Films To Discover From The #LFF2017 Programme


The London Film Festival began and with it the levels of excitement in any London cinephile have reached their annual peak. Too many great films and too little time make us often remain in our comfort zones, missing out on the many chances for discovering new talent from all over the world. And yes, we can’t wait to see the new Guillermo del Toro, Venice winner fantasy melodrama ‘The Shape of Water,’ or Luca Guadagnino’s acclaimed gay romance ‘Call Me By Your Name’, or the closing gala and Toronto Audience winner “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri’, to name just three of the galas. And we will definitely try to catch up the latest work from favourites such as Michael Haneke, Lynne Ramsay, Richard Linklater, Yorgos Lanthimos, Alexander Payne, Todd Haynes, Lucrecia Martel o Sebastian Lelio.

But going beyond the season’s big titles, the different strands and the excellent Experimenta section offer lesser-known treats for all tastes. Here’s a few recommendations for those in search of the new and ground-breaking.

THE DEAD NATION (Radu Jude)

Radu Jude returns to exploring racism and xenophobia, one of his filmography’s recurrent themes. If his acclaimed Aferim! dug in Romania’s history to portrait the country’s shameful treatment of gypsies, this time he goes back to the rise of antisemitism during the 1930s and 1940s. A director who pays equal attention to form and content, he has now crafted a very personal essay documentary blending together three in appearance disparate elements: The found photographic archive of rural Romanian photographer Costică Acsinte, whose slide-show is the visual part of the film and provides a beautiful monochrome social portrait of the era, hardly reflecting the harsh realities at play; the diary of Jewish doctor Emil Dorian, explaining the increasing harassment Jewish community endured, serves as narration, with political chants and radio recordings of the era inserted. The way Jude juxtaposes the three, creates an accomplished sense of space and time whose result is much more than the sum of its parts.



CUSTODY (Xavier Legrand)

Acclaimed in Venice where he won several awards, including best new director, Xavier Legrand’s deceptively simple drama exposes the legal loopholes which leave victims of domestic violence unprotected against repeated attacks from their aggressors. An assured screenplay deals with the four members of a family broken by the husband’s obsessive behaviour. It begins as a court drama with both partners negotiating the terms of their children’s custody; develops as a psychological one, exploring the impact this process have on them, and builds up to a gripping, tense last act, as horrifying as thought-provoking, showcasing in full horror its consequences. With the number of cases going to the roof around the world, Custody is a clever, timely reminder for us to reconsider the way society approaches this disturbing issue.



ON THE BEACH AT NIGHT ALONE (Hong Sangsoo)

With three different films doing the festival rounds, the prolific Korean auteur keeps on being compared to Eric Rohmer for his very simple approach to the small, ordinary detail in human relationships. On The Beach At Night Alone‘, the best of the three, its worthy of those comparisons. His usual themes, told through everyday conversation between friends that happen in bars, meals or social gatherings, feel deeper and more bitter. The story of an actress, the splendid Kim Min-hee who won at the Berlinale, returning from London to Korea, whose charming appearance hides some emotional frustrations. She mysteriously awakes at a beach on her own after nights of drinking and rough sleeping. Many sees on this work a symbolic link to the director’s recent personal turmoil, but On The Beach is nevertheless one of his finest, more personal films to date.

GRAY HOUSE (Austin Lynch, Matthew Booth)

One of the many gems of this year’s Experimenta section, Austin Lynch, follows the steps of his family and, helped by cinematographer Matthew Booth, makes his father proud with this impressive study of human loneliness and confinement. Boosted by an appropriately disturbing electronic/drone soundtrack, it’s two central vignettes focus on the workers of Texan oil rigs and the inmates of a female penitentiary, respectively,through very short but hard-hitting testimonials. The other vignettes add some elements of docufiction, exploring work, nature and home as sources of diverse types of isolation, boosted by small roles from such renowned actors as Denis Lavant and Aurelie Clement; and also elements of video art, with Booth’s impressive landscapes giving the viewer some visually striking imagery to get immersed in and reflect upon.

BRIGSBY BEAR (Dave McCary)

Resembling thematically to Nexflix series Unbreakable Kimmi Schmidt, and in form to the school of quirky misfit protagonists well-established in US independent cinema – Napoleon Dynamite comes to mind; this feel-good comedy tells the story of a man abducted as a child and being raised with the home made videos his new parents film in their subterranean refuge, in which they teach him their vision of the world through the animated character the film is named after. Being rescued by the police as a young adult, the crash of discovering his real family and a whole new world he was not aware of shapes the core of this story. as he befriends a filmmaker who will help him to rescue his (only) favourite character for the screen. Fairly original and good-natured, this enjoyable debut offers further proof, though, of the Disneyfication of American independent filmmaking. What once was dysfunctional, groundbreaking and socially aware, now has morphed into praise for traditional family values and the power of friendship in the kind of films big studios, too busy with their other-worldy universes, don’t bother making anymore.

FILMWORKER (Tony Zierra)

The fascination for the work and the life of Stanley Kubrick seems infinite. The legendary filmmaker’s well-known habit of documenting and archiving almost his every move keeps on providing new chances for bringing his work back. This documentary, a must for all Kubrick fans and a delight for all cinefiles, focuses on the life of Leon Vitali, an up-and-coming film star who was hired to play the role of Lord Bullingdon in Barry Lyndon. His passion for film got him so close to the director that soon became a handyman, apprentice and close collaborator, leaving behind his promising acting career and establishing himself as Kubrick’s right-hand man. Though his personal involvement with the man, we learn about his working ethics and methods, as well as plenty of insighful anecdotes from his acclaimed films. But Vitali also stands out as one of the fiercest custodians of the master’s work, decicating his life andy efforts to preserve it once he passed away and supervising that new masters and format transfers arrive to the spectator with the best possible quality, as Kubrick would have wanted. A testimony to the collaborative nature of cinema and a deserved tribute to one of its unsung heroes.

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