world’s oldest film festivals, it introduces the finest new British and international films to an expanding London and UK-wide audience, offering a compelling combination of red carpet glamour, engaged audiences and vibrant exchange. The Festival provides an essential profiling opportunity for films seeking global success at the start of the Awards season; promotes the careers of British and international filmmakers through its industry activities and awards line-up and positions London as the world’s leading creative city.

The Festival will screen a total of 245 fiction and documentary features, including 16 World Premieres, 9 International Premieres, 38 European Premieres and 19 Archive films including 2 Restoration World Premiere’s.[1] There will also be screenings of 148 live action and animated shorts. A stellar line-up of directors, cast and crew are expected to take part in career interviews, master classes, Q&As and other special events. The 58th BFI London Film Festival will run Wednesday 8 – Sunday 19 October 2014.

Taking place over 12 days, the Festival’s screenings are at venues across the capital, from the West End cinemas – Odeon West End, Vue West End and the iconic Odeon Leicester Square; central London venues – BFI Southbank, Odeon Covent Garden, the ICA, Curzon Mayfair, Curzon Soho and Ciné Lumière; and local cinemas – Ritzy Brixton, Hackney Picturehouse, Vue Islington and Rich Mix. Additional screenings and events will take place at the Odeon BFI IMAX, Empire Leicester Square, Curzon Chelsea and Queen Elizabeth Hall. Audiences across the UK can enjoy the Festival via simultaneous screenings in their local cinemas.

GALAS

OPENING & CLOSING NIGHT GALAS

The Festival opens with the European Premiere of THE IMITATION GAME, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Keira Knightley. Director Morten Tyldum returns to the Festival with a film about Alan Turing, one of the world’s greatest innovators and pioneer of modern-day computing, who is credited with cracking the German Enigma code.

The European Premiere of FURY will close the Festival, directed by David Ayer whose End of Watch appeared in LFF Official Competition in 2012, this Second World War epic stars Brad Pitt as Wardaddy, a battle-hardened army sergeant who commands a Sherman tank and her five-man crew on a deadly mission behind enemy lines.

Both Opening and Closing events will have a cinecast from the red carpet and simultaneous screenings taking place at cinemas across the UK.

HEADLINE GALAS

Among the other highly anticipated Galas are the previously announced American Express Gala of Bennett Miller’s FOXCATCHER, the dark and fascinating story of the unlikely and ultimately tragic relationship between an eccentric multimillionaire and two champion wrestlers, starring Steve Carell, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. The Accenture Gala is the audacious thriller WHIPLASH, about a young jazz drummer under the tutelage of a ruthless and fearsome maestro starring Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons. We are delighted to welcome a new Official Airline Partner to this year’s Festival, Virgin Atlantic who will present the European Premiere of Jason Reitman’s MEN, WOMEN & CHILDREN starring Adam Sandler and Ansel Elgort with a racy voiceover by Emma Thompson. The May Fair Hotel Gala is the European Premiere of biopic-drama WILD starring Reese Witherspoon, adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby from Cheryl Strayed’s extraordinary account of her 1,100-mile solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trails. The Centrepiece Gala supported by the Mayor of London is the World Premiere of TESTAMENT OF YOUTH based on Vera Brittain’s memoir of World War 1 starring Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Hayley Atwell, Emily Watson and Dominic West. The Festival Gala is Mike Leigh’s MR. TURNER starring Timothy Spall as the great British artist J.M.W. Turner whose paintings evoked the moving image before there was cinema. The Archive Gala is the World Premiere of the BFI National Archive restoration of THE BATTLES OF CORONEL AND FALKLAND ISLANDS.

STRAND GALAS

The nine programme strands are each headlined with a gala, they are: the Love Gala, Alan Rickman’s A LITTLE CHAOS (European Premiere); the Debate Gala, Jon Stewart’s ROSEWATER (European Premiere); the Dare Gala, Xavier Dolan’s MOMMY; the Laugh Gala, Damián Szifron’s WILD TALES; the Thrill Gala, Kristian Levring’s THE SALVATION; the Cult Gala, Jacob Cheung’s THE WHITE HAIRED WITCH OF LUNAR KINGDOM (International Premiere); the Journey Gala, Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s WINTER SLEEP; and the Family Gala is Tomm Moore’s SONG OF THE SEA (European Premiere). In addition to which, the previously announced Sonic Gala is Peter Strickland and Nick Fenton’s concert film BJÖRK: BIOPHILIA LIVE.

AWARDS AND COMPETITIONS

The Best Film Award will again be handed out in Official Competition; the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition and the Grierson Award in Documentary Competition. Each section is open to international and British films.

