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Personal Top 10 picks from the 66th London Film Festival


The 66th London Film Festival has come to an end. As the accredited press delegate for LFF, I am very excited to watch many surprising films and see the industry flourishing worldwide. With the 50+ movies I watched during the past half month, here are my top 10 picks. Let’s take a look.

(The 66th London Film Festival is held from 5 Oct to 16 Oct, screening 300 movies worldwide)


10. Jeong-Sun


Brief: This bold and heartfelt debut tackles the recent epidemic of digital sex crimes in South Korea, making visible the lives of those marginalized by sexism, ageism, and classism (from LFF brochure). 


Given the Nth Room case (a criminal case involving blackmail, cybersex trafficking, and the spread of sexually exploitative videos online) in South Korea, the topic has become increasingly debated throughout East Asin countries. 


In Jeong-Sun, the case took on a rather unexpected character: it features a middle-age factory worker named Jeong-Sun and her secret affair with another factory worker that gained public attention when her lover posted her half-naked dancing video online without her consent. The movie portrays the hardship experienced by victims through different levels: socially, judicially, and psychologically.


9. The Banshees of Inisherin


Brief: Martin McDonagh returns to the LFF with this jewel of a tragicomedy, a shimmering tale of friendship, feuds, and Irish identity (from LFF brochure).


It’s hard to forget Martin McDonagh’s cold sense of humor if one has seen his other works (Three Billboards, for example), when he is famous for a rather strange storyline that somehow resolves itself in the end. In this Irish coastal town with nothing but isolated individuals and the beautiful landscape, a sudden call off of a life-long friendship is certainly abrupt enough to cause serious emotional outbreaks.


The movie succeeds in creating a quirky sense of inevitability, skillfully imitating the condition of human nature and how a war-level conflict is created, with no one taking responsibility for it.


8. Linoleum


Brief: The struggling host of a TV science show builds a rocket ship in his garage while a series of mysterious occurrences make him question his own reality (from LFF brochure).


Linoleum shares many similarities with David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive. Both of them touch on the topic of reality, fantasy, and dream; the line that differentiates those three is blurred in the movies.


Like Charlie Kaufman’s Synecdoche New York, the film starts with an everyday narrative of a middle-aged male protagonist who is crushed by a mid-life crisis and a resignation of his childhood dream. His life changes, however, when a rocket crashes into his garage. Overall, Linoleum is a very touching film about love and dreams. 


7. She Said

Brief: Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazan star as New York Times journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, whose brilliant investigation pulled back the curtain on Harvey Weinstein's serial abuse of women (from LFF brochure).


It’s hard for many movies about journalists to escape the paradigm of Spotlight, presenting journalistic investigation remarkably calmly and objectively. She Said surprised me in its vivid depiction of the victims in sexual harassment cases: women with strength that enables them to persist through hardship. 


6. Sick of Myself


Brief: She just did what? Attention-seeking Signe will do anything to keep the focus on herself in this widely demented comedy (from LFF brochure).


Sick of myself is a modern-day satire presented through extreme exaggeration and eye-catching grotesque elements. It shows the worst case of how nowadays social media and self-victimization can distort a human being while also revealing the ugly nature behind the art and fashion industry.


The condition of our protagonist gets worse and worse, and the process is captured so smoothly that the audience feels almost satisfied as they watch the situation worsen. This Norwegian comedy-drama perfectly depicts the everyday subtlety between relationships and the absurdness of daily events.

5. Triangle of Sadness


Brief: Riotously funny with barbed wire-sharp wit, Triangle of Sadness garnered Ruben Ostlund’s second Cannes Palme d’Or Award (from LFF brochure).


Triangle of Sadness is a very controversial movie: some said it tries to include too much all at once, but I think that’s the particular beauty of it. The story is divided into three parts:

  • An influencer model couple's materialistic melodrama.

  • Their encounters on a luxury cruise.

  • The unexpected surprise which totally subverts the established order.

Overall, I think it’s a smooth political allegory with great satire and dark humor, which creates a satisfying cinematic experience for the audience. Even though you may not like it, Triangle of Sadness is definitely worth watching.


4. Joyland

Brief: A conservative family in Pakistan is torn apart when a son falls in love with a transgender erotic dancer in Saim Sadiq’s riveting queer drama (from LFF brochure).


The first half of the film pulls audiences' attention onto the melodrama between Haider, the unemployed son of a strictly traditional Pakistani family governed by a wheelchair-bound yet a severely patriarchal father, and Biba, the transgender erotic dancer in a crowdpleaser theatre facing hardships and marginalization in her career.


Joyland is a realistic depiction of the pressure that a half modernized couple faced in a traditional Pakistani household. 


See here a thorough interview with Joyland’s director Saim Sadiq: https://thesocialtalks.com/entertainment/an-interview-with-joylands-director-saim-sadiq-a-womans-struggle-under-the-transgender-melodrama/


3. Holy Spider


Brief: Ali Abbassi's sophomore feature is a terrifying retelling of the case of the Spider Killer, a serial killer hunting down sex workers in Iran (from LFF brochure).


Twenty years after and based on the true story of the serial killer, Holy Spider tells the story of a fictional female journalist Rahimi (Zar Amir Ebrahimi), traveling to Mashhad to investigate the spider killer. As the body count mounts, Rahimi draws closer to exposing his crimes while risking her own safety multiple times. 


This insistence on justice becomes more equivocal in society when more and more people embrace him as a religious hero, regardless of the fact that he had killed 16 human beings.


A detailed interview with the director and leading actress can be seen here: https://thesocialtalks.com/entertainment/holy-spider-past-present-and-future-a-red-carpet-interview-with-ali-abbasi-and-zar-amir-ebrahimi/


2. Decision To Leave


Brief: In this sublime, Hitchcockian noir thriller from Park Chan-wook, a detective gets a little too close to the murder he’s trying to solve (from LFF brochure).


Decision to Leave is a movie that is hard to follow when you first watch it, or at least for the first thirty minutes, with its fast-paced cross-cutting and majestic signature montage. By containing so much information and details in a few seconds, Park Chan-wook left an unlimited space for symbols and explanations, puzzles and answers.


It’s hard to ignore the influence of Hitchcock on Park Chan-wook when the tragic romance between an impotent detective and a mysterious femme fatale very much reminds the audience of Vertigo by Alfred Hitchcock. Decision to Leave exceeds Vertigo in its extreme attention to detail. Although it is defeated regarding the story plot’s craftiness and the overall cinematography. Quoted Park Chan-wook himself, this is more a romance than a thriller, a modern-day dream-like Vertigo.


1. The Whale

Brief: Brendan Fraser shines in Darren Aronofsky’s resplendent film about a homosexual English teacher who suffers from obesity trying to reconnect with his teenage daughter (from LFF brochure).


If you have only one week left in your life, what will you do? Adapted from the eponymous play by Samuel D.Hunter, Brendan Fraser’s coming back masterpiece The Whale certainly entails various theatrical characteristics: the whole movie is shot in one single setting, which symbolically imitates the stagnation of the character both physically and mentally. 


The movement of the plot, divided by each day of the week before the obesity patient’s ultimate death, thus mainly depends on the character's dialogue. The movie touches on the topic of love, death, and redemption, with truth gradually revealed throughout the plot progression. With the movie’s tenderness and Brendan Fraser’s dazzling performance, it ends with most of the audience bursting into tears, making itself, without a doubt, my personal favorite in LFF.


All of the Brief information above comes from the LFF brochure, which can be accessed here: https://whatson.bfi.org.uk/lff/Online/default.asp

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