2014 London Film Festival recommendations

Posted: October 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Berlinale, Cannes Film Festival, Film, Film festivals, LFF, TIFF | No Comments »


This year rather than list the films I am looking forward to, I thought it might be useful to highlight some of the films that I have already seen this year (at Berlin, Cannes and TIFF) and can therefore personally vouch for. Of course not everyone has the same tastes as me and some of these choices are included for the simple fact that they are doing something different or interesting, rather than for entertainment reasons alone (“The Tribe” I am looking at you particularly). Below are 30 films, both big and small whittled down from the 60+ films from this years programme that I have already seen.

It’s worth remembering that many of these films will have extra tickets released on the day of the screening or via the rush line 20 minutes before the film starts. The BFI have also created a single page that lists what films still have availability and which previously sold out films have extra tickets been released for.



The film that in my mind should have won this years Palme D’Or. I’ve seen it twice now and the second viewing only reinforced how good it is. Just don’t plan on having an drink-a-long contest while watching it.



Brilliantly dark and unsettling exploration of the power of money and obsession. A studio film perfectly baked.



German über director Christian Petzold returns with his regular muse Nina Hoss in this brilliant tale of a concentration camp survivor rebuilding her life in post war Germany. Touches of Hitchcock’s Vertigo and Franju’s Eyes without a Face. The amazing final closing shot is not one you should miss.

Listen Up Phillip


An extremely dark and acerbic comedy from the director of cult indie film The Colour Wheel. This time with a substantially larger budget and the acting talents of Jason Schwartzman (playing something of a grown up Max Fisher) and Elizabeth Moss (Mad Men’s Peggy Olson). Possibly an acquired taste, but I loved it.



A smart and clever look at a woman’s blindness and the internalised process of storytelling. One of my favourite discoveries at this years Berlinale.

Duke of Burgundy


A dark and funny (not to mention slightly kinky) look at the mundane domesicity of a lesbian S&M relationship in Peter Strickland’s latest, a pitch-perfect homage to the 1970’s euro-sleeze films of Jess Franco and Walerian Borowczyk.

Love is Strange


A brilliantly heartfelt and uplifting update on Leo McCarey’s Make Way for Tomorrow (itself the inspiration for  Ozu’s Tokyo Story). If your LFF schedule is looking a little too packed out with dour and downbeat 2hr+ neo-realist films then this is the perfect antidote.

The New Girlfriend


Ozon’s latest feel like something that Almodovar might once have made. Funny, smart and very enjoyable with some of the best twists that your likely to see this year (aside from one other film on this list).



Quebec wunderkind Dolan’s latest and to my mind most enjoyable and well formed film.

Winters Sleep


This years Palme D’or winner, is a long drawn out tale of male foibles and a marriage breakdown. But a journey well worth travelling.



I’m still on the fence about this one since seeing it in Toronto. I had exceedingly high hopes based on Hansen-Love’s previous films, but left the screening feeling dissapointed. But I’m adding it to this list as I think there’s enough in there to recommend it, particularly in the second half and it might be a film that on a second viewing I grow to appreciate more. In short the story of two friends “who might/could have been Daft Punk (if only things and panned out differently)” [that is a pretty big stretch…but]. It’s also a story of growing old and giving up on your youthful pasttimes, of relationships and responsibility. There’s certainly enough individual scenes/episodes in this (possibly over-long) film to make it a worthwhile watch, I’m just not sure that as a whole it reached the exceedingly high level I was hoping for.

The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby


LFF are showing the “Them” version that was show in En Certain Regard at Cannes back in May. I still want to see it presented as two separate films (“Him” and “Her”) as it was during TIFF 2013. I think it would make for a more interesting viewing. That said it’s a very accomplished (anti)love story. For fans of films like Blue Valentine this should be right up your street.



Big at Sundance, big in Cannes and big at TIFF. This is 2014’s indie crowd pleaser. I wasn’t as fully bowled over as many by this. But it would be unfair to deny it’s appeal. At it’s heart a two-hander between a young drum student (Miles Teller) being push to his limits by his pitiless music teacher (J K Simmons).

Far From Men


A slow burn existential road movie / western, featuring the acting talents of Viggo Mortensen and Reda Kate.



