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BFI London Film Festival live blog days 1-8

Keep up with all the action and buzz from this year’s Festival.

Samuel Wigley

Hello there, and welcome to the BFI’s first ever live blog.

The wait is now over for the 57th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express®, and we’ll be live blogging every step of the way.

The next 12 days bring 234 fiction and documentary films to venues across the capital. And with them come the stars…

Our trailer gives a good idea of some of the coming attractions…

Everything kicks off tonight with the Opening Night Gala screening of Captain Phillips, starring Tom Hanks as the eponymous captain in Paul Greengrass’s taut dramatisation of the 2009 hijacking of a US container ship by Somali pirates.

This afternoon, we’ll be bringing you a report from the press conference with both Hanks and Greengrass, and later a video of the whole thing so you can watch it for yourselves.

As announced last week, this European premiere will simultaneously screen in 30 towns and cities across the UK and Ireland, with a satellite link up to the event.

If you’re not at one of those screenings, the live blog’s the place to be for snaps from the red carpet, as Tom Hanks and a host of other guests arrive.

But away from that star-studded occasion, the festival will already have kicked off in earnest in the early evening with screenings of the archive restoration of Jean Cocteau’s classic fantasy La Belle et la Bête, and Story of My Death, the latest film from Spanish maverick Albert Serra.

Meanwhile, there’s an intriguing documentary about what our programmer Michael Blyth suggests “might just be the greatest movie never made”: an abortive adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic Dune developed by the phantasmagorical imagination of Alejandro Jodorowsky.

We’ll be back soon with that press conference, and a terrific behind-the-scenes image from the making of La Belle et la Bête, showing Jean Cocteau working his magic.

A bit of history

We might as well start with a bit of history. In case you’ve ever wondered which film opened the BFI London Film Festival in, say, 2002… or 1995… or 1963… we’ve put together a complete list of every single opening night film going back to the very first Festival in 1957.

It took a fair bit of hunting around. Not even Wikipedia has this info yet.

Here’s a clue as to what the opening film of all opening films was…

Captain Phillips – first-look reviews

Back to this year’s opener, and after screening to the press this morning, first-look reviews of Captain Phillips are starting to appear.

“Watching it, I succumbed more or less immediately to an attack of “Greengrass cotton-mouth”: the two-hour anxiety attack that only a movie by Paul Greengrass can provoke,” writes The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw.

“With his 9/11 nightmare United 93 (2006) and his Northern Ireland drama Bloody Sunday (2002) I came down with these same symptoms: shallow breathing, heart arrhythmia, a high-pitched keening coming from somewhere behind clenched teeth and a tendency to grab the red plush of the seat in front. Or even the scalp of the unfortunate person sitting in it.” Read the full review

In Time Out, Dave Calhoun calls Tom Hanks’s turn as Captain Phillips one of his “most affecting performances in years. Watching one scene, in which he suffers a full-on emotional collapse, you’ll start to wonder if panic attacks are contagious.” Read the full review

Also affected by the experience was Channel 4’s Jon Snow. Emerging into the daylight of Leicester Square, he tweeted:

Tom Hanks on meeting the real Captain Phillips

“It’s not the most realistic of moments, to walk into somebody’s house and say ‘Hi… I’m… yeah… Forrest Gump… yeah, that’s me… and I will now be playing you in a film, whether you like it or not.’ It’s an interesting dilemma that you have.”

Tom Hanks at the Captain Phillips press conference

Tom Hanks at the Captain Phillips press conference

Tom Hanks sat down this morning to speak about his role as the eponymous Captain Phillips.

He spoke of the five or six hours he’d spent in the company of the real Richard Phillips, captain of the Maersk Alabama – a container ship attacked by a crew of Somali pirates in 2009 – in preparation for the role, and was keenly aware of the sense of responsibility that comes with bringing a true-life story to the big screen:

“As long as you’re making the same film as the filmmaker’s making, you’re going for the same empirical sense of truth. You have to hew as closely to the truth as possible. It’s not a documentary of course, but even in the first meetings I had with Rich, I said ‘I’m gonna say things you never said. I’m gonna do things you did not do. But based on that, let’s get as close to the DNA of the authenticity as possible.’”

“Rich had given a lot of interviews, he had spoken to the media a lot, so he understood the oddity of it all and accepted it completely. But when he’s not at sea, he’s a very well adjusted guy. He’s funny, he’s kind of goofy.

“When I first met him he was only wearing socks, watching the basketball game from a lounge chair. We sat and watched the game for a while, then we started talking in general, about how he became a captain of such a ship as the Alabama. He got it completely, what we were going to set out to do. The questions I had for him were not so much a checklist of what he felt or what he did or what he saw, I was just trying to get a gestalt understanding of how complicated a thing it is to be a captain in the first place.

“What I discovered is that there’s an interior moment for Philips, and for me playing him, in which he has one sort of algorithm that is playing out in his head – one set of rules, one set of very specific tasks that he as the captain has to perform – and as soon as he saw those skiffs on the horizon, he had to wipe that board clean and come up with a completely different mental and physical formula to see it through to its end.”

Words: Matthew Thrift

If only all film posters looked like this…

It’s the dazzling original British poster for La Belle et la Bête, Jean Cocteau’s 1946 version of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale, which is screening in a brand new 4K digital restoration in… oh… 35 mins time.

There’s no singing teapots in this version, but there are some human candelabra.

Here’s Cocteau on set with his Beast and Beauty, Jean Marais and Josette Day: 

Jean Cocteau (centre) on the set of La Belle et la Bête (1946) with Jean Marais and Josette Day

Jean Cocteau (centre) on the set of La Belle et la Bête (1946) with Jean Marais and Josette Day

The red carpet’s down. Photographers are poised. There’s under an hour to go before our Opening Night Gala begins!

Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass are in the building, and this year’s Opening Night Gala is about to begin. 

We’ll be bringing you pro images from the red carpet anon. For now, let’s admire Terry Gilliam’s dapper get-up for the evening:

… and hear what the words ‘Tom Hanks’ bring to mind for Edith Bowman:

“We all survived a journey on the SS Greengrass,” Tom Hanks joked onstage just minutes ago at tonight’s screening of Captain Phillips.

As for us, it seems we’ve survived our first day live blogging. We’ll be back tomorrow with images and video from tonight’s red carpet, and a bundle of anticipation for some day two highlights, including the American Airlines Gala screening of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, and our Thrill Gala: Ivan Sen’s outback thriller Mystery Road.

We’ll leave you now with some love for the capital from Mr Hanks: “To be here for this, in this international city, the most important city in the world, I don’t know how this happened.” 

Welcome back to day two of the Festival.

Our collective stomachs are just starting to unchurn after the grand Opening Night Gala screening of Paul Greengrass’s super-tense real-life piracy thriller Captain Phillips last night.

Be warned, however, that nerves are in for another shredding tonight with the American Airlines Gala screening of Gravity, featuring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock cut loose in space and doomed to drift into eternity.

More on that later.

For now, let’s catch up with some highlights from last night’s red carpet – as Tom Hanks, Paul Greengrass and Captain Phillips producers Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca arrive at the Odeon Leicester Square.

Gravity (2013)

Gravity (2013)

Time for a dip into the twittersphere to see what reactions are like for Gravity, tonight’s American Airlines Gala, which screened for the press this morning.

This is one of a clutch of big new films that world-premiered to somewhat ecstatic reviews at the Venice Film Festival this year, so non-flying UK critics were surely keen to get in on the act:

For longer reading, we recommend David Jenkins’s review from Venice for Little White Lies:

“The science fiction film to which Alfonso Cuarón’s extraordinary Gravity bares the most striking resemblance is the ‘What Happens during Ejaculation?’ sequence in Woody Allen’s Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex* But Were Afraid to Ask. Here, instead of nebbish Woody dressed in a white spandex suit and crash helmet, we have Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as the floundering sperm, placed in an against-all-odds situation and driven by a singular desire to be The One to penetrate the skin of the glowing egg that is the Earth’s atmosphere.” Read the full review

We’re also quite taken with this retro poster for Cuarón’s 3D spectacular…

Borgman (2013)

Borgman (2013)

Lunchtime – a moment to catch up on some Festival reading.

With the LFF offering such a stacked cinematic buffet, it’s useful that various magazines and websites have been leaping to the aid of audiences in recent weeks with their own lists of the most essential films in this year’s Festival.

Time Out has offered its 10 films you have to see. Empire magazine lists 10 films to get excited about. Little White Lies ups the ante with 15 to see. The List goes for 20. And our very own Sight & Sound plucks out 30 Festival recommendations.

No one film makes all five of these lists, but a quick tot up suggests that, with four recommendations a piece, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, Richard Ayoade’s The Double, the Coen brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis and Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin would seem to be pretty hot tickets.

