Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Triple Clooney lights up London Film Festival

By the sacred chin of Brian Blessed, is it that time of year again? Just when you were starting to feel down about the end of Summer and laid low by the idea of a Fame remake: the London Film Festival returns, and guess what: it has triple-Clooney.

LFF 2009

The London Film Festival kicks off on today. Cannes, Venice and Berlin may get more kudos from the critics, but London is more about the fans. With 191 features and 113 shorts, the capital's shindig offers a smorgasbord of world cinema and places punters next to actors and directors who show up in person, not just on the red carpet. How about Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Bill Murray and Julianne Moore?

Numerically its all about the Clooney this year. Three movies he appears in, starting with the opening night gala, Wes Anderson's adaptation of Roald Dahl's Fantastic Mr. Fox. The movie may be based on the much loved children's book but watching the trailer, the stop-motion animated world of Mr and Mrs Fox (Clooney and Streep) appears to blend seamlessly with the wry stylings of writer/director Anderson (as seen in The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore). His regulars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson as well as Brit thesps Michael Gambon and Brian Cox round out the voice talent with a capital 'T' in this tasty prospect for all ages.

Elsewhere, LFF always rewards film fans who take a chance on unfamiliar indies and odd sounding films from Argentina or Finland.

So much to see, here is a selection of 7 films to look out for at the festival and beyond:

1) The Prophet - a prison drama about a young French Arab which comes with an astonishing boast-more exciting than Mesrine-astonishing if true.

2) Extract - an unheralded comedy from Mike Judge, the Beavis and Butthead creator who also gave us the marvellous Office Space; terrifically filthy banter is expected from leads Jason Bateman and Ben Affleck.

3) Bright Star - Jane Campion's take on the romantic life of John Keats in Hampstead is warm, handsomely mounted and well played by Ben Whishaw and Abbie Cornish.

4) The Boys Are Back - Clive Owen excels in this touching drama about a man who loses his wife and has to finds a way to bring his sons up, despite himself.

5) Cold Souls Don't mention Being John Malkovich! Sophie Barthes' curiousity
has its own charm and logic as Paul Giamatti plays actor Paul Giamatti. Superlative kvetching and deadpanning from PG in this philosophical/theatrical comedy about downloading souls in New Jersey.

6) Lebanon - more Israeli soul-searching after Waltz for Bashir, this time Samuel Moez depicts the horrors of warfare by setting his film almost entirely in an Israeli tank during the 1982 invasion of Lebanon - has been compared to Das Boot.

7) The Surprise Film! If you have a ticket, you beat the Royal Mail: well done. Last year's surprise was The Wrestler, complete with a raucous appearance from Mickey Rourke himself so this time, in two screens, expectations will be high. I predict Woody Allen every year and I'm nearly always wrong.

And for Clooney completists, his other two performances come in The Men Who Stare at Goats, a comedy based on the amusing prose of Guardian journo Jon Ronson (with a suspicously high number of punchlines in the trailer), and Up in the Air, Jason 'Thank You for Smoking' Reitman's new one about, wait for it...management consultants- Men who stare at spreadsheets?

Johnny Messias

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