Our LIFF30 Highlights

The film festival is over for another year and once again has provided Leeds with a fantastic selection of films. Below we share five of our highlights from the festival and would love to see yours in the comments:

Bill

Bill's Top 5There are so many films being made around the world!  The Leeds Film Festival programme is just a small sample, and the thirty or so films I saw are just a small sample of what the Festival had to offer. Here are 5 films that I enjoyed, in no particular order:

  • Sieranevada  – a beautifully directed and acted glimpse of a Romanian
    family’s memorial commemoration, which also says something about wider
    Eastern European society.
  • Chi-raq – Spike Lee’s theatrical exploration of the issues around Black
    Lives Matter, made with the involvement of people living in Chicago’s
    Southside.
  • Lonesome – a love story, with live organ accompaniment, mostly set in
    Coney Island, and made at a time when silent films were giving way to
    the new ‘talkies’
  • The Handmaiden – an exciting and beautiful Korean/Japanese story, with
    different perspectives challenging us to work out what is really going
    on
  • Fukushima, Mon Amour – the aftermath of the earthquake, tsunami, and
    nuclear reactor meltdown, is the setting for this film about the lives
    of people 5 years later, as seen through the eyes of a German woman who
    wants to bring some pleasure to their lives

I could have added another 5 quite easily.

Keith

Keith's Top 5

  • The Art of Negative Thinking – Scandinavian filmmakers excel at combining disability and humour.
  • Certain Women –Three well crafted stories, four excellent performances.
  • Mimosas – Very fine visually but the story requires careful thought and study.
  • Old Stone – A good Samaritan suffers under Chinese capitalism.
  • Woman of the Dunes – A black and white classic in a good 35mm print.

Stephen

Stephen's Top 5

  • Mindhorn – The funniest film since What We Do In The Shadows. I’d forgotten how fantastic it is to see an incredibly funny film in a packed cinema. We laughed so hard we probably missed half the jokes. Followed by a brilliant surreal Q&A.
  • A Man Called Ove – Perfectly combining humour and humanity, everything comes together to remind you there is some good in the world.
  • The Autopsy of Jane Doe – The best horror film I’ve seen in some time. Delivers intelligent thrills and never outstays it’s welcome by becoming too silly.
  • Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Seeing this projected (from 35mm) gave me a new appreciation and managed to completely charm me where I’d previously been underwhelmed.
  • Two Lovers and a Bear – A complete surprise, I knew nothing about this film and found it all completely delightful.

This was the strongest festival I remember and I’d recommend nearly all the films I saw. My next 5 films were Pet, The Birth of A Nation,  The First, The Last, Life Animated and Paterson.

Jake

Jake's Top 5

  • Certain Women – Kelly Reichardt’s most fully realised film to date. Maile Meloy’s short stories perfectly compliment each other, providing a perfect counterpart to Reichardt’s earlier adaptations of Jon Raymond. Great performances from the central cast, especially Laura Dern and relative newcomer, Lily Gladstone.
  • Mister Universo – Tizza Covi and Rainer Frimmel’s simple fiction played out by real life members of the Italian circus community. A beautiful intersection between fact and fiction, that functions as both a road movie and an affectionate family portrait.
  • The Woman of the Dunes – Teshigahara/Abe’s Sisyphusian nightmare. A classic. So glad I got to see this on a big screen on 35mm.
  • Graduation – Doting father, Romeo, walks moral tightropes in this austere drama from Cristian Mungiu. Shades of Haneke’s Hidden in it’s creeping sense of dread.
  • Mimosas – Ecstatic fiction, quasi-western with the Atlas mountains as a backdrop. Shakib Ben Omar is a wild, charismatic lead. A natural heir to Ninetto Davoli.

