Peter O'Toole brought his starry presence to the festival red carpet last night, attending the premiere of his new film Dean Spanley with cast members Sam Neill, Jeremy Northam and Judy Parfitt, as well as director Toa Fraser. And elsewhere last night, we had Laura Linney, Liam Neeson and Romola Garai out for The Other Man, and James Toback for Tyson.
Alas, I had another engagement on the other side of Leicester Square: to attend the first screening in the world of the new James Bond movie Quantum of Solace, which premieres at the festival next week. It's a superb film, even darker and more complex than Casino Royale, shifting the focus away from the megalomaniac villian to focus on Bond's internal journey and deeply personal mission. The action is utterly exhilarating, and the side characters are surprisingly textured, but the best thing is seeing how Daniel Craig has has become Bond inside and out - it's a seriously great performance. (Full review next week.)
Meanwhile, today at the 52nd London Film Festival...
Bill Maher teams with the director of Borat for a similar style of documentary that sets out to examine religion. The result is mixed on that front, as the people Maher talks to are all pretty ridiculous, but the film is hugely entertaining, often laugh-out-loud hilarious, and underscored with some extremely serious ideas that make us think.
Of Time and the City *****
Terence Davies' ode to his home town of Liverpool is a swirling collage of images and memories that's simply gorgeous. He draws us in with intensely personal observations, expressing his opinions and experiences in an almost poetic way that pulls no punches. And beyond a portrait of a city, the film is a sublime look at age and nostalgia.
Michelle Williams stars in this rather uneven drama about a horrific terrorist act in London that changes her life completely. Her performance is the reason to see the film, as her reactions are dark and complicated, and her interaction with two men - Ewan McGregor and Matthew Madfadyen - is brittle and very realistic. But the film itself is far too maudlin to really work.
The Class *****
Laurence Cantet's Palme d'Or winner is a stunning observational tale about a year in the life of a teacher in a Paris high school and his classroom of raucous 13- to 15-year-olds. Bracingly realistic, the film takes a look at teens that we rarely see on screen: smart, opinionated and just as conflicted by what life is throwing at them as the adults around them. Simply brilliant.