Parky At the Pictures (13/10/2023)
(An overview of the 67th BFI London Film Festival, 4-15 October)
Running between 4-15 October, the 67th BFI London Film Festival presents 171 features from 92 countries in 79 languages. In addition to 14 world premieres, there are seven international and 20 European features screening for the first time. There are also 47 debut features, while 99 of the features, shorts, series, and immersive works on display have been produced by female and non-binary artists.
Along with screenings in the capital, LFF 2023 will also visit a number of affiliated venues across the UK, while a selection of shorts has been made available free of charge on the BFI website. New director Kristy Matheson has retained the thematic groupings introduced by Clare Stewart back in 2012, which will frustrate those who have never liked their cod-inclusivity. But LFF is always one of the highlights of the screen year and, frankly, the format is a minor bugbear.
Since securing Trân Anh Hùng the Best Director prize at Cannes, The Taste of Things has been selected as France's Oscar entry. Adapted from a 1924 novel by Marcel Rouff and previously known as The Pot-au-Feu, it's set in 1885 and centres on the relationship between gourmet Dodin Bouffant (Benoît Magimel) and Eugènie (Juliette Binoche), the chef he has adored for two decades and on whose culinary expertise his reputation depends. Largely confined to a country chateau, this handsome drama would make a fine double bill companion for 93 year-old Frederick Wiseman's Menus Plaisirs - Les Troisgros, a 240-minute insight into the workings of La Maison Troisgros, a family-owned restaurant in the Loire town of Roanne that has held three Michelin stars for over five decades, thanks to the exertions of founder and nouvelle cuisine pioneer Jean-Pierre Troisgros, son Michel, and grandson César.
Spanish directors Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal mischievously plays on the title of a François Truffaut classic in They Shot the Piano Player, an animated docudrama in which Jeff Goldblum voices the American music journalist whose research into the bossa nova prompts him to discover the fate of Brazilian musician Francisco Tenório Junior, who disappeared while touring Argentina in 1976. A missing person also proves crucial to Close Your Eyes. Auteur Victor Erice's first feature since 1992 centres on a 2012 TV investigation into Julio Arenas (José Coronado), an actor who had been lost at sea two decades earlier, while shooting The Farewell Gaze.
Continuing the theme of vanishing, teenager Bosco Cárdenas has to work out how to retrieve his parents after they are cast into another dimension during a bungled magic trick in Pablo Chea's Croma Kid, a rare feature from the Dominican Republic. It's the only other fictional offering in a strand that also includes such actualities as Lea Glob's Apolonia, Apolonia; Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson's Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project; Chelsea McMullan's Swan Song; and Thomas Charles Hyland's This Is Going to Be Big.
Elsewhere, Wim Wenders profiles German painter and sculptor Anselm Kiefer in Anselm and Alexandre O. Philippe reflects on the career of Star Trek actor William Shatner in You Can Call Me Bill. But the emphasis in the remaining documentaries is firmly on music, with Alex Gibney exploring how Seven Psalms fits in the oeuvre of a musical legend in In Restless Dreams: The Music of Paul Simon, while Neo Sora records a poignant farewell concert in Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus and Alexis Bloom and Svetlana Zill enlist the help of Marianne Faithfull, Scarlett Johansson, Kate Moss, and Keith Richards to trace the life of the Italian-German model who became a muse to two Rolling Stones in Catching Fire: The Story of Anita Pallenberg.
Henry James's 1903 novella, The Beast in the Jungle, provides the inspiration for Bertrand Bonello's The Beast, which is divided into segments set in 1910, 2014, and 2044, as Gabrielle (Léa Seydoux) forms a connection with Louis (George MacKay) after deciding to have her DNA purified by a machine that revisits past lives in order to remove dangerous emotions. A second chance is also offered to the daughter of hospital worker Rudy Reyes in Laura Moss's Birth/Rebirth, as morgue technician Marin Ireland successfully reanimates her corpse after she dies during a Caesarian section.
