Love and relationships come in all sorts of guises, the love between partners, between parents and children, owners and pets, sibling rivalry, the love for your home, wherever that may be, emotional, physical, unspoken, love letters, friends to lovers, lust to love, flames to dust, the list goes on. The Love Strand showcases a spectacular mix of feature length, short films and documentaries all connected by the theme of love. With offerings from every corner of the globe, all exploring the different kinds of love and relationships across different cultures, ages and how the complexities of this basic want all contribute to the human experience.
A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, Italy-France, 2015)
Headlining the Love Strand this year is Luca Guadagnino’s erotic thriller A Bigger Splash, this Italian-French co-production stars Tilda Swinton as Marianne, a rock star on hiatus whilst recovering from a throat operation. Retreating from the public eye, and her public persona – a cross between Mick Jagger and David Bowie – Marianne is joined by her lover, filmmaker Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), as they strip off and lounge around the pool in the scorching Italian sun, completely unprepared for the arrival of unexpected guests, music producer Henry (Ralph Fiennes) and hid daughter Penelope (Dakota Johnson).
Some clothes are removed and others put back on in this re-imagining of the 1969 film La Piscine by Jean-Claud Carriere, exploring the trappings of a sheltered celebrity lifestyle compared to the everyday lives of the locals and African immigrants also residing on the Sicilian island of Pantelleria. Emotions are un-tethered and the law and morality forgotten as celebrity wins out in this dangerous, heated drama.
An (Naomi Kawase, Japan-France-Germany, 2015)
‘An’ is the name of a red-bean paste used to fill dorayaki pancakes, these pancakes are served up by chef Sentaro in the diner that he manages, with very little enthusiasm or joy. But when insistent Tokue, a woman in her 70s, persuades Sentaro to take her on as his assistant, both his mood and his takings improve when her method for making ‘an’ attract new customers. Along with this charming story about hard work and living in harmony, Kawase also entwines a dark twist, dealing with the aftermath of a shameful aspect of recent Japanese history.
Ayanda (Sara Blecher, South Africa, 2015)
(Ina association with Mobo Films)
Diving into the diverse Yeoville suburb of Johannesburg we meet 21 year old artist Ayanda, daughter of a Nigerian father and South African mother, who inherits the family business, a struggling garage, following her father’s death. Along with her boyfriend David, Ayanda works hard to transform the business, finding a passion and skill for restoring classic cars, which in turn attracts new customers and gives the business a new lease of life. Director Sara Blecher skilfully intercuts the couple’s life with snapshots of other local residents, creating a vibrant picture of this multi-cultural ‘modern Africa’.
Box (Florin Serban, Romania-Germany-France, 2015)
34 year old Cristina is trying to find the enthusiasm and energy in rehearsals for a production of Chekhov’s Three Sisters, while 19 year old Romani boxer Rafael is determined to make something of his life. Florin Serban’s Box examines what happens right before two people fall in love. As Cristina leaves rehearsals and the camera follows her down the street, does she realise that Rafael is also following her? Inescapably drawn together the two fall into a strange and unique friendship, becoming closer as the attraction and simmering sexual tension begins to grow, as they both prepare for their respective performances.
Couple in a Hole (Tom Geene, UK-Belgium-France, 2015)
John and Karen are a couple trying to live off the grid, eking out a fairly solitary existence in an underground forest dwelling, with their own ways and routines, away from the comings and goings of the nearby village. Or at least they would be if their overbearing neighbour would leave them alone. Focusing on these 3 people Couple in a Hole looks at John and Karen as they wish to be left alone to deal with their mysterious grief, and the eventual bonding between John and their overly concerned neighbour.
Departure (Andrew Steggall, UK-France, 2015)
Dreamer Elliot and his mother Beatrice are packing up their French county home as she begins preparing to sell it, but the pair have a distant relationship, and the forced companionship of spending time together having eating dinners sets the melancholic tone of this film. Elliot takes walks to the nearby village, where he sits writing poetry and eyeing up local boy Clement as he works on his bike. Although Clement is as natural as Elliot is awkward and shy, the two strike up an unlikely friendship, in this story of desperately trying to recapture a sense of family that was never really there to start with.
Dheepan (Jaques Audiard, France, 2015)
Winner of the coveted Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, Dheepan follows three Sri Lankan refugees as they try to negotiate the French immigration process in the fastest way possible – pretending to be a family. After being given the passport of a dead man named Dheepan, Sivadhasan joins forces with Yalini and Illayaal, complete strangers who pretend to be his wife and daughter. After successfully making it to Paris and landing a job as a caretaker, the ‘family’ begin to make a new life for themselves, addressing the many questions looming over them, including what kind of relationship Dheepan and Yalini actually want to have, and how to best care for the 9 year old girl who belongs to neither of them.
