Getting The Most From The London Film Festival

If you’ve given even the most cursory glance to a broadsheet in the last few weeks, you’ve probably seen an oh-so-snarky think piece about the lack of world premieres at this year’s London Film Festival. They’re easy to spot because they’re accompanied by photos of grumpy middle-aged men looking ‘thoughtful’.

Unlike last year, when Fantastic Mr. Fox (great) and Nowhere Boy (shit) both had their world premieres at the festival, almost all of the 197 films in this year’s programme have already shown at the more important world festivals: Cannes, Venice, Toronto and Berlin.

What the broadsheet journalists are forgetting however, is that the only people who go to these festivals are (wait for it) broadsheet journalists. Just because Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian has seen Black Swan and found it to be ‘thoroughly outrageous’ doesn’t make its Friday Night Gala premiere at the LFF any less exciting. If anything, it’s more exciting, because amongst the critics, ‘industry people’ and C-list celebrities will be actual members of the actual public.

I know I’m not in the best place to make this argument. For the third consecutive year, I’ll be attending the festival for free with a press pass. GET ME etc. But take it from me, there’s a massive different between the press screenings, full of furious journos (their slang, not mine) complaining about not getting enough time at some junket or being forced to make do with still water because the sparkling ran out, and the public screenings in which the audience actually seem excited about seeing the film.

Not that I don’t enjoy a bit of superiority with my laminated card and exclusive lanyard. Almost any film becomes a must-see when there’s an after-party full of free drinks and vaguely famous people. Last year I got a load of free American Airlines shit at the Up In The Air party and ended up on a barge another night with some very exciting people. I won’t name them, because this way I can continue to be a shameless starfucker.

Still, when it comes down to it, it’s really about the films (well, after the free drinks) and even if we’re getting them six months after Mark Kermode has recorded his witty observations live from the South of France, that shouldn’t make the experience any less special. There are hundreds of films to be seen, stars to be spotted and Q&A’s to be endlessly bored by. All you have to do is seek them out.

I’ve already written a highlights list over on my blog (PLUG) and most of the big films are selling out fast, but if you’ve got a free evening between October 13th and 28th it really is worth wandering over to the Vue West End or BFI Southbank and queuing for returns. See any old shit. You might be pleasantly surprised.

Or more likely, massively disappointed.

Show comments (2) / Post a comment
  • C.B.
    Looking forward to LFF. One thing a bit wrong though- Toronto fest is totally 'for the people', everyone has as much access to tickets+screenings as journo or celeb, one of the reasons for the success of the festival. Roger Ebert was caught in a 'do you know who I am?' huff there a few years ago because, boohoo, he had to line up like everyone else to try and get into a screening.
    (used to live in Toronto.. not some PR for their fest!)
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Black Swan: Aronofsky At The Ballet

Unfortunately, Darren Aronofsky’s new film Black Swan is not about a black man killing a swan. It’s actually about Ballet. I’ve only ever seen one film on the subject of ballet and that was Martin Scorsese’s wet-dream The Red Shoes, made by Powell & Pressburger. It was beautiful-so high hopes for this one.

Aronofsky isn’t a film-maker I particularly love. Sure I quite liked The Wrestler, but the only thing unconventional about it was Mickey Rourke’s arresting performance. Zing! Pi is distinctly mehhh and I’ve yet to see the supposedly not-for-the-faint-hearted drugs-odyssey Requiem for a Dream.

This new film stars gorgeousness-and-gorgeousity made flesh, Natalie Portman in the lead role. Isn’t she lovely? Perhaps the only saving grace of George Lucas’s misguided Star Wars prequels, she managed the exact same feat when she single-handedly saved Zach Braff’s inconsequential and infinitely overrated Garden State from being ‘pure excrement on celluloid’. (Big love to my bwoiii Mastracci for that one.)

Where as The Red Shoes aimed to bring ballet to the silver screen, Black Swan, a stylish-psychological thriller, seems to have used it as a means of exploring the darker depths of the Portman character. With the life-and-death struggle depicted in the dance story reflecting her descent into mental illness.

It didn’t take much razor-sharp perceptive deduction, after viewing the (insert ominous adjectives here) trailer, to work out that Portman is a bit fucking insane here. I mean what’s going on with her back?!?!? She’s got it worse than even these poor fucks.

Macaulay Culkin’s clunge, Mila Kunis, co stars as a rival ballerina. According to the Venice Film Festival reviews, (which have btw-been excellent) Portman feels intimidated and undermined by Kunis as she herself canny play the Black Swan effectively. Pfft I think old Nat forgot that this is the girl getting Michael Jackson’s sloppy seconds. But anyway she decides to have lesbian sex with Kunis and go rouge in order to fully realise her dark passion. As you do like. Mr. Darren clearly understands that doing a Woody Allen is generally an efficient way to get people to come and see your movie.

So if an intriguing premise, a beautiful black and white colour scheme, the aforementioned girl-on-girl, some mad-exciting talent and a genuinely chilling trailer aren’t enough to get you hot for this one—- check ya pulse blud.

Oh and guess who else is in it? Vincent fucking Cassel - that’s right! Who else?


Sofia Coppola is a bona fide genius. She crafts immaculate mood pieces using a dreamily lyrical approach. Basically, if you watch ‘Lost in Translation’ and you just ‘get’ it, you’ll fall instantly in love with the unexpectedly hot auteur. There’s nothing pretentious about it, you cynical fucks.

Coppola’s career has had its ups and downs. The Virgin Suicides was a shit-hot début. It flaunted her gorgeous visual aesthetic, showed off her flair for soundtracks (the poor-man’s Daft Punk done good) and proved that you don’t have to be The Wachowski Brother’s to effectively use green tint. However, being an adaptation, the film was somewhat stunted. After that we got the masterpiece and last but least, with her most recent picture, the chic bore.

In 2010 she’s treating us to a new film. It’s called ‘Somewhere’. It has a decidedly lovely poster and a predictable-yet utterly amazing trailer. A tonal sequel to Lost in Translation you say? Rehashing her own back catalogue on only her fourth film you say? Well fuck you haters! No, TBF-those two points are perfectly valid observations but with a Phoenix soundtrack, Steven Dorff (yeah bitches!!!) and the prospect of another hipster tale of excess, I ain’t complaining.

The Dorff stars as a jaded actor bonding with his estranged daughter, Ellie Fanning. But as always with Coppola, plot synopsis and trailers are totally ineffectual at representing the film. She’s all about delicate pacing and the resulting moments.

So here are some pretty pictures to wet your appetites and please-please-pleeeeeeease be excited about this. If you aren’t, I hope aptly you die by your own hands a virgin you soulless prick.


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