Almost two decades after his first visit, Ole Bornedal returns to the mortuary at Copenhagen's Forensic Medical Institute in Nightwatch: Demons Are Forever, where Emma (Fanny Leander Bornedal) unleashes desperate forces after rousing Peter Wörmer (Ulf Pilgaard) from a coma in an effort to understand what happened in the past to her traumatised father, Martin Bork (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau). Meanwhile, the death of a child proves pivotal to Québecois director Pascal Plante's Red Rooms, as Juliette Gariépy ventures on to the dark web to locate a videotape that will supposedly determine the fate of Maxwell McCabe-Lokos, who is being tried for multiple murders.
Australian siblings Cameron and Colin Cairnes take us back to Halloween 1977 in Late Night With the Devil, a found footage chiller that shows what happens when graveyard shift radio host Jack Delroy (David Dastmalchian) seeks to boost ratings by interviewing parapsychologist Dr June Ross-Mitchell (Laura Gordon) and a teenager named Lily (Ingrid Torelli), who was the sole survivor of a Satanic church's mass suicide. While Jack mourns his wife, animator Aisling Franciosi embarks upon a film to cope with the loss of her mother, only for the characters to take on lives of their own in Robert Morgan's Stopmotion.
This British horror sounds just like the kind of thing that would have gone down well with aficionados at the Pentonville Road cinema whose heyday is recalled by Jane Giles and Ali Catterall in Scala! (aka Scala!!! Or, the Incredibly Strange Rise and Fall of the World's Wildest Cinema and How It Influenced a Mixed-up Generation of Weirdos and Misfits), Doubtless, the likes of John Waters, Ben Wheatley, Mary Harron, and Stephen Woolley would also queue to see Stéphan Castang's Vincent Must Die, which references the likes of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds (1963) in examining why Vincent (Karim Leklou) comes to rely on Margot (Vimala Pons) after a bad joke makes him the target of a series of increasingly violent attacks.
Returning a decade after the semi-autobiographical Abuse of Weakness (2013), iconic French director Catherine Breillat reworks May el-Touky's Danish drama, Queen of Hearts (2019), as Last Summer, and casts Léa Drucker as the fortysomething Parisian lawyer married to Olivier Rabourdin who finds her relationship with teenage stepson Samuel Kircher taking a dangerous turn. In her tenth feature, Music, German auteur Angela Schanelec re-examines the Oedipus story in a modern setting, as Greek couple, Argyris Xafis and Marisha Triantafyllidou, raise a foundling boy who grows to become Aliocha Schneider, whose sentence for manslaughter leads to his having a daughter with prison guard Agathe Bonitzer, with whom he has an unknown link from the past.
Known as Dorota Kobiela when she and Hugh Welchman made Loving Vincent (2017), DK Welchman reunites with her husband for The Peasants, a hand-painted animated adaptation of Wladyslaw Reymont's Nobel Prize-winning novel about Jagna (Kamila Urzedowska), who is coerced around the turn of the last century into marrying wealthy Polish farmer Maciej Boryna (Miroslaw Baka) when she's deeply in love with his son, Antek (Robert Gulaczyk). A book by Ottessa Moshfegh provides the inspiration for William Oldroyd's Eileen, which is set in Massachusetts during the freezing winter of 1964 and centres on the impact that the arrival of glamorous psychologist Anne Hathaway has on dowdy prison secretary, Thomasin McKenzie.
The time frame shifts to the early 1970s in Robin Campillo's Red Island, which draws on the director's own experience of growing up on a French army base in the recently liberated African state of Madagascar. Obsessed with the comic-book hero, Fantômette, eight year-old Charlie Vauselle is too busy bicycling around with Vietnamese friend Cathy Pham to fathom the ways of grown-ups like parents Quim Gutiérrez and Nadia Tereszkiewicz and newcomers Hugues Delamarlière and Odile Luna Carpiaux. Five year-old Nguyen Thi Truc Quynh is also faced with the prospect of having to grow up quickly, when his mother is killed in an accident in Saigon and he has to accompany uncle Le Phong Vu to their home village for the funeral in Pham Thiên Ân's Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell, which won the Caméra d'or for the best first feature at Cannes.
