And there was me thinking I’d be taking it easy this year, as a mere demobbed civilian liberated from the trenches of the press corp. Well, despite resisting the frequent requests to sign-off for this years festival as a journalistic freeloader my greed has got the better of me, as I’ve still gone a little crazy and outlined a mere dozen or so films and events to celebrate this years London Film Festival. I embarked on something of a pincer maneuver, sending in a BFI members ticket ballot to get a jump start on the box office while also risking the on-line, experience, where the books are opened 24 hrs before the doors are thrown open to the general public. Notoriously the system usually breaks down or stalls due to the strength of demand, but I have to say I experienced no problems at all, and managed to smash and grab the five tickets I’d left off my ballot so as to not replicate the paper application. I can’t say this was in any way a financially astute decision, as I’ve shelled out something in the region of four times what a press pass would have cost me, but this way I get to attend the films with living, breathing audience members, and naturally I have engineered this around the day job and my perfect location in the beating heart of Westminster – I’m roughly ten minutes walk to the West End and Southbank screening venues. So here is what’s on offer gentle reader, I’m spectacularly excited about one special event that I’ll save for the end, and will open up the schedule with what is quietly being heralded as the greatest film of the year, and in some cases fervently whispered as a masterpiece;
Manchester By The Sea (Kenneth Lonergan, USA, 2016) I know, I know, that trailer is pretty terrible but I believe my esteemed fellow cinephiles when they state that it in no way represents the final film, which like Lonergan’s last film Margaret has been slightly butchered by the usual interfering studio executives. I’ve gone full red carpet gala on this one, so I guess I’d best get my tuxedo mothballed eh?
A Journey Through French Cinema (Bernard Tavernier, 2016) – You cant beat a good movie documentary at a film festival, and although there are no less than two David Lynch documentaries screening this year I’ve opted for a rather more languorous three hour stroll through our Gallic cousins contribution to the seventh art, with of the esteemed Bernard Tavernier as our illuminating guide. Featuring more Jeans – Cocteau! Renoir! Vigo! Gabin! Jacques-Bieneix!! – than a third world Levi’s sewing factory….
The Handmaiden (Park Chan-Wook, 2016) – I’ve not been privy to how this has been received on the festival circuit so far, and although I wasn’t a fan of his English language effort Stoker this is after all an auteur with an impressive career, and that trailer looked deranged enough to give him a chance. I’m just wondering with that with its 144 minute run-time he hasn’t fallen into similar traps than his other films, where he really seems to drag out his stories by at least twenty minutes too long….
Elle (Paul Verhoeven, 2016) – I’ve already mentioned this a couple of times so there isn’t much more to say, other than a little genuine bite and controversial baiting will be a welcome addition to this years dreary crop of cinematic product. Neon Demon aside this year has been far to god-damn safe, and I’m ripe for my liberal sensibilities to be mocked and offended. More on Mr. Verhoeven a little later….
Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt, 2016) – A blind buy purely on the strength of he director alone, she’s one of my favorite directors currently at work so the fact that she has a new film was a joyful surprise.
Lo And Behold… (Werner Herzog, 2016) – Speaking of favorites, Werner’s new documentary hasn’t exactly been setting the community alight, its a strong and interesting piece of work I’m told but not equal to some of his soaring masterpieces, but I’ll take average Herzog over anyone else just about any day of the week. The subject matter of our modern, interconnected technology globalized world fascinates me anyway, so I’m sure I’ll get something out of this, I just hope he doesn’t follow the usual route of cultural figures of his advancing years generation and sneer and dismiss current cultural and technological dimensions as being beneath his almighty heyday….
Dog Eat Dog – (Paul Schrader, 2016) – Nick Cage, Willem Dafoe, Paul Schrader and an Eddie Bunker source novel? What could possibly go wrong? I’m really looking forward to this, allegedly Schrader’s best effort in over a decade, a stone cold caper movie with some very dark black humor to alleviate the ride.
Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford, 2016) – A small risk this one, but with a strong cast and and the bittersweet perfume of neo-noir permeating the scant promotional material I thought I’d buy this dame a drink. No trailer as yet, so above is some Venice visuals….
Nocturama (Bertrand Bonello, 2016) More night-time activities with French provocateur Bonello, the infamous director of The Pornographer – I think the title might give you an idea of the subject matter – and House Of Tolerance which is set inside a seedy Parisian bordello. I’m not entirely sure what this film is about other than some sort of disenfranchised gallic Fight Club, but I’m curious to find out. Now, speaking of provocateurs….
However, we save the best for last. Yes of course I have applied for tickets to see the almighty Herzog in Q&A mode, but having already worshiped at his presence a couple of years ago the chance to see the venerable Paul Verhoeven in the flesh will probably be the Menagerie event of the year, unless the BFI convince Carpenter to make an appearance. The tyrant behind Robocop, Total Recall and Starship Troopers is a genre molesting living legend, not to mention the notorious likes of Showgirls and Basic Instinct, one of the key Hollywood provocateurs of the last few decades whose lacerating satire has been sorely missed. This might be a good excuse to go on something of a retrospective of his early Dutch films, and maybe the infamous 1980 Flesh & Blood…..