Friday, 31 October 2008

LFF16: That's all, folks!

The 52nd London Film Festival came to a close last night with the European premiere of Danny Boyle's terrific new film Slumdog Millionaire. Those braving a particularly chilly red carpet last night in Leicester Square included (l to r) Boyle, actors Freida Pinto and Anil Kapoor, co-director Loveleen Tandan, lead actor Dev Patel and writer Simon Beaufoy.

Slumdog Millionaire *****
Danny Boyle injects such a sharp blast of real-life energy to this story that we can't help but be carried away. It's easily one of the most enjoyable movies of the year, and there's some extremely dark and serious stuff going on here as well in this tale of a young guy from the slums (the superb Dev Patel) who somehow manages to become a winner on India's Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? Telling his life story through the questions he's asked on the show is extremely clever, and there are some terrific twists that come later on, leaving out hearts pounding with tension and emotion before the cast cuts loose in a closing credits Bollywood number. It's a simply wonderful movie that can't help but gather extrordinary word-of-mouth and awards buzz.

My top 10 films of the fest
  1. Hunger - Steve McQueen's astonishing look at the 1981 IRA hunger strike.
  2. Slumdog Millionaire - Danny Boyle's remarkable Indian drama.
  3. The Wrestler - Darren Aronofsky's expert portrait of a has-been.
  4. The Class - Laurent Cantet's riveting year in a Paris high school.
  5. Of Time and the City - Terence Davies' cheeky and moving ode to Liverpool.
  6. Sugar - Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck's engagingly hopeful immigration drama.
  7. Waltz With Bashir - Ari Folman's involving animated documentary about war.
  8. Frost/Nixon - Peter Morgan's bracing take on the collision between two personalities.
  9. The Baader Meinhof Complex - a stunning epic drama about 1970s German terrorism.
  10. Gonzo - Alex Gibney's astute and entertaining look at Hunter S Thompson.
This year's award winners
  • Fipresci Award: Three Blind Mice (Matthew Newton)
  • First feature (Sutherland Trophy): Tulpan (Sergey Dvortsevoy)
  • Documentary (Grierson Award): Victoire Terminus (Barret and De La Tullaye)
  • Satyajit Ray Award: Mid-August Lunch (Gianni di Gregorio)
  • Achievement in Film Award: Ralph Fiennes
As I've said before, London is perhaps the least festive film festival on earth. There's no atmosphere at all unless you're in the VIP circles (which doesn't include any jobbing journalists) - it's all about the movies themselves, and crowds turn out to see big titles before they open or smaller films that will never be seen anywhere else. The festival organisers have a reputation for programming extremely good films, with very few duds, so there's plenty for fans to enjoy.

But it would be nice if there was a bit more fun on offer. Virtually every other festival on earth has public venues (cafes or bars) where people can mix with the filmmakers after the screenings, rather than having them whisked off in a labelled fleet of cars like London does. These gathering spots create a real celebratory atmosphere, which is completely lacking at the LFF, and is a bit odd since they now have such a nice space for this kind of thing at the BFI Southbank.

Here's hoping that next year the fun can be extended to the public and the press (which also needs much better facilities in which to work). But at least we know we'll have two weeks of amazing movies to sink our teeth into.

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