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The BBC's Rebecca Couper
"An uncut version of the Exorcist is amongst the delights"
 real 56k

Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 13:43 GMT
Best of the London Film Festival
Geoffrey Rush and Kate Winslet in Quills
Geoffrey Rush tries his seduction techniques on Kate Winslet in Quills
The 44th London Film Festival (LFF) opens on 1 November with almost 200 feature films from all over the world on show. BBC News Online helps make choosing what to see a little easier with a pick of some of this year's festival highlights.

This year's LFF is so jam-packed that movie fans will cry into their popcorn with joy - and frustration.

Even the most conscientious will be pushed to choose between the 200 feature films on offer from around the world.

Billy Crudup
Billy Crudup and his rock band in Almost Famous

Careful selection is therefore the watchword of the two-week event.

The opening night gala film is the Oscar-tipped Almost Famous from Jerry Maguire director Cameron Crowe.

The film about rock music in the 1970s follows the exploits of a teenage boy desperate to be a music journalist.

It is partly based on Crowe's own experiences as a young writer for Rolling Stone magazine.

With the exception of Frances McDormand and Billy Crudup, the cast is mainly unknown.

But Almost Famous has won praise for its blend of quality performances, humour, satire, serious drama - and great soundtrack.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is billed as one of the festival's hottest tickets

Almost Famous makes its international première at the LFF. Making its world première in the closing night gala is British movie Born Romantic from This Year's Love director David Kane.

The romantic comedy stars Jane Horrocks, Ian Hart, Catherine McCormack and David Morrissey.

Set in London, it follows three disparate couples brought together in a salsa club where they forget their problems and dance the night away.

Sandwiched in between these two are no less than eight more gala movies as well as feature films in six categories.

Hollywood hits

Films picked for a gala showing are by definition special events. They include David Mamet's sophisticated Hollywood satire State and Main.

Woody Allen is in fine comic fettle as both director and star of Small Time Crooks. He and Tracey Ullman play husband and wife lowlife losers made millionaires over night.

James Caan and Joaquin Phoenix
James Caan and Joaquin Phoenix in The Yards

Quills is a sumptuous, thought-provoking period drama about the life and work of the Marquis de Sade. Star attraction comes from Kate Winslet, Joaquin Phoenix and Sir Michael Caine.

Phoenix, recently of Gladiator fame, also features in the criminal underworld thriller The Yards, with Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron.

Of the festival categories, Film on the Square, sponsored by London's Evening Standard, has most of the other Hollywood hits.

Among the best are Ang Lee's stunning Chinese drama Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Washington intrigue The Contender, starring Gary Oldman and Jeff Bridges.
Best in Show
Competitiveness gets out of control among the dog owners in Best in Show

The high-action Way of the Gun is a violent directorial debut from Usual Suspects writer Christopher McQuarrie.

On a lighter note comes madcap canine comedy Best in Show, about a group of obsessive pooch lovers.

British movies get a festival section of their own. It includes 1930s Liverpool-based drama Liam from Stephen Frears, which won acclaim in both Toronto and Venice.

Also, getting a gala showing, is Sexy Beast. It stars Ray Winstone, Ben Kingsley and Amanda Redman in a novel take on the current gangster movie fad.

The festival allows the British public to see all of these movies before they go on general release over the coming months.

World cinema

But its true benefit is the chance to see movies from other countries which would not get onto British cinema or TV screens.

Sergi Lopez in Harry, He's Here to Help
Sergi Lopez plays the ominously obliging Harry

From France, comes the Hitchcockian Harry, He's Here to Help. It tells the tale of stressed young parents Michel and Claire who suddenly find themselves being assisted by the suspiciously generous Harry.

The World Cinema section includes Iran's Blackboards, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes for its imaginative treatment of the volatile situation around the Iran-Iraq border.

Barking Dogs Never Bite and Iron Ladies are two of the best movies to come out of the blossoming South Asian film industry.

In particular Iron Ladies, dubbed Thailand's answer to Priscilla Queen of the Desert, has been a runaway hit in its native land.

The festival's Experimenta section also offers some imaginative work from around the globe.

Linda Blair in The Exorcist
Linda Blair in the original cut of The Exorcist

It includes Sweden's Songs From the Second Floor - a fragmented, often surreal, look at just how hard it is to be a human.

While from Treasures from the Archives, two of the hottest tickets look set to be the documentary feature Elvis - That's The Way It Is and The Exorcist - The Director's Cut.

The first showcases the King's return to live performance in 1970. The second sees the classic horror flick restored to its original cut with 11 minutes of additional footage.

The LFF runs from 1-16 November and also includes around 100 short films and talks by well-known film-makers in venues around the capital. Check the festival website for full details.

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