This week's film news was brought to you in conjunction with the excellent homestreaming site MUBI. Sign up for a month's free membership at MUBI here!
FESTIVAL: LONDON FILM FESTIVAL PICKS
It's festival madness time again in London, and tickets are now on sale for a programme that's the strongest in recent memory. As well as brilliant, Cannes-winner Blue Is the Warmest Colour (below), rapturous reviews out of Toronto make Steve McQueen's 12 Years A Slave – depicting the brutality of 19th-century US slavery – a must-see. Tomasz Wasilewski's award-winning Floating Skyscrapers also takes sincere risks in its tale of an intense gay romance in Warsaw that's rare for Poland. For the brave there's shockingly extreme Mexican arthouse drug-crime drama Heli, which won Amat Escalante Best Director in Cannes. Absorbing performances inject fresh vigour into the US indie in Short Term 12, about at-risk teens in a foster-care facility, while Scarlett Johansson goes Glasgow alien seductress for sci-fi weirdness Under the Skin. For the dedicatedly experimental, Catalan avant-gardist Albert Serra's sumptuous, epic-length Story of My Death radically blends the legends of Casanova and Dracula, while A Spell to Ward Off the Darkness from Ben Rivers and Ben Russell merges mystical symbols, the northern European wilds and Norwegian black metal. We could go on and on.
The festival runs from 9 to 20 October in London.
TRAILER: BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOUR
The winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes, director Abdellatif Kechiche's French drama is a gut-wrenchingly realistic portrayal of the confusion and conflicting emotions of love. We follow several years in the life of Adele (Adele Exarchopoulos) as she wrestles with her sexual identity at school and enters into a romance with Emma (Lea Seydoux), a painter with blue-dyed hair who's more certain in her own skin. The daring film gives full recognition to the key role of sexual desire in relationships (the explicit scenes have been controversial), but also to their at times insurmountable complexity. Its phenomenal, emotionally raw performances saw the first time the Palme d'Or has been awarded to a film's lead actresses as well as director.
Screening at the London Film Festival on 14 and 17 October, and out in the UK in November.
OLD FILM: NOTHING BUT A MAN
A favourite of iconic photographer Nan Goldin, Michael Roemer's grittily realistic black-and-white film was one of the first depictions of black life in the Deep South. Shot in 1963, it sees a prone-to-conflict railroad worker (Ivan Dixon) forge an unlikely romance with a grounded, strong-minded preacher's daughter and schoolteacher (Abbey Lincoln). The bleak but moving film, which hints at the stirrings of the Civil Rights Movement, portrays the impact of racism in not only its direct manifestations but the gnawing emotional and economic fallout on African-Americans of the time, when resorting to booze and despair often triumphed over solidarity. An incredible Motown soundtrack and church gospel add texture to this landmark American indie film.
Out on Friday 27 September at London's BFI Southbank.
MUBI FILM: AUDITION
One of prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike's best, this flamboyantly disturbing 1999 cult classic sees an affable-seeming widower succumb to his teenage son's urging that he seek out a new wife. His film producer friend arranges a mock casting audition so he can screen potential women to find the perfect candidate. Smitten by one - fragile former ballet dancer Asami - he begins to date her, despite his friend's uneasy sense there is something wrong with her. Rushing headlong toward marriage, he's shocked when she suddenly disappears and he determines to track her down, totally unprepared for what he might find. Elegantly shot and psychologically rich with an absurdist humour that reels us in before exploding into the creepily twisted, it's Japanese horror at its finest.
Available to watch on MUBI.