Genkina Hito’s Late Report on the BFI London Film Festival 2012

Regular followers of this blog will know that at the end of last year I resolved to cover film festivals in much greater detail in the new year and… even participate in one. At the time I figured it would be one local to me (which didn’t go ahead this year for some reason) but never did I think that I would actually attend one. I did. I attended this:

BFI LFF Poster

The 56th BFI London Film Festival was my first major film festival and I enjoyed it tremendously. It was a chance for a cinephile like me to enjoy films the year they are released and at their UK premiere and in some of the best cinemas (?) in the country. Now I live over an hour away by train from London. I very rarely venture down to the city of fog (as the Japanese know it) without a really good reason and I daren’t stay overnight. Not because I am scared I hasten to add but because I am a little conservative when it comes to spending my money on anything other than essentials like food and films…. After some planning (hardly meticulous), I ventured forth and spent two days in London watching three films which I took a gamble on being the most entertaining of the Japanese films at the festival.

BFI London Film Festival Poster Line Up

Although there were slight delays on the train into the capital, things went off without a hitch. I became quickly oriented with the city and the tube system right off the bat (thanks to previous experiences and planning) and while I misjudged distances and time on my second day (resulting in me heading too far south and having to make a breathless dash across two bloody bridges in bright sunlight amidst bewildered tourists and aggressive flower sellers) I found my way around central London fairly well. Whatever ordeals (and there were miraculously few) it didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for the films and for the city itself.

As far as the three screenings went… Finding the cinemas proved rather easy and transport links were efficient. Indeed, I wish I used the tube trains more on the second day. The cinemas were rather well-furnished and comfortable.

Genki Jason in London at the BFI London Film Festival

  • The Vue cinema was in a nice central location. While the outside and lobby of the cinema was hardly impressive the screening rooms were. Plush seats, nice low-lighting and big screens with clear sight lines were more than enough to please me but there was also a nice steady temperature.
  • The Ritzy in Brixton, which was three a minute walk from the tube station, was a rather low-key but comfortable cinema. It seemed to have low seating capacity but comfortable seats (although a little cramped when it came to admitting other people into the row) and the large amount of BFI paraphernalia was intoxicating. The audience seemed to be predominantly suits which meant that there was a lot of light emanating from cell-phones – which they turned off.
  • The BFI Southbank was the most impressive. I didn’t get a good look at the lobby area as I tore through to try and get to the screening but from what I saw when I glanced it looked nice. Great air conditioning meant that I cooled down after my short marathon. Again, a large screen, great seats and the staff there were very helpful.

The screenings were packed for Key of Life and For Love’s Sake although there were some notable gaps for The Wolf Children. The audience reacted to the films well. I was not the only person crying at The Wolf Children or laughing uproariously with The Key of Life. Ai to Makoto? The audience loved it. In fact, the audiences for each of these films loved them.

Overall I had a great time. I would love to live in London (and Toronto and Japan) because there are so many film events as the informative Otherwhere blog shows.

I must admit that I made some errors in my adventure… basic things. On the train back home I spent time writing notes much like Kondo the hitman in Key of Life. Review notes and notes on how to improve my next trip to London for a film festival (Premiere Japan seems to be off the cards). Indeed, inspired by him I have ditched my lackadaisical personality and become much more meticulous.

I never would have gone without the encouragement and help of another blogger who I would like to thank! ありがとう ございます!

Anyway over the next week I will post reviews for The Wolf Children, Key of Life and For Love’s Sake.

35 thoughts on “Genkina Hito’s Late Report on the BFI London Film Festival 2012

  1. akb48fan

    Great report and I’m glad you enjoyed yourself at the London Film Festival. I’m sure this will encourage you to attend some more in the near future.

  2. “I am a little conservative when it comes to spending my money on anything other than essentials like food and films….” Well, you could always give couch-surfing a try! In any case, I think sometimes spending money is unavoidable when you went to get out and go elsewhere – sometimes it’s simply needed and the experience of going somewhere can make it all well worth it.

    “I would love to live in London (and Toronto and Japan)” – You already know what I think – you’re the one who will make those things happen, you just go and that’s it!

    “The BFI Southbank was the most impressive.” If I remember correctly that screen for Ai to Makoto is the largest in the UK.