OFFICIAL COMPETITION

The Official Competition line-up, recognising inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, includes the following:

  • · Peter Ho-Sun Chan, DEAREST
  • · Peter Strickland, THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY (European Premiere)
  • · Carol Morley, THE FALLING (World Premiere)
  • · Ana Lily Amirpour, A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT
  • · Céline Sciamma, GIRLHOOD
  • · Daniel Barber, THE KEEPING ROOM (European Premiere)
  • · Andrey Zvyagintsev, LEVIATHAN
  • · François Ozon, THE NEW GIRLFRIEND
  • · Christian Petzold, PHOENIX
  • · Mohsen Makhmalbaf, THE PRESIDENT
  • · Julius Avery, SON OF A GUN (European Premiere)
  • · Abderrahmane Sissako, TIMBUKTU

FIRST FEATURE COMPETITION

Titles in consideration for the Sutherland Award in the First Feature Competition recognising an original and imaginative directorial debut are:

  • · Yann Demange,‘71
  • · Josephine Decker, BUTTER ON THE LATCH
  • · Daniel Wolfe, Matthew Wolfe, CATCH ME DADDY
  • · Zeresenay Berhane Mehari, DIFRET
  • · Franco Lolli, GENTE DE BIEN
  • · Guy Myhill, THE GOOB
  • · Adityavikram Sengupta, LABOUR OF LOVE
  • · Sudabeh Mortezai, MACONDO
  • · Debbie Tucker Green, SECOND COMING
  • · Ester Martin Bergsmark, SOMETHING MUST BREAK
  • · Naji Abu Nowar, THEEB
  • · Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, THE TRIBE

DOCUMENTARY COMPETITION

The Grierson Award in the Documentary Competition category recognises cinematic documentaries with integrity, originality, and social or cultural significance. This year the Festival is screening:

· Nadav Schirman, THE GREEN PRINCE

· Jean-François Caissy, GUIDELINES

· Randall Wright, HOCKNEY (World Premiere)

· Jason Sussberg, David Alvarado, THE IMMORTALISTS (European Premiere)

· Ulrich Seidl, IN THE BASEMENT

· Sergei Loznitsa, MAIDAN

· Frederick Wiseman, NATIONAL GALLERY

· Sabine Lubbe Bakker & Niels van Koevorden, NE ME QUITTE PAS

· Edward Lovelace & James Hall, THE POSSIBILITIES ARE ENDLESS (European Premiere)

· Ossama Mohammed & Wiam Simav Bedirxan, SILVERED WATER, SYRIA SELF-PORTRAIT

· Debra Granik, STRAY DOG

· Lynette Wallworth, TENDER (European Premiere)

BEST BRITISH NEWCOMER

Closing the Awards section is the prize for Best British Newcomer which highlights new British talent and is presented to an emerging writer, actor, producer or director. This year’s nominees are:

1. Guy Myhill – Writer/Director THE GOOB

2. Florence Pugh – Supporting Actor THE FALLING

3. Sameena Jabeen Ahmed – Actor CATCH ME DADDY

4. Rebecca Johnson – Writer/Director HONEYTRAP

5. Taron Egerton – Actor TESTAMENT OF YOUTH

6. Daniel Wolfe & Matthew Wolfe – Writers/Directors CATCH ME DADDY

7. Alex Lawther – Supporting Actor THE IMITATION GAME

FILM GUESTS

Key talent due to attend the Festival’s gala screenings include: Morten Tyldum, Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Allen Leech, Alex Lawther, Charles Dance, Rory Kinnear, Mark Strong, Matthew Beard, David Ayer, Brad Pitt, Bennett Miller, Steve Carrel, Sienna Miller, Damien Chazelle, J.K Simmons, Jason Reitman, Ansel Elgort, Kaitlyn Dever, Reese Witherspoon, Nick Hornby, Cheryl Strayed, James Kent, Kit Harrington, Dominic West, Emily Watson, Colin Morgan, Mike Leigh, Jon Stewart, Maziar Bahari, Alan Rickman, Damian Szifron, Kristian Levring, Jacob Cheung, Nick Fenton, Peter Strickland, Björk, Tomm Moore, Brendan Gleeson, Fionnula Flanagan and David Rawle.

