For the general public, London Film Festival (LFF) tickets go sale at 10am on Thursday September 18, online at www.bfi.org.uk/lff or by phone on 020 7928 3232 (lines are open between 9.30am and 8.30pm daily). But British Film Institute (BFI) members are able to book a week earlier, from 10am on Thursday September 11.
Tickets for BFI members go on sale at 10am on Thursday September 11 – meaning that BFI members are able to buy tickets for the LFF a week earlier than everyone else. It costs £40 to be a member (see www.bfi.org.uk/join), so you’ll have to weigh up whether the benefits of BFI membership (including priority booking at BFI Southbank all year round and no booking fees when buying tickets for the festival or at BFI Southbank) are worth it.
Daytime screenings (5pm and earlier) at all venues cost £9. Evening screenings cost between £12.50 and £16. Gala screenings are more expensive and cost between £20 and £32.
The majority of the films screen either in Leicester Square (mostly at the Vue West End and Odeon West End) or at BFI Southbank. But many other venues take part too, including the Curzon Soho, Odeon Covent Garden, Hackney Picturehouse and Ritzy in Brixton.
Many screenings sell out quickly. But remember that the festival will screen well over 200 feature films, and many do not sell out. Also, don’t forget that the festival will release more tickets for many screenings on Thursday October 2.
Yes. Even though many screenings sell out beforehand, there are usually some tickets for screenings available to purchase at the venue about 30 minutes before the film starts.
The latest London Film Festival reviews
When beardy bad-ass prisoner Brendan (Ewan McGregor) rescues new kid on the block JR (Brenton Thwaites) from a rival gang of shower-block thugs in an Australian jail, the young man knows there’ll be a price to pay. On JR’s release, he’s given instructions on how to carry out notorious robber Brendan’s complex escape plan, knowing he’s dead meat if he doesn’t comply. JR’s uncertainty over whether he’s gaining valuable loyalty points by going along with the plan or if he will merely be dispensed with at Brendan’s convenience provides an underlying tension as first-time writer-director Julius Avery barrels his way through a series of hardware-heavy, bullet-riddled action sequences. As JR, Thwaites flip-flops unconvincingly from vulnerable newbie to conniving shark, leaving McGregor’s gruffly imposing yet moving presence as the self-centred master-technician to shine like a beacon. He’s at the heart of a crunching and involving mid-section, after which the film surrenders to crowd-pleasing superficiality. In the process, restless moll Tasha (Alicia Vikander), keen to escape the talons of a powerful crimelord, provides an under-characterised romance angle. Still, it’s all put together with a crisp confidence that suggests its writer-director will swiftly move on to bigger things.Read more
Often on fire behind his 'The Daily Show' desk on TV, Jon Stewart turns out to be a merely okay director, judging from this sincere yet serviceable political drama. It's the smallest of disappointments: why is this gonzo figurehead paying it safe? Nonetheless, Stewart's hardcore fans may forgive him, especially since 'Rosewater' is cosmic repayment to one of his guests, who found himself imprisoned as a result of the media exposure. London-based Maziar Bahari was covering Iran's 2009 election and subsequent protests when he taped a comic sketch with 'Daily Show' correspondent Jason Jones, who was impersonating a boorish American spy. Less than a week later, Bahari found himself detained and abused in a Tehran jail by humourless counterintelligence agents who didn't get the joke – for well over three months. Stewart's own screenplay, based on Bahari's 2011 tell-all book 'Then They Came for Me', is strongest when it's playing up the absurdity of the situation, tapping star Gael García Bernal's quickness in an early interrogation when he's asked to defend his DVD collection. ('The Sopranos' – is it porn?) Even after 'Rosewater' becomes frightening when the blindfolds come out, Stewart lands subversive laughs via the deft performance of Kim Bodnia, portraying a fearsome Iranian 'specialist' who falls for a whopper of a lie about corrupting New Jersey massage parlours. But at the heart of 'Rosewater' lies a serious tale of tragedy, a miscarriage of justice. The film settles intRead more
Is there a more toothsome subject for documentary than Cannon Films? Snapped up for a song in 1979 by wheeler-dealing Israeli producer-director team Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus, this iconic production house quickly became synonymous with wild, low-budget drive-in trash like ‘The Delta Force’, ‘Missing in Action’ and the incomparable ‘Death Wish 3’, their logo a byword for instant lowbrow thrills, not to mention notorious production practices, out-of-control budgets and bizarre marketing schemes. So it’s a crushing disappointment that this overview from director Mark Hartley – whose Aussie exploitation doc ‘Not Quite Hollywood’ was such a treat back in 2008 – fails to capture the Cannon spirit. The absence of both Golan and Globus from the talking head roster – they’re busily making their own rival doc, apparently – cuts the heart out of the story, and what’s left is little more than a diverting clip reel, lacking the contextual heft that commentators such as Quentin Tarantino and Barry Humphries brought to Hartley’s earlier film. There are highlights – ‘Bill & Ted’ star Alex Winter’s reminiscences are hilarious – but the overall sense is of an opportunity missed.Read more
While researching locations for her superb 2010 feature ‘Winter’s Bone’ in the Ozark backwoods, writer-director Debra Granik was introduced to biker and Vietnam vet Ronnie ‘Stray Dog’ Hall, the subject of this wise, generous documentary. Granik’s mission is clear from the off: to introduce a character who, on the surface, appears to be the epitome of reactionary, ex-military, trailer-dwelling ‘white trash’, then gradually pick away at the veneer until we come to see the human being within. But knowing what Granik is up to doesn’t detract from the weight and warmth of her film. The trust Hall places in his director is remarkable – we follow him through every aspect of his life, from undergoing psychotherapy for post-traumatic stress disorder to waking up with his sweet-natured Mexican wife Alicia, whose twin boys he’s sponsoring to come to the US. The result says more about modern America than a hundred serious state-of-the-nation dramas: here is a man who has been repeatedly betrayed by the country he loves, but honestly believes he can make it a better place.Read more
While not exactly a Hollywood nailbiter, Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf has cranked up the voltage from his trademark stately style in this newsworthy drama. The opening credits to ‘The President’ tell us we’re in an ‘unnamed country’, but this could easily be Libya in the months Gaddafi went on the run. It begins with the President (Misha Gomiashvili) in full military regalia, playing with his eight-year-old grandson (Dachi Orvelashvili), who’s dressed like a mini-me dictator in a matching little soldier’s outfit. To show the kid what power, real power, looks like, the President picks up the phone and orders the lights to be turned off in the city. On. Off. On. Off. His Majesty (as everyone calls him) has got the command of a nation at his fingertips. Until he hasn’t. Makhmalbaf says he was inspired by the Arab Spring, and his film is pitched somewhere between allegory and satire. In a tense scene the presidential limo is marooned in a sea of anti-government protesters. In response to the growing unease on the streets, His Majesty sends Mrs President, her Louboutins and their children out of the country on a private jet to safety. His orphaned grandson wants to stay and is allowed to – you sense the President wants to give the kid a lesson in how to crush a rebellion. But that’s not how it works out. Deposed in a coup d'état, the President and boy go on the run disguised as peasants. Everywhere the President goes, he meets people who would lynch him in a heartbeat if thRead more
Say what you want about the snappy, almost too-polished films of Jason Reitman, they've never struck a tone of alarmism. Even when the crisis was unexpected pregnancy ('Juno'), economic freefall ('Up in the Air') or home invasion in the form of swarthy escaped convict Josh Brolin ('Labor Day'), there was always a cool-headed pragmatism on display, sometimes at the risk of seeming too glib. That can't be claimed anymore with the arrival of the ominous and panicky 'Men, Women and Children', the first Reitman film to make the 36-year-old director seem about 400 years old. An ensemble-acted shriek on the topic of Internet and social-media overconsumption, the Texas-set drama is adapted from a worrymaking novel by Chad Kultgen. It's exactly the wrong match for Reitman and co-screenwriter Erin Cressida Wilson ('Secretary'), whose mutual instincts for light-touch theatrics somehow amplify the material's wailing siren of a thesis: turn off those devices now. After Emma Thompson smugly narrates an intro involving the Voyager space probe (in case you didn't get it, we're all miniscule in the scale of the cosmos), we meet a thoroughly hopeless group of Austin parents and teens. Don (Adam Sandler) is a dad nursing a raging online porn addiction; his bored wife, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt), strays to dating sites. Local high-schoolers Tim (Ansel Elgort), Allison (Elena Kampouris) and boldly sexual Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia) grapple with their own obsessions: virtual gaming, instant-messagRead more
