Bill's 2019 delectable dozen

In alphabetical order:

  • Beanpole – gripping story of survival in Leningrad after World War 2
  • A Dog Called Money – after seeing this documentary I’m an even bigger PJ Harvey fan
  • The Favourite – Emma Stone, Olivia Colman and Rachel Weisz stretched my imagination in enjoyable ways
  • Foxtrot – a great anti-war film; something goes terribly wrong at an isolated Israeli military checkpoint
  • If Beale Street Could Talk – a beautifully made adaptation of a James Baldwin novel
  • It Must Be Heaven – a fresh angle on what it means to be Palestinian
  • Judy and Punch – Punch and Judy for feminists, a heady mix of anarchy, comedy and violence
  • La Belle Époque – for anyone (like me) who wants to revisit a key time in their life
  • The Lighthouse – what could be better than two lighthouse keepers losing their sanity, especially when they are Willem Defoe and Robert Pattinson?
  • Loro – everything you ever wanted to know about bunga bunga sex parties
  • Marriage Story – breaking up is the hardest thing to do, as Scarlett Johansson and Adam Driver show us with sharpness and humanity
  • Shooting the Mafia – documentary about a remarkable Sicilian woman, Letizia Battaglia, who defies the odds by exposing the brutality of the Cosa Nostra

Bill Walton

2019 At Hyde Park Picture House

2019, the year Brad Pitt fixed antennas (Ad Astra and Once Upon A Time In Hollywood), Scarlett Johansson tied shoelaces (Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit – out in the UK on 1st Jan), Adam Driver seemed to be everywhere and washing machines featured more than expected (In Fabric and Seahorse).

There were a lot of films shown at the Picture House during 2019, here are my highlights from the new films:

  • La Belle Époque – It’s too soon to know if this is really as good as it made me feel during the film festival or an “overegged French time-travel comedy” as Peter Bradshaw claimed in The Guardian.
  • The Favourite – One of the first films I saw this year which made me think it would be a while until I saw something I enjoyed more and I was right.
  • Eighth Grade – A really long wait to see this in the UK but it was worth it, a film about hope, despair, anxiety and it manages to be terrifying and funny in equal measures.
  • Marriage Story – Everything feels so authentic, it’s heartbreakingly beautiful and also surprisingly funny.
  • If Beale Street Could Talk – A beautiful film with a beautiful soundtrack.
  • Knives Out – Another recent film that may not stand the test of time but I had so much fun whilst watching it I had to include it in this list.
  • Midsommar & Us – Horror is a genre I tend to overlook but both of these films exceeded my expectations, both are carefully constructed and unravel in an enthralling way.
  • Irene’s Ghost, Seahorse, Our Most Brilliant Friends – Great documentaries that were enhanced by Q&A with the filmmakers.

My favourite film of 2019 only got a single screening as a Tuesday Wonder and (confession time) I didn’t see it at the Picture House. Minding The Gap: An American Skateboarding Story is one of those documentaries where the subject matter is just a cover story for the way it brilliantly exposes just what it means to be human and I absolutely loved it. It’s available on iPlayer as part of the Storyville strand and would make a great double bill with the underrated Mid90s.

Honorable mentions to: Collette, Beautiful Boy, RBG, Pond Life, Vox Lux, Madeline’s Madeline, Booksmart, Sometimes Always Never, Apollo 11, Only You, The Farewell, Peanut Butter Falcon.

Bill’s highlights from #LIFF2019

Bill lists some some personal highlights of Leeds International Film Festival 2019

  • Beanpole (2019) a gripping drama about young women in Leningrad shortly after World War 2
  • The Lighthouse (2019) a powerful Victorian gothic thriller about two lighthouse keepers
  • It Must Be Heaven (2019) an original take on the burden of being born Palestinian
  • La Belle Époque (2019) great fun, an audience favourite (showing at the Hyde Park Picture House on December 15, 18, 19)
  • Judy and Punch (2019) Punch and Judy, a feminist version!
  • Marriage Story (2019) a funny and compassionate account of a divorce (showing at the Hyde Park Picture House Nov 29 – Dec 5)
  • Dancer in the Dark (2000) with an impressive performance by Bjork
  • I Lost My Body (2019) an enjoyable animated feature film
  • Osaka Elegy (1936) a story of a brave woman in a highly patriarchal Japan

I also enjoyed films from the Cinema Versa documentary features section:

  • 143 Sahara Street (2019) portrait of a remarkable woman in her desert tea house
  • A Dog Called Money (2019) great viewing for fans of PJ Harvey about she gets inspiration for her songs from around the world (a Picture House screening is planned)

And two documentaries that show the importance of recording events on film:

  • Shooting the Mafia (2019) about the brave Sicilian photographer Letizia Battaglia (showing at the Picture House on January 21 2020)
  • The Cordillera of Dreams (2019) about Patricio Guzmán’s recording of the violence of Pincochet’s Chile, as s reminder to younger generation

Bill Walton

#LIFF2019 Preview: Cinema Versa


Bill Walton selects some films from the Cinema Versa strand of the festival programme:

Last Festival I only managed to see two documentaries (in the Cinema Versa section): Something Left Behind (2018) about the legendary Leeds band The Wedding Present; and What is Democracy? (2018) which highlighted how the very understanding of democracy varies from place to place around the world and over time.

