Funny how time appears to us from different perspectives. It’s all the same, in truth, and not in that True Detective ‘time is a flat circle’ way. More in that Nostalgia for the Light way, where one realises that, by the time your senses have gotten around to recording the information they’ve obtained, by the time it has made the journey up to your brain, by the time your brain has gotten around to processing that information and alighting your awareness, by that time, it’s all history. It’s all in the past, as soon as you think it’s in the present. Ten days at the London Film Festival are all in the past, even as I’m here.

Actually, I’m not even here. I’m at home. It’s three days later. I’m recovering from a bug I picked up sharing a room with 19 strangers of different nationalities and their different latent viruses to which they’re each immune, exacerbated by a plane-full of sickly white Irish people coughing their entire summers up over the encroaching cold. I guess that’s all in the past too, though it sure doesn’t feel like it, even as I recover from two days almost solidly spent in bed.

London isn’t too far back for me to remember now, though, not too deeply entrenched in my histories for me to recall with the same silly salacity and waffling wankery that you’ve become accustomed to over the past fortnight – you, my one, sole, beloved reader, my darling, my dearest, my love. Please don’t ever leave me, like London did! Please stay! Please lie a little longer, to embrace, to snuggle, to gently slip it in, dry and unannounced, just the tip baby, just the tip. It’s all I can take, for now, if there even is a now. Or ram the whole thing in, who cares? It’s all in the past, remember?

I remember the horn that develops after five days separated from my boyfriend almost like I have it right now… Funny how those five days seemed so much more manageable when they were the future than when they were the present than when they are the past. It was a time that my barely-dormant depression decided to creep back in, alerting me to the ephemerality of the pleasures I encounter in life. Those pleasures, while in London, were the films I encountered, 20 of them excluding the two I saw outside of the festival in my spare (not rly) time. And they were pleasurable, save a small few.

Only one such pleasure today, after a mad rush to the airport last year that I was determined to avoid this year, and boy did I avoid it! After checking out of my dear, dreary hostel, there was a morning’s worth of sightseeing and writing to be done, though Day Seven stans will recall a search for a KFC that resulted in success this very morning, success that nixed most of the sightseeing and postponed the writing until after my first film of the day and last of the festival, Terence Davies’ Sunset Song. Nice to end on something so nice, as I’d supposed. Whenever did Terence Davies not make me feel all nice inside? Whenever were his embraces not warm and gentle, not just the tip but the whole shaft, so sweet and forgiving?

Sunset Song is a good film, but it’s not good Terence Davies. It’s not a great film, and he’s a great filmmaker. His manner(ism) matches with Lewis Grassic Gibson’s manner in an unflattering style – too distanced in Davies’ detached sentimentality and Gibson’s antiquated literariness. And yet it’s a beautiful film to behold, laden with one fine performance after another and written with keenness of character and earnestness of political affinity that seems to have drawn Davies to the novel and that eventually drew me into the film, albeit too late to entirely win me over. Terence Davies will win me over again, I’m sure. Agyness Deyn may too, if she should be provided the opportunities to continue to develop her ability as an actor; she’s impressive in Sunset Song’s demanding lead role,

I knew I could take my time this afternoon – indeed, I knew that if I didn’t take my time, I’d be ambling around the arrivals desks at Stansted Airport with nowhere to go and nothing to do. There was plenty of time, thus, to finish up my LFF coverage on my blog, Screen On Screen, and to take care of the little, menial, necessary things, like having lunch, going to the toilet (with a schedule this tight for this length of time, going to the toilet becomes something you have to make time for), reading emails, perusing gossip sites. And yet the universe still found a way to punish me upon eventual arrival at Stansted – a delayed plane that kept on getting more delayed as the night drew on, stupid, staring children and their stupid, defensive parents, incapable of admitting to the fact that their treasured offspring is actually behaving like a cunt, overpriced airport food that I just had to have anyway because what else was there to do? You can always tell which people in your departure lounge will be taking your flight when your flight is Belfast-bound: they’ll either be exclusively white or extremely pink, they’ll be attired in a variety of shades of black and brown, in a variety of textures of fleece and denim, and they’ll all look like they wish they’d never even left Northern Ireland. Fine, stay there then. When the sea levels rise and this rotten little corner of civilisation sinks under the waters, stay then too. Take your judgements and your bigotry and your ignorant interpretation of spirituality and drown them.

No rly, that’s how my LFF 2015 experience ended. After 20 films, most of them excellent, and 10 days, many of them enjoyable, I was returned to Belfast with an increasingly nasty cough and two unpopped ears (I’m still a bit deaf now, 60 hours later). But I’ll choose to remember, since it’s all in the past now. I’ll close with my verdict on 2015’s slate chez SOS:

Screen On Screen @ Awards Daily’s Best of LFF 2015!

  • Best Film: The Assassin (runner-up: Park Lanes)
  • Best Directing: Hou Hsiao-Hsien for The Assassin (runner-up: Evan Johnson and Guy Maddin for The Forbidden Room)
  • Best Performance: Ralph Ineson for The Witch (runner-up: Kwon So Hyun for Madonna)
  • Best Writing: Phyllis Nagy for Carol (runner-up: Aleksey German for Under Electric Clouds)
  • Best Technical / Artistic Achievement: Lee Ping Bin for The Assassin – cinematography (runner-up: Elena Okopnaya for Under Electric Clouds – art direction)


Day nine’s first film started early, so I’ll start early on it. I arrived early enough at BFI Southbank to finish up a few articles from late last night, though too late to grab a front row seat for Kevin Jerome Everson’s Park Lanes, screening in the cinema’s Studio screen – my favourite for its warm, atmospheric intimacy. The screening, we hardy cinephiles were informed, was sold out, so we ought to expect latecomers – some never materialised. Everson was present to introduce the film, inspired by his childhood town of Mansfield, Ohio – a factory town where he had once worked in making washing machines. All very mundane so far, so why the 9am start? It’s a working day, you see. The film was scheduled to finish at 5pm… 480 minutes later.

That kind of runtime doesn’t constitute a regular cinematic experience. It’s a different form of watching required to appreciate it – I guess if you’ve got it, and the film’s receptive to your receptiveness, 8 hours is a sizeable stretch of time over which to form a profound connection with a film. I’d endure Park Lanes countless times over. I’d awaken earlier than 7am to do so. I’d forego a free lunch, provided for us despite my expert planning, which included specific pre-judgements of when to consume each item that I’d purchased beforehand, and how much to consume at each interval. The generous BFI were looking out for the masochists among us, then, surprising the fools who hadn’t come prepared with a selection of wraps and sandwiches. I ate a fair few of them, and all of my own food too as the lights came up slightly for the mid-film meal, Everson’s film still playing on the screen.

You see, Park Lanes features a 31-minute lunch scene, at approximately 275 minutes in. Everson shot his documentary over three days in a factory in Virginia that makes bowling alley supplies, editing the footage down to resemble that of the average working day. It’s a transfixing experience and yet a distancing one, enlightening the viewer to the supreme conceptual artistry that both lies behind such a premise and emerges from its product. You can find some more fully-fleshed thoughts of mine in the review I wrote on my blog; here, I’ll move onto an AD exclusive…

The Q&A! Bless the London Film Festival and all its Q&As, which I was gladly able to attend in full today, though they were once more held at their Southbank cinema where no photographs are permitted inside the screens any more. And another exclusive: a Paddy Mulholland first, posing not just any question to the filmmaker but the very first question to the filmmaker! Experimenta programmer for the festival, Helen DeWitt, drew so much out of this funny, verbose, intelligent director that the small audience was duly inspired to bombard him with queries, all of which he responded to in great detail. He had been inspired to make such a long film by the works of Lav Diaz, the admission of which made my heart basically barge out of my chest and envelop the world. He believed that Diaz’s immensely long narrative films contained a depth of humanity in their extended edits that was unique to films of such a duration. I wondered, then, what he made of my interpretation of Park Lanes and how it differed from other works of ‘slow cinema’, of which Diaz is a key proponent – those films generally require intense concentration in order to fully appreciate, whereas Everson’s film almost encourages daydreaming and interruption, such is the accuracy with which he has created a snapshot of real, boring factory work. I was pleased to hear him concur, explaining that he too would allow his thoughts to digress when watching these labourers at their tasks. He went on to explain that the project had initially been conceived as a museum piece, designed to last for the full length of the museum’s opening hours; that he believes as few as 20 people stayed for the full film over five screenings at the Rotterdam Film Festival earlier this year; that he even designed a box set for the film in another of its nixed incarnations, with one disc per hour and a ninth for the ‘best bits’. It was an exhaustive, engaging and humorous response to a question which the mere act of asking had sent me into a tremor.

What to make of this Q&A session, which was so incredibly immersive, much like the film that preceded it. The audience learnt so much, eager to remain in the seats they’d occupied for a third of a full day just to hear more and more about its themes, its production, anything that Kevin Jerome Everson would elaborate upon next. There’s a 70-minute edit of the film stacked with corporate secrets that didn’t make the final cut; some of the more abstract shots in the 480-minute edit weren’t approved either but were sneaked in. Everson chose not to include any material shot in the factory’s offices, considering its inhabitants ‘lovely but uninteresting’, before reconsidering and deciding that it was he who was ‘uninteresting’; this street photographer, sculptor, painter and print maker referred to the notion that the portrait is not about the subject but about the painter. His background in art informed his interest in the workers’ tools, in the processes of creating these bowling alley supplies – a process whose purpose he was keen to conceal until into the film’s second half, appreciating the abstraction of this approach. Funding was acquired via commission from the Virginia Film Office, which also scouted and selected the factory in which the film was shot. It was a non-union factory, 10-hour shifts Monday to Friday. Everson referred to his time working in a factory in his hometown in Ohio, a union factory in the north of the US, though little did that matter. All of Everson’s 16mm shorts are entitled ‘A Saturday Night in Mansfield’ – Saturday nights were black nights at the bowling alley. His Mason-Dixon line is the Canadian border.

The second screening for this most satiated of cinephiles today was Ben Rivers’ The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers. I didn’t enjoy Rivers’ last film, a collaboration with Ben Russell somewhat more conservatively-titled A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness. But this film looked intriguing nevertheless, and I was free this evening so it became one of my 20 bookings – number 19, chronologically. I was sat among London’s hipster elite, their ages and dress senses varying but their levels of pretension certainly not. The gentleman two seats to my left kept his hand on his partner’s leg – her far leg – unnaturally long given the awkwardness of the position. The film was introduced by Rivers, producer Jacqui Davies, the executive producer of Artangel, the arts organisation in which a part of The Sky Trembles forms a short film installation within a former exhibition, sound designer Philippe Ciombi – yes, the sound designer, who oddly remained mute – and the sort-of documentary’s sort-of lead actor and also fellow filmmaker, himself making the film that’s an actual film within this film, Oliver Laxe. Laxe is the type of fellow you’d imagine would be an amazing fuck, but then you’d get him in bed and he’d be too concerned with making art out of the sex to actually make anything good out of it (kind of like this film). That’s why insecure people are the best lays – they rly fucking appreciate it.

I had high hopes but low expectations for the film – probably the ideal combination to set oneself up for disappointment. It was desperately pretentious, perhaps even worse than A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness, but this audience predictably adored it, if their besotted post-screening questions to Ben and Oliver were anything to go by. Most of what I wrote in my notebook during the film amounted to questions, observations on the film that I was hoping would be resolved later into it and that my tentative judgements – that this was all just obtuse for the sake of it? Art for the sake of art, whether good or bad? Could it just be me, am I the only one in the world, are my opinions just completely invalid? – would turn out to be misinformed. I’ve spent much of my time at LFF this year reconciling myself with films that are just great films in and of themselves, insular and unconcerned with relevance or any broader cultural significance; until Park Lanes, all of my favourite films here had fit such a model. And here comes The Sky Trembles to prove that art for the sake of art can be a pretty fucking dreadful thing and everyone should stop attempting it unless their name is Hou Hsiao Hsien, whom I believe probably doesn’t even attempt it himself.

Ben Rivers spoke, or tried to, at the Q&A – he seemed half shy, half unclear on how to give any kind of meaningful response to a film that seemed so sure that it did have a meaning, but that surely did not. Maybe there’s one in the concept of cinema as an illusion, but it’s hardly as groundbreaking as the tone of reverence adopted by enraptured audience members and Q&A director Helen DeWitt would suggest. My sympathy was briefly won over when Rivers spoke of the film’s animals, but no further. Those poor ponies.

Other things happened today, like all the boring shit I’ve written about every other day. Other things will happen tomorrow, like a screening of Terence Davies’ Sunset Song to wrap my LFF 2015 experience up, and a journey home to be reunited with Thomas. So enjoy this boring shit while it lasts, readers! And then follow me on Twitter @screenonscreen, kk?


BFI London Film Festival announces 2015 winners in Official Competition, First Feature Competition, Documentary Competition and Short Film Competition:

  • Chevalier – Athina Rachel Tsangari, wins Best Film Award
  • The Witch – Robert Eggers, wins Sutherland Award (Best First Feature)
  • Sherpa – Jennifer Peedom, wins Grierson Award (Best Documentary)
  • An Old Dog’s Diary – Shai Heredia and Shumona Goel, wins Best Short Film Award
  • Cate Blanchett received the BFI Fellowship, presented by Ian McKellen

* * *

London – 17 October 2015: The 59th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® announced this year’s Festival Awards’ winners at its high profile Awards ceremony, at Banqueting House, Whitehall, this evening. Hosted by musician and broadcaster Jarvis Cocker, guests included Alex Cooke, Allen Leech, Brian Woods, Christine Vachon, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Daisy Jacobs, Desiree Akhavan, Elizabeth Karlsen, Finola Dwyer, Harriet Walter, Iain Forsyth, James Vanderbilt, James Kent, Jane Pollard, Joe Wright, Kate Dickie, Kathleen Kennedy, Kristin Scott-Thomas, Mabel Cheung, Martin Freeman, Patricia Cheng, Pawel Pawlikowski, Runa Islam, Shezad Dawood, Sandy Powell, Sylvia Chang, Stephen Woolley, Topher Grace, and Ian McKellen, who presented the BFI Fellowship to this year’s recipient Cate Blanchett.


Recognising inspiring, inventive and distinctive filmmaking, the winner of the Best Film Award, went to Tsangari’s CHEVALIER, a biting, playful dissection of the male ego, featuring six men on a boat. The award was announced by president of the Official Competition jury, Pawel Pawlikowski, whose Ida won the LFF Best Film prize in 2013.

Pawel Pawlikowski said “Chevalier is a study of male antagonism seen though the eyes of a brave and original filmmaker. With great formal rigour and irresistible wit, Athena Rachel Tsangari has managed to make a film that is both a hilarious comedy and a deeply disturbing statement on the condition of western humanity”.

Pawlikowski’s fellow jurors were Christine Vachon (producer of CAROL, this year’s American Express Gala), the BAFTA-winning and Oscar® & Golden Globe nominee Chiwetel Ejiofor, the BAFTA-winning and Oscar® nominee Kristin Scott-Thomas, and Chinese director and screenwriter Mabel Cheung whose A TALE OF THREE CITIES, featured in this year’s programme.


The long-standing Sutherland Award is presented to the director of the most original and imaginative first feature in the Festival, and this year’s winner is Robert Eggers’ THE WITCH about a 17th century New England family torn apart by tension and the suspicion of witchcraft. The nominations were introduced by actor Allen Leech and the winner announced by jury president, director/screenwriter Desiree Akhavan, whose feature debut, Appropriate Behaviour featured in the 2014 LFF programme.

Desiree Akhavan, said “This year’s Sutherland Award nominees were a bold group of beautifully crafted first features. Of the nominated films, one stood apart as the announcement of a new voice in contemporary cinema. A horror film that felt as though it were reinventing the genre with each frame and truly shocking moments that evoke both terror and empathy. With an impressive command of cameras as well as truly heartbreaking performances – it presented a fresh, feminist take on a timeless tale”

The jury also commended Martin Butler & Bentley Dean’s TANNA saying “It’s a rare skill to give a voice to a typically marginalized community that doesn’t condescend or patronize and for this reason the jury would like to give special mention to Tanna”.

Akhavan’s jury comprised BAFTA-nominated director and Fine Artist Clio Barnard, who won the Sutherland Award in 2010 for her feature debut The Arbor, James Kent, the director of last year’s Centrepiece Gala supported by the Mayor of London, Testament of Youth, actor Allen Leech (The Imitation Game), and chief film critic of The Times, Kate Muir.


The Grierson Award for the best documentary recognises outstanding feature-length documentaries of integrity, originality, technical excellence or cultural significance. The award went to Peedom’s gripping and urgent documentary which indelibly captures tragedy and mayhem on Mount Everest. Grierson trustee and documentary filmmaker Alex Cooke announced the winner.

The jury said “We are taken into the lives, homes and families of the Sherpas, who have for too long been overlooked and exploited, dependent for their livelihoods on an increasing number of tourists who sometimes regard them as little more than owned slaves. We’re left with an appreciation of the sacrifices the Sherpa community have made for over 6 decades. We applaud this impressive film for giving voice to a previously voiceless community, and we hope it reaches the wide, general audience that it deserves”.

The Documentary Competition jury were documentary filmmaker and ex-director of EIFF Mark Cousins, whose I AM BELFAST was presented at the Festival, with fellow jurors, award winning documentary filmmaker Brian Woods, Guardian head of documentaries and previous deputy director of Sheffield DocFest, Charlie Phillips and London-based artists and filmmakers Iain Forsyth & Jane Pollard, whose first documentary feature 20,000 Days on Earth, won directing and editing awards at Sundance last year and the Douglas Hickox Award for Best Debut Director at the BIFAs.


This year saw the inaugural presentation of the Best Short Film Award which recognises short form works with a unique cinematic voice and confident handling of chosen theme and content. The award went to An Old Dog’s Diary, a lyrical film portrait of Francis Newton Souza, one of the key Indian artists of the 20th-century, inspired by his personal writings, letters, drawings and possessions., the award was presented by Shezad Dawood and Daisy Jacobs and collected by Chantal and Dev Pinto of the Xandev Foundation on behalf of directors Shai Heredia and Shumona Goel.

Daisy Jacob, jury president said “An Old Dog’s Diary is as poetic and soulful as its subject. It offers a fresh and original way of documenting the life of an artist. It looks beautiful, sounds beautiful, but, more than that, it tells us about the beauty of the human spirit.”

Jury president Daisy Jacobs is an Academy Award® nominee, whose The Bigger Picture featured in last year’s Festival and won the BAFTA for Best Short Animated Film. Her fellow jurors were the multi-media conceptual artist and filmmaker Shezad Dawood, short film producer and senior film programme manager at British Council Will Massa, director Tom Green, whose Monsters: Dark Continent marked his feature debut at last year’s Festival and British visual artist, filmmaker and Turner Prize nominee Runa Islam.

BFI FELLOWSHIP Cate Blanchett (as previously announced)

This year’s BFI Fellowship was presented to Cate Blanchett by her friend and co-star of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit films Ian McKellen.

Earlier in the evening Blanchett attended the UK Premiere of TRUTH, which screened as the Fellowship Special Presentation film in honour of the award. Based on the book “Truth and Duty” by Mary Mapes, TRUTH tells the incredible story of Mary Mapes, an award-winning CBS News journalist and Dan Rather’s 60 Minutes producer and the risks she took to expose a story on the then President George W. Bush.

Blanchett also attended the Festival for Todd Haynes’ CAROL, presented as this year’s American Express Gala.


May I begin with an apology? Do I even need to? I told one Ryan Adams, whom you might know, that I’d do my best to attend a little luncheon or something similar with a variety of international filmmakers whose films are screening this year at the London Film Festival. It was to be held in the May Fair Hotel, so naturally they wouldn’t have let my scabby ass half way through the door, but despite not seeing any of the films of the directors who’d be in attendance at the times I was available, I rly did want to go. But then, that’s not rly me. I wonder if my articles read as shy… I’m much too shy in reality to turn up at such an event and hobnob with some actual real-life directors. I’m the guy who’s had at least one question to ask every director at every Q&A I’ve ever been to, and who’s never raised his hand once. Soz, Ryan. Just wasn’t up to it in the end.

You’ll forgive me, perhaps, for spending my free time in the cinema. Two out of the three days that I have three films scheduled on my trip this year, I choose to add a fourth to. On Tuesday, I saw Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk. Today, I saw Alejandro Amenabar’s Regression. I kinda had to see what all the fuss was about, or wasn’t about. There was a suitable time at Empire Leicester Square, the only cinema on the square that doesn’t host any LFF screenings and thus the only one I’d never been inside. The screen showing Regression was utterly miniscule – there weren’t even 30 seats – so I crunched my crisps with extra delicacy, careful not to disturb any of my fellow patrons, who were mostly slightly sad-looking middle-aged white men. They’re doing my job for me lbr, this shit writes itself. I’ll not give my verdict on the film, because it’s the same verdict that everyone had as soon as they saw the trailer, and also cos I cba, and you’ll find out why later.

It has been, without question, my busiest day, but there are so many necessary films released this month that I had to find time for Regression somewhere before I return to Belfast. But it was straight from Leicester Square to the Southbank for Patricio Guzman’s The Pearl Button, with just enough time in between to write a quick, sloppy review for a sloppy film. Thankfully, The Pearl Button, which Guzman introduced, wasn’t so sloppy, though nor was it as tight as Guzman’s last, Nostalgia for the Light. The Pearl Button is predictably pretty, and also sensitive and insightful – a documentary on Chile’s relationship with water, its topics ranging from the indigenous people of the land and their closeness to the water, to the country’s troubled political history and the abuses committed by the white settlers and their descendants, and to a biography of water itself, in a way. It’s all very earnest and very engaging, but poorly conceived – the connecting strands between these topics do exist, but Guzman fails to find a compelling way to develop those strands into robust-enough reasons to make a film out of them.

The post-screening Q&A (another BFI Southbank occasion, so no photographs were permitted), conducted with the assistance of an interpreter, was similarly earnest and similarly light on depth. Most interesting was the director’s opinion on the indigenous people whom he interviewed for the film: he admitted that they were likely unaware of the film as it exists currently, and may be unlikely ever to see it or comment upon it if they were to, though that their opinion of it does harbour some importance to him; the film is also for the Chilean people, as a method of forcing them to confront the difficulties in their past. He expressed a tacit approval of the sentiment of much of the country’s youth and their determination to destroy Pinochet’s constitution; one audience member was savvy in pointing out that the British government had supported the dictator, and that Margaret Thatcher had been his friend, and wondered if any of his fellow viewers had voted for her Conservative Party in the 1980s. Neither the Q&A host nor I seemed to think that there were particularly many; from my vantage point, I began to wonder if there might have been one or two. Scumbags.

Again, a mere few moments to pen a quick write-up on the film I’d just watched before hurrying off to the next one: Aleksey German’s Under Electric Clouds. This isn’t the Aleksey German you’re probably aware of, if you’re aware of any Aleksey German at all – German Sr., whose final film, Hard to Be a God, completed its 12-year production after its director’s death, screened at LFF last year and was one of my highlights. German Jr. helped to complete it whilst simultaneously working on Under Electric Clouds. Striking, the similarities between father and son as filmmakers – both share common interests in theme, technique and style, a gentle, flighty disinterest set against portentous metaphorical heft. It’s a most unusual manner of filmmaking, and one that’s an acquired taste. The person next to me evidently hasn’t acquired it – she fell asleep, started snoring, woke up and eventually left before the end. She missed a fairly excellent film, extremely dense but adequately comprehensible (and enjoyable) to appreciate on first viewing, while holding out a lot of promise for endless repeat viewings. If I have the time, ofc. Today, I do not.

There was a Q&A after the film, but it had started late and there’d been a lengthy introduction and I had too far to travel to my final screening of the day, so I skipped it. That’s two Q&As I’ve left early and one I’ve nixed from my plans altogether – not what I’d been aiming for when I’d taken a more sensible approach to devising my schedule this year, unfortunately. I’ll learn. Thankfully, that lengthy introduction from senior art director Elena Okopnaya (she appears second in the end credits, which gives you an idea of the value of her contribution to the film) and, briefly, actor Louis Franck (major bae) gave me a bit of contextual information about the film. The audience learned that the film was a Polish-Russian-Ukrainian co-production, filmed prior to the breakout of conflict in Eastern Ukraine. We were warned that the film was suffused with references to Russian mythology that we mightn’t recognise, though it was suffused with so much overall that this particular viewer was quite satiated. We were told to reject a conventional approach to watching the film, to instead embrace its non-linear structure and non-traditional style as if listening to a piece of music or observing a painting. We were informed that the film’s heroes were as such because they strayed from the pack, though not out of intention but out of necessity, that they were incapable of behaving any other way.

I ran much of the way out to Shoreditch, save the admittedly sizeable stretch spent on the tube, natch. Why didn’t I think of this when I booked these stupid films? The ones I need to start on time never do, the ones I want to be free of a Q&A that I’d only have to miss inevitably always have one etc. It takes a bloody age to actually reach the screens in Rich Mix Cinema anyway, which adds extra stress to the journey, never mind the queue of imbeciles I had to dawdle behind just to get a fucking Dr. Pepper, but I neeeeeeeded some snacks for the film. You know when people say they’re so busy they forgot to eat? Genuinely never heard such a bewildering statement in all my life. Just does not compute.

The third film from the festival today, and the fourth overall, was Shin Su Won’s Madonna. It’s the fourth and final female-directed title on my list this year, and the second of those four to be non-documentary. It’s also the second Korean film I’m seeing, after My Love, Don’t Cross That River, a markedly different film indeed; both these two comprise my only outings to Rich Mix this year, and while I’ve nothing in particular against this lovely little cultural centre, may these be the last such outings FOREVER! Madonna is like Ms. Ciccone’s Erotica – you totally love what it’s getting at, but the execution isn’t perfect. But who needs perfect? As the film builds humiliation upon disaster upon shame upon sadness upon degradation, it develops into a tirade against cultural and societal misogyny and the effects it has upon women’s opinions of their own worth. It’s scandalous and controversial, and the harder it gets to watch, the harder it hits. Shin’s film is firmly female-centric, and there are magnificent performances from leads Seo Young Hee and Kwon So Hyun. It’s very, very Korean, and I’m just so fucking white, so I found parts of it (specifically a first 15 minutes that feel inconsequential and a final 15 that feel redundant) a little frustrating, but I’m right there with Shin when she harnesses her outrage and crafts a suitably horrible film out of it.

I’ve finally gotten a review for Under Electric Clouds written, and now this diary entry too. The Madonna review will have to wait until late tomorrow. After my busiest day yet, I have a 7am start to catch a 9am screening of Kevin Jerome Everson’s 8-hour documentary Park Lanes tomorrow. Not even kidding. I guess it has to start at 9am, but this is just so not what I need. So everything else has to wait, including the next film – from the longest film at LFF 2015 to the longest film title, Ben Rivers’ The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers. The title of his last film was the best thing about it. Let’s hope things are all change chez Ben Rivers.

Follow me on Twitter @screenonscreen then get some fucking sleep fs


Funny how much more things seem to matter when you’ve got someone to share them with. Or maybe it’s not so funny, maybe it makes perfect sense, maybe you’ve simply got more things to actually do when someone else is present. Day six at the London Film Festival was my first full day unaccompanied this year, after my boyfriend Thomas departed for home yesterday afternoon. And, despite two excellent films, one large Big Mac meal and a swanky red carpet experience, it was probably my least eventful day so far. It was also among my least stressful too, up to a point, though while that’s likely good for my head and my heart, that’s rather not what I come to London for. Nice to have a break from all those things I had to do, but at least they mattered.

You wouldn’t care about my morning, even my early afternoon, like not even a psychiatrist would care about it, so I’ll get straight to the films, which ought to be of interest to most of AD’s readers. Still, even with Oscar winners and nominees galore, I can think of a few whose interest just won’t be piqued unless I reference a transformer or two (but I won’t). Film #1 was the first of two South-East Asian films on my LFF 2015 schedule, having named a Lav Diaz film my favourite of the festival in both of my last two years here. Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour screened at Vue West End to a packed theatre with the director in attendance. In his introduction, he assured us that it was ok to fall asleep during the screening – not that I’d ever willingly do so, but night after night of inadequate sleep is definitely now beginning to catch up on me…

Weerasethakul’s statement made rather more sense when regarded in hindsight. Cemetery of Splendour is about sleep, and also about wakefulness, about life and about death, about dreams and reality, past and future, mysticism and mundanity, even mysticism in mundanity. It’s a typically beguiling film from this most distinctive of auteurs, a man whose interpretation both of cinema and of life (and whose blurring of the lines between the various opposites listed above quite deliberately render the line between cinema and life equally unclear) is entirely unique; much as I appreciated the immense artistry, the idiosyncrasy, the depth of beauty and of spirituality in Cemetery of Splendour, watching it made me somewhat envious of myself in my first experience of a Weerasethakul film, or anyone else discovering this marvellous talent for the first time.

The Observer’s Jonathan Romney conducted the post-screening Q&A with the kind of vaguely smarmy, indubitably well-informed swagger that one expects from an established, respected journalist, and declined to quiz his subject on such prescient details of the film as the hand cream that smells like cum, which is what I almost certainly would have done (if only to ask where I could acquire some, natch). It became increasingly clear that Weerasethakul’s assertion that this would be his final film made in Thailand was an earnest one – the joy he felt in returning to Khon Kaen, his hometown, to shoot a film in full there for the first time in his career was tempered by a notable sense of resignation and regret, for what this country has recently become. He described it as impossible not to censor oneself when participating in the act of filmmaking, and referenced the increasingly tense political situation in Thailand; one can detect quite clearly the disappointment he feels in his film, in the destructive encroachment of urbanity upon the city’s spiritual places, a disappointment that is all the more poignant for its rationality, as he isn’t just blindly bemoaning the natural and necessary progression of society, only certain incarnations of it. Of particular note is a scene in the film where the characters rise for the national anthem during the trailers for a film, only to be met with silence and darkness: a tribute to darkness, in a film full of light! Regular Weerasethakul DP Sayombhu Mukdeeprom was filming Miguel Gomes’ Arabian Nights, so Carlos Reygadas recommended his usual DP Diego Garcia, whom his director regarded as being especially sensitive to the colours of his country as a foreigner, and the film is a predictably sumptuous visual (and sonic) experience).

Speaking of sumptuous, what about Todd Haynes’ Carol? I thought 75 minutes before the American Express gala premiere woul suffice, that I’d have enough time to see the stars arrive on the red carpet before taking my seat myself. I guess I did see them… from rly fucking far away! Thankfully, the camera on my phone isn’t the worst, and I was near the front of the queue of ticket holders, though the crowds waiting out purely to see the stars had occupied an entire side of Leicester Square, so there was no chance of me sneaking a closer look from there, as there had been two years ago at the gala premiere of Inside Llewyn Davis. Inside Odeon Leicester Square, after passing close enough by the cast and crew on the walk down the red carpet to snatch a couple of shots, there was a bottle of water next to every seat, and a bottle of beer for me at the stall, because srsly when was the last time I chose to drink water? But you know what you get when you give a cinema full of people drinks? Mass exodus to the toilets during the film, further distracting me from the experience! They all seemed to walk in front of me at one point or another; this had been the first film of the 20 on my schedule that I’d booked tickets to when they were released, and having selected better seats several times only for the page to refresh minutes later telling me that those seats were no longer available, I had to settle for the ninth row near the side. Not the worst, though, and close enough to take a few more pictures when the cast and crew took to the stage.

I’d been expecting a post-screening Q&A; the questions were posed prior to the film instead. The Weinstein Company sure is pushing hard for Carol, having invited producers Elizabeth Karlsen, Stephen Woolley and Christine Vachon, director Todd Haynes, writer Phyllis Nagy, casting director Laura Rosenthal, production designer Judy Becker, costume designer Sandy Powell and actors Rooney Mara, Cate Blanchett, Kyle Chandler and John Magaro (the latter two of whom did not take to the stage) to the event, with a slew of women in attendance on the stage to be interviewed by festival director Clare Stewart, keeping up this year’s theme of strong women in film quite nicely. The questions were prosaic and the answers equally so, but the occasion possessed a rather delightful atmosphere, with all those talented women being feted after a similar occasion last Wednesday at the opening night premiere of Suffragette.

