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Discover the world’s best new films: 2-13 October 2019


A Red Carpet Weekend At The London Film Festival


Sunday, October 21--------It has been a busy weekend on the Red Carpet at the London Film Festival. Friday night saw the UK Premiere of three exciting new films, which could not be more different. First was the Cannes Film Festival Palme d’Or winner 4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS, 2 DAYS, directed by current hot Romanian director Cristian Mungiu. The film, which is the current frontrunner for the Oscar for Best Foreign Film, is a harrowing account about one woman’s odyssey of desperation in 1980s Romania to get an illegal abortion. The director was joined on the Red Carpet with his lead actress Anamaria Marinca, who delivers a piercing performance in this excruciatingly tense drama.

From Romania to the Wild West, as the Festival offered the UK Premiere of THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD, Australian director Andrew Dominik’s haunting, poetic western on the “gentleman outlaw” Jesse James. Superstar Brad Pitt received the Best Actor honors at the Venice Film Festival for his understated performance and Casey Affleck, the younger brother of Ben, has received the best notices of his career for his turn as the youthful and naïve Ford. In London for the screening were director Andrew Dominik and producer Jules Daly. Also screening on Friday was the UK Premiere of native director Penny Woolcock’s EXODUS, which she also wrote. Her latest film looks to the Old Testament for its inspiration, re-imagining the Bible book of Exodus in Margate , and exploring themes of identity, migration, terrorism and the search for a promised land. Walking the Red Carpet were the writer/director Penny Woolcock, executive producer Cressida Hubbard and producer Ruth Kenley-Letts.

On Saturday, actors Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey and James Marsden, joined director Kevin Lima, producer Barbara Josephson and composer Alan Mencken for the premiere of ENCHANTED, a musical fairytale set in modern day New York City. The film contains all the classic features of a Disney family film, with great animation, a prestigious live action cast and an enchanting score by the award-winning musical partnership of Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. Also on Saturday, the UK Premiere of the Venice Film Festival Grand Prize winner LUST, CAUTION, the latest film from director Ang Lee, who walked the Red Carpet, along with lead actress Tang Wei and screenwriter/executive producer James Schamus. The film is a return to Chinese roots for the director, a beautifully shot espionage thriller set amidst a fascinating and troubled period in 1940’s China.

Rounding out Saturday’s Red Carpet arrivals were Naomi Watts and Michael Pitt, the co-stars of FUNNY GAMES, the English language debut of Austrian director Michael Haneke, who has remade his original film to devastating effect. In the disturbing story, an affluent family arrive at their lakeside summer house, only to find themselves terrorised and tortured by two politely psychopathic young men. The performances are uniformly strong, including Naomi Watts and Tim Roth as the terrorised couple, and Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet as the malevolent youngsters.

Sunday’s highlights included the UK Premiere of painter-turned-director Julian Schnabel’s award-winning film, THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY, for which he won Best Director honors at the Cannes Film Festival. This is a haunting and expressionistic interpretation of Jean-Dominique Bauby’s memoir and international bestseller about the author’s struggle to communicate after suffering a massive stroke. Also on Sunday was the European Premiere of THE LAST LEAR, an Indian drama, with director Rituparno Ghosh, producer Shubho Shekhar and actor Amitabh Bachchan attending. Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan excels in the central role as Harry, an ageing thespian, who's only true love is William Shakespeare.

Last but not least, comes the UK Premiere of DON’T TOUCH THE AXE, a French film directed film auteur Jacques Rivette. Set in the aristocratic salons of 1820s Paris , the story is framed as a flashback, recounting the emotional wranglings between Napoleonic general Armand de Montriveau (Gerard Depardieu) and society coquette Antoinette de Langeais (Jeanne Balibar). The film’s lead actress and producer Maurice Tinchant walked “le tapie rouge” as London reached out to France at Sunday evening’s gala screening.

Sandy Mandelberger, London FF Dailies Editor


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