The BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express® showcases a rich and diverse programme of international films and events from both established and upcoming talent over a 12 day celebration of cinema. 2018 sees the 62nd anniversary edition which will take place at venues across the UK capital from the 10th to 21st October. Due to our unique relationships with the film industry and sponsors we can offer unrivalled access to 248 films over 17 London venues, plus special events and after-parties.
Academy Award® winner and BFI Fellow Steve McQueen (12 Years a Slave, Hunger, Shame) opens the Festival in pulsating style with this female-fuelled heist thriller that features a cast to die for.
When Veronica’s husband (Viola Davis and Liam Neeson, respectively) is killed during a daring heist, she and the wives of the men he worked with discover money was owed to some particularly nasty people. And now they want it back. Where the title ‘widows’ might suggest women defined by their husbands’ absence, McQueen turns this idea on its head as Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Elizabeth Debicki and Cynthia Erivo find empowerment and unexpected solidarity in tackling their men’s unfinished business.Steve McQueen and co-writer Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), offer a strikingly contemporary reworking of Lynda La Plante’s groundbreaking 1980s television series, relocating the action to Chicago, with a local election exposing race and class conflict, along with political corruption, in urban America. Robert Duvall and Colin Farrell are the Mulligans, heading up an Irish family who’ve long controlled and enriched themselves from city politics, while Daniel Kaluuya shows vicious bite as a character determined to change the balance of power by any means. An exacting, formally precise filmmaker, McQueen’s take on genre was always going to be something special; regular collaborators cinematographer Sean Bobbitt and editor Joe Walker help deliver a sleek and pacey film, with Hans Zimmer’s score adding urgency. Always deeply satisfying as a heist film, but never simply that, these ass-kicking widows have some glass ceilings to shatter into a million tiny pieces.
Forget what you know about costume dramas. This witty, Belle Époque-era biopic stars Keira Knightley and Dominic West as literary couple Colette and Willy, whose relationship rewrote social and gender rules.
Free-thinking country girl Sidonie-Gabrielle ‘Colette’ is barely out of her teens when she marries ‘Willy’, a literary impresario 14 years her senior; the two become a fixture of the Paris avant-garde salons of the late 19th century. Recognising her talent, Willy puts Colette to work, publishing her under his name. But when her titillating, risqué Claudine series – thinly veiled autobiographical tales of the Sapphic loves of a French school girl – becomes a smash hit, Colette tires of Willy stealing her success and fights back to reclaim her own literary name. Following his Oscar-winning Still Alice, writer-director Wash Westmoreland delivers a rollicking, bang-on-zeitgeist drama (and a glorious tribute to Westmoreland’s late partner Richard Glatzer, with whom he started the project). Dominic West gleefully embodies the charming if sleazy Willy, who is shocked when his wife challenges him. And Knightley is sensational as Colette, blooming from provincial maiden to a radical rule-defying feminist and iconoclast. Colette is a swaggering portrait of a great female artist – defiant in her public affairs with both men and women, and in fighting her husband for her intellectual property rights – and a paean to one of the architects of modern womanhood.
This anthology of a half-dozen Western tales is a six-shooting delight from the Coen brothers.
If you want to fathom the bottomless well that is the Coens’ imagination, look no further. As storytelling goes, this is wildly idiosyncratic, undeniably hilarious and often touchingly melancholic – a cinema-brio study of the American West. Every delectable chapter presents a different story from the wild frontier, with tone and style perfectly calibrated for each tale. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs finds Tim Blake Nelson playing a sharp-shooting songster. In Near Algodones, James Franco’s wannabe bank robber gets his due and then some. And just a little bit more for good measure. Lugubrious dark humour pervades the Liam Neeson starrer Meal Ticket, a gothic tale about two weary travelling performers. Tom Waits mines a rich seam of humour in All Gold Canyon, while Zoe Kazan finds an unexpected promise of love, along with a dose of life’s cruel irony, on a wagon train across the prairies in The Gal Who Got Rattled. Finally, ghostly laughs haunt The Mortal Remains as Tyne Daly rains judgment upon a motley crew of strangers undertaking a final carriage ride. Exquisitely shot by Bruno Delbonnel and intricately designed by Jess Gonchor (with art department contributing stunning colour plate intertitles that introduce each sequence), this is one for true connoisseurs. Bedtime stories for cinema lovers.
Steve Carell and Timothée Chalamet give blistering performances as a father and son in this gripping story of a family dealing with addiction over many years.
David Sheff (Carell) has a life many would envy: a beautiful older teenage son Nic (Chalamet) to whom he is close; two younger children from his happy second marriage to artist Karen (Maura Tierney), a loving stepmother to his first son; a house near the north California coast; and notable success as a journalist with major publications like The New York Times and Rolling Stone. Life is good. An open, communicative father, he isn’t too alarmed when Nic casually experiments with marijuana. Then, without warning, Nic’s interest in drugs transforms, becoming more urgent, desperate even. The boy who loved books, music, surfing and his family is withdrawn, agitated, mercurial and dishonest. By the time David realises what’s happening, Nic is hooked on crystal meth. Screenwriters Luke Davies (Lion) and Felix van Groeningen adapts two memoirs (Tweak by Nic and David’s Beautiful Boy) into a powerful and moving account of a father and son’s struggle with addiction and its tragic consequences. Making his English-language debut, Felix van Groeningen (The Broken Circle Breakdown, Belgica) directs with soulful restraint, allowing Ruben Impens’ (Raw) camera to capture with startling intimacy Carell and Chalamet’s visceral performances, which blaze at the heart of this intelligent, tough and inspiring film.
Note: The screenings on Sat 13 Oct at Cineworld Leicester Square and Sun 14 Oct at Embankment Garden Cinema have an audio-description soundtrack for customers who are blind or partially-sighted. Headphones are available on request at the venue.
Hugh Jackman leads this pulsing political drama from director Jason Reitman (Tully, Juno, Up in the Air) detailing a watershed moment for the American press in its coverage of political life.
Democratic candidate Gary Hart (a prodigiously good Jackman) was the man to beat in the 1988 American Presidential campaign. Handsome, whip-smart, principled and with really great hair, he led George W Bush in the polls by double digits. America loved him, yet that all that changed in a week. Breaking unwritten rules on the personal discretions allowed politicians, the Miami Herald staked out Hart’s Washington apartment to expose his long-rumoured extramarital affairs, this one with beautiful blond Donna Rice. Following suit, other media camped outside his house, pursuing the candidate’s wife and daughter (Vera Farmiga and Kaitlyn Dever). Based on Matt Bai’s exposé All the Truth is Out: The Week Politics Went Tabloid, Reitman’s film centres on this extraordinary week. But this satisfyingly multi-layered script also probes Hart’s own attitudes – the sense of male entitlement that made him blithely unable to recognise how his behaviour would hurt the women involved. With J.K. Simmons shining as Hart’s campaign manager in an excellent ensemble (standouts also include Farmiga, Dever and Molly Ephraim, as one of the few women on Hart’s campaign team), this is a cracking, top-class political drama.
The heartrending complexities of life are embraced in a multi-layered love story from This Is Us creator Dan Fogelman.
Fans of smash hit US TV series This Is Us will already know creator Dan Fogelman has an innate knack for producing emotional, multi-character drama on an epic scale. With Life Itself, Fogelman effortlessly renders this talent in richly cinematic terms, gathering an all-star ensemble cast for his ambitious meditation on the human condition and fundamental truths that connect us all. Oscar Isaac and Olivia Wilde play a New York couple driven apart by tragedy. Charting their love affair from their college days through to married life and the birth of their first child, we experience their transcendental highs and crushing lows. Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, a couple in the lush Spanish countryside endeavour to make their relationship work in the face of mounting external influences. Through one single incident, the lives of these seemingly disparate people prove inextricably linked, impacting each of them in unforeseen ways. Epic in scope, yet intimately relatable in its emotions, Life Itself is a searing testament to the redemptive powers of love. But more than a sweeping love story, Fogelman’s film is a narratively complex, playfully cine-literate affair, unfolding in a host of inventive and unexpected ways.
Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love, Call Me by Your Name) pays homage to Dario Argento’s horror classic with this delicious feminist update.