But then you knew that.

The real fun over the coming days comes in delving in and finding stuff that you didn’t know you needed to be excited about.

The image above is from one of this afternoon’s screenings – Borgman, a Dutch film described by our programmer Leigh Singer as “a sly twist on the home invasion thriller – imagine Michael Haneke’s Funny Games with genuine, if blackly comic, humour”.

An appetite-whetting description if ever there was one.

We did promise that Tom Hanks and Paul Greengrass press conference in full…

Here they are discussing what it was like meeting the real Captain Phillips, putting recent history on screen, and the perils of filming on the open sea.

This is Greengrass on why filming on a lifeboat isn’t for everyone:

We did some of [the lifeboat] scenes on a stage, on a gimble, but we started in the ocean, which was a truly horrendous experience. It’s very small, you’re low down, you’re crammed in there.

The first day we started shooting, Tom was in there with the four guys playing the pirates, Barry Ackroyd – the DP, the focus puller and Chris Carreras, my AD, while I was in a little camera boat next door with a walkie-talkie. We started the scene and it was going ok, but I was kind of anxious to drive on, so I spoke to Chris and said ‘What’s going on?’

He said: ‘The focus puller doesn’t look so good’.

So I said: ‘Listen, I don’t care, just shoot…’

Then he said: ‘The focus puller’s just thrown up all over Tom’.

I said: ‘I don’t care, shoot on’, to which he said: ‘Barry’s just thrown up too’.

Computer Chess (2013)

Computer Chess (2013)

One of the most eagerly awaited films in the Laugh strand at the Festival must be Computer Chess, the new film from Andrew Bujalski.

Bujalski made his name with Funny Ha Ha (2002) and Mutual Appreciation (2005), giving rise to the term ‘mumblecore’ in the process.

But his latest isn’t the usual contemporary tale of neurotic urbanites. Instead, it’s an ode to the analogue 1980s, set in a cheap hotel where geeks have gathered to work out whether it’s possible to design a computer program to beat human players at chess.

Appropriately enough, it’s all shot in black and white. What other colours does a film about chess need?

It had us wondering whether this game of kings had ever been given the cinematic treatment before.

Of course it has…

It’s getting close to that time again when the red carpets will be rolled out in Leicester Square.

Tonight, Sandra Bullock and Alfonso Cuarón will be in the limelight, ahead of our American Airlines Gala screening of Gravity.

We’ll be sharing highlights right here.

For now, let’s remind ourselves who the autograph hunters were hanging out for last night, with the first of our daily Festival image galleries.

It seems people are gravitating toward Leicester Square…

Meanwhile, on the other side of the square, we’re about to get underway with our Thrill Gala screening of Mystery Road, described by Festival Director Clare Stewart as a “slow-burn thriller, set in outback Australia against the harsh realities of a community marked with racial tension and economic inequality.”

Actor Jack Thompson, a familiar face from some of the classics of Australian cinema such as The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978) and Breaker Morant (1980), will be attending.

We’ll be bringing you some pearls from his on-stage Q&A tomorrow.

Here she is. Sandra Bullock wears Stella McCartney and talks to Edith Bowman at the Gravity premiere.

In other news, the BFI London Film Festival has a new first: word is that a guest just proposed to his girlfriend on the red carpet.

Away from the Gravity gala, there’s more genre fare tonight at the LFF with the world premiere of Sx_Tape, the latest film from Bernard Rose.

Sx_Tape (2013)

Sx_Tape (2013)

Michael Blyth, programmer of the Festival’s Cult strand, recently blogged for us about the film, claiming it as proof that there are still imaginative (and terrifying) new twists to be wrought from the ubiquitous found-footage horror sub-genre:

Rose (who will forever have a place in every horror lovers heart for the gifts of Paperhouse and Candyman) initially appears to venture down more traditional roads with Sx_Tape, with its archetypally spooky abandoned hospital setting. But he is far too cerebral a filmmaker to settle for the expected, quickly subduing fears that this is nothing more than a Grave Encounters (2011) knock-off by producing one of the scariest and strangest vérité shockers that you are likely to see. Not to mention one of the most confounding.

Read the full feature

And let’s not forget that the Festival’s Official Competition also gets under way this evening with the European premiere of David Mackenzie’s Starred Up.

These tweets are already in the ether:

Plenty to get our teeth into then.

We’ll be back tomorrow, ready to hit the road with Alexander Payne’s Nebraska – our Journey Gala.

And the Official Competition heats up with the latest from boy wonder Xavier Dolan: Tom at the Farm.

Good morning, and welcome back to day three of our BFI London Film Festival live blog.

Audiences are just about coming back down to earth after last night’s American Airlines Gala screening of Gravity, so let’s start with some elevenses viewing – video highlights from the red carpet featuring Sandra Bullock and director Alfonso Cuarón.

Also, director David Mackenzie and screenwriter Jonathan Asser explain the inspiration behind their urgent new prison drama Starred Up, and we dip in on a Screen Talk with Darren Aronofsky’s regular composer, Clint Mansell.

An Australian legend

Another highlight from last night was the chance to welcome veteran actor Jack Thompson to the Thrill Gala screening of Mystery Road.

Festival Director Clare Stewart described him as “a living legend of Australian film” – and seriously his filmography is packed with Australian classics.

Thompson makes a brief but memorable appearance in this atmospheric outback-set murder mystery as an eccentric hermit interviewed as part of an investigation into the murder of a young Aboriginal girl.

“I took one look at it and said yes,” Thompson said. “I think it’s a fabulous role and I was delighted to work with [director Ivan Sen].”

“The script as a whole is a very exciting piece and there’s a full arc for every character. I believe every film he’s made has this extraordinarily powerful subtext that appeals to every actor…”

He explained that the subtext of Mystery Road, which positions an idealistic indigenous cop (played by Aaron Pedersen) against a corrupt white community, was informed by Sen’s own Aboriginal heritage.

“Ivan took me to the top of the hill (on which we were filming), and looking out over the landscape, he said ‘The thing that’s extraordinary about this is that this was once the home to my people, and there isn’t one of them left. Most of them were hunted down by teams of black trackers.’”

“There are important parallels here with In the Heat of the Night – it really is the black man in the white man’s world.”

“But it’s more than that of course, because these are the indigenous people who have lived in that part of the world for over 80,000 years, and for at least 20,000 of those years knew no territorial warfare.”

“These people had achieved what we today say we want to achieve – peace in our time and equilibrium with our environment.”

“[Ivan] tells a tale in which this is the subtext – what has become of that civilisation is a [dead] young girl under the highway, and a young man [living in a] world that refuses to recognise the oldest continuous cultural tradition on the planet.”

Words: Paul O’Callaghan

A programmer’s life for me

Festival programmer Geoff Andrew just dropped us a line to share what he’d been up to on day two of the Festival.

Introducing a favourite Robert Mitchum film and meeting Sandra Bullock – not a bad start!

My first full day of the Festival illustrated just how crazily varied an experience it can be for those of us involved.

My first job was to host a Q&A with Călin Peter Netzer, Romanian director of the Berlinale Golden Bear-winner Child’s Pose.

Next up: introducing and watching a screening of the newly restored The Lusty Men, a truly terrific film by Nicholas Ray featuring what is in my opinion Robert Mitchum’s finest performance. (Great to see so many film folk – critics, exhibitors, distributors, festival directors, filmmakers – in the audience.)

Then a quick dash to the Curzon Mayfair for another Q&A, this time with Philippe Béziat, director of the fine opera documentary Becoming Traviata.

Finally, after dinner with Philippe, I bump into Alfonso Cuarón as he’s leaving the Gala party for his new movie Gravity, and he insists I join him for drinks with some friends.

Thanks to his co-producer David Heyman, I even get to exchange a few brief words with Sandra Bullock, star of their film. I congratulated her on a superb performance – in all sincerity.

This is one megahit that deserves all its plaudits. No wonder Alfonso was in such a great mood!

Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did for Love (2013)

Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did for Love (2013)

♫ Time for a tune. Recognise this?

This is Marvin Hamlisch’s rejig of a Scott Joplin ragtime melody for the 1973 caper film The Sting, starring Robert Redford and Paul Newman.

One of the great film composers, Hamlisch is the subject of the documentary Marvin Hamlisch: What He Did for Love, screening in the Sonic strand this afternoon.

Directed by Dori Bernstein, it traces his trajectory from young musical prodigy to becoming the Oscar-winning composer behind The Way We Were (1973) and Sophie’s Choice (1983).

Oh, and surely one of the best James Bond songs?