Carol is, naturally, a fucking masterpiece, and anyone who tells you otherwise obviously shouldn’t even be entitled to their opinion. This is not a film for people who don’t understand films, since all one requires is the most basic understanding of film in order to appreciate it. Like many other films that I’ve seen here this year, it seems to exist simply for the sake of existing – Carol has many messages if you want to take some from it, but its main purpose appears to be just an expression of beauty, of the capacity of cinema to entrance an audience, to transport them to another time, into the minds of other people. It’s thrillingly emotional and immaculately designed, perfectly performed and brilliantly adapted; at least a couple of scenes recalled the very best Ingmar Bergman scripts in how they expressed a vast range of deep feeling both in what was said and how it was said, and in what was unsaid. If you love cinema, even if you only like cinema, you must see Carol.

And then I lost my Oyster card, so no tube for me. It was going to run out on Friday morning anyway, but still. You might say I have a low emotional pain threshold, or you might say I’m mentally ill, and you’d be accurate on both; things like these – disappointments, losses, inconveniences – stress me out immeasurably, and this minor mistake caused me an inordinate amount of emotional pain. It’s just a fucking Oyster card! I purchased a new one and headed back to the hostel for a relatively early night, on a relatively uneventful day. But what a duo of films! Those were events enough to sustain me. Alas, after a pair of heavy-hitters today, let’s see what you think of tomorrow’s offerings. Heard of Brillante Mendoza’s Taklub? Good for you! Heard of Miranda Pennell’s The Host? Then you must be coming too, since here’s a film so obscure it doesn’t even have an IMDb page. And I thought today was uneventful…

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Time flies whether you’re having fun or not. Looking back on my stay in London so far, half way through my trip as I write this diary entry, it seems such a long time ago that I set off upon this journey, early earlier earliest Friday morning, yet where have those five days gone? They’ve gone by in countless tube journeys, films (not quite so countless) and hours’ sleep (who knows?), on screens projecting films which I will savour for many days and decades more and films which I’ll never care to watch again. These five days have been wonderful! May the next five days be equally wonderful too.

If I seem reflectively melancholy, it’s probably because I am. Ten days forking out for a film festival aren’t for everyone, least of all people with 9 to 5 jobs like Thomas. As I write this, he’s returned home and I’ve moved room, from our functional little double room to a cheaper, barely-functional 20x mixed dorm, the same room that Thomas rather reasonably disapproved of last year. It’s not the relative discomfort that bothers me, nor the solitude. I have films to look forward to, after all. It’s just the fact that Thomas has gone. That’s all. This is set to be the longest stretch of time that we’ve spent apart since we met nearly two years ago; we’ve enjoyed one another’s company at least briefly every day since March. I hope the next five days will be as wonderful as the first five, but I know they won’t.

Today was films out my arse, having slacked these last two days with only one film on each of them. I had three scheduled, so it was non-stop; outside of Thomas’ departure, the day was fairly uneventful otherwise (it didn’t have much time to be eventful), so I’ll get to it. Film #1 was one of the titles I’d most been looking forward to; ditto Thomas – Hou Hsiao Hsien’s The Assassin. I lost a bet on this winning the Palme d’Or at Cannes in May – it won the Prix de la Mise-en-Scene from the Coen brothers’ jury – but there were no hard feelings, only high expectations. You know the thrill of a film, or any experience indeed, not merely matching high expectations but exceeding them? I’d regret to raise any of you readers’ expectations too high, but I wonder where too high might even be, having seen a film reach such heights of artistry as this.

Hou introduced the film via a terse introductory message, but no need to regret his absence. We were in the presence of his genius, after all. Fascinating to witness his style adapt to a period piece, and that genre’s characteristics adapt to his style. Wondrous to witness a film so whole in its construction, with every aspect therein both complimenting and informing each other. Sublime to witness talent of this level create art of this level of beauty. It’s far from hyperbolic to proclaim The Assassin one of the most ravishing films of all time – this isn’t just any film, after all – since true brilliance is usually fairly easy to identify. No doubt we’ll all still agree with that assessment many years down the line.

One hour between film #1 and film #2 Is enough time to write a couple of reviews, attend to a few online obligations and fetch a small bucket of the most expensive popcorn in the world. Film #2 would be Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution. I know, right? Try saying that one! No rly, try. It’s worth trying, since it’s her fucking name, and no alternative pronunciation will suffice! The introducer, whose name I fittingly can’t remember, maybe ought to have tried, pronouncing it incorrectly on both utterances. After a wuxia film that was largely anything but, here’s a horror film that’s a little too , to prove that to its audience; in fact, Evolution shouldn’t be so overtly reliant on horror tropes and techniques, since it’s a story rich and deep in potential philosophical analysis, told by a filmmaker with obvious ability and strong stylistic intuition. What that story entails, I’ll leave to your imagination, since this is a film where little appears to happen, even as a lot actually does, and where much of it happens early on.

Hadzihalilovic wasn’t keen to explain too much either, even when prompted to by an audience member who considered some parts of the film ‘obscene’, though I’m not even certain that he meant that as a criticism. Her assertion that the film is only what you make of it personally is an oft-forgotten fact about all films (and one which The Witch director perhaps ought to consider, even if his film is superior), yet I found myself appreciating ever more Hadzihalilovic’s lengthy explanations for every other question she was posed. She revealed her struggles to find financing for the film (it’s been 11 years since her last, Innocence), and the surprising fact that those struggles only intensified when she positioned the project as a more conventional, narrative-driven, less-provocative prospect. She told of her inspiration for the story, stemming back to a mundane but frightening trip to the hospital for an appendectomy. She referenced the two films by Belgian directors Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani, Amer and The Strange Colour of Your Body’s Tears, both of which I enjoyed immensely and would highly recommend, the latter of which was my final film at LFF two years ago – Cattet and Forzani’s go-to DP Manuel Dacosse was the cinematographer for Evolution, and Amer’s costume designer Jackye Fauconnier also designed the wardrobe for this film. And she echoed Nemes László’s preference for film from the Son of Saul Q&A two days back, noting that she and Dacosse had to work hard to achieve a film-like effect even while shooting on digital due to difficulties, striving to achieve a tactility to the imagery that emphasised the textures, alongside a lack of focus and clarity reminiscent of dreams

Then Thomas left.

More work, more reviews, more time to be spent as fully as possible before film #3, Evangelia Kranioti’s Exotica, Erotica, etc. A funny one, in many ways – a film I selected on the strength of its synopsis and accompanying image in the LFF programme, a documentary about the lives and experiences of seamen and the prostitutes they frequent on the ports of the world. Its title is a tad pretentious, it screened in the BFI Southbank (which forbids cameras, so no shots of the film’s stunning beauty of a director) in its Screen 3, which forbids all food and drink. Its director had to endure a repeat mispronunciation of her name too – it had to happen to the two women, didn’t it?! Rather pleased that I caught two films directed by women today, and the other one is centred around a woman. Exotica, Erotica, etc. is vaguely obtuse, incomparably beautiful in its dramatic documentary cinematography, a bit pedestrian and unadventurous at times, but a quality artistic experience nonetheless, and at under 75 minutes. Like Evolution, I warmed up to the film more after hearing its director discuss it – Kranioti was most eloquent, open and well-informed on her project. She would be – she had over 450 hours of footage to craft a film out of, a film which began life as a photography piece which Kranioti filmed motion footage for in order to aid her memory in the editing room, and which morphed into an actual motion picture part way through. It was a process of discovery for its director, who was the only crew member aboard the ships on which she filmed most of Exotica, Erotica, etc.’s material – its main character, Chilean sex worker Sandy, came to Kranioti around midway through production, though even as she changed its course, this was a film that only took any kind of form in the editing room. Among another of its most notable elements is a sailor whom Kranioti contacted after eight years, having remembered their very brief meeting all that time ago and deciding that his voiceover recollections would serve the film excellently.

So what does a busy film lover like me do after a busy day watching films? See another film, ofc! Thomas, like much of the rest of the world, wasn’t impressed by the promotional material for Robert Zemeckis’ The Walk – since I have the time to see it alone, and on an IMAX screen (Belfast no longer has one of those), I made the five-minute journey from BFI Southbank to BFI IMAX, where I’d had such a fantastic time watching The Forbidden Room on Friday, to see this new release. Since it’s not quite as relevant to my festival coverage as the other films I saw today, and since I’m tired af and it’s late af as I’m writing this, I’ll keep it brief: The Walk is an utterly shite work of utter magnificence. Examine each element of it equally and individually and you’ll conclude that it’s a complete stinker; one individual element of The Walk is more equal than the others, however, and the vertiginous high-wire and WTC-scaling sequences that make up the bulk of its second half are absolutely astounding, and among the finest filmmaking of the year. The trouble is, they’re set alongside some of the most risible filmmaking that I’ve seen this year too.

I’ll take it easier tomorrow. I think I’ll have to. So here’s what to expect: Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Cemetery of Splendour, followed by the UK premiere and the LFF American Express gala of Todd Haynes’ Carol. Don’t be jelly, dickheads.

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There’s not a deadline that can’t be met, nor one that can’t be missed, during my stay in London. The film festival will keep on running whether I publish my reviews in time or not, but will I keep on running? I didn’t particularly feel like it when I awoke this morning to the effects of four hours’ sleep and many more hours’ drinking beforehand. Today would be a relaxing day, I reasoned. I’ve just the one review to write from yesterday, and just the one film to see today, and surely the hangover would pass… please?

Surely enough, it did, and equally surely, it was of little consequence. Life will still find a way of making me work for my contentment, of pulling me back when I need to drive further forward, and vice versa. The deadlines I set myself will prove more steadfast than the ones which are set for me – turn up at 6:30pm for your film and you can bet you’ll be kept waiting an extra ten minutes. Miss my own time targets, set in motion a backlog of work that’s somehow been allowed to become a secondary concern, and time might as well stand completely still. I’m anal like that. I’m anal like a few other ways too…

That 6:30pm screening was for Robert Eggers’ The Witch. It’d be the second consecutive day in which I’d take in only one film, an odd scenario for me at this festival, and the second consecutive directorial debut, after yesterday’s Son of Saul from Nemes László. That gave my boyfriend Thomas and myself most of the afternoon to take things as easy as we liked, and to work our way through the things we don’t normally have such time to indulge in. Or it seemed that we’d been given most of the afternoon: whether or not I’d made the best use of my lie-in (I absolutely hadn’t), whether or not I stayed productive through the morning (I absolutely did), whether or not Thomas’ own hangover would subside soon enough to get started on the day (tbh it probably did, but he never let on), we still found ourselves bound by our 6:30 deadline. I had a diary entry and a review to write, wifi to seek out wherever I could, tubes to catch, food to eat, and only then would we have shopping to do.