Additional talent attending for films in competition include: for Official Competition: Peter Ho-Sun Chan, Peter Strickland, Sidse Babbet Knudsen, Chiara D’Anna, Fatma Mohammed, Monika Swinn, Eugenia Caruso, Carol Morley, Ana Lily Amirpour, Celine Sciamma, Daniel Barber, Francois Ozon, Julius Avery, Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Abderrahmane Sissako; First Feature Competition: Yann Demange, Jack O’Connell, Gregory Burke, Josephine Decker, Daniel Wolfe, Matthew Wolfe, Sameena Habeen Ahmed, Conor McCarron, Gary Lewis, Zeresenay Berhane Merhari, Franco Lolli, Guy Myhill, Adityavikram Sengupta, Sudabeh Mortezai, Debbie Tucker Green, Ester Martin Bergsmark, Naji Abu Nowar and Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy; Documentary Competition: Nadav Schirman, Jean-Francois Caissy, Randall Wright, Jason Sussberg, David Alvarado, Frederick Wiseman, Edward Lovelace, James Hall, Edwin Collins and Lynette Wallworth.

The Festival will announce its complete guest line-up for all sections in early October.

STRANDS / PATHWAYS

The Festival programme is organised into categories clustered around the themes of Love, Debate, Dare, Laugh, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Sonic and Family – an approach designed to help Festival-goers find the films that appeal the most to them and to open up the Festival for new audiences.

LOVE

Love is strange, and cinema reaps the fruit of its strangeness. The Love Gala is the European Premiere of Alan Rickman’s sophomore feature A LITTLE CHAOS set in the Court of Versailles starring Rickman himself as King Louis XIV, Kate Winslet as landscape gardener Sabine De Barra, Matthias Schoenaerts as the famous architect Le Nôtre and Stanley Tucci in hilarious form as a court dandy.

Other titles in this section include: Benoît Jacquot’s 3 HEARTS starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Chiara Mastroianni and Catherine Deneuve; Daniel Ribeiro’s romantic tale of the joys and woes of young love, THE WAY HE LOOKS; Ira Sachs’ LOVE IS STRANGE starring Alfred Molina and John Lithgow as life-long lovers; the European Premiere of Shonali Bose’s portrait of a Punjabi teenage girl MARGARITA, WITH A STRAW; a new adaptation of Gustave Flaubert’s classic MADAME BOVARY directed by Sophie Barthes and starring Mia Wasikowska as the eponymous lead; the World Premiere of Corinna McFarlane’s SILENT STORM starring Andrea Riseborough and Damian Lewis; Susanne Bier’s SERENA starring Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, and the European Premiere of BAFTA-winning documentary filmmaker Morgan Matthews’ debut feature X + Y.

DEBATE

Debate presents films that rush headfirst and unafraid into some of the stormiest issues of the day. This year’s Debate Gala is the European Premiere of Jon Stewart’s directorial debut ROSEWATER starring Gael Garcia Bernal and based on the real-life ordeal of London-based journalist Maziar Bahari.

Other highlights in this section include: the European Premiere of Michael Winterbottom’s THE FACE OF AN ANGEL about an American student charged with the murder of her British housemate; the World Premiere of Tom Harper’s House of Commons-set political thriller War Book; Gabriel Mascaro’s haunting tale of the effects of climate change on a coastal community in Brazil, AUGUST WINDS; Annalet Steenkamp’s documentary about the four generations of her Afrikaner family I, AFRIKANER; Dieudo Hamadi’s NATIONAL DIPLOMA following a group of Congolese high schools students preparing for their exams; Steve James’ newly restored 1994 documentary HOOP DREAMS about the ultra-competitive world of college basketball; and Shira Geffen’s SELF MADE and Eran Riklis’ DANCING ARABS which both explore life on either side of the Palestinian-Israeli divide.

DARE

Here you’ll find cinema’s troublemakers and boundary pushers, with films for those who take their movies strong, no sugar. The Dare Gala is Xavier Dolan’s MOMMY which jointly won the Jury Prize in Cannes earlier this year.

Other highlights in this strand include: Jean-Luc Godard’s first foray into 3D, GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE which jointly won the Jury Prize in Cannes in May and will be presented here at BFI IMAX; New Queer Cinema alumnus Gregg Araki’s WHITE BIRD IN A BLIZZARD starring Eva Green and Shailene Woodley; the World Premiere of Rebecca Johnson’s HONEYTRAP based on the 2008 case of Samantha Joseph, dubbed the ‘honeytrap killer’; Duane Hopkins’ social melodrama BYPASS; Aleksei German’s black and white epic HARD TO BE A GOD completed by his wife and son following German’s death in 2013; and Abel Ferrara’s PASOLINI starring Willem Dafoe as the Italian filmmaker.

LAUGH

This year’s comedic crop mine potentially treacherous terrain that some might consider no joke. This year’s Laugh Gala is WILD TALES, a delirious black comedy directed by Damián Szifron with Augustín and Pedro Almodóvar as producers.

