30 must-see films at the 56th London Film Festival

Friday September 14th 2012


This year’s London Film Festival is less than a month away, and with last week’s thrilling press launch now incontrovertibly behind us, it’s time to look forward to the myriad cinematic delights on offer this October. As ever, it’s nice to see just how diverse the programme is, blending a dazzling range of tastes, trends and mediocre Dustin Hoffman movies to prove once and for all that a ‘compilation festival’ is nothing to be ashamed of.

Booking is now open for BFI members and will expand to include the rest of y’all cunts on Monday 24th September. Catch you on the flipside, turkeys.


30. BLACK ROCK
With mumblecore officially missing, presumed dead, from this year’s LFF programme, it’s reassuring to see that Mark Duplass, at least, is keeping in work. He wrote this Kate Bosworth-starring (!) isolation horror, while his mumblewife Katie Aselton took on directing duties.


29. KEEP THE LIGHTS ON
‘This year’s Weekend‘ is what all the worst people will be saying about Peccadillo Pictures’s latest would-be crossover hit, the 90s-set gay relationship drama Keep The Lights On. Here’s hoping the similarities extend beyond gender configuration and into actual quality.


28. FOR LOVE’S SAKE
What’s a rebel like him doing in our elite school? Takashi Miike’s completely bonkers foray into the high school musical genre is a masterclass in on-the-nose dialogue, broken continuity and breathtakingly awful dance routines. The first half hour alone is worth the cost of admission.


27. EVERYDAY
Maintaining his astonishing record of making at least one film EVERY SINGLE YEAR SINCE 1991, Michael Winterbottom sneaks this quiet family drama into the festival programme ahead of next year’s big Coogan-starring Paul Raymond biopic.


26. CAESAR MUST DIE
While it sounds like a real-life version of Lucky Break, I’m told that this Golden Bear-winning documentary about a group of prison inmates staging a performance of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is in fact an entirely unrelated, wholly moving beast. Sans James Nesbitt.


25. END OF WATCH
From U-571 to Street Kings, via Training Day, The Fast and the Furious and S.W.A.T., David Ayer has spunked more adrenaline onto the world’s cinema screens than almost any other filmmaker in living memory. His latest is also a viable awards contender, we’re told.


24. FRANCINE
This year’s premier slice of misery porn stars Melissa Leo as the eponymous Francine, who emerges after years of incarceration in an American prison with a fragile mental state and an award-winning lack of make-up. Expect words like ‘brave’ and ‘fearless’ to get more than a few airings.


23. COMPLIANCE
The ‘most talked about’ film at Sundance, for whatever that’s worth, is a ripped-from-the-headlines indie drama detailing the bizarre and deeply unsettling events that unfolded at a Kentucky branch of McDonald’s in April 2004. Not one for the faint of heart.


22. REALITY
One of the more divisive films at Cannes this year, Reality turns a satirical eye on the world of reality television (finally!) with its tale of an Italian fishmonger convinced he’s appearing on a Truman Show-style fly-on-the-wall documentary. From the director of Gomorrah.


21. ROOM 237
The first of two pop cultural ‘essay films’ on this list is a fascinating look at obsession and paranoia viewed through the conduit of Stanley Kubrick’s 1980 horror classic The Shining and the hardcore fans whose interpretations delve deeper into the film than you ever thought possible.


20. MY BROTHER THE DEVIL
This tale of two brothers’ involvement with a local gang on a Hackney housing estate (stay with me) won a cinematography award when it premiered at Sundance in January, but back in London most of the attention will be fixed on the film’s breakout British leads.


19. LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE
A favourite to win the Palme d’Or (at least until Haneke swaggered in and took all the glory), this Tokyo-set new one from arthouse darling Abbas Kiarostami is his first since 2010’s apparently-very-good Juliette Binoche thingy Certified Copy.


18. POST TENEBRAS LUX
‘A stubbornly non-narrative compendium of short, mostly disconnected scenes’, Post Tenebras Lux found plenty of haters when it premiered in competition at Cannes this year, and only a few devotees. But god is it worth finding out if you’re one of them.


17. SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS
To tell you the truth, I put this on the list before I’d actually seen it. And now that I have, it wouldn’t be here. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to rearrange the whole thing, so I’ll just pretend Martin McDonagh’s belated follow-up to In Bruges isn’t a load of self-congratulatory bollocks.


