The 56th BFI London Film Festival is upon us. Tonight saw the opening night gala and the return (to form) of Tim Burton with his latest feature 'Frankenweenie'. We'll be covering a myriad of films at the festival, albeit largely in mini-review format. This is installment #1, and strong opener - 'Frankenweenie', 'Laurence Anyways' and 'Robot And Frank' all warrant viewing. Why? Keep reading below. No spoilers, of course.
'Frankenweenie' (UK-wide release: 17th Oct)
A loving ode to both his own back catalogue as well as horror and B-movies, Tim Burton's 'Frankenweenie' was very much an enjoyable start to the 2012 LFF. The death of Victor's dog Sparky causes the young boy great sadness but inspired by his eccentric science teacher, he manages to covertly resurrect the deceased pet. Soon, Victor's secret is out - cue mayhem, and it's upto Victor and Sparky to rescue the situation.
Stop-motion animation is always a labour of love but it tends to lead to a further focus on the film itself - explaining the success of the likes of 'Wallace & Gromit' and 'Mary & Max'. The puppet designs are charming but it is the script that particularly excels, balancing humour (for both children and adults) with sadness and triumph in pleasing doses. By the end, 'Frankenweenie' feels a little rushed but that's partly because we'd love for the film to continue.
'Laurence Anyways' (LFF screenings: Thurs 11th, 18.00 + Fri 12th, 14:45)
Transgender cinema is unsurprisingly a largely overlooked strand of contemporary cinema. Thankfully, progressive filmmakers such as Xavier Dolan are here to (slowly) propel transgender characters further into the mainstream. His third feature, following last year's 'Heartbeats', follows college professor Laurence as he transitions from male to female.
'Laurence Anyways' is spectacular, on occasion - particularly in its visual aspects but also in the struggles and frustrations of central couple Laurence (Melvil Poupaud) and Fred (Suzanne Clément). Similarly, the soundtrack is a triumph and arguably as evocative as the soundtrack to 'Drive'. Unfortunately, at almost three hours long, 'Laurence Anyways' needs a much tighter edit.
'Robot And Frank' (LFF screenings: Thurs 11th, 20.30 + Fri 12th, 12.30 + Sun 14th, 21:00)
Jake Schreir's debut feature has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the LFF 2012. Set in the near future, Frank Langella is the forgetful Frank, an elderly man whose diminishing memory causes his son to invest in his own robot "butler" - against Frank's will. Until he realises that the robot could actually be quite useful.
'Robot And Frank' is a touching meditation on old age, friendship and most of all, humanity. An unconventional relationship comedy-drama that is sadly not seeing a release in the UK until next March. Seize your opportunity to see it now, and revel in its equally terrific soundtrack from Francis & The Lights.
For more info and to purchase any remaining tickets to the 56th BFI London Film Festival, visit bfi.org.uk/lff.