Our daily Festival ticket competition has been announced for today. Check our Twitter feed for our #lffbehere giveaway tweet and simply retweet before 3pm to enter the draw for tickets to Bad Hair at the Hackney Picturehouse tomorrow. More details.

A festival gem

Denis Côté’s Vic + Flo Saw a Bear is currently underway at BFI Southbank. Alex Davidson reckons the audience are in for a treat…

Vic + Flo Saw a Bear

Vic + Flo Saw a Bear

Twenty press screenings in, and the best one I’ve seen so far is a tough and quirky portrait of a tumultuous lesbian relationship.

Not Blue Is the Warmest Colour, but Vic + Flo Saw a Bear, a fantastic new film from Denis Côté, in which a pair of ex-cons try to form a new life in the Quebec countryside.

But fate has other plans.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a film that constantly surprises its audience.

The sociopathic Vic should be unsympathetic, but you root for her all the way.

The action switches from drama to romance to comedy to – most unexpectedly – thriller.

Best of all, it has the most unlikely terrifying villain since Ben Kingsley in Sexy Beast.

It’s also great to see a film that offers three knockout roles to three actresses over the age of 40.

A reminder of who was treading the red carpet last night… including Sandra Bullock, Emily Mortimer and Robin Wright.

Emily sat down with us last night after the preview screening of Doll & Em, her new TV series for Sky.

Stop by for that interview later on today.

Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells join us

In Doll & Em, actress Emily Mortimer employs her best friend Dolly Wells as her assistant, blurring the lines between their personal and professional relationships with hilariously painful results.

Azazel Jacobs’ new TV series got its first airing at the Festival last night. We found Mortimer and Wells in high spirits after the show…

Actors Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells attend a screening of Doll and Em (2013) on day two of the 57th BFI London Film Festival

Actors Emily Mortimer and Dolly Wells attend a screening of Doll and Em (2013) on day two of the 57th BFI London Film Festival

You’re best friends and now you’re playing best friends. What was it like working together for the first time?

Dolly Wells: It was really fun. Acting is fun anyway but to be working with somebody who you completely trust and, separately from being good friends with, think is a really good actor – it’s like playing tennis with someone who is better than you. You feel capable of anything. It was absolutely brilliant.

Emily Mortimer: Personally, it made me more confident than I would be on my own. We have these new roles that we’d never had before of, first of all acting together, but also writing, producing and being fully responsible for the entire world of this programme.

It was really quite intimidating. First of all, on our own I don’t think singularly we would have ever had the guts to have got to the stage where our show was being made.

Second of all, I found it made me more exacting and more perfectionistic about getting things right than I would have been on my own.

It’s really interesting how you talk about it as ‘yours’. Was it a labour of love? How proud are you of Doll & Em?

Dolly Wells: Things that I act in don’t feel like mine. You’re employed to say somebody else’s lines. But when it’s an idea that you’ve created, it’s incredibly exciting and it does feel like yours.

Emily Mortimer: We definitely feel proud of having done it, of the achievement of getting to the end of it and not being ridiculous people in the process.

Dolly Wells: While being ridiculous people!

Emily Mortimer: [Laughs] But whether or not we’re proud of the finished product itself it’s hard to be objective about that right now. I feel like people enjoyed it tonight which is starting to make me feel proud.

Interview: Chris Fennell

What the Dickens? It’s raining!

The Invisible Woman (2013)

The Invisible Woman (2013)

You step away from the live-blogging decks for a moment and get utterly drenched.

I had to make like these Victorian types in The Invisible Woman, Ralph Fiennes’s new film about Charles Dickens’s affair with a young theatre actress – screening as our Festival Gala next Thursday.

Let’s hope it all dries off before Alexander Payne arrives for our screening of Nebraska tonight.

Let’s see how festivalgoers are keeping dry this afternoon…

40 films for 50 states

Tonight’s Journey Gala film Nebraska, about a father-son road trip from Montana back to the Cornhusker State, is a homecoming film for director Alexander Payne.

Omaha-born, Payne set his first three films, Citizen Ruth (1996), Election (1999) and About Schmidt (2002), at least partially in Nebraska, before straying to California with 2004’s Sideways and to Hawaii with 2011’s The Descendants.

The name of his latest got us wondering whether every American state has been honoured with its own movie title.

Well, it was a fun little game while we await the man himself on the red carpet.

The answer is no. Turns out the movies don’t like compass points, so the Carolinas, the Dakotas and West Virginia are so far bereft.

No love for Maine, Massachusetts, Indiana or Washington that we could find either.

Washington titles, like Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), always refer to D.C. And the Indiana Jones films just felt like cheating.

Still, four fifths isn’t bad. Perhaps Alexander Payne can do Delaware next.

  • Sweet Home Alabama (2002)
  • North to Alaska (1960)
  • Raising Arizona (1987)
  • War Eagle, Arkansas (2007)
  • California Split (1974)
  • Colorado Territory (1949)
  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court (1947)
  • A Florida Enchantment (1914)
  • The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia (1981)
  • Blue Hawaii (1961)
  • My Own Private Idaho (1990)
  • Abe Lincoln in Illinois (1940)  
    Cheating: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

    Cheating: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)

  • Iowa (2005)
  • Kansas City (1996)
  • The Kentucky Fried Movie (1977)
  • Louisiana Story (1948)
  • The Pride of Maryland (1951)
  • The Michigan Kid (1947)
  • The Great Northfield Minnesota Raid (1972)
  • Mississippi Burning (1988)
  • The Missouri Breaks (1976)
  • Hannah Montana (2009)
  • Nebraska (2013)
  • Nevada Smith (1966)
  • Eversmile, New Jersey (1989)
  • Sons of New Mexico (1949)
  • Gangs of New York (2002)
  • The Oh in Ohio (2006)
  • Oklahoma! (1995)
  • How to Die in Oregon (2011)
  • The Prince of Pennsylvania (1998)
  • Getting Out of Rhode Island (2003)
  • Tennessee (2008)
  • The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974)
  • The Hills of Utah (1951)
  • Moonlight in Vermont (1943)
  • The Virginian (1946)
  • Wisconsin Death Trip (1999)
  • Green Grass of Wyoming (1948)

It doesn’t rain like this in Nebraska

Rest assured, we’ll have more images of Payne in the rain tomorrow, and a red carpet video interview to boot.

With luck, we’ll also have a snap or two of Alfonso Cuarón and his visual effects team giving tonight’s Gravity masterclass. Just how did they do it?

What else to look forward to tomorrow?

Well, the European premiere of Richard Ayoade’s new film The Double for a start.

The director will be walking the red carpet with a clutch of his lead actors. Yep, that means Jesse Eisenberg.

We leave you for now this intriguing photo of Ayoade on set, petting a stuffed tiger.

Be seeing you.

The Double (2013)

The Double (2013)

And action!

It’s day four of the Festival, and tonight’s biggie is the European premiere of Richard Ayoade’s The Double, starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska (above).

After Xavier Dolan’s Tom at the Farm played last night, and with fellow contender Like Father, like Son, the latest from Hirokazu Kore-eda, screening this afternoon, the Official Competition is really starting to hot up.

Before we get too excited about all that, let’s take a squiz at some filmed highlights from yesterday, including an anoraked Alexander Payne on the red carpet for the Journey Gala screening of Nebraska.

What’s more, we nabbed some time with director Kim Mordaunt to talk about his Laos-set drama The Rocket and James Ponsoldt about his bittersweet coming-of-age story The Spectacular Now.

Lots to fit in today, but let’s put a quick hoover round the twittersphere and see what festivalgoers made of some of last night’s movies. We’re none the wiser, but definitely intrigued, by this enigmatic response to Xavier Dolan’s Tom at the Farm:

…and Alexander Payne’s post-Nebraska Q&A seems to have gone well…

And here are some thoughts on Here Be Dragons, the latest from Mark Cousins, a director on fire at the moment:

Wounded: Fernando Franco on making his first feature

In among the titles included in our First Feature Competition is Wounded, the powerful story of Ana (Marian Álvarez), a 30-year-old ambulance driver with a personality disorder.

With Fernando Franco’s feature debut about to get its first LFF screening, we caught up with the Blancanieves (2012) editor to ask him about making the transition to the world of directing.

This is your first feature as a director. How did you find the experience?

I’ve been directing for many years but mainly short films. I don’t like to make a distinction between short films, documentary, features, fiction – for me everything is filmmaking. I’m the same with editing or directing. I understand my work as filmmaking in general. I will start cutting a film in two weeks for example and then I may make another short film.

So you bring your experience from the editing room into your work as a director?

In fact I take advantage of editing. When I’m working in the editing room with a director, for me it’s like a masterclass. I learn a lot about filmmaking with directors. When I direct, paradoxically, I shoot everything in one take. I don’t cut inside a scene. I learn a lot about filmmaking by choosing another way to do it.

