The London Film Festival is kicking off, and for poor Northern folk like myself, all we can do is gaze longingly from a distance. For LFF has a sterling line-up this year. In particular, there is a diverse list of LGBT themed cinema on offer, from big hitters like The Imitation Game, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing, to lesser-known fare. Here are just some of those screening:
Alan Turing is remembered for two things: being the virtuoso mathematician behind breaking the enigma code and turning the tide of the Second World War in the allies’ favour, and the horrific treatment he faced as a result of his sexuality, including chemical castration, which eventually led to him taking his own life. The Imitation Game celebrates the former and condemns the latter, remembering Turing as the hero he deserves to be known as. Fresh from playing troubled genius Sherlock Holmes, Benedict Cumberbatch takes on the mantle of another troubled genius as Turing, while Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, Mark Strong and Charles Dance co-star.
From Peter Strickland, director of the incredible Toby Jones-starring Berberian Sound Studio, comes The Duke of Burgundy, a sensual tale of two women, cut off from the world around them, and the power struggle within their relationship. Starring Sidse Babett Knudsen and Chiara D’Anna, The Duke of Burgundy is an ambiguous, and constantly revealing exploration of sado-masochism, and the less than organic construct of relationships.
Cameron Monaghan is best known to audiences as Ian Gallagher in the US remake of Shameless, but here he stars alongside Liv Tyler and Judy Greer in Jamie Marks is Dead. Directed by Carter Smith, a master of queer horror as evidenced by his startling short Bugcrush in 2006 (go watch it now!) and his 2008 film The Ruins, Jamie Marks is Dead is the story of a bullied teen’s dead, naked body being found in a river. But when his ghost comes to haunt fellow student Adam, an intense passion starts to emerge. A melodramatic storyline is tempered by immersive direction from Smith, characteristic of his earlier work.
Straight out of Stockholm, Something Must Break is the story of a transgender teenager and her relationship with a straight man. From director Ester Martin Bergsmark, who had previously made She Male Snails about life outside the gender binary, Something Must Break is a confident tale, characterised by its lively soundtrack and it’s realistic, unapologetic and fearless love story.
Indian director Shonali Bose is no stranger to difficult topics, having previously explored the genocide of Sikhs in Delhi in 2005’s Amu. In Margarita, with a Straw, she focuses on a Delhi teenager with cerebral palsy winning a scholarship to New York, only to fall in love with a young, female activist. Without falling to sentimentality, Bose presents sexuality as deftly as she does disability, and the result is a wonderful coming of age drama.
This 1982 drama is restored for London Film Festival, and stars Cher, Kathy Bates, Sandy Dennis and Karen Black. In case you need any other reason to watch than that cast, the film is about the members of the James Dean fan club reuniting twenty years after his death to reminisce. Explaining the film’s LGBT connection would ruin it for any viewers, but take the opportunity to explore this oft-forgotten classic.