But in the blink of an eye things are pushed to breaking point for the trio, as Dheepan’s past as a member of militant group the Tamil Tigers comes back to haunt him, turning their new life in Europe into another war zone for his and his new family.
l (Biyi Bandele, Nigeria, 2015)
Fifty captures a few days in the lives of four women at the pinnacle of their careers, in one of Africa’s most highly populated cities, Largos, Nigeria, looking at the wisdom and maturity that is supposed to come with age.
Tola is a reality tv star with dark family secret that has destroyed her marriage, Elizabeth is a highly regarded doctor, but her eye for young men has left her estranged from her daughter, Kate’s battle with a life threatening illness has prompted her to put her faith in religion, while Maria’s affair with a married man has explosive repercussions.
Fifty is a coming of age film for the more mature woman, in an exploration of love, lust, power, seduction, rivalry and infidelity.
Gayby Baby (Maya Newell, Australia, 2015)
Much discussion is heard these days on both sides of the same-sex parents debate, but one side is very rarely shown, everyone is happy to shout about how a child will suffer if they have gay parents, but very few are willing to listen to what the children themselves have to say about growing with same-sex parents. Bringing her own insight to this documentary, Maya Newell meets four children who have gay parents, and tells the story of each of these remarkably bright-for-their-age youngsters through their own eyes. Eschewing the heated and controversial debate, Gaybe Baby instead paints an intimate and beautiful portrait of four loving families and what problems and prejudices these children actually face.
Hand Gestures (Francesco Clerici, Italy, 2015)
(Il Gesto Delle Mani)
After winning the FIPRESCI International Critics Prize at Berlinale earlier this year, Francesco Clerici’s Hand Gestures now heads to London to give audiences an insight into the workings of a 100 year old bronze foundry in Milan, where workers still use casting techniques dating back nearly 2,500 years. Taken through each stage of the production process, where the sounds of the workers and the radio are the only thing you hear, Clerici’s debut documentary presents a tale of the love and devotion of a man to his craft.
Hitchcock/Truffaut (Kent Jones, France-USA, 2015)
When influential film critic and director Francis Truffaut’s interview with Alfred Hitchcock was turned into a book, even Truffaut himself could not have predicted just how influential Hitchcock’s ideas about ‘pure cinema’ would become, and still be, fifty years later. Director Kent Jones takes the original interview and invites a whole host of filmmaking friends, including David Fincher, Wes Anderson, Martin Scorsese and Olivier Assayas, to join in the conversation discussing the historical dialogue and Hitchcock’s legendary career. Featuring archive footage of the man himself, and clips from his films, everything Hitchcockian is discussed, from the interview itself, to what makes his films so special. Martin Scorsese and David Fincher’s discussion of Vertigo and Psycho is especially rewarding, in this film about films, their creators and their passion for their work.
I am Belfast (Mark Cousins, UK, 2015)
Director Mark Cousins returns to the London Film Festival once again, this time with a wonderful cinematic essay about Northern Irish capital Belfast, travelling through the city weaving a tale of its long, complex and often emotional history. This powerfully evocative film, interspersed with archive footage is given a dream like quality by Belfast DJ David Holmes, in what is essentially a love letter from Cousins’ to his beloved hometown.
In the Room (Eric Khoo, Hong Kong-Singapore, 2015)
‘If these walls could talk…” it’s a common musing about rooms of some significance or another, In the Room explores this idea through the use of guests in one room of a Singapore hotel. Separated by years, each set of guests conduct their affairs against a different backdrop that reflects the decade during which they are staying at the hotel, while also revealing the hotel’s decline. The stories of one couple’s last night together, another couple playing a game of will they/won’t they? A gay couple hiding their relationship in hotel rooms, and many others are interwoven with ghost stories of rocks stars, and a woman desperately searching to replicate the love and lust of a former lover.
Ingrid Bergman – In Her Own Words (Stig Bjorkman, Sweden, 2015)
Ingrid Bergman is without a doubt one of the most famous screen actresses in history, from her glittering, Oscar winning early Hollywood career in the 1940s, to her scandalous affair and then marriage to Italian director Roberto Rossellini that kept her out of US studios for most of the 1950s, and her dramatic return to American cinema which earned her another two Oscars. Ingrid Bergman was a legendary screen icon, and still continues to be, over 30 years after her death.
As well as an icon, she was passionate about recording her private life and her family. With access to this treasure trove of home movies, letters and diaries In Her Own Words pays a wonderful tribute to an icon, both as an actress and as a mother, and received special mention for the first ever L’Œil d’or (The Golden Eye) Award after premiering at Cannes this year, narrowly missing out to Marcia Tambutti Allende’s Beyond My Grandfather Allende.