    “informative Otherwhere blog” ありがとうございます. 😀

      1. As a single guy who actually likes where he works I tend to see no reason to take a holiday… That said I booked time off this week to catch up on stuff and I booked time off at the end of the month because I thought Premiere Japan might be on. Guess I’ll have time to start a Yakuza or chanbara season now.

        My mindset is gradually changing and I am spending money on films, travel and restaurants… My grand ambition is to go to Japan and put my Japanese to some use. Yes, I know what you think and I will follow my heart and travel to Japan or something to that effect.

        Here’s a free ad for your blog: “Otherwhere is where I get some of the best and most up to date festival information and the place I get to see cool trailers.” – Genki Jason. 😉

      2. Tired Paul

        “If I remember correctly that screen for Ai to Makoto is the largest in the UK.”

        You’re thinking of the BFI IMAX screen 🙂

      3. @Genki J – So many reasons to take a holiday! So many reasons to go places! But you know me, my world-travelling feet get itchy soooooo easily. I’m just back from Dublin, but I can’t wait for December to go to my sister’s/parents’, and hopefully I’ll be able to hop across the border to see friends, and now I’m planning trips to Berlin, Lux, back to Dublin (met such lovely people!), Greece next autumn for a friend’s wedding and summer wherever my Dad will be… And a definite aim to visit Japan within the next two years max.

        They say there is no such a thing as free lunch… And don’t you post all the festival info as well?

      4. Your travels continue!

        I hope you enjoyed Dublin and I hope your travel plans come to fruition – how will you do trailer posts then? Who will I make insensitive comments about “slow cinema” to?

        I post festival info but it’s usually for the bigger ones (As listed on the side bar) and I gave up on the last three due to lack of time…

      5. I only need the internet to do Trailer Weeklies… doesn’t really matter where I am. I won’t stop posting because of travelling, if I don’t post it’s because of deadlines and work obligations and lack of time!

        So, no worries, you can still disparage slow cinema…

  3. Tired Paul

    Sucks that Premiere Japan is up in the air, the fact that it ran for 6 years and turnout was always good meant this was even more of a blow, very sad at lack of response to questions too……..guess I’ve got to stay positive…….there’s always December!

    1. I was thinking that the festival could be in December. I’ve got quite a few holidays left… Perhaps this can be a Christmas present for myself. Bah, I need to move to London so it ceases being a Christmas present and becomes “a night on the town”.

  4. HS

    oh wow, you went all the way to Brixton?! I have to admit I’ve never actually been there. NFT1 has the best screen in London and it’s usually a very nice atmosphere there! I’m not sure which way you came but I think they may actually have redesigned the riverfront bar area AGAIN since then – and it was only a couple of months old before. I like the Vue in Leicester Square too, it’s one of the nicer multiplex type places, but it is very expensive outside of the festival especially considering the stacked seating is only in the two biggest screens (5&7). Mind you all the cinemas around Leicester Sq are expensive as is to be expected, I suppose. Er, I suppose the main point of this mega paragraph is that I go to central London cinemas too much but that BFI Southbank is definitely my favourite!

    Next time you visit the BFI be sure to check out the shop, they usually have lots of cool import only Japanese films – e.g. Australian releases of Tampopo and 47 Ronin etc. Their prices for UK released things can be a bit more expensive but they do have an excellent selection of DVDs and books.

    1. Thanks to the tube trains and the fact that the cinema was close to the station, heading to Brixton was quite easy. Not sure how I’d fare if I had to do any serious travelling around the area. I hear how expensive cinema tickets are in London and that makes living in the regions slightly bearable 😉

      If I do have the chance to go to the BFI again I’ll make sure that I have enough time to look around. Thanks for the heads up on the movie goods.

  5. goregirl

    Food and film…the very essence of life! Sounds like you had some fun. If I lived an hours ride from London I would be there all the freaking time. One day I am definitely going to see London! The main festival theatre here in Vancouver is a fairly crappy cineplex that is uncomfortable and insanely warm. It also has mice! We have an amazing theatre here called Vancity which also participates in the fest but only has one screen and sadly I had no screenings there this year.