Although in her twenties, Ilinca Manolache also has plenty to bear in mind while working as a production assistant for Nina Hoss's Austrian camera unit, which is in Bucharest to make a safety film in Do Not Expect Too Much of the End of the World, Radu Jude's follow-up to Berlin winner, Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (2021). And if you're wondering about the feature that keeps being cut into the action, it's Lucian Bratu's Angela Moves On (1981), whose star, Dorina Lazar, makes a self-reflexive cameo.
Completing this sidebar are Sofia Alaoui's Animalia; Mohamed Ben Attia's Behind the Moutains; Víctor Iriarte's Foremost By Night; Baloji Tshiani's Omen; Lillah Halla's Power Alley; Pierre Creton's A Prince; and Lois Patiño's Samsara.
Nearly six decades have passed since Marco Bellocchio made his feature bow with Fists in the Pocket (1965). He remains one of Italy's most provocative directors and Kidnapped harks back to the 1850s to follow the case of Edgardo (Enea Sala), the six year-old son of Bologna Jews Momolo (Fausto Russo Alesi) and Marianna Mortara (Barbara Ronchi), who are informed by Holy Inquisitor Felletti (Fabrizio Gifuni) that the boy has been entrusted to the care of Pope Pius IX (Paolo Pierobon) and his chief adviser, Cardinal Antonelli (Filippo Timi), because he was accidentally baptised a Catholic. Anti-Jewish sentiments also come to the fore in Cédric Kahn's The Goldman Case, which reconstructs the 1976 trial of Pierre Goldman (Ariel Worthalter), the left-wing intellectual and activist who had been jailed for bank robberies and murder. Confined entirely to the courtroom, this intense drama co-stars Arthur Harari as defence counsel Georges Kiejman and Nicolas Briançon as prosecutor Maître Garaud.
The struggle to establish a Jewish homeland in 1930s Palestine comes under scrutiny in Michael Winterbottom's Shoshana, which charts the romance between Tom Wilkin (Douglas Booth), an undercover British anti-terror agent in Tel Aviv, and Shoshana Borochov (Irina Starshenbaum), a Russian émigré who is a member of the underground defence force, Haganah, whose peaceful methods bring it into conflict with Irgun, the Zionist paramilitary organisation led by Polish-born poet Avraham Stern (Aury Alby).
Basque director Jaione Camborda follows her debut feature, Arima (2017), with The Rye Horn, which recently took the Golden Shell at the San Sebastian Film Festival. Set off the Galician coast on the Illa de Arousa, the story takes place in 1971 and centres on Maria (Janet Novás), a shellfish catcher who also acts as an unofficial midwife. However, when an illegal abortion goes wrong, she is helped by a network of women to escape to the Portuguese border, where she hides out with a prostitute named Anabela (Siobhan Fernándes).
Two master documentarists have new films at LFF67. In addition to discussing the life and career of David Cromwell, aka John Le Carré, Errol Morris's The Pigeon Tunnel uses the last interview before the garlanded spy writer died in 2020 to explore his relationship with his father, Ronnie, a ne'er-do-well with links to the Kray twins. By contrast, in On the Adamant, Nicolas Philibert records daily life aboard a floating daycare centre on the River Seine for Parisians with mental health issues. Marking his return to film-making after a decade-long gap following La Maison de la Radio (2013), this observational masterclass won the Golden Bear at this year's Berlin Film Festival.
Elsewhere in this section are several other documentaries, namely James Benning's Allensworth; Andres Jay Molina's Fire Through Dry Grass; Kaouther Ben Hania's Four Daughters; Kevin Macdonald's High & Low - John Galliano; Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss's The Mission; David Allen's Wilding; and Wang Bing's Youth (Spring).
There may be no big names in the Documentary Competition, but there are plenty of intriguing topics under discussion.
Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass returns from France to her home village with her daughter in Lina Soualem's Bye Bye Tiberias, while Switching between London and Sri Lanka, Chloe Abrahams also examines the bonds between mothers and daughters in The Taste of Mango.
