Starting today, and on through October 15, the sixty-first BFI London Film Festival will present over 240 features—premieres, revivals, and hand-picked highlights from the year’s festival calendar so far—and nearly 130 short films. Our guide here won’t—can’t—be complete, but with notes on films we haven’t yet covered and links to roundups on those we have, it may offer, over the coming twelve days, an evolving idea of the shape and scope of this year’s edition.
It’s the fifth for LFF director Clare Stewart and Screen’s Charles Gant argues that “this feisty Australian” has delivered “a bold reinvention of the program that, with further tweaks over subsequent years, represents a thorough transformation.” He counts the ways. And Stewart Clarke interviews Stewart for Variety.
This entry's been updated through 10/15.
For its Opening Night Gala, the LFF has selected Andy Serkis’s directorial debut, Breathe, starring Andrew Garfield, Claire Foy, Hugh Bonneville, and Tom Hollander. “A soft square slab of British heritage filmmaking,” wrote Variety’s Guy Lodge from Toronto, “bathed in buttery light nearly as golden as the awards it’s targeting, this earnestly romantic biopic of odds-beating polio patient Robin Cavendish and his unwavering wife, Diana, keeps its eyes moist and its upper lip stiff to the last—but its sweeping inspirational gestures rarely reach all the way to the heart.” But the Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw argues that “you have to give Breathe time to let its charm and its heartfelt decency grow on you.” More from Stephen Dalton (Hollywood Reporter), Wendy Ide (Screen), Eric Kohn (IndieWire, B), Christopher Machell (CineVue, 3/5), Angelo Muredda (Cinema Scope), and Brian Tallerico (RogerEbert.com).
Closing Night: Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; see the reviews from Venice and Toronto
American Express Gala: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris’s Battle of the Sexes; see Critics Round Up (CRU)
Mayor of London’s Gala: Luca Guadagnino’s Call Me by Your Name; New York Film Festival (NYFF) reviews
BFI Patrons’ Gala: Alexander Payne’s Downsizing (Venice and Toronto)
Royal Bank of Canada Gala: Dee Rees’s Mudbound (Toronto)
American Airlines Gala: Guillermo del Toro’s The Shape of Water (Venice and Toronto)
The May Fair Hotel Gala is Paul McGuigan’s Film Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool, which the Los Angeles Times’ Justin Chang’s called “a My Week With Marilyn-style gloss on the life of the great, oft-neglected stage and screen actress Gloria Grahame,” who’s played by Annette Bening, and “who is perhaps best remembered now for her heartbreaking performance opposite Humphrey Bogart in Nicholas Ray’s 1950 noir masterpiece, In a Lonely Place.” Liverpool “regards Grahame through the eyes of a young Brit named Peter Turner (Jamie Bell), who was an up-and-coming actor in his twenties when he began a love affair with Grahame . . . The movie is wanly conventional but affecting, and Bell holds his own very nicely opposite Bening, who marbles her gift for emotional nuance with a palpable respect for her character’s often shabbily treated Hollywood legacy.” More from Peter Debruge (Variety), David Ehrlich (IndieWire, C-), Stephen Farber (THR), Wendy Ide (Screen), Michael Koresky (Film Comment), and Keith Uhlich (House Next Door).
And there are more galas that go unbranded:
Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Killing of a Sacred Deer (Cannes)
Richard Linklater’s Last Flag Flying (NYFF)
Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here (Cannes)
Saul Dibb’s Journey’s End, an adaptation of R.C. Sherriff’s “once near-ubiquitous” play, as Dennis Harvey notes in Variety: “While there’s little staginess about the endeavor, the preserved tight focus on a handful of British soldiers ‘waiting to be killed’ in a trench near WWI’s finish provides all the character and emotional involvement that was lacking in the more action-oriented recent Dunkirk.” More from Christopher Machell (CineVue, 4/5) and Todd McCarthy (THR).
Twelve films will compete in the Official Competition. Andrea Arnold presides over a jury that includes Babak Anvari, Eric Bana, Ashley Clark, Lily Cole, Alexei Popogrebsky, and producer Emma Thomas.
Xavier Beauvois’s The Guardians
Robin Campillo’s BPM (Beats Per Minute) (Cannes)
Cory Finley’s Thoroughbreds; LFF programmer Tricia Tuttle at Little White Lies: “Debut filmmaker Cory Finley’s treacly dark play of wits sees two precocious and privileged teenage girls plotting a murder in the rarified mansion-filled suburbs of Connecticut. For the most part this is a deliciously sharp two-hander between The Witch’s Anya Taylor-Joy as Lily and Me and Earl and the Dying Girl’s Olivia Cooke as Amanda, a duo whose rekindled childhood friendship has deadly consequences for Lily’s annoying step father. But Anton Yelchin brings surprising pathos to his final role as the small-time drug dealer the girls dupe into being involved in their grimly amusing plot.”
Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete (Venice and Toronto)
Annemarie Jacir’s Wajib (Locarno)
Azazel Jacobs’s The Lovers (Critics Round Up)
Majid Majidi’s Beyond the Clouds; from the festival: “Set in the slums of Mumbai, acclaimed director Majid Majidi [Children of Heaven] delivers a powerful coming-of-age tale about a brother trying to save his jailed sister.”
Vivian Qu’s Angels Wear White
Juliana Rojas and Marco Dutra’s Good Manners; “The semi-moribund werewolf genre gets an flavorsome injection of Brazilian blood in Marco Dutra and Juliana Rojas’s enjoyably ambitious Good Manners (As boas maneiras),” writes Neil Young in the Hollywood Reporter. “Just as lycanthropes combine human and lupine aspects, the picture itself is a hybrid of art house and genre cinema, combining sharp social commentary with grand guignol fantasy.” Gustavo Beck interviews the filmmakers for the Notebook.
Warwick Thornton’s Sweet Country (Toronto)
Nora Twomey’s The Breadwinner; “A grave, solemn animated feature set in a Kabul terrorized by external and internal forces, The Breadwinner is an adaptation of the much loved children’s novel by Deborah Ellis about a young girl who is forced to disguise herself as a boy in order to fend for her family,” reads an unbylined review in Screen. “Exquisite images play out against a traumatizing background of endless war in the first solo feature from Cartoon Saloon’s Nora Twomey, who co-directed Oscar-nominated The Secret Of Kells in 2009.” But for Chelsea Phillips-Carr, writing for Cinema Scope, “In its reductive exploration of misogyny in Afghanistan, The Breadwinner is reflective of how a children’s film, with its simplified, toned-down, and easily conveyed ideas, is not conducive to discussions of serious political problems.” More from Jared Mobarak (Film Stage, B+).
Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless (Cannes)
First Feature Competition
All competing titles are listed, and I hope to add links to reviews and notes as they appear.
Ana Asensio’s Most Beautiful Island (SXSW)
Gilles Coulier’s Cargo
Raul Graizer’s The Cakemaker (Karlovy Vary)
Kogonada’s Columbus (CRU)
Daniel Kokotajlo’s Apostasy; “Born out of Kokotajlo’s own history as a former Jehovah’s Witness, this exquisitely anguished, impeccably acted story of a single mother whose unyielding fidelity to the church tears her in different ways from both her daughters benefits immeasurably from its maker’s unique store of first-hand knowledge,” writes Guy Lodge for Variety. More from Peter Bradshaw (Guardian, 4/5).
Léa Mysius’s Ava (Cannes)
Rungano Nyoni’s I Am Not a Witch (CRU)
Hlynur Pálmason’s Winter Brothers (Locarno)
Michael Pearce’s Beast (Toronto)
Léonor Serraille’s Jeune Femme (Cannes)
Carla Simón’s Summer 1993
John Trengove’s The Wound (CRU)
Again, all competing titles are listed; keep an eye out for links and notes.
Lucy Cohen’s Kingdom of Us
Maryam Goormaghtigh’s Before Summer Ends
Emmanuel Gras’s Makala (Cannes)
Radu Jude’s The Dead Nation
Sonia Kronlund’s The Prince of Nothingwood
Elvira Lind’s Bobbi Jene (Philip Concannon)
Austin Lynch’s Gray House
Shevaun Mizrahi’s Distant Constellation
Brett Morgen’s Jane
Arash Kamali Sarvestani and Behrouz Boochani’s Chauka, Please Tell Us the Time
Agnès Varda and JR’s Faces Places (NYFF)
Frederick Wiseman’s Ex Libris: The New York Public Library (Venice and Toronto)
Clio Barnard’s Dark River (Toronto)
Michael Haneke’s Happy End (Cannes)
Lucrecia Martel’s Zama (NYFF)
Sally Potter’s The Party (CRU)
Thematic programs. Here, I’ll only list the titles for which there’s a roundup to point to.
