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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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).
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.
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.
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).