wed 08/04/2020

Film reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: Buster Keaton - Three Films, Vol. 2

Graham Rickson

These three films come from Buster Keaton’s mid-1920s purple patch, the high spots of which prompted critic Roger Ebert to describe Keaton as “arguably the greatest actor-director in the history of the movies”. High praise indeed.

Camarón: The Film, Netflix review – the life story of an influential and passionate cantaor

Kathryn Reilly

The scenes at flamenco legend Camarón de la Isla’s chaotic, thronged funeral which open this lovingly-made documentary give some idea of the singer’s popularity and the shock at his death at the age of just 41 in 1992.

DVD/Blu Ray: The Elephant Man

Mark Kidel

David Lynch’s second feature, his only period movie, is as good as anything else he has ever done, building on the claustrophobia of his first,...

The Platform review - timely, violent and...

Owen Richards

Horror has always been a good vehicle for satire, from John Carpenter’s They Live to Jordan Peele’s Get Out. Some metaphors opt for the subtle...

Four Kids and It review – a family friendly yarn...

Joseph Walsh

With over one hundred books to her name and several hugely popular TV spin-offs, including the Tracy Beaker adventures, Jacqueline Wilson takes a no-...

Bacurau review – way-out western

Demetrios Matheou

Sonia Braga and Udo Kier star in a genre mash-up with lashings of spaghetti sauce

The Whalebone Box review - documentary through unreliable surrealism

Owen Richards

A different kind of road trip with artist Andrew Kötting

DVD: The Street

Tom Birchenough

Hoxton worlds: insightful, poignant documentary registers social change in a London community

DVD: Children's Film Foundation Bumper Box Vol 2

Graham Rickson

More buried treasure from the CFF archive: a treat for young and old alike

The Perfect Candidate review - seeking status for women in Saudi

Tom Birchenough

Haifaa Al Mansour follows 'Wadjda' with a new tale of female independence in Saudi Arabia

Vivarium review – housing ladder to hell

Nick Hasted

Sharp if limited horror allegory of property and parenthood

System Crasher review – a compelling portrait of childhood violence and pain

Joseph Walsh

Nora Fingscheid’s social realist drama about a troubled 9-year-old is as tough as it is tender

Blu-ray: Kansas City

Graham Fuller

Robert Altman's jazz-stoked 1930's homage to his hometown bares its violent underbelly

Fire Will Come review - slow-burning Spanish beauty

Nick Hasted

Rewarding rumination on a rural firestarter's return

Blu-ray: Chained for Life

Graham Fuller

A welcome though never preachy satire for the age of narcissism

Director Marjane Satrapi: ‘The real question is do you like everyone? No? So, why should everyone like you?’

Jill Chuah Masters

The forthright 'Radioactive' filmmaker on intelligence, ignorance and Marie Curie

The Truth review - a potent Franco-Japanese pairing

Tom Birchenough

Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche star in Hirokazu Kore-eda's Gallic transfer

DVD/Blu-ray: Beat the Devil

Graham Rickson

John Huston's indulgent curio returns, replete with starry cast

The Best Films Out Now


theartsdesk recommends the top movies of the moment

Run review – wheels on fire in Scotland

Graham Fuller

Dreams of leaving flavored by Bruce Springsteen's 'Born to Run'

Calm with Horses review - a stirring debut

Saskia Baron

Stark Irish drama with a sympathetic heart

Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am review - a fitting tribute to a masterful storyteller

Joseph Walsh

Engaging and comprehensive documentary capturing the brilliance of Morrison's work

Misbehaviour review - crowd-pleaser tackles Seventies sexism

Joseph Walsh

Keira Knightley and Gugu Mbatha-Raw star in a beauty pageant comedy

And Then We Danced review - glorious Georgian gay coming-of-age tale

Tom Birchenough

Big heart and winning story distinguish this Caucasian youth dance piece

DVD/Blu-ray: Last Holiday

Graham Rickson

Alec Guinness shines in underappreciated black comedy

Onward review - do you believe in magic?

Jill Chuah Masters

Pixar excels at brotherly love in a familiar but charm-filled family quest

The Photograph review - star-powered romance mostly simmers, sometimes soars

Jill Chuah Masters

Lakeith Stanfield and Issa Rae star in Stella Meghie's light-soaked love story

Military Wives review - the surprising true story of the women who rocked the charts

Joseph Walsh

'Full Monty' director Peter Cattaneo returns with another feel-good BritCom

Escape from Pretoria review - fun but facile prison-break drama

Adam Sweeting

Lightweight treatment of a true story from the apartheid era

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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