After a decade of attending the prestigious high profile BFI London Film Festival this might be strongest line-up yet, with a particular emphasis on female narratives and performance supported by the BAFTA academy and organisers. With over 238 films representing 71 countries the selection can seem overwhelming so here’s my pick of the ones to watch next month when the festival commences on October 7th;
Carol, Todd Haynes, USA
After devastating Cannes and making off with a best actress gong for one of its leads, Todd Haynes blistering return to the big screen since 2007 is one of the hottest tickets of the festival. Carol is based on the novel The Price of Salt by Patricia Highsmith, served with a high-profile cast featuring Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Sarah Paulson and Kyle Chandler. Blanchet is also being honoured with the BFI Fellowship this year – nice timing.
Love & Peace, Sion Sono, Japan
Being the most prolific Japanese film director is quite a achievement when you consider the work ethic of countryman Takashi Miike who also has his new film Yakuza Apocalypse screening at the festival, but with no less than six films released in 2015 a new Sion Sono joint was almost a necessity. The trailer seems to indicate another delirious dive through pop culture and ephemera, with Sono at the wheel you can always be sure of a jaunty ride.
Green Room, Jeremy Saulnier, USA
One of last years breakthroughs was the Coensesque black comedy thriller Blue Ruin, a labour of love which director Jeremy Salnier funded through credit cards and second mortgages, literally putting his life on the line to realise his vision. The gamble paid off and he follows up his success with another murderous examination of violence, with Anton Yelchin, Patrick Stewart and Imogen Poots as his partners in crime.
The Lobster, Yorgos Lanthimos, Ireland/UK/Netherlands
Fans of 2009 darkly offbeat comedy Dogtooth have been eagerly awaiting Yorgos Lanthimos’s follow-up, and festival reports indicate he’s not disappointed with this dystopian rom-com anthrompomorphic antics. This bizarre love story will either repel or delight audiences, with Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Olivia Coleman and John C. Reily heading an eclectic cast.
The Witch, Robert Eggers, USA
Horror seems to get one genuinely creepy addition to the pantheon in recent years, take for instance last years The Babadook or this years It Follows, but this Sundance smash may just put a hex on the latters earlier success with the ghoul squad. Earlier audiences who have endured The Witch have fervently whispered about frantic faintings and shocking screams echoing from earlier sightings, director Robert Eggers
High-Rise, Ben Wheatley, UK
J.G. Ballard gets the Wheatley treatment with this eagerly awaiting adaptation of his cult novel, set in a depersonalised future Tom Hiddleston and Sienna Miller find their marriage crumbling beneath an oppressive moral and physical environment. There’s no trailer as yet so you’ll have to make do with some behind the scenes insight into Wheatley’s last film A Field In England, he’s a increasingly promising talent who is building a fanatical cult presence across film culture.
Son Of Saul, László Nemes, Hungary
Bela Tarr protégé László Nemes has horrified festivals the world over with his debut film, and London appears to be no exception. Set in the physical and moral wasteland of Auschwitz circa 1944 this is a reputedly an extraordinary and gruelling experience, worthy of the memory of the millions who perished in the camps.
The Assassin, Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Taiwan/China
Grand Jury prize winner Hou Hsiao-Hsien wowed Cannes with this wuxia whirlwind, making off with the best director gong. Not since Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has the martial arts film been fused with such melodramatic mastery, with what promises as breath-taking stunt work and choreography aligned with a genuinely moving story set in 9th century China.
The Club, Pablo Larrain, Chile
The successful triptych Tony Manero, Post Mortem and No have elevated director Pablo Larrain to international status, and his Berlin Festival prize-winning latest seems destined to enhance his standing. Set among a remote Chilean coastal community the film explores darkly repressed secrets at both a social and clerical level, with a contemporary touchstone of the church and sexual abuse as its incendiary starting point.
Steve Jobs, Danny Boyle, USA
The closing night gala seems Oscar-winning brit helmer Danny Boyle download his latest film, with a high-profile bio-pic of one of the 21st centuries most influential figures – Steve Jobs. Early festival reports have been slightly mixed, but with contemporary favourite Michael Fassbender in the titular role and an Aaron Sorkin script could this replicate the mainstream success of the technological themed The Social Network?