LFF 2017 Highlights Part 2

With the BFI London Film Festival drawing to a close this evening, it has been another year of some very good films, and a few excellent ones. The best films of the first week of the festival can be viewed here. Below are some LFF 2017 highlights from the second half of the festival…

LFF 2017 Highlights – Unmissable

You Were Never Really Here

Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here is tense, black, and redemptive. It is anxiety-inducing, gripping filmmaking. amplifies conventions of a psychological thriller, combining these with a revenge flick. READ MORE

Brawl in Cell Block 99

S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99 is a brutal action thriller with a great central performance from Vince Vaughn. It is certainly not a film for the faint of heart. The violence is exceptional. It is wince-inducing, and sometimes harrowing. READ MORE

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh’s black comedy drama Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is well-written, well performed, and thoroughly engaging. The cast have an excellent screenplay to work with. The dialogue is great, and always appears natural. READ MORE

LFF 2017 Highlights – The Best of the Rest

The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi fairy tale The Shape of Water is at times beguiling, at times surprising, and a joy to watch. From the first shot of the film, spectacle is almost assured. And the film does not disappoint in this respect. READ MORE

The Killing of a Sacred Deer

The Killing of a Sacred Deer is a macabre tale which offers the requisite tension and horror. The film is reminiscent of an Edgar Allan Poe story, albeit one rendered in a very contemporary fashion. Lanthimos’ skill here is the ramping of the tension, leading to some awful realisations. READ MORE

The Florida Project

Sean Baker’s The Florida Project is a bittersweet drama. The film is a great exploration of childhood in challenging circumstances. It is frequently humorous, without detracting its the poignancy. READ MORE

Lucky

Directed by John Lynch Carroll and starring Harry Dean Stanton in his second and final leading role, Lucky feels like an ode to character actors. Lucky is highly amusing and will give pause for thought. READ MORE

The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

Patrick Imbert and Benjamin Renner’s The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales is a collection of most amusing stories. Each of the three stories is a neat length; long enough to feature a decent narrative, but short enough to feel sprightly. READ MORE

Thelma

Director and co-writer Joachim Trier’s Thelma is an engaging psychological thriller. The film offers a strong element of mystery. It straddles the uncanny; for a significant period it is unclear whether the strange occurrences are supernatural, or whether there is a rational explanation. READ MORE

Princess Cyd

Stephen Cone’s Princess Cyd is an alluring character study. What could have been a derivative teenage drama turns into something much more textured and rewarding. READ MORE

The BFI London Film Festival ran from 4th to 15th October 2017.

Film Review: The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi fairy tale The Shape of Water is at times beguiling, at times surprising, and a joy to watch.

Eliza is a cleaner at a high security government facility. She lives a solitary existence punctuated by routine. When a new asset is brought in, Eliza is curious about the creature…

With a screenplay written by del Toro and Vanessa Taylor, The Shape of Water blends a number of genres. First and foremost, the film is fairy tale. It falls within the parameters of this structure, with its character archetypes and plot points. The film distinguishes itself by its setting and the unusual character fulfilling the ‘princess’ archetype.

The Shape of Water places a traditional fairy tale into a science fiction-tinged setting. Dominantly, this comes in the form of the creature itself. However, other markers are there, such as the preoccupation with the space race. The period setting allows for some beautiful production design.

From the first shot of the film, spectacle is almost assured. And the film does not disappoint in this respect. The special effects are excellent, and Dan Laustsen’s cinematography most admirable. There is some beautiful framing in the film, not least the last shot.

The main characters conform to certain archetypes, yet a coloured sufficiently to have their own personalities. It is wonderful to see Sally Hawkins taking the lead in such a big production. The character means she must communicate mostly through expression, and she excels at this. Michael Shannon and Octavia Spencer play the type of roles we have seen from them before, but both a great at this. Richard Jenkins and Michael Stuhlbarg are also on good form.

The Shape of Water is a different kind of fairy tale, but one that offers plentiful spectacle and entertainment.

The Shape of Water is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2017.

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.