An ‘American’ kickoff for London Film Fest

'Mary,' 'Smith' among the six world preems

LONDON — The European premiere of Sam Mendes’ acclaimed tragi-comedy “American Beauty” will close the 43rd London Film Festival on Nov. 18.

The fest opens Nov. 3 with Ang Lee’s “Ride With the Devil,” and embraces 159 features in its two-week span.

The London Fest aims to round up the best of the year’s cinema from around the world, with the vast majority of the lineup already having been seen at other fests.

But fest director Adrian Wootton has served up six world premieres, notably Ismail Merchant’s “Cotton Mary,” Peter Hewitt’s Brit comedy “Whatever Happened to Harold Smith” and debut director Julian Simpson’s “The Criminal.”

Mike Leigh’s “Topsy-Turvey” will be the British Gala screening, one of a startling 64 Brit pics strewn throughout the event.

Others include Kay Mellor’s “Fanny and Elvis,” which will be screened for the American Express Gala, Shane Meadows’ “A Room for Romeo Brass” and Lynne Ramsay’s “Ratcatcher.”

Gala U.S. screenings

Among the usual heavy complement of U.S. movies, “Cradle Will Rock,” “Being John Malkovich,” “The Iron Giant” and “The Limey” have been singled out for gala screenings.

The British Film Institute, which run the festival, will also unveil a restored print of David Lean’s 1946 classic “Great Expectations,” one of a dozen “Treasures From the Archives.”

Among the international directors and stars expected to attend the fest are Tim Robbins, Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, David Lynch, Stephen Soderburgh and Spike Jonze, along with Susan Sarandon, John Malkovich, Mira Sorvino and Sean Penn.

Ang Lee will be present for the opening gala alongside stars Tobey Maguire and Jewell, while British helmer Mendes and Kevin Spacey are due to support “American Beauty.”