I’m still getting flashbacks of all the great films I saw last week at the 50th annual London Film Festival, one of the premiere cultural events here in town. Thought I’d briefly run down some highlights, especially since some of these films were recently restored by the British Film Institute and the UCLA Film and Television Archive, and will be released on DVD in the coming months.
“Distant Voices, Still Lives” (1988) was a bittersweet and moving examination of Scottish working-class life in the 1950s, and is now seen as a British classic. I also got to meet and chat for a few minutes with the film’s writer/director Terence Davies. Speaking of British classics, every frame of David Lean’s “Great Expectations” (1946) was sumptuous and beautifully executed – it’s probably the best of all the filmed adaptations of novels by Charles Dickens (or, as I prefer to call him, “Chuck D”). Another favorite, and a film that I could see using in my Film and American Culture course, was “A Walk In The Sun” (1946). It’s probably the best American World War II film I’ve seen produced at the time of the war, showing the camaraderie, boredom and sudden violence facing American troops in the Italian theater. The characters are vivid, and really stick to you after you leave the theatre. Also screened a couple superlative new music documentaries: “Scott Walker 30 Century Man” (I won’t comment on this since Ralph has already done an insightful job of doing so) and “Love Story,” the story of Love, the influential but short-lived Los Angeles band of the 1960s. They’re worth checking out: I would suggest their best album “Forever Changes” (1968) or the 22-track compilation “The Best of Love,” both on Rhino. At this last screening, I also got to chat with the film’s directors and Johnny Echols, one of Love’s original members. These film fests are a great place to meet people in the industry who are not accessible otherwise.
There are a couple of great free film series here at Kings as well, both curated by Mark Betz, a senior lecturer in Film Studies. One is “British Film Since 1950,” and it runs on Monday nights. This coming week, the 1963 Oscar winner for Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay, “Tom Jones,” is showing. The other series is a general film survey on Tuesday nights that aligns with a course Mark is teaching. In two weeks, “Bad Education” (2004) will screen, a recent film from Pedro Almodovar, for my money the best writer/director working in the world today. This coming week, they feature “The Big Sleep” (1946), a Bogie and Bacall classic directed by John Huston (who’s currently the subject of a retrospective at the National Film Theatre across the river from us). “The Big Sleep” is one of my favourites of all time, probably in my top 10, and even though I’ve watched it 4 or 5 times, I will probably attend anyway – it’s so hard to resist seeing it on real celluloid in the best movie theatre on campus. Here’s the URL for the two KCL film series: