tue 27/07/2021

Film reviews, news & interviews

Off the Rails review - go for the scenery, not the script

Matt Wolf

Mamma Mia! hovers unhelpfully over every frame of Off the Rails, a road movie of sorts in which three women make a music-fueled pilgrimage to Mallorca to honour the wishes of a fourth friend, who has died before time of cancer.

Old review - time flies in tropical island mystery

Adam Sweeting

You can rely on M Night Shyamalan to deliver supernatural shocks and freakish events, but the alternative-reality nature of his projects demands suspension of disbelief. It’s great when it works (The Sixth Sense or Split), but a bit of a bummer when it doesn’t.

Riders of Justice review - revenge, coincidence...

Markie Robson-Scott

All events are products of a series of preceding events. Or is life just a chain of coincidences? And if so, what’s the point in anything? Danish...

Blu-ray: Harry Birrell Presents Films of Love...

Graham Rickson

What we don’t learn about filmmaker Harry Birrell is as tantalising as what is actually revealed during the course of Matt Pinder’s beguiling 90-...

Two of Us review - a lesbian love story with a...

Markie Robson-Scott

“Do you have a problem with old dykes?” demands Nina (the superbly ferocious Barbara Sukowa) of a bland, nervous young estate agent, halfway through...

Summer of Soul review - glorious documentary combines music and black American history

Saskia Baron

Blistering concert performances from 1969 with insightful interviews and archive

Blu-ray: The Night of the Hunter

Graham Rickson

Charles Laughton’s only film as a director is a dark thriller, both poetic and chilling

Tove review - tasteful portrait of the Moomins creator

Saskia Baron

Nicely made lesbian love story about Tove Jansson's evolution as a romantic and as an artist

Mosley: It's Complicated review - flattering portrait of a clever and ruthless power-broker

Adam Sweeting

Michael Shevloff's documentary leaves too many stones unturned

Blu-ray: West 11

Graham Rickson

A Notting Hill noir - Michael Winner's breakthrough is flawed but fascinating

French Exit review - Michelle Pfeiffer faces mortality

Matt Wolf

Mother-son drama is both arresting and arch

The Tomorrow War, Amazon Prime - futuristic blockbuster outstays its welcome

Adam Sweeting

Chris McKay's film isn't a disaster, but could have been a lot more

Hairspray, London Coliseum review - brighter and more welcome than ever

Gary Naylor

Popular London and Broadway musical soars anew

theartsdesk Q&A: choreographer Christopher Scott

Jenny Gilbert

The creator of the sizzling dance scenes for 'In The Heights' on how they came about

theartsdesk Q&A: composer and conductor Carl Davis

Graham Rickson

The silent film specialist on shot lists, bass drums and the perils of projection speeds

Blu-ray: Flowers of Shanghai

Daniel Baksi

Hsiao-hsien's period piece is the director at his most dazzling

In the Heights review - to life, Lin-Manuel Miranda-style

Matt Wolf

2008 Tony winning musical transfers joyously to the screen

The Reason I Jump review - compelling and controversial

Joseph Walsh

Director Jerry Rothwell explores the lives of four non-speaking autistic people

Blu-ray: Lake Mungo

Graham Fuller

Eerie Australian faux documentary probes the nature of grief, the value of fake images, and suburban decadence

Blu-ray: The Hands of Orlac (Orlacs Hände)

Mark Kidel

A little-known masterpiece of Austrian expressionist cinema

The Father review - gripping dementia drama

Tom Baily

Anthony Hopkins and Olivia Colman star in Florian Zeller's Oscar-winning film adaptation

Nobody review - Bob Odenkirk reinvents himself as all-action dynamo

Adam Sweeting

Blood-splattered thriller keeps it taut, tense and tight

Shiva Baby review - sex, lies and rugelach

Markie Robson-Scott

Trapped in a Jewish family gathering: Emma Seligman's debut feature is full of life

Bank Job review - an inspirational look at finance

Sarah Kent

How to beat the system and laugh all the way to the bank

Dark Days, Luminous Nights, Manchester Collective, The White Hotel, Salford review - a sense of Hades

Robert Beale

Musicians and artists find out where the bodies are buried

Blu-ray: The World of Wong Kar Wai

Daniel Baksi

A set of seven magical films from Hong Kong's master auteur

A Quiet Place Part II review - noise abatement sequel

Graham Fuller

Family vs alien monsters franchise sustains suspense

Blu-ray: Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Saskia Baron

The cult high-school comedy that broke the mould

Blu-ray: Jungle Fever

Saskia Baron

Spike Lee's provocative portrait of love across the racial divide

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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