Ehsan Khoshbakht pays tribute to Ahmad Jorghanian for his efforts in preserving film culture in Iran in Celluloid Underground, while Sav Rodgers's Chasing Chasing Amy reflects on the complex legacy for LGBTQIA+ audiences of Kevin Smith's comedy, Chasing Amy (1997). Completing a cinematic quartet are Cyril Aris's Dancing on the Edge of a Volcano, in which a film crew debates whether to keep shooting after a major explosion in Beirut in August 2020, and Leandro Koch and Paloma Schachmann's The Klezmer Project, which sees an Argentinian cameraman who specialises in Jewish weddings pretend to be making a documentary about the Klezmer musical tradition in Eastern Europe after falling for a female clarinettist.
Mary Helena Clark and Mike Gibisser examine the links between the lab-grown axolotls (salamander) of Lake Pátzcuaro in Mexico, the sequencing of indigenous people's DNA, and apple-picking AI machines in the eco-essay, A Common Sequence, while Agniia Galdanova's Queendom profiles Gena Marvin, a 21 year-old radical queer performance artist who uses her small town as a stage on which to challenge Russian attitudes to gender binaries and other LGBTQIA+ issues.
Leading the small, but enticing family selection is Neil Boyle and Kirk Hendry's Kensuke's Kingdom, an animated adaptation (by Frank Cottrell Boyce) of a Michael Morpurgo book that follows the adventures of a young boy (Aaron MacGregor) who is washed ashore from the family boat during a storm and helped to survive by a mysterious stranger (Ken Watanabe). Providing an aquatic companion piece is Tian Xiaopeng's Deep Sea, a 3-D animation that uses traditional Chinese ink-brush painting techniques to tell the story of a girl who falls overboard from her father's boat and descends into a magical underwater sphere that is menaced by the Red Phantom.
Remaining in the realm of animation, Cyrille Masso and Daniel Minlo's The Sacred Cave follows a pair of cousins in their quest to find an antidote for the poisoned King of Mabuna. However, their path is blocked by panther men, sorcerers, and a bewitched toad princess. Problems of a different sort have to be overcome in the sole live-action offering, Aurora Gossé's Dancing Queen, as 12 year-old Liv Elvira Kippersund Larsson has to overcome body image issues in order to impress Viljar Knutsen Bjaadal, the Internet hip hop dance sensation who is auditioning for a new crew having recently joined her school.
FIRST FEATURE COMPETITION.
Mothers and daughters feature prominently in the 2023 debut selection. Death appears in macaw form in Tuesday, the first feature by London-based Croation Daina Oniunas-Pusic, which sees mother Zora Markovich (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) embark upon a magic realist odyssey with terminally ill teenager, Lily Tuesday (Lola Petticrew). The mood shifts to social realism in Luna Carmoon's Hoard, as Maria (Saura Lightfoot Leon) finds life with a 1990s foster mother (Samantha Spiro) being complicated by memories of her own hoarder mum, Cynthia (Hayley Squires), and the arrival of twentysomething Michael (Joseph Quinn), who insists they are foster siblings.
The foster system in the Bay Area of San Francisco keeps putting obstacles in the way of Gia (Tia Nomore), an impoverished and pregnant Black woman desperate to regain custody of her children in Savannah Leaf's Earth Mama. The Cameroonian coastal city of Douala provides the setting for Rosine Mbakam's Mambar Pierrette, which chronicles the efforts to make ends meet of seamstress and single mother, Mambar, who is played by Pierrette Aboheu, who happens to be the director's cousin.
In Fawzia Mirza's The Queen of My Dreams, queer Muslim teenager Azra (Amrit Kaur) barely knows her mother, as she has been raised in Toronto by her father. When he dies suddenly, however, she has to return to Pakistan and realises that the best way to connect with Miriam (Nimra Bucha) is through the Bollywood films of Sharmila Tagore that had helped her navigate her own youth in the 1960s. Left to fend for themselves when their mother vanishes after Christmas, 16 year-old Laura (Bianca Delbravo), 12 year-old Mira (Dilvin Asaad) and seven year-old Steffi (Safira Mossberg) enjoy unprecedented freedom in Mika Gustafson's Paradise Is Burning. However, they are faced with a problem when a social worker comes to call.
