thu 20/02/2020

Film Reviews

White Material

Jasper Rees

Isabelle Huppert has always had a wandering soul, ever since she cropped up as a strawberry blonde cowboy’s moll in Michael Cimino’s fabled folly, Heaven’s Gate. That was 30 years ago. Middle age has by no means withered but certainly has hardened her pretty freckled moue into something fierce and obdurate. The owner of that forthright jawline ploughs a self-sufficient furrow these days. The characters she chooses to embody are, for one reason or another, doing it for...

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Shrek Forever After

Veronica Lee

The fourth and last instalment of the ogre animation is a belter. It’s in 3D for one thing and, while the pop culture and film references have been toned down in Josh Klausner and Darren Lemke’s screenplay (directed by Mike Mitchell), in order to tell a gentle morality tale, it takes as its inspiration Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. And that’s a very good starting point for any movie.

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Heartbreaker

Matt Wolf

Oh, how we like to moan when the inevitably grubby world of Hollywood gets its mitts on one or another European "classic". The Birdcage, we're told, wasn't as good as La Cage aux Folles (actually, I preferred it), and the 2001 Tom Cruise vehicle, Vanilla Sky, isn't a patch on its 1997 Spanish forebear, Abre los Ojos (Open Your Eyes): I'm with the nay-sayers on that.

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When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors

Adam Sweeting

It was the Danny Sugerman-Jerry Hopkins biography, No One Here Gets Out Alive, that kicked off the Doors death cult 30 years ago, at a point where the band's reputation was wallowing low in the water. Previously it had been quite acceptable to regard much of their work as cheesy pseudo-jazz with stupid lyrics, and their posturing vocalist Jim Morrison as a tedious drunk with a Narcissus complex.

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Whatever Works

Graham Fuller

n Woody Allen’s Whatever Works, Larry David plays the fourth-wall-breaking narrator and protagonist Boris Yetnikoff. In his early sixties, Boris is an atheist, hypochondriac, divorcee, failed suicide, blowhard existentialist, and world-class curmudgeon, who’s abandoned his career as a nearly-Nobel-level physicist.

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Tetro

Neil Smith

Creative rebirth or belated midlife crisis? That is the question that hovers over Francis Ford Coppola’s decision to turn his back on lucrative studio fare in favour of personal pet projects with an arthouse bent. The director of The Godfather trilogy has been here of course, his 1982 flop One From the Heart leading him to declare bankruptcy and spend a decade or more doing derivative hack work to pay off his debts.

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Villa Amalia

Veronica Lee

The fifth collaboration between iconic French actress Isabelle Huppert and director Benoît Jacquot tells the story of Ann (Huppert), a concert pianist who leaves her partner of 15 years after she sees him passionately kiss another woman. She decides to abandon her life, leaving no trace of her previous existence, and only one friend, Georges (Jean-Hugues Anglade), is allowed to know her plans. She has met Georges for the first time since childhood by a ridiculous contrivance but, as with so...

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Please Give

Matt Wolf

Charity begins at home - or maybe not - in Nicole Holofcener's lovely film, Please Give, which joins the superlative Greenberg as one of the beacons in a summer movie line-up given over to sequels, franchises and pitches that should never have got beyond the story board.

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The Illusionist, EIFF Opening Gala, Edinburgh

graeme Thomson

Last night’s gala opening of the 64th Edinburgh International Film Festival may have been touched by living history – in particular the presence of Sean Connery (pictured below, arriving at last night's screening), who strode up the red carpet looking sharp and dapper in black – but the film on show, Sylvain Chomet’s ravishing animated feature, The Illusionist, was haunted by old ghosts.

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Hierro

alexandra Coghlan Maria (Elena Anaya) offers a compelling emotional core to an otherwise laborious film

What is it with horror films and water? Think back through all the watery episodes in the horror canon, not the grandiose creature-from-the-deep type but the more domestic scenarios – beaches, showers, baths, bathrooms. From Hitchcock’s originary shower scene onwards, the list is long and gory. Most recently we've seen the elegant atmospheric manipulations of Juan Antonio Bayona’s El Orfanato with its plot-significant headland setting and dark tidal caves; now following close...

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Killers

Matt Wolf

As cinematic landmarks go, Kutcher Speaks French may not quite be up there with Garbo Talks. But there's a certain pleasure to be had in the opening sequences of the otherwise dismal Killers to find that so quintessential a movie dude can actually manage the word "bonjour". Small wonder that a vacationing, newly single Katherine Heigl falls for this clearly keen linguist in a lift in Nice. His bared torso has nothing to do with it - surely, not!

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Wild Grass

Jasper Rees

It’s an odd enough statistic that only four of Alan Ayckbourn’s plays have been made into films. Odder still that, of those, three are the work of Alain Resnais, the grand old man of the nouvelle vague. Yes, it was a curious moment when the director of Last Year in Marienbad got into bed with the author of Bedroom Farce.

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Black Death

Anne Billson

When were you last horrified by a horror movie? Really horrified, that is, as opposed to merely creeped out, or disgusted, or amused. Black Death is a proper horror movie, for grown-ups rather than ADD-afflicted teens, and I'll wager grown-ups will be duly horrified by it.

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Women Without Men

Tom Birchenough

Shirin Neshat's often compelling Women Without Men spirits us back to Tehran 1953, and the political atmosphere surrounding the British- and American-supported coup that deposed Iran’s first democratically elected prime minister, Mohammad Mossadegh.

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Letters to Juliet

Matt Wolf

What happens when shlock is ennobled to something resembling a state of grace? The answer is on emotionally capacious view in Letters to Juliet, a by-the-books romcom that is raised beyond the ordinary, and then some, by the presence of the great Vanessa Redgrave.

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Greenberg

Veronica Lee

Anyone who saw Ben Stiller in Zoolander will know that he is a very fine actor. He made his over-the-top character both believable and lovable (well, up to a point on the latter, but you know what I mean) while playing the fashion model’s absurdities for every laugh he could get.

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