French director David Oelhoffen’s ‘Far From Men’ – an adaptation of a short story, ‘The Guest’, by French-Algerian philosopher Albert Camus – is an intelligent, slow-burning western with an atmospheric score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, and an outstanding performance by Viggo Mortensen. Tough in the Clint Eastwood mould but metrosexually in touch with his emotions, Mortensen plays Daru, a saintly teacher working in Algeria in 1954 at the start of its struggle for independence from the French. Daru teaches kids in a tiny schoolhouse high in the Atlas Mountains, but clearly there’s more to this man. His weathered face looks carved out of the mountains behind the school, and he knows how to handle a gun when French soldiers bring him a local Algerian man, Mohamed (Reda Kateb), who has confessed to killing a cousin in an argument over stolen wheat. Stretched thin fighting the Algerian freedom fighters, the soldiers ask Daru to deliver Mohammad to the court a day’s journey away. Daru refuses on the grounds that he would be walking the arrested man to his death. But when the soldiers leave and Mohamed refuses to run away, he doesn’t have much choice. There are tense scenes, set again stunning landscapes, as the two men stumble first into a vengeful pack of Mohamed’s family on horseback, then a band of guerillas and finally the French army. Philosophically it’s a thoughtful adaptation, finishing with the ultimate existentialist conundrum: a man on a dusty crossroads deciding betRead more
The so-real-it-hurts actress Laura Dern is a movie treasure by now: in 'Wild', she's magically effervescent as a '70s mom, splashing in puddles with her small children and bravely facing abandonment, money woes and illness. She's the soul of the film and her cracked smile wrecks you even when her dialogue suggests a not-so-smart target audience. 'I was never in the driver's seat of my life,' she murmurs, one of her many huggable moments. Unfortunately, Dern – only seen in flashback – isn't the main character in 'Wild'. Reese Witherspoon seizes on the role of Cheryl Strayed, spiritually broken and hiking the Pacific Crest Trail during the summer of 1995, with the talons of a hawk looking for prey below. Witherspoon is a seizer in general: few actors can be more appealingly uptight, and when the part is 'Election' or 'Legally Blonde', she's perfect. But the character in 'Wild', taken from Strayed's memoir, feels wrong for her. Cheryl is a heroin addict, a cheater, a promiscuous waitress and a bit of a space case. Witherspoon can't do any of these things persuasively, but she can fume at faulty camping equipment or fumble with her gigantic backpack like a slapstick pro. Her director, Jean-Marc Vallée ('Dallas Buyers Club'), pushes her towards thoughtfulness, yet his atmospheric style runs counter to the obvious material. There are highly symbolic mountains to climb, highly symbolic streams to cross. 'Wild' works considerably better as a gender drama, as Cheryl comes into conRead more
This unblinking and upsetting debut British film from brothers Daniel and Matthew Wolfe gives us a fateful day and night in the lives of two teenagers hiding in a Yorkshire caravan park. Both, we assume, are on the run from somewhere or someone. Laila (Sameena Jabeen Ahmed) is British-Asian, with dyed pink hair and a carefree reckless attitude – almost as if she's taking the long route to the gallows and knows it. Aaron (Conor McCarron) is white and Scottish, spending his afternoon with a bong while she does a shift at the local hairdresser’s. They're an innocent pair – more likeable kids having a laugh, you feel, than tragic lovers. We quickly know they're in danger – there's an ominous early shot of a roof on fire, perhaps a hint of things to come – and soon enough we witness two car loads of white and Asian men preparing for a mission which sinisterly includes them taping plastic sheeting inside the back of a car. The British-Pakistani lads, hard and determined, include Laila's brother, while the pair of white blokes, one an ex-bouncer, the other played by Scottish actor Gary Lewis, are as unimpressed by their colleagues on the other side of the race divide as vice versa. The bouncer pisses on his hand before the two groups meet; one of his counterparts makes a joke in Urdu about the Geordie headcase Raoul Moat, for them an icon of brainless white stupidity. What first feels like a Yorkshire spin on Bruno Dumont's drab, unadorned portraits of northern France later takesRead more
