BFI London Film Festival 2018 Launch

Today saw the BFI London Film Festival 2018 launch. Now in its 62nd year, the festival is screening 225 feature films, including 21 world premieres. Here are some highlights from the festival programme…

Headline Galas

The Opening and Closing Gala films had already been announced. The BFI London Film Festival 2018 opens with Steve McQueen’s hotly anticipated Widows, starring Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, and Colin Farrell. McQueen co-wrote the  screenplay with Gillian Flynn. McQueen’s last film, 12 Years A Slave, screened at the 2013 London Film Festival to great acclaim. Stan & Ollie, which features John C. Reilly and Steve Coogan as the legendary comedy duo, closes the festival. Other headline galas include Luca Guadagnino’s hotly anticipated Suspiria, Jason Reitman’s The Front Runner, and Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me?. A particular highlight is Yorgos Lanthimos’ latest. The Favourite is about Queen Anne’s court, and stars Olivia Colman, Rachel Weiss, and Emma Stone. 

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

There are several great looking films in the Strand Galas and Special Presentation programmes. They include Barry Jenkins’ follow up to Moonlight, If Beale Street Could Talk, which is an adaption of James Baldwin’s novel. Others in this category include Lee Chang-dong’s thriller Burning, and Alfonso Caurón’s first film since Gravity, Roma, and Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Special Presentations include Michael Moore’s Donald Trump documentary Fahrenheit 11/9, Carol Morley’s noir thriller Out of Blue, and George Tillman Jr.’s The Hate U Give. 

Official Competition

There are some big names in this year’s Official Competition. Films include David Lowery’s (A Ghost Story) The Old Man & The Gun starring Robert Redford, László Nemes’ (Son of Saul) Sunset, and Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year, Colin Burstead – Wheatley’s Free Fire closed the 2016 festival. Also competing is Karyn Kusama’s Destroyer, starring Nicole Kidman. Meanwhile the Documentary Competition features Putin’s Witness (Svideteli Putina’s film featuring footage of Putin from 1999-2000) and Julien Faraut’s John McEnroe: In The Realm Of Perfection. First Feature Competition includes Isabella Eklöf’s Holiday and Paul Dano’s Wildlife. 

Strands

As in previous years, the eleven programme strands are back. Love features Fred Rogers documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and the Sandra Hüller starring In The Aisles. Debate includes Oliver Assayas’ latest, Non-Fiction, starring Juliette Binoche and Guillaume Canet, and Catherine Corsini’s An Impossible Love. Laugh includes New Zealand comedy The Breaker Uppers, about two women running a relationship break-up service. Amongst the Dare programme is The Green Fog, which sees filmmakers Guy Maddin and Evan and Galen Johnson remake Vertigo using clips from other people’s films. Thrill includes Kim Nguyen’s The Hummingbird Project (starring Jesse Eisenberg and Alexander Skarsgård), while Cult features Nicolas Cage in Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. 

Jessica Hynes directorial debut The Fight is part of the Journey strand, and Create includes Joan Jett documentary Bad Reputation. Richard Squires’ Doozy, which recreates the career of Hanna-Barbera’s villain actor Paul Lynde is one of the Experimenta films being screened. The Family strand features Linda Hambäck’s animated detective tale Gordon & Paddy. Finally, there are some great films being screened as part of the Treasures strand. These include Billy Wilder’s classic Some Like It Hot and Mae West in My Little Chickadee.

The BFI London Film Festival 2018 runs from 10th-21st October. The full programme can be viewed here.

Film Review: The Runaways

One of the aims of this film surely is to encourage viewers to revisit the music of Joan Jett and The Runaways. The film will no doubt be successful on this count; it will be difficult to find one audience member who leaves without the iconic track ‘Cherry Bomb’ playing in their head.

Aspiring rock guitarist Joan Jett wishes to form an all-girl rock band in the 1970s. With the guidance of producer Kim Fowley, The Runaways go on to have great success, but it isn’t plain sailing for the group, particularly singer Cherie Currie…

This biopic was based on the memoirs of Currie, and with Jett as producer it is clear events are grounded in some truth. Notwithstanding, the filmmakers failed to get the consent of all the band members, which explains the elements of fiction. Although it is titled The Runaways, the film is very much the story of Jett and Currie.

The Runaways is very much a coming-of-age picture; depicting the girls growing up in their teen years whilst having their musical success. Thus, there is the sexual and drug experimentations, as well as the more mundane parental problems. The film reveals a notable shift in celebrity from the 1970s to the present day. Whilst the band could get away with a certain amount of bad behaviour behind closed doors, teen stars today do not appear to have quite the same luxury.

Although the film depicts the major events in The Runaways’ career, it does not give a clear sense of time. It shows the band getting signed and their success (particularly in Japan), but condenses later events. For those not schooled in the history of the band, this may be a little misleading.

The Runaways is an entertaining film overall, however on occasion points seem laboured. The lingering shots of Dakota Fanning in stockings and suspenders do not sit easy considering the actress’ young age. Although her costume is authentic of Currie, the protracted gaze is unnecessary. Furthermore, the film continually drives home how difficult it was to be a female musician at the time. Whilst this point is not disputed, the overemphasis is not really necessary; the same message could have been delivered with a degree more subtlety.

Dakota Fanning is excellent as Cherie Currie, proving she is one of the best young actresses around. Kristen Stewart successfully captures the attitude of Joan Jett, whilst Michael Shannon brings the humour as the larger-than-life Fowley. The re-recordings of songs by the cast are competent, but sound a little too polished compared to the originals.

The Runaways is an enjoyable trip to rock’n’roll history. The film is pretty much guaranteed to reignite interest in the band’s music, as well as gain a new generation of fans.