EVENT LONDON FILM FESTIVAL VENUE LEICESTER SQUARE

The BFI 52nd London Film Festival: Itinerary

My programme for the BFI 52nd London Film Festival (15–30 October) arrived today and it looks pretty damned good. There are ten films I’ll be attending for certain, and god knows what I’ll do about the other three, but I’m ignoring outright the alleged delights of “Cinema Europa”, “French Revolutions” and “New British Cinema”, all of which I find slightly intolerable. I’ll be, instead, cutting straight to the meat: Galas and, importantly, World Cinema.

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S Thompson brings together new footage of the legendary creator of “Gonzo” journalism at his Woody Creek home with a narration by fellow Kentuckian Johnny Depp. It should with any luck cancel out the memory of the smug Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride: Hunter S Thompson on Film which did nothing to upgrade the BBC’s original 1978 documentary Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision
The first on offer is 24 City (Er shi si Cheng Ji, 2008, China/Hong Kong/Japan), Jia Zhangke’s latest film which I’ve been keen to see since Still Life (Sanxia haoren, 2006, China/Hong Kong) and which is being screened with his new short film Cry Me a River (Heshang aiqing, 2008, China/Spain/France). Next up is Kitano Takeshi’s Achilles and the Tortoise (Achilles to Kame, 2008, Japan). I shouldn’t bother after the colossal misfire of Glory to the Filmmaker! (Kantoku - Banzai!, 2007, Japan), which played at last year’s L.F.F., but I’m personally drawn to this idea (promised in the programme) of the aspiring uneasy artist perpetually constrained by a sort of impossible search for the self. Then there is Tokyo! (2008, France/Japan/South Korea/Germany) an omnibus film in which French directors Michel Gondry and Leos Carax and South Korean director Bong Joon Ho deliver diametrically opposed stories, ranging from one man’s struggle to regain his sense of purpose and the dehumanisation of one woman in the city. All Around Us (Gururi no Koto, 2008, Japan) is Hashiguchi Ryosuke’s intimate take on an eight-year marriage and the struggle it is to hold onto happiness and personal contentment. Next we have Aditya Assarat’s Wonderful Town (2007, Thailand), a film which is set against the backdrop of the 2004 tsunami recovery project and which concerns the impact an unorthodox affair between a Bangkok architect and a Chinese-Thai hotel manageress has on the small coast town of Takua Pa. Then Koreeda Hirokazu’s Still Walking (Aruitemo aruitemo, 2008, Japan), a family melodrama which the programme describes as “piercingly true” in the tradition of Ozu Yasujir┼Ź. Finally two Gala events: the opening night of Ron Howard’s Frost/Nixon (1008, USA/UK/France), and the Times Gala of Oliver Stone’s W. (2008, USA/Australia/Hong Kong/Switzerland/China).
All of which will see me happily in attendance. But the two finest treats on offer, for me personally, include the long-awaited The Good, the Bad, the Weird (Joh-un Nom, Nappun Nom, Isanghan Nom, 2008, South Korea), Kim Jee Woon’s first film since A Bittersweet Life (Dalkomhan insaeng, 2005, South Korea). Also, a chance to see Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S Thompson (Alex Gibney, 2008, USA), the documentary which brings together new footage of the legendary creator of “Gonzo” journalism at his Woody Creek home with a narration by fellow Kentuckian Johnny Depp, whose portrayal of Thompson in Terry Gilliam’s Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas was quite wonderful and I highly recommended it. The latter is directed by Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room-helmer Alex Gibney and with any luck it should cancel out the memory of the appallingly smug Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride: Hunter S Thompson on Film (Tom Thurman, 2006, USA) which did nothing to upgrade the BBC’s original 1978 documentary Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision. As for The Good, the Bad, the Weird—Kim’s South Korean Western opus set in 1930s Japanese-occupied Manchuria, which brings together local stars Lee Byeong Heon, Jung Woo Sung and the mighty Song Kang Ho—well, this could be my clear contender for cinematic blockbuster of the year.

11 September, 2008

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