BFI London Film Festival 2019 Launch

This morning saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2019. In its 63rd year, the festival is screening 229 feature films, including 28 world premieres. Here are some highlights from the festival programme…

Headline Galas

The opening and closing films for the BFI London Film Festival 2019 had already been announced. The festival opens with the European premiere of Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield. An adaptation of the Dickens’ classic, the film stars Dev Patel, Tilda Swinton, and Hugh Laurie. Martin Scorsese‘s hotly-anticipated The Irishman closes the festival. There is an embarrassment of riches among the other headline galas, including Rian Johnson’s Knives Out, Marielle Heller’s (Can You Ever Forgive Me?) A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood, and Michael Winterbottom’s Greed, starring Steve Coogan and Isla Fisher.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

This year, films screening as part of the Strand Galas include Robert Eggers’ (The Witch) The Lighthouse, starring Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson. The Dare Gala is Mirrah Folks’ debut feature Judy & Punch, a fairy tale starring Mia Wasikowska. Among the Special Presentations are Takashi Miike’s First Love, and Bombay Rose, a hand-drawn animated feature from Gitanjali Rao.

Official Competition

Among the ten features in Official Competition at the London Film Festival 2019 are Haifaa Al-Mansour’s (Wadjda) The Perfect Candidate, about a young doctor who challenges Saudi Arabia’s strict social codes. Thomas Clay’s Fanny Lye Deliver’d stars Maxine Peake and Charles Dance, and is about a woman living with her puritanical husband in 17th century Shropshire. The Documentary Competition features Rubika Shah’s White Riot, about the Rock Against Racism movement, and Lauren Greenfield The Kingmaker, which focuses on Imelda Marcos. The First Feature Competition includes Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco and Shannon Murphy’s Babyteeth, a drama starring Eliza Scanlon and Ben Mendelsohn.

Strands

The eleven thematic programme strands are back once more at the London Film Festival 2019. The Love strand includes La Belle Époque, Nicolas Bedos’ drama about an illustrator who uses technology to replay the past, and Ga-young Jeong’s Heart. The Debate strand is particularly strong this year with Citizen K (Alex Gibney‘s documentary on Mikhail Khodorkovsky), Chinonye Chukwu’s Sundance winner Clemency, Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, and Scott Z Burns’ The Report, starring Adam Driver. Comedies in the Laugh strand includes Billie Piper’s directorial debut Rare Beasts, whilst Wash Westmoreland’s Earthquake Bird in the Thrill strand stars Alicia Vikander in an 1980s Tokyo-set thriller. Cannes winner The Invisible Life of Eurídice Gusmão is among the films in the Journey category.

The Dare strand features animated coming-of-age tale I Lost My Body and Václav Marhoul’s The Painted Bird, about a Jewish boy on a journey home during wartime. The Cult strand includes Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala’s The Lodge and Lorcan Finnegan’s Vivarium, with Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots. Also in this category is Richard Stanley’s Color Out of Space, a HP Lovecraft adaptation starring Nicolas Cage and Joely Richardson. The Experimenta strand includes Brad Butler and Noorafshan Mizra’s Ruptures, whilst Create includes Midge Costin’s documentary Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound. Two highlights of the Family strand are Edmunds Jansons’ Jacob, Mimmi and the Talking Dogs and Lorenzo Mattotti’s The Bears’ Famous Invasion. Finally, classics that are showing as part of the Treasures programme include David Lynch’s The Elephant Man and Roger Corman’s The Masque of the Red Death, starring Vincent Price.

The BFI London Film Festival 2019 runs from 2nd-13th October. The full programme can be viewed here.

Film Review: City of Tiny Lights

Director Pete Travis’ City of Tiny Lights is an enjoyable detective thriller. The film hits the mark more often than it misses. 

