London Film Festival Archive Gala Announced

The Archive gala screening at the 59th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express®, on Friday 16th October 2015 at the Odeon Leicester Square, will be the world premiere of a new restoration of Anthony Asquith’s Shooting Stars (1928).  Asquith’s first film as co-director and scriptwriter, Shooting Stars is a fascinating drama set behind the scenes at a contemporary film studio. Newly restored by the BFI National Archive, Shooting Stars will be presented with a new live score by John Altman, BAFTA and Emmy award-winning  composer whose work includes Titanic and Goldeneye .

Shooting Stars is a dazzling debut which boasts a boldly expressionist shooting style, dramatic lighting and great performances from its leads. Annette Benson (Mae Feather) and Brian Aherne (Julian Gordon) play two mis-matched, married stars and Donald Calthrop (Andy Wilkes) a Chaplin-esque star at the same studio, with whom Mae becomes romantically involved. Chili Bouchier, Britain’s first sex symbol of the silent era, plays a key role as an actress/bathing beauty, an attractive foil to the comic antics of the comedian. The film manages to operate as a sophisticated, modern morality tale, while it’s also both an affectionate critique of the film industry and a celebration of its possibilities. It teases the audience with its revelations of how the illusions of the world of film-making conceal ironic and hidden truths.

Asquith (son of the former Prime Minister Herbert Asquith) had privileged access to see Chaplin making The Circus on a trip to Hollywood and he had also been behind the scenes at German film studios. Both influences are clearly seen in the film. Asquith went on to have a hugely successful international career in the sound era with films such asPygmalionThe Importance of Being EarnestThe Browning Version and The VIPs.

The film has been meticulously restored by a team of BFI experts from materials held in the BFI National Archive, making this the definitive restoration to stand alongside those of previous BFI restorations of Asquith’s Underground (1928) and A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929).

Robin Baker, Head Curator, BFI National Archive said, “We are delighted to be showcasing this remarkable film in a brilliant new restoration achieved after months of work from our dedicated teams at the BFI. Shooting Stars is a fascinating debut from one of Britain’s greatest film-makers and to see it with a newly commissioned score performed live in the Art Deco splendour of the Odeon Leicester Square promises to be a very special experience.”

The new score by composer, John Altman, has been written for a twelve piece ensemble playing multiple instruments. It is full of a lively jazz influence, inspired by some of the sheet music for the popular song “Ain’t She Sweet” which is seen on screen in the film. Altman is both an authentic and accomplished jazz musician as well as a BAFTA and Emmy award-winning composer of music for the big screen. He has composed, orchestrated and conducted for many films including the period music for James Cameron’sTitanic, and he composed the tank chase sequence in the James Bond film GoldenEye and won the Anthony Asquith Award for Achievement in Film Music for Hear My Song.

John Altman said,

For the new score I have been inspired by dance band sounds and Duke Ellington in 1927. It’s not a slavish period recreation but I have tried to find an appropriate way of reflecting some of the plot twists and ironic deceptions through a series of interlinked musical themes. The score will be played by a very versatile group of musicians and we will end up using almost as many instruments as a complete orchestra through the whole film. I hope that the music will carry audiences effortlessly through the emotional highs and lows of this brilliant film.”

There were famously two opposing reviews published in Variety, one British, one American, with the British review disparaging the film and the American giving it a strong thumbs-up. The film is now however fully appreciated as one of the few undisputed masterpieces of British silent cinema. Only Alfred Hitchcock has a higher critical reputation than Asquith in this period of late silent British cinema.

Paper Towns Review

The Plot

A teenage boy on the cusp of finishing high school reconnects with the beautiful and mysterious girl next door for once crazy night. When she suddenly vanishes he and his friends embark on a strange and life changing journey to find her.

The Good

John Green reduced global audiences to tears with the painfully bittersweet The Fault In Our Stars, thankfully Paper Towns has a more whimsical and less tragic approach to teen romance. Green’s books translate well to screen and his knack for creating sincere emotions and drama remains firmly intact.

Delevigne is cleverly cast as Margo , the films missing girl and mysterious holy grail. Her real life fame and notoriety lends her character an instant aura of intrigue and allure. It would have been far more challenging for an average unknown actress to achieve this in really just a handful of scenes.

Nat Wolff gave a scene stealing turn in The Fault In Our Stars and this time he carries Paper Towns capably as everyman adolescent hero Quentin. His average boy next door appearance and deliberately awkward demeanour ensures he brings a credible reality to an increasingly elaborate adventure.

