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: Toni Erdmann

Toni Erdmann is something of an anomaly. For English-language viewers, a 162-minute German comedy-drama may not seem like the most appealing film. Yet the film works ever so well.

Ines has a busy career working as a consultant in the oil industry in Bucharest. She is surprised when her prankster father pays her an unexpected visit, in the hope the pair can reconnect. Ines is preoccupied by her work, so her father decides to invent an alter ego…

Toni Erdmann is a bit of a tough sell as a concept. Writer-director Maren Ade’s film is a 162-minute comedy focusing on a father trying to reconnect with his adult daughter. Yet the film works incredibly well. This is thanks to Ade’s measured approach to storytelling, and delivering the laughs.

The film unveils its characters slowly, allowing the audience to gain an insight into their lives in a natural fashion. The introduction to Winfried works well to situate his family relationships as well as his general attitude towards life. Viewers meet Ines through the gaze of her father. Astutely, Ade reveals just enough about Ines to give viewers a hook. As the film progresses, the film delves into these protagonists, offering a convincingly human relationship. Toni Erdmann’s strength is its naturalism.

Humour appears throughout the film, although film may disappoint those looking for rapid-fire gags. Instead, jokes are peppered throughout, generating some hilarious scenes. Part of Ade’s skill is that she can generate humour from both the absurd and the mundane. The film switches from comedy to drama, and vice versa, in a seemingly effortless fashion.

Sandra Hüller delivers a brilliant performance as Ines. This is particularly true in the second half of the film, where attention shifts to her. Peter Simonischek is also wonderful as Winfried and his alter ego. The film’s cinematography is intimate, giving the feeling as if the audience is intruding at times.

Toni Erdmann is one of those films that seems to be about nothing on the surface, but reveals everything beneath. Maren Ade’s film is wonderful viewing.