Simian Substitute Site for October 2023: Brazen Monkey Karaoke
Spank's LFF Diary, Wednesday 04/10/2023

London Film Festival 2023

The shelving setup I use for my old LFF programmes is completely BOLLOCKSED now.When you were a kid, did you ever hold a crisp packet over the gas ring and watch as the heat shrivelled it down to the size of a postage stamp? Because that’s what handling the 2023 London Film Festival programme feels like.

This year the LFF booklet has been shrunk down from A4 to A5, although to be fair there's a precedent for this. When I first started going to the festival in 1989, the programmes were A5 size, mainly because the regular National Film Theatre progs were A5 too. I have five of them in my collection in that format, after which the festival decided to change things up. They spent three years experimenting with a ridiculously unwieldy large-scale square layout, before eventually settling on the A4 magazine that we’ve come to know and love over the last quarter of a century.

Until now.

Is it symbolic of something? Almost certainly not, but I’ve got to fill this space before the jump somehow.

(And the space after the jump, if I'm honest with you.)

You’d imagine that the appointment of a new Festival Director in the shape of Kristy Matheson would give us something to talk about, but aside from the odd interview she’s been pretty quiet so far. We can't blame the programme shrinkage on her - that's presumably tied in with the regular BFI Southbank programmes also returning to A5 format. She's kept the structure of the festival pretty much exactly as her predecessor Tricia Tuttle left it, even down to retaining the Clare Stewart Classification System that annoys The Belated Birthday Girl so much (insert yet another variation on the Love, Laugh, Chunder gag here). The increasing diversity of the filmmakers invited is still a factor, as is the branching out into non-cinematic visual arts such as TV shows and VR experiences.

There's one change you do notice if you dig into the LFF website, though: tickets are selling like crazy. Pick out one of the twelve dates from the calendar widget and you'll see that the vast majority of films there are already sold out before the start of the festival. There were at least a couple of occasions during the initial booking period where I could see seats for big movies vanish before my eyes while I was trying to book them. The BBG was wondering if the screening sizes were down from the previous year, but that doesn't seem to be the case: we've lost the 168 and 72 seater screens at the Odeon West End, but we've got the 273 seat Vue West End as a replacement. Putting aside what I'm reluctant to call a post-Covid bump - because we're still not post-Covid - I think we might have to accept that Matheson and her team have come up with a programme of films that people really, really want to see.

For the 35th year in a row, I've had to approach my current employer and tell them that I need to take some time off work because there are some films that I really, really want to see. And for the 26th year in a row, you're going to read reviews of those films here on a daily basis. Watch this space.


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