mon 25/05/2020

Film Reviews

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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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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