For his latest exploration of an institution, the great American documentary-maker Frederick Wiseman, now in his mid-eighties, turns his inquisitive lens on the employees, patrons and paintings of London’s National Gallery. Time-wise it’s a mid-range production for him: a few minutes short of three hours, it's longer than his cut-to-the-quick features like 'High School' (1968) and 'Boxing Gym' (2010), yet shorter than such epic-sprawl tapestries as four-hour-pluses 'Belfast, Maine' (1999) and 'At Berkeley' (2013). Stylistically, it keeps with Wiseman’s preference for showing, not telling. No explanatory titles. No talking-head interviews. Just of-the-moment action, observing as the viewing public wanders about the galleries and the museum staff – restorers, tour guides, executives – go about their business. Thematically, however, this is among Wiseman’s densest, and best, works – one that, after a profoundly emotional start, becomes a much stranger, slippery beast. Its greatness sneaks up on you. The film begins with several heady and moving odes to the viewing public: a museum guide explains to an attentive audience how a middle-age church mural might have seemed alive to its spectators in the dimness of candlelight. A curator discusses with gallery director Nicholas Penny the need to make the various exhibitions – beyond a sure thing like Leonardo Da Vinci – more accessible and inviting to the general populace. In the most poignant scene (one that a lesser movie would makeRead more
This is a whale of a movie, grotesque and a little bloated but impossible to ignore. Its power and its horrors sneak up on you. It's a contemporary Russian tale, set on the shores of the Barents Sea, about the unholy powers of the state and the church bearing down on one man, Kolia (Alexey Serebryakov) and his family, after he dares to challenge an attempt by the local mayor, Vadim (Roman Maydanov), to take his home from him. The film's title borrows from that of political philosopher Thomas Hobbes's greatest work and helps itself to his view that life would be 'nasty, brutish and short' without good government and an organised society. It's a tragedy with a hint of black comedy that moves at its own sometimes surprising pace and rhythm, and it lands a bruising punch on modern Russia.'It's up to you if he becomes a man or an ape,' says Kolia's wife Lilya (Elena Lyadova) in the kitchen of their small town home as their unhappy stepson stomps about the house. You sense that Russian filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev ('Elena', 'The Banishment') is thinking the same thing in relation to an entire society and its leaders, and there's a funny scene when a small group go on a shooting and drinking trip and bring along framed photos of Russia's leaders from Lenin to Yeltsin to fire at. 'It's too early for the current ones; we need more historical perspective,' quips someone, although Putin's photo sits prominently on the wall of the mayor's office.'Leviathan' begins with Kolia's friend, DmRead more
'Don’t kill him – wear him down.' Those are among the first words we hear in Abderrahmane Sissako’s devastating African drama 'Timbuktu', spoken by a gun-toting jihadist chasing down a fleeing gazelle. The scene sets a chilling tone that’s impossible to shake: terror, in this case, isn’t about killing the body, but the spirit. Wear an animal down and absolute control is assured. After this bloodcurdling opening, the film settles into a semi-relaxed groove as it sketches in the lives of a small community also under siege. In Timbuktu, in the west African state Mali, shepherd Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed) lives with his wife and child in the dunes. When one of Kidane’s cows is tangled in a trawler’s net and is killed by an angry fisherman, the incident upsets a peace that could charitably be termed fragile. Islamic thugs rule the town and preach a bastardised gospel via megaphone: no music, no uncovered female bodies, no football – though even these terrorists discuss the career of French superstar Zidane in hallowed tones. The residents live with the oppression as best they can, either avoiding contact with the radicals or openly defying them. One woman, clearly nearing insanity, walks around in red high-heels and a flowing dress. The jihadists leave her alone – she’s too far gone to be made an effective example of. Punishment for others runs the gamut from 40 lashes to death by machine gun, though Sissako, with a few blunt-force exceptions, usually refrains from showing violence,Read more
