wed 27/07/2016

Film reviews, news & interviews

Jason Bourne

Adam Sweeting

When Matt Damon's Jason Bourne makes his introductory appearance, as a bare-knuckle boxer somewhere in the lawless Greek-Albanian borderlands, it speaks volumes. Bourne is severely muscled-up, but he looks older, wearier and existentially imperilled. You could say much the same for this belated franchise addition, which is bristling with technology and intensely-detailed action scenes, but struggles to find much that wasn't done better, or more purposefully, in the earlier films.Not least...

Blu-ray: Absolute Beginners

Kieron Tyler

The home-cinema release of Absolute Beginners is a rarity, as it’s one where watching the bonus before the main feature is a must. In Absolute Ambition, those involved with the film are brutally frank about this most hyped piece. It’s also an eloquent, fascinating potted history of the pop-cultural milieu that led to it being made in the then still-resonating aftermath of punk. Despite being set in the 1958 of its source book, Colin MacInnes’ Absolute Beginners, director Julian Temple avers...

Marni Nixon: 'It ended up being totally my...

Jasper Rees

Singin’ in the Rain made much of those people in the movies whose work you don’t know you know. Set at the dawn of the talkies, it told of a star of...

DVD: Around China With a Movie Camera

Graham Fuller

It’s comforting to reflect that some of the anonymous children seen in Around China With a Movie Camera – a DVD culled from films spanning...


Matt Wolf

Two cultural giants from different spheres align to occasionally sublime results in The BFG. Steven Spielberg's film locates the beatific in its (...

DVD: The Witch

Nick Hasted

An ambitious, sparely told tale of 17th-century American terror

Six of the best: Film


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now

Star Trek Beyond

Adam Sweeting

Jokes and derring-do in a galaxy far, far away


Jasper Rees

Greek masculinity is tested in wry, weird maritime comedy

DVD: Anomalisa

Jasper Rees

Charlie Kaufman's remarkable animation sheds fresh light on the male midlife crisis


Tom Birchenough

Evocative early-Seventies French drama of sexual discovery confronting traditional values

DVD: High Rise

Mark Kidel

Adaptation of JG Ballard's dystopian thriller let down by surface brilliance

Men and Chicken

Nick Hasted

Mads Mikkelsen in a daring Danish horror-comedy about unhappy families

Blu-ray: Burroughs: The Movie

Saskia Baron

Arresting documentary about the godfather of American counterculture


Saskia Baron

Enjoyable reboot of the beloved 1984 comedy exceeds expectations


Tom Birchenough

Nightmare political campaign becomes devilish documentary

DVD: Hail, Caesar!

Graham Rickson

Hollywood satire with teeth and heart

The Neon Demon

Graham Fuller

Nicholas Winding Refn's gaudy horror spoof of fashion biz narcissism

The Legend of Tarzan

Adam Sweeting

Has the Edgar Rice Burroughs hero become a man out of time?

Blu-ray: Black Orpheus

Saskia Baron

Stunning restoration of an art-house classic that put Brazilian exoticism on the map

Maggie's Plan

Saskia Baron

Screwball comedy set among bohemian New Yorkers may grate on your nerves

Notes on Blindness

Tom Birchenough

Luminous documentary is both profound and moving

DVD: A Month in the Country

Graham Rickson

Elegiac adaptation of a much-loved novella, returning after a long absence

The Colony

Ed Owen

Weird thriller features Emma Watson penetrating a religious cult in Pinochet's Chile

DVD: A Bigger Splash

Nick Hasted

Swinton and Fiennes spar in an erotic, exotic Italian enigma

theartsdesk at the Edinburgh International Film Festival 2016

David Kettle

Little pomp but plenty of eclectic entertainment at the EIFF's 70th edition

Adult Life Skills

Katie Colombus

Sweet, slightly predictable, quirky British dramedy veers from the norm

DVD/Blu-ray: Wim Wenders - The Road Trilogy

Graham Fuller

Beloved wanderers of the New German Cinema

Elvis & Nixon

Adam Sweeting

Tricky Dicky meets the Pelvis in smart satirical fantasy

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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