London Film Festival 2012 preview
Tom Huddleston's exclusive preview of London's annual celebration of celluloid
The 56th BFI London Film Festival gets under way this week with an official launch at the Odeon Leicester Square. Under the guidance of new festival director Clare Stewart, and with Time Out delighted to be media partners, this year’s LFF offers another packed programme of premieres and global highlights, work from both established and fresh voices, plus rediscoveries, short films, events, talks and much more.
The festival runs from October 10 to 21 in venues across the capital. The vast majority of screenings will, as usual, take place in the BFI Southbank and the Vue West End, but look for local shows in cinemas outside the city centre, from the Ciné Lumière in Kensington to the Hackney Picturehouse, and all points in between. For more info on venues and ticket sales, you can read our in-depth FAQs here.
As always, the festival programme kicks off with a glittering array of red-carpet gala screenings. Opening night sees the world premiere of Tim Burton’s ‘Frankenweenie’, a family-friendly animated adventure about a science-mad smalltown boy who brings his beloved pet dog Sparky back to life. Like the 2009 LFF opener ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’, the film was made at London’s Three Mills Studio, giving it a strong connection to the capital.
The closing film features another member of the Burton family, the director’s wife Helena Bonham Carter, in the role she was born to play: Miss Havisham in a new version of Dickens’s ‘Great Expectations’. In between, the highlights include Bill Murray as a myopic President Roosevelt in ‘Hyde Park on Hudson’, Ben Affleck’s widely praised hostage drama ‘Argo’ and a career-spanning doc about The Rolling Stones, ‘Crossfire Hurricane’.
When we say that this year’s Time Out Gala promises to be a festival highlight, we’re not just blowing our own trumpet: Michael Haneke’s ‘Amour’, the astonishingly powerful tale of an elderly couple struggling to come to terms with life’s end, won a second Palme d’Or for the Austrian writer-director. It follows his previous film ‘The White Ribbon’, which also won the world’s grandest film prize, and screened as the Time Out Gala back in 2009.
Clare Stewart took the job of festival director with a promise to shake up the LFF, and judging from the programme she’s certainly succeeded. For the first time, the festival has an official Competition Programme, populated entirely with premieres. It’s an impressively mixed selection, from mainstream Hollywood cop drama ‘End of Watch’ to the return of British arthouse legend Sally Potter with ‘Ginger & Rosa’. With films from Italy (gangland thriller ‘It Was the Sun’), Germany (WWII coming-of-age tale ‘Lore’), Israel (religious study ‘Fill the Void’), Chile (political drama ‘No’) and many more, this is a truly global competition.
In a change from previous years, the majority of the main festival programme will be divided thematically rather than geographically, with nine categories under the titles ‘Love’, ‘Dare’, ‘Debate’, ‘Laugh’, ‘Thrill’, ‘Cult’, ‘Journey’, ‘Family’ and ‘Sonic’. As ever, there’s also the 'Experimenta' strand, plus short-film programmes and an array of rediscovered classics, including a remastered version of Hitchcock’s ‘The Manxman’ and a spanking new print of ‘Lawrence of Arabia’.
There isn’t room to pick out all the highlights from across the programme (in the next few weeks, we’ll be diving in and reporting back on all the treats and treasures we find), but here are a few things which caught our eye on first read.
The 'Sonic' strand offers some intriguing titles, from ‘Nothing Can Hurt Me’, a film about Memphis rock legends Big Star, to Mat Whitecross’s long-awaited story of a bunch of Stone Roses fans on the rampage, ‘Spike Island’. The ‘Cult’ programme looks particularly intriguing, spanning indie horror (‘Black Rock’), oddball sci-fi (‘Doomsday Book’) and unclassifiable apocalyptic weirdness (‘John Dies at the End’).
Time Out will be sponsoring the ‘Debate’ strand, a selection of films guaranteed to spark discussion. The lineup is particularly promising: a pair of Italian films leap out: ‘Gomorrah’ director Matteo Garrone returns with darkly comic satire ‘Reality’, while Toni Servillo heads a fantastic cast in Marco Bellochio’s political melodrama ‘Dormant Beauty’.
Lenny Abrahamson, the Irish director of low-key comedy classic ‘Adam and Paul’, is back with complex rites-of-passage story ‘What Richard Did’, while Stephen Dorff appears as an Israeli pilot downed in Beirut in wartime tale ‘Zaytoun’. There’ll also be fistfuls of extracurricular events, from talks by screenwriter Salman Rushdie and expert documentarian Alex Gibney to a live rescoring of Shane Meadows’s ‘This is England’.
Time Out will again be sponsoring a series of talks on British cinema, and we’ll be inviting cast and crew members from some of this year’s most notable homegrown films to discuss their work. We will be the place to find exclusive advance info on the films screening at the LFF, so keep coming back for reviews, news and highlights.