Stephen Cone’s Princess Cyd (CRU)
Claire Denis’s Let the Sunshine In (Cannes)
John Cameron Mitchell’s How to Talk to Girls at Parties (Cannes)
Călin Peter Netzer’s Ana, mon amour (CRU)
Alex Ross Perry’s Golden Exits (CRU)
Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s A Matter of Life and Death (1946) (CRU)
Hong Sang-soo’s On the Beach at Night Alone (CRU)
Jan Zabeil’s Three Peaks (CRU)
Nabil Ayouch’s Razzia (Toronto)
Agnieszka Holland’s Spoor (CRU)
Xavier Legrand’s Custody (Venice and Toronto)
Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot (Venice and Toronto)
Lois Weber’s The Dumb Girl of Portici (1916) (CRU)
Noah Baumbach’s The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) (NYFF)
Dustin Guy Defa’s Person to Person (CRU)
Terry Gilliam’s Jabberwocky (1977) (CRU)
Barbara Albert’s Mademoiselle Paradis (Toronto)
Joshua Bonnetta and J. P. Sniadecki’s El mar la mar (CRU)
Jonas Carpignano’s A Ciambra (Cannes)
Denis Côté’s A Skin So Soft (Locarno)
Fabio Grassadonia and Antonio Piazza’s Sicilian Ghost Story (Cannes)
Valeska Grisebach’s Western (NYFF)
Eliza Hittman’s Beach Rats (CRU)
Liu Jian’s Have a Nice Day (CRU)
Toshio Matsumoto’s Funeral Parade of Roses (1969) (CRU)
F. J. Ossang’s 9 Fingers (Locarno)
François Ozon’s Amant Double (Cannes)
Pedro Pinho’s The Nothing Factory (CRU)
Nicolas Wackerbarth’s Casting (CRU)
Michael Curtiz’s Mildred Pierce (1945) (CRU)
Howard Hawks’s Scarface (1932) (CRU)
Aaron Katz’s Gemini (CRU)
Rory Kennedy’s Take Every Wave: The Life of Laird Hamilton (Philip Concannon)
Takashi Miike’s Blade of the Immortal (Cannes)
Josh and Benny Safdie’s Good Time (Cannes)
John Woo’s Manhunt (Venice and Toronto)
Xin Yukun’s Wrath of Silence (Kate Taylor)
Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) (CRU)
Hélène Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s Let the Corpses Tan (Locarno)
Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman’s Ghost Stories; “In adapting their Olivier-nominated supernatural stage play for the screen, writing/directing duo Jeremy Dyson and Andy Nyman have lost none of the impact of their darkly effective vision,” writes Nikki Baughan for Screen. “That’s no mean feat but by keeping things simple and playing to its strengths, Ghost Stories remains an exhilarating and entertaining experience.” More from Stephen Dalton (Hollywood Reporter) and Oliver Lyttelton (Playlist, B-).
Lukas Feigelfeld’s Hagazussa: A Heathen’s Curse is an “atmospheric folk-horror fable that combines an constant undertow of creeping dread with a striking avant-gothic visual style,” writes the Hollywood Reporter’s Stephen Dalton.
Alexandre O. Philippe’s 78/52 (CRU)
S. Craig Zahler’s Brawl in Cell Block 99 (Venice and Toronto)
Michael Glawogger and Monika Willi’s Untitled (CRU)
Todd Haynes’s Wonderstruck (Cannes)
John Carroll Lynch’s Lucky (CRU)
Albert and David Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin’s Salesman (1968) (CRU)
Jenny Suen and Christopher Doyle’s The White Girl (Kate Taylor)
Affonso Uchôa and João Dumans’s Araby (CRU)
Chloé Zhao’s The Rider (Cannes)
John Badham’s Saturday Night Fever (1977) (CRU)
Michel Hazanavicius’s Redoubtable (Cannes)
Abbas Kiarostami’s 24 Frames (Cannes)
Julian Rosefeldt’s Manifesto (CRU)
Tony Zierra’s Filmworker (Cannes)
For Sight & Sound, Simon Broughton talks with Anoushka Shankar about her new score for German director Franz Osten and Indian actor-producer Himanshu Rai’s silent epic Shiraz (1928), subtitled “A Romance of India.”
“From Scarface to Suspiria and Saturday Night Fever, Lucía to The L-Shaped Room, the 2017 LFF is reviving a host of classics—but which did we originally consider clumsy, vulgar or a ‘long slog’ and which did we hail as a masterpiece?” Sight & Sound presents a collection of reviews from its archive.
“Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless has won the award for best film at the BFI London Film Festival, the second time that the Russian director has claimed the honor,” reports Henry Chu for Variety. The jury “also commended Annemarie Jacir’s family drama Wajib, which also won a prize at Locarno.” For The Wound, John Trengove has won the Sutherland Award, “recognizing the director of the most original and imaginative first feature in the festival,” and a “special nod was also given to Carla Simon’s Summer 1993.”
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