Posts Tagged ‘DVD’

The Danish Collector: From Delacroix to Gauguin (2021)

Dir: David Bickerstaff | UK ART Doc

A private collection of modern art including works from Delacroix, Monet and Gauguin forms the subject of this latest documentary from David Bickerstaff, best known for bringing international art exhibitions to the big screen.

The Danish Collector: From Delacroix to Gauguin shows how a self made man and his savvy wife saved a treasure trove of priceless paintings from the ravages of war in Europe by transferring them to neutral Denmark.

Wilhelm Peter Henning Hansen (1868-1934) rose from modest beginnings to amass a fortune from the insurance business. At the age of 25 he bought his first painting, Monet’s ‘Waterloo Bridge’ (1903) exploring changing light and fog in the haze of industrial development, and by 1912 Hansen’s French realist and impressionist collection was well under way as he set out to acquire twelve works from each of his chosen artists mapping the development of Impressionism from its origins and early influences of Ingres and Delacroix. These included paintings by Sisley, Pisarro, Monet, Corot, Corbet and Renoir and works by female Impressionist painters Berthe Morisot and Eva Gonzales.

When war broke out in 1914 he capitalised on the conflict by sending the paintings to his wife Henny in Denmark where they were housed in a specially designed country house in Ordrupsgaard (near Copenhagen). He later joined a consortium of middle-class Danish collectors whose aim was to bring outstanding French art to Scandinavia during in a wave of Civic pride.

Accompanied by an occasional score of strings and more romantic vibes, Bickerstaff’s agile camera lingers over the detail – particularly lovely is Manet’s 1882 ‘Basket of Pears’ – as well as giving a broad-brush approach to the works in their various settings, interweaving informative on-screen interviews from relevant curators.

Eschewing a straightforward narrative the style here is to gather together the various specialists and then give them free rein to talk about their own research and insights. This gives the doc a random, freewheeling yet highly informative quality as the curators go off on their different tangents.

After an intro from London’s Royal Academy chief Axel Ruger we swing into the gallery where Bickerstaff takes us on a fleeting tour of the exhibition, double hanging reflecting the way Hansen hung the pictures in his own home, whetting our appetite for what is to follow.

Anna Ferrari takes over telling us how Henny Hansen realised that the works acquired by her husband were becoming increasingly becoming valuable amongst collectors, and shipping them back to Denmark. The couple were particularly keen on Monet’s ‘garden’ period and Sisley’s landscapes paintings that mapped a journey down the Seine, with smoking chimneys charting the burgeoning industrial era, his ‘September Morning’ (1887) shows leaves tussling in the fresh breeze, with the sky dominating. The film travels from London to Paris, the cradle of the Belle Époque, with its experimental artist scene, and then on to Denmark where Ordupsgaard’s curator Anne Brigitte Fonsmark enlightens with a tour of the house and its specially designed Danish furniture complimented by flower arrangements gathered from the lavish gardens, and the recently added extension by the later Zaha Hadid.

Art historian Professor Frances Fowle makes the most impact with her amusing stories about the illustrious women Impressionist collectors namely the Welsh sisters Gwendoline and Margaret Davies who built up the country’s largest and most important series of French Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works in the 1920s and bequeathed it to the National Museum of Wales, and Kentucky philanthropist Berthe Palmer (and her husband Potter) whose collection now forms the core of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Impressionist collection. MT

NOW ON DVD

Tales of Hoffmann (1951) **** Mubi

Dir. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Cast: Moira Shearer, Ludmilla Tcherina, Ann Ayars, Robert Rounseville, Leonide Massine

UK 1951, 138 min.

Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann was his final, unfinished work, his only serious opera. After the success of THE RED SHOES, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger looked for another ballet related project; in particular Pressburger, whose first love was music, wanted to realise the idea of “a composed film”. Although Moira Shearer, the star of The Red Shoes. had made clear she was never going to act in another film, Pressburger eventually talked her into appearing in The Tales, which was introduced as an ‘Archers’ production in October 1949; Alexander Korda’s ‘British Lion Film’ would distribute.

The poet Hoffmann (Rounseville) falls in love with Stella (Shearer), a ballerina. Watching her on stage, his leaves and wanders into a tavern where a group of students ask him to tell them stories. His three stories are all connected by disappointed love: Olympia (Shearer) turns out to be a mechanical doll, Giuletta (Tcherina) wants to steal Hoffmann’s soul, and finally, Antonia (Ayars), a consumptive opera singer, dies while singing an aria. Hoffmann himself collapses at the end of his last story, just when Stella enters the tavern. She is lead away by Hoffmann’s eternal rival. But the muse of Poetry appears, and beckons Hoffmann to chose a life in the service of literature.

The film’s music is conducted by Sir Thomas Beeacham; of the cast, only Ayars and Rounseville sang. This was not a problem, since the film was shot entirely as a silent film (later to be dubbed in a studio), on the old silent stage at Shepperton studios, the largest in Europe, which had been constructed for Things to Come in 1936. Shooting took place from July to the end of September 1950. When Korda was first approached by Powell and Pressburger about the project, he asked (innocently) if any of the film makers had actually seen a stage version. Powell admitted he hadn’t, while Pressburger could claim to have played the second violin in the orchestra during performances in Prague, but “from where I sat, I could not see much”(!). Korda duly bought them tickets for a performance of the opera in Vienna, but their plane was delayed, they landed in the Russian zone, and had to wait for visas into the British side, where the performance was being held – they entered the theatre finally as Antonia was giving up her ghost.

