Baz Bamigboye for the Daily Mail
During her opening night address, Clare Stewart — who runs the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival — said that this is the year of ‘strong women’.
She said that 46 of the 240 feature movies were directed by women. That’s not a huge percentage — but it’s certainly bigger than last year. And the year before.
Thank heavens the festival opened with Sarah Gavron’s exceptional picture Suffragette, which was written and produced by women, and mostly stars them, too.
BAZ BAMIGBOYE: Last night, during her opening night address, Clare Stewart, who runs the British Film Institute’s London Film Festival, said this is the year of ‘strong women’ (pictured: Cate Blanchett)
I’ve seen the film several times and on each occasion I’ve found something new.
It’s a magnificent piece of film-making, which certainly wouldn’t have happened without the drive of producers Alison Owen and Faye Ward, and the support of top executives (mostly women!) at Film 4 and the BFI.
Another film that fascinates me is Carol, which stars Cate Blanchett as a married woman who begins an affair with a young saleswoman (Rooney Mara), who works in the toy department of a big old-fashioned store.
It’s love at first sight. ‘So what?’ I can hear you cry. Wouldn’t amount to a hill of beans today, but director Todd Haynes’s film is set in the Fifties. And in America, in that era, that kind of thing wasn’t done.
Cate’s screen husband refuses to give her a divorce and tries to blackmail her into staying in the marriage.
‘She had no rights, and the husband used a morality clause against her,’ noted Elizabeth Karlsen, the producer who worked for years to get Carol made.
Once again there was vital support from Film4.
Carol has one of the year’s most stunning screenplays. It’s by Phyllis Nagy and it’s based on a 1952 novel by Patricia Highsmith that was originally called The Price Of Salt.
The first LFF screening will be on Wednesday at the Odeon Leicester Square.
On Saturday night, Blanchett will appear in Truth — another film featuring a ‘strong’ woman. It’s based on a true story; and Blanchett portrays Mary Mapes, the producer of former CBS newsman Dan Rather’s segments on the U.S. Sunday night news show 60 Minutes.
Robert Redford plays Rather in the drama, which tells how Rather and Mapes got into serious bother over a report that was broadcast about President George W. Bush.
- One of the festival’s most engrossing films is a documentary by director David Evans and human rights lawyer Philippe Sands called A Nazi Legacy. Sands shows courage and restraint as he interviews two men whose fathers were top-ranking Nazi officers during World War II. One of them is appalled by what his father did during the war; the other spends the film trying to justify the horrors his father oversaw. I was gripped from beginning to end. It’s being shown on Sunday at the BFI LFF and on November 19 as part of the UK Jewish Film Festival. Go to bfi.org.uk/lff and ukjewishfilm.org for date and ticket information.
HANKS LEADS TINSLETOWN’S CHARGE FOR THE IRON CURTAIN
The Cold War is being defrosted at the cinema.
Two new movies starring Tom Hanks, Mark Rylance, Bryan Cranston and Helen Mirren are exploring different aspects of what occurred between the West and the East when the Iron Curtain, as Churchill first described it, fell across eastern Europe.
But now a celluloid curtain has been raised to reveal Trumbo — starring Cranston as Dalton Trumbo, who wrote Roman Holiday while blacklisted from working in Hollywood because of his one-time Communist affiliations — and Bridge Of Spies, directed by Steven Spielberg with Hanks playing a straight-as-an-arrow lawyer asked to defend a Soviet spy (Rylance).
Tom Hanks and Mark Rylance In the ©20th Century Fox promo for the new film Bridge of Spies
In Trumbo, which is being screened tonight at the Odeon Leicester Square for the BFI London Film Festival in advance of its wider release, Cranston — star of hit TV series Breaking Bad — expertly shows how Trumbo navigated scaredy-cat film chiefs who bowed to pressure from nut-jobs in Congress who wanted the ‘reds’ rubbed out.
Gossip columnists such as Hedda Hopper (Mirren) helped fan the flames, which prevented Trumbo’s name from being used in movies.
Director Jay Roach shows footage of Fifties informational films where Americans were shown what to do in the event of a nuclear blast. Similar extracts are used in Bridge Of Spies, which opens here on November 27.
The films are arriving just as Putin and his military forces have increased the level of aggression in Syria. Many are seeing Russia’s actions as a test for the West.
Having seen Cranston portray Lyndon Johnson in New York, I was prepared for him to be sublime as Trumbo; and he is.
But some of the best screen acting of the year occurs between Hanks and Rylance, giving masterclasses in the art of underplaying on screen. Trumbo goes on general release here on February 5.
GYPSY CAUGHT ON CAMERA
Imelda Staunton’s acclaimed portrait of a self-deluded stage mother in the musical Gypsy has been captured on film.
Imelda Staunton’s acclaimed portrait of a self-deluded stage mother in the musical Gypsy has been captured on film
In the show, which was directed by Jonathan Kent at the Chichester Festival Theatre and is now running at The Savoy, the actress stars as Rose, the driven mother of striptease queen Gypsy Rose Lee (a role played by Lara Pulver until tomorrow).
Three separate performances of Gypsy — the Tuesday and Wednesday evening shows plus the Wednesday matinee — were filmed at the Savoy this week. Choreographer Stephen Mear put the company through its paces before the cameras rolled.
It was felt essential to capture Staunton working with Pulver, who long ago was contracted to leave the show six weeks before its end date next month.
Pulver plays Rose’s daughter, a tomboy who grows up and blossoms into burlesque star Gypsy Rose Lee.
Negotiations for permission to shoot the production were complex. The estates of writer Arthur Laurents and composer Jule Styne had to give the OK, as did Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the show’s lyrics.
It helped that the film’s producer and director — Ellen Krass and Lonny Price — had made other Sondheim films including concert versions of Company and Sweeney Todd.
There are discussions about Gypsy being broadcast on BBC4 during the Christmas holidays, although no actual date has yet been fixed because the deal hasn’t been completed. There’s also talk about it being shown on U.S. television.
I gather that a DVD of Gypsy will go on sale next year.
Watch out for…
Denise Gough, who gives one of the best theatre performances of the year as a young woman struggling with addiction in Duncan Macmillan’s play People, Places And Things. Gough will transfer with the production when it moves from the National Theatre’s Dorfman stage to Wyndham’s Theatre in March.
The deal was clinched yesterday after negotiations involving the National, co-producer Michael Linnit (of National Angels) and Cameron Mackintosh. It will follow Martin McDonagh’s hit play Hangmen, which is moving from the Royal Court to Wyndham’s (previews start December 1).
Watch out for… Denise Gough, who gives one of the best theatre performances of the year as a young woman struggling with addiction in Duncan Macmillan’s play People, Places And Things. Gough will transfer with the production when it moves from the National Theatre’s Dorfman stage to Wyndham’s Theatre in March
Ms Gough’s acting in Macmillan’s drama (which ends its run at the NT on November 4) is stripped back as her character tries to kick a habit that has all but destroyed her relationship with her parents.
Audiences become so engrossed they want to talk to the actress. In fact, at one performance I attended, Gough’s mother spoke to her from the stalls!
It’s not yet known if other cast members will transfer with Gough.
Julian Ovenden, who will play Captain Von Trapp in ITV’s live version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound Of Music.
Ovenden (right), who played one of Lady Mary’s suitor’s in last season’s Downton Abbey, will go into rehearsals next month with the rest of the cast, which is still being assembled.
The show will be filmed by director Coky Giedroyc on a sound stage and broadcast live over Christmas.
However the cast will also shoot a version in advance for ‘safety’, just in case anything goes wrong on the night.