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Category: LFF

LFF 2018 – Widows

Reviewed by Lee Hill

After winning the Best Picture for 12 Years A Slave in 2014, expectations for Steve McQueen’s next feature were high. The news that McQueen was going to remake a well regarded, but distantly recalled 1983 ITV mini-series by Lynda LaPlante seemed a tad perverse (would this be his At Long Last Love or 1941?). However, McQueen and his co-writer, Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn have, for the most part, successfully transformed the original “gangsters’ wives pull off heist” premise to tap into our current preoccupations with race, gender equality and the general cynicism, if not outright contempt, towards politics as usual.

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LFF 2018 – Five Must-Sees

Freda Cooper picks her 5 must see film in this year’s London Film Festival programme.

For any self-respecting film fan, the London Film Festival is a tantalizing mix of heaven and hell. Heaven is the prospect of some wonderful films, events, red carpets and more than a sprinkle or two of good old fashioned glamour and glitz. Hell is working out how many of the 225 features in this year’s programme you can fit in without breaking the bank.

Some of the big films have already been announced. This year’s festival kicks off on 10 October with Steve McQueen’s Widows and closes on the 21st with Stan And Ollie. The American Express Gala on the 18th sees the return of festival favourite Yorgos Lanthimos with The Favourite, Mike Leigh’s Peterloo breaks new LFF ground with its screening in Manchester and the festival’s official competition includes the likes of David Lowery’s The Old Man And The Gun, Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year Colin Burstead, Nicole Kidman in Destroyer and Sunset, the latest from Son Of Saul director, Laszlo Nemes.

But what of all the others? Whittling them just down to five must-sees is almost impossible, but we love a challenge. Here goes …….

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Steve McQueen’s Widows to Open LFF 2018

This year’s Opening Night gala will be Academy Award- winner Steve McQueen’s WIDOWS. The International premiere will take place on Wednesday 10th October at the Cineworld, Leicester Square. Co-written by McQueen and best-selling novelist and screenwriter Gillian Flynn and starring Academy Award®- winner Viola Davis, WIDOWS is a complex thriller about a group of women with nothing in common except a debt left behind by their dead husbands’ criminal activities. A star-studded ensemble cast includes: Viola Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki, Cynthia Erivo, Colin Farrell, Daniel Kaluuya and Jacki Weaver with Robert Duvall and Liam Neeson.

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LFF 2017: Redoubtable

One of the unofficial laws surrounding biopics is the more complex and rich the subject, the more reductive and superficial the treatment of the life. Redoubtable is ostensibly about a great cinema revolutionary, Jean-Luc Godard, but his life and art are alas interpreted by Michel Hazanavicius, a director who wears his slim talent for pastiche heavily.

Hazanavicius is best known for The Artist, one of the least deserving Best Picture Winners in recent times. The Artist was an amusing idea for a short film inflated into a bland caricature of silent film comedy. Before The Artist, he was best known in France for the OSS117 films, the kind of James Bond parodies that make a rainy Sunday afternoon bearable when there are no real James Bond films on TV. After The Artist, Hazanvicius reached for the stars and fell from his stepladder with an unwieldy remake of Fred Zinnemann’s The Search. Not without ambition (or humility) he now gives the world his take on Godard’s mid-sixties period and marriage to actress Anna Wiazemsky with a few rear-view glances of the political ferment of France in 1967/68.

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LFF 2017: Custody (Jusqu’à la Garde)

Reviewed by Lee Hill

The bitterness of separation, divorce and the all too common legal battles between former spouses has made for familiar terrain at the movies. Shoot the Moon, Kramer Vs. Kramer, The War of the Roses, Blue Valentine and Boyhood are a few titles that spring to mind and of course, television drama would be crippled without domestic strife as convenient narrative fodder. Given the countless variations on a theme, Xavier Legrand’s stunning first feature is even more of an achievement and will resonate with a wide audience.

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LFF 2017: 120 BPM

120 BPM is a film you tend to admire rather than love. Robin Campillo’s film deals with the rise of Act Up in France in the late 80s and early 90s as the activist group tackled the complacency of government, medical and pharmaceutical establishments in dealing with the crisis. If the film veers towards being a polemic at times, it contains many scenes that remind one of the anguish and rage the early years of the epidemic unleashed across the LGBT community world-wide.

Anyone who thinks protestors just blindly show up to cause trouble will have their consciousness seriously expanded after watching this film. Campillo’s camera plunges the viewer into the centre of the practical and ideological debates that drive organisations like Act Up. Like Ken Loach’s Land and Freedom, 120 BPM features several scenes of young adults in meetings refining and discarding ideas and arguments as they move towards political action. When an intervention at a medical conference doesn’t go as planned, the activists hold a post-mortem to determine what went wrong.

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Film Review: Ingrid Goes West

Directed by new comer Matt Spicer, Ingrid Goes West is perhaps one of the most knowing film of its genre. This brilliantly put together and genuinely engaging dark comedy knows more about its subject than the average Hollywood blockbuster around, and does a fantastic job in reconciling some of us with the world of social media in the most honest way possible. Spicer and co-writer David Branson Smith offer an impressive screenplay which manages to accurately relay the current social media trends of living one’s life online despite the obvious risks associated with it.

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LFF 2017: A Sort of Family

Malena (Barbara Lennie), a doctor from Buenos Aires, travels to a remote village to complete an illegal adoption arranged through the seemingly benevolent Dr. Costas. The adoption falls apart when the family of the biological parent asks for more money due to an accident affecting one of its chief wage earners. With the aid of a reluctant, but still supportive common law husband, Malena tries to meet this new demand, but the ground rules continue to shift, and desperate measures seem her only logical response.

Diego Lerman and co-writer Maria Meira have crafted a seamless mix of docudrama, character study and thriller that transcends the usual limitations of social realism. We see most of the action through the sympathetic, but middle-class eyes of Malena, who struggles with both her near inexpressible desire for a child and liberal good intentions. The poverty and corruption of life in rural Argentina, the film implies, is part of the same system that allows Malena and her husband to enjoy the good life in the city.

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LFF 2017: Let The Sunshine In

Let The Sunshine In is an unapologetic meditation on the philosophy of love; the kind of film that French filmmakers seem to be able to do in their sleep. Inspired by rather than adapted from Roland Barthes’ influential A Lover’s Discourse, the free-floating plot tracks the messy love life of Isabelle, an attractive, single artist in her forties, played with an effortless blend of intelligence and sensuality by Juliette Binoche. As is often the case in real life, Isabelle seems so much better than the men in her romantic orbit. Yet her passion, idealism and loneliness yield to the gravitational pull of a group of suitors that run the gamut from harmless fantasists to indecisive or emotionally disconnected jerks. The most egregious offender is Vincent, who bears a strong resemblance to a recently disgraced studio head. When Isabelle eventually tunes this narcissistic banker with artistic pretensions out, most members of the audience will cheer.

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