Plays out like a John Carpenter “Escape from Belfast”. Not the Irish Troubles movie it might at first seem from the poster or stills. Entertaining and well worth a watch.

Wild Tales


A series of extremely dark and funny shorts from Director Damián Szifrón and producer Pedro Almodóvar. This was amongst many peoples very favourite films at Cannes hit year. Personally it wasn’t at very the top of my list, but I still think it’s worth a watch.



An extremely moving account of a town taken over by radical Islamists, bending the rules of Sharia Law to suit their own desires.

Appropriate Behaviour


You might think that the world has already had it’s fill of Brooklyn set hipster rom-coms, but Desiree Akhavan’s film takes things a slighly new direction and does it well.

The Creator of the Jungle


A fascinating look at obsession and creativity. In the early 1990s, in a forest near the Catalan village of Agrelaguer a middle-aged man known as Garrell built a vast complex of mazes and towering, inhabitable structures with wood from the surrounding trees. This documentary tracks his multiple attempts to build and re-build his jungle hideout.



A smart, intelligent and moving story of a long distance relationships in the digital age.

A Girl at My Door


A smart and clever tale of a young Seoul police chief, who after an initially unmentioned incident is relocated to a job in the rural countryside. Things are fine until she meets a young girl, which in turn leads her to a momentary lack of judgement that puts everything at risk.

Charlie’s Country


A powerful indictment of Australia’s treatment of Aborigines, with a towering central performance from actor David Gulpili.



Reese Witherspoon stars as a young woman trekking across the Sierra Nevada in the new film from Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyer Club), based on the best-selling 2012 memoir by Cheryl Strayed.

Catch Me Daddy


An excellent first feature from music video director Daniel Wolfe (and his brother Mathew) with superb cinematography by Robbie Ryan. It plays out like a modern British retelling of John Ford’s The Searchers.It also features the most esquisitly filmed dance sequence your likely to see in a film this year.

The Wonders


A subtle but beguiling story of a young girl who’s family has decided to live off-grid by running a bee-keeping farm in rural Italy. All is fine until the daughter decides to enter the family into a reality TV show. Once of the more overlooked titles from this years Cannes Competition lineup, but well worth a watch.

The Drop


The central performances of Tom Hardy and Gandolfini make for an enjoyable, if a little far-fetched, Brooklyn based gangster tale (based on the book by Dennis Lehane).

Mr Turner


Although I was personally left a little underwhelmed compared to some who saw this back in May, there is no denying the quality on display in Mike Leigh’s latest.

The Keeping Room


Two sisters and their maid are left to protect their home in the final days of the civil war.Beautifully filmed, with a great performance from Brit Marling. This is certainly worth a watch for fans of slow burn cinema.



One of the big creeper hits at this years Toronto film festival. A young autistic maths prodigy leave his safe rural home in England and travels to Taipei for the Maths Olympiad. Heartbreaking and life affirming, with superb performances all round.

Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart


An engrosing documentary looking at the first first fully-televised US court case and the influence of modern day media.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films


A fun look at producers Menahem Golan and Yoram Globus who’s shlock production house Canon films, churned out low budget film after low budget film (along with a few greats like Cassavetes’ Love Streams) in the 1970’s.

The Tribe


While at times an extremely hard watch (there is an extended scene that made me think twice about leaving), there is no denying the originality and execution in this Ukrainian drama, acted entirely using sign language. Definitely one for those who like to discuss and think about their films on leaving the cinema.

Surprise Film

The one clue Clare Stewart has given is that the film is “Awesome” which might give some clues (or might not).

I’d personally love to see Birdman (but given that TIFF didn’t get to screen it post Venice, probably unlikely) or Inherent Vice (very very unlikely, it just isn’t going to happen).

So here’s my guesses (and opinion on them) from what I have seen.

Nightcrawler (the Jake Gyllenhaal movie) which I really enjoyed at TIFF would be my odds-on favourite. It could fairly easily be placed under the banner of “Awesome”.

