This year the London Film Festival runs from 2-13 October.
It’s a big festival, with a lot on – so for those with similar tastes as me, here is a preview of things at the Festival that I like the look of.
I was tempted to do a simple round-up of the Cult strand, because that’s my go-to starting point, but (a) I like the look of most, but not all of that strand, and (b) there’s a lot of things in other strands that I also like the look of.
For those who don’t know, the kinds of things I’m drawn to tend to fall into these categories:
- Horror and horror-adjacent films, particularly dealing with the weird or eerie
- Thrillers and high-tension genre pieces with a smart hook and plenty of twists, reversals and escalations
- The science fiction of ideas
- Fables and dreamlike narratives
- Reflexive, self-aware films; themes of voyeurism and cinema itself
- Films that are playful with their own artificiality
- Absurdism; playful, unpretentious nihilism
- Humanist traditions, particularly in Korean and Japanese cinema
So, with that in mind, here’s what I’m most looking forward to… presented in strictly alphabetical order. Rankings be dammed!
Adoration (dir: Fabrice du Welz) A boy helps a girl escape from a private psychiatric hospital. But is she more dangerous than she seems? This sometimes brutal fairytale “recalls the dreamlike poetry of Night of the Hunter.” High praise indeed.
Here’s a clip (unfortunately for me, with its French unsubtitled): Adoration_Clip-fr.mp4
And Then We Danced (dir: Levan Akin) Romance between rival dancers blossoms in the distinctly anti-LGBTQ+ Georgia. The dance sequences promise extraordinary, explosive physicality. There’s a low-key trend of capturing dance in narrative film recently, as shown in everything from the Suspiria remake to Ema (also showing at this year’s LFF). And Then We Danced has reviews to die for, or maybe to dance for.
The Antenna (dir: Orçun Behram) Inexplicable satellite transmissions start to warp the inhabitants of a tower block. Subversive, paranoid body horror, recalling Cronenberg’s Videodrome and Shivers, as well as Tetsuo: The Iron Man.
Paris Qui Dort aka At 3:25 (dir: René Clair) In the early hours of the morning, the night watchman at the Eiffel Tower awakens from a doze to find almost all of Paris frozen in place. Turns out a mad scientist’s immobilising ray is to blame – but before he can be tackled, why not have some whimsical fun? This is the English-language version first released in 1925. Paired with Every Day (dir: Hans Richter), a pristine 1929 ‘city symphony’ of London, made with help from Sergei Eisenstein.
Atlantics (dir: Mati Diop) Elliptical, mystical fable from Diop (best known for her breakthrough role in Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum). An eerie tale of love and becoming, haunted by the enigmatic figure of the Djinn. Here’s a clip:
Bacurau (dir: Kleber Mendonça Filho, Juliano Dornelles) This weird western took the Jury Prize at Cannes. I love a weird genre picture, and this one has Sônia Braga and the always-odd Udo Kier.
Cold Case Hammarskjöld (dir: Mads Brügger) Wild, disturbing, stranger-than-faction documentary about the plane crash that killed Dag Hammarskjöld, the second-ever Secretary General of the UN. It’s either “the world’s biggest murder mystery, or the world’s most idiotic conspiracy theory.” Either way, I’m in.
Color Out of Space (dir: Richard Stanley) The director of Hardware finally returns, with Nicolas Cage in an HP Lovecraft adaptation. No further sales pitch required. Perhaps my most anticipated film of the festival.
Deerskin (Le Daim) (dir: Quentin Dupieux) “As you can see, it’s no ordinary jacket.” A man’s love for his tasselled suede jacket spins dangerously out of control, sucking everyone around him into his nicely-tailored psychosis. A very good fit for my tastes.
Ema (dir: Pablo Larrain) I loved Larrain’s NO, and to a lesser extent Jackie… hell, even Neruda had a decent third act once you got to it. But Ema looks like something else entirely: a bizarre dance movie, revelling in its own status as cinema. Larrain has had fun with artificiality and toyed with his films as cinematic objects before (the video effects of NO, the postmodern games of Neruda), but judging by the must-watch trailer he seems to have really taken off the brakes with this one. Hurrah!
Family Romance, LLC (dir: Wener Herzog) A dramatised work about a “rent-a-relative” service in Tokyo. I love Herzog, and I’m looking forward to seeing what he found in a country where I lived for a couple of years (and where I could’ve rented myself out as a “priest” for weddings if I’d so chosen).
Fanny Lye Deliver’d (dir: Thomas Clay) In 1657, Maxine Peake starts to call into question her marriage to Charles Dance when they find mysterious strangers hiding their barn. But when a sheriff comes calling it seems their troubles are only just beginning. I really hope Charles Dance plays an absolute bastard in this, and ends up dead in the final reel. I’m a man of simple tastes.
First Love (dir: Takashi Miike) The director of over 100 movies (including Audition and Blade of the Immortal) returns with this bloody exploitation-singer yakuza flick. A boxer with a brain tumour and nothing to lose sets out to rescue a young prostitute. Promises twists, turns, tension, and a runaway escalation into extreme bloody violence. Glad to have you back, Miike!
GU04 (dir: Peter Strickland) I love Peter Strickland. This short is only three minutes long, but he’ll pack some magic into those three minutes, I’m sure. Billed as “Two guys, a locker room, and plenty of D.” Playing as part of the Push the Button shorts programme in the Dare strand, and in Prog 1 of the Short Film Competition.
Greed (dir: Michael Winterbottom) The so-called “King of the High Street’ throws a roman-style bacchanal for his birthday – but like the Red Death, the outside world can’t be kept at bay. A must-see for fans of The Trip (like me), reuniting that series’s director and one of its stars, Steve Coogan – and adding in David Mitchell for good measure as an investigative journalist.
That’s it for Part 1 – Part 2 covers letters H-L!