It’s clear that Japanese director Naomi Kawase ('The Mourning Forest') has poured her heart and soul into every frame of this wishy-washy drama about two teenagers coming of age. That makes it all the more depressing that the end results are so resoundingly uninvolving and off-putting. Kaito (Nijiro Murakami) and his girlfriend Kyoko (Jun Yoshinaga) live on the island of Amami-Oshima. He’s a troublemaker pissed off because of his parents’ divorce, she’s an introvert who is facing the impending death of her shaman mother. The discovery of a dead body upsets what little balance there is between the two, and their stormy teen emotions are parallelled by the typhoons that occasionally hit the shore with brute force. The film proceeds in wearying fits and starts. No one scene leads gracefully into the next: luxurious shots of the natural environs bump against ugly handheld dialogue scenes full of laughable pregnant pauses and on-the-nose observations. When one character notes that people are like waves and then slowly, solemnly explains the metaphor, you have to stifle giggles. A few moments stand out, not always in a good way. Kaito’s woozy, alcohol-infused visit to his estranged father in Tokyo shows some directorial flair. But two graphic goat killings – meant as a kind of animal-world reflection of the tale’s themes of death and rebirth – play like cheap shock tactics. It’s almost as if Kawase is daring us to turn away from the hard truths she thinks she’s unearthed. ChallengRead more
Cinema doesn't come much more exuberant, musical and raw than French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan's 'Mommy'. It's the tale of a wild, gurning, loveable teen, Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon), with severe, heavily medicated ADHD, and his love-hate relationship with his mother, Die (Anne Dorval), and their new neighbour, the meek, stuttering Kyla (Suzanne Clément), who moves in across the road with her husband and young daughter. Where others would find misery and pain (and this offers both) as Die struggles with the violent and wild Steve, Dolan finds joy and wild energy in the most unusual places. As Die struggles to keep Steve out of trouble and Kyla becomes a secondary mother figure to him, Dolan throws everything but the kitchen sink at his film, using a cameraphone-style screen ratio that he widens for the film's happier moments, even getting his main character to appear to do the widening himself with his hands. It may feel crass and bombastic at times, and you may wonder why Dolan introduces the whole thing with some convoluted explanatory text, but you can't ignore its heartfelt emotion and winning belief that there's no single definition of what makes a real family.This is Dolan's fifth feature – he's still only 25 – and he does terrific work again with the actresses Dorval and Clément, both of whom appeared in his 2009 debut 'I Killed My Mother' as well as in some of his subsequent films. This is melodrama and then some, and songs by Dido and Oasis boom out over musiRead more
A boat sails into port. 'Frankenstein' author Mary Shelley scratches in her composition book with a quill. The second movement of Beethoven’s 'Seventh Symphony' begins, halts abruptly, then begins again. A naked woman pontificates while her male lover takes a loud shit that would shame Fat Bastard from 'Austin Powers'. A dog runs into a forest, then back out. The boat leaves port. Those are some of the images and sounds you’ll experience in Jean-Luc Godard’s playful, provocative latest. After his stimulating, highly uneven 'Film Socialisme' (2010), it’s nice to see this great filmmaker sculpting something that feels genuinely revelatory. That’s not to say that the 3D 'Goodbye to Language' is always an easy sit: as with much Godard after 1967’s epochal 'Weekend', this is a free-associative essay film that rejects straight narrative, includes a tidal wave of allusions (both visual and verbal), and unfolds over several planes of action. Impossible as it is, you have to look everywhere at once. Godard has called the film a simple one about a married woman, a single man and a dog. But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re always portrayed by the same people – or even exist in the same time period. Only that scene-stealing canine (played by Godard’s pet pooch, Roxy) seems to be its own entity, a silent witness to the man and woman’s tempestuous relationship. One shot of our furry friend sleeping on a couch while an offscreen argument rages calls to mind an observation by IranianRead more