I always look forward to shopping more than I eventually enjoy it. I won’t wear just anything, in fact I wear almost nothing from high street stores, and I can’t bear to part with large sums of money, certainly not when they’re wasted on some item of clothing I’ll either never wear or never want to wear. And I’d have liked a new fragrance, but I didn’t exactly need one, and they’re overpriced af. Given that Thomas’ lie-in took far too long, and that lunch then took even longer, my much-anticipated shopping trip today was shorter and less fruitful than expected. Which means that this part of the diary entry will be too.

The Witch! Now here’s something I hadn’t been so eagerly-anticipating. Not that I’d expected the film to be bad – after all, I chose to spend my money on this ticket – just that I hadn’t expected it to be this good. The fellow who introduced the screening repeated the same act he’d employed the previous year when introducing It Follows, a film which had slightly tarnished my opinion on arthouse American horror films, speaking in fanboy soundbites that the audience consumed with distressing delight. The film promised to be another slick, somewhat scary, intellectually empty horror movie – much like It Follows – it wasn’t among the 2015 titles I’d been most excited to see…

It’s a terrific film, minor lack of intellectual depth aside. Alas, it aspires only to a moderate level of such qualities, trading instead in well-pitched commentary on religion and familial relationships, and on the intersection between these two, and in an even better-pitched atmosphere, constructed with mastery by all involved. The score initially seems to overwhelm the film (in the post-screening Q&A, director Eggers spoke of his decision to include non-diegetic music at all, accurately deducing that there were emotional elements not articulated by the film unless this soundtrack was added), but soon becomes identifiable as an integral part of its artistic structure. The visual design is stark and foreboding, and never too overtly, maintaining a manageable balance between reality and fantasy. The acting is of exceptionally high quality, and I genuinely don’t think I’ve seen so well-acted a film all year; every significant character, whether leading or supporting, is magnificent.

The Q&A was kept brief enough for me, though it was fairly informative. Director and writer Robert Eggers spoke engagingly about his keenness for genre films based upon personal themes and topics, and of his film’s apt genesis in inspirations of Eggers’ own past. Actor Ralph Ineson described how the cast was presented with lookbooks to inform them of the style that their director would be adopting for this quite specific setting of 1630s rural New England. Fellow actor Anya Taylor-Joy looked as though she’d just stepped out of a lookbook herself, clad in a beguiling Valentino dress whose vaguely pagan design seemed a canny fit for the film she was in attendance to promote. There were questions from the audience, and they were stupid, because by and large, members of the public who volunteer to pose questions at post-screening Q&As of genre films are wankers, and one look in their direction and I had confirmation of that prejudgement.

Tissues out, readers! My darling beloved departs this realm tomorrow. Not to heaven, but to Belfast, though which he considers preferable is up for debate. He’ll be catching the first two of my three titles tomorrow (back to my busy best!) – first is Hou Hsiao Hsien’s The Assassin, which had better be as brilliant as I’ve been led to believe; second is Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s welcome return to directing Evolution, and lastly is the second of six documentaries that I’ll see while at LFF this year, Evangelia Kranioti’s Exotica, Erotics, Etc. Night night!

Remember, Twitter is @screenonscreen, Facebook is Paddy Mulholland, phone no. is 911, your emergency is a debilitating deprivation of fierceness, your remedy is me!


Today was a unique day for me. It was the first day since my actual first day at the London Film Festival, this very Sunday two years ago, when I saw only one film. Last year’s trip was a stressful mess at times, as I strove to cram my schedule with as many titles as possible. I’ve cut back a little this year, being more selective about the films I’m seeing, and striving now to make the best possible use of what time I have here. It’s mainly for my boyfriend tbh – Thomas doesn’t deserve to have his time at the fest characterised solely by periods of frantic panic and periods of soul-sapping boredom as I sit at my laptop writing up some obnoxious judgement on one film after another.

Never mind that I allowed myself an extra 30 minutes this morning to get through those write-ups more calmly – there was still a ridiculous rush to Curzon Soho for my one and only film of the day, Hungarian director László Nemes’s Son of Saul. I’m definitely going to keep going on about this: one film today, literally just one film. It’s like I’m at home. It’s just so average. And at 1pm! I feel so staid, so plain, so dispiritingly normal. Thomas and I were seated in the front row, all the better to get a good look at László, who is bae but needs to sell that Grand Prix on ebay stat for some better clothes because he’s rly got it, in a kind of meek, nerdy, Central European way.

This isn’t a fashion review, however, it’s a film review, or something similar: Son of Saul is very good, as good as you’ve read. Nemes is a first-time director of feature-length films and has a fine education in filmmaking from the master of masters, his tragically retired countryman Tarr Béla. He’s got an understandable desire to experiment, and an equally understandable flair for it. The film doesn’t strike you for its philosophical depth nor its psychological complexity, but its power and its purpose are just as profound as anything Tarr has made, which are as philosophically and psychologically rich as any film you’re likely to see. It’s an internal, subjective perspective on a time in history too often regarded with ponderous detachment; Son of Saul is perhaps the most accurate recreation of the Holocaust I can recall in film. It’s recreation, not representation.

Nemes’ ensuing Q&A was as enlightening as I’d expected, and it contributed further strata of appreciation on my account. Not that anything new was revealed to me, more that the director, accompanied by one of the film’s principal cast members Molnár Levente, was able to articulate my opinions about the film better than even I had been myself, and able to explain why I’d actually formed those opinions. He told the audience of his desires in making the film, which he struggled to finance, desires that provide perfect clarity for anyone searching for a specific interpretation on Son of Saul. It’s a corrective film, emphasising the true, appropriate placement of blame for the Holocaust not on the victims but on the perpetrators, stressing a sense of verisimilitude in the chaotic combination of chaos and order in the concentration camps, depicting the deprivation of innocence in the Sonderkommando Saul, played by Röhrig Géza, in his collusion in his own destruction, and thus suggesting a notion of what Nemes referred to as ‘the suicide of Europe’, a notion that carries particular profundity given Hungary’s recent deplorable actions against refugees (and those of many other nations both in and outside Europe). He expressed a disdain for the widescreen, poverty-porn fantasy of other Holocaust films, explaining that he wanted a physiological experience for his viewers, an intimate and unforgiving one, relating this to his decision to shoot on film. He compared this screening, which was on delicious 35mm film, to the film’s previous screening at LFF, which was on digital, and that was where the real disdain crept in. I harbour sympathy for those filmmakers trying to keep alive the art of shooting and projecting on film, though I certainly couldn’t agree with this one filmmaker’s assertion that the decline in this technique represents ‘the first regression in the history of cinema’. For many reasons, that’s a fairly ignorant and elitist notion to float, though a typically elitist-looking audience greeted that statement with the biggest applause I’ve yet heard at the festival.

Fuck that, there’s a whole day to be had from here on out. A whole day and a whole night, and a whole lot of booze. Thomas and I met with one of his friends from his time at university and her boyfriend and we spent a couple of hours with beers and banter in a nearby pub, which was more reasonably-priced than I’d expected. They left around 6pm, given that they’re normal people and had to get home because it’s a Sunday evening and that’s what normal people normally do; Thomas and I aren’t feeling especially normal, so we indulged in a rather less reasonably-priced Chinese dinner in Chinatown, and indulged further in a night at G-A-Y that just kept getting later and later. You’ve got the pictures to prove it now, or at least the ones I’m comfortable with exposing to humanity. Gin is just way too easy to drink. Chinese meals are just way too salty. As I write this diary entry, I’m way too dehydrated to go into detail, but it was a worthwhile night out, primarily because they played B*Witched, and there’s just about nothing an Irish gay boy loves more than a spirit and B*Witched.

A unique day is about to become rather less unique – wisely, there’s again only one film tomorrow (or today, as I write this), and it’s gloriously late: a screening of Robert Eggers’ horror movie The Witch at 6:30. Not a day of drinking ahead, but a day of shopping!!!!1!!!!!11!1!!! J J J J J


London, Tuesday 1 September 2015: – The programme for the 59th 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. BFI London Film Festival is 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. The Festival provides an essential platform for films seeking global success; and promotes the careers of British and international filmmakers through its industry and awards programmes. With this year’s industry programme stronger than ever, offering international filmmakers and leaders a programme of insightful events covering every area of the film industry‎ LFF positions London as the world’s leading creative city.


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

  • · Jerzy Skolimowski, 11 MINUTES
  • · Cary Fukunaga, BEASTS OF NO NATION
  • · Apichatpong Weerasethakul, CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR
  • · Athina Rachel Tsangari, CHEVALIER
  • · Simon Stone, THE DAUGHTER
  • · Jonás Cuarón, DESIERTO (European Premiere)
  • · Lucile Hadžihalilović, EVOLUTION
  • · Johnnie To, OFFICE (European Premiere)
  • · Lenny Abrahamson, ROOM
  • · László Nemes, SON OF SAUL
  • · Terence Davies, SUNSET SONG
  • · Sean Baker, TANGERINE
  • · Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya, VERY BIG SHOT (European Premiere)


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

  • · Mai Masri, 3000 NIGHTS (European Premiere)
  • · Magnus von Horn, THE HERE AFTER
  • · Trey Edward Shults, KRISHA
  • · Yared Zeleke, LAMB
  • · Esther May Campbell, LIGHT YEARS
  • · Ariel Kleiman, PARTISAN
  • · Eugenio Canevari, PAULA
  • · Bentley Dean, Martin Butler, TANNA
  • · Piero Messina, THE WAIT
  • · Nitzan Gilady, WEDDING DOLL (European Premiere)
  • · Robert Eggers, THE WITCH


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:

  • · João Pedro Plácido, (BE)LONGING
  • · Mor Loushy, CENSORED VOICES
  • · David Sington, THE FEAR OF 13 (World Premiere)
  • · Alexandria Bombach, Mo Scarpelli, FRAME BY FRAME (European Premiere)
  • · Alexander Sokurov, FRANCOFONIA
  • · Frederick Wiseman, IN JACKSON HEIGHTS
  • · Tomer Heymann, MR. GAGA (International Premiere)
  • · Patricio Guzmán, THE PEARL BUTTON
  • · Sarah Turner, PUBLIC HOUSE (World Premiere)
  • · Jennifer Peedom, SHERPA (European Premiere)


In its inaugural year, the Short Film Award recognises short form works with a unique cinematic voice and a confident handling of chosen theme and content. This year the Festival is screening:

  • · João Paulo Miranda Maria, COMMAND ACTION
  • · Till Nowak, DISSONANCE
  • · Nina Gantz, EDMOND
  • · Peter Tscherkassky, THE EXQUISITE CORPUS
  • · Mees Peijnenburg, A HOLE IN MY HEART
  • · An van Dienderen, LILI (International Premiere)
  • · Maïmouna Doucouré, MOTHER(S)
  • · Shai Heredia, Shumona Goel, AN OLD DOG’S DIARY (European Premiere)
  • · Caroline Bartleet, OPERATOR (World Premiere)
  • · Jörn Threlfall, OVER
  • · Vivienne Dick, RED MOON RISING (World Premiere)
  • · Ziya Demirel, TUESDAY

The Festival will screen a total of 238 fiction and documentary features, including 16 World Premieres, 8 International Premieres, 40 European Premieres and 11 Archive films including 5 Restoration World Premieres.[1] There will also be screenings of 182 live action and animated shorts. A stellar line-up of directors, cast and crew are expected to take part in career interviews, ScreenTalks, Q&As and a new programme of Industry Talks: LFF Connects. The 59th BFI London Film Festival will run Wednesday 7 – Sunday 18 October 2015.