The Theory of Everything (the Stephen Hawking movie) seems like a huge omission from the LFF programme, although it does seem a bit too big of a film to show up in VUE5 and 7? I would have imagined they would have moved it to the OWE if they were going to unveil it in the surprise film slot. It’s also a little bit of a downer for the surprise film. Certianly not what I’d class as “Awesome”. Still I still think there’s a good chance that could be the Surprise Film, purely on the basis that it seems such an omission. I enjoyed it more than I thought I would, but not sure I’d want to see it again. It’s certainly better than the other bio-pic of an OxBridge genius contesting for an Oscar this year (yes, I’m wasn’t a huge fan of the Imitation Game).

I’d love to see Noah Baumbach’s While We’re Young again, it was one of my favorite films at TIFF but something tells me that’s not likely. Likewise St. Vincent (the Bill Murray film) would be a crowd pleasing fit, it’s fun if not particularly special, but given the limited screenings of it at TIFF I’m not sure it’s going to be turning up as a surprise film. But who knows….

In terms of smaller crowd pleasers, I reckon Big Game featuring Samuel L Jackson or Kevin Smith’s Tusk could be possibilities, there both big, silly, fun films. Both could most certainly be classed as “Awesome” in the wider sense.

I’m also wondering why Ruben Östlund’s Force Majeure (one of my favourite unexpected gems at Cannes) isn’t in this years programme given it’s been a big buzz title at every festival since it bowed at Cannes. Although programming a subtitled Swedish film probably isn’t in the spirit of the Surprise film. So I think we can just put that one down to a scheduling conflict (or Clare Stewart hating it).

Cannes – Thursday

Posted: May 22nd, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Cannes Film Festival, Film, Film festivals | Tags: | No Comments »

Watched Hanke’s new film the White Ribbon at the Lumiere today and Christian Berger’s stunning black and white cinematography just looked amazing on that huge screen. I still need to let it sink in and probably give it another viewing once it’s released, it’s certainly a impressive film – but at two and a half hours it requires being in the right frame of mind to watch it. Not going to write up a review of it now but I’m giving it a full 5 marks.

Also caught Alain Resnais new film Wild Grass which Screen and Time Out absolutely loved, admittedly it was amazingly acted and brilliant shot but I just didn’t see what the fuss was about, in fact I’d be inclined to give it a (1 out of 5). I was nodding off a bit thoughout (my fault more than the films to be be  fair) so may have missed the underlying subtleties. Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian writes “It has a sense of humour to which you must be finely attuned” I suspect if that’s the case I was ever going to tune into it.


A weeks worth of trades and schedules

Cannes – Wednesday / Inglourious Basterds

Posted: May 21st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Cannes Film Festival, Film, Film festivals | No Comments »

On a film roll now, seen two unremarkable (Ang Lee and Johnny To) and two good (Loach and Almodovár) and a few in between, but still looking for a film to really blow me away or fall in love with, maybe it just won’t happen this year. Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds is screening later and you can already feel the anticipation on the Crosisitte. I haven’t been holding out huge hopes for it based on the trailer, but the dailies have been hyping it up and at the press call Quentin announced “This might be my masterpiece“.

I try to ignore any online reviews (I want to see it with untainted eyes) and spend the rest of the afternoon having lunch on a yacht anchored in the waters just off the Hotel Du Cap seeing if we can spot Quentin, Brad or Angelina having their lunch – seriously the number of paps hanging off the side of the rocks trying to get a photo is crazy, from the boat they look like little insects.

Leaving Cannes harbour

Leaving Cannes harbour

So nice to be away from the hustle bustle of the Crositte and floating in the sea for a few hours, can sort of understand why billionaires buy these things now.

Lunch at sea - Eden Roc in the background

Lunch at sea - Eden Roc in the background

Get back and hear a rumour that an extra screening of Inglorious Basterds  has just been added and will be shown 30 minutes after the main premiere starts in the Lumiere at the Bazin next door and sure enough when we get their a reasonable short queue is forming, no one knows for certain if the rumour is true, least the attendants on the door, but as the rumour spreads the queue starts to grow exponentially and then it starts moving, we get in and grab out seats and almost immediately the film starts, huge whoops as “A BAND APART” and the Weinstien’s logo appears on the screen, yes the rumour is true and even bigger cheer when Quentin’s name appears.


I normally get annoyed with people taking pictures of the titles in screenings, but as everyone else seemed to have their camera phones out I joined in for once.

Unfortunately the cheering was more subdued at the end, with pockets of clapping from the audience, but on the whole a sense of disappointment seemed to have filled the air, not that it had been a painful 2 hours and 40 minutes, more that once again Tarrintino hadn’t lived up to the possibly overly high expectations. Will write up my thoughts on this in full over the weekend when I have a bit more time.

Will be interesting to see  how much the version screened at Cannes will differ from the final theatrical released version.

In short I enjoyed it, but also had some serious problems with it, it’s certainly a long way from being Tarintino’s “Masterpiece” – for now I’m giving in a fence sitting (3 out of 5)

Cannes – Tuesday

Posted: May 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Cannes Film Festival, Film, Film festivals | No Comments »

Watched Cristian Mungiu’s (4 months, 3 weeks) portmanteau Tales From The Golden Age, a very enjoyable set of 5 shorts parodying life in the Ceausescu’s Romainia – my favourites were the The Legend Of The Official Visit and the The Legend Of The Greedy Policeman (3 out of 5)

Cristian Mungiu's Tales From The Golden Age

Cristian Mungiu's Tales From The Golden Age

Caught the 3pm screening of Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces in the Lumiere (4 out of 5) nothing really new in terms of Almodóvar but a great mix of noir and melodrama, intertwining plots and a film within a film.

Theatre Lumière, Cannes

Theatre Lumière, Cannes

In the evening headed down the beach for an enjoyable evening at the EIFF / Scotish film party

Edinburgh Film Festival party

Ginny and Hannah welcome everyone to the Edinburgh Film Festival party

On the beach at EIFF party

On the beach at EIFF party

Grabbed some dinner in the old town and finished the evening off with some great cocktails over at the Wild Bunch villa.

Cannes – Monday

Posted: May 19th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Cannes Film Festival, Film, Film festivals | No Comments »

Caught Johhny To’s new film Vengence (2 out of 5) in the morning, lots of stilted acting and a major plot device that appears out of nowhere which which have most directors laughed out of the cinema. While not really excusable, somehow I managed to suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the action scenes which as always in a To film are stunning.

Watched Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric in the Lumiere (4 out of 5) enjoyable, funny, heartfelt, the ending seems a bit silly and at odds with the rest of the film, but not so much that it ruins it. In short an excellent Ken Loach film which I expect will do particularly well theatrically in the the UK at least. Decide that I’m not going to make the 4pm market screening of Bright Star and instead catch a panel titled “It’s a mad, new media world” at AmPav.

Saw Hierro in the evening – billed as a Spanish psychological horror from the producers of Pan’s Labyrinth and the Orphanage. That “from the producers of..” tag line should have set alarm bells ringing earlier. It’s the story of a lost boy and his mothers attempt to find him. Well shot but it felt more like the work of a competent commercials or music vid director than someone used to working in narrative film. Still trying to decide if it was the lack of plot of just the bad development of it, but it just didn’t work for me. I think the sweeping music every time someone opened a door was the final straw. At it’s best it left me disinterested in the mother and her plight and at others just simply irritated. I’m giving it (1 out of 5). I’m probably being extra harsh on Heirro as the late start to the film and a packed Croisette afterwards meant I missed a third screening of Un Prophet.

Cannes – Sunday

Posted: May 18th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Cannes Film Festival, Film, Film festivals | No Comments »

Missed ‘A Prophet’ for a second time, decided that waking up at 7am to get in line for the 9am screening after three hours sleep was probably asking too much of even a hardened cinephile.

Instead checked out the midday screening of Ang Lee’s Taking Woodstock (2 out of 5) – well enough made and perfectly watchable but felt more like a feel good / coming of age TV movie than something from Ang Lee – in short a easily forgettable film.

Headed off to BFI / LFF drinks on the roof of the Palace Stephanie (still can’t get used to not calling it the Noga / Hilton nor it seems can anyone else)

BFI / LFF reception on the roof of the Palais Stephanie

BFI / LFF reception on the roof of the Palais Stephanie

Left BFI drinks and headed over to Morrison’s Irish pub for the Anvil Party (RAWK DOODZ)

Anvil Stamp

Anvil Stamp

Completely out of the context of normal Cannes (but then what is normal in Cannes apart from overpriced food, drinks and permatans) we got a live set from Anvil, complete with encores enthusiastically cheered on by the crowd.

Anvil live at Morrison's pub, Cannes

Anvil live at Morrison's pub, Cannes

Cannes – Saturday

Posted: May 16th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Cannes Film Festival, Film, Film festivals | No Comments »

Just arrived in Cannes, picked up the car and dropped bags off at villa and now off to pick up badge and tickets, hopefully in time to catch the 3pm screening of Jacques Audiard’s A Prophet which Screen have just given a great review.

Picking up badge

Picking up badge

[update: missed ‘A Prophet’ – by the time we’d got up our badges, dashing down the Croisette to pickup invitations and then back to the Lumiere for 3pm didn’t seem feasible – in fact I missed all three screenings of it that I attempted to make this week, obviously I wasn’t meant to see this film here, which is extra annoying as going back over the week I think it probably was the one film I would have enjoyed the most and I suspect a strongcontender for the Palm D’Or. Still at least I have it to look forward to when back in London – Optimum are realising it in the UK later this year]

Jacques Audiard's A Prophet

Jacques Audiard's A Prophet

Popped in to the UK film pavilion and caught the end of interesting panel hosted by Power to the Pixel on digital financing and  distribution. Left the UK film pavilion and headed next door to AmPav to get some sun and read the dailies. 

The American Pavillion in Cannes

The American Pavillion in Cannes

Grabbed dinner at La Pizza and then went off to meet friends at the Petit Majestic (as the de-facto and cheap, by Cannes standards, late night drinking hole de choix, the recession seems to have worked in their favour, certainly no sign of a slowdown here) finally finishing the night off in a more civilised fashion at the Grand (although after paying €12 for a small glass of Rose you feel like you’ve just been mugged, kicked in the gutter and then propped up in a plastic seat on the lawn, no wonder the Petit Majestic is rammed)

The Petit Majestic

The Petit Majestic

Cannes 2009 – Line up Announced

Posted: April 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Cannes Film Festival, Film, Film festivals | Tags: | No Comments »

Yesterday Gilles Jacob and Thierry Frémaux announced the line up for this years festival and a pretty fantastic line up it seems to be too. New films from Almodóvar, Michael Haneke and Tarantino, for starters.

Variety describe the Competition line up as “Cannes’ biggest heavyweight auteur smackdown in recent years” and judging by the list of names their probably not far off the mark. Screen responsed to the announcement in much the same way “heavyweight Cannes line-up”

Over in Un Certain Regard this year is Cristian Mungiu, who won the Palme d’Or in 2007 with 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Day, with his new film Tales From The Golden Age. Originally the name of a set of scripts set in the Ceausescu era, of which 4 Months was supposedly one. It now seems to be the title of a single film described as  “a collection of Romanian urban legends from the communist era“. Why has it been relegated to Un Certain Regard after a Palme d’Or win for 4 months is not yet clear, will have to wait and see.

Haven’t had time yet to go over all the competition and sidebar titles properly yet. Michael Haneke new  film The White Ribbon looks interesting and almost certainly slightly harrowing. The press notes describes it as follows “Some inexplicable events disturb the quiet life of a German village, just before World War I. A cable has been put up to trip the doctor riding his horse, a barn is set on fire, two children are abducted and tortured…” in other word classic Haneke material. Will Tarantino be back on form? Judging by the trailer it seems unlikely, but on the off chance he is it’s too good to pass over, so it’s firmly on my Cannes ‘to see’ list.

According to Screen, Francis Ford Coppola’s Tetro will now open Directors’ Fortnight despite him previously turning down an out of competition slot. After Youth Without Youth you have to wonder if Tetro is yet another dud and has been given the opening slot for Directors’ Fortnight simply because it’s Coppola.

Anyway, my accreditation has been confirmed so will have to wait to May to see which ones turn out to be worthy of the hype and which previously unheard of gem will set the Croisette buzzing this year.
 The man from Cannes says Oui