Classic movies to watch at the BFI London Film Festival

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At the annual London Film Festival, the BFI screens some exciting upcoming films – but there are also some treasures from the past being shown, too.

This week sees the return of BFI London Film Festival – ten days of movies, industry events, Q&As, and more. It’s where all kinds of cinema is showcased to thousands of cinema goers, all eager for their new favourite film. A gathering of movie lovers shuffling into theatres across London and the UK. Some could say it’s the best time of the year.

It is also a time where the BFI screens old movies for us! A small selection of classics – lovingly restored for the big screen and called Treasures – is exactly where my heart lies. To celebrate the BFI London Film Festival kicking off this week, here’s a look at my highlights from the Treasures strand.

The Black Pirate (1926) Dir. Albert Parker
Playing: 15th October

Douglas Fairbanks is one of the great film stars of the silent era, with his work including Robin Hood, The Mark Of Zorro, and The Three Musketeers. Fairbanks’ career declined when talkies rolled around, but he’s still wildly celebrated by film historians today.

Now we can see one of his great films on the big screen – The Black Pirate.

Shot entirely in two-colour Technicolor – which was revolutionary for the time – The Black Pirate sees a son vow to get vengeance on the pirate who murdered his father by joining the plundering crew. The Museum of Modern Art in New York – or MoMa – has helped assist in bringing the restoration to vivid life. Now you can watch this swashbuckling affair on the big screen and see one of silent film’s dreamiest action heroes in all his glory.

Peeping Tom (1960) Dir Michael Powell
Playing: 7th/14th October

At the time of its release, Peeping Tom was disregarded as trash and vile – the film essentially ruined director Michael Powell’s career – but it has since established itself as one of the finest British thrillers, heavily influencing the genre and contemporary filmmakers.

The movie revolves around Mark, a young filmmaker and photographer who also happens to be a fiendish murderer, stalking women and filming their deaths through his camera.

While many have dubbed it the British Psycho, the film has a lot of its own merit. The film takes place entirely from Mark’s point of view. It’s a chilling outlook, as we dive into his murky world is uncomfortable yet completely engaging. With a phenomenal lead performance by Karlheinz “Carl” Boehm, Peeping Tom gets under the skin of what makes a killer.

Pressure (1976) Dir. Horace Ové
Playing: 11th/12th October

The extraordinary director Horace Ové sadly passed away earlier this year. His work focused on telling the life of Black British people, turning the lens to the underrepresented. His first film, Pressure, is considered Britain’s very first Black feature.

The film revolves around a teenager named Tony, who’s torn between the culture of his Trinidadian parents and his yearning to blend in with England’s white society. Despite his best efforts, Tony still suffers discrimination and a sense of displacement. Delving into these themes, Pressure is a remarkable and tense movie which remains relevant today. It’s a crucial Black and British film which deserves its showcase at the LFF.

Macario (1960) Dir. Roberto Gavaldón
Playing: 4th/11th October

Seeing as it’s also October, why not check out an old film that is also an incredible supernatural feast? Based on a short story of the same name, Macario follows the titular impoverished woodcutter, who’s visited by three deities who wish to share his turkey dinner. After denying God and the Devil, Macario gives the food to Death in the hope that he’ll be spared. An incredible spooky fable about man playing god with death, this is a gorgeous Mexican movie.

Honourable Mention:

Two films playing as part of the strand are The Stranger And The Fog (Iran, 1974) an absorbing yet bizarre Gothic thriller, and Egyptian director Tewfik Saleh’s banned movie The Dupes (Syria, 1972), which depicts of Palestinian refugees fleeing Kuwait. They are honourable here because, at the time of writing this, both films had sold out screenings – which is great!

What will you be watching at BFI London Film Festival? Let us know below!

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