thu 26/03/2015

Film reviews, news & interviews

Wild Tales

Nick Hasted

Six apocalyptic Argentine stories of revenge combine in this hugely enjoyable and extreme anthology. Producer Pedro Almodóvar must have been impressed by the perverse humour, and the lack of a handbrake as actions rocket out of control. Writer-director Damián Szifron is, though, the sole author of his characters’ nightmarish misfortunes.An aperitif involving the mysterious link between the passengers on a plane sets up a sequence of satisfying main courses, connected by characters who utterly...

Dior and I

Ellin Stein

If anyone thinks high fashion is an airy-fairy world populated by flibbertigibbets preoccupied with frills and furbelows, Frédéric Tcheng’s feature-length documentary Dior and I, a behind-the-scenes account of the race to prepare the 2012 Christian Dior couture collection in record time, should set the record straight. This is a serious business, with investors’ money and employees’ jobs riding on the quality and execution of one person’s artistic vision. In fact, in this aspect, and in the...

10 Questions for Filmmaker Damián Szifron

Demetrios Matheou

Nominated for Best Foreign Language film at this year’s Oscars, Wild Tales is that rarity, a portmanteau film; even rarer, it’s a good one. Though...

DVD: Man of the West

Graham Fuller

The 19 films directed by Anthony Mann between 1950 and 1960 included all 11 of his Westerns – five of them psychologically nuanced vehicles for James...


Kieron Tyler

How would a sighted adult react to becoming blind? What would their anxieties be? How would they construct their new world? Could they construct one...

The Voices

Adam Sweeting

Ryan Reynolds shines in Marjane Satrapi's surreal portrait of an American psycho

DVD: The Homesman

Kieron Tyler

The female view dominates in a bleak and minimal western directed by Tommy Lee Jones


Tom Birchenough

French-Canadian director Xavier Dolan reveals stark new energy in his fifth film

The Gunman

Adam Sweeting

Is Sean Penn really cut out to be a battle-scarred contract killer?

DVD: Roberto Rossellini - The War Trilogy

David Nice

Bombed cities are as much the protagonists as fine actors reliving the war

A Second Chance

Emma Simmonds

Domestic drama from Danish director Susanne Bier with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau

Suite Française

Nick Hasted

An extraordinary novel of occupied France becomes ordinary cinema

DVD: Leviathan

Jasper Rees

Andrei Zvyagintsev's tragicomic portrait of Putinism in action

X + Y

Katherine McLaughlin

Charming coming-of-age drama set in the competitive mathematics world

DVD: The Manchurian Candidate

Kieron Tyler

Cold War-era mind-control thriller is still powerful

Elle l’Adore

Kieron Tyler

Uneasy alliance of darkness and humour in French star-fan relationship drama

DVD: Pictures of the Old World

Tom Birchenough

Evocative Slovak documentary memorably mixes sacred and secular


Emma Simmonds

Neill Blomkamp's latest sci-fi actioner is a well-intentioned misadventure

White Bird in a Blizzard

Demetrios Matheou

Rising star Shailene Woodley is at the centre of a disappointing teen drama


Tom Birchenough

Kim Longinotto's latest is a lacerating documentary of Chicago's mean street lives

Six of the best: Film


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now

Still Alice

Matt Wolf

Julianne Moore's Oscar-winning turn lifts largely pedestrian film

DVD: Spring in a Small Town

Graham Fuller

Passion hits the brick wall of decency in Fei Mu's 1948 masterpiece

10 Questions for Filmmaker Desiree Akhavan

Demetrios Matheou

New York's latest multi-hyphenate on making sense of her place in the world

theartsdesk Q&A: Actress MyAnna Buring

Adam Sweeting

The Swedish-born doctor's daughter on her rapid rise from 'Kill List' and 'Twilight' to 'Downton', 'Ripper Street' and Jimmy McGovern's 'Banished'

Appropriate Behaviour

Tom Birchenough

Gay Brooklyn dramedy memorably mixes great humour with uneasy search for identity

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

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

Close Footnote

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £2.95 per month or £25 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?

latest in Today

10 Questions for Artist Marcus Coates

Eccentric visionary talks birds, shamanism, intoxicated animals and the Bri...

Bayadère - The Ninth Life, Shobana Jeyasingh Company, Linbur...

Engaging dance treatment of Indian-European cultural and disciplinary encou...

Defining Beauty: The Body in Ancient Greek Art, British Muse...

More than the sum of its parts: an exploration of how the human form was pe...

Hillary Clinton: The Power of Women, BBC Two

Awkward documentary draws few conclusions from a 20-year fight for women...

Bad Jews, Arts Theatre

Jewish identity is scrutinised in this unflinching, startlingly funny Ameri...

Amadis de Gaule, UCL Opera

Spirited student revival of JC Bach's lovely final opera

Wild Tales

Argentine anthology shows revenge can be crazed, witty fun

CD: Polar Bear – Same As You

Post-jazzers add ambient dub to a spacey, love-infused mix

Rules for Living, National Theatre

New play about a family reunion at Christmas is imaginative and brilliantly...

Giove in Argo, Britten Theatre, Royal College of Music

Into the woods with quality Handel, fine young singers and the brilliant La...


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters