NFTS Film Programmers Select The Best Of #LFF 2016


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The London Film Festival came to an end last Sunday with the European premiere of Ben Wheatley’s trigger happy comedy Free Fire. Its more than 240 features have given shape to the strongest programme we have enjoyed in years. Which among other things means lots of great cinema is, hopefully, coming to a theatre near you.

The NFTS film programmers have been busy covering the LFF. Between us we have compiled the list of our Top 30 not-to-be-missed films of this edition. Results, as follows:

1-AQUARIUS (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
Today’s most urgent social battle: peoples homes versus property speculation is shown through an Oscar-worthy performance by Brazilian acting icon Sonia Braga. (Roberto González)

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2-TONI ERDMANN (Maren Ade)
There’s a fine line between comedy and tragedy which Maren Ade’s third feature walks confidently with this tale of a prankster father attempting to reconnect with his businesswoman daughter. (Mark Donaldson)

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3-NERUDA (Pablo Larraín)
Larraín subverts all the rules of the much maligned biopic shaping up a brilliantly irreverent, richly humane portrait of the Chilean poet, revisiting his body of work and social significance from the point of view of a nemesis of his own creation. (Roberto González)

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4-THE GRADUATION (Claire Simon)
The spirit of Direct Cinema and, more specifically, Frederick Wiseman is present in this documentary about the prestigious French film school La Femis. (Mark Donaldson)

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5-MOONLIGHT (Barry Jenkins)
Visually poetic. Beautifully structured screenplay. Excellent cast. Deals with race, sexuality and masculinity questions with an unusual emotional honesty. Extraordinary at every level. (Roberto González)

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= CERTAIN WOMEN (Kelly Reichardt)
Majestic landscapes and small gestures. Reichardt at her best. Three deftly linked, melancholic female portraits set in a small Montana town. Three excellent performances (Stewart; Dern and Williams’) almost overshadowed by the miraculous simplicity of rising star Lily Gladstone. (Roberto González)
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7-SIERANEVADA (Christi Puiu)
Cristi Puiu’s film about a gathering of relatives that seems doomed from the start is one of the most acutely observed and painfully accurate films about family that there is. (Mark Donaldson)

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8-PATERSON (Jim Jarmusch)
Adam Driver excels at conveying the poetry of the blue collar worker in Jarmusch’ beautiful meditation on everyday wonders. (Roberto González)

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= THE RED TURTLE (Michael Dudok de Wit)
Whilst it’s an original concept written by director Michael Dudok de Witt, this beautiful castaway animation has the feel of a timeless fable. (Mark Donaldson)

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10-ELLE (Paul Verhoeven)
The man who set the standard for the slick erotic thriller of the 80s, reboots it for our less festive, more twisted times. Isabelle Huppert rules. (Roberto González)

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11-THE EYES OF MY MOTHER (Nicolas Pesce)
The newest member of the Borderline production collective is our biggest discovery of this year’s LFF. Nicolas Pesce mixes impressive monochrome cinematography with a keen eye for sickening detail in the most frightening slice of Gothic Americana we’ve seen in years. (Roberto González)

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12-AFTER THE STORM (Hirokazu Kore-Eda)
Kore-Eda returns to some similar themes but tones down the sentimentality of his recent works with a funny and moving story of coming to terms with heartbreak and loss, and coming to terms with who you are as a person. (Mark Donaldson)

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13-LAYLA M (Mijke de Jong)
A subversive coming of age tale with a strong political edge. Powerhouse performance from Nora El Koussour. (Mark Donaldson)

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14-THE SALESMAN (Asghar Farhadi)
Another scathing moral study by Farhadi. Refining his style, melodrama meets revenge thriller in critical look at Iranian society. (Roberto González)

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15-AMERICAN HONEY (Andrea Arnold)
The road movie gets the jolt it deserves with Andrea Arnold’s breathtaking filmmaking and a star-making turn from Sasha Lane. (Andrew Espe)

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16-CHRISTINE (Antonio Campos)
The story of Christine Chubbuck could be told in a sensational manner, but Antonio Campos’ controlled direction and Rebecca Hall’s stunning, multifaceted performance give it a tense and heartbreaking aura. (Andrew Espe)

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17-SCARRED HEARTS (Radu Jude)
The Romanian new wave keeps on impressing. Jude’s follow-up to “Aferim!” is a philosophical drama based in the life of writer M. Bletcher, condemned to spent his life bed-ridden when affected by bone tuberculosis. (Roberto González)

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18-MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (Kenneth Lonergan)
Kenneth Lonergan’s grief drama is mesmerizing with its performances from Casey Affleck, Lucas Hedges, Michelle Williams, and more, but is truly astonishing in its meticulous, human writing and assured direction. (Andrew Espe)

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=THE UNTAMED (Amat Escalante)
Mexican auteur Escalante impressively mixes social realism and outrageous genre fare, paying tribute to the late Zulawski, in the most off-kilter alien story since Under The Skin. (Roberto González)

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=THE WAILING (Na Hong Jin)
Unpredictable, action-filled, climax galore murder mystery and horror hybrid topped with religious overtones. A supernatural rollercoaster ride. (Irene Silvera Frischknecht)

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21-IT’S ONLY THE END OF THE WORLD (Xavier Dolan)
One of the most divisive films of the festival, Dolan’s intense, superbly acted family melodrama leaves you in a state of total exhaustion. (Roberto González)

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= ASCENT (Fiona Tan)
Captivatingly lyrical and surprisingly insightful, Ascent reflects on national symbols while exploring the recent history of Japan and the ontology of film and photography (Irene Silvera Frischknecht)

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23-THE HANDMAIDEN (Park Chan-wook)
The Korean master adapts Welsh writer Sarah Waters with exquisite craftsmanship in this erotically loaded tale of triple revenge. (Roberto González)

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24-THE BACCHUS LADY (E J-yong)
Bittersweet comedy about an ageing Korean prostitute that deals with its subject with unusual warmth, humour and dignity, yet progressively gets darker when depicting the way society deals with the elderly. (Roberto González)

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= RAW (Julia Ducournau)
As proved by the Sutherland award win, this is a far better film than the “SOMEBODY FAINTED IN THE SCREENING ROOM” hype that preceded it from Toronto, Julia Ducournau’s cannibal horror is about sexual awakening and finding your own place in the adult world. (Mark Donaldson)

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= THE GIANT (Johannes Nyholm)
A poignant, yet inspirational fable about friendship, coveted affection and overcoming personal limitations. (Irene Silvera Frischknecht)

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= THE DEATH OF LOUIS XIV (Albert Serra)
The Catalonian director keeps on inhabiting a cinematic world of his own. This time he has recruited ‘nouvelle vague’ veteran Jean-Pierre Leaud as the King Sun on what’s arguably his most accessible work to date. (Roberto González)

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28-MY LIFE AS A COURGETTE (Claude Barras)
A Superb screenplay by Celine Sciamma shows the joys and hardship of living in a kids’ home in this soul warming but heart-melting animation. (Roberto González)

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29-THE HAPPIEST DAY IN THE LIFE OF OLLI MÄKI (Juho Kuosmanen)
Charming real life story based in Finnish local boxing legend who was left at the gates of a World Champion title, put off by the circus surrounding its build-up. Great cinematography stylistically inspired by Italian neorealism. (Roberto González)

_DSC5202_R.Academy Award nominee Jake Gyllenhaal portrays Tony Hastings in writer/director Tom Ford’s romantic thriller NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, a Universal Pictures International release..Credit: Merrick Morton/Universal Pictures International.
= NOCTURNAL ANIMALS (Tom Ford)
Intricate story, stunning cinematography and a cast to die for are the aces in Ford’s second work. It just falls a bit short of the modern classic it aspires to be.

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