Cinemagoers are about to flock to the flicks in the Capital, taking their seats at the NFT on the South Bank, in Leicester Square, the ICA and the Ritzy, as the 49th London Film Festival gets underway in mid-October.
Both the opening and closing films are real belters, already having earned respect from screenings at the Venice Film Festival. The opener, being shown on Wednesday 19 October, is the UK premiere of Fernando (City of God) Meirelles' adaptation of John Le Carre's highly acclaimed novel The Constant Gardener, starring Ralph Fiennes, Bill Nighy and Rachel Weisz. The film is a brilliant combination of global detective story, international corporate cover-up and an indictment on the Ist World's potential manipulation of those in the third world. Its fictional but in all these things, sometimes fiction is not that far from the truth, one imagines.
Closing the Festival on Thursday 3 November, is George Clooney's award winning political thriller Good Night, And Good Luck. starring David Strathairn, George Clooney himself, Robert Downey Jr and Patricia Clarkson which will take audiences dramatically into the heart of the McCarthy Communist witchhunts that took place in America in the 1950's.
Inbetween those two dates, this year's line up includes a myriad of films from across the globe. At the last count, there were about 33 European and 120 UK premieres to be shown over a period of 17 days at 13 venues in London.
Auteurs in force
Where should you look for highlights? Many celebrated directors have films in the festival. Among them for instance are the latest films by Takeshi Kitano (Takeshis'), Gabriele Salvatores (Quo Vadis Baby? ), Steven Soderbergh (Bubble), Michael Winterbottom (A Cock And Bull Story), John Madden (with his adaptation of his stage play (Proof), Cameron Crowe (Elizabethtown), Steve Buscemi (Lonesome Jim), Atom Egoyan (Where The Truth Lies), Nicolas Winding Refn (I'm The Angel Of Death: Pusher III) and Danis Tanovic (Hell), to name but a few.
Also worth considering will be films from directors who on past form, are certainly not afraid to challenge audiences, choices such as Lodge Kerrigan (Keane) Liev Schreiber (Everything is illuminated), Michael Haneke (Hidden), Lars von Trier (Manderlay), Dominic Savage (Love + Hate) Park Chan-Wook (Sympathy For Lady Vengeance) and The Brothers Quay (The Piano Tuner Of Earthquakes) should be high on your list.
The festival breaks in several strands: new British product, new films from France, World cinema, obvious Box Office material, short film selections, experimental and avant-garde films and of course the ever-popular Surprise title. As last year, films from yesteryear will also be shown on a large screen in Trafalgar Square.
The celebration of music is a broad theme that links many of this year's titles. James Mangold's film Walk the line starring Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon looks like it might be a fascinating biopic of the life of Johnny Cash, Fatih Akin's Crossing the Bridge is a documentary exploring the music scene in present-day Istanbul, David Lachapelle's Rize looks at a groundbreaking hip-hop dance phenomenon to come out of South Central in LA, and Steve Woolley's film Stoned starring Leo Gregory & Paddy Considine, about the life of the 5th member of the Rolling Stones, Brian Jones, based on Terry Rawlings' book "Who killed Christopher Robin?" has showings on Sun 23 Oct and Mon 24 Oct, and is sure to be popular.
A more personal view of the music world is presented in gripping documentaries, such as New York Doll and Derailroaded which chart the lives of some rock's tragic heroes whilst Nobuhiro Yamashita's plausible Asian comedy Linda Linda Linda could be a Spinal Tap type glance at the exploits of an all-girl high-school rock band. If you want musical accompaniment, the splendidly restored prints of Pedro Sienna's silent film El Husar de la Muerte and Raymond Longford's The Sentimental Bloke will both be accompanied with live music performances.
The Times Screen Talks find the following brave souls prepared to "face the music" or at least questions from both an interviewer and audience : Gael Garcia Bernal, scriptwriter Shane Black, Pierce Brosnan and ex-Monty Python Terry Gilliam. The latter is sure to be sell-out
Star quotient - high
An array of stars are lined up to introduce their films, among them, the likes of Fernando Meirelles, Rachel Weisz, John Madden, Gwyneth Paltrow, Michael Haneke, Juliette Binoche, Daniel Auteil, Cameron Crowe, Kirsten Dunst, the Dardenne Brothers, Nick Cave and Tom Wilkinson.
Treasures from the Archives" include such greats as Frank Capra's American Madness and Frank Borrage's 1930's adaptation of "Ernest Hemingway's novel A Farewell to Arms.
Finally, there are even free events to attend including a Hollywood Reporter discussion about the director/producer bonds that breed success, which is taking place on Thurs 20 Oct in NFT2 and a Panel discussion about the unearthing the mysteries of film classification, at 11 am on Thurs 27 Oct at the Marriott County Hall on the South Bank.
Plenty then to look forward to.