Other titles in this strand include: Director-writer-star Desiree Akhavan’s fearless feature debut APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR; Hungary’s most innovative and controversial director György Pálfi’s new film FREE FALL; the International Premiere of Justin Simien’s razor-sharp satire DEAR WHITE PEOPLE; Martha Stephens and Aaron Katz’ delicate and heart-warming comedy LAND HO!; Josh Lawson’s whip-smart sex comedy THE LITTLE DEATH; Emilio Martínez-Lázaro’s SPANISH AFFAIR, a massive box-office hit in its native Spain; and John Boorman’s semi-autobiographical film, QUEEN AND COUNTRY.

THRILL

The Thrill strand covers noir, neo-noir, sci-fi, pulp, crime, action and adventure in a programme that’s as sure to inspire wanderlust as it is to set your pulse racing. The Gala presentation for this strand is Kristian Levring’s THE SALVATION, a gripping tale of revenge set in the Old West starring Mads Mikkelsen and Eva Green.

Other highlights in this section include: Diao Yinan’s murder mystery and Berlin winner BLACK COAL, THIN ICE; the European Premiere of Toa Fraser’s thriller THE DEAD LANDS made entirely in the Maori language; Michaël R. Roskam’s THE DROP starring Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace and the late James Gandolfini; the European Premiere of Kriv Stenders’ boldly enjoyable comedy thriller KILL ME THREE TIMES starring Simon Pegg; the World Premiere of Tom Green’s MONSTERS: DARK CONTINENT, a sequel to Gareth Edwards’ 2010 debut Monsters; and Andrew Hulme’s crime thriller, SNOW IN PARADISE.

CULT

In the Cult strand, you’ll find a curious selection of films guaranteed to provoke, excite and take you entirely off guard. Welcome to the weird side. The Cult Gala is the International Premiere of Jacob Cheung’s lavish wuxia epic THE WHITE HAIRED WITCH OF LUNAR KINGDOM starring Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing.

Other highlights in this strand include: Mark Hartley’s latest celebration of exploitation films ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: THE WILD, UNTOLD STORY OF CANNON FILMS; David Robert Mitchell’s remarkable shocker IT FOLLOWS; the European Premiere of British director Oliver Blackburn’s latest horror KRISTY; Carter Smith’s ethereal coming-of-age tale JAMIE MARKS IS DEAD; Sion Sono’s Yakuza gangster flick-cum-hip hop musical TOKYO TRIBE and the World Premiere of Alfonso Gomez-Rejon’s striking debut THE TOWN THAT DREADED SUNDOWN inspired by the 1976 classic of the same name.

JOURNEY

Whether it’s the journey or the destination, here are films to transport you and shift your perspective. This year’s Journey Gala is Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s extraordinary WINTER SLEEP which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes this year.

Other titles in this section include: AFRICAN METROPOLIS, a collection of six short films that explore the complexity of African urban life; Rolf de Heer’s CHARLIE’S COUNTRY starring legendary Australian actor David Gulpilil who won Best Actor in Un Certain Regard at Cannes this year; Writer-Director David Oelhoffen’s FAR FROM MEN featuring Viggo Mortensen, Fatih Akin’s THE CUT starring Tahar Rahim; Israel Horovitz’s MY OLD LADY starring Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas; 18 different filmmakers including Warwick Thornton, Justin Kurzel and a debut by Mia Wasikowska contribute to an expansive adaptation of Australian author Tim Winton’s THE TURNING starring Cate Blanchett, Rose Byrne and Hugo Weaving; the World Premiere of Bryn Higgins’ ELECTRICITY starring Agyness Deyn; and the World Premiere of Gerry Fox’s MARC QUINN – MAKING WAVES documenting one year in the life of the artist Marc Quinn.

SONIC

Like cinema, music has the power to envelop us and move us, both emotionally and physically. This year’s Sonic Gala is Peter Strickland and Nick Fenton’s BJÖRK: BIOPHILIA LIVE, a concert film capturing the extraordinary closing night performance of Björk’s Biophilia project at London’s Alexandra Palace last year.

Other highlights in this strand include: the European Premiere of James Marcus Harvey’s AUSTIN TO BOSTON about a modern music tour, done the old fashioned way; One9’s documentary NAS: TIME IS ILLMATIC about one of the most influential and important records in hip hop; the European Premiere of Alan Hicks’ KEEP ON KEEPIN’ ON about the relationship between legendary Jazz trumpet player Clark Terry and his protégé Justin Kauflin; Mia Hansen-Løve’s EDEN, a fictionalised account of the French house boom that spawned Daft Punk, Michael Obert’s SONG FROM THE FOREST that explores one man’s quest to find and record the music and sound of the remotest parts of the African jungle, Fenar Ahmad’s FLOW, a portrait of Copenhagen’s hip-hop scene; and a BUG SPECIAL: FULL TIME HOBBY devoted to the 10th anniversary of the independent London record label.

