Running from 5 to 16 October with screenings spread across central London, a brand new temporary venue at Embankment and a number of participating local cinemas, the 60th edition of the BFI London Film Festival opens lightly with Amma Assante’s romantic drama A United Kingdom and closes with a bang with Ben Wheatley’s action comedy thriller Free Fire, starring Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Michael Smiley and Armie Hammer in a twisted story about an arms deal going horribly wrong. In between those two opposing sides of the film spectrum, this year’s line-up is packed with a wealth of thrills, chills and oddities.
Our top picks this year include Park Chan-wook’s intriguing and masterfully shot new film The Handmaiden, social-SF drama The Untamed by Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante, Ulrich Seidl’s latest documentary Safari, along with the French cannibal coming-of-age tale Raw and absurdist Russian fable Zoology, which screened at L’Etrange Festival and TIFF last month.
Other titles seen on the festival circuit include Boo Junfeng’s tense prison thriller Apprentice, Olivier Assayas’s underwhelming ghost drama Personal Shopper, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s latest offering Creepy, Na Hong-jin’s supernatural epic The Wailing, Pablo Larrain’s festival hit Neruda, and Nicole Krebitz’s new film Wild, about a young woman who finds herself drawn to a wolf and gradually breaks free from the conformist society that surrounds her.
We especially look forward to the packed ‘Cult’ strand, which this year includes a trip down memory lane with Peter Braatz’s Blue Velvet Revisited along with a rare screening of Don Coscarelli’s Phantasm: Remastered, next to a number of promising debuts by young filmmakers such as Lorca Finnegan’s Without Name and Liam Gavin’s first feature A Dark Song. There are also new and exciting works by more established filmmakers, including Billy O’Brien’s chilling and darkly humorous study of adolescent alienation I am Not a Serial Killer, and Jeremy Gillespie and Steven Kostanski’s brand new slice of retro terror, ‘The Void’.
This year’s archive screenings, which are always worth a look, include Cy Endfield’s superb low budget thriller Hell Drivers (1957) and the BFI National Archive’s latest silent film restoration The Informer (1929), based on Liam O’Flaherty’s novel about betrayal amidst the revolutionary environment of the newly independent Ireland in 1922.