The film was premiered on 1st April 1951 in New York, and seventeen days later in London, Queen Mary, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart being in the audience. Critical acclaim was great, but the film just recouped its production costs, being only shown in selected cinemas. On April 20th, it graced the Cannes Film Festival line-up where it won two awards.

According to Powell, he had a fight with Korda and Pressburger, who both wanted to cut the third act to enhance its chances of winning the Palme d’Or. Since there were only two days between the London and Cannes performance, there wa hardly time for a recut – and Kevin Macdonald, who wrote Pressburger’s biography, claims “Powell wanted to see things as he saw them, not as they happened”. But The Tales of Hoffmann was the beginning of the end for the working relationship of the Powell/Pressburger duo, they seemed to have been a lack of trust, and they went their own separate their professional ways. AS

NOW ON MUBI

 

Dede (2017) **** Georgian Retrospective DOCLISBOA 2020

Dir.: Mariam Khatchvani; Cast: George Babluani, Nukri Khatchvani, Natia Vibliani, Girshel Chelidze; Georgia/Croatia/UK/Ireland/Netherlands/Qatar 2017, 97 min.

This first feature from Georgian documentarian Mariam Khatchvani is based on true events that took place at the outset of the Georgian Civil War in the remote mountainous community of Svaneti, far removed from the modern world. It pictures a patriarchal society where forced marriages, pride and tradition dictate the code of daily life. Dina is a young woman promised by her draconian grandfather to David, one of the soldiers returning from the war. Once a marriage arrangement is brokered by two families, failure to follow through on the commitment is unthinkable.

Khatchvani uses an evocative visual approach with minimal dialogue to tell the story of this woman essentially trapped by men. Gegi (Babluani) has just saved his best friend’s David’s life. Ironically this leaves David (N. Khtachvani) free to marry Dina (Vibliani). But in reality Gegi is in love with her – the two fell for each other, though their original meeting was so brief they never even exchanged names. When Dina reveals her true feelings to David, he simply replies: “you will marry me, even if you are unhappy for the rest of your life”. David then suggests Gegi join him for a hunting trip which ends in tragedy leaving this intelligent woman thwarted by the controlling men in her life.

DoP Mindia Esadze impresses with towering panoramas of the mountains, and the more domestic-based clashes between progress and tradition. Babluani is really convincing in her passionate fight for happiness, even though she hardly raises her voice. 

Khatchvani shows the backward life for Georgian women in a country where traditional Spiritualism and the Muslim faith both conspire against them, and men end arguments by simply stating: “a woman has no say in this matter”. The director is living proof that women can succeed – with this atmospheric arthouse indie made on a restricted budge. The feature leaves only one question: since both fatal accidents were shown off-camera, we are left wondering whether Girshel might have been the perpetrator in both cases. AS

SCREENING AT DOCLISBOA, GEORGIAN RETROSPECTIVE 2020 | AVAILABLE ON AMAZON VIDEO & PRIME, DVD (AMAZON) VIMEO ON DEMAND AND INDIEFLIX

 

Kaleidoscope **** DVD Bluray

Dir.: Rupert Jones; Cast: Toby Jones, Anne Reid, Sinead Matthews, Cecilia Noble; UK 2016, 100 min.

Debut director/writer Rupert Jones has crafted a sublime psychological thriller, enhanced by yet another standout performance from (his brother) Toby Jones as the tortured anti-hero.

Set in a large London Housing Estate, Carl (Jones) lives in a pokey 1970s style flat after being released from prison the year before. One morning Carl wakes up, and finds the body of a young woman he vaguely remembers as Abby (Mathews), in his bathroom. He seems to recall how they ending up dancing together before he possibly locked her in the bathroom. The stairs outside his flat become a kaleidoscope, strangling him in always new twits and turns. The police show up, and so does a helpful neighbour, Monique (Noble). Toby is convinced that he has done something wrong – but can’t work out exactly what or why. When his mother Aileen (Reid) invites herself over – very much against his will – images of Abbey and Aileen co-mingle, Toby certainly suffers from displacement activity – a repressed guilt complex, which will revealed in the final reel.

This is 10 Rililngton Place meets Kafka’s The Trial: Jones even looks spookily very much like Richard Attenborough as the murderous landlord. The grimy atmosphere in the flat is another parallel – but whilst Attenborough’s John Christie was sheer evil, Carl is suffering from a trauma. He is hectically trying to cover up the traces of whatever he might have done; objects, he wants to destroy or find, becoming his enemies. Carl is paralysed, whenever he meets authority, be it the police, or his boss at the garden centre. His anxiety increases the longer his mother stays in his flat, and when she reveals that’s she has bone cancer and wants to spend a lottery win on a last family visit to Canada with him, Carl is close to breaking point.

