A scene from Austrian director Ulrich Seidl's "In The Basement".
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2014 London Film Festival preview: French house music, Austrian basements and the British Harmony Korine

Our film critic Ryan Gilbey previews the 58th London Film Festival, which opens next month.

Next month brings the 58thLondon Film Festival, and the press launch this week threw up more than a handful of interesting propositions. You know the drill so I won’t detain you here much longer: I recommend a lucky dip of highlights, avoiding where possible those which already have distributors, and especially those which are being released imminently. Mike Leigh’s Mr Turner, for instance, is a wonderful film, but there’s not much point shelling out for a gala festival ticket when it will be in a cinema near you three weeks after its LFF unveiling. On the other hand, you might just want to brag on social media about having seen it first, in which case—be my guest.

Booking opens to BFI members next Thursday 11 September and to the public a week after that. Here is my selection of sixteen titles that I’m particularly looking forward to:


Did you really think I could resist recommending a documentary about the director of my favourite film (McCabe and Mrs Miller), not to mention one of the most innovative of all US filmmakers?

August Winds

This fiction debut from the Brazilian documentary maker Gabriel Mascaro charts the romance between a young couple in a village threatened by global warming.


As an admirer of Duane Hopkins’s gruelling but visually arresting Better Things, I’m excited to see this belated follow-up, especially as it stars the excellent George Mackay (Pride) as an ailing young man living in straitened circumstances on a council estate.


After Father of My Children and Goodbye First Love, the writer-director Mia Hansen-Løve is the closest thing you can get to a sure thing. Her latest is a fictionalised portrait of the rise of the French house music scene that spawned Daft Punk.

The Falling

Anyone who saw Carol Morley’s semi-documentary Dreams of a Life, about a woman whose body lay undiscovered in her north London flat for three years after she died, is likely still thinking about it to this day. This fiction follow-up about hormonal hysteria at a 1960s girls’ school suggests shades of Picnic at Hanging Rock.

The Goob

Approving reviews have trickled through from the Venice film festival for this debut drama from the British director Guy Myhill, set in the Norfolk countryside but infused with a renegade spirit that has been likened to Harmony Korine.


I saw this excellent documentary about a provincial Canadian school when it screened at the Berlin film festival earlier this year. Think of it as Être et avoir: the High School Years.

In the Basement

A creepy documentary from the fearless Ulrich Seidl, director of the Paradise trilogy, about Austrians and their beloved basements and cellars? Count me in.

It Follows

David Robert Mitchell’s The Myth of the American Sleepover, a gentle but insightful coming-of-age movie, was one of the great US debuts of recent years. His next film, which earned rave reviews from Cannes, sees him moving into horror.


The new film from Andrey Zvyagintsev, director of the unforgettable Elena and The Return, about a man resisting the purchase of his property.

L’il Quinquin

The most unlikely words heard at the LFF launch announced this, “a knockabout comedy from Bruno Dumont.” As anyone who has seen the taxing L’Humanité or La Vie de Jesus will know, that’s like a fey period romance from Quentin Tarantino or a monster movie by Woody Allen. Still, I have it on good authority that is properly funny and entertaining. Colour me intrigued.


Abel Ferrara’s film has Willem Dafoe as the legendary Italian poet, director and firebrand Pier Paolo Pasolini in the hours immediately prior to his murder in 1975.


The always fascinating German director Christian Petzold (Yella, Barbara) is reunited with his regular collaborator, the hypnotic Nina Hoss. She plays a concentration camp survivor who undergoes cosmetic surgery and searches for the husband who betrayed her.

The President

The great Iranian filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf (Kandahar, A Moment of Innocence) relocates to Georgia about a president who sparks revolution in an unnamed country.

The Tribe

I’ve heard terrific things about this entirely dialogue-free drama set among the criminal fraternity at a Ukranian boarding school for young deaf people.

White God

A girl and her dog: that’s the misleadingly innocuous-sounding starting point for a shocking, visceral film that won the Un Certain Regard prize at Cannes this year.

The 58th London Film Festival runs 8—19 October.

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.

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The attack on Les Bleus was an attack on the soul of France - that's why Euro 2016 must go ahead

As a continent reels politically from the refugee crisis and emotionally from the Paris attacks, football must find a new, confident voice.

After the Paris attacks, the great Bill Shankly’s words have rarely been so tested: “Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you, it is much, much more important than that.”

