BFI London Film Festival 2016

London Film Festival 2016

This site thrives on one 12 day event that occurs every year in October; the BFI London Film Festival. The festival is now in its 60th year and we are in our 7th year of covering the film bonanza in as much detail as we can without actually losing our minds. Each year the films get better and better, I see more and more films, and I get less and less sleep.

On Thursday the line-up for this year’s event was announced and I have gone through the various strands and pulled out a film for each that really has me excited. As for my overall list of films I want to see… I am currently trying to get that down to double digits.

Galas - Free Fire

Free Fire

The Gala films tend to be the hardest tickets to get your hands on but are also the most likely to get a cinema release so I advise you look elsewhere for gems at the festival. That aside I am desperate to catch this year’s closing film Free Fire as it unites the fearless Brie Larson with revolutionary Ben Wheatley. I’ve seen three Larson films (1, 2, 3) and two of Wheatley’s (1, 2) at previous festivals and cannot wait to get my eyeballs on this bloody, funny, and no doubt dazzling action comedy from a filmmaker like no other. Amy Jump has written a 1970s American crime drama shot just outside Brighton which looks as farcical as it does violent. Bring it on.

Love - The Son of Joseph

The Son of Joseph

Back in 2011 we found ourselves very briefly delving into a surreal and stylised world of Portuguese cinema. The film that ended this baffling cinematic education was The Portuguese Nun. I’m almost certain that we enjoyed it. That film’s director, Eugène Green, is back with a French film about a young man searching for his father. I guarantee that this will be a unique film that will be either tedious, hilarious, or a delirious mixture of both.

Debate - Lo and Behold Reveries of the Connected World

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World

Werner Herzog is the only documentarian that has both appeared as a baddie in Jack Reacher and as an estate agent in Parks and Recreation. So great is the caricature surrounding Herzog sometimes I forget that he is actually a skilled filmmaker who is not afraid to offer up his opinion and produces works of lyrical beauty. His latest is an exploration of our connected world; looking at how the internet has affected our real world personal relationships. Apparently it includes the line, “Can your dishwasher fall in love with your refrigerator?”. Sold.

Laugh - Lost in Paris

Lost in Paris

My favourite film of 2012 was a strange Belgian comedy called The Fairy which starred a limber comedic duo like nothing I had seen before. In their latest they play a couple who find one another in Paris and go on a series of absurd adventures. Fiona Gordon and Dominique Abel thrive on genuinely funny physical comedy that relies on flexibility, ingenuity, and impeccable timing. I will not be missing this.

Dare - The Handmaiden

The Handmaiden

Park Chan-wook has brought us Korean classics including Thirst and The Vengeance Trilogy before impressing with his English language triumphs Stoker and Snowpiercer. Now he has taken the English novel Fingersmith back to his native South Korea to create an erotic and stylish period thriller that apparently involves some amazing wallpaper. No other director can wring so much tension from so little so I can only imagine what he does with this saucy source material.

Thrill - City of Tiny Lights

City of Tiny Lights

A crime thriller set in contemporary London starring Riz Ahmed and Billie Piper. This leapt out at me having watched Billie Piper give a career defining performance in Yerma at the Young Vic last week and feeling the need to double-check that she really is the incredible actress I saw that night. With a plotline involving a radical mosque, multiculturalism, and commercial development City of Tiny Lights sounds like a ripe and topical slice of modern noir set in the city I love.

Cult - The Void

The Void

There are numerous horrors I am keen to lose my composure to at the festival but the one that I keep coming back to is this throwback from Canada. Said to include the influence of John Carpenter and classic practical effects along with knowing nods to frighteners of the past The Void looks to be the perfect way for me to lose a few nights’ sleep.

Journey - Two Lovers and a Bear

Two Lovers and a Bear

Starring two of the most underrated and talented young actors working today, Dane DeHaan and Tatiana Maslany, Two Lovers and a Bear brings us magical realism in the Arctic. The two titular lovers are trying to overcome their childhoods in a remote and isolated town. Presumably a bear shows up at some point too.

