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Returning for its fifth year, the Cunard British Film Festival returned with another stellar line-up of new British films and restored classics. This year there are 17 films in the official selection with several Australian premieres and Oscar contenders among the list. The festival was kicked off with the premiere of Breathe, an inspiring true story starring Andrew Garfield (Hacksaw Ridge) and Claire Foy (The Crown), rounded up with a pre-film reception includes Pimm’s cocktails, wine, popcorn, British fare – not exactly something that tickles your palate in the most exquisite ways – and live music by an excellent swing band..Stars Don’t Die in Liverpool another festival highlight is set in the late ’80s, the film follows ageing Hollywood actor Gloria Grahame (Annette Bening) and aspiring young actor Peter Turner (Jamie Bell), as love sparks between them in the last few years of her life. Directed by Paul McGuigan and adapted from Turner’s 1984 memoir, this real-life drama is a romantic account of an extraordinary relationship.
Before the movie, guests were invited to join festival organisers for a short reception where they’ll be treated to almond, cranberry and Inca berry chocolates from Loving Eath’s new range, accompanied by white peach and ginger wine cocktails from Sofi Spritz.Nicole Kidman holds court in How to Talk to Girls at Parties – the new film from John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shortbus). Set in 1977 in Croydon, London, it’s a sci-fi rock’n’roll romance based on a story by Neil Gaiman; Kidman plays a rage-filled punk called Queen Bodicea. From director Armando Iannucci – the Scottish-born, Oscar-nominated creator of Veep – comes The Death of Stalin, sending up the Soviet tyrant and his band of scheming bootlicks. Steve Buscemi (Fargo), Jeffrey Tambor (Transparent), and Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter) feature in the cast. Documentary Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards offers an in-depth portrait of shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, a camera-shy subject brought to light by British fashion journalist Michael Roberts.
Adapted from the novel by Deborah Moggach, Tulip Fever boasts a cast of Oscar winners including Alicia Vikander, Christoph Waltz and Dame Judi Dench. The 17th century-set drama is a tale of lust, greed, beauty and deception about a young artist who falls for a married woman as he paints her portrait. Returning to the screen after the success of Brooklyn, Saoirse Ronan stars in On Chesil Beach, the story of a young couple on their honeymoon in the 1950s, based on the book by Ian McEwan. Alan Judd’s novel on German Kaiser Wilhelm II’s final days in exile during World War II, The Exception, has also been adapted for the screen. With Christopher Plummer (The Sound of Music, Beginners), Janet McTeer (Albert Nobbs) and Lily James (Baby Driver, Downton Abbey), the drama explores a German soldier’s mission to infiltrate the Kaiser’s life. Goodbye Christopher Robin takes a look at the relationship between Winnie-the-Pooh author AA Milne (played by Domhnall Gleeson) and his son, the real Christopher Robin. Celebrating the life and work of Eric Clapton, A Life in Twelve Bars is a documentary featuring interviews, clips, photos and stories, including archival interviews with Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison and BB King. From Spanish director Isabel Coixet (Paris, Je T’aime) comes The Bookshop, based on the novel by Penelope Fitzgerald. In 1959 a widow, Florence (Emily Mortimer), sets aside her grief to open the first bookshop in a sleepy town in England, finds an ally in Mr Brundish (Bill Nighy) and opposition in the bitter Mrs Gamart (Patricia Clarkson). The British Film Festival also includes a curated retrospective, this year titled Classic Clues – Solving a British Mystery. This six-film program includes four movies based on Agatha Christie novels: Murder on the Orient Express (1973), Death on the Nile (1978), Evil Under the Sun (1982) and The Mirror Crack’d (1980) – a suitable warm-up to Kenneth Branagh’s brand new version of Orient Expresslater this year. Two thrillers from the 1960s will also screen: 1961’s Victim, a groundbreaking portrayal of homosexuality, as well as Michelangelo Antonioni’s masterpiece of murder and existential ennui in swinging ’60s London, Blow-Up (1966).
Also of interest was England Is Mine, a biopic of the early years of Smiths lead singer Morrissey, played by Jack Lowden (Dunkirk), while Elle Fanning plays the title role in Mary Shelley, about the teenage author of the classic novel Frankenstein.
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