Here’s a lyrical and warm portrait of an unusual family living a scrappy, hand-to-mouth existence in the Italian countryside. It's the second film from Alice Rohrwacher (‘Corpo Celeste’), a personal, intimate riffing on her own childhood, celebrating the wonderful strangeness of families – equally capable of love and destructiveness, happiness and despair, often all at the same time. You could say this family is stranger than most. Hippy farmers Angelica (Alba Rohrwacher) and her unnamed partner (Sam Louvyck) live with their four daughters and an adult friend, Coco (Sabine Timoteo), in a rundown farmhouse in the scorched Italian countryside – speaking a mix of Italian, German and French. We meet the family at crisis point: money is tighter than ever and the parents are at each other’s throats. To complicate things further, there’s a new addition to the family to deal with, a troubled and near-silent German foster child. Meanwhile, a local TV station is running a bizarre, nostalgic contest called ‘Countryside Wonders’ with a prize for local producers. The eldest girl, 12-year-old Gelsomina (Alexandra Lungu), feels the pressure to step up, helping her irascible, endlessly stressed father to keep bees and harvest honey. Rohrwacher’s film is at its strongest exploring the everyday experiences of Gelsomina and her family. She and her sisters are terrified of upsetting their father, doing everything they can to avoid sparking one of his rages. Their mother feels the same. ‘When hRead more
Comedy seldom travels well from one culture to another, but from the first, pre-credits episode of this engaging if uneven satire highlighting humanity's more basic instincts, it's clear the young Argentine writer-director Damián Szifron has a knack for latching on to ideas and characters with a humorous dimension that is pretty universal. The opening sketch, about an almost surreally improbable situation – a planeful of passengers is miraculously assembled by a single unseen individual bent on revenge – demonstrates not only Szifron's taste in ultra-black humour but his preferred strategy of combining outrageous excess with a perverse but unavoidable logic. So, grudges, minor insults, found-out flirtations and the like repeatedly lead to mayhem and murder on a cataclysmic scale. The funniest of the six stories is probably a brilliantly extended riot of absurdly brutal road rage. The most politically biting is a study of concealment and corruption among the morally bankrupt, wealthy and well-connected, reminiscent of Nuri Bilge Ceylan's 'Three Monkeys' and his compatriot Lucrecia Martel's 'The Headless Woman'. That the lead actress from the latter film also figures in Szifron's tale of a hit-and-run car accident is indicative of the talent he's cast; even the great Argentine actor Ricardo Darin features as an explosives expert plagued by a scarily bureaucratic (and all too familiar) parking tickets department. The first three episodes are undoubtedly the most amusing, but tRead more
Belfast, 1971, and Gary (Jack O'Connell), a young private in the British army, is thrown in at the deep end of the Troubles; more than that, his hands are tied and there are bricks in his pocket. This quiet lad from Derbyshire has barely been in Belfast a day when he finds himself in the middle of a violent street riot sparked by a heavy-handed house search by police in a Catholic area. Matters turn worse when he becomes separated from his colleagues and has to flee down menacing alleys and up war-torn streets to escape with his life. As night falls, the stark reality of the situation begins to look more like something from a foggy, street-lamp-lit nightmare. This is the first feature from French-born, British-based TV director Yann Demange, and it recalls Paul Greengrass's 'Bloody Sunday': same country, same period, same in-the-moment shaky camerawork and sense of escalating terror. But as darkness comes, ‘’71’ offers something more atmospheric and ambitious than mere documentary-style realism. Gary has the weight of the Troubles on his shoulders, and Gregory Burke’s script sets out to capture all the rifts and loyalties of 1971 Belfast: a thankless task, perhaps. So, the local Republican paramilitaries want Gary’s scalp, but there are splits among the Catholic extremists. Also in play is a small unit of morality-free, undercover Brits (their chief number played by a menacing Sean Harris) who think the life of a mere private may not be worth saving if it means exposing theiRead more
