sat 21/05/2022

Film reviews, news & interviews

Benediction review - the world's worst wounds

Graham Fuller

Terence Davies’s Benediction is a haunting but uneven biopic of the World War I poet Siegfried Sassoon and a drama about the burden of incalculable loss.

Top Gun: Maverick review - Tom Cruise defies age and gravity

Adam Sweeting

Only 36 years later, Tom Cruise is back with his eagerly-awaited Top Gun sequel (it was delayed a couple of years by Covid), and there are loyal legions of fans out there desperate to see it. The original, some say, in some way helped to “define” the 1980s, grossing $360m and spinning off a monster multi-platinum soundtrack album, headlined by Berlin’s cheesy synthetic megaballad “Take My Breath Away”.

I Get Knocked Down, Brighton Festival review -...

Thomas H Green

One effect of the film I Get Knocked Down, a playfully constructed journey around the life of Chumbawamba vocalist Dunstan Bruce, is to remind that...

The Innocents review - they're just playing

Harry Thorfinn-George

The Innocents made a splash at Cannes in 2021 and it’s easy to see why. The Norwegian supernatural thriller, deftly written and directed by...

Blu-ray: I Am a Camera

Graham Fuller

The first film rendering of Christopher Isherwood’s experiences in early 1930s Berlin, I Am a Camera has been restored and released on Blu-ray to...

Vortex review – an old couple's road to nowhere

Graham Fuller

Gaspar Noé's unflinching depiction of dementia's merciless grip

Blu-ray: Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer

Nick Hasted

Viscerally uncomfortable genre landmark shows a mundane murderer's daily rounds

Everything Everywhere All at Once review - brace yourself

Saskia Baron

Pick 'n' mix assortment of martial arts, sci fi, family drama, and existential angst

The Quiet Girl review - finding a home away from home

Markie Robson-Scott

Colm Bairéad's beautiful, understated film is faithfully adapted from Claire Keegan's novella

This Much I Know to Be True review - Nick Cave’s redemption songs

Nick Hasted

Gripping performance and divine grace in Cave's latest forensic doc

Blu-ray: Round Midnight

Sebastian Scotney

The greatest movie about jazz ever? Bertrand Tavernier's collaboration with Dexter Gordon makes its case

Eleven Days in May review – children pay the price of war

Nick Hasted

Palestinian child victims fondly remembered in an understated anti-war documentary

Doctor Strange in The Multiverse Of Madness – not strange, not mad

Nick Hasted

Freakery falls flat as Marvel mislays its heart

Wild Men review - Danish-Norwegian black comedy

Saskia Baron

Slabs of Danish ham festoon the fjords of Norway

Barry & Joan review - quirky documentary about two vaudevillians

Veronica Lee

Masterclass in variety performance

Blu-ray: Escape from LA

Saskia Baron

John Carpenter's overblown sequel to his cult classic gets a sparkling re-release

Downton Abbey: A New Era review - will we ever see its like again?

Adam Sweeting

Julian Fellowes goes transcontinental with this valedictory visit to the Crawley family

Blu-ray: Jules et Jim

Mark Kidel

Jeanne Moreau at her most sublime in Truffaut's 1962 masterpiece

The Tale of King Crab review - an unholy fool's phantasmagoric progress

Nick Hasted

Tuscan rustic myths recast into a mildly magic realist, ruggedly shot odyssey

Happening review - searingly intimate, furious abortion drama

Nick Hasted

Pregnancy as warfare, as a young woman searches for a future in 1960s France

The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent review - a very funny meta-comedy

Sebastian Scotney

Nicolas Cage is delightful in self-ironicising mode

Ennio review - sprawling biog of the maestro of movie music

Adam Sweeting

Giuseppe Tornatore's Morricone documentary is almost too much of a good thing

The Wall of Shadows review - a holy Himalayan mountain and a Sherpa family's dilemma

Markie Robson-Scott

Spectacular documentary explores Sherpa porters' real feelings about their foreign clients

Playground review - bleak but brilliant schoolyard drama

Saskia Baron

Belgian director Laura Wandel hits all the right notes in her debut film

Blu-ray: The 400 Blows

Mark Kidel

Truffaut’s first feature, this French New Wave classic is as fresh as ever

Operation Mincemeat review - Colin Firth and co practise the fine art of deception

Adam Sweeting

Lots of great performances in John Madden's World War Two subterfuge saga

The Lost City review - terrific odd-couple comedy

Veronica Lee

Sandra Bullock and Channing Tatum star, Brad Pitt's cameo adds to the fun

The Northman review - Robert Eggers's elemental Viking epic

Markie Robson-Scott

Heads will roll: a violently over-the-top Norse revenge saga

Benedetta review - lesbian nuns' sex and faith collide

Nick Hasted

Paul Verhoeven's quaintly provocative, vivid account of Renaissance convent lust

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

Close Footnote

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