Good Night from the London Film Festival

The Times bfi 49th London Film Festival shut up shop last night with a gala screening of Good Night, And Good Luck. The movie marks George Clooney’s second stint in the director’s chair and is set in the TV journalism world of the ’50s. George was in attendance, lapping up the atmosphere in Leicester Square as he happily scribbled autographs for the star-struck fans.

Clooney admitted that he enjoys being behind the camera a little more than being in front of it these days. “You can last a little longer,” he said. “You can get old and grey and they still let you do the job.”

Demetrios Matheou has been keeping an online journal for the festival’s official website and Total Film caught up with him to milk his opinion on this year’s highlights. “I liked the fact that we had a festival full of committed political films,” Matheou said. “Opening on 19 October with John Le Carré’s thriller The Constant Gardener and then closing it with Clooney was a great way to top and tail the event. The fact that George flew in for this was brilliant.”

Other gala screenings over the fortnight included James Mangold’s Walk The Line, a biopic of the man in black, Johnny Cash, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon, and Luc Jacquet’s captivating documentary The March Of The Penguins starring, well, lots of penguins. “Walk The Line was outstanding. It’s a solid biopic but it’s the performances that amaze you,” said the diarist.

Matheou was also taken with David LaChappelle’s documentary Rize, about an LA dance movement that slowly becomes a phenomenon. “It’s a good subject, well made and there was something about the night it was shown; it was a good festival night, with the right audience for that movie.”

British film walked away with some plaudits, with producer Gayle Griffiths receiving the UK Film Talent Award for her flick Song Of Songs about a religious woman who comes home from Israel to nurse her terminally ill mother.

The movies that have burned brightest demonstrate the variation in films on show at this year’s festival. Firstly Michael Winterbottom’s home grown comedy A Cock And Bull Story, an attempt to film the ‘unfilmable’ novel The Life And Opinions Of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Laurence Stern, went down a storm, largely due to the shamelessly self-mocking double act of Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon.

Other flicks sounded less appealing but turned out to be utter crowd pleasers. One such movie was Chuan Lu’s Kekexili, a tale that follows a band of volunteers protecting antelope against poachers in the Tibetan mountains. “On paper it sounds like nothing but to see it is something else,” says Matheou. “He’s shot it like a modern day Tibetan western and it’s amazing, thrilling and tragic. The same goes for a Romanian film, Death Of Mr Lazerescu by Cristi Puiu. It’s just people sitting around talking about this dying man but it’s an incredible, mesmerising movie.”

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.