The BFI London Film Festival opens tonight with Fernando Meirelles's 360 and closes on October 27 with Terence Davies's The Deep Blue Sea (and you can read a roundup on both films at once right here). Sight & Sound presents a guide to "30 fine films we've already seen and (mostly) written about in the magazine or on the web" and Time Out London has set up a microsite currently featuring reviews of at least as many titles.
"When Sandra Hebron took over as artistic director of the BFI London Film Festival nine years ago, it was a more subdued affair," recalls David Gritten, "a thoughtful, well-meaning event at the National Film Theatre, primarily for the benefit of the paying public, and showcasing the best new movies from all over the world. While respected, its international profile was relatively low. Today, it's a very different creature. This year, its 55th as a festival, is packed with gala screenings and red-carpet events. Stars flock to it, it has a global reputation, and there's a sprinkling of Hollywood at its best among the 300 films featured, which was never the case before. The LFF has upped its game, much as its home, the old National Film Theatre, was smartly rebranded as BFI Southbank. Hebron is too democratic to take credit for all this: she constantly speaks of 'the team.' Yet it happened on her watch, which ends this year." Also in the Telegraph, Hebron looks back on her first year at the helm.
In the Guardian, Ben Walters talks with Mark Webber about programming the Experimenta strand: "The two filmmakers I'm happiest to have helped bring attention to are Nathaniel Dorsky and Robert Beavers, who I don't think had had a film shown in the UK for 30 years. After we programmed him, Tate Modern did a full retrospective…. We're facing this problem at the moment that everybody's dying — of that generation that I'm interested in, American work of the 1950s to 1970s. They're dropping like flies, it's awful: George Kuchar, Adolfas Mekas, Robert Breer this year alone. It's horrible. But there are new people out there. In the last three years it's become exciting again. I used to get a hard time for only being interested in old American filmmakers but a lot of the young film-makers who have come the gallery route — Ben Rivers, David Gatten, Ben Russell — are as good as any of those from history."
Another strand of particular interest will be Treasures from the Archives. The image above is from Roberto Rossellini's The Machine That Kills Bad People (1952), newly restored and screening on Friday and Sunday. As reviews and impressions, interviews and news come in, I'll be gathering pointers to the highlights here.
Updates, 10/17: "Barbara Loden's life story is a scriptwriter's dream," writes Tony Paley in the Guardian. "A poverty stricken childhood, which she escaped first via modelling, then television and Hollywood stardom. Tempestuous marriage to On the Waterfront director Elia Kazan during which in 1970 she wrote, starred in and directed the movie Wanda. Finally, there was the fight to follow up on her impressive directorial debut, cruelly denied when she died 10 years later aged just 48, at precisely the time her remarkable film was finally gaining long overdue recognition. Wanda's reputation continues to grow and perhaps the key to its deep resonance, which BFI London film festival audiences can experience at two rare screenings this month, is that its source is so personal to Loden."
"It's a decade since Agnès Varda's The Gleaners and I brought the mysteries and beauties of waste to the screen, exploring its relation to consumerism and visual art," blogs Sophie Meyer for Sight & Sound. "Mercedes Álvarez's 2011 documentary Futures Market follows Varda into the tumbledown flea markets of contemporary Europe. Coupled with its extended focus on Jésus, a junk dealer who refuses to sell his wares, are several strands of observational documentary filmed around the stock market, at corporate motivational conferences and at property fairs, drawing attention to the invisible architects of the postmodern economy at the moment before it crashed, and drawing connections between what is discarded and devalued and the inflation of false values and dreams."
Also: Dylan Cave highlights ten live action shorts.
For Little White Lies, Mary Clare Waireri watches three shorts, "all made by African filmmakers as part of Africa First, an initiative designed to support African film directors."
