Choosing a music biopic as your debut feature is a brave move, fortunately for STW, who was mentored by the late BFI Chair Anthony Minghella (to whom she dedicates the film), she had the sense to bring in Control writer Matt Greenhalgh. Coming up, the results of the awards But first a quick look at the closing night film, Sam Taylor Wood's Nowhere Boy, about the teenage years of John Lennon.
Choosing a music biopic as your debut feature is a brave move, fortunately for STW, who was mentored by the late BFI Chair Anthony Minghella (to whom she dedicates the film), she had the sense to bring in Control writer Matt Greenhalgh.
The script then delves into an interesting and deeply emotional period in a young man's life, that would inform his work to come. John is a rather downtrodden character caught between warring sisters, his estranged mother, a free spirited rocker, and his prim aunt come guardian.
For all it's dramatic posturing, it is technically subdued, preferring simplicity to showiness. Anne Marie Duff as John's mother Julia puts in a sensitive portrayal of a woman out of her time and bordering manic depressive, driving the sparse narrative. Weaker moments occur as the rest of the band is sandwiched into Lennon's life, with some poor song dubbing. Other smug Beatles nods include John cycling past 'Strawberry Fields' and doodling a walrus in his notebook, although they make it far too clear that they aren't going to venture into the Fab Four Phenomenon..
Aaron Johnson struggles to find a cohesive version of John, I suspect cast more for his swagger than his poetic soul, although by the end of the film you're more or less involved and reasonably satisfied of a worthy debut.
The Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival announced its winners at the awards ceremony held at London's Inner Temple, hosted by journalist and broadcaster, Paul Gambaccini.
The Star of London for Best Film was awarded to Jacques Audiard's A PROPHET and was presented by Anjelica Huston. She said:
"A masterpiece: UN PROPHETE has the ambition, purity of vision and clarity of purpose to make it an instant classic. With seamless and imaginative story-telling, superb performances and universal themes, Jacques Audiard has made a perfect film."
The jury also gave a special mention to John Hillcoat's THE ROAD, praising the film's breathtaking vision, extraordinary performances and profound political statement.
Dominic Cooper and Jodie Whittaker presented the Best British Newcomer to Jack Thorne, screenwriter of the film THE SCOUTING BOOK FOR BOYS. The jury said:
"Jack Thorne is a poetic writer with an end-of-the-world imagination and a real gift for story-telling. Thorne's substantial authorship is revealed in the unique voices of the film's characters and the rich, soulful and playful layering of the story."
The jury also gave a special mention to J Blakeson, the writer and director of THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED, commending his accomplished, original and ambitious filmmaking.
The longstanding Sutherland Award is presented to the maker of the most original and imaginative first feature screening in the Festival. This year, Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani took the award for their film AJAMI, which was presented by Alfonso Cuarón. The jury said
"A bold and original piece of filmmaking, AJAMI tells an important story in a thoroughly engrossing and cinematic way. A fantastic achievement, Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani have made a film with a heart and a vision that speaks for a common humanity."
The Grierson Award for Best Documentary in the Festival
was presented by Nick Broomfield to winner Yoav Shamir for his film DEFAMATION.
On behalf of the jury Nick Broomfield said:
"A fantastic film, Defamation does exactly what documentary, at its best, can do, making us re-examine our assumptions about an important and complex subject, in an absorbing and funny way. The film's intellectual courage, boldness of conception and the excitement of the journey on which it takes you make this a winning film."
The highest accolade that the British Film Institute bestows was awarded tonight to distinguished British actor John Hurt and renowned Malian filmmaker Souleymane Cissé for their significant achievements in the fields of acting and directing. Hurt, whose films 44 INCH CHEST and THE LIMITS OF CONTROL, were featured in the festival, received his award from producer Jeremy Thomas and director Michael Caton-Jones both of whom have worked with Hurt on a number of films. Cissé's TELL ME WHO YOU ARE had its UK premiere at the festival this week and his award was presented to him by actress Charlotte Rampling.