fri 10/07/2020

Film Reviews

Pianomania

Adam Sweeting

Nobody can remember seeing a film about a piano tuner before. Happily, Pianomania isn’t merely unique; it’s a riveting documentary into the bargain. It takes as its subject the micro-detailed and nit-pickingly demanding routine of Stefan Knüpfer, Master Tuner for that Rolls-Royce of the piano industry, Steinway & Sons. Among Knüpfer’s celebrated clients are such titans of the keyboard as Lang Lang, Alfred Brendel, Till Fellner and Julius Drake, all of whom appear in the film’s...

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The Secret in Their Eyes

Jasper Rees

This is one of those films it’s impossible to imagine being fashioned by an Anglo-Saxon sensibility. Part legal procedural, part autumnal romance, The Secrets in Their Eyes is an intriguing weave of tones and colours. It flirts at once with melodrama and slapstick while never finally deviating from a commitment to intense seriousness and emotional intelligence. No wonder it won this year’s Academy Award for Best Foreign Film.

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Five Easy Pieces

Nick Hasted

Five Easy Pieces is the nominal sibling to Easy Rider, which put Jack Nicholson a step from stardom in 1969. But Pieces, this 40th-anniversary reissue reminds you, was a very different film. The soundtrack is Patsy Cline, not Steppenwolf, and we first see Nicholson working in a hard hat, the music and garb of pro-‘Nam hippie-bashers in 1970. But the cultural action is mostly in Nicholson himself, and the simmering storm of dissatisfaction and high intelligence in...

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Benda Bilili!

howard Male

I must confess that when I first heard about Staff Benda Bilili - a Congolese band partly made up of paraplegics – I felt a little uneasy. The last thing that one wants as a (hopefully) trusted critic is to feel compromised by an obligation to give a positive review, or feel guilty about lessening their chances of bettering their circumstances with a bad review. Yes, the vanity and solipsism of your reviewer has no bounds!

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Knight and Day

Adam Sweeting

Director James Mangold says he "set out to create a world that feels completely real to the audience, yet is also deeply comic". Somehow he ended up with Knight and Day, which feels completely unreal and is modestly amusing in places. Tom Cruise, playing CIA super-agent Roy Miller, is so "real" that he can survive lethal assaults by swarms of assassins, plummet unscathed from high windows, swim underwater for miles and leap off flyovers onto speeding vehicles.

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Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky

Jasper Rees

She glides on the arm of a tail-coated swain into an elegant Belle Epoque drawing room. Music swirls, eyes swivel. And no wonder. Her thin black dress hugs a gamine frame, a look of masculine confidence rests on her face. Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel, better known to all and sundry as Coco, is making an entrance. Another one.

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Separado!/ Gruff Rhys, BFI Southbank

Kieron Tyler

Patagonia’s Welshness was a nagging issue for Gruff Rhys, mainman of Welsh psych-nauts Super Furry Animals. His distant cousin, the folk singer René Griffiths, was born in the desert-filled southern reaches of Argentina, but visited Wales and appeared there on TV in the mid-Seventies. Remembering those appearances, Rhys decided to visit Patagonia to search for Griffiths amongst the region’s Welsh-speaking community.

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Film: Beautiful Kate

alexandra Coghlan Sophie Lowe's open-faced Kate seduces her audience as completely as her family

Finding a cheerful Australian film these days is quite a challenge. Having discovered the particular affinity between Australia’s parched and expansive landscape and the genres of horror and misery memoir, the nation’s filmmakers have set about exploiting it with an enthusiasm that reliably finds a pile of corpses – physical or emotional – bloodily heaped by the time the closing credits roll. Beautiful Kate is no exception, but if you can brave its confronting gaze you’ll find one...

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Down Terrace

Nick Hasted

Tired of the slick, pastiche world of the post-Lock, Stock... British crime movie? Then Down Terrace may be the address for you. Director Ben Wheatley’s micro-budget, naturalistic debut details the paranoid decline of a drug-dealing family in the back end of Brighton. They’re the Royle family with access to hand guns - a deadly and funny combination.

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The A-Team

Neil Smith

As played by the late George Peppard in the original A-Team TV series, Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith was wont to say he loved it when a plan came together. Alas, whatever plan that might have justified this botched retread of the Eighties small-screen favourite soon gets lost amid a wearying welter of gunfire, pyrotechnics and not-so-special effects, all of which appear haphazardly hurled on screen with all the care an incontinent pigeon might deploy while despoiling parked cars.

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Gainsbourg

Anne Billson

Serge Gainsbourg, like Charles Bukowski, is one of those blokes who should be banned as a role model for impressionable young men, who may start imagining they too can behave like disgusting old soaks and pull any gorgeous bird who comes into their orbit. Note to Gainsbourg wannabes -  this only works if you're a creative genius as well.

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Baarìa

Jasper Rees

Giuseppe Tornatore is known overwhelmingly for one international hit. There have been sundry other films from him in the 21 years since Cinema Paradiso won the Best Foreign Language Oscar, but none which have sold such a seductive vision of Italian village life. Though damned to backwardness, stymied by introspection, Tornatore’s evocation of Sicily in 1950s was awash with vitality and colour. In Baarìa he finally goes home.

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Splice

Adam Sweeting

Although it has taken over a decade to come to fruition, Splice still feels like a timely piece of work with its macabre and gruesome take on notions of genetic mutation for commercial gain and the god-like delusions of the scientific community. In addition, it spits out poisonous barbs in the direction of dysfunctional parents who visit their own inadequacies on their hapless offspring.

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The Rebound

Veronica Lee

Let me lay a friendly fiver that many critics will rubbish this film, for the following reasons.

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Toy Story 3

Neil Smith

The 15 years since Disney released the original Toy Story have seen a seismic boom in the computer animation field that has prompted every major movie studio to get in on the act. Relatively cheap to make, accessible to both adults and children and easily converted to 3D, these digital cash cows have become as much a part of a Hollywood balance sheet as the action-packed thriller, low-brow comedy or all-star contemporary reboot.

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Bluebeard

Anne Billson

Sex, blood and shocking - these are the things Catherine Breillat does well. So long as she's busting taboos wide open you can forgive her the longueurs, the wilful refusal to attend to fundamental principles of storytelling, her characters' inclination towards such dreary soliloquising you feel like yelling, "For heaven's sake, shut up and get back to the full-frontal fornicating!" At first glance, the story of Bluebeard would appear to be right up her street.

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