School rebel Zaffan (Zafreen Zairizal) has troubles of a different sort in Amanda Nell Eu's Tiger Stripes, as the Malaysian 12 year-old notices that her body is starting to change in alarming ways. London teenager Nathan (Keenan Munn-Francis) flees his foster home in the hope of finding a sister in Scotland and he's joined on the journey north by Sam (Jamie Flatters), a mugging victim who is seeking his estranged mother in George Jaques's Black Dog, which he co-wrote with Flatters.
While Adam (Faraz Ayub) wishes mother Donna (Claire Rushbrook) would give him a bit more space, he knows little about the Pakistani father who claims to come from another planet. When he dies in the car park of the motorway service station where he works in a burger joint with Jeff (Steve Oram) and Tara (Natalie Givin), Adam decides to look into his parent's past in Moin Hussain's teasing sci-fi, Sky Peals. Realism and fantasy also overlap in Naqqash Kahlid's In Camera, which follows Aden (Nabhaan Rizwan), a British Asian actor eager to shatter the prejudices of the film industry, who takes the role of a grieving woman's son in a therapy project that takes a disturbing turn.
Finally, in this section, Chilean first-timer Felipe Carmona reveals in Prison in the Andes the length to which five of the most feared torturers of the Pinochet era will go to remain in a luxury facility in the foothills of the mountains. But things start to unravel when a television interviewer interrogates them about power and responsibility.
Having overcome numerous obstacles during its making, Martin Scorsese's adaptation of David Grann's Killers of the Flower Moon is the highest profile gala offering at LFF67. Set in the 1920s, it follows Great War veteran Ernest Burkhart (Leonardo DiCaprio) to Fairfax, Oklahoma, where his uncle, William `King' Hale (Robert De Niro), plans for him to marry Mollie Kyle (Lily Gladstone), a member of the Osage Nation that had discovered oil after being forcibly moved off its ancestral lands. Running 206 minutes, this is an epic account of a supremacist crime that proved crucial to the emergence of the Bureau of Investigation.
The genocide committed by the Third Reich was rooted in the same bigotry and James Hawes shows how 669 of its younger Czech and Slovak victims were offered a place of refuge in One Life, a biopic of Nicholas Winton (Johnny Flynn and Anthony Hopkins), the London stockbroker who operated the Kindertransport project in the summer of 1939. Leonard Bernstein's Judaism is barely mentioned in Maestro, as actor-director Bradley Cooper reflects on the contrasts in the conductor-composer's public and private personas and on his sexuality and the nature of his marriage to Chilean American actress Felicia Montealegre (Carey Mulligan).
Another biopic sees Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin make the transition from documentaries like the Oscar-winning Free Solo (2018), although there is still an adventure element to Nyad, which recalls the 110-mile, 53-hour swim made by 60 year-old Diana Nyad (Annette Bening) in an effort to get from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage. Jodie Foster co-stars as coach Bonnie Stall.
The journey screenwriter Andrew Scott embarks upon in Andrew Haigh's All of Us Strangers is into his own past, as he gets to know Claire Foy and Jamie Bell, the parents he lost in a car crash when he was 11, when they turn up in the London apartment block where he lives with sole neighbour, Paul Mescal. The past also impinges upon Todd Haynes's May December, as actress Natalie Portman comes to meet Julianne Moore while researching a film about an illicit age-gap romance that happened two decades ago and which Moore (who married the 13 year-old father of her first child) still refuses to recognise as scandalous.
Whiffs of Waugh and Highsmith can be detected in Emerald Fennell's Saltburn, as Oxford student Oliver Quick (Barry Keoghan) is invited to spend the summer at his family's stately home by wealthy Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi). Among those extending an eccentric welcome are parents Sir James (Richard E. Grant) and Elsbeth (Rosamund Pike), sister Venetia (Alison Oliver), cousin Farleigh (Archie Madekwe), and perpetual houseguest, Pamela (Carey Mulligan). A trip to Lisbon proves equally pivotal for Bella Baxter (Emma Stone), the creation of scarfaced scientist Godwin (Willem Dafoe), who catches the eye of reticent assistant Max McCandless (Ramy Youssef) and conniving lawyer Duncan Wedderburn (Mark Ruffalo) in Yorgos Lanthimos's award-winning take on Alasdair Gray's 1992 satire on Victorian prudery, Poor Things.
