LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2001
From Monster-makers to Bank (Robert’s), from The Bedroom to Sinatra, from
masterclasses to a Dark Blue World, London this month might make Everybody Happy. Helen
Barlow previews this year’s London Film Festival.
Australia’s cinematic talent will be represented at the London Film Festival
(November 7 – 22) by Fred Schepisi's Last Orders, which will be given the prominent
British Gala Screening. Starring Sir Michael Caine, Bob Hoskins, David Hemmings and Helen
Mirren, the film tells of a group of friends sending off one of their number (Caine) who
has suddenly died. Robert Connolly's The Bank will also screen at the Festival, as well as
British director Jez Butterworth's Birthday Girl, starring Nicole Kidman and Ben Chaplin;
and Steve Jacobs' irreverent, tri-lingual Australian comedy (and official Foreign Language
entry for the Oscars), La Spagnola, will also be given a berth.
A series of masterclasses, and the Guardian lecture series, where filmmakers and actors
impart their knowledge, are highly informative as well as a good night's entertainment.
This year boasts discussion with: Peter Fonda, whose 1971 movie, The Hired Hand, is part
of the Festival, and is being re-released shortly in the UK; Dazed and Confused director
Richard Linklater will no doubt discuss his more experimental approach in making his
latest movies, Waking Life and Tape, starring Ethan Hawke, his wife Uma
Thurman and best buddy Robert Sean Leonard; Pixar's John Lasseter will impart his
knowledge as the man behind the Toy Story movies and now the superlative Monsters Inc.;
Isabelle Huppert will discuss her role in Michael Haneke's French language The Piano
Teacher, for which she won the Best Actress award in Cannes; and Ed Harris will discuss
his long-awaited directorial debut, Pollock, in which he also stars as the American
"eight world premieres"
In a year when the London Festival program boasts its strongest line-up in a while,
there will be eight world premieres of mostly British films. The most prominent is Gosford
Park, where American veteran Robert Altman weaves his ensemble magic with British actors,
in the manner of his best movies, Cookies Fortune and his classics MASH and Nashville. (We
can now forgive him for Dr T and The Women and The Gingerbread Man.) A murder mystery set
in an English country house, Gosford Park stars Kristin Scott Thomas, Jeremy Northam, Dame
Maggie Smith and Emily Watson.
Other world premieres include: The War Bride, starring British actress Anna Friel as an
orphan who becomes a war bride and moves to Canada with her husband, the
Canadian-Australian Aden Young; Everyone's Happy (but not quite, as the film is set in a
caravan park) from Full Monty writer Simon Beaufroy; and Teenage Kicks, a documentary
about the band, The Undertones.
Several British movies in the program are making waves: Lawless Heart, a witty and
poignant story focusing on the repercussions of a death amongst a group of friends, set in
wintry and atmospheric rural Essex and starring an uncharacteristically restrained Tom
Hollander; In The Bedroom boasting a stellar performance from Tom Wilkinson (the older
bottom-revealer in the Full Monty) as the husband of an ever-magnetic Sissy Spacek as they
together face a family tragedy; and Strictly Sinatra, starring Ian Hart as a
Scottish-Italian lounge singer and co-starring Kelly McDonald from Trainspotting, who also
is a stand-out in Gosford Park.
Me Without You marks a vast improvement on Sandra Goldbacher's previous Minnie Driver
vehicle, The Governess, and features two captivating performances by (surprise!) Dawson's
Creek's Michelle Williams as a British Jewess and British actress Anna Friel (again) as
her domineering best friend. The movie is a coming-of-age drama that has many a poignant
moment, especially for anyone who visited London at the time of punk or New Wave music.
International stand-outs include Dark Blue World from Czech director Jan Sverak (Kolya)
about a group of Czech pilots who battled for Britain during World War II; and Mira Nair's
Venice Festival winner, Monsoon Wedding, a lively contemporary family comedy set in Delhi.
"most of the British actors in home-grown films will be
While most of the British actors in home-grown films will be in attendance, the
Festival's Hollywood contingent is still undetermined (first the actor's strike and now
world terrorism has played havoc with festival attendances this year). Kevin Spacey and
Jeff Bridges are hopefully coming for British director Iain Softley's fabulous K-Pax,
where Kevin Spacey claims he is an alien from planet K-Pax and psychiatrist Bridges has to
determine whether he is the most brilliant delusional or telling the truth ; Bruce Willis
and Billy Bob Thornton will most likely attend for the disappointing Bandits, which is
redeeemed by Thornton's wondrous ability to deliver droll (and actually well-written)
dialogue; while Steve Martin, hater of the British tabloid press, will not be in town for
Novocaine, a film which would have improved if the American comedian himself had written
Probably nobody will show for David Mamet's clever and engaging Heist, featuring a fine
performance from Gene Hackman, who is on something of a roll, with the Royal Tenenbaums
and Behind Enemy Lines as Oscar hopefuls.
Published November 8, 2001
Email this article
The Birthday Girl
The Last Orders
The Piano Teacher