FAMILY

This year’s Family section has titles from all over the world to suit all ages and tastes, and the Family Gala is the European Premiere of SONG OF THE SEA, director Tomm Moore’s sophomore feature following his Oscar-nominated debut The Secret of Kells.

Other highlights are the International Premiere of Xavier Picard’s MOOMINS OF THE RIVIERA a glorious animated tale of Tove Jansson’s much-loved characters released in time to celebrate the 100th anniversary of her birth; the World Premiere of Christian De Vita’s animated family tale YELLOWBIRD 3D; Jon Wright’s British sci-fi adventure ROBOT OVERLORDS starring Gillian Anderson and Sir Ben Kingsley; Chan Hyung-Yun kooky animated love story THE SATELLITE GIRL AND MILK COW; and Martin Miehe-Renard’s teen drama THE CONTEST – TO THE STARS AND BACK. We will show the UK’s first animated feature, ANIMAL FARM (1954) based on George Orwell’s novella, and directed and produced by John Halas and Joy Batchelor.

There is a dedicated section for animated shorts for younger audiences which include the World Premiere of Aardman’s new short film RAY’S BIG IDEA in 3D directed by Steve Harding-Hill and the World Premiere of Illuminated Films’new short film ON ANGEL WINGS directed by Dave Unwin and based on a story by Michael Morpurgo.

As part of our celeberation of 20 years of Dreamworks Animation, we present a special event for younger audiences and animation enthusiasts alike DreamWorks Animation: Taking Flight and Beyond showcasing the work of producer Bonnie Arnold and director Dean DeBlois, who will be joined by Cressida Cowell, author of the highly successful ‘How to Train your Dragon’ series of novels. Exclusive footage from upcoming release The Penguins of Madagascar will also be shown.

SHORTS

An original and innovative line-up of short films and animation that will captivate audiences young and old makes up this year’s Shorts compilation programmes presented across the Festival strands.

The Meaning of Love programme explores a range of expressions that define ‘love’ including EMOTIONAL FUSEBOX starring Jodie Whittaker, and THE KÁRMÁN LINE starring Olivia Colman. Let’s Talk About Sex is a series of shorts that question how we interact physically and emotionally with each other, such as GHOST TRAIN in which an elderly man dealing with his wife’s dementia becomes captivated by a young burlesque dancer, and in OUR SKIN IS GOING TO GRAY, a group of different characters experience the universal fear of rejection. The Life, But Is It A Dream? programme looks at the fleeting moments that can create big stories full of emotion such as IN AUGUST in which a 6 year-old girl sees that her father is leaving home, and in EMERGENCY CALLS an ageing bar hostess queries her decision to marry a long-term admirer. After Laughter Comes Tears presents six shorts that all encompass funny ha-ha, the absurdly funny and the funny strange. All Or Nothing offers shorts that reflect the passions in the hearts of their protagonists from positive love to destructive hate and all points in between. Take Me To The Other Side is the shorts programme for cult genre fans featuring zombies, crazed scientists, tattooed criminals and indescribable horrors. The Radio Live Transmission programme of short films and animations shows how sound and music are vital to cinema, no matter the genre. The London Calling section features a selection of shorts from budding filmmakers from across the capital, supported by Film London’s production schemes.

EXPERIMENTA

The LFF showcase of Experimental Cinema and Artists’ Moving Image, is programmed in partnership with LUX for a second year and is supported by Arts Council England. An extensive selection of new British work is presented including THE FILM THAT BUYS THE CINEMA by Cube Cinema, WHEN YOU FALL INTO A TRANCE by Emily Wardill, TOMORROW IS ALWAYS TOO LONG by Phil Collins commissioned as part of the Commonwealth Games, 72-82 by William Raban, NEAR REAL TIME by Gail Pickering and HOW TO MAKE MONEY RELIGIOUSLY by Laure Prouvost. International works include THE INEXTINGUISHABLE FIRE: HARUN FAROCKI 1944-2014, a tribute to the late great German filmmaker with screenings of PARALLEL I-IV and INEXTINGUISHABLE FIRE; and TRIBUTE TO MARIA KLONARIS (1950-2014) who was responsible for some of the most radical feminist and transgender films and art ever created. Preservationist Mark Toscano will present MEDITATIONS FROM OUR LADY OF THE ANGELS, a specially curated-selection of restored Los Angeles artists’ films from the Academy Film Archive. Ken McMullen’s new film OXI: An Act of Resistance. The diverse programme includes animation, conceptual and performance pieces, diaristic work, abstraction and more.

