BFI London Film Festival 2019

Finished off with The Whistlers, which is a labyrinthine Romanian crime thriller with interesting use of a Canary Island dialect involving bird-like whistling.

Then Illustrious Corpses, a restoration of a 1976 Italian crime thriller. Lots of schlepping round crumbling buildings.


Based on the award-winning play ‘Trade’ by Mark O’Halloran, this drama, set in the Rialto suburb of Dublin, chronicles the disintegration of a middle-aged man’s existence, starting with the death of his father and not improving at any point thereafter. While the drama unfolding is extremely bleak, and not always easy to watch, director Peter Mackie Burns coaxes some outstanding performances out of lead actor Tom Vaughan-Lawlor (Ebony Maw in the Avengers films) and his long-suffering wife, played by Monica Dolan (many TV series, from Black Mirror to Alan Partridge), as well as the rest of the cast. As @spicer noted earlier, the relative briefness of the film means you’re never completely overwhelmed by the inevitable grimness of the story.


Selected for the official competition of the London Film Festival, this film harks back to the dark days of 1980s apartheid, and in particularly the indoctrination of white adolescent conscripts for the South African border forces. Director Oliver Hermanus does not shy away from showing the brutal environment, and the language and violence that the youngsters are being subjected to can only be described as extremely shocking and disgusting. This is in sharp contrast to the rather glorious scenery of the South African outback where the exercises, and later border patrols, take place. The director clearly pays tribute to some other films about military training, notably Full Metal Jacket, Beau Travail and Top Gun (volleyball!), even though he skirted around this accusation in the Q&A that followed the showing. That said, it is a fascinating film tackling a difficult subject, and it should be in contention for the big prize (it won’t win though, all the money is on Honey Boy)

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Would it be flirting with disaster to buy a ticket for Ordinary Love at the Vue, finishing 205-210pm, and Harriet, starting at Embankment GC at 220ish?

I’d say that’s too tight. That Vue is not the quickest place to get out of (you’ll need to go down two sets of escalators), and it’s a 10 min walk to Embankment. But if you’re not bothered about missing the last few minutes of the first film and/or the first few minutes of the second film, go for it.

Ta. I might go for Harriet out of the two. Means I get a longer lie-in as well.

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Saw Judy and Punch tonight. Meh.

The initial blurb on the website made it sound interesting, then closer to the time the blurb expanded and I though I little less. Then I saw the trailer and again my interest diminished a bit… And yeah, underwhelmed by the film and the Q and A also made me think less. I mean it was fine but nothing much. More Stardust than Ridley Walker.

London Calling

An unimaginative named selection of short films with the only thing in common their funding, by BFI Explore and Film London. And because of the money available, these shorts have in general higher production values than the ones I watched earlier in the festival.

Highlights included:

Dad Joke

What initially looks like a straight forward stand up gig turns increasingly more disturbing in this both funny and poignant short, taken in a single shot, by director David Abramsky. This excellent short will be turned into a full length feature film, according to his website.

Stand Still

A gripping drama focussing on post-natal depression by director Isabella Wing-Davey that is beautifully filmed. Most remarkable is the performance of lead actor Zoë Tapper who also co-wrote the script. Wing-Davey has produced a number of top class shorts now and it is high time she gets her hands on a full length film.

Our Sister

Not an easy watch, this heartbreaking tale of loss seen through the eyes of a teenage girl and her severely autistic younger sister. Expertly directed by Rosie Westhoff, it is the performance of the two young acting debutants that stick in the mind. Outstanding.

Mein Ende. Dein Anfang. (Relativity)

An entry in the First Feature competition (it didn’t win), this is a complex psychological thriller, set in Munich, by German director Mariko Minoguchi. With the more or less constant time shifts between present and past it’s quite a challenge for the viewer, one blink and you lose the thread of the story. The film is carried by the accomplished performance of its lead, Saskia Rosendahl (Lore, Never Look Away) who turns the character into something completely believable, despite the obvious flaws in the somewhat convoluted script. This film will probably improve on second viewing, as there must be clues you’ve missed first time round.

We saw four films over the weekend.

Wet Season - Anthony Chen’s second feature after Ilo Ilo, and while the central performance (from Yeo Yann Yann) was excellent, it’s too predictable - within the first five minutes you knew what all the major plot points would be.

The Dude In Me - a Korean body-swap comedy involving a gangster and a teenage ‘loser’, this was disappointingly fatphobic and pro-violence. One of the most stupid films that I’ve seen in a long time.

Rare Beasts - Billie Piper’s writing/directing debut. It’s a bit too self-consciously stylised, and does feel very 1990s, but with a nice line in nihilistic and cynical humour. Unfortunately though, at the end of it all, it’s just not very enjoyable to watch awful people being awful to each other.

Lucky Grandma - despite tailing off at the end when the humour is replaced by seriousness, this is good fun and has some great moments and cameos. Well worth a watch when it comes out.

Deerskin was great. Stupid. Really fucking stupid, but really enjoyable.

Was Good Time well received when it was at LFF? I can’t really recall but seem to remember people liking it. Really looking forward to Uncut Gems.

It was, yeah. It was released shortly afterwards. Still no UK release date for UG yet.

Did anyone see Monos? That won the best film award at the festival.

Best first feature was won by Atlantics, which a few people here saw.

Saw the UK premiere of Give Me Liberty on Friday evening. Almost completely amateur cast and filmed on a shoestring (there was a Q&A with the director and screenwriter afterwards and from the way they spoke about the process, they still sounded pretty traumatised by the experience!) but I think they did a great job. It was described as ‘sharing the street level energy of Good Time and Tangerine’ which was a good way of describing it. Every time you thought a scene or direction in the story could get tired, it shifted in another direction. Maxim Stoyanov (one of two professional actors in the film) was amazing and funny as a chancer and hanger-on.

Yup, I saw it at a Picturehouse preview last week, so not at LFF. Highly recommend it, The world it built was so convincing and immersive, I wish we had more time with it and it’s landscape. The poster is so perfect, I wanted more of that!

I have no idea how they pulled off one set piece towards the end, just incredible to watch, in awe of the commitment of all involved. Mica Levi is three for three now, loved what her score bought to the film, rough and unusual but still beautiful composed, really helped to carry the film forwards. Director knew when to utilise it too, or when to use silence/diagetic. It’s out on the 25th and is a picturehouse release, so should be in all/most their cinemas, it’s a feral relentless experience.

(Edit - so yup, very pleased to see it pick up the award, along with Atlantics, which I was a fan of too)

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Yes. Very chuffed that Atlantics got recognised.

Monos is out next week.

I seem to remember Good Time getting a digital release right after LFF 2017 then popping up on Netflix quite soon after that. Regret not seeing it at the cinema though.

That poster is amazing.

The Netflix release was a couple of weeks - I saw it at the Prince Charles maybe a week after the LFF screenings and, it was on Netflix maybe two weeks later.

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