fri 15/01/2021

Film reviews, news & interviews

Blithe Spirit review - cloth-eared Coward

Matt Wolf

Noel Coward's 1941 comedy was one of the theatrical casualties of the first lockdown last March in a Richard Eyre-directed West End revival that aimed to mine the pain beneath this play's abundance of bons mots.

Dear Comrades! review - Andrei Konchalovsky exposes the Soviet past

Tom Birchenough

Veteran Russian director Andrei Konchalovsky has gone back to his beginnings for his latest film.

Blu-ray: The Night Porter

Graham Fuller

The Night Porter depicts the consuming sadomasochistic love affair of an SS officer, Max (Dirk Bogarde), and the Catholic woman, Lucia (Charlotte...

One Night in Miami review - black history come...

Joseph Walsh

In 1964, Cassius Clay, NFL superstar Jim Nathaniel Brown, soul legend Sam Cooke and political firebrand Malcolm X gathered for one night in a dingy...

Pieces of a Woman review - a home birth ends in...

Markie Robson-Scott

This is not a film to watch if you’re pregnant. One of the first scenes, a 24-minute continuous take of a home birth that ends in tragedy, is...

Sing Me a Song review - beautiful but devastatingly sad

Sarah Kent

A lost soul personifies a society in crisis

Steve McQueen: The Lost Movie, Sky Documentaries review - the classic motor racing film that never was

Adam Sweeting

How fate conspired against the car-crazy star's Formula One movie

DVD/Blu-ray: Are We Lost Forever

Tom Birchenough

Separation, Swedish-style, in a chamber portrait of a gay couple in break-up

Blu-ray: Visual Acoustics

Tom Birchenough

'The Modernism of Julius Shulman' salutes an eminent American architectural photographer

Blu-ray: Short Sharp Shocks

Graham Rickson

Entertaining but patchy collection of macabre British shorts

Best of 2020: Film


In a year that missed so much, our writers focus on the biggest hits

The Woman Who Ran review - toxic male alert

Graham Fuller

Hong Sang-soo's wry minimalist comedy eavesdrops on women discussing men

Blu-ray: Polytechnique

Graham Fuller

Denis Villeneuve's depiction of the 1989 femicide in Montreal gives no quarter

Soul review - Pixar's latest film misses the cinema

Saskia Baron

Heavenly jazz but not so jazzed-up about heaven

Blu-ray: Crash

Demetrios Matheou

Cronenberg's controversial collision of cars and sex retains its power to provoke

Let Him Go review - melancholy family drama morphs into ferocious thriller

Adam Sweeting

Adaptation of Larry Watson's novel is fuelled by some powerhouse performances

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom review - keeping things theatrical

Joseph Walsh

George Wolfe's screen adaption includes terrific turns from Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis and Colman Domingo

Wonder Woman 1984 review - be careful what you wish for

Adam Sweeting

Second instalment of the DC Comics franchise cries out for the editing shears

Blu-ray: The New World

Saskia Baron

Terrence Malick's ode to America shows a little lyricism goes a long, long way

I'm Your Woman review - what's happening, indeed?

Matt Wolf

Tepid thriller leaves spectators irksomely in the dark

Mosul, Netflix review - gruelling story of Iraq's Nineveh SWAT team

Adam Sweeting

Close-up view of the brutal battle against Islamic State

The Mole Agent review - leftfield and charming documentary

Demetrios Matheou

An octogenarian widower goes undercover in a Chilean nursing home

American Utopia review - the new age of the concert movie

Tom Baily

Spike Lee directs film of David Byrne's celebrated Broadway musical

The Midnight Sky review – flawed but moving apocalyptic sci-fi

Demetrios Matheou

George Clooney directs and stars, as a scientist with a grim warning

The Prom review - merry Meryl in middling musical

Matt Wolf

Ryan Murphy stage-to-screen transfer is a celeb-filled civics lesson

Filmmaker Frank Marshall: 'People don’t understand what geniuses The Bee Gees were'

Owen Richards

Director of the new Bee Gees documentary discusses the brothers' legacy in music

DVD/Blu-ray: Le Cercle Rouge

Graham Rickson

Gripping, gruelling crime thriller from pioneering French director Jean-Pierre Melville

Blu-ray: The Irishman

Demetrios Matheou

Scorsese's gangster reprise has the wisdom of age and all the panache of the past

Host review - Zoom seance triggers unspeakable consequences

Adam Sweeting

Director Rob Savage's fiendishly cunning lockdown horror movie

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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