TREASURES

Treasures brings recently restored cinematic riches from archives around the world to the Festival in London. The previously announced Archive Gala is the World Premiere of the BFI National Archive restoration of a major British silent film THE BATTLES OF CORONEL AND FALKLAND ISLANDS (1927). This virtually unknown film offers a stunning recreation of two key battles faced by the Royal Navy in the early days of World War One, almost exactly a century ago. Screening at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the film will have a stirring new score, commissioned from award-winning composer Simon Dobson and will be performed by 24 members of the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines. Restoration supported by Matt Spick. Archive Gala and Score supported by Arts Council England, the Gosling Foundation, the Hartnett Conservation Trust, PRS for Music Foundation and the Charles Skey Charitable Trust.

The newly restored, iconic silent film THE GODDESS (1934) from Chinese cinema’s Golden Age starring Ruan Lingyu, is presented as part of the BFI’s year-long Electric Shadows project celebrating artistic and cultural collaborations between China and Britain. Screening at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the film will have a new score by Chinese composer Zou Ye, commissioned by the K T Wong Foundation, and will be performed live by the English Chamber Orchestra.

The latest 4k restoration by Martin Scorsese’s Film Foundation and the BFI National Archive is Powell and Pressburger’s THE TALES OF HOFFMAN (1951) a dazzling take on Jacques Offenbach’s 1881 opera. The Film Foundation’s World Cinema Project presents a 4k restored version of Sergei Parajanov’s THE COLOUR OF POMEGRANATES (1969).

The Imperial War Museum has restored and completed GERMAN CONCENTRATION CAMPS FACTUAL SURVEY (1945/2014), following the original filmmakers’ directions and drawing on seventeen hours of footage documenting the horrors discovered following the liberation of the concentration camps in 1944 and ’45.

Other highlights include John Schlesinger’s FAR FROM THE MADDING CROWD (1967) starring Julie Christie and Terrence Stamp cast as lovers in Thomas Hardy’s epic love story; Robert Altman’s COME BACK TO THE FIVE & DIME, JIMMY DEAN, JIMMY DEAN (1982); Joseph L Mankiewicz’s GUYS AND DOLLS (1955) starring Frank Sinatra and Marlon Brando, and the 40th anniversary of Tobe Hooper’s classic horror THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE now available in a new razor sharp 4K transfer.

EVENTS

We are delighted to announce this year’s programme of events, including Screen Talks with filmmakers Bennett Miller and Abderrahmane Sissako; Masterclasses with production designer Maria Djurkovic and documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman and three events to celebrate DreamWorks Animation Studios turning 20 in October.

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Cor, I stink. And my nails are shockingly long. They enter the room before I do. My last shower was Friday, and I figure 48 hours is about the limit I ought to go without washing. Fuck it, 72 hours will have to do this time. It’s not like I’m spending my time in a sterilised bunker, I’m spending my time surrounded by people and dirt and all manner of stuff that lodges itself in beneath my nails, which are now so long it’d take James Cameron and his diving crew to get down there and clean them out fs. Home tomorrow. Gonna have a shower, cut my nails and take a dump. And watch TV. I’ve missed more shows being away for a week than you watch in a year.

I’m at a bit of a loss regarding the location of my first screening today, Claude Lanzmann’s latest Holocaust documentary The Last of the Unjust. Only because I’ve not yet been there, I mean I’ve worked out the tube route and the directions from there, and sure enough it ain’t far and it ain’t difficult. It’s in Cine Lumiere, at l’Institut Francais. Ooh la la. That’ll do! But the film is over three hours long and they don’t allow food and drink in the screen! Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit. Before we’re even half way through, I feel sleep making its return. Its unwelcome yet irresistible return. Well, rules are rules, so if I’m gonna take a couple of the caffeine pills I wisely packed in my laptop case today, I’m gonna have to take them dry. But I’m not missing no Lanzmann. Unlike on Monday, during At Berkeley, they work a treat. How come it’s always the longest films which send me off? Not even at the end, at the bloody start! I was knackered for the first 30 minutes of Norte, the End of History, then wide awake for the remaining 220!

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I saw Steve McQueen’s Hunger on opening weekend in 2008. The UK was one of the very first countries to see his debut feature, and the Belfast screening was packed, of course. It was the best film I saw that year. A little over two years ago, I was having a pretty bad day, and decided to treat myself. Rather than wait for its January release, I booked rail and sail to Manchester, via Dublin and Wales, for an early-December screening of Shame, followed by a Q&A with McQueen after. For this screening, I stayed up until 2am, walked into town to the bus stop, got lost in Dublin, waited outside for hours for the boat, and spent most of the next day on various trains. 36 hours with just about no sleep, all to see one film. And it was the best film I saw that year.

