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Clooney pix topline London fest

Lineup includes 'Ides of March,' 'Descendents'

Double doses of George Clooney and Michael Fassbender lead the 55th BFI London Film Festival, which once again provides the U.K. launchpad for many Oscar and BAFTA contenders premiered at Venice and Toronto.

Clooney will attend with his political drama “The Ides of March” and Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants,” while Fassbender will display his range in Steve McQueen’s “Shame” and David Cronenberg’s “A Dangerous Method.”

This year’s edition of the festival, which runs Oct. 12-27, is the swan song of artistic director Sandra Hebron after nine years. For her final event, she has programmed 204 fiction and documentary features, including 11 world premieres, 18 international premieres and 22 European premieres.

The LFF benefits from another strong year for British cinema, with local premieres for Lynne Ramsay’s “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” Michael Winterbottom’s “Trishna,” Ralph Fiennes’ “Coriolanus,” Andrea Arnold’s “Wuthering Heights” and Nick Murphy’s “The Awakening,” plus the world premiere of Marc Evans’ “Hunky Dory.”

There’s also a first chance for the London audience to see Madonna’s “W.E.”

As previously announced, the festival will open with Fernando Meirelles’ “360” and close with Terence Davies’ “The Deep Blue Sea,” both starring Rachel Weisz. Another actress doing double duty at the fest is Vanessa Redgrave, who stars in “Coriolanus” and Roland Emmerich’s “Anonymous.”The Film on the Square section includes Roman Polanski’s “Carnage,” Gus Van Sant’s “Restless,” Werner Herzog’s “Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life,” Todd Solondz’s “Dark Horse,” Sean Durkin’s “Martha Marcy May Marlene,” Drake Doremus’ “Like Crazy,” Miranda July’s “The Future,” Richard Linklater’s “Bernie,” Oren Moverman’s “Rampart” and Jonathan Demme’s “I’m Carolyn Parker.”

Among the foreign-language highlights are “The Kid With a Bike” from the Dardennes brothers, Nanni Moretti’s “We Have a Pope” and Michel Ocelot’s animated “Tales of the Night.” “The Artist,” Michel Hazanavicius’ homage to Hollywood’s silent era, will also have a gala screening.

Special events include talks by Payne and Winterbottom. Abi Morgan, Miranda July, Alexandre Desplat and Barry Ackroyd will give master classes, and there will be an in-depth look at the making of “We Need to Talk About Kevin” with key members of the cast and crew.

This year’s archive gala is the BFI National Archive’s restoration of Miles Mander’s 1928 silent melodrama “The First Born,” with a new score by Stephen Horne.

Eight of the fest’s world premieres are in its New British Cinema section, with titles including Carol Morley’s “Dreams of a Life,” Richard Jobson’s “The Sonambulists” and D.R. Hood’s “Wreckers.”

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