LFF 2010: What to look forward to

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Dave Calhoun surveys this year impressive crop of LFF highlights, and picks a few enticing unseen titles

The programme for  the 2010 London Film Festival, which runs from October 13 to 28,  was announced this morning – and you have to dig a little deeper, past the attention-grabbing opening and closing night films and the high-profile gala movies like Tom Hooper’s intriguing ‘The King’s Speech’ and Lisa Cholodenko’s uproarious ‘The Kids are Alright’,  to find the films that will arrive in the capital carrying with them the weight of expectation. As ever, the festival has been carefully and expertly curated – but most of the bigger titles will have first taken their bows at festivals such as Cannes, Venice or Toronto.

Which is not to say I’m not looking forward to embracing the glitz and gladrags side of our country’s best film festival. I’m itching to see ‘Never Let Me Go’, the film which will open the festival on October 13 and is an adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel written by Alex Garland and directed by Mark Romanek. I’m also very curious about Danny Boyle’s ‘127 Hours’ – the story of Utah mountain victim Aron Ralston, who in 2003 was forced to cut off his own arm – even if, as one of my colleagues whispered to me during this morning’s Leicester Square festival launch, ‘the trailer looks a bit like a Mountain Dew commercial’.

I also can’t wait to see Mike Leigh’s ‘Another Year’ again. Festival artistic director Sandra Hebron has shown her own faith in Leigh’s film (which the Cannes Fim Festival jury snubbed earlier this year) by choosing it as the festival’s Centrepiece Gala. It’s a tender and saddening story of ageing folk and friendships and portrays the social life of one London couple in their early sixties (played by Ruth Sheen and Jim Broadbent)  over the course of the four well-defined seasons of one year.

I’m also very proud that the Time Out Special Screening this year will be ‘Neds’, which stands for ‘Non-Educated Deliquents’ and is Scottish actor Peter Mullan’s third feature as a director after ‘Orphans’ and his towering ‘The Magdalene Sisters’. It’s eight years since Mullan won the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion for the latter, so it’s good to have him back in cinemas with this personal and uncompromising 1970s-set story of a young Glasgow teen whose vicious new school environment threatens to drag him off the path of good behaviour and high achievement. I’ve already written in the festival brochure that the film ‘tips a hat to the 1970s tales of Ken Loach and Alan Clarke’ and that ‘it’s not all desaturated realism: there are flashes of fantasy that hint at the imagination of Lindsay Anderson, as if Mullan had reimagined “If…” for the hard-up Glasgow of his youth.’ Mullan will be following in the recent footsteps of Michael Haneke, Julian Schnabel, Steve McQueen and Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the leading directors whose films have screened under the Time Out banner at the festival in the past five years. It’s especially pleasing to be showing a homegrown title again.

Guessing which way a film festival is going to go once the curtain rises is usually a fool’s game. Festivals are places of discovery, temples of the unknown, and the best screenings are those you didn’t even imagine beforehand would excite, move and inspire you. But here are the five films in this year’s London Film Festival which I haven’t yet seen and which at the moment I’m most looking forward to. See you there in October.

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1/ Archipelago
British director Joanna Hogg made a polite splash at the LFF in 2007 with her sharply observed and painful ‘Unrelated’, the story of a vulnerable woman who joins an upper-middle-class family on their summer sojourn in Tuscany. The terrain of her second film sounds similarly unusual and enticing: for ‘Archipelago’ Hogg explores a family reunion on the Isles of Scilly. The young actor Tom Hiddleston, who brilliantly played a manipulative public-school boy in ‘Unrelated’, returns to work with Hogg once again.

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2/ Self Made
The steady trickle from the art gallery to the cinema continues with Gillian Wearing, although this sounds like more of a companion piece to Wearing’s gallery art than either Sam Taylor-Wood’s ‘Nowhere Boy’ or Steve McQueen’s ‘Hunger’ were for their directors. As she has done before for various projects, Wearing recruited subjects via a newspaper ad and asked seven chosen people to explore theirselves and identities with the London drama teacher Sam Rumbelow, a well-known proponent of Method Acting. The result has been described as neither documentary nor fiction, and it sounds like it could be one of the most original British films in this year’s festival.

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3/ Let Me In
Fans of last year’s Swedish vampire film ‘Let The Right One In’ have had the knives out all year for this American remake by ‘Cloverfield’ director Matt Reeves.Young Aussie actor Kodi Smit-McPhee (Viggo Mortensen’s son in ‘The Road’) plays the nervous 12-year-old boy, while Chloe Moretz (Nicolas Cage’s daughter in ‘Kick Ass’) is his mysterious young friend who moves in next door at the same time as a spate of murders in his small, snowy hometown. It will be curious to see what the newly revitalised Hammer Films has done so quickly with such a recent foreign-language hit – and one whose fans have been so defensive and vitriolic online.

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4/Mandelson: The Real PM?
This documentary could be awful, or at least nauseating, but surely it will be fascinating? This up-close portrait of the New Labour politician has been directed by Hannah Rothschild, elder sister of Mandelson’s financier friend Nat Rothschild. What makes it interesting is that it was after meeting each other at Nat Rothschild’s Corfu villa in the summer of 2008, according to the Sunday Times, that George Osborne claimed Mandelson ‘dripped pure poison’ about Gordon Brown into his ears. Mandelson would only have granted a filmmaker access to ‘all areas’ (as the LFF brochure claims) of his life if he felt he was in full control of his image and the film would serve his own ends. Unpicking Mandelson’s relationship to the film is bound to be a fun sport.

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5/  Even the Rain
Screening in the Time Out-sponsored Cinema Europa section of the LFF, this European-Central American co-production has an interesting pedigree. It’s directed by Spanish filmmaker Icíar Bollain (writer and director of the painful 2003 film ‘Take My Eyes’, about domestic abuse) and written by her husband Paul Laverty, who is Ken Loach’s regular writer. It sounds like an ambitious undertaking: it juxtaposes the story of a revisionist film being shot in Bolivia about Christopher Columbus (with its director played by Gael García Bernal) with the conflict over the privatisation of the water suppies that unfolded in Bolivia in 2000 and became known as the Bolivian Water War.

Author: Dave Calhoun



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