Ten films to catch at the London Film Festival that we’ve already seen and loved

National Gallery

The line-up for the London Film Festival was announced this past week and it’s another mix of high profile features and semi-hidden gems. You can find the full line-up online but it can be a little overwhelming to navigate. In a effort to help you pick a few films to prioritise, I have selected ten of the best films from the program that I have already seen.

National Gallery

Frederick Wiseman‘s astonishingly complex dissection of another grand institution is probably the most satisfying film I have seen so far this year, and without a doubt the greatest documentary.

Wiseman’s filmmaking approach and style is portrayed as as passive but there is an extraordinary amount of craftsmanship involved in his filmmaking. Wiseman will be at the festival in support of his latest film, and will be even quizzed about his work at a Masterclass session on the 12th of October.

National Gallery is, amongst other things, an examination of what art means to audiences. If I’d have been programming the LFF, this would have been my choice for the opening film for sure.

Read my full review of National Gallery.

National Gallery is playing at LFF on the 12th and 14th of October.

Foxcatcher

It’s somewhat ironic that Foxcatcher is currently surrounded by a great deal of awards chatter. The film is savage takedown of competition and American exceptionalism, wrapped in a controlled and brooding thriller with not just one but three fine central performances.

Read my full review of Foxcatcher.

Foxcatcher is playing at LFF on the 16th and 17th of October.

Mr. Turner

JMW Turner is the focus of Mike Leigh‘s latest. The film focuses not on the grand peaks or the deep lows of Turner’s life but more on the small moments that, perhaps, really defined the man.

Timothy Spall‘s Turner is a hulking, shuffling and grumbling figure, difficult to understand both aurally and emotionally, but Leigh’s portrait is a fascinating and unflinching one with a great deal to offer beneath the surface.

Read my full review of Mr. Turner.

Mr. Turner is playing at LFF on the 10th and 11th of October.

Mommy

When are you too old to continue being referred to as an enfant terrible? Xavier Dolan certainly seems to fit the description well, but he’s now approaching his late twenties, and the release of his sixth film.

Playful, mischievous and occasionally beautifully emotive, Dolan’s films are perhaps often easier to hate than they are to love but I certainly found myself falling for Mommy when I saw it earlier this year. It’s a frustrating experience, for sure, but also a very rewarding one and there are one or two moments that are really rather extraordinary and quite unforgettable, especially when seen with an audience.

For that, and a number of other reasons, this film will no doubt be the talk of the festival, as it was at Cannes.

Read my full review of Mommy.

Mommy is playing at LFF on the 16th and 19th of October.

Winter Sleep

With many references to the great Bard, Nuri Bilge Ceylan has certainly setting his sights high with his latest. Mostly, he delivers.

Winter Sleep is far more wordy than previous Ceylan pictures but it is in the dense dialogue that much of the film’s power resides. Like a pot that never quite boils over but constantly threatens to, Winter Sleep provides a stressful experience but it’s also a finely measured, admirable piece of work.

Read my full review of Winter Sleep.

Winter Sleep is playing at LFF on the 18th and 19th of October.

Timbuktu

Abderrahmane Sissako‘s Timbuktu was inspired by the senseless murder of a couple in Aguelhok in Northern Mali, and tells a story of an area controlled by Jihadists and the unfortunate people who live there. Sissako never sensationalises this subject matter but he does create deeply affecting drama and fills the film with startling moments of noble defiance.

Read my full review of Timbuktu.

Timbuktu is playing at LFF on the 10th and 11th of October.

Hard to be a God

In April, shortly after watching Hard to be a God, I wrote about how the film was worth the wait and for those lucky enough to attend the London Film Festival that wait will finally be over.

Like being embedded in a muddy, smoke-filled cesspool that you may immediately want to escape from, Hard to be God is an overwhelming and senses-stimulating marvel of a feature. Don’t miss this one.

Read my feature on Hard to be a God.

Hard to be a God is playing at LFF on the 9th and 12th of October.

It Follows

I went into David Robert Mitchell‘s It Follows relatively cold, with no knowledge of what it was about and I’m rather glad I did. It’s an excellent horror picture, and smart, scary, funny, exceptionally well-made and often rather surprising.

Read my full review of It Follows. For those wanting to avoid spoilers the review is safe to read, and there even a warning when I begin to reveal a little about the film’s plot.

It Follows is playing at LFF on the 11th and 13th of October.

Leviathan

A dense story of one man struggling with ownership of a small piece of land, Leviathan certainly has a great deal of depth when it comes to commenting on contemporary Russian issues. Over the top of this,  Andrey Zvyagintsev also delivers a fascinating layer of familial drama and genuine humour. With its blistering script and assured direction, Leviathan is an impressively grand film and not to be missed.

Leviathan is playing at LFF on the 14th and 17th of October.

The Salvation

Consider this a wild card entry of sorts. The Salvation is not a perfect film by, but good lord is it an enjoyable one. Kristin Levring‘s devoted take on the western is filled with exceptional action direction – featuring superbly realised spatial dynamics – and delivers a starring role to the always reliable Mads Mikkelsen.

Read my full review of The Salvation.

The Salvation is playing at LFF on the 14th, 15th and 17th of October.

BFI members’ booking for the festival opens on the 11th of September, and general booking begins on the 18th of September.

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