thu 30/07/2015

Film reviews, news & interviews

Man With a Movie Camera

Graham Fuller

Dziga Vertov’s narrativeless “city symphony” Man With a Movie Camera celebrates the modernity and energy of the post-Bolshevik Revolution metropolis – a composite of Kharkov, Kiev, Moscow and Odessa filmed over three years. Propaganda for the harnessing of machinery in the building of the Soviet Union’s future, it was much more besides – a masterpiece of avant-garde experimentalism and, fleetingly, an unexpected critique of the continuing class struggle.Inspired by Constructivism’s creed of art...

DVD: How to be Eccentric - The Essential Richard Massingham

Graham Rickson

Improbably described by the French archivist and critic Henri Langlois as “the greatest technician and the greatest poet of British cinema”, it seems incredible that Richard Massingham isn't better known. A doctor by training, his first shorts were made in the early 1930s as a weekend hobby, and he began shooting promotional and training films to make a living. Twenty two of them are collected here: they’re all highly watchable, the best combining rare technical skill with sardonic humour....

Six of the best: Film


 AMY **** Profoundly depressing scrutiny of the ascent and decline of Amy WinehouseAnt-Man **** Paul Rudd is Earth's petit protector in a fun...


Adam Sweeting

The boxing movie has been a gift to filmmakers virtually since the dawn of cinematic time. In 1932 Jimmy Cagney was swinging for the title (and the...

DVD: While We're Young

Ellin Stein

As Noah Baumbach moves into his forties, his youthful archness is becoming increasingly tempered with a wry melancholy. It adds depth and piquancy to...

The Legend of Barney Thomson

Tom Birchenough

Robert Carlyle's debut as director is confident, and darkly comic


Demetrios Matheou

'I'll be back': Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in an unusually low-key zombie movie


Kieron Tyler

Drab lead dominates overlong chronicle of a DJ in the Nineties French dance music scene

Ruth & Alex

Matt Wolf

Portrait of a contemporary New York marriage needs some fixing-up

Best of Enemies

Nick Hasted

Gore Vidal and William F Buckley, Jr change the terms of TV debate in 1968

DVD: The Face of an Angel

Kieron Tyler

Michael Winterbottom-directed farrago centring on the Meredith Kercher case

The Salt of the Earth

Graham Fuller

Wim Wenders chronicles the life of a photographer who has visited the heart of darkness


Emma Simmonds

Paul Rudd is Earth's petit protector in a fun comic book flick from Peyton Reed

DVD: Cemetery Without Crosses

Kieron Tyler

Remarkable French take on the Western demands to be seen

True Story

Matt Wolf

Rupert Goold's debut film is well-acted but strangely wan

The Ecstasy of Wilko Johnson

Nick Hasted

A remarkable rock'n'roll life's improbable sequel

The Wonders

Kieron Tyler

Poignant reflection on growing up and the loss of rural life from the director of 'Corpo Celeste'

13 Minutes

Jasper Rees

From the director of 'Downfall', the little-known story of an attempt on Hitler's life

DVD: A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

David Nice

Mortality and just a touch of mercy in Roy Andersson's version of everyday Swedish life

Love & Mercy

Ellin Stein

Bittersweet biopic portrays Beach Boy Brian Wilson as a sensitive Californian Amadeus

DVD: The Yellow Balloon

Nick Hasted

A 12-year-old loses his way in a threatening Fifties London thriller

P'tit Quinquin

Tom Birchenough

Bruno Dumont's latest has a new, beguiling comedy

Dear White People

Ellin Stein

Sophisticated, witty look at identity politics on fictional US Ivy League campus

DVD: Story of My Death

Tom Birchenough

Elliptical Catalan film illuminates hypnotic encounter of sensuality and darkness

theartsdesk in Moscow: Free thought vs cultural politics

Tom Birchenough

How heavy is the official hand bearing down on Russian culture today?

Terminator Genisys

Jasper Rees

Schwarzenegger grins through a grim resurrection for the franchise


Kieron Tyler

Profoundly depressing scrutiny of the ascent and decline of Amy Winehouse

Orson Welles: The Great Disruptor

Demetrios Matheou

A major BFI retrospective marks the centenary of the director's birth

DVD: It Follows

Nick Hasted

Teen horror with a kind but chilling heart

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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