Let’s just be clear over one thing, and director Jones underlines it – “Kaleidoscope is a psychological thriller, a tragedy, but not a horror feature”. The score, using a harp concerto by the German/American composer Albert Zabel, really intensifies Carl’s desperate state of mind.  There are also echoes here of Bernhard Hermann’s score for Hitchcock’s Vertigo: But whilst Scottie was suffering from Vertigo (and love sickness), Carl is haunted by a past, that remains partly an enigma. DoP Philipp Blaubach (Hush) creates elliptical camera movements, showing Carl permanently fleeing from himself, whilst the long tracking shots mark him like a hunted animal. Overall, Jones has made the most of his limited budget, avoiding any gore, and staying consistently within the parameters of unsettling psychological drama. AS

On DVD/BD release 23 September 2019

The Tribe (Plemya) 2014 | Bfi player

Director/Writer: Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy

Cast: Grigoriy Fesenko, Yana Novikova, Rosa Babiy, Alexander Dsiadevich

Ukraine Drama 132mins

How many single-take sex scenes in cinema today show the pair going at it in multiple positions over an appreciable amount of time? Answer: at least one—that being in Cannes prize-winner THE TRIBE (PLEMYA), the debut feature by palpably talented Ukrainian writer-director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, who returns to Locarno Film Festival this year as a jury member overseeing its Pardo di domani competition, having won a prize at the festival in 2012 for his impressive mid-length film NUCLEAR WASTE.

Coming back to this sex scene though: teenagers Sergey (Grigory Fesenko) and Anya (Yana Novikova) make love on the cold, hard floor of a boiler room in the boarding school at which they both reside. It’s an unsentimental, rather passionless scene that ends with unexpected post-coital tenderness—Anya kissing Sergey with previously elusive sincerity—all the more so considering it begun with a monetary transaction. Why money? Because Sergey has for the first time just escorted Anya and her roommate Svetka (Rosa Babiy) to a nearby overnight parking lot for long-distance truck drivers, who routinely pay to have sex with the two teenagers. Witnessing the ease with which Anya accepts this scenario, Sergey fancies a go himself, and duly pays up.

There’s a twist. The whole scene, like the whole film, is dialogue-free: Sergey and Anya are both deaf mutes, attending a specialised school where new arrival Sergey has quickly fallen in with the wrong crowd—the same lot who, under the influence of their woodwork teacher (Alexander Panivan), mug innocent people for their booze and money at night, who illegally sell trashy souvenirs on local train services, and who are making money from Anya and Svetka’s exploits.

Exploits? Make that exploitation. THE TRIBE is all about the various strategies by which people are both impacting and impacted upon, how they adapt to and affect their social environment—whether through an organic chameleonism or something less subtle, such as intimidation and violence. Hierarchies are unavoidable. Upon arrival, Sergey’s lonely procession through the school canteen culminates in a pupil with Down Syndrome stealing his lunch, only for the head bully to spit on the burger and summon Sergey outside to take him under his wing. Soon after, Sergey must undergo an initiation, which entails him having to fight off his new friends—which he does so with surprising ease.

Communication goes entirely unsubtitled; to anyone unfamiliar with sign language, the literal content of the film’s many conversations will be a struggle. This is the point, of course: compare the aforementioned school canteen scene with similar examples in, say, Gus Van Sant’s ELEPHANT (2003) to realise the voluminous texture and timbre given by a wildtrack naturally composed of an indiscriminate sea of vocal chords. Consequently, this is an intensely and interpretably visual film, effortlessly blending immobile establishing shots with elegant Steadicam movements to simultaneously echo the characters’ own sensorial limitations and subsequent negotiation of the world through other, heightened gestures. Working with cinematographer (and editor) Valentyn Vasyanovych, Slaboshpytskiy opts for long-takes and, frequently, wide compositions in order to allow his performers full expressive range.

Soundlessness begets ambiguity. Without the benefit of sonic cues, otherwise disturbing incidents have a deadpan absurdity. Sergey’s initiation sequence begins with its participants warming up with comical shadow sparring and daft shoulder-nudges, and the fight itself, unfolding without edits, has a kind of emotionally constipated choreography. It’s as if we’re watching, out of earshot, the dance floor at a silent disco. There’s even something morbidly funny in the harmless way in which an otherwise vicious attack on someone walking home with their groceries one evening is rendered like a cartoon—or in that scene when one character is run over by a slowly reversing lorry as he smokes a cigarette completely unable to hear it approaching.

Obviously, to feel morbid funniness in a scene is not to claim there is an easy, go-to emotional response to it. Dragged into such tonal registers, we ourselves are tricked. And, as THE TRIBE continues, its silences seem to become more protracted, its tracking shots more suggestive, its scenes grimmer and darker. It takes a certain sort of director to alternate between strangely sweet moments, such as that in which a creepy official shares his innocent holiday photos with two teens he’s presumably paying for sex, and scenes of unthinkable physical and mental stress—such as that horrible scene in which Anya pays for and endures a backstreet abortion.

