The 54th BFI London Film Festival opens tonight with Mark Romanek's Never Let Me Go (and here's that film's bulky roundup, begun when it screened in Telluride and Toronto), runs for just over two weeks and encompasses around 200 features, including eleven world, 23 international and 33 European premieres, plus over 100 shorts.
You'll find the most thorough previews in Sight & Sound (30 recommendations) and Time Out London, which is not shy when it comes to boasting about its package: "The smartest, biggest and most essential guide to the UK's most important film festival." And it may well be. They've also got a blog going, its first entry listing the latest entries in the lineup.
Previews on a more modest scale: David Gritten (Telegraph) and Mark Stafford (Electric Sheep). We'll be tracking the first week's coverage of new and notable titles right here.
Update: The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw on tonight's opening film: "This intensely English film is the muted story of submission to authority, adapted by Alex Garland from the 2005 novel by Kazuo Ishiguro, and presented with the thoughtful restraint, literate dialogue and hardback-cinema production values reminiscent of recent Ian McEwan adaptations." Beware: Spoilers follow almost immediately.
Update, 10/15: James Bell for Sight & Sound: "To the BFI Southbank last night for the first screening in this year's archive selection: a new digital restoration of GW Pabst's silent 1929 masterpiece Pandora's Box, boasting, of course, Louise Brooks's stupendous, iconic performance as Lulu, who is 'practised in the art of flattery' and beguiles everyone she meets (even attorneys prosecuting her), yet comes to a tragic end. As the festival's Treasures from the Archives strand's programmer Clyde Jeavons reminded us in his opening remarks, the film wasn't a success on its first release in Berlin in 1929, and it was only after it was revived by the likes of Henri Langlois in the 1950s that it secured its reputation as one of the most intoxicating and erotic of all silent films, and prompted Brooks herself out of obscure retirement to write Lulu in Hollywood, her great memoir of the silent years.... The film was accompanied brilliantly on the piano by Neil Brand, and I caught him afterwards — looking rather exhausted after an unbroken performance over the film's 143 minute running time — for a few words."
"Among the art journals on the shelves of the Bethnal Green studio Gillian Wearing shares with her partner, fellow artist Michael Landy, I spy a number of film books," notes Time Out London's Dave Calhoun, easing into an interview. "There's one on Andrei Tarkovsky, another on cinematography and a well-thumbed copy of François Truffaut's famous interviews with Hitchcock. Wearing, who is 47, is still best known for winning the Turner Prize in 1997." But about her feature debut: "You could call Self Made a documentary. It records a theatre project that Wearing initiated in London with a Method acting teacher, Sam Rumbelow. Together, they found seven non-actors – 'participants,' she calls them – via a newspaper ad and entered into a ten-day Method workshop with them, filming them as Rumbelow pushed them to explore themselves and act out their experiences in a manner as gruelling and moving to watch as it must have been to take part in. But Self Made also diverts from documentary. We see five short dramatic films within the main film – 'end pieces,' Wearing calls them – each starring one of five participants and each a reflection on their lives."
In a roundup for In Contention, Guy Lodge notes that "while some of my colleagues have dismissed Self Made as exploitative and self-regarding — Big Brother going for the Turner Prize, if you will — there's a palpable sense of discovery and endangerment here that justifies the hit-and-miss experiment."
"What a strange, provocative legacy was left by Andrea Dunbar, the schoolgirl playwright heralded by her contemporaries as 'a genius straight from the slums,'" writes Sheila Johnston in the Telegraph. "In her short life, Dunbar bore three children by different fathers and wrote three plays, all produced at the Royal Court Theatre. Now Dunbar is the inspiration for a remarkable new film, Clio Barnard's The Arbor. Almost (though not quite) a documentary, it tells Dunbar's extraordinary story, as well as those of her troubled eldest daughter, Lorraine, her sprawling family and the urban jungle where they led their rackety lives."
"It is an unbearably bleak film to watch," writes Madeleine Bunting in the Guardian. "When challenged on this point, Barnard quotes the filmmaker Michael Haneke's idea that we go to the cinema expecting to be reassured. She has absolutely refused to conform; indeed, she has provided a film which creates a desperate need for reassurance. You stagger out feeling emotionally battered, and the haunting phrases and expressions of the film lurk in the memory for days."
Update, 10/19: For Time Out London's Dave Calhoun, "Barnard's strange method manages to be both questioning and coherent: the very fabric of the film admits that Barnard can only offer us versions of 'the truth,' but those versions are still convincing and often staggeringly moving."
Update, 10/22: More on The Arbor from Peter Bradshaw (Guardian), Ryan Gilbey (New Statesman) and Tim Robey (Telegraph).
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