LFF 2019 Highlights Part 1

It is about half way through this year’s BFI London Film Festival, and some wonderful films have been shown so far. Here are some LFF 2019 highlights from the first week…

LFF 2019 Highlights – Unmissable

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Joe Talbot’s The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a funny, moving, thought-provoking, and outstanding debut. The film is an embarrassment of riches, boasting a wonderful script, strong direction, great performances, and thematic density.  READ MORE

Marriage Story

Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story is a top-drawer drama with outstanding performances from its leads. The film is heart-wrenching, observant, and very real. With Marriage Story, Baumbach once again proves to be a shrewd observer of the human condition.  READ MORE

LFF 2019 Highlights – Best of the Rest

The Lighthouse

With his nightmarish thriller The Lighthouse, Robert Eggers proves The Witch was no fluke. The Lighthouse is a downward spiral, with a jagged, disorientating descent. READ MORE

The Report

The Report is topical, engaging, and necessary viewing. A story about the compilation and attempted publication of a lengthy report could be considered quite a dry subject matter. Nevertheless, in writer and director Scott Z. Burns’ capable hands, The Report is always interesting, occasionally tense, and at times engrossing.  READ MORE

Saint Maud

Writer-director Rose Glass’ Saint Maud is a unnerving and intense gothic thriller. The filmmaker has delivered an atmospheric and striking debut. The backdrop provides the perfect setting for this exploration of psyche, religious fervour, and obsession. READ MORE

The Personal History of David Copperfield

Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield is a love letter to storytelling. The film is endearing and entertaining. A warm, amusing, and enjoyable adaptation. READ MORE

The Prince’s Voyage

Jean-François Laguionie and Xavier Picard’s The Prince’s Voyage (Le Voyage Du Prince) is an enchanting animated tale. With its bittersweet ending, the film doesn’t pander to its audience. READ MORE

The BFI London Film Festival runs from 2nd-13th October 2019. See the full programme here.

Film Review: The Personal History of David Copperfield

Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield is a love letter to storytelling. The film is endearing and entertaining. 

David Copperfield tells the story of his life, from his birth to adulthood. Along the way, he meets a cast of interesting characters, as he charts his highs and his lows…

Directed and co-written by Armando Iannucci with Simon Blackwell, The Personal History of David Copperfield is very much an ode to Charles Dickens and his wonderful storytelling. Iannucci’s affection for the author is well publicised. With this film, the director pays homage to Dickens in a way that is sincere and enjoyable. 

Condensing a lengthy tome into just under two hours is quite the undertaking. Yet Iannucci is assured in tackling the adaptation, focusing on the key moments in David’s timeline. The film is bursting with memorable characters, and moves at a good pace. The device of David narrating and sometimes writing the story works well. The film balances brisk storytelling with giving the various characters enough time to shine.

The Personal History of David Copperfield blends humour with adventure in a way that feels completely natural. Iannucci highlights the humour in Dickens’ work; there is plenty to amuse in the film. The film shifts tone with ease, offering heartfelt moments amongst the laughs.

The use of colourblind casting is definitely a plus, allowing the very best actors for the roles regardless of race. Dev Patel makes a great protagonist; he is convincing and sympathetic in his performance. There is a great cast present, with memorable turns from Tilda Swinton, Huh Laurie, and Ben Whishaw.

With The Personal History of David Copperfield, Armando Iannucci does his literary hero justice. A warm, amusing, and enjoyable adaptation. 

The Personal History of David Copperfield is opening the BFI London Film Festival on 2nd October 2019.

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.