Napoleon France 1927

Sunday November 13th at 11.15 a.m. in The Victoria Hall

napoleon

This silent film epic is screening in The Victoria Hall with a pre-recorded musical accompaniment. The film itself, directed by Abel Gance, is one of the outstanding achievements of European silent cinema. Epic well describes the over five hours which only take in Napoleon’s youth and early career. Gance and his production team, especially the lead cinematographer Cinematography by Léonce-Henri Burel, were in the vanguard of film technique in this period. In an early scene the mobile camera brings out the dynamism of young Bonaparte: and these techniques are paralleled on many occasions especially in a dramatic sequence in the French Assembly. The film makes extensive use of tinting and toning, reproduced in this version. Finally the film ends with a precursor of the Cinerama format, as the entry of Napoleon’s army into Italy is presented on three screens in a magnificent panorama.

The film has been transferred to a digital format. So whether this will be equal to the thrill of 35mm presentations has to be seen. However, Kevin Brownlow, who painstakingly restored the film over many years, made the point that it will look better than on the 9.5 mm gauge in which he first viewed it. And it will certainly look better than on a Blu-Ray or DVD. On the large screen at the Town Hall, 12 metres across, the framing will be about 27 by 20 foot. And the final triptych has been folded into a 2.39:1 frame, stretching across the entire screen. Added to this, the score that Carl Davis composed to accompany  film screenings, based extensively on music contemporary to the time, will be in 7:1 Dolby Surround Sound, and the Town Hall has good acoustics for music.

The film falls into three parts, though this screening has three intervals, so I am unsure where they will fall. Still, if you have never seen Napoleon on the big screen then this is a cinema must.

A Fanomenon Selection

LIFF30 Fanomenon

As LIFF enters its 30th year, here is a selection of some of the Fanomenon strand of weird and wonderful films playing at the Hyde Park Picture House:

Francesca (2015)

Francesca is a beautiful and bloody love letter to the Italian giallos of the 70s. A psychopath in a red coat and leather gloves is stalking the city, clearing it of ‘impure and damned souls’. The crimes seem linked to an unsolved case from many years ago.

A Monster Calls (2016)

Based on the acclaimed novel by Patrick Ness, this dark compelling from J A Bayona (The Orphanage) tells the story of a young boy visited by an enormous, tree-shaped monster – voiced, obviously, by Liam Neeson!

Kids Police (2013)

From one of Japan’s wildest comic film creators Yuichi Fukada comes this delightful spoof of procedural cop dramas. Chief Onuma and his Special Investigative Division are transformed back into their child selves by terrorists. Can Onuma and his mini squad stop the terrorists taking over Japan? A big story about very little heroes!

Continue reading

Happy #LIFF30 Day

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As you probably know the 30th Leeds International Film Festival starts tonight with a screening of Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson at the Town Hall (it’s also showing at the Picture House on Saturday 5th at 8:30pm).

We were hoping to post more about the festival but it’s going to be busy few weeks so that might be difficult but don’t forget about our Twitter and Facebook pages. You can find all of our #LIFF30 posts here including a fascinating look at how the Friends started the festival 30 years ago. On Friday we’ll be highlighting some of the films in the Fanomenon strand showing at the Picture House. The Leeds Movie Fans Meetup Group also have a number of meetings planned during the festival, check out their webpages for more details.

There are nearly 150 films on offer over the next few weeks so there’s bound to be something for everyone. If you’re still planning what to see you might find this clashfinder useful. There really seems to be a lot of great films this year. I’m planning on seeing 45 films over the next two weeks (you can follow my progress on Letterboxd and Twitter) and I still feel like I’m missing out. Here’s a list of ten films I really wanted to see but couldn’t fit in (and that doesn’t include any of the classic films in the soundtrack retrospective which I’d love to have seen again!)

  1. A Divorce Before Marriage
  2. Dougal And The Blue Cat
  3. As I Open My Eyes
  4. Cameraperson
  5. Greetings From Fukushima
  6. Graduation
  7. Lady Macbeth
  8. November
  9. Napoleon
  10. A Silent Voice

We hope you enjoy the festival and would love to hear your thoughts about any of the films in the comments (or contact us if you’d like to write a longer post for the blog).

Woman of the Dunes/Suna no onna, Japan 1964

Friday November 4th at 4.30 p.m. and Wednesday November 9th at 1.00 p.m.

woman-in-the-dunes

This is one of the classic films screening at the Leeds International Film festival and one of the few in the original format of 35mm. It is part of a retrospective ‘Soundtracks’ and the film has a minimalist and modernist electronic score by Japanese composer Takemitsu Toru. He was a regular collaborator with the film director Teshigahara Hiroshi and this is the latter’s most notable film. It won the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes International Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign-Language Film category.

It is an example of the modernist film-making found in the Japanese New Wave of the 1960s. It is a film of ambiguities but with a fascinating narrative and characters. An etymologist goes to the beach collect specimens for the day but events prevent his return to the city in the evening. The story develops in beautifully unexpected ways.  Visually the film is a tour de force, especially in the black and white deep focus cinematography of Segawa Hiroshi. The imagery at times is abstract and the music of Takemitsu adds to the unconventional feel of the film.

The film also has a strong set of social themes running through it. These receive extra emphasis from the opening and closing credits which offer an added dimension to the allegory. The film runs for just over two hours and exercises at time a hypnotic feel. Not to be missed on the big screen.

A History of Leeds Film Festival

LIFF30

It is the 30th edition of the Leeds International Film Festival this November. From its instigation in 1987 by members of the Friends of Hyde Park Picture House the festival has consistently presented a wide-ranging programme of films and film based events annually, across a shifting landscape of city venues.

Laura Ager, a volunteer at the Hyde Park Picture House who has worked with the film festival in various roles over the last 10 years, recalls how she first became interested in the history of the festival and, in the course of her research, has tracked down some of its former directors and supporters to ask them what the festival meant to them.

Two typed documents, discovered by chance in the office of the Leeds International Film Festival at Leeds Town Hall, announced the coming of The Leeds International Film Festival.

In November 1987, the Leisure Services department at Leeds City Council proclaimed that in 1988:

Leeds, the birthplace of the film industry, will celebrate the centenary of the moving image by holding a major international film festival.[1]

This film festival would celebrate 100 years since Louis le Prince filmed the people and traffic in ‘Leeds Bridge Scene’ at a spot now marked with a Leeds Civic Trust blue plaque.

The Leeds International Film Festival took place from 13th – 29th October 1988. On the first day, the famous traffic scene was reconstructed on Leeds Bridge at 2pm, later on that day a ‘black & white ball’ was held in the Town Hall. The film programme addressed eight themes that year: comedy, horror, war, music in films, images of England, animation, women and film and documentary[2]. Continue reading

LIFF30

It was great to have the launch of the 30th Leeds International Film Festival at the Picture House last week. There was a wonderful atmosphere and sense of anticipation as 50ish trailers and clips were shown. I left wanting to see more of everything that had been showcased.

If you haven’t picked up a guide yet, it’s now also available in digital form.

There’s a new layout for the guide this year including a more compact pull out calendar which may be prove to be useful during the festival but for lots of people has made planning a little harder. If you are struggling to see the overlaps you may find this Clashfinder website useful. It shows everything in a grid format so you can plan your dashes between venues. You can also highlight films to create your own itinerary and this allows us to see what’s popular, earlier today the top 20 was as follows:

  1. LIFF30 Opening Gala: Paterson + Timecode
  2. The Handmaiden
  3. Jurassic Park
  4. Schneider vs. Bax
  5. A Monster Calls
  6. Train to Busan
  7. Hacksaw Ridge
  8. I Am Not a Serial Killer
  9. Under the Shadow
  10. Jaws
  11. The Wailing
  12. The Master Cleanse
  13. Toni Erdmann
  14. Belladonna of Sadness
  15. Kids Police
  16. The First, the Last
  17. Psychonauts, the Forgotten Children
  18. Elling
  19. The Red Turtle + Father and Daughter
  20. Ambulance

Over the next few weeks we’re hoping to preview some of the festival films and it would be great to hear your plans and what you are looking forward to seeing in the comments (or get in touch if you’d like to write a full post for the blog).

