No one-horse fest

three to see in the next seven days

How long before an International Festival of Film Festivals? A day doesn't go by without goggle-eyed cineastes celebrating somewhere or other and this weekend is no exception with the opening of festivals in Birmingham and Leeds.

The Leeds event is something of a cowboy outfit, with all breeds of western on show. It's true to say that the great westerns have all been full of leather chaps reeking of testosterone - and that's just the outfits: think Eastwood, think Fonda, think big leggy John Wayne. So if your knowledge of the Wild West is limited to telly floss like High Chaparal and Bonanza, this is your chance to catch some of the best gun action ever to gallop across the screen.

A flick through the programme shows a fine clutch of horse operas by master film-maker John Ford. Best known as the director who whipped Wayne into shape, transforming him from B-movie player to "The Duke", Ford's classics include The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (right, 6.15pm tonight) and Fort Apache (7.30pm Mon) and explore themes of community, civilisation and frontier wilderness with moral intelligence.

Immorality was more Peckinpah's thing, and a restored print of his controversial film The Wild Bunch (8.30pm tonight) makes vital viewing - the director's cut in this case being a notorious split-second throat-slitting. On its release in 1969, Peckinpah's deliriously violent tale of murderous outlaws was butchered by a chicken-livered studio. Now the original blood-soaked masterpiece is back, along with a fabulously degenerate Marlene Dietrich in Rancho Notorious (9pm Mon 23 Oct). Mix in a fistful of Spaghettis and you're in western heaven.

By no means a one-horse festival itself, Birmingham premieres Cannes hit Angels and Insects, and pays tribute to Shyam Benegal, one of the pioneers of New Indian Cinema. Party on film-lovers.

LIESE SPENCER

Leeds International Film Festival to 27 Oct, Birmingham International Film & TV Festival to 22 Oct

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