Ladies and Gentlemen Please Take Your Seats…for the 56th BFI London Film Festival

The BFI London Film Festival: the finest fortnight in the year’s calendar (that doesn’t involve visits to Stratford). This is armchair travel at its best, a chance to see the world and get a different take on the seething mass of humanity and its foibles and woes.

There’s been a mini shake-up of the festival’s 56th programme this year: it’s been re-categorised to reflect mood, mode and genre rather than origin. This may work for intuitive types, but if you have a particular penchant for French cinema, you will have to trawl the programme with a fine tooth-comb to find your selections. Stalwarts such as Shorts, Experimenta and the BFI’s trawling of the archives remain for the hardcore fans. Like the preceding London Fashion Week the programme has been compressed into fewer days so be prepared for more film clashes on the timetable! 

So it’s time to dig out the highlighter pen and wade through the programme before bookings open to the general public on 24th September, but how to choose from the kino-smorgasbord if you have finite funds and time?

Cinema is a very subjective medium – one man’s meat is another man’s Inception – but here’s our take on how to attack this exciting catalogue of new film-making.

For a start, it can be pretty frustrating to see a film that ends up coming out on general release the following week. We’ve seen some absolute corkers at the LFF that have never seen the light of day since: look for a named distributor below the synopsis in the programme, usually indicating it will hit the cinemas at some point. If you don’t see one, the obscurity rating is high and it may be the only chance you get to see that particular flick. Again, the high profile Gala screenings usually appear within a matter of weeks/months so they can fall by the wayside for now, unless it‘s something you simply MUST SEE immediately.

Aim for a good smattering across the board – (teen angst, a big south Asian melodrama, and a reliably good German number always feature on our shortlist. We are still lamenting the loss of German Film Festival). It’s all about getting in the mix and curating your own festival from the mass of creativity presented before you. If in doubt go for anything at the Curzon Mayfair; it’s the Maserati of cinemas, very comfortable with a dash of Art Deco élan. 

And you might think you’re being clever splicing double bills together with moments to dash from one location to t’other, but be warned: the festival brings in many of the directors and actors who offer insights, curious titbits, or hints at explanations of those more obscure features. 

We’ll be posting up a shortlist of film recommendations soon, and a smattering of bars and restaurants to tip out to for a post-mortem, drink and snackette.

More information – London Film Festival 10-21st October ‘12

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