Friday, 9 October 2009


The latest issue of the essential Sight & Sound magazine arrived today, with its front cover proclaiming 'Film Festival Special'.
Inside, Nick James' editorial reminds us that Venice and Toronto have barely finished and then we're straight into The Times 53rd London Film Festival.
James' excellent piece remarks that film festivals are perhaps victims of their own success, owing to the numerical surge that sees even the older established fests duking it out for the films of real artistic merit. The London bash will screen 191 feature films and 113 shorts, but how many of those will stimulate and how many will disappoint?
Having viewed roughly half the programme, the Sight & Sound team have found 30 films to recommend which is just about the number of titles on my would-love-to-see list (although all my own choices are made sight unseen). Of course, every festival contains precious gems that surprise and delight from the most unlikely source and, tragically, many of those titles will likely never receive either theatrical or DVD releases.

I've been lucky enough to attend the festival in London for many years, always managing to book three days off work during what is invariably a very busy time of year. I'd receive the programme and simply book for as many films as possible during my three-day stay. This enforced method of selection worked well for the most part, though inevitable disappointment always reared its ugly head when I discovered the latest from Woody Allen or Claire Denis were being screened the day I started back to work.Sure, I saw some clunkers but, for the most part, was amply rewarded with a ton of memorable events.
It was at the LFF that I caught the UK premiere of David Cronenberg's CRASH; a screening made even better by an introduction and post-film Q&A by the man himself. That England's gutter press almost managed to get the screening (and the film) banned via a series of absolutely worthless articles (Daily Mail, take a bow), made this event one for the history books (the screening was in doubt right up to almost the 11th hour). THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION; a restored NOSFERATU; Ferrara's SNAKE EYES (soon to be known as DANGEROUS GAME); Ang Lee's wonderful EAT DRINK MAN WOMAN; ETERNITY AND A DAY; ALMOST FAMOUS; THE FUNERAL; I CAN'T SLEEP; AUTOFOCUS; KILLING ZOE (with one of THE most downbeat endings you'd never wish to see); REQUIEM FOR A DREAM; GOSFORD PARK; FAUST; THE LOST WORLD; SHANGHAI TRIAD; MIGHTY APHRODITE; HORESMAN ON THE ROOF; EARTH; THE MAGDALENE SISTERS; BURNING SKY (a German take on Thelma And Louise that I'd love to see again)... just a few of the movies I was lucky enough to catch in my breakneck visits that often took in ten films in a 3 day period.

Unfortunately, my wife and I are again unable to attend this year but I hope the festival isn't hit too hard by the debilitating world recession. It's a wonderful event staged in one of the most vibrant cities in the world, and my festival memories include sharing some great times with some great people. The CRASH screening will stay long in my memory as it was there that I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Auty and Ben Howard. Dan & Ben run the excellent Mondo Movie site, which includes a long-running series of podcasts. I do highly recommend you check it out .
Just click HERE

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