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 Keeper of Lost Causes

The Keeper of Lost Causes

Based on the novel, The Keeper of Lost Causes is an engaging detective drama with Scandinavian noir and classic Hollywood overtones.

Following a traumatic incident on the job, Detective Carl Mørck is given   a new assignment when he returns to work. Having to sift through cold cases, his interest in matters perks up when one case catches his eye…

The Keeper of Lost Causes is based on the first book of author Jussi Alder-Olsen’s series of Department Q detective novels. As such, it introduces both the protagonist and his budding relationship with his assistant, as well as focusing on a case with enough meat to hold the audience’s attention.

That The Keeper of Lost Causes borrows from classic mysteries and detective stories is not a bad thing. The set up of the film is reminiscent of Vertigo, with the use of the wounded cop motif. Elsewhere, the film utilises the style of not only other recent Scandinavian crime thrillers, but Hollywood noir. This is present in aesthetic elements, the unfolding of the narrative, and archetype characters.

Protagonist Carl is drawn as the hard-boiled detective, very much in the same mould as what has come before in crime and noir films. The sidekick relationship with Assad unfolds superficially, although the ending does point to further development. The officers are portrayed a little like chalk and cheese, but this is not dwelled on excessively. The climax of the film is a bit overblown; it would have been more effective to tone this down.

The Keeper of Lost Causes offers flashbacks and glimpses to reel viewers into the mystery. These help to make the victim flesh, and heighten interest in the events leading up to the crime. Sound design in the film is good. It helps to create a sense of claustrophobia that situates viewers with the victim. The art direction offers the clinical yet grimy look of recent Scandinavian thrillers.

The Keeper of Lost Causes is successful thanks to a decent mystery at its heart. Although clues are dropped along the way, the skilful crafting of the narrative makes the film an entertaining watch.

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.