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LFF 2013: Programme Launch | reviews, news & interviews

LFF 2013: Programme Launch

LFF 2013: Programme Launch

Few global premieres but quality and diversity abound as the London Film Festival announces its intentions

Scarlett Johansson is a woman with mysterious motives in 'Under the Skin'

A sultry Scarlett Johansson picks up hitchhikers with a nefarious agenda; an astronaut that looks suspiciously like Sandra Bullock is cast out into space; a monstrous Michael Fassbender beats the man he keeps as his slave; Joseph Gordon-Levitt struggles to tear himself away from his porn; and vampire lovers Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are reunited. I think you'll agree that's quite a lot to take in on a Wednesday morning - and it's just for starters.

A sultry Scarlett Johansson picks up hitchhikers with a nefarious agenda; an astronaut that looks suspiciously like Sandra Bullock is cast out into space; a monstrous Michael Fassbender beats the man he keeps as his slave; Joseph Gordon-Levitt struggles to tear himself away from his porn; and vampire lovers Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston are reunited. I think you'll agree that's quite a lot to take in on a Wednesday morning - and it's just for starters. These are some of the clips guests were treated to at the London Film Festival press launch, compered with genial elegance by Festival Director Clare Stewart and featuring a special guest appearance.

The 57th BFI London Film Festival will run from the 9th - 20th October. It follows on quickly from (and falls into the inevitable shadow of) the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals, and much of its line-up will have shown first at those, along with Cannes and Berlin. This, as ever, means the LFF is far from a global movie event and many film critics, at least, will have sampled its wares elsewhere.

However, for British punters and the less jet-set press it’s wonderful to have a festival of this calibre take place on home turf and there's a genuine benefit from films being "trialled" elsewhere - we know what’s hot and what's absolutely not. As always, there's much in the programme that's not released in cinemas until the new year, lots of potential awards season fare and tonnes of hidden gems. And, quibble all you like but (especially heartening after a mildly disappointing 2012) this year’s line-up is an absolute corker.

So, first thing's first, let's get the "Hanks bookend" out of the way. Yes, the festival begins and ends with a Tom Hanks film - not wonderful news for many and a clear nod to the commercial interests of the festival. Yet, while the less said about the saccharine-seeming, festival closer Saving Mr Banks the better, the festival’s opener - nautical thriller Captain Phillips - represents a more obviously exciting prospect (think A Hijacking but with, well, Hanks). It's directed by our own Paul Greengrass (the first British director since 2006 to open the festival) and the director attended the launch, giving an impassioned speech about how British directors are currently wowing the world with their work.

Greengrass is certainly not wrong and many of the Brit-helmed films which have made an impression at international festivals are coming to the LFF. Jonathan Glazer (finally) follows the excellent Sexy Beast and the underrated Birth with Under the Skin, an adaptation of Michel Faber's horribly brilliant novel. Steven Knight gives us 90 minutes of Tom Hardy on a phone in Locke. Director Steve McQueen and actor Michael Fassbender continue to shake us to our core with their latest collaboration 12 Years a Slave (pictured above right). Stephen Frears returns to form with Philomena starring Judi Dench and Steve Coogan, and Richard Ayoade and Clio Barnard will be proving their dynamic debuts were no fluke with - respectively - quirky Dostoevsky adaptation The Double and social realist fable The Selfish Giant.

Not that this British festival is remotely all about the Brits: Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity is a 3D spectacular starring the aforementioned Sandra Bullock alongside George Clooney; Inside Llewyn Davis (pictured left) is the Coen brothers' much-rated latest; look out for Gloria by Sebastián Lelio which wowed 'em in Berlin; Abdellatif Kechiche's Palme d'Or winner, the brilliant Blue is the Warmest Colour, finally screens in the UK, while Kelly Reichardt's Night Moves and Alexander Payne's Nebraska have attracted ample festival buzz. The latest documentary from Alex Gibney (titledThe Armstrong Lie and focussing on the disgraced cyclist) is amongst the non-narrative films screening.

And that's just the beginning. All in all the programme includes a stonking 235 feature films and 134 short films from 57 countries. After a 13 percent rise in ticket sales in 2012, the structural changes put in place then remain - so films are once again divided up into strands: Love, Debate, Dare, Laugh, Thrill, Cult, Journey, Sonic, Family, Experimenta and Treasures. So yes, there really is something for everyone.

Follow @EmmaSimmonds on Twitter

The programme includes a stonking 235 feature films and 134 short films from 57 countries

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