thu 17/08/2017

Film reviews, news & interviews

Quest review - intimate documentary about a north Philly community

Markie Robson-Scott

Christopher Rainey, aka "Quest" – his hip-hop name – lives with his wife Christine’a and their young daughter PJ in north Philadelphia.

DVD/Blu-ray: The 5000 Fingers of Dr T

Graham Rickson

There are lots of ideas bubbling away under the surface of The 5000 Fingers of Dr T. There would have been even more had the studio not panicked after a disastrous preview screening. Half the musical numbers were scrapped, subplots ditched and a new prologue and epilogue inserted. What remains of Roy Rowlands’s 1953 fantasy is described by singer Michael Feinstein in an extra on this release as “a mangled masterpiece”. The excised songs have been located, but the missing footage still hasn’t...

Final Portrait review - utterly convincing...

Sarah Kent

I hate biopics about artists in which the portrayal of “genius” is hyped to the point where it becomes a ludicrous cliché. Although I appreciate that...

A Ghost Story review - spellbinding vision of...

Markie Robson-Scott

A Ghost Story must be the first film with a sheet – a very expressive one – in the leading role. Beneath it is C (Casey Affleck), with two holes for...

Tom of Finland review - engaging biopic of gay...

Tom Birchenough

Finnish director Dome Karukoski has made a sympathetic and quietly stylish biopic of Touko Laaksonen, the artist who did as much as anyone to...

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Citizen Jane review - portrait of a New York toughie

Markie Robson-Scott

BBC Four documentary on the remarkable Jane Jacobs, scourge of New York town planners

Atomic Blonde review - ferocious female action franchise

Nick Hasted

Charlize Theron is iconic in a silly but super-charged Cold War thriller

DVD/Blu-ray: The Tree of Wooden Clogs

Tom Birchenough

Overwhelming humanism in Ermanno Olmi's neo-realist masterpiece

'It was appealing to make a thriller about mental illness': Gareth Tunley and Alice Lowe on 'The Ghoul'

Thomas Barrie

The director and one of the stars on The Ghoul and low-budget British movies

Maudie review - intriguing and irritating in turn

Matt Wolf

Sally Hawkins vehicle about an artist could use more artistry itself

DVD/Blu-ray: Wakefield

Jasper Rees

Bryan Cranston plays a man who leaves his home in order to spy on it

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets review - Rihanna on pole can't save tiring space opera

Saskia Baron

Brace for impact: Luc Besson's frenetic space fantasy runs out of warp factor

The Ghoul review - quietly unhinged British horror

Nick Hasted

Low-budget thriller about depression plays devilish mind games

Williams review - much more than a film about motor racing

Adam Sweeting

The stirring story of the first family of Formula One

DVD/Blu-ray: The Levelling

Nick Hasted

Director's fine debut finds sad secrets in rural England

The Wall review - action undercut by too much talk

Adam Sweeting

'Bourne' director Doug Liman does his best with screenwriting newcomer

DVD/Blu-ray: Der müde Tod

David Nice

Stunning images and lavish detail in Fritz Lang's four interlinked fantasies

The Big Sick review - enchanting romcom about mixed marriages

Jasper Rees

Kumail Nanjiani's romcom about his own marriage has stand-out roles for Zoe Kazan and Holly Hunter

Blu-ray: Terror in a Texas Town

Mark Kidel

Hollywood blacklist Western with contemporary resonance

Olivia Williams interview: 'Are you on drugs?' 'No I've just spent the day acting'

Jasper Rees

The actress summoned to Hollywood who lived to tell the tale, wittily

Victim review - timely re-release for attack on homophobia

Graham Fuller

A tense melodrama enfolding tragedy that did more than any other to decriminalise homosexuality in the UK

DVD/Blu-ray: The Fabulous Baron Munchausen

Graham Rickson

Enchanting, surreal romp: one of the greatest fantasy films ever made

Dunkirk review - old-fashioned filmmaking on the grandest scale

Jasper Rees

Christopher Nolan's evacuation epic lets Spitfires and 'Nimrod' do the talking

City of Ghosts review - chilling but inspiring report on Syria's citizen journalists

David Kettle

Quietly masterful and harrowing documentary on undercover reportage in Raqqa

theartsdesk at Bergman Week - finding the spirit of the great Swedish filmmaker

Demetrios Matheou

Every summer on the tiny island of Fårö, holidaymakers and film buffs are jointly cast in a celebration of one of cinema’s master directors

DVD/Blu-ray: Lola

Nick Hasted

In Fassbinder's 'The Blue Angel' remake, West German corruption equals Weimar's

David Lynch: The Art Life review - authentic and revealing

David Kettle

Candid doc charts Lynch's early years, and how his visual art morphed into film

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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