Three to see at LFF 2016 if you love... music

Stuart Brown recommends three hot tickets at the 2016 BFI London Film Festival: a film by an established director, a great debut, and a wild card.

Stuart Brown
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The new film from an established director…

American Honey

American Honey (2016)

American Honey (2016)

What’s it about?

It’s a wild road trip and coming-of-age story that’s fuelled by a complicated romance. Our protagonist is Star (newcomer Sasha Lane), an attractive and plucky teenager who feels lost in the midst of a dead-end life in Oklahoma. She meets the punky and charismatic Jake (Shia Labeouf) in a supermarket and impulsively accepts his invitation to hit the road with his motley crew of free spirits.

Who made it?

Andrea Arnold announced herself as a talent with her short films and became an important voice in British cinema with features Red Road (2006) and Fish Tank (2009). American Honey, which she wrote and directed, exhibits a level of artistry and confidence that elevates her to another level as a filmmaker. It’s shot by Robbie Ryan, a regular collaborator with Arnold, whose uniquely evocative style has made him one of the most in-demand cinematographers in the world.

What’s special about it?

From the beginning, American Honey is a joyously pure cinema experience. Arnold is brave enough to let the film breathe: by refusing to be constrained by running time and by rejecting rigid narrative structure, she provides her characters with time and space to exist in their world. It’s a bold move but it pays off. We fall into step with Leboeuf, the court jester leader of the renegade collection of dropouts who roam from town to town selling magazine subscriptions by day and partying hard by night.

Lane is magnetic as the impressionable but headstrong Star and Leboeuf is irresistible as Jake. Arnold extracts standout performances from both actors, and the result is a believable, complicated on-screen love. The film also looks extraordinary: Ryan’s camera captures an amazingly colourful, dreamlike and (at times) lurid portrait of mid America; and the soundtrack is guaranteed to shake yo ass. A synthesis that makes this a must-see.

The breakthrough…

The Man from Mo’Wax

The Man from Mo’Wax (2016)

The Man from Mo’Wax (2016)

What’s it about?

This is a portrait of James Lavelle, the artist who made an impact at a very young age as a DJ in London, played a key role in shaping the underground club scene, and started one of the UK’s most celebrated and important independent record labels, Mo’Wax. Mo’Wax defined the sound of a whole genre of electronic music, and Lavelle ultimately drew all of these things together in the band UNKLE.

Who made it?

Debut director Matthew Jones is co-founder of Capture, a London-based production company that specialises in making commercials and interactive digital content. He was producer of the short film The Girl in the Dress, starring Olivia Poulet and Nick Helm, which premiered at LFF in 2015.

What’s special about it?

Constructed from innumerable hours of home movie, music video and other archive footage, The Man from Mo’Wax evokes the excitement of such heady times as running ultra-cool club night That’s How It Is with Gilles Peterson as a teenager, setting up seminal record label Mo’Wax at 18, forming UNKLE with DJ Shadow and making million-selling album Psyence Fiction. But it’s no worshipful nostalgia piece. Lavelle bravely provides the filmmakers a level of access and honesty that make this a clear-eyed and candid portrait of an artist who skyrocketed to creative and commercial success, but made some bad decisions and struggled with relationships along the way.

The wild card…

Live, Large, Loud: Adventures in Cinema at BFI IMAX

DJ Yoda

DJ Yoda
Credit: Trisha Rankin

What’s it about?

Under the LFF Connects banner, we have put together a night of live cinema that brings together a lineup of talented artists who work with moving image in a live context but with very different approaches. We’re premiering new works by artists who are using the apparatus of cinema and its possibilities to express themselves in ways that are liberated from the constraints of traditional feature film production. The element of live performance make these experiences more akin to going to a gig than going to see a film.

Who’s involved?

Award-winning composer Simon Fisher Turner will be performing his soundtrack to Tokyo-based experimental filmmaker Takashi Makino’s new piece The Picture from Darkness. Makino is well-known for his immersive, hallucinatory, non-linear films, and this one is a meditation on life, death and what may lie beyond.

Liam Young is an architect who operates in the spaces between design and fiction. He has collaborated with one of the UK’s most respected electronic acts, Forest Swords, on a new film called In the Robot Skies, which has been shot entirely using pre-programmed drones.

Multi-award-winning beatboxer Reeps One is a walking musical instrument who speaks electronic music. He will be performing his ‘Cymatics’ show, which sees powder and paint form surprising visual patterns as it responds to his trademark vocal basslines and rhythms.

Meanwhile, DJ Yoda is the world’s undisputed heavyweight champion of mix, scratch, cut, splice and collage audiovisual performance. He’ll be applying his virtuoso turntablist skills to the world of videogames in a live show that promises to be a lot of fun.

What’s special about it?

More than ever before, artists are applying moving image in an increasingly wide array of cultural contexts. We find it in abundance at concerts, festivals, nightclubs, in theatre, opera and fashion shows. These cross-media experiences are not only appropriating and referencing cinema as a form but also informing the evolution of new cinematic grammars. With this project, we are showcasing artists who are at the cutting edge of this, providing them with the grandest canvas with which to express themselves: the UK’s largest screen and 12,000 watts of surround sound.

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