wed 01/10/2014

Film reviews, news & interviews

Life After Beth

Emma Simmonds

Zombies have feelings too. That's the message at the heart of writer-director Jeff Baena's debut Life After Beth, which begins its life as a sensitive indie comedy with a winning deadpan shtick and ends up salivating and snarling after developing an appetite for riotous, blood-splattered slapstick. Parks and Recreation's Aubrey Plaza bags the bizarro role of a lifetime and this quite brilliant comedienne attacks it like a man-eater tearing flesh from bones with only its teeth. She also quite...

Still the Enemy Within

Nick Hasted

You expect the tears, anger and pride, as NUM veterans relive Britain’s defining industrial dispute, 30 years later. The bafflement of a South Welsh ex-miner is more telling; the way his voice slows in disbelief at the level of violence the British state unleashed in the Miners’ Strike of 1984-85, and incomprehension as he still struggles to grasp how and why what he saw could have happened. Two miners died during the strike, as did a cabbie taking one to cross a picket line, and three children...

DVD: Goltzius and the Pelican Company

Tom Birchenough

In his director’s interview for Goltzius and the Pelican Company Peter Greenaway describes the public profiles that his films have achieved over the...

Draft Day

Karen Krizanovich

Draft Day should have been a contenda. As it stands, it's a football film for people who like football but who hate film. Sure, you may like “movies...

I Origins

Katherine McLaughlin

I Origins is a high-concept sci-fi thriller and romantic drama from American indie director Mike Cahill, who investigates big philosophical and...

Maps to the Stars

Emma Simmonds

David Cronenberg goes in for Hollywood's close-up and it's far from a pretty picture

The Equalizer

Karen Krizanovich

Denzel Washington fights crime in appealingly predictable thriller

DVD: A Jester's Tale

Tom Birchenough

Czech director Karel Zeman reaches English-speaking world with captivating feature-animation mix


Emma Simmonds

Pawel Pawlikowski delivers on his early promise with an award-winning drama

10 Questions for Musician Gruff Rhys

Jasper Rees

Super Furry Animal travels to the heart of America in pursuit of a long-lost multi-media tall tale

DVD: Only Lovers Left Alive

Karen Krizanovich

A love story, cool vampire tale and wry comedy in one

Night Will Fall

Tom Birchenough

Memories of the Holocaust, and Alfred Hitchcock's attempts to sum up its visual testimony

DVD: Otway the Movie – Rock and Roll's Greatest Failure

Kieron Tyler

Fans-only tribute to a tenacious musical eccentric

Magic in the Moonlight

Katherine McLaughlin

Emma Stone delights in Woody Allen's 1920s romantic comedy

Opinion: What's the point of short film?

Debbi Lander

The director of the Encounters Film Festival leaps to the short film's defence

DVD: The Two Faces of January

Karen Krizanovich

A superb, elegant thriller that's excellent on the small screen

20,000 Days On Earth

Nick Hasted

Nick Cave's art is exposed in a playful, funny doc

10 Questions for Actor Stellan Skarsgård

Kieron Tyler

Sweden's succesful export talks about the humour in brutality, the nature of Scandinavia and Monty Python

Down by Law

Graham Fuller

Jim Jarmusch's timeless neo-noir fairytale – and how it augured 'Only Lovers Left Alive'

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

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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