The BFI London Film Festival bowed out last night with the European debut of Terence Davies’ The Deep Blue Sea, wrapping up after 16 days, the unspooling of 207 fiction and documentary features and a smattering of Hollywood stars on hand to unveil their projects in front of the UK capital’s cinema-devouring crowd. George Clooney graced the LFF red carpet two nights running for the gala premieres of The Ides Of March and The Descendants. Also putting in red-carpet tours of duty were Keira Knightley, Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen for A Dangerous Method, Woody Harrelson for Rampart, Joely Richardson and Roland Emmerich for Anonymous, Madonna for W.E., Freida Pinto for Trishna and Seth Rogen for 50/50.
Notable by her absence on both opening and closing nights for 360 and The Deep Blue Sea respectively was the British star of both films, Rachel Weisz, who ostensibly couldn’t get time off from filming her roles in Tony Gilroy’s The Bourne Legacy and Sam Raimi’s Oz: The Great And Powerful. We also imagine that not wanting to face the British tabloid wolf pack over her recent marriage to Daniel Craig may have played its part in keeping her away.
The night before, the festival had dished out its 2011 prizes, with a British project perhaps unsurprisingly taking Best Film (homefield advantage always being a useful asset). We Need To Talk About Kevin triumphed over the likes of The Artist and The Descendants, with jury chair John Madden, who presented the award alongside fellow judge Gillian Anderson, declaring that Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of the Lionel Shriver novel was “a sublime, uncompromising tale of the torment that can stand in the place of love…made with the kind of singular vision that links great directors across all the traditions of cinema.”
Also coming up trumps were Argentinian filmmaker Pablo Giorgelli, who took the long-standing Sutherland Award given to the festival’s most innovative film for Las Acacias (pictured); Werner Herzog, whose coruscating study of violence – Into The Abyss: A Tale Of Death, A Tale Of Life – brought the German filmmaker the Grierson Award for Best Documentary; and Candese Reid, who plays a street kid taken in by a UK soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress in the British social drama Junkhearts; she was awarded Best British Newcomer for her first professional acting role.
Producer Jeremy Thomas and Fassbender were on hand at the awards ceremony to present David Cronenberg with his BFI Fellowship, while Liam Neeson presented the same accolade to Ralph Fiennes.
Despite Weisz’s no-show, The Deep Blue Sea wrapped up another successful festival for outgoing Artistic Director Sandra Hebron, the much-loved figurehead who has transformed London’s international stature during her nine-year tenure. Audience figures were marginally up to their highest ever figure of 133,000 admissions, allowing Hebron to leave on a high. Her replacement has big boots to fill.