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London Film Festival: secret film is a nice surprise

Posted at 3:00 pm, October 24, 2011 in Arts & Entertainment

Damsels in Distress at the London Film FestivalThere were moving scenes at the Vue West End cinema on Sunday night (if you can believe such things are possible). Outgoing London Film Festival artistic director, Sandra Hebron, was there to introduce the annual surprise screening, which she billed as a film that some will really love, and some will really hate. As the credits rolled, we quickly discovered that it wasn’t ‘My Week With Marilyn’, or Scorsese’s ‘Hugo’, or Eastwood’s ‘J Edgar’ or even Spielberg’s ‘Tintin’. No, it was the long-awaited new film from the pen of Whit Stillman – the director best known for his 1998 film ‘The Last Days of Disco’ – called ‘Damsels in Distress’, and (half of) Sandra Hebron’s prediction was spot on: we really, really loved it. The film is a whimsical, meandering campus caper which stars an incandescent Greta Gerwig as a literature scholar who also runs a suicide prevention centre. It’s bitchy, irreverent, and caustically witty, and right up there with Stillman’s best. It wasn’t a particularly popular choice among an audience who were clearly slathering for glamour and glitz, but for us, Hebron’s surprise film swansong was one of the big festival highlights.

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