Film & TV

Highlights of the London Film Festival 2011

This year’s BFI London Film Festival was a procession of interesting films, events and celebrity spots. Here’s a rundown of the highlights…

The best film on show was Shame, Steve McQueen’s follow-up to 2008 Irish political drama Hunger. Like the latter, this story of a New York sex-addict stars Michael Fassbender, a man who has quickly become one of the year’s hottest commodities after parts in X-Men: First Class, Jane Eyre and A Dangerous Method. A superlative exploration of a little-known condition, the film chews you up and spits you out as a different person on the other side; and the unrelenting downward spiral of Fassbender’s character may be tricky to watch but it is absolutely riveting.

A close second was Michael Hazanavicius’ silent movie homage The Artist. This inspired gem, which is set during the transitional era between the silent pictures and ‘talkies’, is a brilliantly clever hark back to the ‘Golden Age’ of Hollywood, filmed entirely in black & white. You’ll find yourself laughing out loud on numerous occasions, and perhaps welling up at the more dramatic moments; it’s highly unlikely you’ll have much more fun at the cinema this year.

Moving onto specific categories, two documentaries stood out as highlights. Firstly, Dragonslayer, the story of a washed-up skateboarding pro, was a touching piece of factual filmmaking. With a wonderful balance between fun and intrigue, this cracking flick was one of my favourites of the festival. Secondly, Dreams of a Life: as the story of a well-liked woman who died alone on her sofa, with her body not being discovered for a staggering six years, this was not an easy watch, but a greatly affecting one. It ends on a beautiful and haunting note that may leave you in tears.

In the realms of foreign language cinema, the social drama The Kid With a Bike was a big audience hit, and the Austrian redemption story Breathing blew me away with its flawless production and pacing as well as its immersive understated nature.

Other notable mentions: 50/50, a mainstream ‘cancer comedy’ that beautifully pitches humour and drama. The Ides of March, a chilling and brutal political drama directed by and starring George Clooney. The Descendants, Alexander Payne’s follow up to the brilliant Sideways; didn’t reach the lofty peaks of its predecessor but was enjoyable. Dendera, a completely bonkers gory Japanese film about bear-fighting elderly women.

Best event – George Clooney did an immaculate press conference for The Ides of March and Seth Rogen was hilarious in the 50/50 Q&A. Finally, best celebrity spot – Michael Fassbender stood next to me at the BFI.

Tom Grater

Film & TV

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