Preview: BFI London Film Festival 2015

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Stats first.  The 59th BFI London Film Festival runs from Wednesday, 7 to Sunday, 18 October.  There’s a total of 238 feature length films, 182 shorts, they come from 71 countries and include 16 world premieres, 8 international premieres and 40 European premieres.

So, with that out of the way, what’s worth the price of a ticket?  The answer is – an awful lot.  But let’s be practical.  While I’ll be seeing as many films as I can squeeze in, all for your benefit, I’ve picked ten that I think are unmissable.  They’re listed alphabetically, because I can’t pass any comment on them.  Yet.

Black Mass   You’ve probably heard plenty about this one already. Touted as Johnny Depp’s return to form after his Jack Sparrow Period, he stars here as the notorious Whitey Bulger – and his brother’s played by Benedict Cumberbatch.  Will Depp grace London with his presence?  His name’s not on the list at the moment, but just wait ……..

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Carol   One of the big hits at Cannes, Cate Blanchett stars as a woman trapped in a loveless marriage who starts a relationship with shop girl Rooney Mara.  Directed by Todd Haynes, the film already being mentioned in the same word as “Oscar” and we can expect to see both star and director on the red carpet.  Blanchett is also being presented with a BFI Fellowship during the festival, and Haynes will be hosting a Screentalk.

Grandma   BFI Chief Executive Amanda Nevill highlighted the line-up’s commitment to diversity and this is just one of them.  A resurgent Lily Tomlin plays a potty mouthed poet in her 70s who embarks on a road trip with her 18 year old granddaughter.

He Named Me Malala   The stand-out offering among the documentaries is the story of the remarkable Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and concentrates on her life in this country, since moving here permanently.

Steve Jobs   Danny Boyle’s much-anticipated biography of the Apple founder has Michael Fassbender in the title role – on their own, two good reasons to see the film.  It’s the Festival’s closing gala, so it should go out on a high note.  Fassbender is expected to be in town, alongside co-star Kate Winslet.

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Suffragette  The LFF’s opening film was announced some weeks ago, but that doesn’t prevent it looking like a must-see.  With a cast that includes Carey Mulligan, Meryl Streep and Helena Bonham Carter, a script from Abi Morgan and Sarah Gavron in the director’s chair, it ticks both the diversity and quality boxes.

The Lady In The Van   Hooray!  The film version of Alan Bennett’s wonderful book and stage play brings its own view of eccentricity and aging to the LFF.  And with Maggie Smith in the title role and Bennett’s favourite director, Nicholas Hytner, at the helm, what’s not to like?

The Lobster  This is set in a future where singledom is illegal and where anybody without a partner has to report to The Hotel where they have 45 days to find somebody.  Failure means being transformed into an animal of their choice.  The all-star cast in this bleak comedy includes Colin Farrell, Ben Whishaw and John C Reilly.

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The Program   After being the subject of Alex Gibney’s documentary at the 2013 LFF, Lance Armstrong returns to the screen, this time played by Ben Foster in this bio-pic from British director, Stephen Frears.

Youth   Michael Caine is a retired composer and Harvey Keitel an aging film director holed up in a spa resort and trying to juggle their future careers – or not – their unwelcome families and an attractive, and much younger, female resident.  Word is that this is probably Caine’s best ever performance.

On top of those, there’s Idris Elba’s Beasts Of No Nation, the European premiere of Brooklyn with Saoirse Ronan and Bryan Cranston, complete with hair, tache and specs, in the title role of Trumbo, about blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo.  And Cranston is scheduled to be on the London red carpet.

Anything missing?  Not much, although Tom Hooper’s The Danish Girl with Eddie Redmayne as a transsexual is noticeable by its absence – it’s at just about every other festival.  And there’s no sign of Spotlight, with Michael Keaton and Mark Ruffalo as journalists investigate child sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Boston.

The full line up is on the BFI website.  Now all you have to do is make your pick and wait until booking opens on the 17th.  Unless you’re a BFI member, in which case you can grab your tickets on the 10th.

There’s a special London Film Festival preview on this week’s Talking Pictures.  And the show, as well as The Coops Review, will provide extensive coverage throughout the 12 day event.

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