Update, 10/20: "The LFF is certainly not short of glamorous titles, and yet I find myself broodingly preoccupied and even slightly obsessed with a sombre film from Britain," confesses the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "This is Carol Morley's horrifying, heartbreaking drama-documentary Dreams of a Life. It has a real-life Eleanor Rigby tale to tell, and it asks powerful questions about community, sexual politics, individual responsibility and the welfare state. This is an attempt to reconstruct the lifestory of Joyce Carol Vincent, a thirtysomething who died alone, socially housed in a flat in north London, above Wood Green Shopping City. Her body lay there undiscovered for three years in the flickering light of the television which remained on. Finally, in 2006 council officials forced entry with a warrant to evict and were confronted with a scene of horror and pathos."
Updates, 10/21: "Sensuous, deeply felt, rigorous, uncompromising – the work of Chick Strand belongs in the canon of avant-garde cinema alongside that of her contemporaries Stan Brakhage and Bruces Baillie and Conner. Thanks to a spate of recent restorations by the Pacific and Academy film archives, they may slowly be getting their due." Vera Brunner-Sung for Sight & Sound on Intimate Vision: Films by Chick Strand.
Little White Lies posts a world cinema roundup by Sheyma Buall.
Update, 10/23: Blogging for Sight & Sound, Mar Diestro-Dópido discovers "a wholly unexpected but fascinating dialogue between Correspondence: Jonas Mekas - JL Guerín and Panahi's This Is Not a Film. Correspondences is itself a dialogue project originally set up by the CCCB (Centre of Contemporary Art in Barcelona), in which a series of filmmakers are invited to exchange digital visual 'letters' about cinema, filmmaking and the world around them. The process was inaugurated by Víctor Erice and Abbas Kiarostami (2006), and includes an exchange between Albert Serra and Lisandro Alonso, The Lord Worked Wonders in Me, also screened at this year's LFF."
Updates, 10/27: Ambrose Heron has the award-winners and quotes from the jury on their reasoning. Best Film: Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk about Kevin, which has just received a pretty fine poster for its US release from Oscilloscope Laboratories.
Ryan Gilbey in the New Statesman: "In Paul Kelly's poignant documentary Lawrence of Belgravia, we see what life is like now for one of British pop's enduring eccentrics: preparing to be evicted by the council from his London flat for rent arrears, and fearing every footfall in the hallways; refusing to reform Felt or play old songs on tour; reflecting on a world of supposed technological advance in which the new Go Kart Mozart album won't be released on his beloved vinyl and people don't get paid for writing online ('I knew the internet was rubbish!'). His face sunken and pasty from years of drug abuse, his circumstances depleted as he reflects from his tower-block balcony on dreams of marrying a supermodel, Lawrence is nevertheless an inspiring, if unlikely, symbol of artistic purity. Explaining his resilience, he says: 'No one else has got this far, and failed.' … At the London Film Festival this week, I spoke to the director, Paul Kelly, about the eight years it took to make Lawrence of Belgravia."
IndieWIRE's Peter Knegt talks with Sandra Hebron about her last year with the festival.
The Telegraph looks back on the highs and lows of this year's edition.
For Sight & Sound, Nick Hasted goes "around the world in 14 films." Also, Jane Giles: "To launch the publication of 100 Cult Films (BFI Palgrave Macmillan), the London Film Festival presented a panel discussion at the BFI Southbank, illustrated with clips, about what makes a cult film. The book's co-author Xavier Mendik appeared alongside FrightFest's Alan Jones and myself (as former Scala cinema programmer), with film journalist Damon Wise moderating."
Miles Mander's The First Born (1928) "was co-written by Alfred Hitchcock's wife and long-term collaborator Alma Reville," writes Thirza Wakefield, "and it's clear the pair shared a gift for visual devices and, yes, suspense. The film's playful imagery is reminiscent of Hitchcock's own silent works and his later talkies."
Updates, 11/1: A slide show from the Guardian: "Artist Lewis Klahr re-animates iconic images from comic books and advertisements to create collage-like films. He chose the BFI London film festival last week to debut his first feature-length collage production, The Pettifogger. Here, Klahr talks us through some of his favorite images from this abstract crime film."
A roundup from Film Quarterly editor Rob White: Todd Solondz's Dark Horse, Lynne Ramsay's We Need to Talk about Kevin, Steve McQueen's Shame, Roman Polanski's Carnage, David Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method and Giorgos Lanthimos's Alps.