A sci-fi element also informs Daniel Kaluuya and Kibwe Tavares's The Kitchen, which is set in a dystopian London in a near future in which social housing has been eradicated and Izi (Kane Robinson) and Benji (Jedaiah Bannerman) have to seek sanctuary in the capital's last estate. It's back to London in 2001 for Theresa Ikoko's Grime Kids, which draws on a book by DJ Target to show how five friends seek to use the summer to get their music played on pirate radio station, Rinse FM.
David Fincher reunites with Se7en (1995) scribe Andrew Kevin Walker for The Killer, which has been adapted from a 12-volume graphic novel by Alexis `Matz' Nolent and Luc Jacamon to follow hitman Michael Fassbender as he waits for his shot from a WeWork unit in Paris. Focus also proves crucial for a man in 29AD Jerusalem (LaKeith Stanfield), who decides to cash in on the rising popularity of Jesus Christ to make a quick shekel in Londoner Jeymes Samuel's The Book of Clarence, which seems set to do for biblical epics what his BAFTA-winning debut, The Harder They Fall (2021), did for Westerns.
Leaping from the pages of Danny Lyon's 1968 monochrome photo book, Johnny (Tom Hardy), Benny (Austin Butler), Cal (Boyd Holbrook), Zipco (Michael Shannon), and Cockroach (Emory Cohen) for a chopper-riding Chicago gang called The Vandals in Jeff Nichols's The Bikeriders. Having done with rebelling after escaping the farm in Chicken Run (2000), Ginger (Thandiwe Newton) and Rocky (Zachary Levi) welcome new chick Molly (Bella Ramsey). But Mrs Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) is bent on revenge and entices businessman Reginald Smith (Peter Serafinowicz) into building a nugget factory Sam Fell's Chicken Run: Dawn of the Nugget.
John McGahern's final novel provides the inspiration for Pat Collins's That They May Face the Rising Sun, which follows Barry Ward and Anna Bederke from 1980s London to the community that has formed in the lakeside Irish village where he grew up. This gentle ensemble piece is content to examine character and landscape, but cinematographer Sean Price Williams sets out to force America to take a long, hard look at itself in his directorial debut, The Sweet East, which follows teenage student Talia Ryder on a picaresque adventure after she becomes separated from a school trip to Washington, DC.
A Brit abroad also finds herself on a studio set in Haar, Ben Hecking's follow-up to Provenance (2017), which follows Kate Kennedy, as she deals with bad news about her father and an unwelcome proposal from a lover while clearing away the Budapest soundstage where shooting has wrapped on Time Travelling Vampire Pirates. Teens Mia McKenna-Bruce, Lara Peake, and Enva Lewis are also a long way from home in Molly Manning Walker's feature bow, How to Have Sex, which charts their encounter in the party-oriented resort of Malia in Crete with mates Shaunt Thomas and Samuel Bottomley, and their lesbian roommate, Laura Ambler.
A nine year-old Aboriginal orphan (Aswan Reid) is taken to a monastery run by Sister Eileen (Cate Blanchett) and Sister Mum (Deborah Mailman) in 1940s Australia in Warwick Thornton's The New Boy. The nuns have fooled the authorities into believing an old priest is still in charge, but the deception comes under pressure when the newcomer starts exhibiting supernatural powers. The scene shifts to a women's shelter in the present day for Noora Niasar's first feature, Shayda, which joins Iranian mother Zar Amir Ebrahimi, as she seeks to protect her six year-old daughter (Selina Zahednia), and divorce her medical student husband (Osamah Sami) in order to remain in Australia.
