Welcome to the first of a four part guide to the films playing at this year’s London Film Festival. What initially began as a “Ten Films To See” type piece soon escalated, so instead we’ve decided to put together a series of pieces separated by strand. First up, it’s the Gala’s and Special Screenings.
The Ides Of March – The American Express Gala
As neither the opening nor closing gala films appeal, what better place to start than with George Clooney’s follow up to (*whisper it*) 2008’s Leatherheads. The hype surrounding The Ides Of March seems to imply that it’s closer in quality to his earlier directorial outings Good Night, and Good Luck, and Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind, with this tale of political spin and the media thematically in the vein of those earlier films. Ryan Gosling seals 2011 with a performance likely to cap an amazing 12 months with an Oscar nomination, with the actor appearing alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti and Clooney himself.
The Descendants – The Centrepiece Gala
Clooney again, and Oscar talk once again too. The Descendants is currently the odds on favourite for Best Picture come next February, and with Alexander Payne behind the camera for the first time since 2004’s Sideways its not hard to imagine why. Payne is nothing less than an expert when it comes to crafting tales of dysfunction, with this tale of familiar difficulty, starring Clooney as a father who has to face up to his responsibilities. While this may sound rather blasé, or even typical, then rest assured that Payne will no doubt bring something fresh to the table.
The Artist – American Airlines Gala
As long term fans of Michel Hazanavicius and Jean Dujardin it is with great pleasure that we note the prominent placing of the British premiere of their new project, this homage to the silent age of Hollywood cinema. Following the films breakout success at this years Cannes Film Festival, The Artist has garnered quite the following.
The First Born – Archive Gala
In spite of being quite well versed in the art of the silent movie, Hope Lies must admit to having never actually heard of The First Born, nor are we familiar with the film’s director, Miles Mander. Scripted by Mrs. Alfred Hitchcock herself, Alma Reville, the brief section of the film that we were privy to at the festivals press launch hinted at a beautifully shot piece of early British cinema, with a genuinely staggering use of first-person perspective camerawork. Take that Troll Hunter.
Shame – Film On The Square Gala
This year’s London Film Festival truly is a festival of pairs. Rachel Weisz, George Clooney, John C. Reilly and Shakespeare all pop up in two high profile flicks, but none appear in a pair quite as exciting as Michael Fassbender. Alongside his turn in the below mentioned A Dangerous Method, Fassbender also stars in Steve McQueen’s Shame. Announced while still sailing on the success of last week’s Venice Film Festival Screening, Shame sees the British filmmaker turn his attention to New York, with this tale of an Irish-born sex addict. The very thought of Fassbender reteaming with his breakthrough role director is enough to place this at the top of any “must-see” list.
A Dangerous Method – Film On The Square Gala
Our original prediction for opening film, this period piece from David Cronenberg sees the relationship of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung played out against a backdrop of a world headed for war. Viggo Mortenson is Freud, working with the director on his third consecutive picture, and Michael Fassbender portrays Jung, with the pair vying for the affections of Keira Knightley’s “troubled young woman”. Coolest man on the planet, and friend of Hope Lies, Vincent Cassel also makes an appearance.
We Need To Talk About Kevin – The Time Out Special Screening
Lynne Ramsay’s absence from the silver screen puts even Alexander Payne to shame, with the 2011 release of We Need To Talk About Kevin marking almost a decade away from the movies for the Scottish director. Having impressed at Cannes and Toronto Ramsay finally brings the film to the UK, with an exemplary turn from Tilda Swinton leading the way.
The Kid With A Bike – The Sight & Sound Special Screening
Another Cannes 2011 alumni, The Kid With A Bike occupies the prestigious space of Sight & Sound sponsored screening at this years London (previous screenings sponsored by the world’s greatest film magazine include A Prophet and Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives). The Dardenne Brothers rarely disappoint, and this piece, with a central turn from Cécile de France (most recently seen in Clint Eastwood’s Hereafter) looks set to follow in that tradition.
Our complete preview of the London Film Festival 2011 can be found here.