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Our Round-Up of the Best Movies At the Leeds International Film Festival

The Leeds International Film Festival was on top form this year, giving us a dazzling array of films, performance art pieces, and documentaries from across the globe, that entertained and thrilled the local audiences.

While we’ve been busy trying to recover after seeing a lot of new and amazing films, here is our quick round up of what was best in show and on offer at the festival…

the drop

The Drop

In one of James Gandolfini’s finest and sadly, final, performances, The Drop features The Sopranos‘ powerhouse as a gangster operating a money-laundering scheme inside a Brooklyn dive bar. However, his cousin and bartender Bob (a simmering Tom Hardy), soon adopts a stray pit bull he names Rocco, and soon the carefully constructed microcosm the local residents reside begins to change.

The acting displayed in The Drop is a tour de force from all involved — Hardy makes for a compelling hero, Gandolfini is stunning, and Noomi Rapace brings one of her best yet English-language performances to the compassionate Nadia. With a script that crackles, and that reinvigorates every tired ‘gangster/mob movie’ trope you could imagine, The Drop is a surprisingly engaging and excellent slice of East Coast crime drama — a suitable end to the career of one of cinema and television’s brightest lights.

manakamana

Manakamana

This performance-art-film-meets-documentary follows a stationary camera as it follows — albeit it from a complete still, unmoving position — passengers on a cable car travlling up to visit the arrestingly beautiful Manakamana Temple in Nepal.

The film itself is engaging viewing at its most unusual and most beautiful, allowing viewers to view both the wide spectrum of humanity who have come to pay homage and respect to one of the world’s most beautiful spiritual shrines, and the sweeping, radiant vistas that surround it.

It might not be everyone’s cup of tea — after all, it is nearly two hours of watching people being people, and nothing much else — but it offers an incredibly compassionate and human viewpoint of humanity; one that will be heaven for the people-watchers amongst us, and an enlightening perspective for the rest.

2001 a space odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick’s arguable masterpiece epic — although with a career CV that lists the terrifying The Shining, the mesmerising brutal A Clockwork Orange, and the gritty, unflinching Full Metal Jacket, it’s hard to choose — got a deserved re-released special viewing at the Leeds International Film Festival this year to rapt applause from its many fans and a few fresh eyes.

Kubrick’s brilliance and perfectionist tendencies have certainly aged well over time, earning his film its spot in cinematic history. Iconic moments such as the evolutionary opening scene lost none of their sheen and shine on the big screen, instead elevating it to reverential status.

2001 remains an important and magnificent commentary on humanity, focusing on our past and looking forward to our future; and while there might be one too many floating space babies for some viewers’ liking.

the blue angel

The Blue Angel

Marlene Dietrich’s seminal film, The Blue Angel, features a star-making turn from the German icon in this dark and dramatic exploration of love, fame, and obsession that drives the protagonist Rath (an impressive Emil Jannings) into the arms of his cabaret star sweetheart Lola-Lola (Dietrich), and down the path towards self-destruction by the way of big red noses and circus troupes.

Josef Von Stenberg’s film is a showcase for Dietrich as she slinks, insouciantly, from one lover to lover, with the enigmatic grace of a panther stalking prey. She’s a radiant presence, inviting in with a single smirk or glance, and while her career would be a rocky path, her turn in The Blue Angel continues to dazzle decades after it was filmed, and more than cements her place in history…