mon 06/12/2021

Film reviews, news & interviews

Blu-Ray: Le Samouraï

Sebastian Scotney

Jef Costello, the lone contract killer in Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967), carries out the murder of the boss of a night club. We see how meticulously he has prepared for it, including the construction of an airtight alibi involving precise times – which others will corroborate – for his arrivals and departures at locations other than the scene of the crime.

theartsdesk at Tallinn's Black Nights Film Festival - still crazy after all these years

Demetrios Matheou

Film festival chiefs the world over have been having a tricky time navigating the pandemic, juggling ever-changing Covid rules with an industry desperate to return to normal. Yet it’s no surprise that Estonia’s Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF to the locals) has managed better than most.

The Power of the Dog review - of rawhide and roses

Graham Fuller

The archetypal fascinating male in Jane Campion’s films – whether his allure for a woman owes to his earthy virility or emotional sensitivity, his...

Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn review - viral...

Graham Fuller

Though sexual hypocrisy in modern-day Romania is the ostensible target of Bad Lack Banging or Loony Porn – a satirical drama that enfolds a...

Final Account review - documentary confronting...

Saskia Baron

Do we need another documentary about Nazi Germany? Yes when it is as cogent and subtle as Luke Holland’s Final Account. Made over eight years while...

Blu-ray: Out of the Blue

Saskia Baron

Beautiful restoration of Dennis Hopper's dark portrait of a family mired in abuse

The Unforgivable review - Sandra Bullock gets stuck in a doom-struck rut

Adam Sweeting

Movie version of Sally Wainwright TV thriller can't live up to its potential

House Of Gucci review – gloriously gawdy trash

Joseph Walsh

Ridley Scott’s latest is a hot mess of cod accents and daytime drama, yet watchable

DVD/Blu-ray: Belleville Rendezvous

Graham Rickson

Idiosyncratic, lovable French animation, newly reissued

Drive My Car review - talk therapy on the road

Graham Fuller

A theatre director and his driver confront self-deception in a flawless melodrama

King Richard review - Will Smith gives an affecting performance as Richard Williams

Veronica Lee

Biopic of Venus and Serena Williams' father

Bruised review - Halle Berry takes the blows and does it her way

Adam Sweeting

Gruelling martial arts movie launches Oscar winner's directing career

Blu-ray: One of Our Aircraft Is Missing

Graham Fuller

The tense 1942 Powell and Pressburger RAF drama that salutes the Dutch Resistance

Mothering Sunday review - Odessa Young shines in adaptation of Graham Swift's novella

Markie Robson-Scott

Bereavement, class and creative inspiration in the aftermath of the First World War

Blu-ray: Sweet Thing

Graham Fuller

A stirring comeback for writer-director Alexandre Rockwell

Spencer review – daring, strange and deeply moving

Demetrios Matheou

Kristen Stewart is superb as Princess Diana in Pablo Larraín’s imaginative portrait

Blu-ray: Celia

Graham Rickson

Death, rabbits and communism in a superb Australian drama

Last Night in Soho review - hung over

Demetrios Matheou

Edgar Wright’s latest mixes horror and homage with diminishing returns

Quant review - Sadie Frost's debut documentary skirts the genius of Mary Quant

Markie Robson-Scott

One of the most innovative fashion designers of the 1960s deserves a deeper dive

Blu-ray: I Never Cry

Graham Fuller

An embittered Euro-orphan learns some truths about her father – and herself

Blu-ray: The Damned

Sebastian Scotney

Luchino Visconti’s indispensable trend-setting drama

Dune review - awesome display of sci-fi world-building

Demetrios Matheou

Timothée Chalamet leads a sterling cast in Denis Villeneuve's sandy science fiction epic

Blu-ray: La Dolce Vita

Mark Kidel

Fellini's prescient vision of a paparazzi-dominated world

The Velvet Underground review - Todd Haynes tunnels through band history

Saskia Baron

Ingeniously composed documentary portrait, with John Cale the definitive star

Blu-ray: The Lighthouse (Mayak)

Graham Rickson

Subdued, elegiac meditation on wartime life in the Caucasus

Gabriela Montero, Kings Place review - improvising to a Chaplin classic is the icing on a zesty cake

David Nice

Grabbing the audience and never letting go at the start of the London Piano Festival

DVD/Blu-ray: Another Round

Saskia Baron

Thomas Vinterberg's superbly ambivalent drama about drinking in Denmark

DVD/Blu-ray: Maigret - The Complete Series

Graham Rickson

Entertaining, idiomatic Simenon adaptation, brilliantly cast

No Time to Die review - Daniel Craig’s bold, bountiful Bond farewell

Demetrios Matheou

Craig’s fifth and final outing as 007 is a genuine gamechanger

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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