sat 25/01/2020

Film Reviews

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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The Infidel

Veronica Lee

On the face of it, The Infidel should be a hoot. The screenwriting debut of comic David Baddiel, one half of two of the cleverest comedy duos of the past 20 years (Newman and Baddiel, Baddiel and Skinner), and starring stand-up comedian Omid Djalili, it tells the story of a Muslim who discovers after his mother’s death that he was adopted and his birth parents were Jewish.

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Whip It

Sheila Johnston Ellen Page flanked by Drew Barrymore (left) and Kirsten Wiig in Barrymore's 'Whip It'

Whip It is not about nefarious S&M practices, nor the art of patisserie, nor even dog racing - although it has trace elements of all of the above. Instead, Drew Barrymore's sweet and swaggering maiden trip as director is a confection set in the rough-and-tumble world of female roller derbies, at which rival teams hurtle around a curved rink like bats out of hell, inflicting grievous bodily harm on each other in the process. For those unversed in the finer points of the sport...

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Sagan

Sheila Johnston Whisky, cigarettes, gambling and the little black dress: Sylvie Testud in a typical moment from Sagan

A sensational performance by Sylvie Testud is the singular reason to catch this rambling biopic of Françoise Sagan - bestselling novelist, high-rolling playgirl, multiple addict, flamboyant bisexual, monstre sacré - which plays in repertory throughout April at the French Institute's Ciné Lumière. Testud, one of France's best young actresses (also currently to be seen illuminating ...

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Clash of the Titans

Jasper Rees

Just don’t say you weren’t warned. "The Legend Begins in 3D," it says outside the Odeon Leicester Square in rather boisterous capitals. This is very much episode one of what the moneybags on Mount Olympus, working out of their Hollywood 91601 address, envisage as an all-whizzing, all-banging trawl through the Greek legends. The formula is as you were. It’s the age-old cinematic derby, yet another epic widescreen face-off between man and special effect.

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Samson and Delilah

Sheila Johnston

A public telephone rings, unanswered, in the middle of the desert; a young girl pushes her grandmother in a rusty wheelchair, jerkily inching their way across the flat red expanse of the outback; a boy digs deep into the sand and lies brownly submerged in water the colour of his skin.

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Double Take

Sheila Johnston

Alfred Hitchcock once claimed to have entered a Hitch look-alike contest and lost, characteristically making a joke out of a long-held private obsession. Doppelgängers, impersonators, imposters and victims of mistaken identity - innocent men wrongly presumed guilty - stalk his movies and television shows and now provide the inspiration for Double Take. Loosely based on a short story, August 25th, 1983 by Jorge Luis Borges, it starts with the idea of the Master locked in a...

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How to Train Your Dragon

Veronica Lee How to Train Your Dragon: our hero Hiccup flies on the back of his friend, Toothless

We are in the far north of somewhere, where it's freezing and rains for most of the year. As if the weather isn’t bad enough, the sturdy Viking community of the island of Berk have a pest problem - not mice or foxes, but feral dragons who, with their huge talons and fiery breath, steal their sheep and set fire to their houses as they attack on a regular basis. The opening scenes of How to Train Your Dragon, presented by DreamWorks Animation SKG (Shrek, Madagascar) in...

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Nightwatching

Fisun Güner

How might a portraitist, working in oils, describe Martin Freeman's face? If one were a novelist, heavy with description, perhaps the following: fleshy, boneless features; pasty Northern European pallor; flesh the texture of sweaty suet pudding. Not, then, conventionally handsome, but still, we have those plaintive, expressive eyes and that rumpled yet quietly dignified presence.

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Lion's Den

Demetrios Matheou Martina Gusman in Pablo Trapero's prison drama Lion's Den

Since his astonishing debut Crane World a decade ago, the Argentine Pablo Trapero has been quietly asserting himself as one of the world’s most singular directors. He’s perhaps best known for his breezy verité approach – shooting on location, often using non-actors, and drawing his subjects from everyday Argentine life. At the same time, Trapero has always dallied, slyly, with genre: Rolling Family might be called a road movie, El Bonaerense a cop drama...

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Lourdes

Sheila Johnston

Is there a God, and if so is He malevolent, and what's on the menu for dessert? Like one of her characters, Jessica Hausner, the relatively unknown, but startlingly talented director of Lourdes, doesn't shy away from asking the really important questions.

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The Blind Side

Veronica Lee

John Lee Hancock's film is a fairly straightforward adaptation of Michael Lewis's biographical book The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game. Michael Oher is virtually homeless when Leigh Anne spots him wandering the streets of suburban Memphis one freezing night, dressed only in shorts and T-shirt.

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No One Knows About Persian Cats

joe Muggs Musicians from the film, including Ashkan and Negar (front)

The protests around the Iranian presidential elections of 2009 brought home to many in the West not only how dominated by youth the pro-democracy movement in Iran is, but also how westernised the youth of that country are. Symbolised by Neda Agha-Soltan, the young woman whose death at the hands of security forces was caught on camera and beamed around the world, this was an Iran a world away from the glowering Ayatollahs and pepperpot women in black chadors we tended to see on news...

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Film: Sons of Cuba

Sheila Johnston Raging bullocks: Cuba's young boxing champions-in-waiting

Cuban boxers have always punched above their weight in the world arena: the little island has clocked up no fewer than 63 Olympic medals - 32 of them gold - in the last 40 years. Enjoying extraordinary access to the mysteries of the Havana Boxing Academy, this emotional documentary follows the fortunes of three ten-year-old lads over eight months as they submit to a punishing regimen of training for the National Boxing Championship. But, as with the best sports films, Sons of Cuba...

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