If you haven’t managed to get down to the BFIs 61st London Film Festival yet, there are still plenty of films to see.
The festival runs from the 4th to the 15th October 2017.
Available feature films include those set in:
Congo (Félicité, Makala), Egypt (The Nile Hilton Incident, Sheikh Jackson), South Africa (The Forgiven, Five Fingers for Marseilles / Menoana e Mehlano ea Marseilles, Liyana, The Wound), Guinea-Bissau (Spell Reel), Mauritania (Oh, Sun! /Soleil Ô), and Zambia (I Am Not a Witch), plus (Untitled),
Brazil (Araby /Arábia, Good Manners /As Boas Maneiras),
France (Chateau /La Vie de château),
Italy (A Ciambra),
UK (Dead the Ends, The L-Shaped Room), and
USA (The Final Year, Last Flag Flying, Mutafukaz, Gemini, The Shape of Water, Small Town Crime, Saturday Church, G Funk).
Running time: 100 mins Release Date: 22nd September 2017 Certificate: 15 Director: Janus Metz Cast: Sverrir Gudnason, Shia LaBeouf, Stellan Skarsgard, Tuva Novotny, David Bamber, Ian Blackman, Robert Emms, Leo Borg
It’s the summer of 1980 and Björn Borg (Sverrir Gudnason) is the top tennis player in the world. A powerful and rigorously disciplined player, there is only one obstacle in his pursuit of a record-breaking fifth Wimbledon championship: the highly talented but ferociously abrasive young American, John McEnroe (Shia LaBeouf). With three days until the tournament begins, Borg trains religiously in his lavish Monaco home, aided by his coach and mentor Lennart (Stellan Skarsgård) and girlfriend Mariana (Tuva Novotny). But McEnroe’s explosive confidence and wrecking-ball persona continue to infiltrate Borg’s ice-cool and normally unshakable temperament. With each man the antithesis of the other, both players delve into their formative memories as the climactic tournament draws near and anticipation reaches fever pitch. Visceral and breathlessly tense, the match itself – regarded as one of the greatest of all time – would mark the pinnacle of the ‘Fire and Ice’ rivalry between them.
My first introduction to tennis was at primary school. It was all down to my childhood school friend, Caroline who developed a fascination for Björn Borg. She spent every spare moment, drawing Borg and cartoon strips of John McEnroe, with “You cannot be serious!” speech bubbles, eventually drawing her crush vs his rival into a cartoon complete with headbands.
By the time I finally watched tennis on television, Borg was no longer playing professionally, but McEnroe was still throwing his tennis rackets, I wanted to see what Caroline’s kiddie crush was all about.
The title Borg Vs McEnroe instantly reminds me of those summer days of 1979 and 1980, and the film takes us back to that time, with the great, almost uncanny lookalike casting of Gudnason, and to a lesser degree, LaBeouf. As Borg prepares for his fifth attempt at the Wimbledon championship, we see flashbacks to his childhood (played by Borg’s son, Leo Borg), and highlights of his journey to professional player. These flashbacks give an insight into the inscrutable ‘IceBorg’ character that I never knew about and adds depth to the rivalry between Borg and McEnroe. McEnroe also has flashbacks to his childhood, and again, there are examples of his intelligence, drive and ‘SpoiltBrat’ nickname. I found these insights to their characters fascinating. The same flashbacks were repeated through the film, and I felt they were over-used – we didn’t need to see the same clips over to get the message.
Another challenge the film had was to make tennis look exciting on film. I had a little help with feeling nervous, as I hadn’t checked and didn’t remember the actual outcome of the 1980 championship. I was tense, I didn’t know what would happen next. If I’d known the outcome or how the match played out, I might not have found it so interesting! The film finds the right balance to keep it interesting enough for me.
The claimed rivalry doesn’t really come across on screen, infact, in some way, you get the impression that the players admired each other – this makes it a nicer film, touching. You get a sense of how intense match preparation is, and it offers insight into the off-court pressures and tensions of all tennis players.
I’m not a big tennis fan, I’ll watch a game if I catch it on, but I don’t currently follow the players, and I still enjoyed this film, loved what I learnt, and came away with a good feeling from Borg vs McEnroe.
Release Date: 16th June 2017 Running time: 88 mins Certificate: 15 Directors: Paul Toogood, Lloyd Stanton Cast: Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Coogan, Eddie Izzard, Amy Schumer, Billy Connolly, Paul Provenza, Sarah Silverman, Rick Overton, Jerry Lewis, Stephen K. Amos, Dave Attell, Sandra Bernhard, Tiffany Haddish, Frankie Boyle, Jo Brand, Neal Brennan, Bobby Lee, Jim Jefferies, Tom Dreesen, Kirk Fox, Cocoa Brown, Keenen Ivory Wayans
Synopsis: “DYING LAUGHING is a candid look inside the agony and ecstasy of making people laugh for a living. A stand-up comedian must be the writer, the director, and the star performer. There is no rehearsal, no practice, and no safety net when you’re in front of a live audience. For most people, baring their soul on stage and having an audience “boo” at you would become a life-long trauma, but for stand-up comedians, it’s a nightly challenge. The funny and heartfelt documentary contains original interviews interlaced with personal footage of life on the road – all from a comedian’s point of view. Once you take this step behind the curtain, you will never look at these funny folks the same way again.”
I seem to remember all of the comedy gigs I’ve been to in the past; where they were, who the funniest comedian was, and that one joke I always managed to carry away that when I think back, makes me chuckle. There is a sometimes a kind of uncomfortableness about some of the jokes, because they are very close to home, or something we shouldn’t be laughing at, but other jokes – the mere observation of our ridiculousness makes us laugh at ourselves. I’m always aware that I’ve gone to see a show, ready to laugh, prepared to be entertained, with no idea how the comedian is planning to entertain and keep me amused.
