The 2015 London Film Festival… so far


The London Film Festival runs until Sunday 18th October. For film and ticket information click here.

The-Witch-posterThere are 240 films from 72 countries at this year’s LFF. The lone gutsy scribe at Electric Shadows (i.e. me) has so far seen twenty one.

There have been guaranteed winners I didn’t catch. Bone Tomahawk – why no press screening?! Trumbo and Room – why did you have to clash with When Marnie Was There and Love and Peace – you know my love of Japanese cinema…

But, it’s testament to the strength of the 2015 festival that the quality of those twenty one movies has been overall impressive.

With four full festival days left, here is a rundown of what’s floated my boat… and those that sunk my battleship.

Last year I had only one five star movie in my London Film Festival Top 10, the awesome Whiplash. This year there will be at least two and both are currently vying for the number one slot: Robert Eggers’ The Witch and Todd Haynes’ Carol.

Both are extraordinary for different reasons, but they are powerful examples of why everyone should love cinema.

Three days after seeing The Witch its brilliance, surprises and tone of clammy evil continues to linger.

I’m still allowing Carol to settle. The film’s beauty, emotion and artistry intoxicate; it may stand as one of the great love stories. While watching Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara fall for each other, I was reminded of Wong Kar-wai’s In The Mood For Love, a comparison not made lightly. The films are quite different, but the impact is similar.

To balance this gush, what has disappointed?

11 Minutes. Director Jerzy Skolimowski has clearly never seen Vantage Point, Go, Pulp Fiction or any film telling stories over the same time period from varying points of view, or he wouldn’t have made something so pedestrian. The climax tying these disparate plot strands together strives for profundity but is sub-Benny Hill farce. The only saving grace is a considerate 81 minute running time.

Yakuza Apocalypse’s running time is not so considerate at two hours. And this latest from Takashi Miike, once the great hope of Japanese cinema, is initially passable but by the unresolved ending has collapsed into a tiresome mess. Trading on the legacy of his great movies, including Ichi the Killer and Dead or Alive, this depressing misfire marks the time for Miike to call it a day.

As for the Cannes darling The Assassin, cinematic Night Nurse.

But, the mark of a great film festival is that its films inspire strong emotions, and there has been little middle of the road fare.

Other than Yakuza Apocalypse, Japanese cinema has been well served by two marvellous anime, When Marnie Was There and The Boy and the Beast. Also from Japan was the sugar-rush delight of Sion Sono’s Love and Peace, a film so wild it is amazing it wasn’t animated.

Suffragette-posterSuffragette was a massive surprise for anyone like me expecting twee Sunday night drama cosiness. Bold, confrontational and boasting an Oscar worthy performance from Carey Mulligan, it is a winner. Same goes for Ben Wheatley’s High Rise, a state-of-the-nation phantasmagoria based on the brain-wrong of J.G. Ballard’s novel and delivering a narcotic rush of cinematic exhilaration.

The Program was better than anyone had a right to expect, while the Korean caper movie Assassination was a feisty blend of hard-hitting pre-World War 2 drama and Raiders of the Lost Ark style action.

And Son of Saul was an astonishing movie even though watching it will likely ruin your day.

Every year there is a film that is so peculiar it just has to receive a shout-out. This year that movie is artist AKIZ’s Der Nachtmahr (The Nightmare). If David Lynch made ET, this would be it. A bizarro tale of teen anxiety, it’s a fever dream nightmare swiftly told at 84mins and has a mood and texture absent from your standard popcorn flick. Check it out.

And check back on Sunday 18th when the 59th London Film Festival Electric Shadows Top 10 will be unveiled!

Rob Daniel

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