sat 30/04/2016

Film reviews, news & interviews

Son of Saul

Saskia Baron

In the world of the concentration camp, clothes or the lack of them sealed your fate. What you wore marked out your role; whether it was the blue-gray Waffen SS uniform, a doctor’s grubby white coat, the striped suits given to slave-workers, or your own clothes from your former life. The first images of Son of Saul are a soft blur of figures in a distant wood, but walking swiftly to camera and into sharp focus is one man, Saul Auslander (Géza Röhrig). He’s wearing an overcoat with a big red...

DVD: Tootsie

Saskia Baron

It’s fascinating to revisit Tootsie, some 30 years after its original success – in 1982 it was the biggest comedy hit of all time (though it was overtaken by Ghostbusters shortly after). Dustin Hoffman gives a pitch-perfect performance as an overly serious East Coast theatre actor who takes to cross-dressing when his agent (played by the film's director Sydney Pollack) can no longer get him work. He "passes" as a frumpy middle-aged actress and wins a part in a terrible daytime soap playing a...

Golden Years

David Kettle

There’s a great film waiting to be made about the demographic crisis – old-age poverty, worthless pensions, abuse of the elderly, ramshackle...


Ed Owen

How would you behave if your wife was killed in a random car accident? In Demolition, Jake Gyllenhaal’s Davis, a wealthy banker, is almost relieved...

Captain America: Civil War

Adam Sweeting

This rousing instalment from the Marvel universe shares self-evident similarities with Batman vs Superman, the latest effort from their DC rivals. In...

DVD: Pink String and Sealing Wax

Kieron Tyler

Sub-texts galore in grade-A Ealing melodrama

DVD: Only Angels Have Wings

Saskia Baron

Death-defying aerial stunts with a twist of Hawksian romance

Miles Ahead

Adam Sweeting

Don Cheadle puts heart and soul into his portrayal of the man who transformed jazz

Six of the best: Film


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now

Bastille Day

Adam Sweeting

Parisian heist caper possibly hampered by bad timing

DVD: Mysterious Object at Noon

Tom Birchenough

Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's narratively beguiling debut

Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures

Sarah Kent

A fame-obsessed manipulator or a self-effacing observer of the New York gay scene?

Eisenstein in Guanajuato

Tom Birchenough

Peter Greenaway's Mexican filmic fiesta for his director hero

The Jungle Book

Saskia Baron

Visually stunning remake of the Disney classic

DVD: Beat Girl, Expresso Bongo

Kieron Tyler

Unruly teens, pop music, Soho and titillation in a pair of British exploitation classics

The Brand New Testament

Holly O'Mahony

Jaco Van Dormael's surreal comedy finds God's daughter avenging His tyranny in Belgium

Eye in the Sky

Saskia Baron

Helen Mirren and Alan Rickman star in a morality drama with modern tech


Ed Owen

Kevin Costner stars in dumb high-concept ride into a parallel London

DVD: Sunset Song

Graham Fuller

The harsh times of a land-loving Scottish farmer's daughter in the 1910s


Nick Hasted

Robin Williams's quietly powerful farewell film shows him lunging for a lost life

Couple in a Hole

Tom Birchenough

Films don't come much stranger

The Man Who Knew Infinity

Matt Wolf

Cambridge maths drama starring Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons settles for filmmaking by numbers


Jasper Rees

Jacques Audiard's unflinching study of the migrant experience

Midnight Special

Adam Sweeting

Jeff Nichols' enigmatic fable takes us into the mystic

DVD: Culloden / The War Game

Graham Fuller

Peter Watkins' searing anti-war docudramas take no prisoners

First Person: Couple in a Hole

Paul Higgins

A festival favourite that opens this week very nearly didn't get made, explains its star

Eddie the Eagle

Adam Sweeting

High-flying no-hoper finds feelgood nirvana

DVD: Ken Russell - The Great Composers

Graham Rickson

Two of the greatest films about composers ever made, plus an interesting flop


Nick Hasted

A single-shot Berlin marvel which grips and moves

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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