Just as the consequences of the latter scene will take time to register for Anya, one realises with belated horror—and, yes, excitement—that the violent underpinnings of THE TRIBE’s earlier scenes were glaring clues all along, setting in motion a sequence of events that can only end in the most hilariously heinous way possible. ©MICHAEL PATTISON

THE TRIBE IS ON BfiPlayer | SUTHERLAND AWARD WINNER – LONDON FILM FESTIVAL

The Phoenix Incident (2015)

Dir.: Keith Arem

Cast: Troy Baker, Yuri Lowenthal, Jamie Tisdale, Mason Shea Joyce

USA 2015, 78 min.

First time feature film writer/director Keith Arem (better known to addicts of video games, having directed 50 titles among them Call of Duty II), has created a horror-flick based on tries and trusted ingredients: found footage, fake-interviews with relatives of victims and the cover-up agents of the military establishment: The Phoenix Incident, based loosely on real events in Phoenix, Arizona on 13.3.1997, when UFOs were spotted over the hills, is tacky to the extent that bargain-basement hardly captures its impact.

Four young men get lost on the evening of the UFO sightings in the hills of Phoenix; trying to hide in an army base they are captured and abducted by aliens whose unimaginative laughable looks are symptomatic for the whole production. Chief witness for their fate is a violent cop beater who is mostly drunk and stoned and has to spent a lifetime in prison as part of the cover up. Why the aliens decided to leave him behind is one of many unanswered questions.

Even the pure entertainment value of The Phoenix Incident is so minimal that it does not justify much attention: it is an unconvincing parody of a genre, but the mainly involuntary laughs are at its own expense. AS

THE PHOENIX INCIDENT IS RELEASED DIGITAL HD ON 31 AUGUST AND DVD ON 7 SEPTEMBER 2015

 

Still (2014) | DVD release

Writer/Director: Simon Blake

Cast: Aidan Gillen, Jonathan Slinger, Amanda Mealing, Elodie Yung, Sonny Green, Kate Ashfield

97min  Drama | Thriller  UK

The “North London father & son thriller” is becoming somewhat of a sub-genre these days but STILL has Aidan Gillen and Amanda Mealing to distinguish it from the rest of the pack. It establishes the unmarried middle-aged London male as a slick of slime that crawled out from under the promise of youth; lost its way and attached itself to any available female desperate enough to give it house room, due to the dearth of desirable males in the capital.

So having stamped his story with a nicely authentic narrative, Simon Blake sets it in the noirish shadows of Dickensian Islington where our anti-hero, Tom Carver (Gillen), has snared himself an Asian babe in the shape of fashionista Christina, played by sparky newcomer, Elodie Yung. While his intelligent and beautifully-presented ex-wife Rachel (an accomplished Mealing) is bemoaning the dearth of partner material, Carver gloats into his whisky glass; not even having to leave the comfort of his sordid front room to sell his photos, depicting grim views of windswept beaches and street kids – in black and white, wouldn’t you know.

STILL is a tragedy of modern London. This divorced couple, once happy, have now lost their love and their only child under the wheels of a hit-n-run driver and while Rachel mourns her son with grace and philosophy, leaving flowers on his grave; Carver has descended into a smog of self-pity where only the pert-bummed Christina “makes him smile” in his brief periods of sobriety.

Behind their tears of bereavement lies a thinly-veiled well of anger, waiting to wash through the toxic streets of N1. Rachel conceals hers with chippy sardony, while Carver just drinks and smokes into oblivion, hanging out with his well-meaning friend and hack, Ed (an equally low-life Jonathan Slinger) who is trying to raise awareness of the crime by putting a piece together for the local paper, the Police having lost interest in the case. A mixed-race juvenile gang appear to be involved in the boy’s death, and our curb-crawling duo, Tom and Ed, follow these likely lads through the streets, hoping for clues to nail them.

Although well-scripted with some witty dialogue, this slow-burn, rather predictable story lacks the tension to keep us on our toes – playing out as more of mood piece centering on the physical and emotional implosion of Carver – which may have solid appeal to overseas audiences, ignorant of this London species and fascinated to understand how it evolves, but to those of us already in the know, even its short-running time of 97 minutes feels like an angst-ridden tooth-pull. Simon Blake’s sure-footed debut shows promise with his camera angles and expert casting. It will be interesting to see how he handles different material. MT

ON DVD RELEASE FROM 24 August 2015

.

Story of My Death (2013) | Historia de la meva mort | DVD release

Director/Writer: Albert Serra

Cast: Viçenç Altaió, Eliseu Huertas, Lluis Serrat, Montse Triola

148min   Catalan with English subtitles   Drama

Purportedly a metaphor for the journey from Enlightenment to Romanticism, Albert Serra’s Golden Leopard winner is a deliciously louche and languorous affair that plays on the title of Giacomo Casanova’s autobiography “Histoire de Ma Vie”. Distilled from 400 hours of freewheeling footage to a shimmering strand of candlelit and moonlit reverie, it is based on an imagined meeting between Casanova and Dracula that takes place in 18th-century Switzerland and Romania. Sensitively re-creating the leisurely pace of the era, the film opens with an al fresco supper between paramours.  Scenes in Casanova’s boudoir follow, where the raffishly cheeky Catalan Marquis (Viçenç Altaió) gives decadent rein to his sensual appetite for salacious and philosophical badinage alone with his newly-acquired manservant, Pompeu (Lluis Serrat), while imbibing and grazing on grapes and completing his oblutions. Embarking on a pastoral journey that will lead beyond the Carpathian mountains to Transylvania, he is joined by said manservant and a motley crew of subservient female acolytes.

