tue 31/05/2016

Film reviews, news & interviews

DVD: Penda’s Fen

Kieron Tyler

Penda’s Fen has so many constituent parts it could burst its seams. Almost-18 schoolboy Stephen Franklin is struggling with determining the nature of his sexuality. His school is about regimentation and promotes the army with drill, uniforms and expectations that commands are to be followed. With his father, the Reverend Franklin, Stephen has prolonged discussions about the nature of faith. The local landscape is mystical, and seems able to manifest historic and mythical figures from its own...

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Ed Owen

How much you enjoy this new version of Alice Through The Looking Glass will be directly proportional to how much you revere Lewis Carroll’s original text. If you love the original you will be perplexed, wondering if you have come into the correct screening. But if you don’t mind some liberties taken with the story or, more than liberties, if you don’t mind the original story kidnapped, wrapped in chains and thrown into a well, or if you just don’t know the book, then you might actually enjoy...

DVD: Battle for Sevastopol

Tom Birchenough

The latest in a long tradition of Russian Second World War films, Sergei Mokritsky’s Battle for Sevastopol itself emerged out of conflict. Initiated...

Money Monster

Saskia Baron

This is one of those films where it really is better not to have seen the trailer first. Much of the pleasure is in the narrative twists and the...

Brighton Festival: Zvizdal, Corn Exchange

Thomas H Green

Berlin are, misleadingly, an arts unit from Antwerp, Belgium. They’ve been around for well over a decade and major in artily constructed...

DVD: In a Lonely Place

Graham Fuller

Nicholas Ray's masterful thriller ponders the screenwriter's art and impossible love

Love & Friendship

Alexandra Coghlan

Kate Beckinsale shines in a stylish but uneven adaptation of Austen's early novella

DVD: Spotlight

Jasper Rees

Journalists are untarnished heroes in the Oscar-winning tale of the Boston Globe and the Catholic Church

Ivan’s Childhood

Tom Birchenough

A film master’s first steps: reappraising Tarkovsky

DVD: Janis – Little Girl Blue

Mark Kidel

From Texas über-normal to San Francisco rock chick: at last the Janis Joplin story

A Hologram for the King

Jasper Rees

Tom Hanks is the reason to see Dave Eggers's sentimental Saudi comedy

Six of the best: Film


theartsdesk recommends the half-dozen top movies out now

X-Men: Apocalypse

Adam Sweeting

Are we suffering from a surfeit of superheroes?

Sing Street

Matthew Wright

Dublin high school musical romcom is almost too winsome

DVD: A War

Kieron Tyler

Restrained moral drama from the director of ‘A Hijacking’


Graham Fuller

Riveting drama about five Turkish sisters under house arrest

Green Room

Nick Hasted

Nazis vs Punks in a breakthrough thriller short on dread

DVD: The Last Command

David Nice

Emil Jannings inspires pity as a Russian general reduced to Hollywood extra

Everybody Wants Some!!

Nick Hasted

'Dazed and Confused' director subverts the campus sex comedy

Brighton Festival: Brighton – Symphony of a City, Brighton Dome

Nick Hasted

A cinematic cross-section of life in London-by-Sea

First Person: 'I am one of only three percent'

Susanna White

Female film directors are an industry minority. With her second film out this week, Susanna White argues it's time for a change

DVD: Youth

Jasper Rees

Paolo Sorrentino meditates on old age with Caine, Keitel and, er, Maradona

Our Kind of Traitor

Jasper Rees

Ewan McGregor is an accidental nemesis in another Le Carré tirade against the establishment

Arabian Nights

Graham Fuller

Miguel Gomes's voluminous three-part opus laments Portugal's plight via Scheherazade

Florence Foster Jenkins

Matt Wolf

Meryl Streep shines as New York's unforgettably talentless soprano

DVD: Room

Jasper Rees

Brie Larson won an Oscar, but there's more to this adaptation of Emma Donoghue's novel

I Saw the Light

Matt Wolf

Darkness risible: Tom Hiddleston stars as Hank Williams in lacklustre biopic

Who was St Clair Bayfield?

Jasper Rees

Florence Foster Jenkins's biographer tells the true story of her common-law husband, played by Hugh Grant in Stephen Frears's new film

Knight of Cups

Saskia Baron

Terrence Malick's first movie shot in LA is a star-studded disappointment

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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