Soundtracks

Part of this year’s film festival focuses on soundtracks so it seemed like a good idea to talk about music. Over the last few years I’ve found myself paying much more attention to what I’m hearing in the cinema as well as seeing. One of my  favourite recent soundtracks is Disasterpeace’s work for It Follows (2015) and it’s great to get the opportunity to hear it performed live at the Picture House at the end of the month (limited tickets available here).  There’s a similar electronic ambient sound to Cliff Martinez’s score for The Neon Demon (2016). Both soundtracks are influenced by John Carpenter’s music and I was hoping we might get a gig from the horror master at this year’s festival, alas it doesn’t look like we will.

A completely different sound can be heard in Carter Burwell’s score for Carol (2015), it’s such a beautiful piece of work and for me it may even be better than the already great film.

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If you are interested in film music it’s worth listening to Saturday Night At The Movies on Classic FM (5pm Saturdays), presented by Radio Times film critic Andrew Collins each week they play two hours of music around a certain theme. It was a TV special this week but recently they’ve focussed on Hitchcock, animation and westerns. It’s available to listen to for 7 days online and is also on Freeview 731.

BBC Radio 3 also have a weekly film music programme Sound Of The Cinema (3pm Saturdays, also on iPlayer and available as a podcast) which centres each week around a current new release but play music from a wide range of films. Soundtracking is another podcast but slightly different because each week Edith Bowman talks to a film director about how they use music in film.

Back to the festival, focussing on soundtracks is an interesting idea and it has thrown up some great opportunities to revisit some films with wonderful soundtracks: Jurassic Park, Jaws, Drive, Pulp Fiction, Under The Skin, Blue Velvet, Breakfast At Tiffany’s, Lost In Translation, The Virgin Suicides are all favourites of mine and there are many more featured in the retrospective.

Yorkshire Silent Film Festival

The first ever Yorkshire Silent Film Festival is taking place throughout July at various venues across the region. On Sunday there are four events at the Picture House with a day pass available for members for £15 (passes for non-members are £19/£17).

Harry Houdini Stars in The Grim Game (1919)

houdini

Showing at 12:40pm

Escapologist and illusionist Harry Houdini plays a man framed and imprisoned who escapes his cell and ruthlessly pursues the criminals who set him up. Lost for many years, this film was rediscovered in 2014 in the Brooklyn apartment of a retired juggler. It’s full of outlandish, breathtaking sequences, including Houdini’s world famous escape from a straitjacket while suspended from a skyscraper and a real-life mid-air plane collision which was later incorporated into the plot.

Live musical accompaniment by Jonathan Best Continue reading

Leeds Young Film Festival 2016

lyff2016

Now in it’s 17th year, the Leeds Young Film Festival starts this Thursday and as always there’s plenty to see for people of all ages. Taking place throughout the Easter school holidays (24th-31st March) the festival is aimed at young people but every year it always impresses with a great selection of films. If you’re ignoring the programme because it’s a “Kids’ festival” you’re likely to be missing out.

For starters there’s another chance to see some of the LIFF29 films you may not have seen (or want to see again):  Assassination Classroom (2015), Breaking A Monster (2015), Landfill Harmonic (2015), Lovemilla (2015) and Crow’s Egg (2014) are all showing at the Picture House. On Good Friday, tribute screenings of Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince (2009) and Labyrinth (1986) allow us to remember the great work of Alan Rickman and David Bowie. Good Friday continues with 25th Anniversary screenings of the deliciously bizarre  Delicatessen (1991) and Wes Craven’s The People Under The Stairs (1991), who we also sadly lost last year.

Not For Rental is a programme of films curated by 15-19 year olds that runs throughout the year. Their selection for the festival are all showing at the Picture House and includes Studio Ghibli’s latest (and possibly last) When Marnie Was There (2014) and Boy and the Beast (2015) from the makers of Wolf Children and Summer Wars which have both screened at LIFF. Not For Rental have also programmed this week’s Creatures Of The Night and Tuesday Wonder slots. The late night (but slightly earlier than usual at 10:30pm) screening of Aliens (1986) should be great after seeing Alien at LIFF a few years ago and on Tuesday He Named Me Malala (2015) is the inspirational documentary about the the youngest-ever Nobel Prize laureate, 17 year old Malala Yousafzai. Continue reading