[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he 57th BFI London Film Festival was full of surprises, with the capital’s red carpet rolled out as much for the past as it was the present.
Down at Leicester Square’s Odeon there were more than a few nods to days gone by, but the star of the show was Tom Hanks. The whole shebang began and ended with the actor’s latest projects, as Captain Phillips opened up proceedings, whilst the final curtain was reserved for the world premiere of Saving Mr Banks. The small glimmer of limelight that remained was taken by Dame Judi Dench, who was in attendance for the gala screening of Philomena. There was a humorous, off-the-cuff moment when a group of firefighters started to chant her name to her obvious delight.
Another grey, but nonetheless great, British screen star enjoying the attention was Sir Christopher Lee, who was honoured with a coveted BFI fellowship. To everyone’s astonishment, none other than Johnny Depp turned up to pay tribute to the Hammer Horror stalwart, compelling Lee to say in return: “He is one of very few young actors on screen today who’s truly a star.” We know he’s a bit of a spring chicken compared to you, Sir Chris, but young at 50? As tributes go, they don’t get much more flattering than that!
Two of the festival’s unique selling points are the Surprise Film and the Archive Gala, both of which went the extra mile this year. History was made with the former, as The Grandmaster became the first foreign-language flick to fill the slot, enthralling the audience with its stunning martial arts sequences at the same time. The Archive Gala offered up The Epic of Everest, which is the official cinematic record of the ill-fated expedition by climbers George Mallory and Andrew Irvine in 1924. This also coincided with the 60th anniversary of Sir Edmund Hilary’s conquest in 1953.
How these 12 days of October 2013 will rank in the annals of history, only time will tell, but one thing is for sure – it was one hell of a blast.