They inspired me to make sure that I see more Cinema Versa films this time. So far on my list are:

So don’t forget to have a good look through the blue section of the programme. You will discover some cinematic gems.


Bill Walton

LIFF2019 Preview #2

Next in our series of posts on Leeds International Film Festival, Hannah tells us about her festival plans…

Last week, on a bit of a nostalgia trip, I watched the French film A Town Called Panic (2009) This showed on bonfire night at the Picture House during LIFF24 in 2010 and was my first taste of the film festival. Since then, my festival has steadily grown from the occasional odd film when I happened to be in Leeds to being an essential fortnight of my autumn calendar, around which all other things must be carefully arranged.

This year I’m going full tilt into LIFF (can we call it LIFF33?). After 2018, I said I’d take it easy and have time to reflect between screenings, maybe pop home occasionally, check in with my family or go for some leisurely lunches. You know, the things it’s nice to do when you’ve taken a week off work. Unfortunately somewhere in the planning, that idea has been bulldozered. The changes in ticketing for the festival, a jam-packed programme to choose from and a kind of film festival FOMO have conspired to keep me as square-eyed as ever.

At the time of writing, I’m lining up 45 screenings across the 16 days of festival; from Hollywood yet-to-be-blockbusters like Jojo Rabbit and Little Monsters, French animation (I Lost My Body), and East Asian action (The Gangster The Cop The Devil, The Wild Goose Lake) to documentaries like The Hidden City, shorts (ALL the animation) and a smattering of classics (All About Eve, Bonnie and Clyde). It’s going to be an effort, but when the line-up is this varied and exciting, I want to make the most I can of the opportunity.

The Picture House has been the scene of some of my favourite LIFF memories and this year has some exciting offerings:

  • The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty – A 1926 silent found-footage film marking the 10th anniversary of the 1917 revolution with live piano accompaniment.
  • The Hidden City – a documentary by Víctor Moreno on subterranean worlds; the pipes, tunnels and transport beneath our cities.
  • Night of the Dead and the inaugural Sci-fi Day – the marathon events at HP are staples of the film festival programme and this year the line-up includes a sci-fi run back to back with NOTD. If you’re really going for it you could attempt both, and I’m sure some will!

Outside the Picture House, I’m really looking forward to:

  • The Gangster The Cop The Devil – Thanks to LIFF, I’ve discovered a love of Korean action. A gangster and a police officer hunt a serial killer – the trailer is promising and I have high hopes.
  • Come to Daddy – Elijah Wood in a grizzly family drama. It might tip into type-casting, but Wood does wide-eyed terror well and I expect it to be put to good use here.
  • Days of the Bagnold Summer – the directorial debut from Simon Bird (Will from The Inbetweeners) is an adaptation from the graphic novel of the same name by Joff Winterhart. A story of a teenage boy and his mum navigating a long summer holiday together. The cast includes British favourites Alice Lowe, Monica Dolan and Tamsin Greig, with Earl Cave (Nick’s son) in the central role.
  • Family Romance LLC – A Werner Herzog documentary exploring a business in Japan that rents out actors to substitute in others’ lives, like a nonfiction rendering of Yorgos Lanthimos’ 2011 film Alps. That film was strange enough and I’m interested to see how the real version might work. From the trailer and bits I’ve read online, it’s going to be an odd one.

With a programme that offers such a variety and by giving myself the freedom to take some risks, the LIFF experience to date has dramatically expanded my cinematic horizons. Before discovering them in the cinema, I probably would have skirted all sorts of excellent foreign-language films because they felt like too much of a challenge and I definitely wouldn’t have gone out to see many documentaries on the big screen. These days the reluctance has vanished and recent years have been a feast of the weird and wonderful.

Taking an afternoon off work to go to the cinema feels like a decadent treat, something you can file under ‘self care’ and spoil yourself rotten at a matinee. Take a whole day off to go to the pictures and it might start to feel strange – more than one film at this time of year and you’ll barely see daylight. Take a few more and step out of your day-to-day life, disconnect from rolling news and immerse yourself in the moving image. There in the dark, you might learn something new, experience something you wouldn’t have otherwise, and lose yourself in other people’s imaginations. It really is the most wonderful time of the year.

