sat 18/11/2017

Film reviews, news & interviews

Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool review - Annette Bening mesmerises

Saskia Baron

Screen biographies are tricky things to pull off when the person portrayed has left behind an indelible screen presence. It was hard to love Michelle Williams dragging up for My Week with Marilyn; Grace of Monaco was Nicole Kidman refracted through the eyes of Madame Tussaud. But Annette Bening is wholly mesmerising in her reincarnation of Gloria Grahame, the Oscar-winning femme fatale who became a jobbing actress in late 1970s England.Film Stars Don't...

DVD: Dispossession - The Great Social Housing Swindle

Thomas H Green

In the week that the police announced the final Grenfell Tower fire death toll, this is a timely release. Paul Sng’s 82-minute documentary, narrated by the actress Maxine Peake, is a serious investigation into the state of social housing in the UK, most especially the way it’s being co-opted into the private sector to make as much money as possible for corporate free market ideologues and those trailing in their wake.Sng, along with his cinematographer Nick Ward and editor Josh Alward, have...

DVD: Dispossession - The Great Social Housing...

Thomas H Green

In the week that the police announced the final Grenfell Tower fire death toll, this is a timely release. Paul Sng’s 82-minute documentary, narrated...

Good Time review - heist movie with stand-out...

Saskia Baron

This is not a movie to see in the front row – intrusive close-ups, hand-held camerawork, colour saturated night shots and a relentless synthesiser...

Blu-ray: The Incredible Shrinking Man

Graham Rickson

The Incredible Shrinking Man starts innocently with a young couple bantering on a small boat off the California coast. Before what looks like an...

The Florida Project - bright indie flick packs a punch

Owen Richards

Standout performances and heartfelt storytelling make this one of the films of the year

Professor Marston and the Wonderwomen review - Rebecca Hall to the rescue

Saskia Baron

In the wake of 'Wonder Woman', can Angela Robinson's true-life origin tale strike gold too?

DVD/Blu-ray: Lubitsch in Berlin

Graham Fuller

Six gems from the wily young master’s silent period

Paddington 2 review - Hugh Grant’s superior baddie boosts sequel

Saskia Baron

Peruvian immigrant ensures work for British thespians

theartsdesk at the Viennale: shunning the 'illusion machine'

Demetrios Matheou

The Vienna film festival overcame tragedy to present a typically provocative programme

DVD: The Ornithologist

Tom Birchenough

A Portugese semi-precious stone: beautiful, baffling and, finally, beautifully bonkers

Murder on the Orient Express review - lushly upholstered, lightly remodelled ride

Nick Hasted

Branagh's all-star Christie is a vivid comfort

The Killing of a Sacred Deer review - edge-of-seat psycho-thriller

Demetrios Matheou

Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman star in the latest extreme offering from Yorgos Lanthimos

DVD/Blu-ray: Miracle Mile - cult apocalyptic romance

Saskia Baron

This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but with spandex

Ferrari: Race to Immortality review - death and glory in 1950s motor racing

Adam Sweeting

Early years of the legendary red cars from Maranello

DVD/Blu-ray: The Wages of Fear

Graham Rickson

Arguably the greatest action film ever. Watch from behind the sofa...

Call Me By Your Name review - a star is born in a heartbreaking gay romance

Matt Wolf

Timothée Chalamet is an emotional knockout in a story both sensual and sad

October, LSO, Strobel, Barbican review - Eisenstein with steel score

David Nice

A head-spinning two hours with baroque imagery and heavy-metal music of 1927-8

DVD/Blu-ray: Frantz Fanon - Black Face White Mask

Mark Kidel

Classic and form-busting essay on racism and revolution

Breathe review - heroic but airbrushed struggle against disability

Adam Sweeting

Real life never-say-die story a little too good to be true

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami review - a slow study of pop’s enigma

Owen Richards

Sophie Fiennes's documentary captures moments of real insight

DVD/Blu-ray review: Land of Mine

Saskia Baron

Extraordinarily tense ensemble drama about bomb disposal in the aftermath of World War II

DVD/Blu-ray: Vampir Cuadecuc

Tom Birchenough

Experimental filmmaking with a bite: Christopher Lee in a 'Dracula' like none you've seen before

The Death of Stalin review - dictatorship as high farce

Nick Hasted

Armando Iannucci finds a reign of terror's funny side

Dina review - a poignant treat

Owen Richards

Sundance documentary winner is a rewarding study of love and the human spirit

DVD/Blu-ray: A Man Called Ove

Saskia Baron

Neither Scandi noir nor IKEA fantasia: an endearing Swedish black comedy about a grumpy old man

LFF 2017: Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool / Professor Marston and the Wonder Women reviews - stellar turns by Annette Bening and Rebecca Hall

Saskia Baron

Two fascinating true stories of iconic women told with not quite enough flair

LFF 2017: Mindhunter / My Generation - Fincher comes to Netflix, Caine does Swinging London

Adam Sweeting

The Feds get scientific, plus Michael Caine's Sixties revolution

Loving Vincent review - Van Gogh biopic of sorts lacks language to match its visuals

Matt Wolf

Artistry aplenty jostles cloth-eared writing in painstaking hagiography

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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