Altaió portrays Casanova as gently playful rather than sexually predatory which is possibly how he manages to satisfy his vast sexual appetite; coming across as naughtily risqué rather than oppressively letcherous: it’s an irresistible combination that evokes impish seduction rather than tyrannical oppression reflecting the cultured gentility of the age of Enlightenment.

The  tone slips sinuously into Gothic Horror in the  Transylvanian segment where we meet the raven-haired, elegantly-coiffed Count  (Eliseu Huertas)- a sociopath of a different colour;  presenting himself as a gift-horse to the unfortunate females in the travelling group and later devouring them with an horrendous volte-face nod to 19th century Imperialism.  Here Casanova’s saucy superficiality is stretched to the limit as he suffers a downturn in his fortunes (redolent of Barry Lyndon) in the backlash of violent vampires as the narrative down-spirals into valium-enfused blood-letting.

This inventive twist on a classic legend with its inspired performance from Viçenç Altaió is sumptuously filmed with exquisite attention to period detail. The luminescent set-pieces are masterpieces in their own right marking Albert Serra as a creative genius in of the art of arthouse filmmaking. See this when you have time to contemplate its rare treasures. MT

STORY OF MY DEATH WAS REVIEWED AT THE LONDON FILM FESTIVAL 2014 | NOW ON DVD

She’s Funny that Way (2014) | DVD release

SHES_FUNNY_THAT_WAY_DVD_3DDirector: Peter Bogdanovich

Cast: Jennifer Aniston, Imogen Poots, Owen Wilson, Quentin Tarantino, Kathryn Hahn, Rhys Ifans, Tatum O’Neal

93min   US   Comedy

Peter Bogdanovich made his long-awaited return at Venice 2014 with this blast of humour that feels quaintly dated but welcome nonetheless amongst an array of, frankly, second-rate festival dramas. Co-scripted with his ex-wife Louise Stratten in her screenwriting debut, it has a solid comedy cast of Owen Wilson, Jennifer Aniston and Imogen Poots. Not to mention Rhys Ifans.

Although set in a contempo Manhattan, this has the classic feel of a Woody Allen film from the early eighties and it also shares the rich, honeyed visuals of the era. The narrative, too, feels dated; locked in a bygone era of the casting couch, which is the thrust of its central duo, played by Imogen Poots – as spunky wannabe actress cum call girl Izzy –  who finds herself involved with a married film director, Arnold Albertson (a reticent Owen Wilson), after entertaining him in her bedside manner the night before she gives him an audition for a play. So smitten is he (and so wealthy), in his plausible, but gentlemanly midlife crisis, that he offers to take her off “the streets”.

It just so happens that Izzy has another andropausal admirer in the shape of Judge Predergast (Austin Pendleton) who shares the same shrink, Jane Claremont (a fabulous Jennifer Aniston) whose own lover (Will Forte) is the playwright of the piece that Izzy’s trying for. The delightfully dotty Kathryn Hahn plays Arnold’s wife who’s keen on Seth (Rhys Ifans), the main star of this play in question. As so the twisty tale goes on with a few too many plotholes to mention, but a few laughs too on the way.

This is old-fashioned but good-value entertainment, as long as you don’t take it too seriously – there’s even a cameo appearance from Bogdanovitch himself. Aniston and Poots act their socks off to great effect and the support performances are more than decent. SHE’S FUNNY THAT WAY is pleasant, light-hearted comedy. And for a simple night out, it does certainly does the trick. MT

REVIEWED AT VENICE 2015 LA BIENNALE 71 EDITION | ON DVD FROM 10th AUGUST

 

Of Girls and Horses (2014) | DVD release

Writer| Director: Monika Treut

Cast: Ceci Chuh, Alissa Wilms, Vanida Karun

82min. Drama. German

Troubled teenager Alex is sent as an intern to a German horse ranch, in the hope that the space will give her time to think and sort herself out. At first the wildly remote location away from her friends seems like a nightmare but gradually, as her instructor Nina teaches her to train the horses, she starts to enjoy the fresh air and peace in the company of beautiful animals especially when Kathy arrives. Treut  teases out natural performances from all three girls in this sumptuously filmed drama that has just enough tension below the surface to pique our interest in the simple but seductive storyline. MT

NOW ON DVD

The Devil’s Violinist (2013) | DVD | VOD release

Director: Bernard Rose

Cast: David Garrett, Jared Harris, Joely Richardson, Veronica Ferres, Christian McKay

114min  Musical Biopic    UK|US

After some interesting outings with experimental fare and psychological dramas, the most successful being Boxing Day, Bernard Rose returns to the musical biopic genre where he found fame twenty years ago with Immortal Beloved, with Gary Oldman’s dynamite turn as Beethoven. Sumptuously mounted but poorly cast, for the most part, in THE DEVIL’S VIOLINIST he has selected David Garrett for the lead. While Garrett is a popular figure for his musical talent and raffish good looks, his acting lacks the charisma and seductive elan needed for the role of the maverick Italian music-maker, Niccoló Paganini.