Along for the ride are Raven Jackson's All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt; Myriam U. Birara's The Bride; Rodrigo Moreno's The Delinquents; Tatiana Huezo's The Echo; Lulu Wang's Expats; Zoljargal Purevdash's If Only I Could Hibernate; Amjad Al Rasheed's Inshallah a Boy; Zeno Graton's The Lost Boys; Giovanna Zacarías's Ramona; Felipe Gálvez's The Settlers; and Cyrielle Raingou's The Spectre of Boko Haram.
Quentin Dupieux is on a comic roll at the moment and there's more Gallic quixotism in Daaaaaali!, which sees Gilles Lellouche, Édouard Baer, Jonathan Cohen, Pio Marmaï, and Didier Flamand all playing Spanish Surrealist Salvador Dalí, as a journalist (Anaïs Demoustier) seeks an interview for a documentary that appears to have a Buñuelian curse upon it. The bourgeoisie remain as discreetly charming as ever in Monia Chokri's The Nature of Love, which forces fortysomething Québecois philosopy professor Magalie Lépine-Blondeau have to choose between a cosily dormant marriage with Francis-William Rhéaume and a fling with François Létourneau, the handyman renovating the couple's lake house.
Ageing slacker Chris Pine tends the swimming pool at a Los Angeles apartment block in the actor's directorial debut, Poolman. When he discovers a Chinatownesque water conspiracy, however, he ropes in Annette Bening and Danny DeVito to help him make a documentary to expose corrupt council member, Stephen Tobolowsky. The reviews have been far from complimentary, while Variety has opined that Michel Gondry's The Book of Solutions may be his worst film. Pierre Niney stars as a self-regarding auteur who heads to Aunt Françoise Lebrun's home in the Cevannes to complete his four-hour seven-minute masterpiece with editor Blanche Gardin.
Argentinian yoga teacher Esteban Bigliardi has no shortage of willing helpers after an injury coincides with his separation from Chilean wife, Manuela Oyarzún. The trouble is, everyone tries to tell him what to do in Martin Rejtman's The Practice. By contrast, no one believes in 16 year-old Joe Anders in Julia Jackman's debut feature, Bonus Track. But, while bickering parents Jack Davenport and Alison Sudol share music teacher Ray Panthaki's contention that he's never going to be a pop star, new classmate, Samuel Paul Small, is more supportive, and he should know as his dad's a famous singer.
Also on the chucklesome bill are Seán Devlin's Asog; Ernst De Geer's The Hypnosis; Michael Lukk Litwak's Molli and Max in the Future; Randall Park's Shortcomings; and Ali Asgari's Terrestrial Verses.
Returning to Japan after features in France and South Korea, Hirokazu Kore-eda adopts a Rashomon-like structure in Monster in order to explore the causes of a fire at a hostess bar and the relationships that 11 year-old Soya Kurokawa has with widowed mother Sakura Ando, eccentric teacher Eita Nagayama, and classmate Hinata Hiragi. A secret is also buried in the daily routine of Tokyo toilet cleaner Koji Yakusho in Wim Wenders's Perfect Days, as he uses his love of music and books and his conversations with slacker assistant Tokio Emoto to hide from the truths that hit home when he is visited by Arisa Nakano, the teenage daughter of his estranged sister Yumi Aso.
The past also impinges upon the life of East London nurse Vicky Knight in Sacha Polak's Silver Haze, as she slowly begins to come to terms with the childhood fire that had scarred her after falling for patient, Esmé Creed-Miles. An unexpected romance also unfolds in Sally El Hosaini and James Krishna Floyd's Unicorns, as mechanic and single father Ben Hardy comes to understand his feelings for drag queen Jason Patel.
Drawn from her own experiences in 1980s Bermondsey, playwright Adura Onashile's feature debut, Girl, centres on the tensions that arise when 11 year-old Le'Shantey Bonsu befriends Glaswegian classmate Liana Turner after averting a tower-block fire that protective mother Adura Onashile (a cleaner who fled her African homeland after a teenage assault) fears will disrupt their sheltered existence. Non-binary eight year-old Sofía Otero also goes on a journey of self-discovery in Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren's 20,000 Species of Bees, when sculptor mother Patricia López Arnaiz takes her to spend the summer in the sleepy Basque home of her grandmother (Itziar Lazkano) and empathetic beekeeping great aunt (Ane Gabarain).