Kristen Stewart leads with her chin in the prison drama 'Camp X-Ray' – and not just by jutting it out in her usual glum-girl pose. In this star vehicle's first few minutes, Stewart's character, Cole, a soldier and recent transfer to the high-security cell block at Guantanamo, is elbowed in the face by a howling detainee. A spot of blood forms on her lip, but – wouldn't you know it? – the jaw stays firm. Writer-director Peter Sattler, whose feature debut this is, is keen for us to know the former 'Twilight' star can take a hit, even as the camera lingers on Cole tightening her hair bun and reining in her feelings. Nonetheless, those feelings come into play as she bonds, initially against her will, with chatty, English-speaking Ali (Peyman Moaadi), an eight-year prisoner frustrated by the library cart's lack of the final Harry Potter book. How does the magical saga end? Just as you're reeling from the tackiness of this premise, set within such an explosive context, the plot doubles down on it: Ali starts calling her Blondie and she tells him to 'cut the Hannibal Lecter shit.' That's exactly where things are headed, though, and you cringe at banter yet to come. Aside from dirty protests and a hunger strike included to remind viewers they are, indeed, watching a human-rights drama, 'Camp X-Ray' attempts to shade the situation with a poundingly obvious countervillain, Cole's superior, a sexual predator whose advances during off-time are rebuffed. He then tries to humiliate bothRead more
New York-based filmmaker Ira Sachs ('Keep the Lights On') creates a special kind of urbanity: softer and more inclusive than Woody Allen's, openly gay but family-focused, alive to the city's tensions and lulls. His latest movie also features a Chopin piano score, adding an exquisite sense of proportion to what, in the hands of most other directors, might have felt like a cautionary tale about the perils of gay marriage. Instead, 'Love Is Strange' emerges as a total triumph for Sachs and his co-leads, John Lithgow and Alfred Molina, who turn in career-topping work. Chatty painter Ben (Lithgow) and his music-teacher partner of nearly four decades, George (Molina), tie the knot in an idyllic, understated ceremony. The afterparty that follows – both men at the piano laughing, lasagna and heartfelt toasts being served – steers the movie economically onto accepting territory. But the outside ramifications are harsh: George's Catholic academy is forced to fire him and, only weeks after celebrating, the couple find themselves cash poor, unable to maintain a mortgage and out of their elegant apartment. 'Are you guys getting divorced already,' jokes the assembled clan when they break the news and ask for temporary shelter. Ben goes to his nephew's family (and a teen's bunk bed) while George crashes on the couch of a younger gay cop's boisterous party pad. The film is too intelligent to turn into a sitcom of chafing sexual lifestyles. Rather, Sachs's nuanced theme is privacy, as relatRead more
You already know the ferocious jazz teacher played by JK Simmons in the electrifying New York-set drama ‘Whiplash’ if you've seen things like ‘Full Metal Jacket’, ‘Battle Royale’ and even the grizzly bear in ‘Grizzly Man’. Clad fully in black, biceps bulging, Simmons’s Fletcher exudes attitude: he rules the top department of an elite New York music school with a clenched first. Part of the joy of watching dramas like this must be a masochistic thrill in seeing young hopefuls suffer: drumming student Andrew (Miles Teller from ‘The Spectacular Now’, fully convincing) is nearly destroyed by this monster, a barking man who’s impossible to please. Yet even though our hero’s knuckles bleed and his snare gets spattered, you think: that’s some truly glorious noise he’s making. The discipline and beauty of bebop has never been better served by a film. ‘Whiplash’ might have followed this trajectory to a feel-good destination, one involving a recital, some proud parents and a teary hug. But that’s not where the young American writer-director Damien Chazelle wants to go – and bless him for it. Fletcher’s put-downs become more vicious (and riotously un-PC), the drive to perfection turns Andrew into a bitter, uncaring boyfriend, and the plot’s tone nears that of a thriller, sometimes awkwardly. Credibility becomes shaky: will a violent car crash prevent Andrew from staggering to the gig in a concussed delirium? Don’t ask. Disappointing Fletcher is too terrifying a prospect. But there’sRead more
