For the discerning film fan, October brings the BFI London Film Festival, now in its 56th year.
Kicking off proceedings last week was the stop-motion animated feature Frankenweenie, directed by Haverstock Hill-er Tim Burton. And with an adopted almost-local being the talk of the festival this year, it seemed an opportune time for the KT to cast its gaze upon all things cinematic.
So what of Frankenweenie itself? Well, it’s a playful horror comedy which re-arranges the traditional story of Frankenstein, with an inventor named Victor bringing his dog back from the dead. And if you’re interested in animation, or just a big Tim Burton fan, the free exhibition The Art of Frankenweenie is running from Wednesday 17th to Sunday 21 October at the South Bank Centre, showcasing the artwork and models involved in the making of the film.
As you’d expect from a London Film Festival, there is a solid contingent of British films to choose from. At the more modest end of the budget-scale is the murder-spree comedy Sightseers, directed by Ben Wheatley, the man behind 2011’s much darker Kill List. Also flying the British film flag is Ginger and Rosa, the coming-of-age story of two teenage girls, set in 1960s London, against a backdrop of the Cold War and intensifying nuclear holocaust fears.
Having already picked up the coveted Camera d’Or award at Cannes Film Festival this year, it’s difficult to call Beasts of the Southern Wild my prediction for this year’s surprise hit of the festival. But as a debut feature it’s a stunning achievement from American director Benh Zeitlin. Set in a fictional community in the bayous of southern Louisiana, it follows a six year-old girl named Hush Puppy and her alcoholic father as they struggle to contend with rising flood-waters that threaten to wash away their home. It’s easily one of the most beautifully-shot films of the year. And with it being released this Friday, 19th October, it’s definitely worth finding at your local Everyman in Belsize or Hampstead.For the documentary-lovers out there, the festival has some real treats too. Beware of Mr Baker tells the life story of the drummer many believe to be the world’s greatest ever, Ginger Baker. Now living a reclusive life in South Africa with a morphine addiction, he’s the kind of acerbic genius that some of his contemporaries might describe as ‘a difficult man to work with’ – if they were feeling polite.
Straddling the line between documentary and fiction is A Liar’s Autobiography – The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman. Based on Chapman’s own writings, there are 14 different animation studios involved in this 3D, partly-true tale, which features the voices of many of those involved in his life, including the other Pythons.
The festival is set to close with Mike Newell’s re-imagining of Great Expectations. While it will undoubtedly be a feast for the eyes, and is set to feature an all-star cast of British luvvies, the opening and closing night scheduling does smack a bit of playing it safe. Frankenweenie is after all, a Disney film, and they are never going to struggle for publicity. With such a wide selection of unusual, exciting, and ground-breaking cinema to choose from, one feels that there surely could have been a more distinctive choice, or one in need of the extra exposure such a festival can give. Even if the director is a K-Towner (almost).
But that said, if Glastonbury have Coldplay or U2 on the bill, the programmers don’t stick them below a trendy bunch of snotty young upstarts either, do they?
The BFI London Film Festival runs until 21st October.
Words: Mark Williams.