You know it’s officially autumn when the line-up for the London Film Festival (Oct 8-19) is announced, and that’s exactly what happened at the Odeon Leicester Square this morning – the same venue where Benedict Cumberbatch will walk the red carpet for the festival’s Opening Night Gala of ‘The Imitation Game’ on Wednesday October 8 and where – scream – Brad Pitt will appear for the Closing Night Gala of WWII drama ‘Fury’ on Sunday October 19.
So, what does this year’s LFF have in store for Londoners? As ever, it’s a huge event. Well over 200 films will screen in venues all across the city over 11 days, including the Vue West End, BFI Southbank, Odeon West End, Curzon Soho, Hackney Picturehouse, Brixton Ritzy and many more.
Some of the big-name films announced include: Sundance winner ‘Whiplash’; Reese Witherspoon backpacking drama ‘Wild’ (from ‘Dallas Buyers Club’ director Jean-Marc Vallée); Mike Leigh’s artist biopic ‘Mr Turner’ (which is being presented as the Time Out Gala as part of our media partnership with the LFF); comedian and presenter Jon Stewart’s directorial debut ‘Rosewater’; Alan Rickman’s directorial debut ‘A Little Chaos’, starring Kate Winslet and many, many, many more.
When it comes to glitzy big-hitters – the awards-season headliners that will be on film fans’ minds from now until Oscar night in February – it would have been hard to match 2013’s festival, when films including ‘Gravity’, ‘Captain Phillips’, ’12 Years a Slave’, ‘Saving Mr Banks’ and ‘Labor Day’ all had their British premieres at the LFF. Certainly, the headline gala section of the 2014 festival is just very slightly underwhelming on paper, and when it comes to some films that the keenest of fans would have been desperate to see this autumn and winter, the omissions are obvious. No ‘Inherent Vice’, the new film from Paul Thomas Anderson (‘The Master’, ‘There Will Be Blood’), which has its world premiere at the New York Film Festival on Saturday October 4. And no ‘Birdman’, the new film from Alejandro González Iñárritu, which sparked all sorts of Oscar talk when it opened the Venice Film Festival last Wednesday night.
But the LFF really can’t be judged on headliners alone, and beneath the surface are countless gems waiting to be discovered. Films like the delirious Iranian-American vampire noir ‘A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night’. Or the undefinable Ukrainian experiment ‘The Tribe’, a story told entirely in sign language – with no subtitles! For many of these films, it’s the only time they’ll ever be screened in the UK. The LFF is also a great place to discover new British voices, and some of the more tempting homegrown films this year include Carol Morley’s ‘The Falling’, Peter Strickland’s ‘The Duke of Burgundy’ and ‘Catch Me Daddy’ from Daniel and Matthew Wolfe.
The best way to attack the LFF is to take a risk. Pick something that sounds interesting. Take a chance. Go with your instinct. Ignore the hype and, if you’re lucky, you’ll be wandering out into the October night seeing the world just a little bit differently after spending 90 or so minutes in the company of a visionary filmmaker. We’ll see you there.
Read about the 25 films we’re most excited to see at the 2014 LFF. Explore the full programme at bfi.org.uk.