sat 25/03/2017

Film reviews, news & interviews

Aquarius review - 'the unease of contemporary Brazil'

Tom Birchenough

Politics certainly caught up with Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius. The Brazilian director and his cast appeared at their Cannes competition premiere last year with placards protesting that democracy in their native land was in peril: it was the day after Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff had been suspended. Cut forward a few months, and the film’s autumn release coincided with the announcement that Rousseff would be thrown out of office and impeached.Given that Aquarius tells the story of...

DVD/Blu-ray: Property Is No Longer a Theft

Nick Hasted

This is the Italian cinema Berlusconi suppressed. Elio Petri directed broadsides between the crossfire of the Sixties and Seventies’ Years of Lead, as fascists, communists and ill-defined fifth columns brought ideological violence to rock gigs and terrorist murder to, most notoriously, Bologna train station. Petri was the pulp politician among the era’s film Maestros.

Life review - 'knuckle-gnawing moments of...

Adam Sweeting

In space, no-one can hear you say “hang on, haven’t I seen this before?” The sprawling, labyrinthine space ship full of ducts and passageways for...

The Lost City of Z

Jasper Rees

Percy Fawcett: does the name ring a bell? He ought by rights to sit in the pantheon of boys’ own explorers alongside Cook and Ross, Parry and...

The Best Films Out Now


There are films to meet every taste in theartsdesk's guide to the best movies currently on release. In our considered opinion, any of the titles...

Blu-ray: Multiple Maniacs

Kieron Tyler

John Waters’ exercise in perversity has lost none of its power to offend

10 Questions for Director Olivier Assayas

Nick Hasted

The director of 'Personal Shopper' on Kristen Stewart, the supernatural and the secret meaning of texts

The Salesman

Matt Wolf

Iranian Oscar winner pays attention, and then some, to Arthur Miller

DVD/Blu-ray: Finding Forrester

Nick Hasted

Connery the actor gives his last hurrah for Gus Van Sant

Personal Shopper

Saskia Baron

Film noir? Ghost story? Olivier Assayas and Kristen Stewart flit compellingly between genres

DVD: Reset

Jenny Gilbert

Benjamin Millepied at the helm of the Paris Opera Ballet - what really happened?

Beauty and the Beast

Veronica Lee

Disney's lavish modern reboot still enchants

DVD/Blu-ray: The Creeping Garden

Graham Rickson

Bewitching documentary about an overlooked life form


Adam Sweeting

Isabelle Huppert dazzles in Paul Verhoeven's genre-defying drama

Blu-ray: Cul-de-Sac

Saskia Baron

Nasty, brutish and not short: Polanski's absurdist noir comedy set in Northumberland

Kong: Skull Island

Jasper Rees

Colossal digitised gorilla shares spoils with John C Reilly

Certain Women

Saskia Baron

Low-key but mesmerising American indie exploring the lives of four disparate women

DVD/Blu-ray: Endless Poetry

Nick Hasted

Tender self-portrait of the notorious Alejandro Jodorowsky as a young man

Viceroy's House

Jasper Rees

Gurinder Chadha's take on India's Partition should have been a 10-parter on Netflix

Trespass Against Us

Nick Hasted

Fassbender vs Gleeson in a Cotswolds crime family clash


Adam Sweeting

Heroic swansong for the battered but unbowed Wolverine

The Student

Tom Birchenough

Fundamentalism Russian-style: desperation and dark comedy

Blu-ray: Mildred Pierce

Kieron Tyler

A film-making masterclass from Joan Crawford and director Michael Curtiz

Oscars 2017: Moonlight and La La Land go toe to toe

Matt Wolf

Climactic cock-up caps most engaging Oscar ceremony in years

10 Questions for Director Gurinder Chadha

Jasper Rees

Her new film 'Viceroy's House' chronicles the partition of India. How did she get there from 'Bend It Like Beckham'?

