thu 25/02/2021

Film reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: The Ascent

Tom Birchenough

There’s a striking interview among the extras for this Criterion edition of Russian director Larisa Shepitko’s fourth and final feature.

Blu-ray: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Graham Rickson

Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig gets an acknowledgement in The Grand Budapest Hotel’s closing credits and if you’ve read Zweig’s Beware of Pity you’ll recognise why, Wes Anderson’s Mitteleuropa setting and penchant for flashbacks within flashbacks framing a complex narrative that becomes more affecting with repeated viewings.

To Olivia review - Keeley Hawes rises above...

Matt Wolf

Sure, Roald Dahl wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory but is that any excuse for a film quite so saccharine? He of all challenging and complex men...

Music review - a few music videos cobbled together

Tom Baily

What did Sia want to achieve with Music, her deeply confused first stumble into filmmaking? The reclusive Australian has enjoyed years of global fame...

DVD/Blu-ray: Mogul Mowgli

Saskia Baron

Can one use the term autofiction about a film? If so, Mogul Mowgli would be a perfect example. Riz Ahmed, the actor who came to fame with...

Blu-ray: The Last Warning

Graham Fuller

Paul Leni's backstage murder farce is a magicianly tour de force

PVT CHAT review - the cam girl who loved me

Graham Fuller

Be careful what you wish for virtually...

Blu-ray: Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion

Daniel Baksi

Elio Petri's political foray into the Italian absurd

DVD/Blu-ray: Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story

Nick Hasted

Scorsese and Dylan's smoke and mirrors can't obscure an exhilarating tour

Simple Passion review – a case of female amour fou

Graham Fuller

Empathetic drama about a Parisian professor's aching need for her evasive married lover

Rams review – softhearted bush-loving drama

Tom Baily

Remake of Icelandic black comedy in tranquil outback setting

Bliss review - simulation or real life?

Markie Robson-Scott

Mike Cahill's sci-fi story of parallel worlds fails to engage

Malcolm & Marie review - actorly grandstanding in beautiful black and white

Saskia Baron

Airless two-hander made under the restrictions of the pandemic

DVD/Blu-ray: The Masque of the Red Death

Graham Fuller

Horror is a many-splendoured thing in Roger Corman's 1964 film of Poe's tale

Assassins review - unravelling the bizarre death of Kim Jong-nam

Adam Sweeting

Director Ryan White's forensic investigation of conspiracy, skulduggery and exploitation

The Capote Tapes review - lush portrait of the louche writer

Saskia Baron

Entertaining documentary portraying a figure once described as the 'fairy Huck Finn'

Penguin Bloom, Netflix review - stirringly acted if sentimental

Matt Wolf

Naomi Watts triumphs over the treacle

The Dig, Netflix review - a haunting exploration of time and timelessness

Adam Sweeting

Adaptation of John Preston's novel packs emotional wallop

DVD/Blu-ray: Relic

Graham Rickson

Dementia as demonic possession in an outstanding contemporary horror

Persian Lessons review - confusing Holocaust drama

Saskia Baron

Ukrainian film doesn't add much to the genre

Quo Vadis, Aida review - a Bosnian woman confronts genocide

Mark Kidel

The 1995 massacre of Muslims at Srebrenica told with chilling intimacy

Baby Done review - romcom done right

Owen Richards

Funny, sincere and completely charming Kiwi comedy about unexpected pregnancy

76 Days review - disturbing record of the initial outbreak of Covid-19

Tom Baily

Raw frontline documentary portrays the toll on Wuhan's health workers and victims

Blu-ray: Liberté

Tom Birchenough

On 'libertinage': Albert Serra’s improvisaton of 18th century debauchery is painful in every sense

Blu-ray/DVD : The Tin Drum

Mark Kidel

A dark and comic vision of Germany's past

Blithe Spirit review - cloth-eared Coward

Matt Wolf

Judi Dench tries, but Coward adaptation still tanks

Dear Comrades! review - Andrei Konchalovsky exposes the Soviet past

Tom Birchenough

The tragic June 1962 events in Novocherkassk are the backbone of retro drama

Blu-ray: The Night Porter

Graham Fuller

Liliana Cavani's transgressive drama was widely misunderstood on its original release

One Night in Miami review - black history come alive

Joseph Walsh

Regina King's directorial debut about a momentous meeting

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

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