The 60th BFI London Film Festival in October 2016 screened around 250 features from 74 countries over 12 days at 15 venues all over London. Now it’s all over, here are some of the Festival films that we haven’t already reviewed on Dog And Wolf to look out for in future – in no particular order.
A provocative portrait of contemporary terrorism in Paris. Director Bertrand Bonello’s movie ollows a photogenic group of young Parisians planning and preparing simultaneous Cemtex attacks around city, and hitting symbolic targets such as the Ministry of the Interior and a gilded statue of Joan of Arc, but it doesn’t explain their motives. The second part shows them holed up for the night in the consumerist heaven of a department store (La Samaritaine) until they see on the television news that the police are closing in. Tense and disturbing in the light of real events, it is ultimately inconclusive on many levels.
It’s flashily shot, ultra-violent and at times absurd. Paul Schrader’s fast-moving failed heist movie stars a besuited Nicholas Cage and Willem Dafoe as Mad Dog – the clue’s in the name. Multiple deaths, some more gruesome than others, pepper the movie like bullet holes as deaths when they come can be simply arbitrary. It’s personal expression at the expense of morality. Dog Eat Dog is released on 18 November 2016 in the UK.
Rebecca Zlotowski follows her acclaimed Grand Central with a drama set in France in the1930s, perhaps notable for Natalie Portman attempting her role in French, as one of two American sisters scraping a living as mediums – the other being Lily-Rose Depp. It’s inspired by the true story of Bertrand Natan, a Jewish film producer who owned Pathe Studios before his deportation to Auschwitz. Whilst its visualisation of the times is richly textured, it doesn’t successfully tie up its triple themes of spiritualism, decadence and the build-up to war.
Garrett Clayton stars as the gay porn star who has bigger ideas than the producer who made him famous, the sleazy filmmaker played by Christian Slater. Based on a true story, Justin Kelly’s movie about the underworld of gay porn exposes the vicious rivalries that lead to grisly consequences. It also stars James Franco and Keegan Allan as a competing director and performer, prepared to do anything to keep their place in the industry.
A sweet rom-com originating from an unlikely place, Mahmoud Sabbagh’s film was shot in Jeddeh and riffs on the difficulty of two people who are attracted to each other to find a place to meet in that society, where men and women are socially segregated. Hisham Fageeh is appealing as the municipal civll servant who falls in love with the Instagram star who seems out of his league (Fatima Al Banawi). It’s a humorous challenge to cultural preconceptions.
Director Ivan Sen made headlines at the London Film Festival in 2013 with his Aussie noir, and his latest movie continues with the central character of maverick indigenous Australian detective Jay Swan (Aaron Pedersen). Taking full advantage of the wide, flat landscapes and craggy bluffs with multiple aerial shots, this time he’s uncovering corruption in gold mining contracts and people trafficking of Asian girls to the mining camps, but in execution its very similar to its forerunner Mystery Road. It also stars veteran actor David Gulpilil as an Aborigine elder.
Directed by Billy O’Brien, the black comedy horror stars Max Records as 16-year-old John in snow-bound Hibbing, Minnesota, who is under psychoanalysis for probable psychopathic tendencies. This isn’t helped by the fact that his family home is also a funeral home and he enthusiastically assists his mother in preparing the corpses. Christopher Lloyd also stars as his curmudgeonly elderly neighbour. When a serial starts a rampage in the neighbourhood, John is the prime suspect, so he turns sleuth to uncover the real killer, someone so unlikely that no one suspects – and the horrific ending is just as unexpected. I am not a Serial Killer is released on 9 December 2016 in the UK.
In Russian director Ivan I Tverdovsky’s black comedy, a middle-aged woman leading a dull life. living with her mother and working in administrative job at a zoo where she has more empathy with the animals than with her malicious colleagues, suddenly grows a tail. From being an invisible woman, her life opens out as a result and she unexpectedly blossoms. Its magical realism is a black satire of Russian contemporary life, health service and society, with an outstanding performance from Natalia Pavlenkova.
Mira Nair brings her characteristic fluid flair, vibrant colour and joyous use of music to the dramatisation of the true story of Phiona Mutesi, the naturally talented girl from the slums of Nairobi who went on to be Ugandan chess champion and a Grand Master at the age of 14. Lupita Nyong’o stars as her mother and David Oyelowo as the sympathetic social worker who spotted her aptitude for chess. It’s a heartwarming story and it is fascinating to see the real people alongside the actors as the credits roll. The film premiered as the Virgin Atlantic Gala at the London Film Festival. The Queen of Katwe is released on 21 October 2016 in the UK.
An unusual first feature from UK director Hope Dickson Leach. Set on a farm in Somerset recovering from the catastrophic floods of 2013-2014, it’s grounded in the details of farm life and the natural world surrounding it. It stars Ellie Kendrick from Game of Thrones and veteran David Troughton as her estranged father struggling to adapt and survive in the atmospheric, uneasy aftermath of an unnamed tragedy that has brought them together again. The Levelling will be released in 2017 in the UK.
A spaceship is what gets you from one world to another. UK short-film director Alex Taylor’s first feature is a dreamlike, semi-psychedlic, free-flowing story of teenage cyber goths and possible alien abductions and the angst of outsiders finding their own way to live. It makes outstanding use of its eclectic musical soundtrack – even down to an Incredible String Band track, something I never imagined I’d hear in this context. It stars Alexa Davies and Finnish actor Antii Reini as her father. Spaceship will be released in March 2017 in the UK.
Spike Lee’s burningly angry, didactic musical version of Aristophanes’ Greek tragedy Lysistrata is a satirical polemic against black-on-black gang violence in present-day Chicago, pointing out that more are being killed in this way than in war. It’s in verse, it has big dance numbers, it’s upfront, in your face and very powerful, with a starry cast including Samuel L Jackson in the role of what would have been the Greek chorus, Wesley Snipes and Nick Cannon as rival gang leaders, and Teyonah Parris, Angela Bassett and Jennifer Hudson as some of the women who unite to pressure the gangs to stop their war – “No peace, no pussy”! Chi-Raq is released on 2 December 2016 in the UK.