What do you make of having your film in the BFI London Film Festival?

I arrived about an hour or two hours ago so I haven’t seen the city yet. I know London but I haven’t been in 13 years. I’m very happy to be here because many of friends have recommended the festival to me. It’s very good my film is in the [First Feature] Competition here – it’s the perfect place for it to be.

Interview: Chris Fennell

Going it alone: one-man shows at the LFF

With Robert Redford stuck on a boat in All Is Lost and Tom Hardy stuck in his car for Locke, Ashley Clark spots a pattern at this year’s Festival… 

The LFF category system (‘Love’, ‘Journey’, and so on) makes it easy to find themes across the diverse programme, but when you plan your own personal schedule, accidental sub-themes emerge.

This year, I’ve noticed a mini-trend of films taking the brave step of featuring just a single character.

Such a narrow focus could spell a dramatic kiss of death, but these films succeed through technical ingenuity, brilliant writing and tour-de-force performances.

I recommend J.C. Chandor’s tense All Is Lost – 106 minutes of Robert Redford trapped on a boat in the middle of nowhere.

So stripped back it’s almost experimental (closer to, say, Leviathan, than Castaway), the film is a showcase for Chandor’s economical direction – and 77-year-old Redford’s acting chops.

His performance is intensely physical, and his character’s instantaneous hunkering down into survival mode says more about his worldview than any amount of expository dialogue or formal flights of fancy ever could (here I’m thinking of Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours).

In 1967, the year Redford went Barefoot in the Park, avant-garde legend Shirley Clarke was shooting Portrait of Jason, an astonishing one-man performance piece that’s screening in its restored version. Clarke’s unblinking camera focuses on the eponymous hustler/raconteur/alcoholic, Jason Holliday, who raps and sings to camera.

It’s a gripping auto-interrogation of the ethics of documentary filmmaking and, anticipating our reality-TV-saturated culture, plays like a prototypical Big Brother audition tape… but don’t let that put you off.

Steven Knight’s Locke, meanwhile, is a high-concept thriller starring Tom Hardy as a Welsh foreman confined to a car with only his hands-free speakerphone to help him navigate his personal problems (Hardy is ably supported by some lively voice acting by the likes of Olivia Colman).

Locke is as good as I’ve ever seen Hardy, and the strength of his performance helps to override any contrivance that creeps into Knight’s script.

All three are well worth your time, and prove that an intensely singular focus needn’t preclude genuinely cinematic results.

Time for some more director chat.

Just in time for the first screening of Hello Carter tonight, here’s Anthony Wilcox to talk about his directorial debut, a London-set tale of love in the capital, which our programmer Michael Blyth calls a “warm, witty and effortlessly charming take on the romcom”.

Gone fishing…

Kon-Tiki (2013)

Kon-Tiki (2013)

There’ll be a hiatus on the live blog for a couple of hours, while we make like Thor Heyerdahl in Kon-Tiki and head out for a spot of shark wrestling.

Actually, we’re only heading down to Leicester Square for a screening of a 4K digital restoration of Jacques Demy’s Model Shop (1969).

After a string of sublime French New Wave love letters to the American musical, such as The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967), Demy went out to Los Angeles to make this story of a restless architect and his relationship with an enigmatic French woman (Anouk Aimée).

Model Shop (1969)

Model Shop (1969)

Expect buckets of chic 60 style, a groovy, psych-rock soundtrack by west coast rockers Spirit, and Demy’s usual sublime feeling for colour and emotion.

We’ll be back later for the exciting build up to tonight’s Competition film, The Double – Richard Ayoade’s modern version of Dostoyevsky’s story of man haunted by his own lookalike.

Jesse Eisenberg, Mia Wasikowska, Richard Ayoade and Michael Caine will all be making their way along the red carpet.

No doppelgängers here.

So Model Shop was something of a treat – a plangent (and groovy) ode to unrequited loves, with dreamlike driving sequences around the boulevards of Los Angeles, in which Gary Lockwood’s architect trails the beautiful Anouk Aimée like a hippie-era descendant of James Stewart’s character in Vertigo (1958).

Fascinating to see the French director adapting his fondness for pastel colours and forlorn romance to the sights and sounds of the west coast in the days of the Vietnam war.

By the time the film was over, the red carpets were out and a crowd had already gathered around the barricades outside the cinema to catch a glimpse of this evening’s celebrity guests.

Director Nicole Holofcener and actor Julia Louis-Dreyfuss were arriving for the premiere of Enough Said, also starring the late James Gandolfini.

We caught a snap of Holofcener talking to Edith Bowman:

Later it’ll be the cast and crew of The Double making their way to the film’s European premiere. We’ll have images from that event later.

For now, let’s remind ourselves who came to town last night with our day three Festival gallery…

The Double (2013)

The Double (2013)

Jesse Eisenberg can lay some claim to being one of the stars of this year’s LFF, featuring as he does in both our Thrill Gala screening of Kelly Reichardt’s Night Moves and the Official Competition contender The Double.

Sight & Sound’s Geoffrey Macnab recently caught up with the man himself.

While we await his presence on the red carpet for The Double (which the actor calls “the most interesting experience I’ve ever had”), there’s time enough to read the full interview here.

Men of the hour Jesse Eisenberg and director Richard Ayoade arrive at the Odeon West End for the European premiere of The Double.

These two you’ll recognise from Ayoade’s first film, Submarine – Craig Roberts and Yasmin Paige…

That’s a wrap for tonight.

We’ll have images and video with The Double cast and crew tomorrow. We’ll also bring you some audience reactions from the screening.

What does tomorrow bring at the Festival?

Well, Lukas Moodysson will be joining us for the Sonic Gala screening of his We Are the Best!

And the Official Competition continues with Pawel Pawlikowski’s Ida, Jahmil X.T. Qubeka’s Of Good Report and Jonathan Glazer’s much heralded Under the Skin.

Over and out for now.

It’s day five of the Festival – a day of dark, sci-fi visions.

We go back to the dystopian future with Terry Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem, while the Official Competition continues with Jonathan Glazer’s much-anticipated Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien stalking the Scottish highlands.

More on both those later, as well as our Sonic Gala screening of Lukas Moodysson’s We Are the Best! and two more Official Competition contenders: Pawel Pawlikowski’s Polish homecoming film Ida and Jahmil XT Qubeka’s provocative drama Of Good Report.

But first, let’s join Jesse Eisenberg and Richard Ayoade on the red carpet for video highlights from last night’s screening of The Double.

We also talk to Julia Louis-Dreyfus on arrival at the screening of Enough Said, co-starring the late James Gandolfini, and British director Anthony Wilcox about his London-set romcom Hello Carter.

Despatch from the Computer Chess front line

Some lunchtime reading. Put aside the Sunday papers, and read how programmer Damon Wise has been spending his Festival so far…

My LFF began early Thursday evening with Computer Chess at the Ritzy; my guest was Alex Lipschultz, the film’s producer and a very funny guy.

The director, mumblecore legend Andrew Bujalski, had made and sent a charming video intro, in which he mainly marvelled at how easy it was to make and send a video intro.

He didn’t say much about the film to follow, but he did shoot himself sitting in front of some kind of sculptured rooster, which, although nobody noticed, is apparently one of his “things” these days.

Computer Chess (2013)

Computer Chess (2013)

Alex was a great guest, fully accepting that the film is pretty crazy, being a dry comedy about a computer chess competition that turns into an all-out war of the nerds.

No, it wasn’t shot on genuine 40-year-old equipment, he said, but they came very close, using refitted analogue gear that would output to digital. And, no, there isn’t any real documentary footage, although the bulk of the cast were non-professionals.

There were two more interesting revelations:

1) The film features a rare appearance by Wiley Wiggins, star of Richard Linklater’s Dazed & Confused (1993), who dropped out of acting to become – appropriately enough – a computer programmer.

2) The actor who plays the wily Mike Papageorge is an old friend of Bujalski’s who studied at Harvard and Yale, then moved to an island off the coast of Washington state to live in a treehouse and become a chocolatier, two words I’ve certainly never heard spoken in the same sentence before.

Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda is a bit of a regular at the BFI London Film Festival.

He was back in town yesterday for the first screening of his latest film, Like Father, like Son – screening as part of the Official Competition.

If Twitter is to be believed, it had a large section of the audience in tears. Here he is arriving at Leicester Square…

Mistaken for a rock documentary

Over at the Hackney Picturehouse last night, audiences enjoyed a rock documentary with a difference. Paul O’Callaghan was there to report…

Mistaken for Strangers is ostensibly a documentary following Brooklyn-based indie rockers The National on a world tour after the breakthrough commercial success of their 2010 album High Violet.

