57 is a good number. It’s the number of varieties of Heinz products. It’s the number of Communists in the Democratic Party (see THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE). It’s the average number of minutes my ward spends in the bathroom past nine o’clock at night. And it’s the number of London Film Festivals there would have been as of 9 October 2013.
The 57th BFI London Film Festival (9-20 October 2013) or LFF 57 as I call it begins and ends with Tom Hanks. What the whole festival is one long adaptation of CLOUD ATLAS? Heck, no. The opening film is the much anticipated CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, directed by Paul Greengrass, which I actually thought was about the future husband of Princess Anne until someone told me is about Somali pirates – like, wow, the title tells you that? The closing film, some twelve days later, is SAVING MR BANKS, in which Tom plays Walt Disney trying to persuade PL Travers (Emma Thompson) that casting Joan Crawford as Mary Poppins is a good thing; she’ll fix Dick Van Dyke’s cockney accent, by darn it. ‘And, look, I’ve got Noel Coward to write the screenplay.’
Of course, SAVING MR BANKS is John Lee Hancock’s thoroughly respectable follow-up to THE BLIND SIDE, without a Crawford or a Coward in sight. It does have Jason Schwartzman and Colin Farrell. Colin Farrell doing his effing and blinding stuff as Julie Andrews? Forget VICTOR VICTORIA and SOB – this sounds like the real deal!
THE BLIND SIDE’s Oscar mom, Sandra Bullock, turns up in Alfonso Curaon’s GRAVITY. You’ve seen the trailer: Bullock and Clooney in space. Space debris – isn’t that the bin-end STAR WARS trilogy currently in pre-production? A cord is cut. Congratulations: you have dodgy special effects.
Speaking of LABOR DAY, Jason Reitman’s new film is on show, with Kate Winslet in her first proper starring role since HBO’s MILDRED PIERCE. A woman with a close bond to her teenage son brings home an ex-convict (Josh Brolin). Oh, boy! It all began with a stare, apparently. (I know you got my appalling reference to JUNO.)
Aren’t there any British films in this here festival? Well 12 YEARS A SLAVE is sort-of-a-British movie, directed by Steve McQueen, of whom finally (finally) people have stopped saying ‘not that one’. Chiwetel Ejiofor plays a free African American sold into slavery. How long for? The title’s a bit of a giveaway. McQueen does not do cute or schmaltz. He does brooding menace, lengthy takes, explosions of action; none of which are evident in a thoroughly conventional trailer. Be prepared, people.
Another British film that isn’t is THE DOUBLE, Richard Ayoade’s American-set update of that Doestoyevsky story. You know, ‘my life is terrible, but there is the Doppelganger and he has it so much better than me. He’s the me I wish I could be.’ Jesse Eisenberg doubles up in this one. I’ll give him my attention, the minimum amount; and then, perhaps, a little more. Mia Wasikowska co-stars.
Surely in this Film Festival there is room for a three hour film about a lesbian relationship, BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR. Check. Surely, that Ralph Fiennes film about Charles Dickens’ secret affair, THE INVISIBLE WOMAN might stop by. You bet your Bleak House it does. Surely, there is the premiere of a restored version of the documentary THE EPIC OF EVEREST with a new score by Simon Fisher Turner. Aye! And a Spanish-Argentine animated feature about a table football team that comes to life, FOOSBALL. Si, but with no Eric Cantona in the voice cast.
A feel-good Indian film called THE LUNCHBOX, a Japanese baby-swap drama LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON
and a Swedish film about a punk band, WE ARE THE BEST are movies by Ritesh Batra, Hirokazu Kore-eda and Lucas Moodyson respectively. Then there is Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder in PARKLAND, another ensemble film about the Kennedy assassination, but it might have something going it.
