Sep 23, 2011

24FPS at LFF 2011: Plan of Attack

I've just heard that, for the second year running, I'm a fully accredited member of the press corps for the London Film Festival, so I'll be aiming to bring you expanded coverage even from the extensive coverage I had last year. Hopefully this will mean more reviews and more interviews across the four weeks that the festival runs for us (two press weeks, two full festival weeks). So, to give you a bit of an idea as to what you can expect, here are the 83 (yes, 83) films I'll be aiming to see at this year's festival with the first ten in a rough order of importance to me.

1: Alps
There is no film, none, at the festival or otherwise, that I presently want to see more than Yorgos Lanthimos' follow up to his monumental Dogtooth (which I saw at LFF 2009). I have avoided all plot details, all reviews, all I know is the 20 second clip we saw at the press launch makes me suspect that this is not just more of the same, and that I'll be disappointed if it's not the film of the year.

2: Martha Marcy May Marlene
I've been dying to see this, and Elizabeth Olsen's (sister of Mary Kate and Ashley) apparently revelatory performance, since it premiered to glowing reviews at Sundance in January. It sounds smart, dark and disturbing... right up my alley in other words.

3: Shame
Great reviews from the festivals it has played so far, and Fassbender's Best Actor award at Venice promise much for Steve McQueen's second film. I like both Fassbender and Carey Mulligan, and I always like to see filmmakers and actors exploring sex in a truly adult way. I'm hopeful that's what we'll get here.

4: Dreileben
Dreileben is actually three films by three German directors. Each film has the same starting point; the escape of a convict from custody, but each then spins its own story, linked subtly to the others. A project this ambitious will likely either be a tremendous success or a total disaster, I'm looking for ward to finding out which based on the titles of the three parts; Beats Being Dead, Don't Follow Me Around and One Minute of Darkness.

5: A Dangerous Method
I've said it before, but it bears repeating, the ingredients are fantastic here; David Cronenberg making a film about psychoanalysis, and a cast comprising Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortenson, Kiera Knightley and Vincent Cassell. I honestly can't see how I won't love it.

6: Michael
The case of Josef Fritzl has inspired several provocative pieces of art (the bestselling novel Room being the best known) and this tough sounding film from Austria by a former casting director who has worked with both Jessica Hausner and Michael Haneke promises to be challenging. It's about a 35 year old man who keeps a 10 year old boy prisoner in his cellar. Reviews from Cannes were mixed, but Austria has turned out some impressive films and filmmakers of late, who have dealt well with difficult subject matter.

7: She Monkeys
My liking for European teen movies has been something of a running theme on this site and through the various LFF's I have attended (this is my sixth), and this Swedish example sounds promising. The story of two 15 year old girls on the same equestrian acrobatics team falling for each other suggests echoes off both Fucking Amal and Water Lilies. I can only hope She Monkeys is half as good as either of those great films.

8: Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life
In the wake of the execution of Troy Davis, whose guilt was in substantial doubt, Werner Herzog's documentary about the death penalty couldn't be more timely. Herzog is a fascinting guy, and I'm sure he'll have an interesting take on this issue, I hope the film will let all sides speak in the case it focuses on, rather than become a campaigning film.

9: Sarah Palin: You Betcha
In terms of catching the Zeitgeist, Nick Broomfield's latest may have missed its moment, but still, it has the potential to be a very funny, and not a little scary, insight into the American right wing. Hopefully Broomfield can go beyond name calling here and dig a little deeper into what makes Palin and (perhaps more interesting) her supporters tick.

10: The Fatherless
Another Austrian film, and I always seem to have one film in my main selection that for some reason I can't quite pinpoint, just calls out to me and says that it's going to be good. In 2008 it was Everybody Dies But Me, in 2009 Dogtooth, in 2010 Nothing's All Bad (all films that made my Top 10 in their years). It's about a group of grown children who have just lost their father, and their memories of their unconventional upbringing, and apparently flashes back and forth from present to past. The still above is what really stood out for me, there's just something starkly evocative about that image. I hope this one pays off.

and here, in alphabetical order, are my other Must See titles...

The Art of Love
The Artist
The Awakening
Back to Stay
Better This World
The Bird
Corpo Celeste
Crazy Horse
The Dish and the Spoon
Dreams of a Life
The Fairy
Flying Fish
The First Born
The Forgiveness of Blood
The Giants
Hara Kiri: Death of a Samurai
Hors Satan
Hunky Dory
Hut in the Woods
The Ides of March
Last Screening
Last Winter
Let the Bullets Fly
Like Crazy
The Loneliest Planet
Lotus Eaters
Low Life
Miss Bala
The Monk
The Natural Phenomenon of Madness
Natural Selection
Nobody Else But You
On The Sly
Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
Oslo, August 31st
Seven Acts of Mercy
17 Girls
Silver Bullets
Sleeping Sickness
The Sleeping Voice
Stopped on Track
Strawberry Fields
The Student
Take Shelter
Tales of the Night
Twilight Portrait
We Have a Pope
We Need to Talk About Kevin
When the Night
Wild Bill
Wuthering Heights

There are also a few (typically three) films yet to be announced (not counting the surprise film). I would hope that at least some of these will feature: Take This Waltz (Sarah Polley's second directorial effort, starring Michelle Wiliams, Seth Rogen and Sarah Silverman), Killer Joe (William Friedkin's latest, with the brilliant young Brit Juno Temple in the lead), Himizu (The latest from cray, and prolific, Japanese auteur Sion Sono), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Some remake by some bloke called Fincher) and at least one film with Isabelle Huppert, given that there are several to choose from right now.


  1. No Descendants? Such a great movie.

    Also, bump up We Need to Talk About Kevin to your top 10. I have a feeling it'll blow you away.

  2. I didn't like Alexander Payne's last two films, and I've heard it goes in the rather treacly direction I feared, plus it's not like it won't get a big release. Kevin is also like that, festival anticipation is dampened somewhat as it opens four days later in general release.

  3. I didn't find The Descendants to go that way at all. It's refreshingly unsentimental, given the subject matter. It reminded me of some of Billy Wilder's films.

    I'd definitely recommend that over Wuthering Heights, which has a brilliant first half, but a second half that is so poorly paced, uninvolving and repetitive, that I nearly gouged my eyes out. Not Arnold's best work, by a long shot.

  4. "I didn't like Kevin. It's symbolism for idiots."

    And your favorite film of the last few years is Dogtooth? Get over yourself.

  5. Yes, really must quit that whole 'saying what I think' habit, naughty me.