I naturally learned about Leeds International Film Festival promptly upon starting my first year of studies at Leeds University. Due to an overwhelming amount of trepidation about a great many things at the time (as many freshers experience) I attended a grand total of zero films. In the following years I vowed to not make the same blunder.
As a result, some of the strangest films I’ve seen over the course of each year are from the festival, including The Bothersome Man (the story of a man trapped in purgatory) and 22nd of May (about a security guard reliving a shopping mall bombing he failed to prevent). One of the most interesting experiences I had was getting trashed at a metal night before dragging myself out of bed to go watch One Piece: Strong World. Suffice to say, hungover and with no prior engagement with the source material is no way to watch what I later learned was the tenth movie installment of a manga series.
Since then I’ve seen the self-congratulatory lows of Masterpiece: Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns to the neon highs of Blade Runner on the big screen. I even got to watch John Carpenter’s The Thing with two hilarious accompaniments:
1) A pre-recorded interview with Carpenter, in which he humbly expressed little desire to praise his own work over other people’s, which made the twenty minutes the interviewer spent trying to make him do so seem as awkward as possible, and…
2) A woman sitting one row ahead of me who had very clearly not seen the film before and likely made five permanent dent marks in her partner’s arm, applying a vice-like grip throughout a good portion of the film.
But this year, the festival’s thirtieth, I’ve taken the plunge and bought an individual pass so I can finally go absolutely berserk. Here’s my upcoming schedule, my pre-film expectations, and I’ll update them with post-film responses as the festival rolls on:
Friday November 4th – Interstella
Pre: Music video movie of Daft Punk’s album Discovery. An alien rock band’s superfan trying to free them from the clutches of an evil music mogul? I’ll have me some of that.
Sunday 6th – Schneider vs. Bax
Pre: Foreign movies are a good source of black comedy, so I’ve got good expectations for this one about a hitman’s job gone wrong. And ‘hitman’ is essentially the best occupation you can give a movie character without having to actually delve into their past, so it’s already ticking boxes in my book.
Sunday 6th – Under the Shadow
Pre: Sunday is my first double-header, with Under the Shadow being the UK’s foreign language Oscar entry. It’s looking to be a ghost story, but not necessarily a horror, so that says to me ‘enough supernatural elements to creep me out, but enough story sense to give me it in tiny doses’. My over-under on jump scares is 2.5.
Monday 7th – The Birth of a Nation
Pre: Nate Parker’s racial powerhouse doesn’t appear to be getting the slam-dunk responses that were suggested a few months ago, but it still has high-upside potential from ocasisonal stellar reviews. I have the feeling this is going to be either great or okay, with plain old ‘good’ not being an option.
Tuesday 8th – Being There
Pre: Following a rekindled love of Dr. Strangelove, and seeing his stellar work in Lolita, I need more Peter Sellers in my life. I’m just hoping that it’s a few beats away from Forrest Gump and Rain Man (neither of which I’m a fan of). At least I’m almost guaranteed another grade-A performance from Sellers.
Wednesday 9th – Aliens (with Royal Armouries Presents the Pulse Rifle)
Pre: I’m presently in the ‘Alien‘ camp of the great sequel debate, but I couldn’t pass up a chance to see Aliens on the big screen. Perhaps I’ll be a bigger fan on this go around, and I’ll definitely shout when Bishop gets what’s coming to him. Kickstarted with a presentation about the pulse rifle from the film, and I’ve got the makings of fun evening.
Thursday 10th – The Animatrix and The Matrix
Pre: First time seeing The Animatrix, so I’m looking for at least three enjoyable sections from the anthology. Seeing The Matrix immediately after should also let me judge how well the two work together. Strange how I missed this when I was 8, but making up for it when I’m 25.
Friday 11th – Drive
Pre: If you’ve read anything else from my blog, you’ll know I’m a Drive fanboy. Not much to say other than I’ll try to keep my head-bobbing to a minimum while ‘Nightcall’ is playing. Two home-viewings have taken a little off the edge these past couple of years, so a big-screen setting might juice things up and resharpen the senses.
Friday 11th – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
Pre: Another double-header, this time with my favourite Wes Anderson film. Firmly a fan of the beginning and especially the end, so I’m hoping to laugh a little more through the middle and be annoyed a little less by Owen Wilson.
Sunday 13th – Assassination Classroom: Graduation
Pre: Assassination Classroom was a big hit last year at LIFF, so I was pleased to see the sequel make an appearance here. A synopsis has promised me closure, and I’ll likely get it, I just hope it’ll take itself seriously when it should for the sake of drama.
Monday 14th – Amadeus (Director’s Cut)
Pre: I adore the movie and if I could attend one screening, it would be this. The music is going to be incredible and I just hope I don’t have to crane my neck up for three hours. To the balcony seats I go!
Wednesday 16th – 2001: A Space Odyssey
Pre: In what has become a staple of the festival, 2001 is coming to the town hall and I’m honestly intrigued to see the effects of a repeat viewing on me. I’ve only seen it once, back in 2009, and I immediately had a great sense of appreciation for it. But to go through it all again? Like Birth of a Nation, high potential and little chance of a 7-8/10.
So there it is, twelve films across ten days and five different locations in Leeds. If you haven’t already, I implore you to check out the films on offer this year and to try to attend a couple.
I’m pleased to live in a city that hosts one of the best film festivals every year, so if you’re a local as well, are making the trip to Leeds, or are volunteering for the event, let me know with a comment below of what you’re looking forward to seeing!