Though some key plot points remain the same, this is no ‘remake’ of the 1977 giallo. Unfolding in Berlin in the same year Argento’s film was made, it finds American Susie Bannion (Dakota Johnson) auditioning for a prestigious international dance school. She’s untutored, but has the kind of ferocious commitment to her dance that the strange mistresses who run the all-female school are looking for. In particular, she entrances the precise Madame Blanc (Tilda Swinton), who is both an exacting tutor and elegant den mother. Is Susie finally the ‘one’ to dance the mysterious ‘Volk’? At the same time, students are disappearing and it’s apparent that some ancient wickedness lurks in the bowels of the school. Swinton and Johnson are incandescent at the heart of a fabulous, almost exclusively female cast. And Thom Yorke contributes an eerily dramatic, disquieting score to the film. As much a playful reflection on 1970s fashion and cinema, the fiction of Angela Carter and Lacanian film theory as it is a tribute to the technical and creative brilliance of Argento’s original, Guadagnino has crafted an exquisitely rendered personal response. The earthy, muted colour palette, captured by Sayombhu Mukdeeprom (Uncle Boonmee..., Call Me by Your Name), inverts Argento’s vivid colour shock. As does Guadagnino’s own approach to notions of corruption, innocence and female power.
Scotland battles for its soul against England, as David Mackenzie’s gutsy historical drama brings underdog Robert the Bruce thrillingly to life.
Scotland, 1304. English King Edward has triumphed, William Wallace is in hiding and the nobles north of the border have been forced into submission. Although he is a favourite for the Scottish throne, Robert the Bruce (Chris Pine) remains steadfast in his desire to end the occupation and as his unease at the treatment of his subjects increases, plans for insurrection ferment. With the ruthless Prince of Wales as his foe, Robert quickly discovers that playing fair is not rewarded, and when the Prince gives the decree to ‘Raise the Dragon!’, the time of chivalry is officially over, and it’s a no-holds-barred fight for Scotland’s existence. Pine exudes gravitas and charisma as both a strong ruler and beloved man of the people. He’s supported by a cracking ensemble cast, supplying flesh and blood to battle scenes, while rising star Florence Pugh (also appearing at the Festival in Special Presentation, The Little Drummer Girl) is superb as Robert’s spirited English wife. As a director, Mackenzie has often explored the nuances of machismo, and it’s with obvious relish that he works on such a grand scale here. A bold vision of the era, Outlaw King is a hugely entertaining epic set amid the jaw-dropping beauty of the Scottish landscape.
His third English-language film in four years sees Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster, The Killing of a Sacred Deer) on rollicking, virtuoso form with Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz revelling in the wit of his royal court life.
It’s the early 18th century, England is at war with France and Queen Anne’s (Olivia Colman) poor health finds her relying on her doting friend Lady Sarah (Rachel Weisz). When Sarah’s cousin Abigail (Emma Stone) arrives at the Palace, her charm soon wins the Queen’s attentions and the shrewd girl sees a way to restore her social status, lost through her father’s disastrous wagers. With stakes of the heart high, the two women soon become rivals for the Queen’s affections in a wickedly funny game of one-up-womanship.
This is riotous, gleeful and supremely intelligent filmmaking with every department in exquisite chorus: Fiona Crombie’s sets offer a spectacular canvas for much ribald jocularity; costume designer Sandy Powell boldly updates court classics (with the odd bit of beautiful kink); while Robbie Ryan’s occasionally bulbous lens bears witness to strange goings-on. Yet the pinnacle of so many delights is a trio of performances from Colman, Stone and Weisz. They fizz through the repartee that’s set at a breakneck pace by Lanthimos, and screenwriters Deborah Davis and Tony McNamara. Along with a terrific supporting cast, including Nicholas Hoult and Mark Gatiss, they deliver pitch perfect physical comedy and clever witticisms. Let them eat... pineapples!
Melissa McCarthy gives a powerhouse performance as audacious literary forger and caustic wit Lee Israel in this darkly humorous biopic from director Marielle Heller.
Here’s a quintessentially New York movie, where city loneliness can be soothed by a kind face at a bookstore counter. It’s the early 1990s, and Lee Israel is a writer out of fashion. Her celebrity biographies aren’t selling, she can’t get over her ex-girlfriend and she’s been thrown out of every literary party in town for drunkenness. On top of it all, her cat is sick. Dark times call for desperate measures. Spurred on by roguish drinking buddy Jack (Richard E Grant), Israel turns to a get-rich-quick scheme that uses her research skills plus a little knack for impersonation. Next thing, she’s selling some ‘newly discovered’ correspondence from Noël Coward, amongst other literary giants. Director Marielle Heller follows The Diary of a Teenage Girl with this irresistible tale of female crime genius, working with Nicole Holofcener’s (Enough Said) beautifully calibrated adaptation of Israel’s own memoir. Melissa McCarthy is a revelation as Israel, a ‘difficult woman’ whom she imbues with poignancy and a great line in alcohol-fuelled barbs. Whether it’s trading insults with Jack at the bar or making prank calls by impersonating Nora Ephron, McCarthy almost makes you believe Israel’s own defiant assertion, ‘I’m a better Dorothy Parker than Dorothy Parker!’.
Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land, City of Ghosts) makes a striking dramatic debut with this pulse-racing biopic of The Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin (Rosamund Pike), killed in 2012 whilst reporting from Syria.
Sharp-minded Marie (a bewitching performance by Pike) had a fearless approach to capturing human stories in war zones. Widely recognised by the eye patch she insouciantly sported, the result of a grenade attack during an interview with Tamil Tiger rebels, Marie was a striking figure in London culture circles in the 2000s – as much at home with a Martini at a party as she was confronting Muammar Gaddafi in an interview shortly before his death. Aided by resplendent, visceral cinematography by Robert Richardson (The Hateful Eight) and elegantly adapted by Arash Amel from Marie Brenner’s Vanity Fair article ‘Marie Colvin’s Private War’, Oscar-nominated Heineman has created a devastating portrait of a complex, brilliant woman. In every scene, Pike fiercely inhabits Colvin – occasionally arrogant, but also deeply compassionate and committed – who sacrificed her own safety and happiness to bear witness to the very human cost of armed conflict: ‘the people who have no voice’.
Steve Coogan and John C Reilly give delightfully bang-on-target performances as comedy’s most famous double act as they enter their twilight years.
In 1953, several years after their last film and with their immense celebrity on the wane, Stan ‘Laurel’ and Ollie ‘Hardy’ embark on a gig tour of British seaside towns and music halls. Surprised by the modesty of the bookings and cramped little guesthouses, the tour starts off subdued. They struggle for audiences and their booking agent seems disinterested. But a series of TV guest spots and celebrity appearances soon rekindle the country’s interest in their genius and the buzz grows as they head towards a big London finale. As the attention builds, so too do old resentments, coming to a head as they’re joined by ‘the wives’, Lucille and Ida (Shirley Henderson and Nina Arianda, a hilarious double act in their own right).
Coogan and Reilly fans know their brilliance as physical comedians, but to watch them here is a revelation; they nail body language, mannerisms and also routines the duo would have known in their sleep after decades performing together. Craft is sublime throughout, crystallised in an audacious opening with each department dazzling in a six-minute tracking sequence captured by Laurie Rose’s camera team. Director Jon S Baird (Filth), screenwriter Jeff Pope (Philomena) and producer Faye Ward (who also screens Festival Gala Wild Rose in the LFF) offer a poignant study of lifelong male friendship and a fitting tribute to two of cinema’s comedy giants; it’s our great pleasure to close the Festival with this World Premiere of Stan & Ollie.
Key filmmaking talent that were due to attend the Festival’s gala and special presentation screenings include: Galas and Special Presentations: Amma Asante, David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Laura Carmichael, Jack Davenport, Ben Wheatley, Sharlto Copley, Cillian Murphy, Jack Reynor, Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman, Nate Parker, Damien Chazelle, Kenneth Lonergan, J.A. Bayona, Lewis MacDougall, Tom Ford, Mira Nair, Lupita Nyong’o, Oliver Stone, Joely Richardson, Lone Scherfig, Gemma Arterton, Sam Claflin, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, Harshvardhan Kapoor, Saiyami Kher, Park Chan-wook, Bertrand Bonello, Maren Ade, Sandra Hüller, Ben Younger, Mike Mitchell, Walt Dohrn, Andrea Arnold, Fiona Tan, Xavier Dolan.
Additional filmmaking talent attending for films in competition include: Official Competition: Martin Koolhoven, Mohamed Diab, Paul Verhoeven, François Ozon, Ivan Sen, Mijke de Jong, Barry Jenkins, Naomie Harris, Trevante Rhodes, Terence Davies, Benedict Andrews, Makoto Shinkai. First Feature Competition: Jorge Riquelme Serrano, Gastón Salgado, Darren Thornton, Seána Kerslake, Houda Benyamina, Johannes Nyholm, Mohamed Ben Attia, William Oldroyd, Naomi Ackie, Hope Dickson Leach, Bartosz M. Kowalski, Gabe Klinger, Lucie Lucas, Julia Ducournau, Wang Yichun, Daouda Coulibaly. Documentary Competition: Jenny Gage, Eva Orner, Jon Nguyen, Claire Simon, Khushboo Ranka, Vinay Shukla, Alma Har’el, Alice Diop, Marco Del Fiol.
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