fri 05/06/2020

Film reviews, news & interviews

Guest of Honour review – the grip of guilt

Graham Fuller

A master at bringing neurotics to bilious life on screen, David Thewlis shines as a peevish, corrupt health inspector in Guest of Honour.

A Rainy Day in New York review - one of Woody's later, patchy ones

Nick Hasted

Woody Allen’s filmography, like Michael Caine’s, is remorseless, accepting mediocre work to mine more gems than most. Even after his career and this film’s planned 2018 release became collateral damage to #MeToo and a revived child abuse allegation, he has kept directing.

The Last Full Measure review - exceptional...

Joseph Walsh

It’s impossible to deny the sincerity with which Todd Robinson has approached the true story of William H. Pitsenbarger, a US Air Force Pararescueman...

DVD/Blu-ray: Parasite

Kathryn Reilly

So what exactly is all the fuss about? For those of us from a cinema-deprived area, it’s been a long wait for the homevideo release of this much...

Blu-ray/DVD: Little Women

India Lewis

For the average female millennial, Greta Gerwig’s Little Women is the perfect film to watch in lockdown. Brought up on Winona Ryder’s Jo March,...

The Vast of Night review - perfectly paranoid

Graham Fuller

Teenage sleuths track visitors from afar in an impeccable low-budget indie

Krabi, 2562 review - a trance-like visitation

Owen Richards

Documentary and fiction combine in an unusual guided tour

The Uncertain Kingdom review - Britannia agonistes

Graham Fuller

Twenty short films shine a light on Blighty right now

Larry Kramer: 'I think anger is a wonderful useful emotion'

Jasper Rees

Remembering the AIDS activist who wrote The Normal Heart and the screenplay for Women in Love

The High Note review - Tracee Ellis Ross shines in so-so music dramedy

Joseph Walsh

This musical lacks originality but Tracee Ellis Ross and Dakota Johnson save the day

Blu-ray: The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse

Nick Hasted

A Weimar supervillain reborn in Cold War Berlin for Fritz Lang's archaic, prophetic farewell

DVD/Blu-ray: Distant Journey

Tom Birchenough

Pioneering early Holocaust feature is a phenomenon of Czech cinema

Blu-ray: The Apu Trilogy

Daniel Baksi

An enduring Bengali epic from India's greatest filmmaker

Have a Good Trip, Netflix review - a breezy journey into the mind

Owen Richards

Netflix doc focuses on the lighter side of psychedelics

Women Make Film: Part Two review - two steps forward, one step back

Jill Chuah Masters

Mark Cousins gives women the screen - but does he give them a voice?

Women Make Film: Part One review - a mesmerising journey of neglected film

Joseph Walsh

Cousins' latest opus seeks to give a voice to the women cinema neglected

The County review - Icelandic drama from the director of 'Rams'

Joseph Walsh

Grímur Hákonarson’s latest feature cuts to the quick of local politics

Blu-ray: Destry Rides Again

Graham Fuller

Marlene Dietrich and James Stewart shine in the nostalgic 1939 town-tamer Western

Blu-ray: Funeral Parade of Roses

Daniel Baksi

A courageous piece from a pioneer of experimental cinema

Reborn review - horror on the Hollywood skids

Nick Hasted

No scares but decent ideas down in the B-movie basement

In Search of Greatness review - Gabe Polsky's absorbing sports documentary

Veronica Lee

Icons including Pelé impart their wisdom

The Atom: A Love Affair review - hot fusion and cold hearts

Joseph Walsh

New documentary explores how the west fell out of love with nuclear power

Romantic Comedy review - a not-so-guilty pleasure

Owen Richards

Elizabeth Sankey's tough yet passionate look at the joys and flaws of romcoms

Dangerous Lies, Netflix review - slick silliness

Nick Hasted

Hoary hokum about a dodgy inheritance is Dickensian in the worst way

The Whistlers review – a smart, self-aware noir concerning a crooked cop

Joseph Walsh

Playful and cunningly crafted neo-noir is a delight from start to finish

Camino Skies review - NZ documentary brings no surprises

Markie Robson-Scott

Plodding along a well-worn path: the Camino de Santiago and six Antipodean pilgrims

Blu-Ray: Curling

Graham Rickson

Chilly Québécois meditation on loneliness and isolation

Can You Keep A Secret? review - a bumpy ride

Matt Wolf

Charmless Sophie Kinsella adaptation stretches credibility well past breaking point

A Russian Youth, MUBI review - First World War setting, contemporary orchestra

Tom Baily

Drama about a blinded boy soldier has a unique musical touch

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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