Critics Choice: For film fans, there's no competition

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The Independent Culture
THE London Film Festival is 42. And if it doesn't claim to offer the answer to life, the universe and everything, its programme contains a wide enough selection of materials with which to begin the search. Unlike Cannes or Venice or Toronto, the LFF is a non-competitive festival, which means that its organisers don't have to bribe directors with the promise of a prize in order to secure a screening of their work. As a result, there's enough on the schedule to juice the glands of the most jaded cinephile. The festival opens on Thursday with the international premiere of Little Voice, Mark Herman's film of Jim Cartwright's hit play, with the original star (Jane Horrocks, above) joined by Jim Broadbent, Ewan McGregor and Michael Caine. In the New British Cinema category, you can catch Ian McKellen as the irresistibly perverse Hollywood director James Whale (creator of The Bride of Frankenstein) in Bill Condon's Gods and Monsters; Emily Woof as a phone-sex operator in Stewart Sugg's low-life thriller Fast Food; Linus Roache dodging Bosnian bullets in David Attwood's Shot through the Heart; Kenneth Branagh nursing Helena Bonham Carter through motor neurone disease in Paul Greengrass's Theory of Flight. But the most exciting entries come from farther afield: Petr Zelenka's Buttoners is a surreal slice of social satire and sci-fi from the Czech republic, Alexei Balabanov's Of Freaks and Men is a wildly bizarre tale of pornographers in turn-of-the-century St Petersburg; Theo Angelopoulos's Eternity and a Day is an esoteric Balkan odyssey that picked up the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year; Shinya Tsukamato's Bullet Ballet is an explosion of toughnut stylism from Japan; and Francois Ozon's Sitcom offers bizarre group sex in the French suburbs. And if that's not interesting and varied enough for you, go and ask your parents where they went wrong.

London Film Festival: Thurs to 19 Nov. Tickets and info 0171 928 3232. MATTHEW SWEET