sat 25/10/2014

Film reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Maleficent

Katie Colombus

Angelina Jolie carries this re-visited Disney classic. She is the flying buttress that supports the old story told anew, as commanding as the nuclear green energy she emits into the stratosphere and as striking as any original drawing may have been.While the famous curse scene is as honest an homage as it could be to the original animation, Maleficent draws upon the backstory of the supposedly evil villain from Sleeping Beauty. A woman mistreated and exacting her revenge, Jolie's powerfully...

Jimi: All Is By My Side

Karen Krizanovich

The Jimi Hendrix redux directed by John Ridley, Oscar-winning scriptwriter of 12 Years A Slave (and the underrated Undercover Brother, among others), was highly anticipated - especially as this take on the great guitarist’s life would not, apparently, feature any hits.Although this sounded like a deliberate plan, one suspects Ridley was hampered by a perennial film budgeting problem: soundtracks cost a lot. So, no greatest hits but snippets of covers work perfectly well to tell the story of...

The Babadook

Nick Hasted

Mother love is mangled, yanked inside-out and tested almost to destruction in Australian writer-director Jennifer Kent’s heartfelt horror debut. The...


Emma Simmonds

As the bald title suggests, Fury is a work of righteous, focussed rage. It's a combat film which swaps preaching and profundity for pure anger at the...


Jasper Rees

If you make a film about logging, you better be sure the audience can see the wood for the trees. When Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper lead a...

The Way He Looks

Tom Birchenough

Gentle Brazilian gay adolescent drama rings stronger than its story suggests

DVD: Blacula - The Complete Collection

Nick Hasted

Surprisingly straight Blaxploitation with fangs

LFF 2014: Germany, Pale Mother

Nick Hasted

A revelatory female perspective on Nazi Germany

This Is Where I Leave You

Veronica Lee

Amusing and truthful comedy drama about adult siblings

LFF 2014: Winter Sleep

Nick Hasted

Nuri Bilge Ceylan's monumental, Palme d'Or-winning study of self-deception

LFF 2014: Margarita, With A Straw

Karen Krizanovich

Margarita, With A Straw: Laila (Kalki Koechlin) doesn't let cerebral palsy stop her from being normal

DVD: I Clowns

Nick Hasted

Fellini's rarely seen circus special

LFF 2014: A Little Chaos

Matt Wolf

Pulpy costume drama is a visual feast

LFF 2014: Foxcatcher

Karen Krizanovich

Channing Tatum and Steve Carell in a must-see film that wrestles with the mind

LFF 2014: Mommy

Katherine McLaughlin

Xavier Dolan's latest is a blistering melodrama featuring exceptional performances

The Judge

Karen Krizanovich

This 'family drama with lawyers in it' pits Robert Downey Jr against Robert Duvall, with rollercoaster results

LFF 2014: Phoenix

Nick Hasted

The follow-up to Barbara explores post-war Berlin's emotional ruins with quiet power

Björk: Biophilia Live

Russ Coffey

Visually sumptuous record of Björk's landmark tour

LFF 2014: The Keeping Room

Katherine McLaughlin

Rousing feminist Western featuring a powerful performance from Brit Marling

LFF 2014: It Follows

Nick Hasted

An instant horror classic that's the stuff of nightmares

LFF 2014: Goodbye to Language

Nick Hasted

Godard goes 3D, dazzlingly

Cathedrals of Culture

Tom Birchenough

'Genius loci': the souls of six buildings caught by six directors, in 3D

LFF 2014: Wild Tales

Demetrios Matheou

A ceaselessly inventive black comedy from Argentina breathes new life into the portmanteau film

LFF 2014: The Cut

Nick Hasted

The Armenian genocide sends Tahir Rahim on an epic quest

LFF 2014: Listen Up Philip

Emma Simmonds

Alex Ross Perry's retro comedy is as mirthful as it is mean

DVD: Camille Claudel 1915

Jasper Rees

The unique Juliette Binoche goes beyond artistry to play a woman abandoned in hell

LFF 2014: The Duke of Burgundy

Katherine McLaughlin

Beguiling Seventies-style erotica from British auteur Peter Strickland

LFF 2014: Thou Wast Mild and Lovely

Emma Simmonds

Josephine Decker's second film is striking and very strange

LFF 2014: The Imitation Game

Karen Krizanovich

Cumberbatch at top of a great cast in Morten Tyldum's Alan Turing biopic

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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