16. GINGER AND ROSA
On the plus side, this swinging 60s coming of age drama features performances from Christina Hendricks, Elle Fanning and Annette Bening and is shot by Robbie Ryan (Wuthering Heights). On the downside, it’s a new Sally Potter film, and we all remember Rage.


15. FRANKENWEENIE
Tim Burton’s ‘one for them, one for me’ filmmaking mantra has become so tautological that it’s hard to tell what’s what anymore, but this black-and-white, stop-motion-animated horror comedy is probably his most personal, idiosyncratic project since Ed Wood.


14. PAINLESS
A group of children are born insensitive to physical pain in first-time filmmaker Juan Carlos Medina’s fantasy horror, which — judging by the clip they showed at the press launch — is going to be fucking terrifying. UK distribution has yet to be confirmed, so catch it while you can.


13. GIMME THE LOOT
Lackadaisical New York nothingness of the most intoxicating variety pervades Adam Leon’s effortlessly charming feature debut, about two Bronx graffiti artists struggling to make dolla on a lazy summer’s day. Think The Wackness, minus the period affectation.


12. NO
Chilean director Pablo Larrain (of Tony Manero sort-of-fame) teams up with charming man Gael Garcia Bernal for this biopic of ad-man Rene Saavedra, who in 1988 was tasked with convincing the people of Chile to vote against the authoritarian rule of Augusto Pinochet.


11. LAURENCE ANYWAYS
Perpetual motion precocity machine Xavier Dolan unleashes his most ambitious work to date: a 159-minute, 1.37:1-aspect-ratio, mostly-episodic transgender relationship drama set across an eleven year period. Boring in practice, spectacular in hindsight.


10. BEYOND THE HILLS
This year’s Sight & Sound Gala (a.k.a. nap time) goes to Beyond the Hills, the latest endurance test film from Romanian New Wave superstar Cristian Mungiu. The film’s reportedly a masterpiece, and you’d bloody hope so too at 155 minutes.


9. SISTER
Omnipresent French starlet Léa Seydoux is the titular sister of this Swiss family drama about two siblings who steal skiing gear from the wealthy tourists of a local resort to sell on in the industrial valley below. Think The Kid with a Fuckload of Ski Equipment.


8. ARGO
While I’m part of a small contingent of rational adults who sincerely prefers Ben Affleck’s acting to his directing, I won’t pretend I’m not just as pumped at the rest of you for his cineliterate new espionage thriller. Let’s just give the film a fighting chance before we talk Oscars, okay?


7. THE HUNT
This new entrant in our Best of 2012 list tackles a delicate subject with exemplary tact, thanks to the extraordinarily sensitive hands of director Thomas Vinterberg (back from the dead!) and a career-best performance from Mads Mikkelsen.


6. SIGHTSEERS
Kill List director Ben Wheatley lends his not insubstantial talents to this cutely cruel road movie from writer-stars Steve Oram and Alice Lowe, with gloriously unsettling results. Book now to avoid the stampede of British comedy fans eager to make this ‘their movie’.


5. AFTER LUCIA
‘Grim’ is apparently the watch word for this Mexican polemic on high school bullying, but the hushed, reverent tones of those who’ve seen it suggest it’s a horror worth enduring. The ‘Un Certain Regard’ jury at Cannes certainly thought so, awarding the film the top prize.


4. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
Stunning when it’s happy, stunning when it’s sad, this breathtaking first film from Benh Zeitlin features one of the all-time great child performances from six-year-old newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis (hotly tipped for the Streep prize at next year’s Oscars).


3. SIMON KILLER
Those who saw Antonio Campos’s Afterschool when it crept into UK cinemas a couple of years ago will understand why his sophomore effort ranks so highly on this list. The presence of Ultra Culture favourite Brady Corbet in the cast list merely seals the deal.


2. THE PERVERT’S GUIDE TO IDEOLOGY
Tireless Slovenian contrarian Slavoj Žižek was at his contrary best in 2006’s Pervert’s Guide to Cinema, in which he demonstrated some of his bizarre but brilliant pop cultural theories. This belated sequel, once again directed by Sophie Fiennes, picks up where that film left off.


1. AMOUR
It seems only right that the film selected to headline the LFF’s new ‘Love’ strand not only shares its name but offers up one of the most elegant, brutal, uncompromising depictions of the concept in recent years. Haneke, thy kingdom come.