thu 05/08/2021

Film reviews, news & interviews

Zola review - high-energy comic thriller tackles sex work

Saskia Baron

It’s hard to imagine a movie more of its time than Zola, as it takes on sex, race, the glamorisation of porn and the allure of the ever-online world.

Blu-ray: Beauty and the Beast

Graham Rickson

Beauty and the Beast? Not quite; the Czech title of Juraj Herz’s 1978 fantasy is Panna a netvor, which translates, much more fittingly, as The Virgin and the Monster. This new release has a 15 certificate, a clear hint that the film wasn’t aimed at the under-tens.

The Sparks Brothers review - giddy celebration of...

Saskia Baron

How lovely it must be to direct a documentary about your favourite musicians and have no one stop you from cramming in everyone who has ever loved...

Limbo review - quiet but voluble

Matt Wolf

Displacement looms large over every quietly impressive frame of Limbo, writer-director Ben Sharrock's magnetic film about a young Syrian man called...

The Most Beautiful Boy in the World review - a...

Sarah Kent

The Most Beautiful Boy in the World is the most harrowing film you are ever likely to watch, but don’t let that put you off. This was a documentary...

Off the Rails review - go for the scenery, not the script

Matt Wolf

'Mamma Mia!' wannabe features lots of Blondie but very little sense

Old review - time flies in tropical island mystery

Adam Sweeting

Alternative-reality holiday from hell is not M Night Shyamalan's finest hour

Riders of Justice review - revenge, coincidence and the meaning of life

Markie Robson-Scott

Anders Thomas Jensen directs Mads Mikkelsen in brilliantly genre-busting black comedy

Blu-ray: Harry Birrell Presents Films of Love & War

Graham Rickson

Implausibly epic home movies, exhumed from a garden shed

Two of Us review - a lesbian love story with a difference

Markie Robson-Scott

Everybody needs good neighbours: director Filippo Meneghetti's brilliant debut

Summer of Soul review - glorious documentary combines music and black American history

Saskia Baron

Blistering concert performances from 1969 with insightful interviews and archive

Blu-ray: The Night of the Hunter

Graham Rickson

Charles Laughton’s only film as a director is a dark thriller, both poetic and chilling

Tove review - tasteful portrait of the Moomins creator

Saskia Baron

Nicely made lesbian love story about Tove Jansson's evolution as a romantic and as an artist

Mosley: It's Complicated review - flattering portrait of a clever and ruthless power-broker

Adam Sweeting

Michael Shevloff's documentary leaves too many stones unturned

Blu-ray: West 11

Graham Rickson

A Notting Hill noir - Michael Winner's breakthrough is flawed but fascinating

French Exit review - Michelle Pfeiffer faces mortality

Matt Wolf

Mother-son drama is both arresting and arch

The Tomorrow War, Amazon Prime - futuristic blockbuster outstays its welcome

Adam Sweeting

Chris McKay's film isn't a disaster, but could have been a lot more

Hairspray, London Coliseum review - brighter and more welcome than ever

Gary Naylor

Popular London and Broadway musical soars anew

theartsdesk Q&A: choreographer Christopher Scott

Jenny Gilbert

The creator of the sizzling dance scenes for 'In The Heights' on how they came about

theartsdesk Q&A: composer and conductor Carl Davis

Graham Rickson

The silent film specialist on shot lists, bass drums and the perils of projection speeds

Blu-ray: Flowers of Shanghai

Daniel Baksi

Hsiao-hsien's period piece is the director at his most dazzling

In the Heights review - to life, Lin-Manuel Miranda-style

Matt Wolf

2008 Tony winning musical transfers joyously to the screen

The Reason I Jump review - compelling and controversial

Joseph Walsh

Director Jerry Rothwell explores the lives of four non-speaking autistic people

Blu-ray: Lake Mungo

Graham Fuller

Eerie Australian faux documentary probes the nature of grief, the value of fake images, and suburban decadence

Blu-ray: The Hands of Orlac (Orlacs Hände)

Mark Kidel

A little-known masterpiece of Austrian expressionist cinema

The Father review - gripping dementia drama

Tom Baily

Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman star in Florian Zeller's Oscar-winning film adaptation

Nobody review - Bob Odenkirk reinvents himself as all-action dynamo

Adam Sweeting

Blood-splattered thriller keeps it taut, tense and tight

Shiva Baby review - sex, lies and rugelach

Markie Robson-Scott

Trapped in a Jewish family gathering: Emma Seligman's debut feature is full of life

Bank Job review - an inspirational look at finance

Sarah Kent

How to beat the system and laugh all the way to the bank

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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