Sonic - London Town

London Town

Imagine a time of social, political, and racial unrest under a Tory Prime Minister. Now stop thinking about last month and throw your mind back to 1979. Representing the festival strand dedicated to music we have a British comedy drama following a young teenager struggling with family life after his mother leaves the family home. What will help him get through this troubled time? Punk of course!

Family - Phantom Boy

Phantom Boy

At a film festival there are no BBFC certificates and as such there is no guarantee that the animated film you have chosen to see will not feature graphic sexual content. Thankfully the festival has the Family strand which is the only safe place for the young or prudish. Leo is a sick boy trapped in hospital who discovers he can leave his body and fly around like a phantom. A surreal animation about a new type of superhero.

Experimentia - Have You Seen My Movie

Have You Seen My Movie?

I am wary of the Experimenta strand as the films veer away from narrative cinema and towards pure art. For a novice like me this can be a challenging experience and writing about it is almost impossible. I get an abusive email roughly once every six months from one artist whose work I didn’t enjoy back in 2013. A film my brain might be able to comprehend is Have You Seen My Movie? which consists of a two-hour montage of scenes from other films that either feature people going to the cinema or in the act of making film themselves. How can this last for so long? Will it be enjoyable or tedious? This is the joy of Experimenta; you have to take the plunge and risk being proven wrong.

Treasures - Born in Flames

Born in Flames

Truly embracing the risk I am even tempted by a film that straddles both the Experimenta strand and the Treasures collection. In the latter group are older films that have been remastered or simply need to be revisited, perhaps having gained greater relevance since their initial release. This example is a slice of 80s feminist science fiction in which women never gained equality with men and so turn to violent revolution to fight for what is rightfully theirs. Anyone mocking SJWs online might want to watch their step.

The festival runs 5th – 16 October 2016 and tickets go on sale 8th September for BFI members and 15th September for everyone else.

Curzon On Demand

Curzon Cinemas (a wonderful art-house cinema group) have recently launching Curzon On Demand, a service allowing you to access a huge range of foreign, art-house and independent films online. Films start from £2.00 and any film you buy is yours to stream for seven days. I gave the new service a test earlier this week and highly recommend it.

Signing up was easy and once logged-in, the only problem I had was choosing what film to watch. Films range from the silent comedies of Charlie Chaplin, through Mild Concern favourites like The Portuguese Nun, and on to films currently on release in cinemas such as La Havre and Into The Abyss: A Tale Of Death, A Tale Of Life. After a lot of contemplation and soul-searching I settled on Fermat’s Room, a Spanish film about four mathematicians trapped in a room that is slowly closing in on itself as they are forced to solve riddles.

The film was great, a forgotten gem that I had given up hope of seeing years ago, picture and sound quality were perfect and even my sometimes dodgy internet didn’t ruin the experience. The film was gripping and surprising, almost like a more intellectual version of The Cube with better acting but just as much maths.

Living in London, I sometimes take for granted the easy access we have to independent film through cinemas like Curzon but the whole of the UK is not all so lucky. What makes Curzon On Demand such a great prospect is that it allows everyone across the country to have access to the lastest art-house films at the same time and for about half the cost of seeing the same film in the West End. No longer will you see the phrase “limited release” and resign yourself to never getting the chance to see a film.

I highly recommend you go to and sign up. It’s free to join and there are a fair few films to tempt you.

Sponsored Post

Arts Groups Lose Funding, Thanks David

With the UK Film Council disbanded, and partially reformed over at the BFI, you might think the British film scene had lost enough funding for now. Sadly not. With the Arts Council England’s budget cut by £100 million back in October, more casualties were revealed yesterday as the various grants were announced. Plenty of bad news for arts groups.

