11 films to see at London Film Festival 2016

With London Film Festival 2016 kicking off next week, we narrow down its huge programme to the 11 films we're most keen to see

Feature by Jamie Dunn | 30 Sep 2016

Is this the glitziest London Film Festival yet? We reckon so. As ever, the festival has taken a massive sieve to the big international festivals of Cannes, Venice, Toronto et al to pick out the best of those festivals’ gems.

Like everyone, we’re eager to see the much discussed auteur numbers like Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade), Paterson (Jim Jarmusch) and Manchester by the Sea (Kenneth Lonergan). We’re also keen to make up our own minds on marmite titles like American Honey (Andrea Arnold), Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford) and It’s Only the End of the World (Xavier Dolan).

Space will also be made in our schedules to check out future box-office hits like A Monster Calls (Juan Antonio Bayona), Arrival (Denis Villeneuve) and La La Land (Damien Chazelle). And, of course, we also hope to be doing some sifting of our own to seek out the less splashy titles in the programme by first time filmmakers.

But if we had to choose, these are the 11 titles we’re most keen to check out.

Aquarius (Kleber Mendonça Filho)

Kleber Mendonça Filho’s 2012 feature Neighboring Sounds, which told a series of intertwined stories within a modern apartment complex in Recife, Brazil, was a mind-blowing debut, showcasing a director with an eye for framing and space as keen as Antonioni’s. This follow-up is also set within an apartment complex and concerned with the way our physical space shapes us.

Certain Women (Kelly Reichardt)

Kelly Reichardt's previous feature Night Moves was, to our mind, the first disappointment in her five film career. The rave reviews for this slice-of-life portrait of several Montana women – played by a hand-picked ensemble that includes Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern and Reichardt's frequent muse Michelle Williams – suggests that was only a blip.

Chi-Raq (Spike Lee)

Word on the street is this is a sexy, brash and potent return to form for Spike Lee, who takes Aristophanes’ antiwar satire Lysistrata, about the women of Athens refusing to have sex with their menfolk 'til they ended their wars, and transplants it to modern day Chicago.

Christine (Antonio Campos) | Kate Plays Christine (Robert Greene)

Typical! You wait a lifetime for a film about Christine Chubbuck, the 29-year-old news reporter who committed suicide on live television in 1974, and two come along at once. Robert Greene’s take, Kate Plays Herself, is a slippery doc following actress Kate Lyn Sheil as she researches to play the part of Chubbuck in a narrative film that doesn’t exist. A narrative film that does exist, however, is Antonio Campos’s Christine, which follows Chubbuck (played by Rebecca Hall) on the lead-up to her suicide. They should prove a fascinating double bill.

Elle (Paul Verhoeven)

We’re over the moon to see Paul Verhoeven back in the director’s saddle. From what we’ve read about his new film, Elle, a rape-revenge thriller centred on a much-praised performance by Isabelle Huppert, it sounds like the Dutch auteur is still as provocative and transgressive as ever, despite pushing 80.

Further Beyond (Christine Molloy, Joe Lawlor)

Christine Molloy and Joe Lawlor (aka the Desperate Optimists) are the most original filmmakers working in the UK at the moment. Their latest, which tells the tale of Ambrosio O’Higgins, the Sligo man who became captain general of Chile in the 18th century, promises to be a shot in the arm to that most tired of film genres: the biopic.

The Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki (Juho Kuosmanen)

This tender boxing pic from Finland is no Rocky. Set ahead of the real-life 1962 world featherweight championship, our underdog pugilist of the title isn’t destined to upset the odds when he fights the reigning champ, who has flown in from the USA to Helsinki and put Mäki at the heart of a news storm. No cliches, no last-minute comebacks, just delicate, humanistic filmmaking at its finest by debut director Juho Kuosmanen. Shot on grainy 16mm, the film looks like it could be a lost movie from the British kitchen sink era.

My Life as a Courgette (Claude Barras)

We’ve heard great things about this French stop-motion animation. Written by Celine Sciamma (Tomboy, Girlhood), it tells the story of a troubled nine-year-old’s life in an orphanage following the death of his alcoholic mother. Sciamma also recently penned André Téchiné’s Being 17, another LFF film that we hear is a knockout.

Neruda (Pablo Larraín)

Gael García Bernal reteams with No director Pablo Larraín for an intriguing-sounding kind-of-biopic set post-second world war, with Bernal playing a fictional Chilean police detective who’s trying to track down the in-exile poet and senator Pablo Neruda. Larraín is on absolutely top form at the minute, and we hear this is right up there with his best work.

Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas)

Kristen Stewart was a revelation in Clouds of Sils Maria, the previous film from Olivier Assayas. They’ve teamed up again for this intriguing ghost story where Stewart plays a personal shopper to the stars who also happens to be able to talk to dead people.

Son of Joseph (Eugene Green)

Eugene Green’s films don’t look or sound like any other filmmaker’s. His playful approach to dialogue and composition is reportedly on full display here in this delightful modern day riff on several bible stories. We also hear this is his most accessible work, so perhaps it’s time for a wider audience to cotton on to his genius.

London Film Festival takes place 6-16 Oct