tue 21/08/2018

Film reviews, news & interviews

DVD/Blu-ray: It Happened Here

Tom Birchenough

Kevin Brownlow and Andrew Mollo’s It Happened Here surely deserves the acclaim often accorded it as “the most ambitious amateur film ever made”, and the supporting extras on this BFI dual-format release tell the fascinating story of the circumstances under which it came to be made. There’s a wonderful 65-minute interview with Brownlow (directed by Vic Pratt) in which he runs through much of the context of how he set out in 1956, at the age of 18, to make this “alternative history” in which WWII...

DVD: Al Berto

Tom Birchenough

There are plenty of reasons to be apprehensive about biopics of poets. The activity of writing is most often, after all, anything but cinematic, unless its moments of creativity are forced, while the “myth” of the poet all too easily becomes stereotypical.

The Guardians review - beautifully crafted drama

Saskia Baron

A slow tracking shot over the gassed corpses of soldiers, their masks having failed the ecstasy of fumbling, opens The Guardians. This French...

DVD: Arcadia

Mark Kidel

Arcadia is the latest and the best of a series of films which draw on the archives of the BFI and the BBC, collages of often forgotten footage,...

The Negotiator review - Jon Hamm shines in Beirut...

Adam Sweeting

So far Jon Hamm has had trouble finding himself movie roles which fit him quite as impeccably as Mad Men’s Don Draper – though he could do worse than...

Blu-ray: La Belle et la bête

Graham Rickson

Iconic, influential cinematic fairytale, perfect for children of all ages

Blu-ray: Mishima - A Life in Four Chapters

Mark Kidel

Paul Schrader's masterpiece: a life lived as a work of art

DVD: Western

Tom Birchenough

A German-Bulgarian joint venture with a very special cadence

The Best Films Out Now


theartsdesk recommends the top movies of the moment

A Sicilian Ghost Story review - a beautiful, confusing journey

Owen Richards

Young love and loss explored in this surreal yet grounded Italian indie

Box office poison? Joan Crawford at BFI Southbank

David Benedict

Joan's back! Fierce, she most certainly was, but how about funny?

Apostasy review - trouble in the Jehovah's Witnesses' Kingdom

Nick Hasted

Unquestioning faith fractures in a quietly powerful debut

DVD/Blu-ray: Peter Rabbit

Graham Rickson

Frenetic Beatrix Potter update gives us a leporine the author could never have imagined

DVD: That Summer

David Nice

Before 'Grey Gardens', Big and Little Edie Bouvier Beale welcome cousin Lee and friend

Mission: Impossible - Fallout review - brilliant summer blockbuster

Adam Sweeting

Indestructible Tom Cruise heads characterful cast in the best 'Mission' yet

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again review - sweet, silly, and, best of all, Cher

Matt Wolf

Film reboot improves upon its predecessor

The Receptionist – London’s underground sex industry laid bare

Owen Richards

An incredibly effective and affecting story on life in a brothel

DVD/Blu-ray: The Piano

Graham Rickson

Jane Campion's iconic arthouse blockbuster returns, as remarkable as ever

First Reformed - faith fights the eco-apocalypse

Nick Hasted

Hawke and Seyfried search for divine light in Paul Schrader's austere parable

Summer 1993 review - the tenderest fabric of childhood

Tom Birchenough

Aching sensitivity and directorial magic in an outstanding Catalan debut

DVD: New Town Utopia

Graham Rickson

Off-beat celebration of post-war British town planning

Incredibles 2 review - worship these superheroes

Saskia Baron

Brad Bird's long awaited follow-up to his cult kids' film pulls out all the stops

DVD/Blu-ray: Woodfall - A Revolution in British Cinema

Graham Fuller

A box-set dedicated to the work of the film company that shook British cinema out of its middle-class, post-colonial torpor

Pin Cushion review - a twisted fable of daydreams and bullies

Owen Richards

Childlike fantasies and quirky visuals mask a dark heart in creative Brit flick

Postcards from the 48% review - wistful memorial to forgotten values

David Kettle

Thoughtful, polite Brexit doc serves to tell Remainers what they already know

Swimming with Men review - Rob Brydon and co sink

Jasper Rees

Midlife crisis synchro comedy forgets to include laughs

DVD: The Nile Hilton Incident

Owen Richards

A tale of murder and corruption on the eve of revolution

Whitney review - superstar's dismal demise revisited

Adam Sweeting

The authorised version of Whitney Houston's life and death, but do we really need it?

Blu-ray: The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

Graham Rickson

Wes Anderson's undervalued piscine romp returns

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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