sun 29/11/2015

Film reviews, news & interviews

Bridge of Spies

Jasper Rees

Nostalgia for the good old days of mutually assured destruction? You’d have got long odds on such a thing on 9 November 1989, the day the Berlin Wall was breached. A quarter of a century on, the Americans and the Russians are entangled in a whole other theatre of war in which the idea of negotiating with the enemy is unthinkable. The Soviets may have been abominable commie bastards but, hey, our guys could still clink a glass with them. So Steven Spielberg is able to visit the Cold War in...

Black Mass

Adam Sweeting

The city of Boston has been creeping up the charts as a hotbed of cinematic criminality in the last decade. First came Martin Scorsese's Oscar-scooping epic The Departed, then Ben Affleck chipped in with The Town, both movies driven by their portrayal of tightly-knit groups of characters immovably rooted in their native Bostonian soil.You could almost see Scott Cooper's Black Mass as completing a trilogy. Indeed, its two leading characters, Irish mobster James "Whitey" Bulger and FBI agent John...

DVD: Closely Observed Trains

Jasper Rees

There’s never been any agreement about translating the participle. Its victory as 1968’s best foreign film is listed on as Closely Watched...


Demetrios Matheou

New York, in the early 1950s. Twenty-something Therese Belivet is working in a Manhattan department store at Christmas, wearing a Santa hat and...

My Skinny Sister

David Kettle

First-time writer/director Sanna Lenken’s touching anorexia drama is such a heartfelt, fragile thing that it feels churlish to criticise it. Herself...

DVD: Murder in the Cathedral

Tom Birchenough

Reappraising George Hoellering - his screen version of TS Eliot's verse drama, and remarkable documentaries

Six of the best: Film


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now

The Dressmaker

Matt Wolf

Kate Winslet revenge drama needs serious alterations


Tom Birchenough

Very bearable lightness of being in off-beat Mexican New Wave urban comedy

DVD: By Our Selves

Graham Fuller

The only way is Essex to Cambridgeshire for lovelorn Romantic poet John Clare

Steve McQueen: The Man & Le Mans

Adam Sweeting

The movie star who dreamed of being a race ace

DVD: Tenderness of the Wolves

Kieron Tyler

Masterful Fassbinder-produced exploration of Germany’s 1920’s serial killer

The Fear of 13

Tom Birchenough

The 'rules' of documentary challenged in visceral Death Row tale

The Lady in the Van

Matt Wolf

Maggie Smith reprises a celebrated stage role, this time for keeps

DVD: I Believe in Miracles

Graham Fuller

Documentary huzzahs Brian Clough's phenomenal Nottingham Forest

Steve Jobs

Jasper Rees

Michael Fassbender gives good monster, but Kate Winslet wins this iBattle


Tom Birchenough

Fast-moving, furious journey through transgender LA is unlikely Christmas movie

DVD: Palio

Jasper Rees

Cosima Spender's thrilling documentary about Siena's historic horse race gets in close

DVD: Death of a Gentleman

Peter Quantrill

The documentary that looked behind Test cricket's decline and found a global conspiracy


Graham Fuller

If only this mild Irish immigrant tale was as compelling as its luminous star

DVD: Pasolini

Kieron Tyler

Abel Ferrara’s portrait of the provocative Italian director depicts a consummate self-actualiser

DVD: Sleepwalker

Kieron Tyler

Social comment and bloody horror combine in 1984 oddity

Sonica 2015, Glasgow

David Kettle

Installations, music-sensitive light shows and a percussion/movie mash-up

Taxi Tehran

Tom Birchenough

Wit wins over repression in 'banned' director Janaf Panahi's Tehran peregrinations

DVD: One Continuous Take

Graham Rickson

Pioneering British director Kay Mander receives a belated tribute

DVD: Love Is All

Graham Rickson

A hundred years of love and courtship, soundtracked with syrup

Listen to Me Marlon

Adam Sweeting

Innovative documentary probes screen legend's troubled psyche

Mississippi Grind

Matt Wolf

Mendelsohn and Reynolds take to the road to quietly rewarding results

DVD: April 9th

Kieron Tyler

Poignant story of how Denmark’s troops on bicycles couldn’t stop Hitler

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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