Also spreading the love are Marie Amachoukeli-Barsacq's Ama Gloria; Ramata-Toulaye Sy's Banel & Adama; Elene Naveriani's Blackbird Blackbird Blackberry; Maite Alberdi's The Eternal Memory; Erica Tremblay's Fancy Dance; Mohamed Kordofani's Goodbye Julia; Claire Simon's Our Body; Pablo Berger's Robot Dreams; Marija Kavtaradze's Slow; and Lila Avilés's Tótem - several of which will be going on general release over the coming months.
Between 1923-76, Switzerland operated the Kinder der Landstrasse programme that saw children from the Yenish community taken from their families and re-educated by the Pro Juventate foundation. Set in the 1930s, Giorgio Diritti's Lubo exposes the cruelty of this policy through the eyes of an itinerant entertainer (Franz Rogowski), who refuses to let the state steal his three children. A missing mother drives the action in Amat Escalante's fifth feature, Lost in the Night, as Juan Daniel García Treviño goes in search of Vicky Araico, who vanished while protesting the opening of a Canadian-owned mine in Central Mexico.
Needing £25k to get his mother into rehab, Londoner Stephen Odubola joins Taz Skylar's moped gang in George Amponsah's first fictional feature, Gassed Up. Yet, despite being drawn to Skylar's cousin, Jelena Gavrilovic, he starts having misgivings when they target his mechanic mate, Craige Middleburg. Father and son Romain Duris and Paul Kircher head south, as a mystery malady starts making people turn into birds or reptiles in Thomas Cailley's The Animal Kingdom, which co-stars Adèle Exarchopoulos as a cop trying to prevent panic when a busload of mutants (including Kircher's mother) get loose.
Sitting rather awkwardly in this strand is Rachel Ramsay and James Erskine's Copa 71, which recalls the 1971 Women's World Cup in Mexico that has largely been forgotten (along with its 1970 predecessor in Italy), in spite of the hosts, Argentina, England, Italy, Denmark, and France playing in front of record crowds, with the 110,000 attendance for the final at the Azteca Stadium remaining unsurpassed for a women's sporting event.
Also setting pulses racing are Hansal Mehta's The Buckingham Murders; Shujun Wei's
Only the River Flows; Axel Petersén's Shame on Dry Land; Karan Tejpal's Stolen; and Caroline Ingvarsson's Unmoored.
Time doesn't allow us to go into any detail in the following categories. But the majority of titles will receive UK releases and will be covered here in the fullness of time.
Official Competition:- Joe Lawlor and Christine Molloy's Baltimore; Tarsem Singh's
Dear Jassi; Sudabeh Mortezai's Europa; Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's Evil Does Not Exist; Christos Nikou's Fingernails; Bill and Turner Ross's Gasoline Rainbow; Deepa Mehta and Sirat Taneja's I Am Sirat; Kitty Green's The Royal Hotel; Mengqi Zhang's Self-Portrait: 47 KM 2020; Daniel Kokotajlo's Starve Acre; and Lukas Moodysson's Together 99.
Special Presentations:- Hayao Miyazaki's The Boy and the Heron; Kim Jee-Woon's
Cobweb; Mahalia Belo's The End We Start From; Aki Kaurismäki's Fallen Leaves; Garth Davis's Foe; Richard Linklater's Hit Man; Goran Stolevski's Housekeeping For Beginners; Ladj Ly's Les Indésirables; Michel Franco's Memory; Steve McQueen's Occupied City; Sofia Coppola's Priscilla; and Jonathan Glazer's The Zone of Interest.
Treasures:- Albert Parker's The Black Pirate (1926); Tawfik Saleh's The Dupes (1972); Roberto Gavaldón's Macario; Michael Powell's Peeping Tom (both 1960); Horace Ové's Pressure; and Bahram Beyzaie's The Stranger and the Fog (both 1976).