wed 23/10/2019

Film Reviews

Lebanon

Sheila Johnston Monstrous apparition: an Israeli tank invades Lebanon

A field of sunflowers hang their heads, as though in shame or sorrow, to the deep thrum of a single chord in the film's opening shot, at once beautiful and threatening. But that is about the only breath of fresh air in the whole of the movie. Set on the first day of the 1982 Lebanon War, it proceeds for the rest of its duration to trap us, along with four terrified young Israeli soldiers, inside the confines of their tank, a monstrous apparition fetid with stale cigarette smoke,...

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Triomf

alexandra Coghlan White trash fear and social intolerance in mid-1990s South Africa

"Change" has been the watchword of the past few months, the standard flown hopefully aloft by every political party. A week spent anxiously waiting for a political conclusion, worrying about its impact, and heatedly debating its validity has made for a more than usually vulnerable sense of British nationhood: an apt time indeed for the UK release of Triomf, a brutal South African parable about political prejudice, social intolerance, and above all the fear of the new.

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Vincere Special 1: Fascism is Dead, Long Live Il Duce

william Ward 'Vincere': the future Duce (Filippo Tomi) seduces his mistress (Giovanna Mezzogiorno)

Applauded by the audiences at Cannes last year, where it was the only Italian film in the competition, and nominated for a Palme d’Or, awarded four prizes at the Chicago International Film Festival, and favourably received at home, Marco Bellocchio’s Vincere is now being released in the UK, increasingly a rare event for films of Italian origin.

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Robin Hood

Sheila Johnston

There's a fabulous movie about Robin Hood opening today. Step forward Gianluigi Toccafondo, whose luminescent five-minute Rotoscope animated version of the myth is an impressionistic, utterly original blender-mix of Chagall, Bacon and Munch. The only snag is that, to catch it, you do first have to sit through a 140-minute live-action curtain-raiser, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Russell Crowe - an Oscar-winning actor who's here as wooden and broad in the beam as a Sherwood oak.

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American: The Bill Hicks Story

Veronica Lee Bill Hicks: his dark, subversive material was before its time

If I had a fiver for every time I have heard a comic described (usually by the comic himself) as “the new Bill Hicks”, I would be rather comfortably off. It’s tosh, of course, and, as his brother astutely says in American: The Bill Hicks Story, only Bill Hicks could be Bill Hicks, because what you saw on the outside was what was on the inside. Hicks himself is in no position to argue either way: he died, aged 32, from pancreatic cancer in 1994. Those who die at the height of their...

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LUX-ICO Artists Cinema Commissions

Josh Spero A still from 'Tomorrow Everything Will Be Alright' by Akram Zaatari

In my parents’ day, apparently, one just turned up at the cinema whenever one felt like it, even if that meant the first thing you heard on entering the auditorium was Bogart signalling the start of a beautiful friendship. That doesn’t wash these days – the auteur put paid to that – and given the short films commissioned by ICO/LUX to run before the feature, we can only approve.

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Cameraman: The Life and Work of Jack Cardiff

Sheila Johnston

The last time Jack Cardiff went to Cannes, nobody recognised him; wearing his trademark trilby, he'd tell curious autograph hunters he used to be a stand-in for Frank Sinatra. In fact Cardiff's claim to fame was somewhat greater: his was the eye behind some of the most achingly beautiful images in all of cinema. Handsome, charismatic and sharp as a tack, with a bottomless fund of funny and revealing anecdotes, he's also a dream subject for a documentarian. Naturally no television company was...

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A Room and a Half

Tom Birchenough Faces from the past: Alisa Freyndlikh and Sergei Yursky in 'A Room and a Half'

Definitely no standard biopic, Russian director Andrei Khrzhanovsky’s A Room and a Half captures part of the life, and a great deal of the spirit, of Russian poet Joseph Brodsky in a rare and rather brilliant gallimaufry of forms – from archive material (some of it skilfully doctored), via plentiful animation, to re-enactment scenes. It also catches the cultural milieu that formed the winner of the 1987 Nobel Prize for literature, and the double city - Leningrad/St. Petersburg...

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One Night in Turin

Jasper Rees

Why make a documentary about Italia 90? It’s just another tournament that England didn’t win, isn't it? If the World Cup hosted by Italy in 1990 deserves exhumation, it’s for its trickle-down impact on football as we live and breathe it now. Hence the subtitle that won't make it onto the billboard outside cinemas: The Inside Story of a World Cup that Changed Our Footballing Nation Forever.

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Four Lions

Veronica Lee

It’s an accepted truth that Chris Morris is a comedy genius. Now the word "genius" is so overused in some quarters as to be rendered meaningless, but in Morris’s case it's a richly deserved description; he created or co-created some of the funniest, cleverest and most original comedy on British television, including The Day Today, Brass Eye and Jam. Not a bad CV, even if it also contains the rather less amusing Nathan Barley.

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Iron Man 2

Adam Sweeting

In a stone-faced analysis of the political and historiographical connotations of action hero films, the Guardian’s Film Blog found Iron Man 2 to be “a throwback to a Cold War sensibility,” as well as “the first post-Bush superhero movie.” However, a reader known as Corrective suggested that, au contraire, “perhaps it’s just something dumb to look at while you munch your popcorn.”

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The Milk of Sorrow

Demetrios Matheou Sphinx-like: Magaly Solier as a Peruvian village girl in 'The Milk of Sorrow'

The Peruvian Claudia Llosa's debut, Madeinusa, took place in a remote Andean village, whose religiously fervent inhabitants had an unusual spin on the festivities: during their tiempo santo, God was deemed dead, and all could sin with impunity before Easter Sunday. Unhappily, one girl's loathsome father intended to use this "free pass" to take her virginity. A village girl tormented by superstition is also at the heart of Llosa's sophomore film, The Milk of Sorrow...

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Revanche

Sheila Johnston

The world is turned literally upside down in Revanche's long, eerie opening shot. We see trees reflected in a dark forest lake, hear animal and bird sounds - discordant, wild, somehow unsettling - and the faint boom of distant thunder. Then something (we can't see what) plummets into the water. This superlative psychodrama sends out ripples too, that last way beyond the tight parameters of its plot.

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Valhalla Rising

Adam Sweeting

Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn has already displayed unsettling form as a filmmaker intimately acquainted with violence.

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Bronco Bullfrog, East End Film Festival

Sheila Johnston

One evening in 1970, Princess Anne ventured forth from her manor to attend a screening of Bronco Bullfrog at the Mile End ABC. Three decades later, the same cinema, now called the Genesis, hosted a screening of Barney Platts-Mills' debut feature last night in equally ceremonious circumstances: the launch of the East End Film Festival.

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Dogtooth

Jasper Rees

A father keeps his three adult children in a state of retarded development. They are deprived of books, education, television, indeed denied any access to the world beyond the electronic gates marking the perimeter edge of their known territory. In the place of knowledge is disinformation, disseminated on tapes. The sea is a leather chair, a zombie is a yellow flower, a vagina is a keyboard. And so on. In all this the mother is quiescent, complicit.

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