Unless you live in an underground bunker and clearly couldn’t give a fuck about the myriad delights this world have to offer – chances are, you’ll gather that the 56th BFI London Film Festival has officially began. It probably doesn’t bear any significance to average layabouts – but to cinephiles everywhere in this bustling city, it matters. London Film Festival is like the Olympics for film lovers, albeit it comes annually. Which is even better. Meaning we can flex our cinematic (figurative) muscles more.
Tim Burton’s black-and-white stop-motion animation Frankenweenie is poised to launch the festival, in the lavishly named Opening Night Gala, which is just really a bunch of people in over-priced suits and frocks, walking on some carpet (usually of the red variant) to go watch a film they made along with a bunch of public who can cough up fucking expensive tickets, when they can watch exactly the same thing the next day for a tenner in their local Odeon cinema. Pfft.
The folks from the British Film Institute (big punters) takes a new daring approach this year, dividing all films out of competition into various segments – Love, Dare, Debate, Laugh, Thrill – which is rather charming. But not so much chucking the old, rubbish things out as plainly re-arranging the lounge. And speaking of fresh, new, bold approaches, the festival elects Frankenweenie as the festival opener, following the age-old tradition of choosing studio-and-family-friendly (read: moolah-friendly) easy crowdpleasers, which really cements this ‘fresh, new, bold approach‘. Ironically, this is a film that sees Burton going back to his roots, rummaging his boot and bringing out the undead back to life (and hopefully wiping out memories of Alice in the Wonderland and Dark Shadows in the process). The film recently received glowing reviews – but the cold, hard cynic in me believes this is not Burton revitalised, but rather Burton running out of creative juices, trying to retrieve back his golden days by re-hashing an old piece of work. Frankenweenie sounds as original as Frankenstein hooking up with Edward Scissorhands and both bearing a lovechild in 2012, if they could ever have one. So much for bold, new, fresh approaches.
Now the question beckons – why can’t the festival choose to open with a non-family-friendly fare for a change? Why not choose Michael Haneke’s Cannes-fêted Amour, which clearly have a lot more going on than dogs coming back from the dead? How about this for a bold approach – launch the festival with a film about real people actually dying. This begs for an answer – which film would you prefer to be in the Opening Night Gala? It’s a no-brainer.
I’m just bitching because I don’t have a ticket to the premiere. I’m catching up with Breaking Bad instead, where every episode is worth an Opening Night Gala.