Booking opens this week to BFI members, and next week to the public, for the London Film Festival – a sort of Now That’s What I Call Music!-style compilation of choice pickings from the rest of the year’s festivals. As usual, I recommend avoiding the clamour for some of the supposedly hot tickets, many of which will be released in the month immediately following the festival –the opening film, Suffragette, is out only a few days after its preview screening, while the likes of Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster, Stephen Frears’s The Program, Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs and the film version of Alan Bennett’s play The Lady in the Van will hit a multiplex near you within a month or less of the festival’s end. You could always take a plunge with the Surprise Film, but be warned – whereas last year it was Birdman (hooray!), the year before it turned out to be Wong Kar-Wai’s dismal The Grandmaster (boo!). But then, that’s festivals all over. You take the rough with the smooth, just so long as you solemnly agree to have a heated debate in the foyer afterwards about whatever it is you’ve seen.
Here is a selection of 14 titles showing in the festival that either haven’t yet attracted a distributor (and so might not be so easy to come by once the LFF has left town) or which offer some exotic pleasures.
This three-part, six-hour modern take on Scheherezade’s stories, from Miguel Gomes (director of Tabu), promises to be a rich visual treat.
Adventurous cinemagoers will not only be familiar with the name Apichatpong Weerasethakul, they’ll probably also know how to pronounce it correctly. In Tropical Malady, Syndromes and a Century and the Palme d’Or-winning Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, he has taken audiences on feverish, hypnotic journeys into his characters’ souls. This latest, about a group of soldiers who have succumbed to sleeping sickness, is unlikely to buck that trend or break the spell.
I saw Pablo Larraín’s remarkable drama about guilt and punishment when it screened in Berlin back in February. It’s the most electrifying work yet from the Chilean director of No and Tony Manero – a darkly comic portrait of a cottage at the end of the world, where priests go when they’ve been banished from their parishes.
The hit of last year’s LFF was the innovative horror It Follows. This year, chills are promised by this French tale of an island where adulthood has become synonymous with psychosis.
I’ve always got time for the great Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski, not least because of the haunting and acutely-observed films he made in Britain in the 1970s and 1980s, among them Deep End, The Shout and Moonlighting. His new picture, a Polish-Irish co-production, charts eleven highly-charged minutes in the lives of various characters, among them a director, a courier and a dog.
Beauty, about the dangerous obsession of a self-loathing middle-aged man, was unforgettable cinema. Its director, Oliver Hermanus, returns with this keen-eyed study of the bond between a widowed ex-pat and the wife of an ex-convict.
The sharp US critic Kent Jones directs this documentary about the seminal book of interviews between Francois Truffaut and Alfred Hitchcock – how it came about and what its influence has been. Directors including Wes Anderson, Richard Linklater and Olivier Assayas are among the interviewees.
The last film from the Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad was the impressive Omar. This fictionalisation of the story of the winner of the live singing competition Arab Idol has been likened to We Are the Best! Those two factors should recommendation enough.
I like the sound of this British drama about three children and their father, all learning to survive in the absence of the woman of the house. The first-time director, Esther May Campbell, displayed a highly original style in her Bafta-winning short September.
At last – Louis Theroux makes it to cinema. This documentary, which the quietly devilish documentarian made with the director John Dower, pokes and prods at the notoriously defensive Church of Scientology.
From the brief excerpt shown at the LFF launch, I love the look of Johnnie To’s snazzy corporate-culture musical from Hong Kong about a company that’s about to go public. Punchy choreography and an All That Jazz aesthetic look to be the order of the day.
Vincent Cassel is an enigmatic patriarch leading a commune of women and children, some of whom are trained as assassins, in an unspecified rural refuge (the film was actually shot in ravaged Georgian locations).
One of the 16 world premieres at the LFF is this British film about the opposition to the sale of a Peckham pub to property developers. Gentrification, community and local history converge in verbatim drama and “folk operatic form” (it says here). If you loved London Road (and I did) then this sounds like it belongs to the same neighbourhood, stylistically speaking.
The Irish director Lenny Abrahamson is the closest you’ll find in cinema to a sure thing; his work so far – Adam & Paul, Garage, What Richard Did and the Frank Sidebottom comedy Frank – should come with a kite-mark. His new film, an adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s novel, stars the terrific Brie Larson, which makes it doubly appealing.