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



The Festival opens with the European Premiere of SUFFRAGETTE, starring Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne-Marie Duff, Brendan Gleeson, Ben Whishaw and Meryl Streep. Director Sarah Gavron returns to the Festival for a third time with a film that tells the story of the ordinary British women at the turn of the last century who risked everything in the fight for equality and the right to vote.

Audiences around the UK will have the chance to enjoy a live cinecast from the Opening Night red carpet via satellite to cinemas across the UK, followed by an exclusive preview screening of Suffragette. All the red carpet action will also be live-streamed on the BFI’s YouTube channel, thanks to our partners at Pathé and Google.

The European Premiere of STEVE JOBS will close the Festival, directed by Danny Boyle whose films Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and 127 Hours (2010) previously closed the Festival. Based on Walter Isaacson’s best-selling biography, the film takes us behind the scenes of the digital revolution to create a revealing portrait of the man at its epicentre. The film stars Michael Fassbender in the title role, Academy Award® winner Kate Winslet, Seth Rogen, Jeff Daniels, Michael Stuhlbarg and Katherine Waterston.


Among the other highly anticipated Galas are the previously announced American Express Gala of Todd Haynes’ CAROL, a beautiful 1950s romantic drama about a young woman working as a clerk in a department store who meets and falls in love with an alluring woman trapped in a loveless convenient marriage. The film stars Academy Award® winner Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, who won the Best Actress Award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for her role in the film. The Accenture Gala is the European premiere of TRUMBO, directed by Jay Roach and starring Bryan Cranston in a cracking performance as Dalton Trumbo, the Hollywood screenwriter who was blacklisted after refusing to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities in 1947. Diane Lane, Helen Mirren, Elle Fanning, Louis C.K. and John Goodman round out the cast. We are delighted to welcome back Official Airline Partner to this year’s Festival, Virgin Atlantic who will present Scott Cooper’s chilling crime drama BLACK MASS starring Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch and Joel Edgerton. The May Fair Hotel Gala is the European Premiere of the stirring drama BROOKLYN starring Saoirse Ronan, Domhnall Gleeson and Emory Cohen, adapted for the screen by Nick Hornby from Colm Tóibin’s best-selling novel about the exquisite pain of choosing between an Irish homeland and the new promise of America. The Centrepiece Gala supported by the Mayor of London is the European Premiere of director Nicholas Hytner’s THE LADY IN THE VAN adapted from writer Alan Bennett’s play and starring Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent, Frances De La Tour and Roger Allam. The Festival Gala is Ben Wheatley’s HIGH-RISE starring Tom Hiddleston as Dr. Robert Laing, a man who has just taken ownership of a luxurious apartment in this brilliant satire based on JG Ballard’s classic novel. The Archive Gala is the World Premiere of the BFI National Archive restoration of SHOOTING STARS, directed by A.V. Bramble and Anthony Asquith (1928).


This year, the Festival introduces three Special Presentations, they are: the Experimenta Special Presentation, Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson’s phantasmagoric opus THE FORBIDDEN ROOM which screens at BFI IMAX; the Documentary Special Presentation, Davis Guggenheim’s HE NAMED ME MALALA an inspiring portrait of an incredibly brave and resilient young woman who carries a message of hope for women in the world; and the previously announced Fellowship Special Presentation of James Vanderbilt’s TRUTH starring Cate Blanchett in honour of the actress receiving the BFI Fellowship at this year’s LFF Awards Ceremony.


The nine programme strands are each headlined with a gala, they are: the Love Gala, Luca Guadagnino’s A BIGGER SPLASH; the Debate Gala, Stephen Frears’ THE PROGRAM; the Dare Gala, Yorgos Lanthimos’ THE LOBSTER; the Laugh Gala, Ondi Timoner’s BRAND: A SECOND COMING (European Premiere); the Thrill Gala, Deepa Mehta’s BEEBA BOYS (International Premiere); the Cult Gala, S. Craig Zahler’s BONE TOMAHAWK (International Premiere); the Journey Gala, Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s THE ASSASSIN; the Sonic Gala, Hany Abu-Assad’s THE IDOL (European Premiere) and the Family Gala is Rob Letterman’s GOOSEBUMPS (European Premiere).


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. This year there is also the newly introduced Short Film Award, presented to one of a shortlist of 12 films selected from across the programme. Each section is open to international and British films.


Key filmmaking talent due to attend the Festival’s gala and special presentation screenings include: Carey Mulligan, Helena Bonham-Carter, Meryl Streep, Sarah Gavron, Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Danny Boyle, Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Todd Haynes, Bryan Cranston, Helen Mirren, Jay Roach, Benedict Cumberbatch, Scott Cooper, Saoirse Ronan, John Crowley, Nick Hornby, Colm Toíbín, Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Nicholas Hytner, Alan Bennett, Tom Hiddleston, Ben Wheatley, Luca Guadagnino, Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Yorgos Lanthimos, Ben Foster, Stephen Frears, Ondi Timoner, Randeep Hooda, Deepa Mehta, S. Craig Zahler, Hany Abu-Assad, Guy Maddin and Davis Guggenheim.

Additional filmmaking talent attending for films in competition include: for Official Competition: Jerzy Skolimowski, Cary Fukunaga, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Jonás Cuarón, Lucile Hadžihalilović, Lenny Abrahamson, Brie Larson, Terence Davies, László Nemes, Sean Baker; First Feature Competition: Mai Masri, Eva Husson, Magnus von Horn, Trey Edward Shults, Yared Zaleke, Esther May Campbell, Nitzan Gilady, Ariel Kleiman, Eugenio Canevari, Robert Eggers, Piero Messina; Documentary Competition: João Pedro Plácido, Mor Loushy, David Sington, Walter Salles , Tomer Haymenn, Patricio Guzmán, Sarah Turner and Hanna Polak.

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


The Festival programme is organised into categories clustered around the themes of Love, Debate, Dare, Laugh, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Sonic, Family and Experimenta – 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 is a complex and many splendoured thing. The Love Gala is Luca Guadagnino’s feature A BIGGER SPLASH set on the volcanic, windswept Sicilian island of Pantelleria and starring Tilda Swinton as a rock star, Matthias Schoenaerts as her filmmaker lover, Ralph Fiennes as a cocky music producer and Dakota Johnson as his petulant, sexy daughter.

Other titles in this section include: Naomi Kawase’s sweet, light and leisurely AN; Tom Geens’ COUPLE IN A HOLE, about a couple living in an underground forest dwelling to be left alone to deal with their mysterious grief; DEPARTURE, Andrew Steggall’s delicate first feature about longing, loneliness and nostalgia for a sense of family that may have never existed; Jacques Audiard’s Palme d’Or-winner about a makeshift family trying to cement their bonds, DHEEPAN; the World Premiere of Biyi Bandele’s FIFTY, a riveting exploration of love and lust, power and rivalry and seduction and infidelity in Lagos; the European Premiere of Maya Newell’s documentary GAYBY BABY, following the lives of four Australian children whose parents all happen to be gay; Mark Cousins returns to LFF with his metaphysical essay film I AM BELFAST, Stig Björkman’s documentary INGRID BERGMAN – IN HER OWN WORDS, a treasure trove of Bergman’s never-before-seen home movies, personal letters and diary extracts alongside archive footage; Hirokazu Kore-eda’s beautiful OUR LITTLE SISTER, focusing on the lives of four young women related through their late father in provincial Japan; the European Premiere of Mabel Cheung’s sweeping Chinese epic based on the true story of Jackie Chan’s parents A TALE OF THREE CITIES and Guillaume Nicloux’s VALLEY OF LOVE starring Isabelle Huppert and Gérard Depardieu in a tale of love, loss, memory and the mystical.


Debate thrives on conversation, which is never more engaging than when the world outside the cinema is reflected back at us. This year’s Debate Gala is Stephen Frears’s THE PROGRAM starring Ben Foster as cyclist Lance Armstrong, charting his rise to near canonization and his subsequent fall from grace.

Other highlights in this section include: Pablo Larraín’s THE CLUB, a mordant morality tale set in a sleepy Chilean coastal town, which won Berlin’s Grand Jury Prize; CHRONIC, Michel Franco’s uncompromising study of grief and isolation, featuring a revelatory performance by Tim Roth; brothers Tarzan and Arab Nasser’s feature directorial debut, DÉGRADÉ, a smart drama that moves seamlessly between humour and despair, set in a women’s hair salon in Gaza; the European Premiere of George Amponsah’s intimate documentary THE HARD STOP, revealing the story of Mark Duggan’s friends and family following his death after being shot in a ‘Hard Stop’ police procedure in 2011; Jonas Carpignano’s engrossing feature debut, THE MEASURE OF A MAN which won Vincent Lindon Best Actor at Cannes Film Festival, MEDITERRANEA, an ultra-topical tale of two young African men from Burkina Faso who, in search of a better life, make the difficult and dangerous trip across the Sahara desert and Mediterranean Sea to reach Italy; the drama MUCH LOVED, Nabil Ayouch’s searing, no-holds-barred look at the world of prostitution in Morocco; David Evans’ thought-provoking documentary MY NAZI LEGACY, which raises the harrowing question, ‘What if your father was a Nazi?’; the World Premiere of John Dower’s MY SCIENTOLOGY MOVIE which features Louis Theroux as he heads to Los Angeles to explore the Church of Scientology; Sebastián Silva’s beguiling, seductive and confrontational NASTY BABY; PAULINA, Santiago Mitre’s intelligent parable for contemporary Argentina, which won the Critics Week Grand Prize in Cannes; TAKLUB, Brillante Ma Mendoza’s riveting ode to a Filipino city wreaked by a typhoon; and Jafar Panahi’s latest film, TAXI TEHRAN, winner of the Golden Bear at this year’s Berlinale and set and shot from inside a car.


Here you’ll find films that are in your face, up-front and arresting, taking you out of and beyond your comfort zone. The Dare Gala is Yorgos Lanthimos’ THE LOBSTER which stars Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Coleman, John C. Reilly, Léa Sedoux and Ben Whishaw in a bleakly hilarious skewering of fundamentalist diktats and rituals that is also a tender plea for genuine intimacy amid society’s self-imposed absurdities.