DVD: De Palma

Nick Hasted

We take a long look at the lurid, brilliant Movie Brat

It’s Only the End of the World

Tom Birchenough

Xavier Dolan's compelling family reunion drama stars Léa Seydoux and Marion Cotillard

DVD/Blu-ray: Train to Busan

Kieron Tyler

Efficiently exhilarating South Korean zombies-on-a-train shocker

Patriots Day

Jasper Rees

Mark Wahlberg stars in solid, pacy but unquestioning account of the Boston bombings

Footnote: a brief history of British film

England was movie-mad long before the US. Contrary to appearances in a Hollywood-dominated world, the celluloid film process was patented in London in 1890 and by 1905 minute-long films of news and horse-racing were being made and shown widely in purpose-built cinemas, with added sound. The race to set up a film industry, though, was swiftly won by the entrepreneurial Americans, attracting eager new UK talents like Charlie Chaplin. However, it was a British film that in 1925 was the world's first in-flight movie, and soon the arrival of young suspense genius Alfred Hitchcock and a new legal requirement for a "quota" of British film in cinemas assisted a golden age for UK film. Under the leadership of Alexander Korda's London Films, Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929) is considered the first true sound movie, documentary techniques developed and the first Technicolor movies were made.

Brief_EncounterWhen war intervened, British filmmakers turned effectively to lean, effective propaganda documentaries and heroic, studio-based war-films. After Hitchcock too left for Hollywood, David Lean launched into an epic career with Brief Encounter (pictured), Powell and Pressburger took up the fantasy mantle with The Red Shoes, while Carol Reed created Anglo films noirs such as The Third Man. Fifties tastes were more domestic, with Ealing comedies succeeded by Hammer horror and Carry-Ons; and more challenging in the Sixties, with New Wave films about sex and class by Lindsay Anderson, Joseph Losey and Tony Richardson. But it was Sixties British escapism which finally went global: the Bond films, Lean's Dr Zhivago, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music made Sean Connery, Julie Christie and Julie Andrews Hollywood's top stars.

In the 1970s, recession and the TV boom undermined cinema-going and censorship changes brought controversy: a British porn boom and scandals over The Devils, Straw Dogs and A Clockwork Orange. While Hollywood fielded Spielberg, Coppola and Scorsese epics, Britain riposted with The Killing Fields, Chariots of Fire and Gandhi, but 1980s recession dealt a sharp blow to British cinema, and the Rank Organisation closed, after more than half a century. However more recently social comedies such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Full Monty, and royal dramas such as The Queen and The King's Speech have enhanced British reputation for wit, social observation and character acting.

As more films are globally co-produced, the success of British individual talents has come to outweigh the modest showing of the industry itself. Every week The Arts Desk reviews latest releases as well as leading international film festivals, and features in-depth career interviews with leading stars. Its writers include Jasper Rees, Graham Fuller, Anne Billson, Nick Hasted, Alexandra Coghlan, Veronica Lee, Emma Simmonds, Adam Sweeting and Matt Wolf

Close Footnote

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?

latest in Today

Davos in the Desert: the Global Education and Skills Forum...

I have heard countless speeches advocating the importance of...

Aquarius review - 'the unease of contemporary Brazil...

Politics certainly caught up with Kleber Mendonça Filho’s Aquarius. The Brazilian director and his cast appeared at their Cannes...

CD: Take That - Wonderland

One tries not to conflate the man and the music too much. Getting overly tangled up in questions of authenticity is a fool's errand, songs are...

Artist Tyler Mallison: 'I don’t think about materials a...

Artist and curator Tyler Mallison has chosen the world’s most generic title for his current exhibition. It's called New Material, and the...

Buchbinder, Philharmonia, Hrůša, RFH

It's a rare concert when nothing need be questioned about the orchestral playing. The usual nagging doubts – about whether any of the London...

The Kid Stays in the Picture, Royal Court, review – ‘sad, ba...

The beauty of fiction is that its stories have both compelling shape and deep meaning – they are dramas where things feel right and true and real...

Craig David, Brighton Centre

Craig David’s two-hour show, in two parts, receives an ecstatic response in Brighton. The audience, dominated by women in their twenties, is...

Syria’s Disappeared review - 'must-watch can't-loo...

“The following images are extremely graphic.” The words appeared in white lettering against a black background, two-thirds of the way in. For the...


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters