In London, anticipating autumn has become, for some, anticipating rolling out the red carpet and welcoming film’s boldest and brightest, in a celebration of the best cinematic talent out there. The 61st BFI London Film Festival curates a preview across different thematic strands, giving film fans the chance to experience the best in film before anyone else. Love, debate, journey, cult, dare, create and thrill are the uniting factors that bring together these 243 films from 67 countries, shown in 15 London cinemas. And it all kicks off today.
Todd Haynes, of Carol fame, returns to the directing chair with a nostalgia-infused adaptation of Brian Selznick’s ‘historical novel’ of the same name, juxtaposing the tale of two children that unfold in perfect symmetry, despite being 50 years apart.
2. Call Me By Your Name
Luca Guadagnino’s follow-up to A Bigger Splash comes under the form of Armie Hammer and Timothée Chalamat’s atmospheric summer love affair in northern Italy. With a love that circulates at a level well-beyond verbal cue, Guadagnino delivers both a triumph for LGBT+ cinema and potentially our favourite film of the year.
3. Happy End
Another one of Michael Haneke’s families descends into total domestic chaos in his latest directorial effort, with moral degradation naturally taking center stage. Expect a dysfunctional satire of the European burgeois with leading lady Isabelle Huppert pulling the strings.
4. Last Flag Flying
Filtered through his usual melancholic tone, Richard Linklater’s latest is a road movie that brings together Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishbourne as they’re about to embark on an exploration that turns to be both geographical and spiritual.
5. The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Yorgos Lanthimos’ dark and weird satire is not for everyone, that’s for sure. Followers of the Greek auteur, though, will find this sinister tale of moral justice his funniest and scariest yet as Colin Farrell is faced with the ultimate sacrifice.
6. You Were Never Really Here
Lynne Ramsay’s trademark, unusual characters and raw psychological dissection, resurface as her latest drama aims to flip the coin and shed light on the tormented humanity of a killer for a change. With a seven-minute standing ovation at Cannes and wins for both Best Actor and Screenplay, this is one of the most anticipated films on the programme.
7. The Shape of Water
Step into Guillermo del Toro’s internal universe with all of its wondrous monsters in this production of full artistic freedom. Fresh off the Venice Film Festival, Guillermo del Toro’s latest twisted fairytale is a dream and a dream project materialized.
A poignant study of a loveless world, a catastrophic marriage scarred by the powers that be and a visual style evocative of the coldness haunting these relationships come to define Andrey Zvyagintsev’s follow-up to Leviathan. All these elements are amplified when a child goes missing and the previous dysfunctions descend into a truly bleak world.
9. How to Talk to Girls at Parties
A lighter entry on the list and a potential cult classic to-be, this teen romance sees some aliens landing in 70s Croydon. Some latex and punk later, an intergalactic romance develops and Nicole Kidman appears as some sort of punk authority in one of the strangest, yet endearing entries in the programme.
12. 120 BPM (Beats Per Minute)
Winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes and official competition contender, 120 BPM is a tragic and heartfelt celebration of the ACT UP group in 80s France that fought to raise awareness about Aids. As the film’s protagonists are faced with the reality of an increase in untimely deaths, their hearts begin to beat faster and they begin to beat louder, the film vibrating along with them.
11. L’Amant Double
Ozon returns to the LFF screens with a twisted erotic thriller that takes you back to the indulgences of his earlier films. Drenched in seductive tension and with frequent nods to psychological thrillers of the past, L’Amant Double flirts and teases, frequently venturing into twisted aspects of perversion. The biggest treat is perhaps the balance between the masterful composition and maintaining the tone of the film aware of all its occasional artifice.
12. Una Mujer Fantastica
Echoing the tones of Almodovar’s All About My Mother or Talk to Her, rising Chilean director Sebastián Leilo traces a compassionate account of the harsh realities that accompany daily trans existence. As Marina, a transgender woman in a conventional heterosexual relationship mourns the loss of her lover, we are invited to witness, recognize and celebrate the strength she has acquired by overcoming adversity. And this celebration is done through a difficult but important unfolding of the layers that have made her who she is now, forcing a cis-audience to respond to notions of gender as a more flexible construct.
Catch The BFI London Film Festival from 4-15 October at various London cinemas. For tickets, schedules and full programme visit bfi.org.uk/lff