Other highlights in this strand include: Miguel Gomes’ mixes fantasy, documentary, docu-fiction, Brechtian pantomime and echoes of MGM musical in the epic ARABIAN NIGHTS; the World Premiere of William Fairman and Max Gogarty’s CHEMSEX, an unflinching, powerful documentary about the pleasures and perils associated with the ‘chemsex’ scene that’s far more than a sensationalist exposé; the European Premiere of CLOSET MONSTER, Stephen Dunn’s remarkable debut feature about an artistic, sexually confused teen who has conversations with his pet hamster, voiced by Isabella Rossellini; THE ENDLESS RIVER a devasting new film set in small-town South Africa from Oliver Hermanus, Diep Hoang Nguyen’s beautiful debut, FLAPPING IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE, a wry, weird socially probing take on the teen pregnancy scenario that focuses on a girl whose escape from village life to pursue an urban education has her frozen in mid-flight; LUCIFER, Gust Van den Berghe’s thrillingly cinematic tale of Lucifer as an angel who visits a Mexican village, filmed in ‘Tondoscope’ – a circular frame in the centre of the screen; the European premiere of KOTHANODI a compelling, unsettling fairytale from India; veteran Algerian director Merzak Allouache’s gritty and delicate portrait of a drug addicted petty thief in MADAME COURAGE; Radu Muntean’s excellent ONE FLOOR BELOW, which combines taut, low-key realism with incisive psychological and ethical insights in a drama centering on a man, his wife and a neighbor; and QUEEN OF EARTH, Alex Ross Perry’s devilish study of mental breakdown and dysfunctional power dynamics between female best friends, starring Elisabeth Moss.


This year’s Laugh strand encompasses richly diverse geography, subject matter and senses of humour, from gleeful to bittersweet and wickedly satirical. This year’s Laugh Gala is the European Premiere of BRAND: A SECOND COMING, an energetic, complex and frequently hilarious documentary about Russell Brand directed by Ondi Timoner.

Other titles in this strand include: comic visionary Jaco Van Dormael’s scabrously provocative, philosophically asute parable THE BRAND NEW TESTAMENT, which poses the question ‘What if God were Belgian and a cantankerous, vindicative slob who runs the whole show from a dilapidated apartment in Brussels?’; the World Premiere of Chanya Button’s debut feature BURN BURN BURN starring Downton Abbey’s Laura Carmichael, which takes the road trip buddy movie on its own smart, female-centric spin; Ali F. Mostafa’s FROM A TO B, a ‘dramedy’ following three estranged childhood companions who embark on a road trip to commemorate the fifth anniversary of a friend’s death and offers a new perspective on life in the Gulf and Middle East; Paul Weitz’s GRANDMA, a supremely enjoyable ‘road movie’ starring Lily Tomlin as the gloriously profane septuagenarian whose curt words and emotional armour can’t quite mask her broken heart; Bao Nguyen’s Saturday Night Live documentary LIVE FROM NEW YORK!; MEN AND CHICKEN, Anders Thomas Jensen’s dark, twisted and extremely animalistic comedy as black as pitch, but with the sweetest heart, starring Mads Mikkelsen; Fernando León de Aranoa’s black comedy A PERFECT DAY, a freewheeling tale centering on two veteran aid workers starring Benico Del Toro and Tim Robbins; the International Premiere of Brendan Cowell’s debut RUBEN GUTHRIE about an advertising exec trying to quit the booze, which spikes social observations with dark, wounded humour and the European Premiere of Japanese auteur/icon Takeshi Kitano’s latest comedy, RYUZO AND HIS SEVEN HENCHMEN, about a group of elderly, retired Yakuza who reteam to take revenge on a younger rival gang.


This year’s Thrill strand features nerve-shredders that’ll get your adrenalin pumping and will keep you on the edge of your seat. The Gala presentation for this strand is the International Premiere of Deepa Mehta’s BEEBA BOYS, an energetic gangster movie that also explores South Asian family values set in Vancouver’s Sikh immigrant badlands and starring Randeep Hooda.

Other highlights in this section include: the European Premiere of Choi Dong-hoon’s colourful period bullet opera, ASSASSINATION; the European Premiere of Daniel Junge’s thrill-a-minute BEING EVEL about the legendary daredevil Robert Craig ‘Evel’ Knievel; the European Premiere of David Farr’s crafty and suspenseful study in paranoia, THE ONES BELOW starring David Morrissey and Clémence Poésy; Atom Egoyan’s latest drama REMEMBER, offering a provocative study of the nature of evil as well as serving as a stark reminder of the atrocities of 20th century history, starring Christopher Plummer and Martin Landau; Gabriel Clarke and John McKenna’s gripping documentary STEVE MCQUEEN: THE MAN & LE MANS, featuring unseen archive footage, contemporary interviews and previously unheard commentary from McQueen himself; Stephen Fingleton’s thrilling, post-apocalyptic debut THE SURVIVALIST; Sebastian Schipper’s exhilarating one-shot sensation, VICTORIA; and THE WAVE, Roar Uthaug’s high-octane and nerve-shredding portrayal of a potential catastrophe.


In the Cult strand, the dark side is welcomed with outcasts and reprobates taking centre stage in this year’s crop of films. The Cult Gala is the International Premiere of S. Craig Zahler’s gloriously imaginative genre hybrid BONE TOMAHAWK starring Kurt Russell in a film with enough surprises to satisfy even the most jaded horror hounds and western fans.

Other highlights in this strand include: the World Premiere of Thierry Poiraud’s DON’T GROW UP, a stylish and inventive film about a group of teens on an unnamed island who wake up to find their youth facility eerily abandoned; the World Premiere of Jon Spira’s affectionate documentary ELSTREE 1976 about the bit performers who appeared in George Lucas’ box office behemoth Star Wars; GHOST THEATER, the latest film from director Hideo Nakata, the forerunner of J-horror; GREEN ROOM, Jeremy Saulnier’s latest exercise in edge of the seat suspense, starring Patrick Stewart, Imogen Poots and Anton Yelchin; returning for the third year running, Sion Sono screens LOVE AND PEACE, his tale of punk rock and talking turtles; and the fantastically prolific Takashi Miike’s riotous, unruly gangster vampire concoction YAKUZA APOCALYPSE.


Journey is all about the temporal voyage. This year’s Journey Gala is Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s breathtakingly elegant and mesmerizing first foray into wuxia (martial arts), THE ASSASSIN, which won him the Best Director prize at the Cannes Film Festival this year. Hou Hsiao-Hsien is the subject of retrospective – Also Like Life – at BFI Southbank this month in the lead-up to the Festival and will participate in a career interview on Monday 14 September at BFI Southbank.

Other titles in this section include: Radu Jude’s vivid, Wallachian western AFERIM!, COWBOYS, the directorial debut of Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet and Rust and Bone co-writer Thomas Bidegain; the breathtaking ethnographic Colombian Amazon odyssey EMBRACE OF THE SERPENT; James Ponsoldt’s THE END OF THE TOUR starring Jason Segel as writer David Foster Wallace and Jesse Eisenberg as Rolling Stone journalist David Lipsky in this engrossing two-hander; Writer-Director Jayro Bustamante’s IXCANUL VOLCANO, the European Premiere Stevan Riley’s enthralling Marlon Brando documentary LISTEN TO ME MARLON; Jia Zhangke’s ambitious, astute and humane MOUNTAINS MAY DEPART; the European Premiere of Sylvia Chang’s often-ethereal magic-realist drama love story, MURMUR OF THE HEARTS; the European Premiere of THE NEW CLASSMATE about a single mum in India battling to ensure her daughter’s future; SEMBÈNE!, Samba Gadjigo and Jason Silverman’s incisive documentary on acclaimed African filmmaker Ousmane Sembène; Chloé Zhao’s SONGS MY BROTHERS TAUGHT ME; and Paolo Sorrentino’s deliciously bittersweet drama YOUTH, starring Michael Caine, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, Paul Dano and Jane Fonda.


‘We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams’, so goes Arthur O’Shaughnessy’s 1873 poem Ode, and so goes this year’s Sonic strand. The Sonic Gala is the European Premiere of two-time Oscar-nominated director Hany Abu-Assad’s new film THE IDOL, based on the incredible true story of Mohammad Assaf, winner of ‘Arab Idol’.

Other highlights in this strand include: the World Premiere of Bernard MacMahon’s documentary THE AMERICAN EPIC SESSIONS, a haunting collision of past and present, presided over by the high priests of the great tradition of American music, Jack White and T Bone Burnett; the World Premiere of James Caddick and James Cronin’s documentary ELEPHANT DAYS, which charts The Maccabees creative process as they record their 4th album Marks To Prove It in an anonymous studio in Elephant and Castle; JANIS: LITTLE GIRL BLUE, Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg’s Janis Joplin documentary drawing on archival footage, contemporary interviews and the singer’s personal correspondences; punk filmmaker Khavn De La Cruz’s RUINED HEART: ANOTHER LOVE STORY BETWEEN A CRIMINAL AND A WHORE, an irreverent orgy of sex and crime with a banging soundtrack at its core; the International Premiere of Bobbito Garcia’s STRETCH AND BOBBITO: RADIO THAT CHANGED LIVES, a documentary about The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show which broadcasted on New York’s WKCP radio in the 1990’s and featured unsigned at the time artists such as Jay Z, Nas and Eminem; and the European Premiere of THEY WILL HAVE TO KILL US FIRST: MALIAN MUSIC IN EXILE, Johanna Schwartz’s debut feature which intelligently captures the complexity and emotion of the life of musicians forced into exile and desperate to keep their music alive.


Showcasing films for the young, as well as the young at heart, this year’s Family section is a truly international affair, kicking off with the Family Gala, the European Premiere of Rob Letterman’s GOOSEBUMPS, featuring Jack Black.

Other highlights are ADAMA a deeply moving animation about the life of a young boy in West Africa in 1914; Mamoru Hosoda’s THE BOY AND THE BEAST, an exquisitely animated fable about a boy who has run away from home and is alone in the human world following the passing of his mother; Jury Feting’s CELESTIAL CAMEL, a fascinating and thrilling tale about a 12 year old herder whose father has sold a young colt who may be the fabled ‘celestial camel’; Academy Award® winner Gabriele Salvatores’ THE INVISIBLE BOY, a charming coming of age tale about a shy boy, picked on by his peers, who gets his wish to hide from the world when he discovers a Halloween outfit that makes him invisible; Alexandre Heboyan and Benoît Philippon’s hugely enjoyable CGI animated adventure MUNE, about a faun who lives in a faraway world; Studio Ghibli’s beautiful drama WHEN MARNIE WAS THERE, directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi; and the World Premiere of Tim Clague and Danny Stark’s WHO KILLED NELSON NUTMEG?, featuring Bonnie Wright from the Harry Potter series.