LIFF 2019 starts on Wednesday. I’ll see you in the cinema!

#LIFF2019 Preview #1

In the run up to the Leeds International Film Festival we’ll be taking a look at some of the films making up this years programme. First up is Stephen…

I wasn’t sure what to expect in this years selection of films but after last year’s late addition of Roma I was hopeful we’d get a chance to see The Irishman on a big screen. Disappointingly it wasn’t in the launch programme but that big gap on Thursday 7th was soon to be filled with Scorsese’s latest. This feels like the real opening film of the festival for me and I just hope the Town Hall seats aren’t too uncomfortable for the three and half hour running time. Netflix seem to making more effort to get this in cinemas and it should also be playing at the Picture House after the festival.

I love the variety of films shown at the festival and often find myself drawn towards the weirder sounding films. There don’t seem to be that many oddities in this year’s programme but perhaps that because the strangeness has gone into the mainstream with Jojo Rabbit. I’ve loved all of Taika Waititi’s films so far (Boy, What We Do In The Shadows, The Hunt For The Wilderpeople, Thor: Ragnarok – I still haven’t seen Eagle vs Shark) and I’m sure this won’t disappoint although the trailer left me a little cold.

In between those opening and closing films I’m currently planning on seeing around 50 films (and therefore really grateful that the Gold Explorer pass was introduced). Over the years I’ve come to trust the programming team and think there’s usually a good reason to see any of the films in the programme. I’ve tried to take a more practical approach to my schedule this year, trying to avoid dashes across town or upturning my entire plan to fit in films I assume I’ll be able to see elsewhere e.g The Cave, The Two Popes, Ordinary Love and Matthias & Maxime (by the way isn’t it strange that there are two films called The Cave as well as Marriage Story and A Marriage Story in the programme). If you are still making your plans and want to see a better view of when films are showing you may find this Clashfinder useful.

Most of the films I’m looking forward to are from directors I already know and have been praised at other film festivals. All of the following have headline slots and are likely to be popular:

  • Marriage Story – Noah Baumbach’s latest.
  • The Nightingale – Jennifer Kent’s follow up the The Babadook (2014).
  • The Lighthouse – I wasn’t a fan of The VVitch (2015) but keen to see what Robert Eggers has done with this.
  • Portrait of A Lady On Fire Girlhood (2014) and Tomboy (2011) are fantastic and Céline Sciamma’s latest film very different from those, she was also screenplay consultant on one of my favourite ‘forgotten’ LIFF films Bird People (2014).

Some of the lesser known films I’m looking forward to include:

  • Patrick – Really not sure what to expect from this but it was one film in the trailer reel that really stood out as a typical WTF LIFF film.
  • The Incredible Shrinking WKND – another strange sounding one dealing with time-loops. It’s part of the Sci-Fi day at Hyde Park and I’ve taken the easy option of settling in the the entire day.
  • La Belle Époque – the idea of being able to recreate any moment from the past sounds like an intriguing one.
  • Little Monsters – more well known but looks like a lot of fun.

I’m disappointed I haven’t been able to fit in more of the classic films, the Mother Cutter strand is a great idea and a wonderful selection of films. I do have some free time so I may be able to fit some of these films in as well. I’m also glad that the short films are getting more screenings, I’ve not been able to get to many of these in the last few years but this year it seemed easier to fit them around other films.

As always we’d love to hear from you, please leave comments below or head over to our Twitter and Facebook pages to tell us what you’re looking forward to at the Festival.

Our #LIFF2017 Highlights

The film festival may be over but with arguably one of their best programmes, there’s still plenty to talk about. We asked our contributors for their highlights from LIFF2017 and it would be great to see yours in the comments:

Bill

  • Thelma
  • Félicité
  • The Wages of Fear
  • Loveless
  • Lover for a Day
  • The Teacher
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Gaza Surf Club
  • Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

Jake

  • The Rider
  • Western
  • Untitled
  • Félicité
  • Happy End

Keith

  • Happy End
  • Félicité
  • Taste of Cherry / Ta’m e guilass

And the best film not screened at the Festival, Oktyabr / October 1917 (Ten Days that Shook the World, 1928), co-written and directed by Sergei Eisenstein.

Stephen

  • Amélie
  • Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
  • Journeyman
  • The Florida Project
  • Good Time
  • Bad Genius
  • You Were Never Really Here
  • Jane
  • The Breadwinner
  • The Rider

 

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.