As bombers detonated their suicide belts outside the Stade de France, French and German football fans cheered what they thought were fireworks. They were unaware that it was the opening salvo in a night of barbarity. One of the bombers had a ticket for the game but, mercifully, was turned back at the turnstile. Had his bomb gone off inside the stadium, the immediate loss of life, plus the panicked stampede and two more suicide bombers lying in wait outside for escaping fans, could have produced a death toll higher than at Hillsborough, Bradford, Heysel or either of the Ibrox ­stadium disasters.

The French intelligence services have yet to conclude publicly whether the attacks were timed to coincide with the prestigious friendly or whether the crowd of 80,000 was simply another target of bloodthirsty convenience on an already preordained date. Either way, there’s no mistaking that an attack on Les Bleus was an attack on the soul of France. In the aftermath, the Germany-Netherlands friendly game was called off and Belgian football went into lockdown.

How should British football respond? To those who think that the sport is just 22 players kicking a ball around a field, this may seem a peculiar question. But ever since the tail end of the 19th century, when football escaped from its self-enforced ghettoisation in Britain’s public schools, it has had a greater purpose.

More than any other sport, football has been intertwined with politics. As Harold Wilson said: “It’s a way of life . . . a religion.” When President Rowhani of Iran wanted to bolster his image as a new kind of leader, he didn’t deliver a speech but tweeted a picture of himself wearing an Iranian football top, watching a match. Franco’s dictatorship clung to the all-conquering Real Madrid and punished FC Barcelona. On Robben Island, ANC prisoners idolised Billy Bremner of Leeds United and successfully demanded the right to play football.

In October, one of the biggest protests against the closure of the north-east’s steelworks was from 10,000 Middlesbrough fans at Old Trafford. When Catalans challenged hikes in transport costs, they boycotted public transport from the Camp Nou. The biggest “Refugees Welcome” signs in Europe weren’t produced by governments but by fans of the Bundesliga champions, ­Bayern Munich.

So while the singing of the Marseillaise at the England-France match at Wembley was a “hairs on the back of the neck” moment, most of us understand that it’s not enough. What is less well known is that this wasn’t the first time that one of the world’s few genuinely inspiring anthems has been performed in earnest in British football. A century ago, bands took to the pitch to play patriotic British, French and Russian music – not out of altruism but military necessity. The British army was under intense pressure at Ypres and urgently needed new volunteers. The War Office turned to football.

For many, the journey to Loos, Flanders and the Somme started with a routine visit to cheer on their local team. Their sport transported them from a home football field to their foreign killing fields. Many clubs, including Everton, held military training on their pitches, while Manchester City’s then stadium, Hyde Road, became a 300-horse stable. Hundreds of players died serving in the Football Battalion.

But for too long our national sport reflected Britain’s lack of ease with diversity. From the 1920s, the religious sectarianism that poisoned the west of Scotland was allowed to fester in Glasgow’s football. The sport’s tolerance of recreational racism became widespread. Outside stadiums, right-wing extremists sold their propaganda while, inside, black players were vilified – even by their own supporters. Football’s racism corroded its heart and was rationalised in its head: it was allowed on the pitch, cele­brated on the terraces and accepted in the boardroom and far too many changing rooms.

And now, as a continent reels politically from the refugee crisis and emotionally from the Paris attacks, football must find a new, confident voice. The sport and its fans cannot sit on the subs’ bench at a time like this.

In a nation where only one in five male workers joins a trade union, football is a rare regular collective experience. It is more authentic than click-and-connect social media communities. Despite high ticket prices, football offers the one place where thousands of working-class men, including many politically disenchanted young men, come together in a common cause.

British football has long since jettisoned its ambivalence regarding racism. But for organised extreme right-wingers, Islamophobia fills the space vacated by the anti-Irish “No Surrender” tendency on the sport’s fringes. Although the number of top-flight British Muslim players is infinitesimally small, the streets of Bradford, Blackburn and Birmingham teem with young British Muslims kicking a football. More clubs can harness their power to inspire and increase their ­involvement in community counter-­radicalisation strategies. Clubs should also take the lead by having zero tolerance for Islamophobia, training stewards and backing fans who stand up to fellow supporters.

And, finally, the European Championships, for which all the home nations bar Scotland have qualified, must go ahead in France next summer. There’s no liberté in cancelling. In the name of fraternité, let’s all back France as our second team. Allez les Bleus!

Jim Murphy is the former Labour MP for East Renfrewshire and leader of Scottish Labour 2014-15.

This article first appeared in the 26 November 2015 issue of the New Statesman, Terror vs the State