James White (Josh Mond, USA, 2015)
James White (Christopher Abbott) is struggling badly with the recent death of his estranged father, and in his attempts to come to terms with his grief he turns to the hedonistic pleasures of partying and drugs, seeing if getting out of his head for a while can ease his pain. But when James is diagnosed with terminal cancer and early onset dementia due to his use of drugs, his mother Gail, played by Cynthia Nixon, becomes the centre of his world, in this emotional examination of love, life and death.
Kiss Me Kate (George Sidney, USA, 1953)
Grabbing Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew with both hands, Cole Porter packed it off to Broadway with the same energy and wit of his earlier screwball production His Girl Friday. George Sidney then took the Broadway musical and turned it into a classic of the Golden Age of Hollywood. Screened as part of the Treasures collection after being restored from the original 35mm negatives, Kiss Me Kate has been given a new lease of life once again, this time transformed into a 3D experience. So expect Ann Miller’s glove to hit you in the face and Tommy Rall to swing into your lap, as every possible opportunity has been taken to exploit the film’s new 3D format.
Legacy (Roberto Anjari-Rossi, Germany-Chile, 2015)
In small town Southern Chile, while most of her friends now have baby or two in tow, Laura dreams of becoming a mechanic, while her grandmother Rosalla, who is known locally for her power to cast spells against evil spirits, dreams of her late husband Juan. In rural South America where religion and tradition heavily dictate the comings and goings of everyday life, Roberto Anjari-Rossi’s debut documentary captures the lives of these two women as they go about their business. Laura works in the field picking grapes, and fixes things around the house and community in the hopes of gaining an apprenticeship at a local women’s garage, in a narrative driven by its strong female protagonists who won’t wait around for a man to do things for them.
My Golden Days (Arnaud Desplechin, France, 2015)
(Trois Souvenirs De Ma Jeunesse)
In a prequel to Arnaud Desplechin’s 1996 film My Sex Life…Or How I Got Into an Argument, anthropologist Paul Dedalus returns home from a posting to Tajikistan, and takes another trip, this time down memory lane, reflecting on a trip to the USSR, his disjointed relationship with his family, his school friends and their exploits. My Golden Days is a highly personal essay on youth, love and the power of memories of days long gone.
My Love, Don’t Cross That River (Jin Mo-Young, South Korea, 2014)
(Nim-Ah, Geu Gang-Eul Gun-Neo-Ji Ma-O)
Becoming the most successful South Korea independent movie in history when it was released domestically last year, My Love, Don’t Cross That River is an inspiring portrayal of elderly couple Jo Byeong Man and Kang Kye Yeol, who have been married for 76 years. Living in their little house by the river, and having shared a lifetime of hardships, they are still very much in love, walking hand in hand wearing bright matching outfits, playing jokes on each other and playing in the river together. But as Jo Byeong Man becomes increasingly frail and Kang Kye Yeol prepares to say goodbye, director Jin Mo-Young captures intimate moments of a couple in their twilight years reflecting on a lifetime of love and companionship, in a beautiful documentary that won’t fail to move you.
My Skinny Sister (Sanna Lenken, Sweden-Germany, 2015)
(Min Lilla Syster)
A story than most people can relate to in the modern day, female and male, young and old, we have all felt the pressures of the media to conform to idealised, and almost impossible, beauty standards. Drawing on her own experiences Sanna Lenken’s debut feature My Skinny Sister is told through the eyes of Stella, a young girl on the cusp on adolescence and still unaware of body and beauty standards. Stella’s older sister Katja is a determined figure skater, and their family’s life revolves around her skating and her success. But when Stella tries to emulate the big sister she looks up to, she accidentally reveals Katja’s secret eating disorder and puts her newly found ideas about body image to the test. Critically acclaimed, winning an audience award at the Gothenburg Film Festival, and a Crystal Bear at Berlinale, My Skinny Sister looks at the effects of eating disorders on those suffering, and the people around them as they try to help their loved one.
Our Little Sister (Hirokazu Kore-Eda, Japan, 2015)
Told through the changing seasons in rural Japan, Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s latest offering turns 180 from his usual male centric narrative style, and this time focuses on the lives of four young women who are connected through their late father. Exploring the themes of stolen childhood and fractured families, the film takes in the simple pleasures and quiet joys these sisters share as they help each other find their way and place in life.