Yesterday, the very thought of seeing just two films in one day was so unappealing I paid almost £15 for a ticket to see another. Today, I took things a bit easier. Two would do me today, especially as the first of those two was 12 Years a Slave. You’ve probably heard all those rave reviews out of Telluride and Toronto, huh? The capacity screening in Odeon West End wasn’t even the film’s first showing at LFF. Two American girls sat down beside me. You know that bit in In a World… where Lake Bell rips the shit out of that girl’s voice? These two are that girl, only considerably less irritating, I’ll add. Their droll platitudes suggested they weren’t very well acquainted: “That’s so awesome…” was a particular favourite of the pair. But they spoke with more intelligence on the films they had seen in London than anybody else I’d overheard since arriving here last Sunday.

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It’s my day off, kind of. I’m still seeing two films, and actually they’re both pretty high-profile Cannes entries: Asghar Farhadi’s The Past, for which Berenice Bejo won the official Best Actress award, and Alain Guiraudie’s Stranger by the Lake, for which he himself won the Un Certain Regard Best Director award. But these screenings are, respectively, showing at 18:00 and 21:00, so I have the afternoon to do what I want! And what do I want to do? Go to the cinema!

I’ve sort of lost all track of regular time since Sunday, so when I turned up in Leicester Square, having traversed through Green Park and along Piccadilly, to find that Captain Phillips, the film which had opened the LFF last Wednesday and which I had thus missed, was out in cinemas, I was a little caught unawares. I bought my ticket, and the chatty vendor informed me that she’d heard it was good. Well, yeh, me too. Not knowing what day it was (standard chez moi), I thought she must have heard this from friends or customers. Not bloody likely, I was seeing the second screening of the day.

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Last Monday, I felt a cold coming on. Well, I thought it was a cold. It was tonsillitis. Not very pleasant. Got some penicillin from the doctor; by this time, the tonsillitis was subsiding. I packed what remained of the first packet out of two for London, and by the time I had run it through, my throat felt pretty much back to normal. It’s what, Thursday today? And the tonsillitis has returned. With a fucking vengeance. I do not intend to sit through nine films shivering like a fucking hobo in Helsinki and convulsing every time I swallow. FML.

The three films I saw yesterday, though all very good, were also all pretty dry, if you know what I mean. Not exactly designed to entertain. The same cannot be said for my first film today, Rigor Mortis. Chinese pop-star-turned-actor Juno Mak has now turned director, for a homage to the classic Chinese horror films of the 1980s. Vampires and ghosts and blah blah blah, you know the kind of film I’m on about, right? Bloody good fun, that’s what I was looking for. And yes sir, that’s what I got.

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My stay here in London has so far been comprised of long stretches of business, punctuated by curious moments of inactivity. This morning was one of the latter. Three films today, all squeezed in to a mere few hours, with the first, Robin Campillo’s Eastern Boys, kicking off at 15:15. So, after a generous lie-in, a shower (the hostel showers here are proof against the existence of god, imo) and a chance to peruse the hostel’s suddenly half-decent wifi to publish my Inside Llewyn Davis review, I casually set off for Leicester Square once more, laptop in tow, umbrella not. But hey, the tube’s normally pretty dry.

With two and a half hours to kill, I strolled back to Costa Coffee for a Pepsi Max and an opportunity to sit by my laptop, where I am naturally most comfortable (it’s my only friend, *sob*). Pepsi Max is gross but it’s two calories. I’m a cola addict, and nothing beats Coca-Cola, but Pepsi will do. Diet Coke will not. Coke Zero is fine. Pepsi Max is marginally less heinous than Diet Coke, so I tolerate it when I know I’m likely to eat shit for the rest of today. With both of my first two screenings taking place in Vue Leicester Square (another major British chain), I knew more junk food would be on the menu today. Maybe not nachos. Maybe crisps. When crisps cross the Atlantic they become potato chips, even though they’re still the same things. Kind of like when Mexicans cross the border they become illegal aliens, even though they’re still the same people.

Vue Leicester Square is quite nice inside. Lots of warm orange lighting. Orange is my favourite colour. And chartreuse. And lime green. I like colours which make people retch. They suit my character. There’s wifi here, according to the website, and according to the lady at the till. I ought to go upstairs to the bar to get good signal. A bar! A plush cinema with a bar! The only cinema in Belfast with a bar is the arthouse, QFT, which is actually alright, but it doesn’t have warm orange lighting, and it doesn’t have wifi! Neither does this place though, as it turns out. I approach the barman. He doesn’t know the security key. There’s a more senior employee with a walkie-talkie. He doesn’t know. He radios for help. No response. The general manager then picks up. He doesn’t know. I ask if any of them at least know what the point is in having wifi when no-one can access it. They don’t know that either. They’ll get back to me, apparently. Yeh, they still haven’t. Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand’s ‘Enough Is Enough’ comes on my iPod. Indeed.

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There was a moment, yesterday, as I sat in the back of the taxi, watching the fare rise, imagining the first fifteen minutes of the film I was missing, Borgman, sweating like a priest in a playground, when I thought, “I’ve had enough. I haven’t even lasted two days in London. It can’t be worth this much stress. I might as well go home.” I did not go home. And I’m bloody happy I didn’t.

My hostel is pretty central, though everything in London is as long as you take the tube. It’s in Pimlico, which always makes me smile. I’m there, on the tube, with my Passport to Pimlico! Having a much better time than all the other passengers as a result. Then again, I bet some of them are going to Cockfosters. Lucky bastards.

Two venues today for three films, although both situated in the same locale: Leicester Square, the site of a host of small, ancient theatres owned by major cinema chains. Odeon Manchester has 20 screens, I remember. Odeon West End has two. Leicester Square is a pretty nice place to spend the day, as it turns out, especially if you like eating food (check!) and going to the cinema (check!). Catherine Breillat’s competition entry Abuse of Weakness was screening in OWE’s Screen Two, which is nestled underground, all clandestine like. 20 minutes early, I took the opportunity to do what I always do when I visit an Odeon: eat.

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London knew I was coming. They knew I knew how to handle weather like this. And anyway, there’s something about London that suits this kind of weather – the fudge-brown Thames, the greige slate and stone, the reportedly pompous insularity of its inhabitants… actually, I have quite a fondness for Londoners. Less so for the tourists. Says me…

I elected to sleep on my sofa last night, or morning, as it were. One drunken decision among several, including making too much cheese on toast, still there when I woke, to taunt my woozy stomach. I dreaded the ensuing flight, cramped and hungover, but it was at least an opportunity to sleep. And anyway, the journey thereafter was markedly more dreadful: lugging an overweight bag up and down infinite flights of stairs (London has a lot of stairs, for some reason), having my Northern Irish card declined, having my tube ticket declined, going to the wrong platform etc. etc., all in pouring rain with a flimsy umbrella and no pockets! Because I decided today would be the perfect day to wear leggings and plimsoles! Girls, if that sounds like a common problem, consider the following: I’m not a girl.

Just the one screening today – every other day I’m here I’m seeing either two or three. I came this early to make sure I caught this one, as it’s the last showing of Lav Diaz’s Norte, the End of History at the festival. [Full review] I would have caught something else earlier on, but I didn’t want to book anything in case my flight was delayed (What. A. Daredevil.). If you’ve ever seen a Lav Diaz film in a cinema, you’ll know the feeling of it being light outside when you enter, and dark when you exit. Norte started at 18:00 and ran for a bum-numbing 250 minutes – I use the hackneyed phrase ‘bum-numbing’ because that’s what it was.

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(thanks again to Paddy at ScreenOnScreen)

Official Competition

The sophomore Official Competition line-up, recognising inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, includes the following:

  • Catherine Breillat’s Abuse of Weakness
  • Richard Ayoade’s The Double
  • Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida
  • Kore-Eda Hirokazu’s Like Father, Like Son
  • Ritesh Batra’s The Lunchbox
  • Jahmil X.T Qubeka’s Of Good Report
  • Peter Landesman’s Parkland
  • Ahmad Abdalla’s Rags & Tatters
  • Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant
  • David Mackenzie’s Starred Up
  • Xavier Dolan’s Tom at the Farm
  • John Curran’s Tracks
  • Jonathan Glazer’s Under The Skin

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(Press Release) London, 30th August, 2013: – The 57th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express is delighted to announce that the Festival’s American Express Gala will take place on Wednesday 16 October at the Odeon Leicester Square with the UK Premiere of Stephen Frears’ PHILOMENA, the moving, funny and at times shocking true story of one woman’s search for her lost son.

Academy Award ® winner Judi Dench plays the title role, with BAFTA winner Steve Coogan as Martin Sixsmith. The screenplay is written by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, based on the book “The Lost Child of Philomena Lee” by Martin Sixsmith. Pathé release the film in UK cinemas on 1 November 2013.

Stephen Frears, Judi Dench and Steve Coogan are all expected to attend the American Express Gala.

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