Tommy Aktar is a private eye living and working in London. He is asked to find a missing prostitute by her flatmate. At the same time, faces from Tommy’s past remerge as he investigates his latest case…

With City of Tiny Lights, director Pete Travis and writer Patrick Neate have crafted a homage to classic film noir in a thoroughly modern setting. Tommy Aktar is the quintessential noir detective. He is a whiskey drinking, chain-smoking private detective wracked with thoughts from his past. So far, so archetypal. Where the film excels is in its transplant of noir tropes to a contemporary London setting. This mixes a detective story set in a murky underworld with very ordinary surroundings. 

The film is frequently funny, despite a brooding narrative. The dialogue works well, although the narration can feel a bit laboured. Thankfully, this is not present throughout the duration. The film’s different strands combine well, although this makes some elements a bit predictable. Viewers may predict the real enemy long before the reveal. The conversation between Tommy and his father using a particular cricket term aides this by dropping a big hint. 

Flashbacks in City of Tiny Lights build the back character of the protagonist successfully. These sequences look very authentic for the period in which they are set. Interactions with Tommy and Avid are great, as well the initial meeting with Melody. Some of the action sequences are hindered by the shaky, blurry camerawork. Although a sense of confusion and motion is aimed for, it takes viewers out of the scene. Riz Ahmed delivers a solid performance as Tommy. Billie Piper provides decent support as Shelley. Rohan Seth stands out amongst the supporting cast.

City of Tiny Lights is a modern take on a classic genre. Once again, Riz Ahmed’s talents are showcased in an engaging manner.

Previews: Baywatch Poster, Logan, More!

Plenty in this week’s preview of coming attractions, including a moving Baywatch poster, The Eyes of My Mother, A Cure for Wellness, and more…

Baywatch Poster

Zac Efron promotes his new film in this moving Baywatch poster. The film, based on the 1990s television show, the film stars Efron, alongside Dwayne Johnson, Priyanka Chopra, and Alexandra Daddario. Baywatch hits the big screen on 31st May 2017.

The Eyes of My Mother

Gothic horror The Eyes of My Mother looks intriguing. The directorial debut of Nicolas Pesce, the film is about a young women whose dark curiosities are triggered following a tragedy in her life. Starring Kika Magalhaes, Will Brill, and Clara Wong, The Eyes of My Mother will be released in UK cinemas on 24th march 2017.

A Cure for Wellness Clip

A Cure for Wellness looks rather creepy, if the above clip is anything to go by. The film stars Dane DeHaan as a young executive sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from a remote wellness centre. Directed by Gore Verbinski, the film also stars Oscar Isaacs and Mia Goth. A Cure for Wellness will hit UK cinemas on 24th February 2017.

Certain Women Poster

Following Meek’s Cutoff and Night Moves, director Kelly Reichardt’s latest film is Certain Women. The film stars Michelle Williams, Kristen Stewart as three women trying to forge there own paths in the plains of the American Northwest. Certain Women is out at UK cinemas on 3rd March 2017.

The Great Wall Featurette

Matt Damon describes The Great Wall as a “full-on battle monster movie” in the above featurette. He also speaks about his character, and the plot of the film. The Great Wall also stars Jing Tian, Pedro Pascal, and Willem Dafoe. Directed by Zhang Yimou, the film is out at UK cinemas on 17th February 2017.

Logan Trailer

Wolverine has turned babysitter in this latest X-Men movie. The film sees Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart reprise their roles in a dystopian road movie. James Mangold directs, and the film also stars Dafne Keen. Logan launches onto UK screens on 1st March 2017.

Beauty and the Beast Poster

Emma Watson looks very much the part of Belle in this latest Beauty and the Beast poster. From the images and clips revealed so far, this live-action remake is keeping the visual style of the original animated film. Also starring Ewan McGregor, Emma Thompson, and Ian McKellan, Beauty and the Beast is out on UK screens on 17th March 2017.

City of Tiny Lights Trailer

City of Tiny Lights very much evokes the look and feel of a neo-noir of decades past. Liz Ahmed stars as a deadbeat private eye whose services are engaged by a high-class prostitute. Also starring Billie Piper, City of Tiny Lights will be released in UK cinemas on 7th April 2017.