With The London Film Festival almost upon us, I thought I'd console myself over not being able to attend by looking at back at some of the highlights from my time at previous fests. The following are ten films that still give me a warm glow of pleasure, and ones that I will forever associate with Odeon West End and The National Film Theatre.
David Cronenberg's twisted love story was on the verge of being banned almost up to the morning of its UK premiere. Thankfully, festival organisers stood firm and the screening went ahead, with DC introducing his film and staying on for a Q&A afterwards. One of those magical evenings that stays with you.
THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION.
While I don't count myself as one of those who proclaims this to be one of the greatest films ever made, Shawshank still left a considerable impression on me and I've never seen such a reaction to any film at any cinema. The packed auditorium simply stood up and the end, and gave Darabont's film a standing ovation that seemed to go on and on.
Ferrara's DANGEROUS GAME (as it soon became known) was screened without fanfare or the presence of cast and director. Disappointing maybe, but this absorbing film-within-a-film features sterling work from Keitel and a more-than decent turn from Madonna, with a psychotic James Russo on top form. More than enough to make it one of Abel's best.
A gala opening film, with onstage appearances from director and cast members. As we couldn't bag Gala tickets, we opted for the repeat screening the following day. No Kate Hudson to be seen, but we didn't altogether mind as this film simply took over our senses and left us with grins as wide as Cheshire cats. Now, where's my Stillwater CD?
EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN.
Ang Lee's deliriously delicious feast of impeccable acting and the finest of, ahem, fine dining. I'd already demolished a pre-film mixed grill at a nearby pub, but half an hour in, those pangs of hunger returned. Gordon Ramsay eat your heart out!
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM.
So, we'd caught Darren Aronofsky's PI and raved about it. When we heard his latest would receive its UK prem at the LFF, applying for tickets was a no brainer. To be honest, we'd read practically nothing about the film prior to the screening, and turned up with no idea what to expect. When Darren introduced the film, his warning that "In an hour and three quarters from now, you are all going to hate me" didn't cause too much concern. Nor did Ellen Burstyn's declaration that "You're going to feel a lot of pain". Phew! By the closing credits, we could barely move a muscle, after this assault on the senses. As we left the cinema, desperately in need of a JD pick-me-up, I spied Aronofsky in the foyer, and decided to 'congratulate' him for reducing me to a nervous wreck with his brilliant and gruelling film. He simply smiled, slapped me on the back and yelled "Live it. Love it. Feel it". With that he was gone, disappearing into the mild London evening.
Yet another missed Gala prem, so we again settled for the second screening after missing Robert Altman and cast onstage (why don't some of the cast stick around for the next day repeat?). No matter, this is a wonderful production, bursting with some terrific actors (as was always the case for Altman films) and remains one of my favourite Altman movies. Whenever I think of this film, I remember the late Sir Alan Bates and the many times I was fortunate enough to talk to him. A real gentleman, I miss his cheery greetings and cherish the memories.
I'm a big fan of Roger Avery's heist movie and, for me, this is one of those films where the law of diminishing returns does not set in. I'll aways remember that closing scene where Stolz tells Delpi about the blood. A truly downbeat ending if ever there was one.
We arrived at the cinema to view Larry Clark's KEN PARK, only to be told the screening had been cancelled due to the mother of all rows between Clark and a film exec. Some 20 minutes into Schrader's film, Clark and KP had been forgotten.
I love "Hogan's Heroes" and this tale of the dark and destructive nature of fame - by way of the history of the vidcam - got under my skin in seventeen different ways.
Another one from Uncle Abel, with a great cast joining forces to make this one of the great mob movies. While the film was -still is- a powerful experience, an interview with Ferrara at the same cinema some 2 days later also remains in my head, with just as much resonance. Here, Ferrara showed clips from half a dozen of his film, including around 50 minutes from the aforementioned mob classic. The reason we almost got a complete re-run was that Abel simply walked offstage and didn't return for the best part of an hour. I heard, months later, that he went off in search of a beer and eventually found a pizza parlour who could legally serve him booze at that time on a Sunday morning. If anyone reading this knows different, let me know.
Just a few of my LFF memories. For me, London has a magic all of its own and my times at the fest are some of the many highlights of my time there.