In 1830 things are not going well for Paganini. The opening scenes showcase his darkly tousled locks adorning the satin pillow in a hotel where he has failed to pay the bill. In comes a saturnine Urbani (Jared Harris, with a curiously rasping voice more akin to League of Gentleman’s Papa Lazarou than an Italian benefactor), posing as a dubious financier and offering his services as a manager. Before you can say ‘Machiavelli’, success arrives in spades as Paganini cuts a musical swathe through Europe womanising as he goes, while Urbani, ever at his side, looks on hissing “take your medicine”.

In London, a strand of forced feminism is interwoven into the narrative referencing a groundswell of apparently disenchanted (or spurned?) women seeking to ambush Paganini’s purported debauchery. Paganini coughs on oblivious and takes residence in the home of impresario John Watson (Christian McKay), his wife Elizabeth (Veronica Ferres, who we last met in Casanova Variations) and more pertinently, his ravishing daughter Charlotte (Andrea Deck). Charlotte is a budding opera singer who fails to fall for Paganini’s advances, calling him “a puffed up peacock”, and the two develop a wary friendship. Paganini also garners support against the feminist protestors in the shape of journalist Ethel Langham (a cockney Joely Richardson – to boost box office in the US). Meanwhile Paganini continues woodenly working his magic with the lovely Charlotte, against her better judgement.

While Bernard Rose tries his best to leverage the more sensationalist elements of the Paganini story, the resulting film lacks authentic conviction or even dramatic punch, emerging as just another period drama, albeit a well-crafted one; although at just over two hours it outstays its welcome, along with its misguided hero. Certainly, it is a lovely thing to watch and listen to but that alone fails to life the film out of its clunkiness in general. Garrett can’t set the night on fire with his acting chops but he’s certainly a wizard on the violin, in some of the more successful scenes. MT

NOW ON DVD | VOD

Colors (1988) | Blu-ray release

Dir.: Dennis Hopper

Cast: Robert Duvall, Sean Penn, Maria Conchita Alonso, Trinidad Silva

USA 1988, 127 min.

By the time he directed COLORS in 1988, Hollywood enfant terrible Dennis Hopper (1936-2010) had reached the stage of the ‘wise old man’ of Hollywood – and it shows. Hopper transferred the action from Chicago to Los Angeles and had the original script by Richard DiLello changed; even though he later admitted that had he had total control, he would have concentrated more on the interaction of the gangs, and not so much on the policemen’s story.

Experienced cop ‘Uncle’ Bob Hodges (Duvall) is paired with newcomer Danny ‘Pacman’ McGavin (Penn), to keep peace in the suburbs and barrios of the city. Three main gangs fight it out: Crips, Bloods and Barrio, the later an all Spanish gang, led by the vicious Frog (Silva). Whilst Hodges tries to stay human, McGavin thinks he knows everything and often ruins McGavin’s plans with his aggression. Finally, the Barrio’s are the last gang standing, and when Hodges arrests Frog, he is shot dead. Later we see a much more mature McGavin, patiently explaining to a black rookie the same tactics Hodges had told him. Whilst the gang violence is very realistic, the cop relationship is told in a very conservative way (Hopper’s disinterest showing). McGavin’s short relationship with the waitress Louisa (Alonso) is just an excuse for some nudity. Somehow it is difficult to believe that COLORS is the work of the director of Easy Rider and Out of the Blue. AS

NOW OUT ON BLU-RAY

 

Dior and I (2014) | London Fashion Week

Director: Frédéric Tcheng | France, Biopic 99′

In early black and white news footage of Christian Dior and his creations, shown in the opening sequence of Frédéric Tcheng’s documentary the designer comes across as a timid, elegant, family-loving man who “hated noise”. But this is all we really discover about a legendary icon who founded the House of Dior in 1946, only to work there for 10 years. Tcheng then shows how the brand still lives on with its clear and powerful mission to create ultra feminine designs.

In the contemporary Paris atélier we meet Raf Simons (ex Gil Sander) the new creative director and a minimalist who started life as an industrial designer, and who is now set to take over the house, attempting to modernise the haute couture side while also staying faithful to the Christian Dior ethos. He has just 8 weeks to prepare for the premiere launch.

As Raf steps up to the grand stage, it is hoped he will embrace this feminine image with all its embellishments while taking it into the 21st century. Tcheng intercuts his documentary with frequent news footage of the Dior’s early years, showing how he created the “New Look” celebrating the end of rationing to create a full-skirted female silhouette as couture took on a more womanly and floaty profile in the post war fifties’ return to voluptuousness after the austere, masculine, structured look of the forties.

We see how Raf Simons works quickly and formally to create his vision for a new dynamic woman, producing 12 looks that are then taken up by each of the seamstresses, who each chose their favourite design and then get to work on the launch. This is a stressful, pressurised time, running to deadlines and balancing creativity with practicality: but the house has ample finances to draw on thanks to its ownership by Bernard Arnault (billionaire Chairman of LVMH).

