BFI London Film Festival 2017 Launch

It’s that time of year again. Today saw the launch of the BFI London Film Festival 2017. The festival this year sees 242 feature films being screened, which includes 28 world premieres. Here are some picks to look out for at the London Film Festival 2017…

Headline Galas

The opening and closing galas previously announced; closing gala Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri in particular looks great. Directed by Martin McDonagh (Seven Psychopaths), the film stars Frances McDormand, Sam Rockwell and Woody Harrelson. Other Headline Gala highlights include Battle of the Sexes (starring Emma Stone and Steve Carell), Alexander Payne’s Downsizing, and Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water. Another highlight is The Killing of a Sacred Deer, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster). The film stars Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, and Barry Keoghan, and is about a doctor who introduces his family to a fatherless young man he has befriended.

Strand Galas and Special Presentations

This year sees the return of the Embankment Garden Cinema and its series of Strand Galas.   There are a number of exciting screenings, including Redoubtable (Le Redoutable). Directed by Michel Hazanavicius (The Artist) the film is a biopic of Jean-Luc Godard and stars Louis Garrel, Stacy Martin, and Bérénice Bejo. Also showing is Wonderstruck, based on the novel of the same name. Directed by Todd Haynes (Carol), the film stars Julianne Moore. Among the Special Presentations are Sally Potter’s The Party and the first two episodes of David Fincher’s upcoming Netflix series Mindhunter.

Official Competition

Amongst the Official Competition at London Film Festival 2017 are The Breadwinner (an animated film about a young girl in Taliban-controlled Kabul), and Thoroughbred, which stars Anya Taylor-Joy. The First Feature Competition includes Beast, which is about a young woman who falls for a police suspect. Also in this category is I Am Not A Witch, about a young girl in a Zambian village who is accused of being a witch. The Documentary Competition includes Jane, a film about primatologist Jane Goodall.

Strands

A highlight of this year’s Love strand is How to Talk to Girls at Parties, based on the Neil Gaiman short story. The film stars Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning. The Debate strand features The Venerable W., a documentary about a Buddhist monk espousing anti-Muslim rhetoric. Laugh includes Brigsby Bear, a comedy about a man who tries to remake a children’s show he was obsessed with. A highlight of the Dare category is 9 Fingers, directed by FJ Ossang. The Thrill section includes the classic noir Mildred Pierce, whilst Harry Dean Stanton and David Lynch star in Lucky as part of the Journey strand.

The Cult strand includes Paco Plaza’s horror Veronica, and Create features documentary G Funk, about Snoop Dogg, Warren G and Nate Dogg. The Family strand includes fairy tale compendium Ivan Tsarevitch and the Changing Princess. Experimenta features documentary Tonsler Park, a timely film about polling stations in Charlottesville during last year’s US election.

The full London Film Festival 2017 programme can be viewed here. The BFI London Film Festival runs from 4th-15th October 2017.

Film Review: The Artist

Films about cinema and the film industry rank among some of the best films ever made; one only needs to think about Sunset Boulevard or Singin’ in the Rain for example. The Artist continues in this vein of quality. Michel Hazanavicius’ film is spellbinding and an unadulterated joy.

In the Hollywood of 1927, actor George Valentin is a huge star of silent pictures. Bumping into a young hopeful on the red carpet, George helps give Peppy Miller her break into acting. While Peppy’s career is just beginning, George is concerned by the arrival of talking pictures…

The Artist features a wonderful combination of humour and drama, set against a backdrop of the Hollywood studio system. It is similar to Singin’ in the Rain in that it covers the transition from silent films to talkies. However, The Artist comes at the topic from a different vantage, being a silent film itself. The film is self-reflexive, playing a little game with audiences with its use of sound.

The Artist relies to a certain extent on the viewer’s awareness of Hollywood history. Humour is based around this, but also on the hammy performances that the film itself makes reference to. Archetype roles, such as the move executive, are a source of great amusement. Even in moments of heightened drama, The Artist will pull the rug from under and deliver a punch line.

The sets, costumes and props are excellent, helping to generate the sense of spectacle. Cinematography is at times sublime with some superb composition. The score is so important to the film’s success, and Ludovic Bource’s music works incredibly well. There is also an unexpected but marvellous use of Bernard Herrmann’s Vertigo score.

Performances are great, particularly from lead Jean Dujardin. The film also features one of the cutest and most talented dogs ever to appear on screen. Simply put, The Artist is majestic. A must-see film.

The Artist is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.