tue 16/09/2014

Film reviews, news & interviews

Opinion: What's the point of short film?

Debbi Lander

The emergence of digital both as a technology and a culture has fundamentally changed the world in which short film now exists. Now short film has public, industry and social value and its role and routes have fundamentally changed.Short film is one of the most creative art forms on Earth, a space for research and a format in which an artist can experiment, take risks, explore their craft and develop their cinematic vision. The Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival champion it as an art...

DVD: The Two Faces of January

Karen Krizanovich

Hugely underrated, The Two Faces of January packs more filmmaking power than, at least, its poster would ever suggest. Based on the Patricia Highsmith novel, which puts it streets ahead of most films, Two Faces... has a superb ensemble cast: Viggo Mortensen is the alluring Chester MacFarland, travelling with his equally alluring wife Colette (Kirsten Dunst) and their accidental tour guide, the charming Greek-American Rydal Keener (Oscar Isaac). Set in 1962, the couple are sightseeing and become...

20,000 Days On Earth

Nick Hasted

This excellent documentary considerably deepens the Nick Cave we know. If there is a Cave other than the spiritually and intellectually ravenous rock...

10 Questions for Actor Stellan Skarsgård

Kieron Tyler

“Haven’t we met before?” We hadn’t, but Stellan Skarsgård’s friendly greeting immediately sets the tone for an encounter which is so relaxed that...

Down by Law

Graham Fuller

Jim Jarmusch's Down by Law is back in British cinemas 28 years after it joined Spike Lee's She's Gotta Have It and Lizzie Borden's Working Girls...

A Most Wanted Man

Demetrios Matheou

Philip Seymour Hoffman brings another le Carré spy vividly to life

Six of the best: Film


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now

DVD: A Thousand Times Good Night

Tom Birchenough

Juliette Binoche oustanding as a war photographer divided between home and away


Matt Wolf

History offers unexpected yet buoyant bedfellows in Matthew Warchus's stirring film

Manuscripts Don't Burn

Tom Birchenough

Stark view of contemporary Iran, part thriller, part naturalism, is chillingly memorable

Immoral Tales: When Art Met Pornography

Kieron Tyler

Walerian Borowczyk's controversial, censor-baiting Seventies film is re-released

In Order of Disappearance

Kieron Tyler

Stellan Skarsgård kicks off a killing spree in the frozen north of Norway

At Berkeley

Ellin Stein

A rigorous trawl behind the scenes of a grand institution


Graham Fuller

Peter Lorre's frenzied child killer invokes Weimar Germany on the brink

The Hundred-Foot Journey

Karen Krizanovich

Helen Mirren goes toe-to-toe with Om Puri in Disney's cinema of cuisine culture clash

Joan Rivers, 1933-2014

Fisun Güner

The first lady of comedy whose biggest dread was an empty diary

Life of Crime

Katherine McLaughlin

Jennifer Aniston and John Hawkes star in this stylish Elmore Leonard adaptation

LFF 2014: Programme Launch

Matt Wolf

Oscar hopeful war films to bookend 'bubbling cauldron' that is LFF

Sex Tape

Katherine McLaughlin

Sex comedy from the director of 'Bad Teacher' fails to launch

The Guest

Nick Hasted

Dan Stevens swaps Downton for devilment, as a super-soldier on the run

DVD: Blue Ruin

Karen Krizanovich

An award-winning American indy that genuinely thrills

Before I Go To Sleep

Karen Krizanovich

This incredibly beautiful homegrown British thriller can't quite do the business

DVD: When I Saw You

Katie Colombus

This heartfelt Palestinian drama is a poetic look at one kid’s journey of displacement

Obvious Child

Emma Dibdin

Jenny Slate stars in a frank, wry study of female arrested development

Million Dollar Arm

Emma Simmonds

Jon Hamm makes his bid for movie stardom in a semi-winning baseball drama

The Grand Seduction

Katherine McLaughlin

Brendan Gleeson stars in this twee and trite Canadian comedy from Don McKellar

Mystery Road

Kieron Tyler

A raw take on Australia in potent outback crime drama

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For

Katherine McLaughlin

Frank Miller's 3D return to the world of Basin City proves a grotty and flat experience

DVD: Frau im Mond

Graham Rickson

Fritz Lang's lunar epic shines in a gleaming new print

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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