New and classic cinema presented at the British Film Festival – Westender

The British film festival The program – similar in structure to the recently concluded Italian Film Festival – consists of a selection of films made mostly in 2021 or 2020, combined with a series of well-known classic films, in this case seven of the years 1970. Thirty-one films in all starring very worthy filmmakers and actors with 19 films having their Australian premiere. The sequel includes beautiful performances from favorites such as Judi Dench, Helen Mirren, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Odessa Young, Colin Firth, Michael Caine and Timothy Spall.

To be expected, the program includes literary adaptations, historical dramas, documentaries (x 3), biographies (x 2) and true tales, including two elegant British war stories.

New movies

One way to approach the substantial section of new movies is to start with the “B’s”: Belfast (Judi Dench, Ciaran Hinds); Blessing (Jack Lowden, Peter Capaldi); Bestsellers (Michael Caine, Aubrey Plaza); Boiling point (Stephen Graham, Jason Flemyng) – all made in 2021 – then inserted into the still compelling Barry lyndon (1975). It turns out that with this simple random approach, you can’t go wrong.

So why not add the one in Benidorm to the list (It’s snowing in Benidorm 2020), with Timothy Spall in a fun, twilight love story. It seems that we have here a showcase for Spall’s virtuosity: he also appears more vigorously as a cantankerous but genius architect in entertainment. The obscure life of the Grand Duke of Corsica (2021) and appears in The last bus (2021) as a retiree who travels from Britain’s northernmost point to its southernmost point using only local transport.

Extract from The Dark Life of the Grand Duke of Corsica

The above Blessing – an anguished tribute to the early 20th century poet and soldier Siegfried Sassoon and his coterie – though elegant and moving is somewhat of a flawed masterpiece, but still wonderful to watch. Also set during the Great War era and based on real events, The war below (2021, Sam Hazeldine) is a tense, conventionally told story that culminates when British miners drop bombs below the German line.

When I was 12 or 13, my father took me by tram to a cinema in Adelaide to see The man who never was (1956) which stuck with me for a long time. The story, set in 1943, was about the Allies’ determination to launch an invasion of southern Europe, a seemingly impossible challenge at the time. However, two British officers, Ewen Montagu (who later wrote a book about it) and Charles Cholmondeley devised an inspired but unlikely plan to confuse German intelligence. There is a new version of this story in the BFF with the less poetic title of Operation Minced Meat, the real name of the military operation.

Also based on an unlikely true story, Ee Duke (2020, Jim Broadbent, Helen Mirren) – about 60-year-old taxi driver Kempton Bunton, who steals Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London in 1961 – opened the BFF. (A friend told me that she received a spontaneous standing ovation during the session she attended.)


The seven classic English films are from renowned American and British directors like Stanley Kubrick (A clockwork orange, 1971 and Barry lyndon, 1975); Joseph Losey (The matchmaker, 1979); John Schlesinger (bloody sunday sunday, 1971); and Sam Peckinpah (Straw dogs, 1971). Some of the most accomplished actors of the era are represented: Glenda Jackson, Julie Christie, Alan Bates, Malcolm McDowell, Dustin Hoffman, Peter Finch, Susan George, Jenny Agutter, Ryan O’Neale, Marisa Berenson and Patrick Magee.

Many of you will have seen at least some of these 1970s films on first release (or on TV), but there is always an attraction to picking them up on the movie screen, especially if there is one. a 4K version restored as with A clockwork orange.


BRITISH FILM FESTIVAL 2021 takes place at Palace Barracks and James Street until December 1.

Several of the BFF movies will be released later in general release, including The Duke, Belfast, Last night in Soho, Bestsellers and Fall in love with Figaro.

Trailer for Blessing:

Trailer for Barry lyndon:

Images provided: characteristic image, photo of Belfast.

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