Audiences in Venice were divided by Jonathan Glazer’s UNDER THE SKIN, in which Scarlett Johansson plays an alien wandering around Glasgow. (‘What’s this?’ ‘A deep-fried Mars bar.’ ‘I’d rather have human flesh.’) Think SPECIES helmed by an arthouse director. I do believe the film was shot over two years ago but it is finally out – wahoo! STARRED UP is a tough talking prison movie in which a young offender with a not-so-tiny temper is transferred to an adult facility and he’s gonna get therapy, apparently.
There are too many films to mention, but I’ll take a chance on the following. LUTON is a Greek film in which people with very different lives explode. I know the feeling. YOUTH is an Israeli genre film made by former film critic, Tom Shoval. PIPELINE is a documentary about lives along the Trans-Siberian Pipeline. Images of formal quirkiness permeate tales of haves and have-nots. ADORE is the new title for TWO MOTHERS, starring Naomi Watts and Robin Wright who fall for each other’s adult sons. The script is by Christopher Hampton (LES LIAISONS DANGEREUSES). Sebastian Lelio’s GLORIA is a film about a fifty something woman who falls for the owner of Vertigo Park but takes until Act Five for a decent use of a paintball gun. I liked LOVE LIKE POISON so will want to see Katell Quillévéré’s follow-up, SUZANNE. After THIS IS NOT A FILM, Jafar Panahi, the Iranian director under house arrest, has amazingly produced a second film in confinement, CLOSED CURTAIN, with his collaborator Kambozia Partovi, about a writer and a woman who breaks his seclusion. I find it very hard to resist a documentary about right-wing Hollywood maverick, John Milius, called simply MILIUS, especially as I once attended a Guardian Interview with him flanked by a then barely known Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Contemplate that on the tree of whoa, as Keanu Reeves would say.)
Bruno Dumont who makes compelling films like LA VIE DE JESUS and then drives you to distraction with HORS SATAN is at it again with CAMILLE CLAUDEL 1915 with Juliette Binoche acting alongside real-life mental patients. It’s called the theatre! James Franco’s directorial debut AS I LAY DYING does not feature Seth Rogen and a bong rather is an adaptation of a William Faulkner novel. Like, where’s the weed, man?
My pick of the obscure arty British films is Joanna Hogg’s EXHIBITION, about two artists who sell their home. But it’s like art? Tom Hiddleston co-stars.
Then there’s this Dutch film, BORGMAN, about an unwanted house guest, directed by Alex van Warmerdam.
I haven’t even mentioned some of the restorations of VICTIM (1961), PORTRAIT OF JASON (1967), TELL ME LIES (1968), COWBOY (1958), GASLIGHT (1940) and THE LUSTY MEN (1953). Nor have I mentioned the much liked ME, MYSELF AND MUM and HELI. What about Robert Redford in ALL IS LOST or Terry Gilliam’s THE ZERO THEOREM (bound to be frustrating; Gilliam can’t be anything else).
I should mentioned Ari Folman’s THE CONGRESS in which Robin Wright sells her likeness – didn’t she do that in ADORE?
THE ROCKET has a great trailer. It’s a Thai film about a child obsessed with, well, rockets.
LOCKE features Tom Hardy in a car. Is it better than writer-director Steven Knight’s first film, HUMMINGBIRD? I hope so.
If there is one film I’ll probably avoid, it’s THE WEIGHT OF ELEPHANTS. I hate metaphorical titles – you know that get explained and it’s so deep. Like THE MYTH OF FINGERPRINTS – what does that blooming mean?
There’s a section called Experimenta in which John Berger narrates TASKAFA, STORIES OF THE STREET. It’s about a dog. John Berger wrote WAYS OF SEEING. It’s a story of a community told from the dog’s point of view. I’m slightly interested.
OK. You can check out the full programme on www.bfi.org.uk/lff. Somehow I didn’t mention PHILOMENA, starring Judi Dench as an Irish woman and the Surprise Film (I stopped going at LFF 50 after it was a movie already in the festival, HOLLYWOODLAND). Plenty of movies. Go! There are at least 57 films worth seeing.