Three to see at LFF if you like... cinematic legends

Ana David recommends three films that are essential viewing for cinephiles at the BFI London Film Festival.

Ana David

The Green Fog

What’s it about?

It’s a dazzling reinvention of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) made exclusively from excerpts of around 100 other films and TV episodes set in the Bay Area. It was originally commissioned by the San Francisco International Film Festival as a homage to their city, but its makers realised many of the films they were dissecting shared commonalities with Hitchcock’s classic. So they decided to make their film a hypnotic, one-of-a-kind tribute. 

Who made it?

Canadian auteur Guy Maddin and his regular collaborators, the brothers Evan and Galen Johnson. Known as the ‘mad poet of Manitoba’, Maddin is celebrated for his wildly imaginative filmic fantasias, which are often entrenched in cinema’s antique past. LFF audiences will remember The Forbidden Room from 2015.

Screening with The Green Fog is the same team’s Accidence, a 10-minute, hyper-voyeuristic retake on Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954).

What’s special about it?

At times thrilling, at times melancholic, and frequently hilarious, this uniquely archaeological enterprise provides a hugely enjoyable journey through screen history. It’s a magpie remake of Vertigo that eerily ghosts the plot, settings and characters of Hitchcock’s masterpiece, while making surprising conceptual and thematic links between a wealth of Frisco-set entertainments.

With so many classic and obscure films and TV shows offered up, we also get a never-ending lineup of familiar and beloved screen artists – and the whole thing is bound together by a wonderful old-Hollywood-style score.

See this if you like…

The Silver Screen: Color Me Lavender (Mark Rappaport, 1997), Los Angeles Plays Itself (Thom Andersen, 2003), The Clock (Christian Marclay, 2010)

Women Make Film: A New Road Movie through Cinema

Women Making Films: A New Road Movie Through Cinema (2018)

What’s it about?

This latest documentary from Mark Cousins is a mammoth effort to set the record straight about the history of female directors. A welcome correction to the male auteur canon, it celebrates the huge variety of brilliant women who’ve stepped behind the camera since the dawn of cinema. When completed in 2019, Cousins’ epic journey will be 16 hours in duration – the first four hours are wrapped and it’s these we’re screening at LFF.

Who made it?

Cousins is the same tireless cinephile-filmmaker who brought us The Story of Film (2011), A Story of Children and Film (2013) and, most recently, The Eyes of Orson Welles (2018). LFF audiences will also remember Here Be Dragons (LFF 2013), 6 Desires: D.H. Lawrence and Sardinia (LFF 2014), I Am Belfast (LFF 2015). He’s also an author, critic, Sight & Sound columnist and lecturer.

What’s special about it?

This is not a straightforward history of cinema made by women but rather a filmmaking lesson where all the teachers are women. Cousins chooses 40 topics pivotal to the craft of cinema and uses excerpts of films made by women to show these ideas and practices in action.

In these initial four hours, 11 topics are covered (including ‘tone’, ‘introduction of characters’, ‘meet cute’ and ‘tracking’), with excerpts of no less than 142 films, and guests including the likes of  Kathryn Bigelow and Agnès Varda. The cherry on the top of this cinematic essay cake is a narration from Tilda Swinton.

See this if you like…

Chantal Akerman by Chantal Akerman (Chantal Akerman, 1997), The Royal Road (Jenni Olson, 2015), Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (Pamela B. Green, 2018)

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (2018)

What’s it about?

As cursed projects go, few come more legendary than Orson Welles’s film about filmmaking, The Other Side of the Wind. Shooting began in 1970 but remained incomplete up until Welles’s death in 1985, remaining in legal limbo ever since – only to be completed in 2018.

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead is the documentary that tells the fascinating and tragic story of the venerated filmmaker’s crusade to try to complete his ultimate and most experimental work.

Who made it?

Morgan Neville is an Academy Award-winning director who has been making documentaries about music and cultural subjects for more than 20 years, including Twenty Feet from Stardom (2013) and Best of Enemies (2015). At this year’s LFF, we’re also screening his Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a moving documentary about Fred Rogers, the beloved US children’s television host whose lessons of kindness helped raise generations of kids.

What’s special about it?

Half post-mortem behind the scenes, half portrait of one of the most influential directors in history, They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead delivers an emotionally charged and visually rich account of Welles’s later years devotedly attempting to complete his last moving picture.

We’re given testimonials by those who knew and worked with him, as well as footage from the film itself, starring John Huston, Peter Bogdanovich, Susan Strasberg and Oja Kodar. Ironically, The Other Side of the Wind is also about an ageing filmmaker trying to conclude a comeback film, making this documentary at once a kind of Russian doll and a treat for both Welles fans and film history lovers.

See this if you like…

The Battle over Citizen Kane (Michael Epstein, Thomas Lennon, 1996), Me and Orson Welles (Richard Linklater, 2008), Bergman – A Year in the Life (Jane Magnusson, 2018)

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  • BFI London Film Festival

    BFI London Film Festival

    The 62nd BFI London Film Festival runs 10-21 October 2018. Browse for tickets online and don’t forget that a limited number of standby tickets will...

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