wed 04/03/2015

Film reviews, news & interviews

Still Alice

Matt Wolf

Oscar winner Julianne Moore: the phrase has been a long time coming but it finally came true ten days ago when the actress long considered one of Hollywood's best and brightest added an Academy Award to her groaning mantelpiece of trophies for her work in Still Alice. Is this actually the finest performance yet given by the flame-haired 54-year-old? Probably not (Far From Heaven, anyone?), and Still Alice - an entirely well-meaning venture that inspires admiration more than actual affection -...

DVD: Spring in a Small Town

Graham Fuller

The release of pent-up desire in a movie drains it of interest. Its withholding keeps the plot boiling, especially if moral considerations come into play. In Fei Mu’s Spring in a Small Town, the passion of former teenage sweethearts Zhou Yuwen (Wei Wei) and Zhang Zhichen (Li Wei), thrown together ten years after they parted, is extra-torturous because Yuwen’s hypochondriacal husband, Dai Liyan (Shi Yu), is Dr Zhang’s close friend and host.Though Liyan is initially unaware of the animal need the...

10 Questions for Filmmaker Desiree Akhavan

Demetrios Matheou

New filmmakers often suffer an unhelpful onslaught of comparisons and labels. Yet Desiree Akhavan offers so many options as to deflect all of them –...

theartsdesk Q&A: Actress MyAnna Buring

Adam Sweeting

There came a moment, around three years ago, when MyAnna Buring suddenly seemed to be in everything. "I'm so sorry!" she shrieks (ironically) when I...

Appropriate Behaviour

Tom Birchenough

There’s an engaging, indie sense of emotional flux in writer-director Desiree Akhavan’s feature debut Appropriate Behaviour, and a very funny script...

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Matt Wolf

The expats are back in that rare sequel that betters its predecessor

DVD: Mr Turner

David Nice

Superlative performances in Mike Leigh's ravishingly filmed hyper-biopic

White God

Kieron Tyler

Hungarian allegory on racism and the rise of the far right fails to cohere

It Follows

Emma Simmonds

Smart, striking horror starring Maika Monroe and directed by David Robert Mitchell

DVD: The Nightcomers

Kieron Tyler

Marlon Brando bombs in ludicrous Michael Winner-directed prequel to 'The Turn of the Screw'

Oscars 2015: Birdman soars, Boyhood plummets

Matt Wolf

Flattest ceremony in years honours 'Birdman', Eddie Redmayne and Julianne Moore

The Duke of Burgundy

Graham Fuller

One woman's kink is another woman's poison in Peter Strickland's bracing erotic romance

DVD: Fury

Adam Sweeting

Gruelling and action-packed story of a tank crew battling across Nazi Germany

Cake

Matt Wolf

Jennifer Aniston aims for awards-season big time and misses

Maidan

Tom Birchenough

Observation of Ukraine revolution remains just that

DVD: Wild River

Kieron Tyler

Elia Kazan’s multi-faceted drama still provokes

Blackhat

Adam Sweeting

Not even Michael Mann can make cyberhacking come to life on the big screen

Fifty Shades of Grey

Jasper Rees

More, please, sir. EL James's filmed fable doesn't go the distance

DVD: The Babadook

Tim Cumming

The ba-ba-bad side of pop-up books

Love Is All

Tom Birchenough

Kim Longinotto's kaleidoscope of love is a visual and musical treat

Love Is Strange

Karen Krizanovich

John Lithgow and Alfred Molina have a true couple's chemistry

Dancing in Jaffa

Tom Birchenough

Rumba and tango engage with Israeli-Palestinian tensions in moving documentary

Two Night Stand

Matt Wolf

Tired if well-acted romcom leaves you waiting for the snow to melt

DVD: Enemy

Adam Sweeting

Twice the Gyllenhaal in half the time in doppelganger dystopia

The Philadelphia Story

Demetrios Matheou

Cukor’s 1940 classic romantic comedy pokes fun at all sides in the class war

Six of the best: Film

theartsdesk

theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now

Coherence

Adam Sweeting

Is this a movie or a postgrad science project?

Jupiter Ascending

Adam Sweeting

It's best to to take the Wachowskis' cosmic epic with a pinch of fairy dust

DVD: Night Will Fall

Thomas H Green

André Singer's powerful Holocaust documentary arrives on DVD with a wealth of extras

Footnote: a brief history of British film

England was movie-mad long before the US. Contrary to appearances in a Hollywood-dominated world, the celluloid film process was patented in London in 1890 and by 1905 minute-long films of news and horse-racing were being made and shown widely in purpose-built cinemas, with added sound. The race to set up a film industry, though, was swiftly won by the entrepreneurial Americans, attracting eager new UK talents like Charlie Chaplin. However, it was a British film that in 1925 was the world's first in-flight movie, and soon the arrival of young suspense genius Alfred Hitchcock and a new legal requirement for a "quota" of British film in cinemas assisted a golden age for UK film. Under the leadership of Alexander Korda's London Films, Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929) is considered the first true sound movie, documentary techniques developed and the first Technicolor movies were made.

Brief_EncounterWhen war intervened, British filmmakers turned effectively to lean, effective propaganda documentaries and heroic, studio-based war-films. After Hitchcock too left for Hollywood, David Lean launched into an epic career with Brief Encounter (pictured), Powell and Pressburger took up the fantasy mantle with The Red Shoes, while Carol Reed created Anglo films noirs such as The Third Man. Fifties tastes were more domestic, with Ealing comedies succeeded by Hammer horror and Carry-Ons; and more challenging in the Sixties, with New Wave films about sex and class by Lindsay Anderson, Joseph Losey and Tony Richardson. But it was Sixties British escapism which finally went global: the Bond films, Lean's Dr Zhivago, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music made Sean Connery, Julie Christie and Julie Andrews Hollywood's top stars.

In the 1970s, recession and the TV boom undermined cinema-going and censorship changes brought controversy: a British porn boom and scandals over The Devils, Straw Dogs and A Clockwork Orange. While Hollywood fielded Spielberg, Coppola and Scorsese epics, Britain riposted with The Killing Fields, Chariots of Fire and Gandhi, but 1980s recession dealt a sharp blow to British cinema, and the Rank Organisation closed, after more than half a century. However more recently social comedies such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Full Monty, and royal dramas such as The Queen and The King's Speech have enhanced British reputation for wit, social observation and character acting.

As more films are globally co-produced, the success of British individual talents has come to outweigh the modest showing of the industry itself. Every week The Arts Desk reviews latest releases as well as leading international film festivals, and features in-depth career interviews with leading stars. Its writers include Jasper Rees, Graham Fuller, Anne Billson, Nick Hasted, Alexandra Coghlan, Veronica Lee, Emma Simmonds, Adam Sweeting and Matt Wolf

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