26th Leeds International Film Festival

Sansho Dayu screening in the Retrospectives section.

This year’s festival runs from the 1st until the 18th of November. There are about 160 films on offer, in a variety of categories and venues. At the start of the Festival there is Ben Affleck’s new film Argo and the new Jacques Audiard film Rust and Bone. And right at the end of the Festival Michael Haneke’s Cannes prize-winner Amour makes an appearance. In between there as a wide range of choices programmed into five distinct categories.

The Official Selection addresses contemporary cinema and the ‘incredible diversity and brilliance of global filmmaking.’ Of course, new releases are rather like racing tips – they may or may not fulfil expectations. However, the selection represents a wide range of film industries and genres. The filmmakers include Xiaoshuai Wang from China, Thomas Vinterberg from Denmark, François Ozon from France, British directors Michael Radford and Martin McDonagh plus a number of first time directors, including the Hollywood star Dustin Hoffman.

Retrospectives has an especially strong selection this year. The ‘special focus’ is a profile of the Japanese actress and filmmaker Kinuyo Tanaka. She worked through several different periods of Japanese film and with three of its greatest masters, Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse and Yasujiro Ozu. Her scene at the end of Sansho Dayu (1954) is one of the most sublime endings in World Cinema.  She was also a pioneer woman direction in the Industry. There are six of her films, all in either 35 or 16mm. And there is a workshop on November 3rd at the Centre for World Cinemas at the University of Leeds.

This category also celebrates the early Soviet of films of Andrei Konchalovsky: arguably superior to and certainly more interesting that his work in Hollywood. These are films from the 1960s and 1970s and ones that are not always that easy to see.

There are several Silent Screenings with live music: though the brochure only lists the 35mm or 16mm formats: some will be digital and depending how much of a purist you are it may be worth checking beforehand.

The category also includes Kubrick’s The Shining and Barry Lyndon: a number of fairly recent films from Portugal: and tributes to great cinematographers, including Vittorio Storraro and Sven Nykvist.

Fanomenon offers horror, sci-fi and animation. Substantial events include both an all-night Night of the Dead and an Anime day. There are also cult films, Django (1966), King Kong vs Godzilla (1962) and the martial arts film Somi, the Taekwon-do Woman (1997). This is a large and varied selection, read through the brochure carefully if this is your scene.

Cinema Versa covers documentary film, especially ones that fit an ‘underground aesthetic’. This section also covers a wide and varied selection of works. There is Five Broken Cameras, a newly released film about the Palestinian struggles against occupation and exploitation. There are a number of films about or presenting music, including a new improvisation to the Surrealist classic, Un Chien Andalu (1929). Shadows of Liberty promises a critical analysis’s of the ‘disintegrating freedoms’ in the USA: timely given the election. And the Pavilion project presents the Abandoned Projectors show, which premiered at Leeds old, disused Lyric cinema.

Finally there is Short Film City Intro, again with varied films from many countries. These are programmed in feature length presentations, including several ‘short film competitions’.

The full Brochure is available in print or online, and there are regular updates via email, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. The festival venues are the usual ones. The Town Hall is not completely ideal for sound, but has improved its quality. The Vue has gone all digital. This is fortunate as it means that nearly all the 35mm screenings will be at the Hyde Park Cinema, with a projection team well versed in its technicalities. And I assume that the Silent Comedies at the Cottage Road Cinema will also be in 35mm, and they include a Harold Lloyd feature.

So, a fairly full eighteen days on offer, with both interesting new offering from round the world and some classics from the past – including of course several that featured in the Sight and Sound Critics Poll of this year.

Festival site – www.leedsfilm.com

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