But this as about as far from a conventional rock doc as you can imagine.

Directed by Tom Berninger, younger brother of band frontman Matt, the film is instead a funny, poignant and immediately relatable reflection on what it’s like to live in the shadow of a successful sibling.

Tom, a film school graduate who hadn’t picked up a camera in over five years, was living with his parents in Cincinnati when Matt invited him on tour.

Taking part in a Q&A last night after the film’s festival premiere, he admitted that the film started to come together when he shifted focus away from the band and towards his complex relationship with his brother:

I really had no clear focus… I didn’t know I was making a movie until my brother leaked it to the press, and I had nothing… There are lot of people my age, in their late 20s and early 30s that are still trying to figure themselves out in life. And I don’t know that there’s been very many stories that have told that kind of struggle, because I think it’s a new phenomenon… [My position is] maybe more universal than I’d thought.

The film also derives much humour from Tom’s apparent ambivalence towards The National’s music. When asked directly by an audience member whether he had any time for the band, he explained that he was far more into heavy metal than his brother’s introspective, melancholic brand of rock, but that he has some appreciation for their work.

I like the music for the fact that it’s not totally poppy. Pop music for me sounds empty… The National is probably the closest we have (to a pop band) that deals with what real life is about. But I don’t listen to them anymore… They’ve got enough fans!

In case you missed it, here’s director Matt Wolf (Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell) taking to the stage to answer questions from the audience after a screening of his new film, Teenage – a documentary about history’s rise of the teenager based on Jon Savage’s book Teenage: The Creation of Youth.

Feast your eyes on some of the red carpet stars from yesterday at the Festival, including guests at the premieres of The Double, Enough Said, Hello Carter and Kon-Tiki.

Mark Cousins the cinematic explorer

Here Be Dragons! Included as part of this year’s Documentary Competition, Mark Cousins’ latest is a poetic exploration of the political and cultural landscape of Albania.

We were there to record the Q&A after its first screening, which finds Cousins on typically energetic form.

Dressed for the autumn, Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack were to be seen in Leicester Square this afternoon, attending a screening of The Last Impresario, a new documentary about 1970s playboy and bon vivant Michael White.

Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack attend a screening of The Last Impresario (2013) at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Jeremy Irons and Sinéad Cusack attend a screening of The Last Impresario (2013) at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

It being the day of rest, we’re signing off from the live blog a little earlier than usual this evening.

We’ll be bringing you highlights from the red carpet first thing tomorrow, including snaps of directors Terry Gilliam, Lukas Moodysson and Jonathan Glazer as they arrive at Leicester Square for their respective films, The Zero Theorem, We Are the Best!, and Under the Skin.

We’ll also have an interview with Kate Winslet no less, ahead of tomorrow’s big May Fair Hotel Gala screening of Labor Day.

There’s load more screenings to come this evening, of course; the Festival never sleeps. Live bloggers must, however.

Exhibition (2013)

Exhibition (2013)

Till tomorrow.

Terry Gilliam attends a screening of The Zero Theorem (2013) at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Terry Gilliam attends a screening of The Zero Theorem (2013) at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Welcome back to day six of the Festival.

Last night was an evening of mind-altering sci-fi, when Jonathan Glazer unveiled his third film, Under the Skin, and Terry Gilliam came to town with The Zero Theorem, his return to the dystopian vision-making of Brazil (1985) and 12 Monkeys (1995).

The jamboree continues today with our May Fair Hotel Gala screening of Jason Reitman’s romantic thriller Labor Day, starring Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin, and first outings for two more films in our Official Competition: Catherine Breillat’s Abuse of Weakness and Clio Barnard’s Oscar Wilde-derived social-realist fable The Selfish Giant.

Composer Michael Nyman is joining us to play solo piano from a selection of his best film scores, and there’s a chance to see Afternoon Delight, recently big-upped by Quentin Tarantino as one of his 10 favourite films of the year.

Lots more to enjoy, of course, but if you’re looking to experience the Festival mainly from behind a desk during today, drop by the live blog in a bit, when we’ll have some words with the stars and director of Labor Day as they face the press this afternoon.

Twitter is – as it’s prone to be – abuzz with reactions to the big screenings of last night: Lukas Moodysson’s girl-punk coming-of-age story We Are the Best!, Gilliam’s The Zero Theorem, and Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin.

Some highlights…

Spot the difference

It Happened One Night (1934)

It Happened One Night (1934)

Glückskinder (1936)

Glückskinder (1936)

At top is the famous ‘Wall of Jericho’ moment from Frank Capra’s screwball comedy It Happened One Night (1934).

Haughty heiress Claudette Colbert is thrown together with down-at-heel reporter Clark Gable on a road trip. Forced to share a hotel room, they erect a dividing wall made out of bed sheets to preserve their honour.

Two years later, the Germans went one better – ditching the bed sheets and replacing them with cacti.

Capra’s film had been wildly popular in Germany, so it was quickly remade by the studio UFA.

Miraculously restored from its decomposed print, Paul Martin’s Glückskinder (Lucky Kids) screens as one of the Festival’s archive offerings this evening.

Programmer Clyde Jeavons explains:

“Escapist films played a huge role in normalising the Nazi state – they kept the people entertained and their minds off politics, too – and propaganda chief Josef Goebbels was a keen admirer of Hollywood. Glückskinder ticked all of those boxes. [It’s] is a prime example of Nazi-era musical comedy.”

Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin and director Jason Reitman are in the house for a press conference ahead of tonight’s Labor Day gala screening. Full report coming shortly…

A festival gem

Alex Davidson has spotted a treat in tonight’s Festival schedule: Gym Lumbera’s magical fable Anak Araw

I’m a bit of a lightweight when it comes to experimenta, so I was surprised when a one-hour slice of magic realism set in the Philippines turned out to be one of the highlights of the Festival so far.

Truth be told, I’m not sure I’d have worked out it was about the attempts of an albino (anak-araw) boy to connect with his supposedly American father through reading a Tagalog-English dictionary had I not read the synopsis, but it’s the film’s incredible visuals that make me want to see it again (I’m keeping my fingers crossed it’ll be picked up by a UK distributor).

Programmer Benjamin Cook says it looks like “it has been salvaged from the sea”, a beautiful and accurate description.

Cultural identity is a common theme in both mainstream and arthouse cinema, but director-screenwriter Gym Lumbera proves that artists’ film may be the best means representing this most abstract of concepts.

It’s utterly beautiful and haunting – the trailer offers a snapshot of its mesmerising style.

The word from the street

Londoner Xialou Guo unveiled her new film Late at Night: Voices of Ordinary Madness over the weekend. She spared us some time to tell us how it all came together.

How did the project emerge?

Because I lived in Hackney, East London for the past 10 years – around London Fields, Hackney Road etc – and I came across lots of different people, street tramps, gangsters, people who are on the poverty line in the street.

And I was talking to them – most of them are immigrants from Africa or Arab countries, some are cockney English but have completely gone mad – and I said, well, that’s really quite a story to tell, how we’re being imprisoned by society. Everybody’s story is so tragic.

Living in east London yourself, did you bring your own personal experiences to the film?

Definitely. London has become so multicultural and international, especially around where I live in Hackney.

Most foreigners, like me from China, are very hard working because we have to make a life for ourselves, but the local English working-class have a very different story and have ended up on the street.

It’s important to understand people who have been on the street for almost 30 years and how we really relate to them. The film doesn’t have an answer but it penetrates so many different lives.

Are you proud to see it in the LFF?

This is the world premiere for this film and it feels really right to launch it here.

Interview: Chris Fennell

Festival reading

Getting its first LFF screening tonight as part of the Official Competition, is The Selfish Giant, the second film from Clio Barnard.

Barnard previously wowed critics with her innovative documentary The Arbor (2010), about Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar.

Her latest presents a move into fiction, and garnered raves when it world-premiered at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.

In The Guardian, Peter Bradshaw wrote: “Barnard’s storytelling is heartfelt and passionate, fluent and supremely confident and this is a heart-wrenching movie with some stunning set pieces … This is a fine film, which cements Barnard’s growing reputation as one of Britain’s best filmmakers.”

The new edition of Sight & Sound magazine carries a full review, which finds critic Jonathan Romney impressed by a fusion of social realism and visual poetry. Here’s a snippet:

Having chosen to pitch her stall this time directly on the royal road of British art cinema, Barnard nevertheless brings a distinctive poetic spin to her material, making the film as much a study of the porous boundary between town and country as Kes was. There’s a strikingly eerie ruralist magic to the repeated shots of horses standing on horizons at night – Barnard and DP Mike Eley make strong, often stylised use of horizontals, including the frame of the bed that Arbor sometimes hides under (his own arbour, perhaps?).