Some fared well, the Young Vic had gained 15.8% in it’s funding, so it’s not all grim news, but for every extra penny one group received, another is losing that penny from it’s funding. One of the hardest hit is the Institute of Contemporary Art in London, losing between 37% and 43%, depending on which news source you believe. The ICA covers all sorts of art but most importantly is our source of bizarre Portuguese films, and is where I once saw Hot Fuzz before release with Wright, Frost and Pegg in attendance.

I realise that every sector is feeling the pinch and plenty of people I know and love are losing their jobs but this is a blog about the arts, or 3D films with gore and nudity, so it’s our job to highlight our loss when such severe cuts are made by the government.

Some might say tax money shouldn’t be spent on the arts, but that’s just silly.

The Portuguese Nun – Review

The chances are you have no intention of watching The Portuguese Nun, an obscure French and Portuguese production shown for a brief period last month at the ICA in London. But then you probably didn’t see Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl on a whim last year either. We did and we loved it in a curious way, fueling an intrigue in obscure Portuguese cinema that led to us back at the ICA for a film about a nun.

More accurately the film is about an actress playing a nun, an actress who enjoys walking very slowly around places and talking in an odd monotone fashion. In fact, everyone walks slowly and talks in an odd monotone fashion. After researching the film it turns out that this isn’t bad acting, just an incredibly stylised film.

The film is a very long two hours, everything happens at the slowest possible pace and often scenes are padded out with long shots with no action, or even an actor in it. One particular scene in which the actress discusses the nature of life and love with an actual Portuguese nun is painfully slow to the point of becoming torturous, and in total we are treated to full performances of three songs with no distraction.

What saves the film, or at least helps you through the experience, are the rare moments of hilarious dialogue, made all the funnier for their deadpan delivery. A particular highlight is the film’s director, played by the real film’s director Eugène Green, who brings a sense of playfulness to the heavy affair.

With characters staring directly at the camera and commenting on how they find French films boring, it is hard to tell just how seriously to take this post-modern film, exactly the same problem we had with Eccentricities of a Blonde-Haired Girl.

Would we recommend The Portuguese Nun? Most likely not, but the next time a Portuguese film appears at the ICA we may well find ourselves in the audience.

Out Now – 21st January 2011

You know what you need to see this weekend, and it doesn’t star Kevin James.

Black Swan
We loved this masterpiece from Darrenofsky, the story of a ballerina’s battle to discover her darker, free-er self. It’s a movie that will have you tense from start to finish and is a true cinema experience. Plus Portman totally gets down and dirty with Kunis. Something for everyone.

The Dilemma
If you caught your best friend’s wife cheating on him would you have an hour and a half of hilarious consequences? Vince Vaughn would! Or he seems to try to her.

Get Low
A hermit throws himself a funeral with the help of Bill Murray and people discover things about themselves. You had me at Bill Murray.

John Carpenter’s The Ward
Sexy girls in a mental institution! It’s like Sucker Punch only there’s a ghost and less fantastical CGI filled sequences. Expect to yelp at least once in shock.

Morning Glory
Two ageing and warring news anchors and the young producer who has to revive their show. Hilarious! I hope at some point the young producer struggles to carry a large amount of something and drops it. I like it when that happens.

Ride, Rise, Roar
A documentary about David Byrnes from Talking Heads, in which he is no longer in Talking Heads.

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould (limited release)
“A documentary on the mysterious and influential pianist.” Ooh mysterious! I’ve never even heard of Glenn Gould.

Honeymooner (limited release)
Dumped by his fiancée weeks before they get married Fran (a man) reconsiders his “strategy” for love. It’s British and very short.

I Spit On Your Grave (limited release)
The remake of a film about a woman who is raped and then goes on to brutally murder her attackers, which had to have a few seconds removed to get shown. Expect to be disturbed with nothing to redeem you or the movie.

NEDS (limited release)
Violent British youth in a contemporary period setting. So far, so familiar. Something to watch if young people don’t scare you enough.

The Portuguese Nun (limited release)
A slightly pretentious looking man at The Guardian positively gushes about this film, calling it “mesmeric, subtly comic and weirdly gripping”. Only on at the ICA in London. Obviously.