fri 01/08/2014

Film reviews, news & interviews

A Promise

Matt Wolf

The long march of history pales next to the clamped-down passions and pulpy theatrics of A Promise, the first English-language film from that often most sinuous and witty of French directors, Patrice Leconte. Wit, alas, is nowhere to be seen on this occasion, which may just mark the worst foray into non-native celluloid territory since The Lives of Others' Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck gave us The Tourist four years ago.Leading lady Rebecca Hall gets to wear an array of nice hats, and...

Guardians of the Galaxy

Katherine McLaughlin

Marvel takes a risk with the origins story of an eclectic crew of potty-mouthed thieves and criminals based on a little known comic book series, and it pays off thanks to Nicole Perlman’s and James Gunn’s confident script which follows the superhero formula yet sprinkles it with a charming off-kilter quality.The threat of mass genocide looms heavily over the galaxy, with evil beings chasing a mysterious orb which holds the power to destroy civilization with one fell swoop. However, an unwitting...

Mood Indigo

Graham Fuller

The magically off-kilter Mood Indigo is based on Boris Vian's posthumously celebrated Surrealist novel L'écume des jours (1947), one translated title...

DVD: Venus in Fur

Katie Colombus

Action film fans should stay away from this Roman Polanski duet. But those who like their sexual politics served in symbolic form will be delighted....

Hide Your Smiling Faces

Tom Birchenough

Daniel Patrick Carbone is a director who makes his viewers work. That's not meant to sound intimidating at all, because the rewards of his first...

Who Is Dayani Cristal?

Tom Birchenough

Gael Garcia Bernal follows an immigrant journey in moving drama-doc

DVD: Independencia

Graham Fuller

A Filipino New Wave classic draws on early cinema to attack American imperialism

The Lady from Shanghai

Katherine McLaughlin

Sweaty seamen and a seductive siren wreak havoc in Orson Welles’ confounding film noir


Jasper Rees

3D reboot of the myth is hard labour

The Purge: Anarchy

Nick Hasted

Sequel to thoughtful action-horror hit deepens the dystopia

DVD: Too Late Blues

Kieron Tyler

Jazz-world rollercoaster ride from John Cassavetes


Emma Simmonds

David Gordon Green's latest marks a return to form for the mighty Nicolas Cage

Some Like It Hot

David Benedict

Billy Wilder's peerless, deliriously funny sex-comedy is back on the big screen

I Am Divine

Karen Krizanovich

Putting the 'yes' into Polyester: team players Divine - Glenn Milstead - and John Waters

Six of the best: Film


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now

Grand Central

Kieron Tyler

Doomed love story set in a nuclear plant stars Léa Seydoux and Tahar Rahim

DVD: Harold and Maude

Kieron Tyler

Early Seventies black comedy which demonstrates love recognises no boundaries

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

Katherine McLaughlin

War, ooh ooh eee eee aah, what is it good for?

Norte, the End of History

Graham Fuller

Lav Diaz's four-hour masterpiece transposes 'Crime and Punishment' to the Philippines

DVD: Miss Violence

Katie Colombus

This disturbing depiction of patriarchal domination is difficult to watch

Finding Vivian Maier

Karen Krizanovich

A talented, mysterious street photographer emerges, posthumously, in this intriguing documentary

DVD: Under the Skin

Jasper Rees

Scarlett Johansson kills Glaswegian males

Mr Morgan's Last Love

Nick Hasted

Michael Caine is masterly in an old-age drama in romcom disguise


Emma Simmonds

Linklater unveils his labour of love, over a decade in the making, and it's a doozy

Goltzius and the Pelican Company

Emma Simmonds

Peter Greenaway is back and, yes, he's as wonderfully perverse as ever

Begin Again

Adam Sweeting

Summertime feelgood flick about love, loss and pop songs

DVD: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Kieron Tyler

A game of two halves in Wes Anderson’s hotel-set fantasia

theartsdesk in Moscow: Blood brothers on film

Tom Birchenough

No avoiding contemporary realities at the Moscow International Film Festival

DVD: Metro-Land

Nick Hasted

Betjeman takes the train into England's suburban oddness

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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