sun 01/02/2015

Film reviews, news & interviews

theartsdesk Q&A: Actress Liz Fraser

Graham Fuller

One of the tacit jokes in John and Roy Boulting’s I’m All Right, Jack concerns the parentage of Liz Fraser’s Cynthia. How could the lugubrious communist shop steward Fred Kite (Peter Sellers) and his pocket battleship missis (Irene Handl) have produced a daughter so resplendently lovely – and so aflame with desire for a dithering toff like their lodger Stanley Windrush (Ian Carmichael)? The answer is: even they were young once.Learning that her dad has evicted Stanley for breaking a strike Fred...


Matt Wolf

The director Stephen Daldry has always worked beautifully with young actors, whether on film or stage, so it's not difficult to see what might have drawn him to Trash, the Richard Curtis-scribed adaptation of the Andy Mulligan novel about life on the Rio de Janeiro scrapheaps. An opportunity for three Brazilian unknowns to take centre-screen in a film spoken almost entirely in Portuguese, the movie gives an instant career to its three male newcomers while otherwise remaining mired in the feel-...

Blu-ray: Bad Timing

Tom Birchenough

With its combination of a Tom Waits lament and visuals tracking over art works by Viennese modernists like Klimt and Schiele, the opening of Nicolas...

Kingsman: The Secret Service

Veronica Lee

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the saying goes – and Kingsman: The Secret Service is a cracking part-homage, part-pastiche of the...

Inherent Vice

Nick Hasted

Thomas Pynchon and PT Anderson: too good to be true? News that the director of There Will Be Blood and The Master was adapting America’s greatest and...

DVD: Boyhood

Graham Rickson

Richard Linklater's life-enhancing epic gets a frills-free DVD release

Big Hero 6

Emma Simmonds

Charming Disney animation gives way to superhero spectacle

Holocaust: Night Will Fall, Channel 4

Tom Birchenough

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

Beyond Clueless

Ellin Stein

Charlie Lyne's enjoyable documentary celebrates the teen movie but lacks rigour

Ex Machina

Nick Hasted

Human nature is tested to destruction in Alex Garland's Artificial Intelligence thriller

DVD: Southern District

Tom Birchenough

Chekhovian break-up hits higher-end Bolivian society, strangely compellingly

A Most Violent Year

Matt Wolf

Period crime drama packs a quietly potent punch

DVD: Trans-Europ-Express/Successive Slidings of Pleasure

Nick Hasted

Alain Robbe-Grillet's modernist, sadomasochist cinema games revived

La Maison de la Radio

Kieron Tyler

Unenlightening day-in-the-life portrait of French national broadcaster Radio France

Testament of Youth

Matt Wolf

Vera Brittain's First World War memoir prettifies the pain


Matt Wolf

Oscar contender and sleeper success is whiplash-smart

DVD: Ganja & Hess

Kieron Tyler

Art-house blaxploitation with a surreal edge is seen in full after four decades

Oscars 2015: Selma largely snubbed, Brits aplenty, and Meryl enters record books - again

Matt Wolf

Who got tapped and sidelined in this year's Academy Award race

American Sniper

Nick Hasted

Clint gives a patriot super-soldier's view of Iraq, in a leanly effective combat film


Emma Dibdin

Reese Witherspoon gives a raw, searching performance in Nick Hornby's deft memoir adaptation

Six of the best: Film


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now

DVD: A Most Wanted Man

Tom Birchenough

Philip Seymour Hoffman impressively dyspeptic in disillusioned Hamburg spy drama

DVD: The Battles of Coronel and Falkland Islands

Graham Fuller

Restored 1927 docudrama captures the hell and pity of war at sea

The Last of the Unjust

Jasper Rees

Claude Lanzmann's remarkable film about Theresienstadt is a complex portrait of human nature

Into the Woods

Graham Fuller

Big-screen Sondheim adaptation is witty and shrewd, but sinister in the wrong place


Katherine McLaughlin

Haunting, tense wrestling drama with superb performances from Steve Carell and Channing Tatum

National Gallery

Marina Vaizey

Frederick Wiseman's latest documentary is a great work of art

The Green Ray

Tom Birchenough

The rewards of improvisation in Eric Rohmer’s 1986 masterpiece

DVD: Night Moves

Graham Fuller

Eco-terrorists go too far in Kelly Reichardt's gripping psychological thriller

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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