Dying Laughing sets the record straight. In it, iconic comedians speak to camera about their experience of stand-up comedy, from starting out, through writing, up on to the stage. These are well-known comedians, from the USA and the UK. They speak of laughter, hecklers, touring, loneliness, mental health, and bombing, and they took me on a rollercoaster of emotions.
At the start of the film, when they are speaking about the fun parts of comedy, there was a moment when I wondered if I could do stand-up. When they started to talk about me/you/us the audience, and the hecklers, it reminded me of that infamous Bernie Mac performance, ‘I ain’t scared of you….!’, and as the documentary goes on, I realised that it takes a certain strength to be a comedian. One I don’t have! I think Chris Rock sums it up best in the documentary, when he speaks about comedians being observers, intelligent observers – ignorance is bliss, and so the other side is quite painful, that observations, that knowing, being a viewer.
I left the cinema smiling, and in awe. An absolutely brilliant film, as I said, prepare to go on an emotional rollercoaster.
Running time: 70 mins
Release Date: 2 June 2017
Director: Claude Barras
Voices: Nick Offerman, Ellen Page, Will Forte and Amy Sedaris
After his mother’s sudden death, Courgette is befriended by a police officer, Raymond, who accompanies him to his new foster home filled with other orphans his age. At first he struggles to find his place in this often strange and hostile
environment. Yet with Raymond’s help and his newfound friends, Courgette eventually learns to trust and love, as he searches for a new family of his own.
My Life as a Courgette is a beautiful animation, looking at young emotions in difficult times. Throughout the film, I thought the children were in a loving and caring children’s home, rather than a foster home. The emotions and issues are portrayed well in children with differing problems. The film is great to see, amusing, sad, and hopeful.
Running time: 89 mins
Release Date: 5th May 2017
Director: Sean Foley
Cast: Julian Barratt, Russell Tovey, Andrea Riseborough, Essie Davis, Harriet Walter
Washed-up Richard Thorncroft (Julian Barratt) peaked with hit 1980s detective show Mindhorn, playing the titular Isle of Man sleuth with a robotic eye that allowed him to literally “see the truth”. Decades later, when a deranged Manx criminal demands Mindhorn as his nemesis, Thorncroft returns to the scene of his greatest triumphs for one last chance to reignite his glory days, professional credibility and even romance with former co-star/paramour Patricia Deville (Essie Davis).
What the hell? That was my first thought! But this crime-comedy-whodunit grew and grew on me! Deffo go and see this one, it is so bad, it’s good. Cheese upon cheese, with great performances from all, all set on the Isle of Man.
Running time: 97 mins
Release Date: 21st April 2017
Director: Michael O’Shea
Cast: Eric Ruffen, Xhloe Levine, Jelly Bean
An atmospheric, intricate study of a troubled young mind, The Transfiguration follows orphaned teen Milo (Eric Ruffin) as he immerses himself in vampire lore to escape his troubled life. In Queens, New York, 14 year-old Milo is a total outsider. Ignored by his schoolmates and bullied by older children, he takes refuge in the apartment he shares with his older brother. To escape his solitude, he studies vampire mythology, to the point of obsession. Milo hides a terrible secret, but a chance encounter with neighbor Sophie (Chloe Levine) leads him to develop new feelings. But will it be enough to quash his dark urges?
Milo, Milo, Milo, where to begin with Milo? He is at first, a school boy, bullied by his peers, he arrives as the victim – sad, friendless, loner, but soon enough, we learn of another side of Milo, and hope and nerves ride side by side as his friendship with his neighbour, Sophie develops. But Milo’s struggles continue in the colour-leached setting of his estate, as he strives to find a solution to end his troubles.
Running time: 117 mins
Release Date: 21st April 2017
Director: Lone Scherfig
Cast: Sam Claflin, Gemma Arterton, Jack Huston, Bill Nighy
Based on Lissa Evans’ novel, ‘Their Finest Hour and a Half’. 1940, London, the Blitz; with the country’s morale at stake, Catrin (Gemma Arterton), an untried screenwriter, and a makeshift cast and crew, work under fire to make a film to lift the nation’s flagging spirits; and inspire America to join the war. Partnered alongside fellow screenwriter, Buckley (Sam Claflin) and eccentric actor Ambrose Hilliard (Bill Nighy), the trio set off to make a film that will warm the hearts of the nation and capture the imagination of the American population.
I thoroughly enjoyed this romantic war-time comedy. Just looking at the images from the film brings back the rollercoaster of emotions, from Buckley’s lingering looks, to Catrin’s sadness. I try to avoid films that are based around war, but I am so glad I didn’t miss this one. It’s not so much about the hardship and drudge of war, but more about getting on with life in difficult circumstances. Do not miss this one. Take tissues.
Running time: 108 mins
Release Date: 14th April 2017
Director: Ritesh Batra
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling, Harriet Walter, Michelle Dockery, Emily Mortimer
Based on the Man Booker-winning novel by Julian Barnes. Tony Webster (Broadbent) leads a reclusive and quiet existence until long buried secrets from his past force him to face the flawed recollections of his younger self, the truth about his first love (Rampling) and the devastating consequences of decisions made a lifetime ago.
I haven’t read the book, but the trailer looked fascinating. Great performances from the cast, but the film was lacking a certain ‘umpf’ – not enough suspense and tension, and the conclusion of the story didn’t feel like the big reveal that the film had tried to build up to. It’s okay, not enough excitement for me.