sat 18/01/2020

Film Reviews

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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It's A Wonderful Afterlife

Matt Wolf

Many is the mother the world over who announces that she won't die happy until she has lived to see her daughter (or son) happily wed. And so, out of a familial condition that transcends ethnicity and geography comes It's a Wonderful Afterlife, the Gurinder Chadha movie that carries this shared fretfulness one step further, throwing in curry jokes as it goes.

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Agora

Nick Hasted

Amazing untold stories remain waiting for cinema. Alejandro Amenábar has found one in the female philosopher Hypatia's quest for knowledge during the religious turmoil that gripped 4th-century Alexandria as the Roman Empire fell into the Dark Ages. Somehow he has managed to parlay the freedom given by his 2004 Foreign Language Oscar for The Sea Inside into a cosmic, 50-million-Euro epic of ideas which leaves Hollywood's narrow narrative parameters far behind.

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Les Aventures Extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec

Anne Billson

BD, pronounced bédé, is short for "bande déssinée", the French equivalent of the comic-strip or graphic novel, which has long been accorded a popular affection and cultural standing well beyond that of its anglophone equivalent. Luc Besson says he was weaned on BD, which comes as no surprise to anyone familiar with his films. The only surprise is that it has taken him so long to direct an adaptation of one.

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City of Life and Death

Jasper Rees The rape of Nanking: Chinese women were forced to offer 'comfort' to the victors

From The Bridge on the River Kwai onwards, the Japanese haven’t tended to come up smelling of roses in war movies. Kind of unsurprisingly. In recent years it was Clint Eastwood who moved the story on. In Flags of Our Fathers he painted the Japanese military as the yellow peril, but gave them the benefit of the doubt in Letters from Iwo Jima, the other half of his Pacific diptych. City of Life and Death attempts to do in one film what Eastwood split into...

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Cemetery Junction

Demetrios Matheou

Cemetery Junction is no ordinary day in the office for Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant. Anyone seeing their names above the title (or, indeed, Gervais’s inappropriate presence on the poster) could be forgiven for expecting their acute observational comedy, fronted by Gervais’s shtick for wince-inducing egomania. Think again.

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The Ghost

Sheila Johnston

Roman Polanski's vice-like paranoid thriller received its world premiere in Berlin in February amid the Chilcot inquiry and headlines about MI5's complicity in torture at Guantánamo Bay, and its topical echoes will rumble on uncomfortably (for some) in the run-up to next month's UK elections.

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I Am Love

Sheila Johnston

Somehow the title sounds more sonorous in Italian. Io Sono l'Amore is a big, fat, full-blown melodrama, a film with the button marked "passione" forced up to 11. It looks exquisite, is a glittering showcase for Tilda Swinton as the restless Russian trophy wife of a wealthy Milanese industrialist and is elegant in spades: the cuisine, the couture, the shoes, the decor, the diamonds, the lipstick, they're all to die for.

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I Know You Know

Jasper Rees

Justin Kerrigan was only 25 when he made Human Traffic. A bristling portrait of rave culture at the dawn of New Labour, it did well enough commercially and enjoyed a cultish afterlife on DVD. That was 11 years ago. Kerrigan hasn’t made another film since. Or hadn’t. With I Know You Know he returns with a script from his own pen. Whenever a promising debut is followed by a long silence, the question is always the same: was the wait worth it?

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