mon 14/10/2019

Film Reviews

A Serious Man

Sheila Johnston

If you stick with the Coen Brothers' new film until the end of the final credit crawl, you will notice the legend, in small print, "No Jews were harmed in the making of this motion picture." I wouldn't be so sure: they certainly put their hero through the trials of Job. With a title like that, it ought to be a comedy, but the Coens customarily keep a protective, ironic distance from their fictional creations, and so you never really quite know where you stand with them.

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Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno

Jasper Rees

When a film shoot is in trouble, with actors dying on set, the heavens opening and other acts of God putting a spanner in the works, it’s usually a gigantic directorial ego which hauls the troubled production over the line. You think of Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, of Coppola’s Apocalypse Now and above all Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, all films characterised by epic folie de grandeur and flirtation with insanity.

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An Education

Sheila Johnston

London, 1961. Duffle coats are the ne plus ultra in hipster cool, everybody smokes like fury and black people are known as negroes in enlightened society (and even enlightened society wouldn't want them moving in next door). In the congenial, shiny-surfaced world of this coming-of-age comedy, the Beatles' first LP is still two years away, and so is sexual intercourse, but not for Jenny.

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Jennifer's Body

Anne Billson

Blame it on the bloody menarche. The combination of schoolgirls and horror is so intoxicating it's a wonder there haven't been more films like Carrie, Suspiria or Ginger Snaps to exploit that tricky adolescent surge of oestrogen. So I'm sorry to disappoint you, but Jennifer's Body isn't worthy to be set alongside The Craft, let alone any of the aforementioned titles. It has all the ingredients for guilty pleasure - cheerleader transformed into man...

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Colin

Sheila Johnston

There has been robust debate on the internet over whether Colin could, in fact, have been made for such a small sum - it makes the forthcoming chiller Paranormal Activity, made for $10,000 and now a huge box-office hit in the US thanks to a vigorous viral marketing campaign (it opens in the UK on 27 November), look like a megabudget blockbuster.

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Film: Johnny Mad Dog

Ryan Gilbey

The raucous young lads swaggering down the streets of a charred, deserted town could be the Lost Boys in an African production of Peter Pan. Some are in their late teens, others are no older than 10 or 11, but most are decked out in fancy-dress garb and accoutrements which suggest a recent dip in the dressing-up box.

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The Men Who Stare at Goats, London Film Festival

Sheila Johnston

A rubicund major-general leaps up from his desk, scrunches up his face in concentration, breaks into a run and belts towards the office wall, intending to race through it. Sadly, in this opening sequence of The Men Who Stare at Goats, he falls flat on his face, and so does the joke; so does the whole film, actually, come to that.

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Fantastic Mr Fox, London Film Festival

Sheila Johnston

It would be an understatement to say that the auguries weren't good for Wes Anderson's first animated movie, the world premiere of which opened the London Film Festival last night. The distributor - Twentieth Century Fox, by a neat coincidence - was coy about screening it to critics, the trailer (below) was teeth-grindingly unfunny and...

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The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Adam Sweeting

Terry Gilliam set toupees a-flutter with a feisty piece in the Sunday Times about the pandemonium surrounding the release of his new film, firing off broadsides at Tracey Emin and gossips who spread malicious rumours about the late Heath Ledger, and deploring the bureaucratic bloat which he reckons has capsized the BBC. “I’m good at being angry – it’s an occupation,” he growled.

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Werner Herzog: Huie's Sermon and God's Angry Man

Igor Toronyi-Lalic

A familiar Herzogian weirdness was on display at last night's Herzog documentary double bill. And not all of it was cinematic. The organisers of the Herzog retrospective had matched up out-of-the-way venues to specific Herzog movies, and these movies to suitable companion acts.

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Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee

Ryan Gilbey

Woody Allen has made four. Christopher Guest starred in and co-wrote the best one of all time, then directed some damn fine examples of his own. Sacha Baron Cohen and Ricky Gervais have built their careers and reputations on them. Now the Uttoxeter-born writer-director Shane Meadows has thrown his hat into the mockumentary ring with Le Donk & Scor-Zay-Zee, the profile of a bitter, weather-beaten and entirely fictional roadie.

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Film: Thirst

Anne Billson

Just when you thought vampires had lost their bite, along comes Korean director Park Chan-wook with Thirst. It's a loose adaptation of Emile Zola's Thérèse Raquin in which the adulterous lovers also happen to be drinkers of blood. They suck, they fuck and they kill, and, in the event of a vampire death-match, they would surely make mincemeat out of a toothless teen idol like Edward Cullen. Twilight this is not.

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Film: Driving Aphrodite

Matt Wolf

Staycationers who didn't make it to their favourite Greek isle this summer may constitute a ready-made audience for Driving Aphrodite, the travelogue masquerading as a film that has opened just in time to tap into a collective desire for sun, sand, and the odd drop of retsina just as the nights are beginning to draw in.

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The Invention of Lying

Jasper Rees

The door to a pristine apartment is opened by a rivetingly beautiful young woman. “You're early," she says matter-of-factly. "I was just masturbating.” Has a date, and indeed a romantic comedy, ever started so winningly? Not that it goes so well for short, fat, snub-nosed Mark Bellison. At the restaurant she informs him that she’s way out of his league and the evening will not conclude in sex or even a kiss. And the waiter hits on her, unsuccessfully.

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The Hourglass Sanatorium, Barbican

Jasper Rees

Philip Roth once perversely suggested that Eastern European novelists whose work was banned under Communism were the lucky ones. They didn’t have to scour their navels for material; it was all there, dumped in their laps. In the second half of the 1980s, I devoured a lot of their fiction. If the novel came from the other side of the Iron Curtain, I’d buy. My policy was indiscriminate. It didn’t seem to matter if the author had been born too early for Communism.

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Film: Farewell

Anne Billson

The trailer for Farewell - released in Paris this week - was so dull I nearly didn't bother to go and see the film. The problem with selling Cold War thrillers to the masses is that realistic spy movies have little truck with trailer-friendly stunts, explosions and one-liners. But as any reader of Le Carré knows, the world of espionage is a world of smoke and mirrors, where no-one is who they appear to be, and where cynicism and expediency rub shoulders with slow-burning paranoia. In...

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