Thursday, 9 October 2014

LFF 1: The game's afoot

The 58th London Film Festival got off to a fine British start with The Imitation Game on Wednesday night, a rain-soaked premiere attended by Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley and most of the cast and crew. As a biopic about one of the greatest Brits who ever lived, it's an appropriate enough opening movie, and is likely to land Cumberbatch with an Oscar nomination in January.

For me, the first couple of days have passed in a blur of film screenings, interviews and scrabbling around for time to write up reviews, features and this blog. Here are some film highlights:

The Imitation Game
dir Morten Tyldum; with Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley 14/UK 1h53 ****
Ripping performances add layers of depth to a script that isn't quite as complex as its secrets-within-secrets structure would suggest. Based on declassified documents, the film is a hugely involving account of how British mathematicians cracked the Nazis' Enigma code and turned the tide of the war. Just as importantly, this is the first proper biopic about the world-changing genius Alan Turing. FULL REVIEW >

Men, Women & Children
dir Jason Reitman; with Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Garner14/US **.
This cautionary tale about social media could only have been made by someone who grew up before it took over the world. Based on the novel by Chad Kultgen (age 38), the film was written by Wilson (50) and director Reitman (36) as a cautionary tale highlighting the dangers of small-screen interaction. But viewers under 30 may find it condescending and simplistic. FULL REVIEW >

Mr. Turner
dir Mike Leigh; with Timothy Spall, Marion Bailey 14/UK ****
At age 71, Mike Leigh continues to prove that he's one of the nimblest filmmakers working today. By avoiding the pitfalls of a formulaic plot, he reinvents both the costume drama and the celebrity-artist biopic as something earthy and real. Packed with humour and sardonic honesty, this exploration of the life of iconic painter JMW Turner is simply gorgeous.

dir Yann Demange; with Jack O'Connell, Paul Anderson 14/UK ****
Set out as one young man's experience in the early days of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, this gritty, urgent film has much broader things to say about the impact violent conflict has on individuals and communities. It's a bit relentless in its approach, but it takes the audience on a provocative odyssey that sparks thought rather than trying to explain it all. FULL REVIEW >

dir Randall Wright; with David Hockney, John Kasmin 14/UK ****
One of Britain's greatest living painters is the subject of this artful documentary, which swirls together firsthand memories from David Hockney, his friends, family and colleagues. Put together, this is a fascinating exploration of Hockney's art, digging in to see how his work was created and why he has such an obsession with pushing technical boundaries. The film is slightly long and indulgent, but fans will love every moment.

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