    1. I was planning on going again this year because there’s so much to do in London but without a film festival to justify it I’ll just have to wait until next year. Mice add to the atmosphere!

      1. Toronto usually has a better line-up of films than most festivals but this year’s LFF had quite an interesting selection. Perhaps the new festival director will usher in a new era where the LFF can compete for titles. Still… If I were rich enough I’d go to both festivals and Venice.

      2. Tired Paul

        Nippon Connection and Udine Far East Film Festival are two I plan on attending.

        Talking about mice I saw a mouse run along the floor when Key to Life started at Ritzy Brixton!

      3. goregirl

        I grew up in Toronto, moved to Vancouver 5ish years ago…never been to Europe though. Just want to see London really, the festival would be secondary.

  6. @Paul: I guess we were at the same screening for Key of Life! I didn’t notice any mice though.

    @Goregirl: Is Toronto really nice? There’s so much to do in London and not enough time to do it. That said I feel the same way where I live…

    1. Tired Paul

      I was at the Thursday screening of Key of Life, weren’t all your screenings at the weekend? if not that’s a shame I could have said hey!

      The festivals I’d really like to go to in no particular order are:

      Busan
      Nippon Connection
      Udine
      Berlinale
      New York Asian Film Festival / Japan Cuts
      Toronto

      Don’t get me wrong I feel lucky to get to go to London Film Festival, Terracotta Film Festival, Zipangu, Raindance and (when it happens / if it happens again) Premiere Japan.

      Also I’ve just noticed the Japan Foundation Touring Program website has been updated and will be coming back in February – March across the UK, the theme this year is “Reinventing the Past Through the Eyes of Japanese Contemporary Filmmakers”

      http://www.jpf-film.org.uk/films

      So we can expect some interesting stuff from that………going to try to speculate on films that could be there that fit with that theme.

      Sorry for the long rambling post.

      1. It’s a shame we missed each other at the screenings! It would have been great to have met you.

        Thanks for the heads up on the festivals (it’s not rambling if it’s useful!) – especially the Japan Foundation. While I do envy you and your ability to go to so many festivals it only prompts me to start going to some myself. At some point I’ll have to go to Japan as well (I think I’m the only one in class who has yet to go).

        I know I’ll definitely go to Terracotta.

      2. Tired Paul

        So you were at the Thursday screening?

        It takes me a little under an hour to get to most of these screenings but I’m guessing you have an extra expense travelling longer distances; I’m on the outskirts of Greater London so even though it takes me just as long to get to London I’m sure I pay a fraction of the price.

      3. I was at the Thursday screening. I almost left my row before the credits had finished but I stuck around long enough to see the very last scene and sat back down.

        Tickets to London cost around £50 (the cost of a meal – main course + dessert – for three people at a great Portuguese restaurant I know :P) depending on what times you book them for. The next time I go I’ll pick the cheapest times again.

      4. Tired Paul

        50 quid hits the pocket hard, makes sense why you’re hesitant to make the trip…….what about coach?

        I notice a lot of people leave most screening before the movie is over, I normally try to stick around until after the credits.

      5. Coach is significantly cheaper but I like the convenience of the trains – I have been commuting on them to uni/work for years.

        The fact that there are only one or two festivals I would go to a year and I don’t spend too money much outside of food/films means that the cost of trains are acceptable.

    2. goregirl

      Toronto is a very lively and exciting city full of culture. You could put a half dozen downtown Vancouvers into downtown Toronto. I absolutely love visiting Toronto, but I prefer BC’s fresh air, mountains and oceans.

      1. I’m reading a horror novel set in Toronto and I’m beginning to see why you would prefer Vancouver 😉 I think I’d like to visit both cities at festival time.

  7. That’s awesome you went to the London Film Festival! Sounds like an exciting trip to the big city. And your review of Key of Life kind of makes me want to see it even though I can’t say Japanese films are high on my list to watch. Do you watch with subtitles?

    1. Thanks for the comment and the kind words about Key of Life! I had fun at the festival and I’m looking for another opportunity to go to London again. Probably not before Christmas though…

      Nearly all of the films I watch have subtitles. Last weekend I watched a Korean horror film known as Whispering Corridors. This weekend I’m going to watch Memento Mori. Awesome stuff.

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