The 56th BFI London Film Festival
October 10-21, 2012
In July 2011, the U.K. Film Council was one oldie first casualties of coalition government's ideologically driven program of cuts to public bodies. As the result of the Film Council's demise, the British Film Institute (BFI) became responsible for the funding of film production and development along with its usually more academic and archival responsibilities. These seismic shifts appear to have affected this year's somewhat pared-down London Film Festival, for better or for worse.
The first noticeable change was the different way in which the films have been programmed. Instead of unwieldy geographical categories the films this year were arranged by themes including "Love." "Debate," "Dare," "Thrill," "Laugh," "Cult," and "Journey." Given film festivals' remit to show films from all over the world, geographical categories are sensibly conventional. However, it's always somewhat anomalous to have a section hyperbolically named "French Revolutions" that is distinguished from "World Cinema" in the London Film Festival, a development perhaps attributed to the historical significance and subsequent fetishism of French films. While this year's new non-geographical sections were refreshing and accessible, they nevertheless lacked specificity in description beyond a generalized sense of a film's theme. Apart from the films on offer, events, talks, and workshops typically add to the sense of excitement of film festivals. This year's events and exhibitions section unfortunately appeared lackluster, almost as an afterthought, and uninterested in raising debates and conversations beyond filmmakers' and artists presentations of their works.
Given that the London Film Festival is torch ost an audience-focused event, the productions featured provide the public with a taste of the films that will be released over the next several months. From what was on offer, it appears to be a mixed bag. Tim Burton's underwhelming Frankenweenie 3D (2012) opened the festival. As stop-motion films go, Frankenweenie offers little of interest and is eclipsed by Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), which opened the London Film Festival three years ago. Thomas Vinterberg's The Hunt (2012) recalls the aesthetics and texture of his earlier Dogme 95 film. Festen (1998), in a story about paranoia and slander. Sister 2012, directed by Ursula Meier) is an interesting social-realist narrative that takes place in the unlikely setting of a Swiss ski resort and plays with audience expectations. Francois Ozon's In the House (2012) is a clever treatise on storytelling, but its extreme reflexivity ultimately strips the film of any warmth. …