There is a dedicated section for animated shorts for younger audiences which bring together eclectic, exciting and colourful films from all around the globe. English language and subtitled, suitable for all ages. Amongst the highlights of this year’s 14 titles is director Sanjay Patel’s SANJAY’S SUPER TEAM from Pixar.


Experimenta, the LFF showcase of experimental cinema and artist moving image is programmed in partnership with LUX for a third year and is supported by the Arts Council England. Focused on films and videos by artists, it aims to screen films that use the moving image to change the way we think of film and how it functions. The Experimenta Special Presentation is THE FORBIDDEN ROOM, a gleeful, hypnotic and totally deranged epic directed by Guy Maddin and Evan Johnson.

An extensive selection of work from across the world is presented including the World Premieres of William English’s HEATED GLOVES and THE HOST, in which director Miranda Pennell delves deeper into her past and her late parents’ involvement with the Anglo Iranian Oil Company (BP); Ben Rivers’ THE SKY TREMBLES AND THE EARTH IS AFRAID AND THE TWO EYES ARE NOT BROTHERS, the feature element of Ben’s current Artangel installation at BBC White City; EVENT FOR A STAGE by Tacita Dean, a filmed presentation of her live theatrical happening in collaboration with actor Stephen Dillane at the 2014 Sydney Biennial; the European Premiere of Omer Fast’s REMAINDER, a London-set thriller adapted from Tom McCarthy’s acclaimed novel of the same name; the European Premiere of INVENTION which highlights the possibilities of camera movement and the development of artistic apparatus and Kevin Jerome Everson’s PARK LANES, set in an American bowling alley over the course of a day.


A hugely diverse range of original and exciting short films that will captivate audiences span the festival strands this year.

Films of Love and Devotion explores and attempts to explain the old adage that the course of true love never did run smooth with Rob Savage’s ABSENCE starring Paul McGann as a grieving man and OFFLINE DATING, a documentary about a single man’s search for love without the use of the internet. The Last Man Standing is a Girl programme explores the role of young women in society with GROOVE IS IN THE HEART, a tale of music and memory revealed through a school girl’s mixtape and A GIRL’S DAY from German director Hannah Ziegler. The Family at War shorts attempts to show what families are really like and how we survive them with TAMARA by Sofia Safonova and VIDEO where we see Elaine having trouble balancing life between her teenage daughter and a secret evening job. Funny How? How am I Funny? explores the comedy in cultural misunderstanding with OTHRWISE ENGAGED and black comedy KUNG FURY. The Fight or Flight programme charts the human response to extreme situations and Wild at Heart and Weird on Top presents eleven shorts that explore the history of film. In the Neighborhood is human stories of love, death and life-changing moments and includes Oscar Hudson’s LORD AND LIDL, where God unexpectedly shows up at the supermarket. London Calling is a selection of shorts from some of the capital’s most exciting new filmmakers and is supported by Film London. Sound Mirrors features nine diverse shorts all on a musical theme and Animated Shorts for Younger Audiences bring together a mix of exciting stories from around the world to surprise and delight children and adults alike.


Treasures bring 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.V. Bramble and Anthony Asquith’s silent film SHOOTING STARS (1928), presented with a new live score by John Altman, BAFTA and Emmy award-winning composer whose work includes Titanic and Goldeneye. Asquith’s feature debut not only announced the arrival of a significant new director, it is an exuberant, joyful pastiche of the movie industry and is a fascinating behind-the-scenes glimpse and searing comment on the shallowness of the star system. The film restoration and new score is supported by a number of generous individuals, trusts and organisations.

A number of other major restorations will have their World Premieres at the Festival: Carol Reed’s atmospheric Graham Greene adaptation of OUR MAN IN HAVANA (1959), set in Cuba at the start of the Cold War, makes timely viewing as US/Cuba relations thaw; Ken Russell’s reworking of D.H. Lawrence scandalous classic WOMEN IN LOVE (1970) stars Oliver Reed, Alan Bates and Glenda Jackson and shows two couple’s contrasting searches for love, and was restored by the BFI National Archive working alongside cinematographer Billy Williams; A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS (1966) is directed by Fred Zinnemann from a script by great British screenwriter, Robert Bolt from Bolt’s play about Sir Thomas More, a perfect companion piece to Wolf Hall; Henry Fonda stars in the ripe-for-discovery WARLOCK (1959), a seething study of vengeance and repressed sexuality in a Utah mining outpost; and Bryan Forbes’ THE RAGING MOON (1971) starring Malcolm McDowell and Nanette Newman in a tender story between two young people in wheelchairs which was ahead of its time in its attempts to change attitudes to disability.

From newsreels to comedy sketches, the 21 films that make up MAKE MORE NOISE! SUFFRAGETTES IN FILM (1934) are a historical accompaniment to our Opening Night film and a fascinating representation of women at the time that the battle for universal suffrage was being fought on the streets.

Martin Scorsese said of Ousmane Sembène’s BLACK GIRL (1966): ‘An astonishing movie – so ferocious, so haunting and so unlike anything we’d ever seen. ’Sembène’s first feature, which tells the tragic story of Diouana, a young Senegalese women eager to find a better life, draws from the Nouvelle Vague, but the film’s heart and soul is definitely African. It is the perfect companion to Samba Gadjigo’s documentary SEMBÈNE!

And for a lighter-hearted but no less majestic cinema experience, George Sidney’s breathlessly delightful KISS ME KATE (1953) brings the Cole Porter penned musical to screen, here in magnificent 3D.

Rock and roll hall-of-famer Leon Russell is the heart of an ineffable, joyous collage of mesmerising live performance and vérité realism in A POEM IS A NAKED PERSON (1974), filmed between 1972-1974 by director Les Blank. Previously unavailable theatrically in the four decades since it was made.

Other highlights include Mira Nair’s Oscar-nominated debut feature SALAAM BOMBAY! (1988); the Holy Grail of silent comedy shorts, a previously-thought-lost Laurel and Hardy THE BATTLE OF THE CENTURY (1927), and Luchino Visconti’s fully restored masterpiece ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS (1960), starring Alain Delon in a grand emotional opus on imploding fraternal tensions.

Screen Talks

We are delighted to announce this year’s programme of events will include Screen Talks with filmmaker Todd Haynes, actor Saoirse Ronan, casting director Laura Rosenthal and filmmakers Jia Zhangke and Walter Salles.

This year, the BFI warmly welcomes Todd Haynes to discuss his inspiring and critically acclaimed directing career. His latest film, the poignant CAROL, is screening as the American Express Gala in this year’s LFF. A pioneer of the Queer Cinema Movement Todd Haynes’ films explore the themes of identity and sexuality beginning with the controversial SUPERSTAR: THE KAREN CARPENTER STORY, the acclaimed FAR FROM HEAVEN and the Bob Dylan biopic I’M NOT THERE in more recent years. – Thursday 15 October

We are thrilled to welcome Casting Director Laura Rosenthal to lead a Screen Talk about the work of a casting director when taking a film from script to screen. Having worked with a number of ground-breaking directors, Laura Rosenthal’s impressive credits include Paolo Sorrentino’s YOUTH, BUFFALO SOLDIERS, starring Joaquin Phoenix, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDIATE and most recently CAROL, continuing her long-standing collaboration with Todd Haynes. – Saturday 10 October

Saoirse Ronan shines in The May Fair Hotel gala Brooklyn in which she delivers a nuanced, mature performance that not only reinforces her acting credentials, it signals a new phase in her already impressive career. She received Academy and BAFTA Award nominations for her performance in Joe Wright’s Atonement (2007), a BAFTA nomination for Peter Jackson’s The Lovely Bones and has worked subsequently with directors the calibre of Wright, Peter Weir, Neil Jordan, Kevin MacDonald and Wes Anderson. – Sunday 11 October

Internationally-acclaimed Chinese director Jia Zhangke and the Academy and BAFTA award-winning Walter Salles will partner in a Screen Talk dedicated to discussing Salles’ documentary JIA ZHANGKE: A GUY FROM FENYANG and their respective approaches to film making. Both established film makers, the documentary is a tribute from one artist to the other as well as a revealing look at Jia’s life and work offering audiences a rare insight into the creative mind. – Thursday 8 October

LFF Connects

LFF Connects is a brand new series of thought-provoking high-impact talks intended to stimulate new collaborations and ideas by exploring both the future of film itself and how film engages with other creative industries including television, music, art, games and creative technology.

LFF Connects: Film – Friday 9 October

As previously announced, the inaugural LFF Connects will feature British filmmaker Christopher Nolan, internationally acclaimed for some of the most original, compelling and successful films in contemporary cinema (Interstellar, Inception, The Dark Knight, Memento), and Tacita Dean, lauded for her art work in film (and whose grand-scale Tate Modern exhibition FILM transfixed audiences).


The BFI are set to bestow it’s highest honor on Cate Blanchett at this year’s London Film Festival. Blanchett will be the receipient of the BFI Fellowship Award, the award is given to individuals in recoginition of their contribution to film or TV.

Blanchett will make two appearances at the London Film Festival when Carol and Truth both play. Greg Dyke, BFI Chairman said, “Cate Blanchett is a compelling and brave actress whose mesmerizing screen presence has captivated audiences since her earliest roles. We are absolutely delighted to honor her extraordinary talents with a BFI Fellowship at this year’s LFF awards.”

The 2015 BFI London film festival runs from 7-18 October. The BFI Fellowship will be awarded on Saturday, October 17 at London’s Banqueting House.

Carol opens on November 20.

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 – – 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


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

Chiung 01

Chiung 02

Ellis 01

Kateb 01

Mericeau 01

Mericeau 02

Moore 01

Moore 02

Mortensen 01

Odeon 01

Oelhoffen 01

Oelhoffen 02

Panel 01

Panel 02

Panel 03

Panel 04

Parkour 01

girlhood 3

Director Céline Sciamma talks about her film Girlhood at which received an honorary commendation at the BFI Festival Awards. Danny Leigh at 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.”

girlhood 2


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


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

Covent Garden 01

Gates 01

Hippodrome 01

Odeon 01

Viggo 01

Viggo 02

Viggo 03

Viggo 04

Viggo 05

Viggo 06

Viggo 07

Viggo 08

Viggo 09

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!


Art 01


Posters 01


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

Bar 01

Bridge 01

Southbank 01

Tribe 01

Tribe 03

Tribe 04

Tribe 05

Tribe 06

Tribe 07

Tribe 08


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

Chinatown 01

Cock 01

Leicester Square 01

National Gallery 01

Nelson's Column 02

Trafalgar Square 01

Vue 01

Alba 01

Background 01

Mia 03


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



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

Bridge 01

Lumiere 01

Lumiere 02

Southbank 01

Wiseman 01

Wiseman 02


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 😉



ICYMI: Day One of Paddy’s LFF excursion

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