52nd Times BFI London Film Festival

My post on the press launch of the London Film Festival last week highlighted a number of the event’s most prominent movies, including the opening and closing galas – Frost/Nixon and Slumdog Millionaire. If you miss these films during the festival (15-30 October) you’ll be able see them in cinemas up and down the country over the coming months. Today, though, my eye’s been caught by a handful of films that don’t yet have UK release dates. They may well get snapped up for cinema distribution, but their festival screenings could be your only chance to see them on the big screen.

Achilles and the Tortoise

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Prolific Japanese filmmaker Takashi Kitano is probably best known in the West for his violent yakuza thrillers, but his latest movie is apparently a quiet comedy that takes Zeno’s famous paradox about the sprinter and the slow coach and applies it to the story of a boy who grows up to become an artist. Expect something genuinely offbeat from a man who boasts parallel careers as actor, director, stand-up comedian, TV presenter, poet, painter, video game designer and author. (Tue 21 & Wed 22 Oct)
http://youtube.com/v/i1xTRU1MPLU

Synecdoche, New York

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This is the first outing as a director from screenwriter Charlie Kaufman of Being John Malkvovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind fame. I’ve heard mixed reports about the movie, which stars Philip Seymour Hoffman as a frustrated theatre director attempting to put his entire life on stage, but I’m intrigued to see what Kaufman’s bizarre imagination can conjure up. (Tue 28 & Wed 29 Oct)

Sugar

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Director Ryan Fleck and his co-writer Anna Boden made a splash with their first film, Half Nelson, which won an Oscar-nomination for Ryan Gosling‘s dazzling performance as a Brooklyn school teacher with a secret drug addiction. The pair’s new film is the story of an ambitious young baseball player from the Dominican Republic who is trying to make his way in the US minor leagues. After seeing Sugar at Sundance earlier this year, Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir called the movie “a rich and moving surprise”. (Thu 23 & Fri 24 Oct)

More on the festival next week…