[…]

Like Billy Casper in Kes, Arbor embodies the capacity of the young soul to endure society’s best attempts to crush it – and seeing him shin up a lamp post carries echoes of Billy’s scrawny athleticism in the Loach film. 

from the November 2013 issue of Sight & Sound (read moredigital log in)

Terry Gilliam, Lily Cole, Sanjeev Bhaskar, Meera Syal, Lukas Moodysson, Jeremy Irons, Greta Scacchi, Alfonso Cuarón, Jonathan Glazer… yesterday saw busy times on the red carpet…

‘I just have a feeling you’re gonna love this’

The press has just heard all about Labor Day, tonight’s May Fair Hotel Gala, from its stars Kate Winslet and Josh Brolin and director Jason Reitman. Paul O’Callaghan was in their midst…

Having established himself with a succession of wry comedies including Juno and Young Adult, Jason Reitman makes a bold departure with Labor Day.

Adapted from Joyce Maynard’s 2009 novel, this sweeping melodrama sees reclusive single mother Adele (Kate Winslet) forced into harbouring escaped convict Frank (Josh Brolin) in her home after a chance encounter in a supermarket, and forming an intense attachment to him over the course of a Labor Day holiday weekend.

As Reitman and his stars spoke to the press today ahead of the film’s Gala premiere, it was clear that this unlikely premise played a huge part in attracting all three to the project, and posed substantial creative challenges.

Jason Reitman: My producer Helen Estabrook gave (the book) to me and said “this is unlike anything you’ve ever done and doesn’t resemble anything you’ve ever said you want to do, but I just have a feeling you’re gonna love this”.

And that was the absolute truth. I fell in love with the story, but was really scared because it was so different from anything I’d ever done.

Labor Day (2013)

Labor Day (2013)

Kate Winslet: [For Adele] taking this man into her home is so completely bizarre and irrational, and I would find myself trying to find reasons for her actions… And sometimes I couldn’t, so what I would do is play the motherly, instinctive honesty of the moment: she’s standing there opposite a very menacing looking man who has his hand on the back of her child’s neck and all she thinks is “I just need to say yes so I can get my son back by my side”, without really thinking about what might happen 10 seconds later.

Josh Brolin: People say how unlikely this all is, and then you go and watch Jurassic Park and you’re like, “and this would happen?”

We’ve created a romance which is indeed a movie [relationship], but I think it represents how far we’ve come as characters in terms of our own emotional needs… It’s not really that far-fetched, at least for me, emotionally.

Time for our daily reel of highlights from yesterday’s red carpet events.

You’ve seen the pictures, now watch the film – starring Jonathan Glazer, Terry Gilliam and Lukas Moodysson.

First comes the black tape. Then the red carpet.

Then? Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin and Jason Reitman.

The time is drawing near for our May Fair Hotel Gala screening of Labor Day.

‘It’s not like Naomi Watts in Diana!’

Before Kate Winslet and co arrive for Labor Day this evening, autograph hunters at Leicester Square will be keeping themselves busy with more esteemed guests to the Festival: director Catherine Breillat and – one of the great actors of our age – Isabelle Huppert.

Their new collaboration, Abuse of Weakness, is playing as part of our Official Competition.

Ashley Clark met up with Breillat earlier today…

Catherine Breillat has never been afraid of broaching controversial material in her work, but her latest, Abuse of Weakness, may be her most personal work yet, based as it is on her real life experiences with a con man who took advantage of her after her serious stroke in 2004.

I was able to grab a few moments with the French director, and started by asking her about the similarities of the film to real life…

It’s not a biopic… It’s not like Naomi Watts in Diana! Really, it’s half me, half Isabelle [Huppert, playing Maud – the character based on Breillat], and everything she brought to the table as an actress.

On the set, I filmed the scenes with my own body first. The only things she copied from me was to capture the physical handicap. She brought so much, she was fantastic. Maud, although she has roots in truth, is a fictional character. And I think that’s much, much more interesting.

I wanted to explore the history of this story, how it unfolded. It made the tabloids.

Generally speaking, in my films, nothing is clear cut – it’s never just black and white. It’s mixed.

You have to discern the white, but really it’s more black.

When you become handicapped and ill, who helps you?  When you have all that time in your house, you must become friends, you feel all the emotion – much more than before.

Emotionally, it changes a person’s character very much. You feel this much more than before.

Isabelle Huppert brings some Gallic chic to the red carpet before the screening of her new film, Abuse of Weakness, now underway at Odeon West End.

Isabelle Huppert attends a screening of Abuse of Weakness during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Isabelle Huppert attends a screening of Abuse of Weakness during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Isabelle Huppert attends a screening of Abuse of Weakness during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Isabelle Huppert attends a screening of Abuse of Weakness during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Right now: Kate Winslet, Josh Brolin and Jason Reitman are introducing their new film, Labor Day, at our May Fair Hotel Gala screening.

Here they are arriving on the red carpet…

That’s all the glamour a live blog can hold for one day.

Join us again tomorrow when we’ll be looking forward to welcoming the Coen brothers, Carey Mulligan, Oscar Isaac and Marcus Mumford to our Centrepiece Gala screening of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Lady in red

Actually these have just come back from the lab, and they’re too good to wait till the morning.

Ladies and gents, we give you… Kate Winslet.

Kate Winslet attends a screening of Labor Day (2013) during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square.

Kate Winslet attends a screening of Labor Day (2013) during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square.


Kate Winslet attends a screening of Labor Day (2013) during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square.

Kate Winslet attends a screening of Labor Day (2013) during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square.


Kate Winslet attends a screening of Labor Day (2013) during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square.

Kate Winslet attends a screening of Labor Day (2013) during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square.

Hello again, and welcome to day seven of our Festival live blog.

No doubt you’ve seen a resplendent Kate Winslet in red all over the morning papers, pictured at our Gala screening of Labor Day last night.

Now’s your chance to see her in action, as she’s interviewed by Edith Bowman on the red carpet with her co-star Josh Brolin and director Jason Reitman.

Also featuring in our daily highlights reel: the young stars of The Selfish Giant, and we’ve extracts from the on-stage Q&A following our Love Gala screening of Palme d’or winner Blue Is the Warmest Colour.

‘I wanted to plunge the audience into a beehive’

Screening as part of the Festival’s Documentary Competition, La Maison de la radio – the latest film from director Nicolas Philibert – is a day-in-the-life look into the workings of a French radio station.

Matthew Thrift was in the audience last night to hear the man himself talk bees, ants and the art of listening…

Nicolas Philibert

Nicolas Philibert

“I wanted to plunge the audience into a beehive”, said Nicolas Philibert to a bewildered audience after last night’s screening of his charmingly eccentric new documentary, La Maison de la radio.

After a moment’s conference with his equally bemused translator he attempted to clarify what he meant.

“Like a hill of ants” he said, further mixing his insect metaphors.

More whispering with the translator followed.

“A hive of activity!” he suddenly exclaimed, “I wanted to plunge the audience into a hive of activity!”

Charting the course of “a virtual day” at Radio France headquarters, La Maison de la radio puts a face to the voices of the director’s beloved station.

It took him less than two minutes to persuade the director of Radio France to allow him access to the station HQ, elaborating that the main difficulty didn’t come from the station or its staff.

“It was my own appetite. I wanted to film everywhere, there was so much going on… But you can’t film everything, it would be meaningless. You have to build up the film by making choices, no matter how interesting someone is. It’s about making a film, not a catalogue”.

He went on to suggest that the idea was not to make a film about an institution, its mechanisms or devices, but “to make a film about listening, about sound”.

It certainly came from a position of love and admiration for the medium itself.

“What we need to protect is radio’s diversity. The diversity of its subjects, the strangeness, the madness of it all. Everything that isn’t in a mould… There’s a man in the film making a programme purely out of recorded sounds. This is what’s precious, they’re like little pockets of resistance to me”.

Time to plunge into the beehive that is the world of Twitter to assess the buzz around some of last night’s big screenings – including Competition films Abuse of Weakness and The Selfish Giant, the Love Gala screening of Blue Is the Warmest Colour, and the May Fair Hotel Gala bonanza of Labor Day, starring queen bee Kate Winslet.

A festival gem

One to watch: Ashley Clark tells us why he hasn’t been able to get Jason Osder’s documentary Let the Fire Burn out of his head…

Let the Fire Burn (2013)

Let the Fire Burn (2013)

The concept of a municipal government authorising the bombing of its own citizens – whatever activities they might’ve been up to – is unconscionable; the idea that the mayor would issue a further order for his emergency services to refrain from putting out the resulting fire is even worse.

Yet this this heinous series of events is exactly what happened in Philadelphia in 1985, when mayor Wilson Goode (a black man) launched an attack on the compound of MOVE, a black liberation group, thus sealing the deaths of 11 people.

Using a bricolage style similar to Asif Kapadia’s breathtaking Senna, debutant director Jason Order has illuminated the horrifying story using carefully selected and brilliantly edited archive footage: of news reports, courtroom briefings, video testimonies.

As a whole, the film feels like a freshly discovered artefact.

I first saw Let the Fire Burn at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York earlier this year. When it ended I felt drained, and I’ve struggled to shake it ever since.

Bravely (but sensibly), the film provides no answers, and offers no pat conclusions about race relations or government policy.

Instead, what’s left is the stark reality of an impossibly complex, terribly sad situation.

Not an easy watch, then, but an essential one, especially as a blazing example of how the subjectivity of veracity is tackled in documentary form.

Making cinematic tracks across Australia

Tracks (2013)

Tracks (2013)

A recurring face on screens at this year’s Festival is Mia Wasikowska.

She’s to be seen playing the object of Jesse Eisenberg’s desires in Richard Ayoade’s The Double, as well as the sister who disrupts Tom Hiddleston and Tilda Swinton’s reunion in Jim Jarmush’s modern-day vampire story Only Lovers Left Alive.

And tonight, she’s trekking 2,700km on foot across the Australian outback in John Curran’s epic adventure Tracks, based on the true story of Robyn Davidson.

“A paean to both one woman’s courage and to the magnificent land she traverses” (Clare Stewart), it’s beautifully shot by Mandy Walker, a cinematographer with an unrivalled eye for the Australian bush (Lantana, 2001; Australia, 2008).

For some lunchtime eye candy, in the lead up to the film’s first Festival screening this evening, we’ve put together some of our favourite images of the Australian landscape on film.

The autograph hunters

A familiar sight of the BFI London Film Festival is the autograph hunters who flock to the red carpets at Leicester Square every night.

Let’s remind ourselves of some of the big game they’ve bagged so far…

Sandra Bullock attends a screening of Gravity at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square.

Sandra Bullock attends a screening of Gravity at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square.

Kate Winslet attends a screening of Labor Day (2013) during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square.

Kate Winslet attends a screening of Labor Day (2013) during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square.

Terry Gilliam attends a screening of The Zero Theorem (2013) at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Terry Gilliam attends a screening of The Zero Theorem (2013) at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus attends a screening of Enough Said (2013) during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus attends a screening of Enough Said (2013) during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Jesse Eisenberg attends a screening of The Double (2013) during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Jesse Eisenberg attends a screening of The Double (2013) during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Lots of talk today about The Selfish Giant, Clio Barnard’s new social-realist fable about two boys who take work collecting scrap for a ruthless junkyard dealer.

We found some time with Barnard to talk through her inspiration for the film.

And here she last night, before the Festival premiere…

Director Clio Barnard attends The Selfish Giant screening during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Director Clio Barnard attends The Selfish Giant screening during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Is this the Festival’s finest performance?

Watching Abuse of Weakness today, Geoff Andrew found himself floored – once again – by Isabelle Huppert.

It would be wrong for me ever to describe myself as ‘surprised’ by the excellence of Isabelle Huppert.

She is, after all, one of the very greatest actresses working today, and has been since the youthful turn in The Lacemaker which first brought her international fame back in 1977.

But sometimes she is just so extraordinary that my emotional response is not so very different from surprise.

Actor Isabelle Huppert attends the Abuse Of Weakness screening during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at the Odeon West End.

Actor Isabelle Huppert attends the Abuse Of Weakness screening during the 57th BFI London Film Festival at the Odeon West End.

And so it was today while I was watching Catherine Breillat’s Abuse of Weakness.

It’s a partly autobiographical film in which Huppert takes the lead role of Maud, a film director first knocked for six by a stroke and then caught up in a strange relationship with a guy notorious for swindling people out of money.

Even the very first scene, in which we see Maud waking in her bed to find she can no longer move her arm, feels like a revelation.

The bewilderment and terror in her eyes are immediately apparent, and by the time she starts trying to get out of bed, Maud’s physical torment is remarkably palpable.

Simply seeing Huppert apparently struggling to make her body do what she wants it to is, believe it not, quite a painful experience.

She somehow makes us feel the agony and anxiety, the frustration and the sheer effort of Maud’s predicament.

And it’s not only in these initial scenes that the actress manages to do this; even when Maud has recovered a little, and is able to limp around the streets, we never forget how difficult it is for her how tricky even negotiating a shallow kerb can be.

There are many fantastic performances in the festival – Child’s Pose, Camille Claudel 1915, Blue Is the Warmest Colour and Gloria, for instance, all spring immediately to my mind for their lead actresses, Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska for their lead actors.

But if there’s a finer performance than Huppert’s as Maud, then I really will be surprised.

Not long now till we’ll be greeting the Coen brothers and their latest stars Carey Mulligan and Oscar Isaac to our Centrepiece Gala screening of Inside Llewyn Davis.

Then, later on this evening, Jesse Eisenberg is back on the square in company with Night Moves director Kelly Reichardt for our Debate Gala.

Starry, starry night.

But then yesterday was no different – and we’ve got the snaps to prove it…

Some great images coming back from tonight’s red carpet event for Inside Llewyn Davis…

That’s a wrap for tonight.

We’ll have all the action and glamour from tonight’s events presented in easily digestible video and photographic form tomorrow.

That’s Carey Mulligan, John Goodman, Jesse Eisenberg, the Coens – all served up for your viewing pleasure.

On day eight of the LFF, all eyes will be on Judi Dench, Steve Coogan and director Stephen Frears as their massively acclaimed new drama Philomena hits these shores for its very first screening, as our American Express Gala.

What’s more, Joseph Gordon-Levitt will be dropping by to introduce his directorial debut, Don Jon (our Laugh Gala), there are archive treats in restored versions of Orson Welles’s The Lady from Shanghai (1947) and Hammer’s The Witches (1966), and the Official Competition marches on with Peter Landesman’s Parkland.

For now, it’s time for your humble live blogger to hit the town.

Glückskinder (1936)

Glückskinder (1936)

Carey Mulligan attends a screening of Inside Llewyn Davis at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square.

Carey Mulligan attends a screening of Inside Llewyn Davis at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon Leicester Square.

Here’s Carey Mulligan amusing the gathered crowd at last night’s Centrepiece Gala screening of the Coen brothers’ latest, Inside Llewyn Davis, their dip into the pre-Dylan Greenwich Village folk music scene.

Before we move on to today’s excitement, not least our American Express Gala screening of Philomena, there’s time to squeeze in some elevenses video highlights from last night.

We’ve got Mulligan, the Coens, Oscar Isaac and John Goodman on the red carpet, and some on-stage chat with Catherine Breillat after a screening of her powerful drama Abuse of Weakness.

Philomena has just screened for the press, so we’ll be bringing you a roundup of the reactions, while we wait to hear from stars Judi Dench, Steve Coogan and director Stephen Frears at a press conference this afternoon.

Stephen Frears on location for Philomena (2013)

Stephen Frears on location for Philomena (2013)

This is director Stephen Frears on location for his new comic drama Philomena, the true story of an elderly Irish woman’s attempts to trace the long-lost son taken away from her during her adolescence in a Catholic convent.

Judi Dench plays Philomena Lee, with Steve Coogan as the former BBC journalist who travels to America with her to help with her search.

Critics have just spilled out onto a rainy Leicester Square after an early morning press show, ahead of tonight’s American Express Gala.

Many of them seem to be complaining of something in their eye…

Glamour and heartbreak in a hall of mirrors

Time for some glamour from another era.

These dazzling publicity shots feature Orson Welles and his then wife Rita Hayworth in various moody poses for The Lady from Shanghai, Welles’s labyrinthine 1947 film noir.

A highlight of this (or any) Festival, where it’s screening this very afternoon in a brand new 4K digital restoration, it’s the tale of an Irish sailor (Welles) who takes work sailing a yacht for a crooked millionaire (Everett Sloane) and his ravishing wife (Hayworth).

It’s got all the twists, turns, dark shadows and darker morality that you’d expect from 1940s melodrama, as well as a famous set-piece climax in a hall of mirrors.

But there’s something else here that’s more personal, aching and twisted.

With the Welles-Hayworth marriage on the rocks, the noir daydream of The Lady from Shanghai (once called the “weirdest of all great movies”) feels like a bitter but still awestruck poisoned love letter from husband to wife.

