With a new artistic director at the helm, this year's eclectic LFF programme reflects an amazing year of world cinema.
The 65th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express is upon us again, only this year it's under new management. The festival's much-loved artistic director, Sandra Hebron, bid a teary adieu to the festival last year, making way for new blood in the form of Clare Stewart, who comes to London from her post as artistic director of the Sydney Film Festival.
Before we mention any of the big titles that have made it into this year's line-up, the top-line story here is that the programme has undergone a major structural refit. Gone are the cosy geographical sub-strands of yore (French, British, World, European, etc), and in there place come special themed strands: Love, Cult, Laugh, Dare, Debate, Journey and Sonic. Each theme has its own gala and a small selection of films that fit into that category.
Of course, it's Stewart's first year behind the tiller, and if would've been perplexing if she hadn't instigated some kind of major shake-up. Initially, it's difficult to see the reasoning behind this method of categorisation, and when it was first announced, it did sound like films were being ghettoised and compartmentalised by broad genre classification. Yet, seeing it laid out in the brochure, the guiding principle seems to have been to create a way where films of all styles and locales can be placed side-by-side.
Whether this new format works or not is hard to say. Whether it'll have a positive impact on sales is, again, hard to say – will people really be so enthused by seeing a 'Love' film that they'll want to see another? Or feel that they're perhaps too 'Loved' up and want to engage in a bit of a 'Debate'? We'll have to see when the festival kicks off on October 10.
Anyway, on to the juice: the movies. It's been a very strong year for cinema, and so it was going to be very tough for Stewart and her programmers to do much wrong here. The festival opens with Tim Burton's monochrome stop-motion fantasy, Frankenweenie, about a young boy who brings his mutt back to life, and closes with a new, lavish adaptation of Great Expectations with Mike Newell at the helm.
Crossfire Hurricane, from director Brett Morgan, is a world premiere, and is another in the seemingly endless line of films about the Rolling Stones (though that's not to say it won't be good). To round out a fairly MOR selection of gala screenings, there's Dustin Hoffman's Quartet, Roger Michell's Hyde Park on Hudson, Wayne Blair's Commitments-a-like, The Sapphires, and the new movie from Paul Andrew Williams, Song for Marion, about an elderly couple and their adventures as part of a local choir.
Elsewhere, there's Michael Haneke's sensational Palme d'Or winner, Amour, Ben Wheatley's twisted and charming road movie, Sightseers, and Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills, his stunning follow-up to 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.
There's far, far too much to mention here, and the whole programme – including talks, masterclasses, surprise screenings and award contenders – is available to browse on the London Film Festival website. But, just for starters, here's 10 films you should beg, borrow or steal to get a ticket for...
We haven't actually seen this, but the buzz has been immense for Filho's Brazilian multi-stranded drama which tackles a range of contemporary themes and issues.
The first film from Saudi Arabia to be directed by a woman, Wadjda was one of the buzz films at this year's Venice Film Festival. We've seen it, and we think that director Al Mansour is destined for great things.
This sweet, NYC-set caper movie lit up the Un Certain Regard strand at this year's Cannes Film Festival. It sees a plucky twosome attempt to daub their graffiti tag on one of the city's most beloved landmarks.
The master returns after the intoxicating puzzle box, Certified Copy, with a film that's even more poetic/diffuse [delete as applicable]. Set in Tokyo, this playful shaggy dog yarn requires eagle-eye concentration and it boasts an intricate and dense mise-en-scène that is worthy of Kubrick.
Director Ursula Meier made a splash with her weirdo family comedy Home, but returns with a film that's not only in the style of the Dardenne brothers, but worthy of the comparison too. It's a heartbreaking rites of passage tale set on a Swiss ski resort and concerning a young pickpocket and his head-in-the-clouds sister.
A stunning central performance from Melissa Leo is the backbone of this lo-fi Amerindie character study about an ex-convict, her attempts to readjust to society and her strange love of pets.
The young director of the chilling Afterschool returns with a strange, slow-burning character study of an American college graduate (Brady Corbet) who moves to Paris and slowly reveals his wicked ways.
South Korea's greatest living director (who has never had a film distributed in the UK!!!) returns with this delightful comic triptych offering variations on story about a French woman and her romantic/drunken adventures in a small seaside down.
The apple has not fallen far from the tree, as Brandon 'son of Dave' Cronenberg arrives on the scene with a slick and dryly comic body horror-cum-satire which examines celebrity obsession through the medium of designer diseases.
Preminger's sun-dappled, Riviera-set psychodrama about an ageing lothario (David Niven) and his sexual escapades gets a plush restoration and plays in the newly named 'Treasures' strand.
The 56th LFF runs October 10-19. Check out the full line-up at bfi.org.uk/lff