The Romantic Exiles (Jonas Trueba, Spain, 2015)
(Los Exiliados Romanticos)
When Spanish dreamers Luis, Vito and Fran borrow a friend’s camper van and head off to Paris in search of love and adventure, they spend the journey reflecting on their lives thus far, philosophising and joking around. But along the way each of them is forced to confront some ugly truths about themselves and the way they live and love. Travelling along emotional terrain as the 3 friends try to work out how to balance their romantic ideals with the big bad world, this coming of age drama challenges the way we view love, and the part culture plays in how we accept and understand life’s absurdities.
A Tale of Three Cities (Mabel Cheung, China, 2015)
Based on the lives of Jackie Chan’s parents in 1930s China when the Second Sino-Japanese War was in full flow, A Tale of Three Cities is the story of undying love and romance in turbulent and uncertain times. When opium smuggling widow Chen is stopped at a checkpoint by Fang, stubborn meets stubborn and the pair face off. Neither is naïve about love in these uncertain times but a bond slowly grows between the pair, but with the communists and the nationalists after former spy Fang he cannot stay in one place for too long. The film charts their meeting and eventual separation of Fang from Chen and their children as the film moves towards a heart wrenching climax.
Thirst (Svetla Tsotsorkova, Bulgaria, 2015)
In rural Bulgaria, a couple and their teenage son live on a hill overlooking the nearby small town, making ends meet by washing sheets for local hotels. But when they experience water problems, a man arrives to drill and test the water supply, with his is his teenage daughter with a big secret. Using the landscape to emphasise the feeling of isolation and desperation, Svtla Tsotsorkova’s debut feature examines the relationships between the 3 adults and the 2 teenagers, and how the relationships are tested when dehydration sets in.
Truman (Cesc Gay, Spain-Argentina, 2015)
Two of Spanish-speaking cinema’s finest stars are brought together as Tomas (Javier Camara) and Ricardo (Julian), two old friends who are reunited as Julian enters the final states of cancer. Tomas returns to Madrid from Canada to visit his old friend, and the next four days are spent reminiscing and reflecting on their lives, failures, successes and loves, but the conversation always comes back to mortality. Joining the old friends is Truman, Julian’s pet dog who he is devoted to, in a bittersweet comedy about ups and downs, and the limitations of being alive.
Valley of Love (Guillaume Nicloux, France, 2015)
Isabelle Huppert and Gerard Depardieu, arguably two of the biggest names in French cinema, are reunited on screen for the first time 35 years as an estranged couple who are inexplicably summoned to Death Valley by their son, who died many years ago. As they move towards some impending mysterious epiphany, the former lovers’ unresolved feelings for each other and griefover their son’s death is played out in hotel rooms, restaurants, and along the wide, sweeping vistas of Nevada’s deserts. Beautiful, moving and thought provoking, Valley of Love is a superb film about love, loss and moving on.
Variety (EA Dupont, Germany, 1925)
At last the time has come, the event fans of Weimar Cinema have been waiting for: the digital restoration of EA Dupont’s Variety, which is perhaps one of the lesser known of the great films of the era of German silent film, due to being unavailable for so long. Restored from the original nitrate negatives by the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau Foundation and Filmarchiv Austria, Variety is a story of destructive passion, adultery, the seedy side of showbiz and of course, not forgetting the trapeze artists. This fantastic restoration is screened as part of the Treasures Collection and will feature a live musical accompaniment.
Viaje (Paz Fabrega, Costa Rica, 2015)
Something instantly clicks between Luciana and Pedro when they meet at a fancy dress party. The passionate relationship they embark upon takes them across the city and then up in to northern Costa Rica to the national park of Rincon de la Vieja, where Pedro carries out field work for his thesis. Viaje is a touching story of emotional intimacy, told with humour and tenderness, all the while reflection on the intoxicating nature of desire, against the beautiful backdrop of rural Costa Rica.
Virgin Mountain (Dangur Karl, Iceland-Denmark, 2015)
If you’ve ever wanted a more sensitive, serious version of 40 Year Old Virgin then the Iclandic-Danish co-production Virgin Mountain is one for you. Still stuck somewhere between adolescence and adulthood, 40 year old Fusi lives a mundane and miserable existence, still living with his mother, working a boring job he hates, trudging through life doing the same things week in week out. Shy and self-conscious, as well as being one of life’s rejects, has left Fusi with virtually no experience with women, but a gift of line dancing classes leads him to Sjojn, another of life’s cast-offs she is full of life but also damaged. Could there be a chance for something a lot like love for these two lost souls?
Films of Love and Devotion (Various, Various, 2014-2015)
As the old saying goes, ‘the course of true love never did run smoothly,’ it is a cliché as old as time, but also one of the oldest truths, this compilation of 7 short films offers some reasons as to why.
More information is available on the BFI website x