Judi Dench, Steve Coogan and Stephen Frears are speaking to the press about Philomena. Full report shortly…

Getting an award nominee made for £100,000

Rob Brown’s Sixteen is the only British film to have been shortlisted for the Sutherland Award, our prize for best first feature. Brown himself is nominated as best British newcomer. Reason enough for Paul O’Callaghan to find some time to talk with him in the thick of the Festival…

Rob Brown directing Sixteen (2013)

Rob Brown directing Sixteen (2013)

A taut, tense thriller, Sixteen tells the story of Jumah (Roger Nsengiyumva), a Congolese former child soldier living with his adoptive mother in West London, who finds memories of his violent past resurfacing after witnessing a crime.

Sitting down with director Rob Brown, I spoke to him about the challenges of low budget independent filmmaking, his use of crowd-funding platform Kickstarter to complete the project, and his reaction to the film’s award nominations.

We made the film for under £100,000 – I think my producers would shoot me if I told you exactly how much! Initially we weren’t planning to film it with such little money, but its natural form lent itself to being done that way.

I think that if we’d had flashback scenes in Africa, which we might have done with a bigger budget, that would’ve been a mistake.

Ultimately we’ve been able to make the film we wanted to make, without executives telling us what to do. I actually think that budget restrictions can focus the mind, and can force you to be more creative.

We submitted a rough version of the film and got selected for the LFF off the back of that. We weren’t able to tell anybody about the invitation for quite a while, but we’d run out of money and needed to finish the film in time for the festival, so it gave our Kickstarter campaign a real sense of urgency.

The campaign became a really exciting way of galvanising support for the film, and building word of mouth.

I’ve submitted every single short film I’ve ever made to this festival, and been rejected each time. So to be in the official selection is amazing for me and my team. And then to get nominated for two awards with an unfinished cut was just fantastic.

I was really surprised as well to hear that we’re the only British film up for the Sutherland Award. Making a film for so little money means you can’t pay people what they’re worth, and you have to get so many people to do you favours – so in a way this feels like we’re giving something back.

Philomena: ‘the best queer, Catholic, atheist film’

Chris Fennell reports from this afternoon’s Philomena press conference with Judi Dench, Steve Coogan, co-writer Jeff Powell and director Stephen Frears.

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan at the Philomena (2013) press conference at the 57th BFI London Film Festival.

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan at the Philomena (2013) press conference at the 57th BFI London Film Festival.

Stephen Frears: “When we were at the Venice Film Festival, we won the prize for the best Catholic film. We also won the prize for best atheist film.”

Jeff Powell: “And for the best gay film.”

Steve Coogan: “So it’s the best queer, Catholic, atheist film.”

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan at the Philomena (2013) press conference at the 57th BFI London Film Festival.

Judi Dench and Steve Coogan at the Philomena (2013) press conference at the 57th BFI London Film Festival.

Coogan was in typically rude form at today’s press conference, as he joined Dame Judi Dench, director Stephen Frears and co-writer Jeff Pope ahead the American Express Gala premiere of Philomena this evening.

Based on the true story of Philomena Lee, an Irish woman in her 70s who is trying to find the son who was taken from her half a century ago, Dame Judi Dench spoke about the responsibility of playing such a role.

“I felt the responsibility very heavy on my shoulders. She is a most remarkable woman. My only concern was that we must be absolutely true to the story.”

Coogan also paid tribute to Philomena, whose story he adapted from his character Martin Sixsmith’s book.

“Her sense of humour is what always comes across. She wears her experiences quite lightly. She had a glass half full mentality which we wanted to put on the screen.”

Dame Judi also spoke about what it was like working with Steve on set.

“He does stand-up and comedy and I do serious acting,” she said facetiously. “I think he should stick to this because he seamlessly passed over to serious acting.”

Judi Dench at the Philomena (2013) press conference at the 57th BFI London Film Festival.

Judi Dench at the Philomena (2013) press conference at the 57th BFI London Film Festival.

Coogan was equally complimentary of Judi who he described as “number one on our wish list” when he was originally drawn to the project.

“Initially I didn’t want to write it but I was introduced to Jeff and it was a real revelation. Writing it was as much fun as acting because you’re there for the genesis of things.”

Stephen Frears then summed up his own attachment to the film.

“It’s a good story and there was a double sided thing on top of this story which I kept calling a romantic comedy. So I liked the challenge of doing both things at the same time – it just seemed very interesting, very moving and very funny. Good God, what more could people want!”

Alfred Hitchcock R.I.P.???

Here’s a morbid little joke that macabre prankster Alfred Hitchcock himself might have enjoyed.

Though, of course, in 1966, he was still very much alive and well and living in Hollywood.

The Witches (1966) publicity shot

The Witches (1966) publicity shot

Standing by this mock grave for the great director are actors Alec McGowen and Joan Fontaine and director Cyril Frankel.

It’s a publicity shot taken during the filming of the Hammer horror film The Witches, screening as one of the Festival’s archive restorations tonight.

Was Frankel suggesting that with this atmospheric tale of witchcraft in a sleepy English village that the Master of Suspense now had a true heir?

Teatime

Philomena (2013)

Philomena (2013)

Just past 4 o’clock. Time to pour yourself a cup of tea and catch up with some Festival reading. 

The new edition of Sight & Sound magazine carries reviews of two of tonight’s films: Philomena, our American Express Gala, and Cutie and the Boxer, Zachary Heinzerling’s new doc about 1960s art-world provocateur Ushio Shinohara. 

Here’s an extract from Philip Kemp’s review for Philomena:

Stephen Frears’s film leavens the tragedy of Philomena’s story with a generous helping of mismatched-couple comedy. Dench, deploying a pitch-perfect Irish accent (for which she credits the Irish side of her family), plays Philomena with bright-eyed, Mrs Tiggy-Winkle-ish charm, innocently delighted by finding a chocolate on the pillow of her smart Washington DC hotel and being offered free Buck’s Fizz in business class. (“You have to pay for everything on Ryanair,” she tells Martin.) 

… Dench, as we’ve come to expect, gives a flawless performance, hinting at the shrewdness underlying Philomena’s faith and conveying her long-suppressed grief without ever becoming maudlin. 

from the November 2013 issue of Sight & Sound (read moredigital log in)

Cutie and the Boxer (2013)

Cutie and the Boxer (2013)

Now Ashley Clark on Cutie and the Boxer:

In the opening moments of Zachary Heinzerling’s debut documentary Cutie and the Boxer we are confronted with the startling sight of a shirtless, shockingly lithe octogenarian man giving the Floyd Mayweather Jr treatment to a huge white canvas with a pair of paint-sodden boxing gloves. The Jackson Pollock-goes-brutalist end result of this ‘action painting’ is just as important as the unorthodox process that gave birth to it, and the same could be said for this film: the culmination of a five-year spell Heinzerling spent with charismatic, wildly entertaining New York-based Japanese artist couple Ushio (‘The Boxer’) and Noriko (‘Cutie’) Shinohara. 

Above all, Cutie and the Boxer is a love story, albeit one infused with refreshingly strong feminist undertones and boasting an intriguing spin on the American Dream narrative.

from the November 2013 issue of Sight & Sound (read moredigital log in)

Don Jon (2013)

Don Jon (2013)

The hour is drawing near when we’ll be welcoming actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt to the red carpets for our Laugh Gala screening of his directorial debut, Don Jon.

Then, shortly afterwards, we’ll be seeing Judi Dench, Steve Coogan and the team behind Philomena for our American Express Gala.

While we wait for Mr Gordon-Levitt to arrive, let’s have a look at who trod those carpets last night…

Joseph Gordon-Levitt attends a screening of Don Jon (2013) at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt attends a screening of Don Jon (2013) at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

We’re back after a minor (read: major) technical hitch to the live blog.

Luckily, it’s all fixed and our spirits are undampened.

Plus, a bit of downtime allowed lull enough for these rather fine images of Joseph Gordon-Levitt to emerge from the 6pm gala screening of his directorial debut Don Jon

Joseph Gordon-Levitt attends a screening of Don Jon (2013) at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt attends a screening of Don Jon (2013) at the 57th BFI London Film Festival at Odeon West End.

We’ll have similarly sharp snaps from tonight’s screening of Philomena, already underway at the Odeon Leicester Square, tomorrow.

For now, let’s enjoy some Instagrams of Steve Coogan and Judi Dench arriving for the show…

We’ll return tomorrow with coverage of the Festival Gala screening of Ralph Fiennes’s new costume drama The Invisible Woman.

We’ll also be speculating on the Festival’s best-kept secret: just what this year’s Surprise Film might be.

The guessing is starting to tie us in knots.

Bye for now.

We’ve crossed over!

Hedgehogs and the City (2013)

Hedgehogs and the City (2013)

We’ve now moved over into a new webpage for the live blog, where you can follow all the latest Festival action.

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