The 56th BFI London Film Festival is upon us! The opening gala screening took place last night and was none other than Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie. The beautiful, absurdly comic stop-motion tale of a lad who brings his beloved dog back from the dead is irresistible for anyone who’s got even a little toe dipped in Burton fandom. Neatly, the film that will close LFF on Sunday 21 October will be Mike Newell’s Great Expectations starring Burton’s beau Helena Bonham-Carter as Miss Haversham, the role the queen of eccentricity was surely born to play.
Between now and then, there are a smorgasboard of filmic delicacies to get your juices flowing. An immensely logical category system is in place to help you navigate to taste (Hello ‘Love’, ‘Laugh’, ‘Cult’, ‘Treasures’, etc..) while such big-league names as Michael Haneke (Amour), François Ozon (In the House), Abbas Kiarostami (Like Someone in Love) and Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone) have all brought something to the table.
With 13 cinemas participating and enough films to ruin your connection to reality forever (much like the unfortunate hero of Reality), we thought we’d give you a few recommendations, just to take the pressure off, like.
If you can catch Thomas Vinterberg’s The Hunt (Debate), starring Danish superstar Mads Mikkelsen in a pitch-perfect performance (they agreed at Cannes, awarding him ‘Best Actor’ this year), then by Hercules you should. The less you’re told about the plot the better, just know it’s a compulsive drama exposing the ugly side of civilisation with masterfully-controlled composition lending an odd grace.
The polar-opposite in terms of scope and hype is Boudewijn Koole’s lo-fi family drama Kauwboy (Family). Hinging around one energetic child and his weary father, this easy to watch, seemingly light tale gets you weeping for the most profound of reasons.
For something home-grown and thrilling, Sally El Hosaini’s debut feature My Brother The Devil (First Feature Competition) will oblige. Set on a Hackney estate and ignited by two raw performances, MBTD taps into poverty, gangs, race and brotherly love without veering into cliché.
After all that tension, you’ll be in the mood to smile, so do catch Good Vibrations (Sonic), a joyful account of ‘The Godfather of Punk’ Terri Hooley and although we’re celebrating the newest cinema has to offer, you simply must delve into the past as well. Lawrence of Arabia (Treasures) may be 50 years’ old but the vivid 4K restoration sweeps you into its epic narrative the way most films can only dream of doing. Just make sure you’ve got the best part of 4 hours to spare.
Fans of body horror and David Cronenberg will be delighted to note that the Canadian director’s offspring, Brandon, has done dad proud with his debut, a futuristic satire of celebrity obsession. Antiviral (Cult) has a striking aesthetic, a terrifying score, a twitchy lead actor and lashings of squeamish notions. Only the most hardened of stomachs could dine on meat after a viewing.
So how do you book tickets to these screenings and hundreds of others? If you have an online account with the BFI you can use their website, otherwise there’s a central phone number (below) and – should the screening you want sell out – the returns queue. Excitable types always book more films than they attend so arrive at the venue 30 minutes before the screening, join the returns queue at the cinema’s box office and you may be in luck.
The 56th BFI London Film Festival runs from Wednesday 10 to Sunday 21 October across various venues. A full festival calendar is available here and can be picked up from the following participating cinemas:
Central Box Office: 020 7928 3232 (open 9.30am – 8.30pm daily)
Tickets can be bought in person from the BFI from 11.30am – 8.30pm daily
17 Queensberry Place
38 Curzon Street
The Brunswick Centre
270 Mare Street
12 Carlton House Terrace
35-47 Bethnal Green Road
Everyman Screen on the Green
83 Upper Street
Vue West End
3 Cranbourn Street
Odeon West End
40 Leicester Square
Empire Leicester Square
5-6 Leicester Square
Odeon Leicester Square
24-26 Leicester Square