Ten of the Best Films From London Film Festival 2020

The 64th London Film Festival concluded this past weekend, taking place both online and in select cinemas across the UK in light of these unprecedented times, offering roughly a fifth of the usual number of features presented in a normal year, alongside shorts, experimental and VR works, and a couple of TV series previews. The festival ended with showings of Francis Lee’s period lesbian romance Ammonite, starring Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan, in hundreds of cinemas nationwide, while Thomas Vinterberg’s drama Another Round won the inaugural LFF Audience Award.

Here are ten of the best titles from LFF 2020 worth looking out for in the future; some on their way to cinemas or digital soon, others further off…

Full feature for AnOther

Amateur (Hal Hartley, 1994)

Breaking through with early features The Unbelievable Truth (1989), Trust (1990) and Simple Men (1992), writer-director Hal Hartley was one of the key figures of the tail end of the 1980s/early 1990s boom of American independent cinema, alongside the likes of Steven Soderbergh and Jim Jarmusch, before that landscape became altogether different in the wake of the success of films such as Pulp Fiction (1994) and Clerks (1994).

Hartley’s early tragicomic dramas – which explore such topics as class, the nature of love, and foolhardy ambition in the face of absurd reality – are immediately recognisable through the specific deadpan cadence to the dialogue and his performers’ delivery of it, whereby emotional duress or ecstatic highs are largely conveyed with a relatively expressionless affect, outside of a few select scenes. Hartley’s regular actors around that time included such talents as Martin Donovan, Edie Falco, Robert John Burke, Bill Sage and the late Adrienne Shelly. Hartley can also attest to being one of the earliest directors to regularly employ Parker Posey’s particularly unique screen presence.

Amateur (1994) is a key transitional work for Hartley. For one thing, it’s a decidedly more violent offering than anything he’d presented before; while relatively free of actual onscreen blood, multiple characters are shot and one is tortured to near-death and driven mad. Secondly, while his later studio foray and prosthetics-heavy oddity No Such Thing (2001) likely cost more, Amateur certainly looks like the most expensive film of Hartley’s career at that point, thanks to use of varied New York City locations (Long Island was his favoured locale before this) and the mere presence of a particular actor (more on that in a moment). Among the production company credits in the gorgeous opening title sequence, set to the score by Jeffrey Taylor and Hartley himself (under the pseudonym Ned Rifle), are the likes of UGC and what was then Channel Four Films (now Film4 Productions), a reflection of Hartley’s growing status as a hot commodity in European arthouse markets…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Eyimofe (This Is My Desire) (Arie Esiri/Chuko Esiri, 2020)

The feature-length debut of directing brothers Arie and Chuko Esiri (the latter also writing the screenplay), Eyimofe – or This Is My Desire – is a Nigerian drama that acts somewhat in opposition to the country’s filmmaking output at large, both in terms of general perception overseas and the standard domestic models. Nigeria is among the world’s most prosperous film industries, putting out roughly a thousand productions a year. That said, many are made on extremely low budgets and shot within maybe a week at most. Few tend to travel outside of Africa through traditional distribution channels, nor do that many seem especially commercially minded, as it were. (For a sense of at least one major Nigerian studio’s offerings, UK viewers with Sky can watch Rok TV, which screens Rok Studios-produced films and television series 24 hours a day.)

All of this is necessary context for why Eyimofe feels so different as a project. In interviews and supplementary production notes both before and after the film’s world premiere at the 2020 Berlinale, the brothers Esiri have cited their wide-reaching influences as including Robert Altman, Edward Yang, Hou Hsiao-hsien, Vittorio De Sica and James Joyce’s Dubliners – filmmakers and authors who notably, though not always, gravitate towards works that examine the larger spaces their characters inhabit, where the city or town itself is truly a character in the text…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Filmmaker Rose Glass on making this year’s best horror

Saint Maud, the acclaimed horror darling of the past year’s festival circuit, finally reaches British cinemas on a wave of hype – despite release delays owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the debut feature of British writer-director Rose Glass, the psychological drama follows Maud (Morfydd Clark), a reclusive, pious hospice nurse with a dark past, who becomes dangerously obsessed with a perceived higher purpose and her latest patient in a seaside town: Amanda (Jennifer Ehle), a hedonistic and embittered retired dancer who’s dying of cancer.

Glass has pointed to Taxi Driver as a specific influence on Saint Maud’s structure, with both sharing narration by the increasingly volatile protagonist. She also pays homage to Martin Scorsese’s film with at least two specific shots. “Generally any stuff that I felt that, in some way, I shouldn’t be watching, I wanted to watch,” she says of her burgeoning enthusiasm for left field cinema in her early teen years in the 2000s, which included films by David(s) Lynch and Cronenberg, Hideo Nakata (Ring), Takashi Miike (Visitor Q) and Fruit Chan (Dumplings).

To mark Saint Maud’s UK release, Huck spoke to Glass at this year’s Glasgow Film Festival – in an interview that originally took place back in March – about making an empathetic genre movie concerning mental illness, body horror, and the extreme places the human mind can take us…

Full interview for Huck

“I used the cinema to learn about the world” – ‘Daphne’ director Peter Mackie Burns on making his second film, ‘Rialto’

Following a decade’s worth of award-winning shorts, Glaswegian director Peter Mackie Burns made his fiction feature debut in 2017 with Daphne, a lauded character study concerning a pessimistic and hedonistic young woman (Emily Beecham) living in south London and undergoing an existential crisis after witnessing a stabbing. 

Second feature Rialto, supported by the BFI Film Fund, sees the director collaborating with writer Mark O’Halloran and heading to Dublin. Colm (Tom Vaughan-Lawlor) is a married dock worker with 2 teenage children. Still grieving the death of his destructive father, and with his job threatened by a recent takeover, he struggles to share his vulnerability with wife Clare (Monica Dolan). Where he finds solace, while threatening his family’s stability, is in his encounters and growing infatuation with Jay (Tom Glynn-Carney), a 19-year-old who intermittently works in prostitution.

Speaking to us at the Glasgow Film Festival in February, Mackie Burns discussed his tips for second feature success…

Full interview for the BFI