Brad Pitt pulls along this gutsy, old-fashioned World War II epic by the sheer brute force of his charisma. Germany, April 1945. The battles have all been won; the war is all but over. But Hitler refuses to surrender, so the Allies make a final push, taking Germany one town at a time. Pitt is tank commander Don ‘Wardaddy’ Collier, a growling war horse whose men hero-worship him like he’s the Second Coming. They’re not alone. The camera adores Pitt’s battered beauty. He is Adonis chiselled by a renaissance sculptor, left on a cliff edge to be pecked by gulls for a few hundred years. Like a Botticelli pin-up chewing on a wasp. ‘Fury’ strains to be a Great War Film but never quite gets there. After his assistant driver is killed in battle, Wardaddy is assigned wet-behind-the-ears new recruit Norman (Logan Lerman), a typist who’s never been inside a tank. His first job is to clean his predecessor’s blood and bits of face off the seat before Wardaddy takes him in hand like an overbearing father: ‘You’re no good to me if you can’t kill Krauts.’ Norman begs Wardaddy to kill him rather than make him shoot his first German. We haven’t seen Pitt this switched on in years. His Wardaddy is 110-percent testosterone. Parachute him into an anti-war march, and he’d have the lot of them signed up for active duty in 30 minutes flat. The battle scenes thunder and rage with a satisfyingly unadorned realism. Everything is covered in mud and there’s plenty of authentically sweaty male bonding inRead more
Since playing Hannah’s boyfriend in ‘Girls’, Adam Driver has become cinema’s go-to guy for a hipster, goofy-sweet love interest. Possibly aware of the risks of being typecast, Driver reveals his serious side in this claustrophobic, psychological indie drama set in New York. Think of ‘Hungry Hearts’ as ‘Rosemary’s Baby: the Organic Version’ – it has a vat of creepy horror bubbling under the surface. It’s unsettling, but it also slips into far-fetched silliness at the end, and it may leave you with a nagging feeling that there’s something slightly dodgy and unfeminist in its portrayal of an unstable woman. The woman is Mina (Alba Rohrwacher), an Italian living in New York, and the film opens with a funny-awkward, love-at-first-sight meeting when she walks into the tiny bathroom of a Chinese restaurant. The door jams shut behind her. Some pretty foul smells are wafting from the loo, inside which engineer Jude (Driver) has got a nasty case of food poisoning. Mortified to find himself locked in a bathroom with a cool pretty girl and his own violent odours, Jude cracks a lame joke or two. The beginning of their relationship passes in a haze of images: Mina and Jude in bed; Mina peeing on a pregnancy test; a bump; Jude serenading Mina on their wedding day with a stunned face, like he can’t believe his luck. Mina is a vegan, and there’s a hint she may have a history of eating disorders. Morning sickness triggers a delusion; Mina believes the vomiting is her body’s way of detoxing pRead more
Twice before, first with 'Topsy-Turvy' and then with 'Vera Drake', Mike Leigh has punctuated his bittersweet studies of contemporary life with period dramas. Now, with 'Mr Turner', the British director of 'Naked' and 'Secrets and Lies' takes us back to the nineteenth century and the later years of the celebrated, groundbreaking, difficult painter JMW Turner (1775-1851). Sad and joyful, 'Mr Turner' offers a wonderfully rich tapestry of experience and digs deeply into a complicated, contradictory life. Timothy Spall – a veteran of Leigh's films – plays this eccentric, determined London bohemian like a bronchial, cantankerous, randy old toad with backache. He grunts and grimaces and gropes his way through life. He talks like a market trader after a crash course in the classics. Leigh, meanwhile, explores Turner's life unburdened by any sense of purpose other than an intense, contagious fascination with this man, his work, his times and, increasingly, the inevitable, slow, irresistible trudge towards death. We observe Turner's fondness for his elderly father; his sexual relationship with his meek housekeeper (Dorothy Atkinson); his rejection of his children and their mother; his arms-length acceptance by the lions of the Royal Academy; his late-life relationship with a Margate widow (Marion Bailey); and the mockery of the crowd when his work turns experimental. 'Vile' and a 'yellow mess' concludes Queen Victoria at an exhibition: the presence of royalty in a Mike Leigh film isRead more
Wondering what to see at the LFF?
The London Film Festival (October 8-19) brings the best new cinema to the UK from all over the world. Here are the 25 films we’re most excited about, from Benedict Cumberbatch’s ‘The Imitation Game’ to Brad Pitt in ‘Fury’.Read more