Preview: Leeds International Film Festival

Carey Mulligan in Shame

FILM: a breathtaking exercise in bringing the fantastic to life, a notion so wonderful it has captured the minds of film-makers for more than a century. For Leeds International Film Festival (LIFF), this year marks the city’s 25th celebration of the cinematic world.

The three-week event – which runs from November 3-20 – boasts a sparkling schedule of screenings, split over six categories bulging with new discoveries, exclusive previews and cherry-picked selections.

At the heart of the festival is its Official Selection category, showcasing emerging directors, fresh talent and classics from the archives.

The cream of the cinematic crop bookends LIFF’s special events with Oscar-winning director Andrea Arnold kicking off the opening gala with her bold adaptation of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights on November 3.

Closing the gala on November 18 will be Steve McQueen’s critically acclaimed Shame starring Carey Mulligan and Michael Fassbender in what preview reviews promise is his finest performance to date.

Sandwiched inbetween on November 9 is an exclusive presentation of Silent Clowns – a homage to some of the finest pre-talkie actors in film history – hosted by one of Britain’s best-loved comedians, Paul Merton.

Irish murder tale, The Other Side of Sleep

Across the calendar, potential screen stealers include psychological drama Take Shelter which has Hollywood disaster-movie appeal, and Irish murder story, The Other Side of Sleep, which battles alongside 11 other UK premieres in the Golden Owl Competition.

Quirky selection entries include oddball fantasy, Finisterrae, hippy comedy, Together, and Romanian new-wave gem, Best Intentions.

Those who love their cinema served with a side of gore will rejoice that the much-loved Fano

Brit-pop beats: Pulp is the law

menon duo of events, Night and Day of the Dead, return to satiate the appetite for aliens (November 5 and 12 respectively).

For fans who love music and film in equal measure, this year’s home to documentary comes under Cinema Versa: a series of special events based on the festival aesthetic.

Tipped for success is The Beat is the Law – Fanfare for the Common People, which traces Sheffield’s musical history, with a large chunk dedicated to Brit-poppers, Pulp.

On an underground note, Shut Up Little Man: An Audio Misadventure tells the tale of a viral phenomenan borne of paper thin walls and noisy neighbours.

Finally, and further proof audiences will be spoiled for choice this year, LIFF also boasts the world’s largest comic celebration, Thought Bubble, a selection of world animation and short film, and experiemntal showcase, Cherry Kino.

Visit http://www.leedsfilm.com/ for ticket prices, venues, and screening information.

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Trio tackle heartbreaking tale

Love triangle hardships in Never Let Me Go

NEVER LET ME GO: 12A

RUNNING TIME: 104 mins

DIRECTOR: Mark Romanek

STARRING: Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley, Andrew Garfield

A TRIO of bright talent brings Kazuo Ishiguro’s 2005 novel to life in Mark Romanek’s vision of a distopic sci-fi weepie.

With BAFTA winner Carey Mulligan leading the narrative as the achingly resigned Kathy H, this distressing coming-of-age tale unravels like a train wreck.

The minor details- the moments that give away the disturbing horror-show behind the three young lives that will end with certain pain- are cruelly deceptive thanks to the slow delivery of the plot. Before you know it, an hour has gone by before you realise the joke is most definitely on you- it’s too late to look away now and what’s worse is that you know there’s no happy ending.

Kathy, Ruth (Keira Knightley) and Tommy (Andrew Garfield) grow up at the seemingly idyllic boarding school, Halisham. At first nothing seems too out of the ordinary – Kathy and Tommy look set to embark upon a sweet childhood romance, sparked by an analogue love token of a cassette tape.

Though they remain friends, it is Ruth and Tommy that pair off, much to Kathy’s silent heartache. As their time at Halisham comes to an end and they learn of their real fate – to be on standby in case their “originals” need their vital organs – they struggle to come to terms with the knowledge they are nothing more than clones for a short life of “donation” and “completion”- the moment their bodies are no longer needed.

Ten years later, the three meet again – Ruth has donated twice and is nearing death. With guilt for coming between Kathy and Tommy gnawing at her conscience, she encourages them to pursue their love and seek a “deferral” from the former head of Halisham, a rumour that gives clones a few years to be together before donating.

An overbearing sadness permeates the tone of the whole film, it’s oppressive and unrelenting as we come to understand the frustrations of living a life of certain misery.

What makes it more disturbing is the anchorless nature of the period and its setting. The generality of the English countryside and a shabby seaside town is misleading – the peace and tranquillity of what should be simple living is undermined by the Orwellian undertones of clocking in an out with a wrist-tag.

Time is constantly manipulated, with the weightless nature of the decades it undoubtedly spans giving the film an uneasy timeless feature. With excellent performances from three promising actors, Never Let Me Go will have even the stoniest of hearts breaking.