tue 07/07/2020

Film Reviews

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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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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