sun 23/11/2014

Film reviews, news & interviews

Seven days of sci-fi

Simon Munk

Welcome to the future; welcome to the ever-present now. Sci-fi is evergreen – perhaps because, unlike other genre forms, its primary focus is not one style or historic period – it is constantly holding a slightly warped mirror up to our present concerns and extrapolating, asking "is this what you want?", or "could we go here?" or even "this is what you really are".So while Westerns or crime thrillers can speak of universal human themes, or pose weighty questions, they are always anchored...

My Old Lady

Matt Wolf

An Off Broadway play that largely passed without notice in 2002 is now a movie poised to suffer the same fate, notwithstanding the fact that this starry three-hander marks the film directing debut of the prolific American dramatist Israel Horovitz, at the age of 75. So it's no surprise that the older generation gets championed in a script (adapted by Horovitz from his stage play) that finds Maggie Smith playing a nonagenarian who, she tells us, is too old for subtlety. In which case, someone...

DVD: Ida

Tom Birchenough

Pawel Pawlikowski took a leap into the unknown with Ida. The reasons for advance box office scepticism were clear: the film was black and white, made...

Mike Nichols, 1931-2014

Matt Wolf

He was at home with screen newcomers like Dustin Hoffman and Cher and knew how to handle such old pros as Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, while...

Winter Sleep

Tom Birchenough

This year’s Palme d’Or winner at Cannes, Turkish master Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep (Kiş Uykusu), is a monumental film. Not merely in its scale...

What We Do in the Shadows

Veronica Lee

Vampire fun from New Zealand

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part One

Emma Dibdin

Jennifer Lawrence returns in the series' best and most nuanced instalment to date

The Homesman

Emma Simmonds

Tommy Lee Jones' sophomore directorial effort is an elegiac and eccentric western

DVD: Spione

David Nice

Proto-Bond silent spy movie with virtuoso set-pieces from Fritz Lang

Get On Up

Ellin Stein

Heartfelt tribute to James Brown that’s not quite on the money


Graham Fuller

Eleventh-hour brinkmanship saves Paris in ultra-tense World War II drama

DVD: The Day the Earth Caught Fire

Kieron Tyler

Exciting and still-prescient British nuclear threat drama from 1961

Life Itself

Katherine McLaughlin

Two thumbs up for Steve James's moving tribute to film critic Roger Ebert

The Drop

Adam Sweeting

Tom Hardy and James Gandolfini excel in downbeat New York crime story

DVD: Human Capital

Nick Hasted

A dark Italian satire shows the human price of rampant wealth

theartsdesk at the Viennale

Demetrios Matheou

The vitality of Vienna's film festival prevents the city from resting on its laurels

Six of the best: Film


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now

The Imitation Game

Karen Krizanovich

Benedict Cumberbatch: a memorable Alan Turing

The Possibilities are Endless

Nick Hasted

Edwyn Collins' long road back from illness, imaginatively and affectingly told

Listed: Wall Flowers - The Best of Berlin


It divided a city, but the Wall produced great stories and songs, dramas and films. We pick our favourites


Tom Birchenough

Desperation engulfs in the best Russian film this century

DVD: Finding Vivian Maier

Kieron Tyler

Difficult questions dodged in documentary on fabulously talented but now-deceased photographer

Say When

Katherine McLaughlin

Keira Knightley shines in Lynn Shelton's quarter-life crisis comedy

DVD: Animal Farm

Graham Fuller

The 1954 animated feature caught the bleakness of Orwell's allegory

Leviathan: Attacking Putin's Russia From Inside the Whale

Tom Birchenough

Introducing the director Andrei Zvyagintsev and his Cannes-winning film


Adam Sweeting

Christopher Nolan's imperfect but spellbinding space odyssey

Mr Turner

Matt Wolf

Mike Leigh does JMW Turner - and his own artistry - proud

DVD: Godzilla

Adam Sweeting

Spectacular effects but little human interest in monster mash-up

The Fall of the House of Usher, Sound Affairs, Malvern

Stephen Walsh

Jean Epstein's twenties classic enriched by Cardiff composer's sonorous new score

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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