In truth it’s actually the film’s supporting cast that prove its most effective surprise. Austin Abrams and Justice Smith play Quentins’s best friends. The convincing chemistry between this trio of likeable social underachievers is actually the real heart of the story.

It’s refreshing and endearing to see a portrayal of teenage friendship that doesn’t resort to a lazy form of self-aware irony and witty cynicism. This isn’t just another batch of absurdly wise beyond their year’s high schoolers clearly written by adults. There’s actually something innately authentic and heartfelt about their good natured an unashamedly awkward co-dependence.

The affectionate bond and playful banter between the film’s unlikely heroes adds both humour and heart to an already intriguing mystery. It makes it so much more enjoyable to join the characters on their literal and metaphorical ride. The combination of suspense and sentiment holds audience’s attention firmly.

The Bad

Though she serves as an effective catalysts for the films story, in truth Delevigne has surprisingly little screen time for a film largely being marketed on the back of her ‘it girl’ supermodel status. Likewise, her character Margo will be a convincingly alluring dream girl for some people, for others she will merely be infuriatingly selfish and irritating. The virtues of Delevigne’s on screen presence, much like her real life persona, will divide opinions dramatically. In truth there’s still not much evidence available yet to truly judge her acting prowess or potential.

Nat Wolff is likewise promoted from scene stealing sidekick duties to leading man status. While his awkwardness is clearly an intentional character trait it does mean that at times he lacks a little charisma and personality.

It’s unfair but inevitable to compare the romantic leads in Paper Towns with those of Green’s recent global box office phenomenon The Fault in Our Stars. Sadly the mostly missing Delevigne and the deliberately average Wolff can’t match that iconic level of heart-breaking romantic chemistry.

Though the film does well to create a real sense of mystery and purpose, it builds to a conclusion that without being too specific won’t be universally satisfying. The film is exactly what it intends to be, but that won’t be to everyone’s tastes.

The Ugly Truth

Paper Towns is a sincerely sweet and pleasantly amusing romantic comedy, thanks in the most part to its enjoyable supporting cast. Delevigne’s mostly absent leading lady and the film’s conclusion will likely divide audience’s opinions, but aren’t enough to make them ignore the film’s other obvious charms.

Cate Blanchett Attends London Film Festival

The 59th BFI London Film Festival in partnership with American Express has announced  Carol, Todd Haynes’ beautiful 1950s set drama, as the Festival’s American Express Gala. The film will receive its UK premiere on Wednesday 14 October at the Odeon Leicester Square, attended by the director and luminous stars Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.

Based on Patricia Highsmith’s seminal novel, adapted by screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, Carol follows Therese Belivet (Rooney Mara), a young clerk in her 20s working in a Manhattan department store, who dreams of a more fulfilling life. When Therese meets Carol (Cate Blanchett), an alluring woman trapped in a loveless, convenient marriage, an immediate connection sparks between them. As the innocence of their first encounter dims, their connection deepens and they embark on a journey of self discovery.

BFI London Film Festival Director Clare Stewart says:

“We are delighted to announce that Todd Haynes’ Carol will be this year’s American Express Gala. Carol is a deeply romantic, emotionally honest love story and is also cinema at its most intoxicating and immaculate.”

Orlando Bloom Back For Pirates Sequel

Orlando Bloom will once again play Will Turner in the latest Pirates of the Caribbean sequel Dead Men Tell No Tales. Bloom was last seen sailing off on the high seas at the end of the original trilogy, but didn’t feature in the forth film On Stranger Tides.

The news of Bloom’s unexpected return was confirmed officially at the Disney D23 Expo over the weekend. The studio also released an official synopsis for the new film, which also stars Javier Bardem as new villain Captain Salazar.

“Thrust into an all-new adventure, a down-on-his-luck Captain Jack Sparrow finds the winds of ill-fortune blowing even more strongly when deadly ghost pirates led by his old nemesis, the terrifying Captain Salazar, escape from the Devil’s Triangle, determined to kill every pirate at sea…including him. Captain Jack’s only hope of survival lies in seeking out the legendary Trident of Poseidon, a powerful artifact that bestows upon its possessor total control over the seas.”

Star Wars The Force Awakens Poster

Iconic artist Drew Struzan has created the new poster below for Star Wars The Force Awakens. The artwork was revealed at the Disney’s D23 Expo event.

The most notable feature is the fact that John Boyega’s character Finn is shown for the first time actually wielding a lightsaber. The poster also showcases masked villain Kylo Ren with his controversially hilted lightsaber. Fans of the original trilogy will no doubt welcome the inclusion of plenty of X-Wings, Tie Fighters and Han Solo himself.