Raf Simons feels an increasing empathy with the late designer: reading his memoirs and even visiting his childhood home for inspiration. Dior and I works best when focusing on this theme of creativity and the essence of fashion genius, giving valuable insight. Sadly this fascination fades as Tcheng draws his focus towards the hurly burly of the premiere and to pleasing Dior’s illustrious clientale and members of the Press. This is a process we’ve seems many times before in his recent Diana Vreeland and Valentino outings, and the Carine Roitfeld documentary Mademoiselle C in 2014. Although Simons appears confident and in control during the design process, he quails away from Press interviews and claims he ‘would faint’ if required to walk down the catwalk.

While starting promisingly Dior and I descends into a clichéd affair of air-kissing celebrity. Insight into the conflicts, personal dynamics and professional relationships are buried under a deluge of tears, Champagne and roses once the premiere is underway and Tcheng draws the focus away from the more engaging topic of Simons’ creative strategy and the real Mr Christian Dior, who sadly remains an enigmatic character. That said, this is an upbeat, well-paced and compelling introduction to the elegant and sophisticated House of Dior.  John Galliano is nowhere to be seen. MT

| DIOR AND I on DVD courtesy of Dogwoof Films | Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival 2014

 

 

Radio On (1979)

images-3Director: Chris Petit

Writer: Chris Petit, Heidi Adolph

104min   Drama | Music  UK

Cast: David Beames, Lisa Kreuzer, Sandy Ratcliff, Sting,

With funding from Wim Wenders and his cinematographer Martin Schäfer, British director Christopher Petit’s first feature could hardly have been shot in colour. Indeed, black and white seems particularly fitting for the sombre and troubled tone of this endearing seventies road movie. With shades of Get Carter, without the stars, it sees David Beames (as Robert) driving from London to Bristol to check out the mysterious death of his brother. Under murky, sleet-soaked skies, the dismal journey has Robert searching for his own identity in a dispondent Britain where he fails to engage with anyone he meets along the way: an ex-soldier, a woman looking for her child and a child punk rocker. Accompanied by an iconic soundtrack comprising David Bowie, Kraftwerk, Ian Dury, Lena Lovich and a wonderful vignette from Sting, posing as a garage mechanic in the depths of Wiltshire; Robert’s failure to communicate with the disenfranchised seems, even then, to reflect the malaise now emblematic of the way we live in Britain today. The journey ends as bitterly as it began, with his Rover stalling and peters out on the edge of a desolate quarry. Raw and chilly, this sneering piece of British cinema raises an idiosyncratic question-mark, that still remains unanswered today. MT

[youtube id=”N_hiwawj-ts” width=”600″ height=”350″]

REVIEWED AT THE AUTEUR FILM FESTIVAL, CURZON BLOOMSBURY

Spring In a Small Town (1948)

Spring_In_A_Small_Town copyFei Mu’s post war melodrama Spring in a Small Town is considered one of the best Chinese films ever made and spearheads the BFI’s major exploration of Chinese Cinema that starts on 20 June 2014.

It concerns the delicate intricacies of a classic love triangle between The Husband (Shi Yu), The Wife (Wei Wei in a stunning debut) and The Guest (Li Wei Li) that took place in a remote country town in the aftermath of the Sino-Japanese War. This ‘dilemma of desire’ is very much an affair of discreet ecstasy rather than unbridled lust, as indicated by the formal titles of the characters, but loyalty and decency are the qualities at stake here rather than the personal wishes and sexual fulfilment of the individuals.  The Dai family are somewhat down on their luck and the head of the household (Shi Yu) is now an invalid looking back on a prosperous past and a marriage that’s all but over, but the couple continue to go through the motions. A breath of fresh arrives from Shanghai in the shape Zhang (Li Wei) a childhood friend and now a successful and prosperous doctor. The potent chemistry between the newcomer and The Wife is palpable as she finds herself torn between erotic love and duty. Mei’s central theme here serves as a metaphor for re-building the past or embracing the future.

An enchanting voiceover gives substance to the emotions that the characters feel unable to confess through their shame, adding adding another dimension to this poignant story which is performed with great elegance and lightness of touch. The velvety visuals echo Rene Clément’s wonderful camerawork as the ensemble cast move graciously amongst the ruins of this Post War landscape. It’s clear to see how Fu Mei’s classic was a formative influence for Zhang Yimou, Wong Kar-wai and others. MT

THE NEW RESTORED FILM IS now available on DVD/Blu

.

Tales of Hoffmann (1951)

HOFFMANN_BD_3D(1)Dir. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Cast: Moira Shearer, Ludmilla Tcherina, Ann Ayars, Robert Rounseville, Leonide Massine

UK 1951, 138 min.

Jacques Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann was his last, unfinished work, his only serious opera. After the success of THE RED SHOES, Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger looked for another ballet related project; in particular Pressburger, whose first love was music, wanted to realise the idea of “a composed film”. Whilst Moira Shearer, the star of THE RED SHOES had made clear, that she was never going to act in another film, Pressburger eventually talked her into appearing in THE TALES OF HOFFMANN, which was introduced as an ‘Archers’ production in October 1949; Alexander Korda’s ‘British Lion Film’ would distribute.

The poet Hoffmann (Rounseville) falls in love with Stella (Shearer), a ballerina. Watching her on stage, his leaves and wanders into a tavern, where a group of students ask him to tell them stories. His three stories are all connected by disappointed love: Olympia (Shearer) turns out to be a mechanical doll, Giuletta (Tcherina) wants to steal Hoffmann’s soul, and finally, Antonia (Ayars), a consumptive opera singer, dies whilst singing an aria. Hoffmann himself collapses at the end of his last story, just when Stella enters the tavern. She is lead away by Hoffmann’s eternal rival. But the muse of Poetry appears, and beckons Hoffmann to chose a life in the service of literature.

The film’s music is conducted by Sir Thomas Beeacham; of the cast, only Ayars and Rounseville sang. This was not a problem, since the film was shot entirely as a silent film (later to be dubbed in a studio), on the old silent stage at Shepperton studios, the largest in Europe, which had been constructed for THINGS TO COME in 1936. Shooting took place from July to the end of September 1950. When Korda was first approached by Pressburger and Powell about the project, he asked innocently, if any of the film makers had actually seen a stage version. Powell admitted that he never did, whilst Pressburger could claim to have played the second violin in the orchestra during performances in Prague, but “from where I sat, I could not see much”. Korda bought the duo tickets for a performance of he opera in Vienna, but their plane was delayed, they landed in the Russian zone, and had to wait for visas into the British zone, where the performance was held – they entered the theatre finally, when Antonia gave up her ghost.

The film was premiered on 1st April 1951 in New York, and seventeen days later in London, Queen Mary, Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart being in the audience. Critical acclaim was great, but the film just recouped its production costs, being only shown in selected cinemas. On April 20th, the film was shown at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won two awards. According to Powell, he had a fight with Korda and Pressburger, who both wanted to cut the third act of the picture, as to enhance its chances of winning the “Golden Palme”. This is highly unlikely, since there were only two days between the London and Cannes performance, hardly time for a recut – and Kevin Macdonald, who wrote Pressburger’s biography, claims, that “Powell wanted to see things as he saw them, not like they happened”. But THE TALES OF HOFFMANN was the beginning of the end for the working relationship of the Powell/Pressburger duo, they seemed to have been a lack of trust, which resulted finally in them going their different professional ways. AS

A 4K RESTORATION WILL BE AVAILABLE ON BLU-RAY/DVD FROM 23 MARCH 2015, AS PART OF THE STUDIOCANAL VINTAGE CLASSICS COLLECTION

Introduction from Martin Scorsese

Interview with Thelma Schoonmaker

 

 

Under The Skin (2013) | Mubi

Dir: Jonathan Glazer Wri: Walter Campbell | Cast: Scarlett Johanssen, Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Paul Brannigan | US/UK  Existential Thriller   107min

Promos director Jonathan Glazer’s two previous features have been exceptional: Sexy Beast was one of Ray Winstone’s best performances, launching his distinctive talent onto the big screen. Birth, was a drama of subtlety and resonance not least because of Nicole Kidman.

Under the Skin is a twisted, art house mind-jammer with echoes of Species and the creepiest soundtrack since Snowtown. But this is no ordinary fantasy drama. Jonathan Glazer claiming he felt threatened at the film’s premiere at Venice 2013 where the film was greeted with scepticism for its groundbreaking ideas. Based on Michael Faber’s acclaimed novel is sees an alien seductress in the shape of Scarlett Johansson who fetches up in Scotland where she turns predator on a series of unsuspecting men. Striking as a mysterious vamp with blood red lips, ‘The Female’ has a subversive agenda aimed at derailing the male of the human species. Under the Skin is a deliciously creative visual masterpiece that certainly gives us a run for our money, courtesy of cinematographer Daniel Landin.

 

Provocatively teasing the imagination, the film opens with some luminous images of refractive light and lenses- suggesting a different interpretation of seeing things from the alien POV. Glazer then offers up a portrait of a outwardly timid but skanky looking young woman who silent cruises around the Scottish countryside and the urban backwaters of Glasgow in her black land-rover. Occasionally stopping to ask directions from random male passers-by (a cast of non-pros keeps things edgy) who are only too happy to be led astray when offered a lift.

For the first half of the film our cold-eyed provocative heroine is very much the daylight succubus: welcoming men in dark recesses of empty properties where they slowly undress at the thought of what may follow. They sink into a pitch-black viscous void as she turns to nothingness before their eyes. On a beach, she watches vacantly as a whole family drown. Without a scintilla of anguish or interest, she drives away. On meeting a deformed young stranger, she seduces him and abandons him naked on the Moors. With another, she switches to a more submissive modus operandi; or is this just a ruse to appear vulnerable in order to gain control? Having gleaned some insight into the male psyche, she learns how to control men through lust, while remaining a siren like cypher. Is she an alien with a mission to learn about feelings, or just a random psychopath to mimicking a human response? We are sucked in; mesmerised; looking for clues; hoping to make some sense of the images floating across the scenery of this sinister landscape with its haunting and unsettling soundtrack from Mica Levi.

UNDER THE SKIN morphs between horror and sci-fi; drawing you into its bewitching spell with some deliciously inventive images (some poetic, some horrific). Jonathan Glazer is a visionary artist seeing the World through different eyes; those of an unworldly being. The voyeuristic camera makes no verbal judgement as it roams the High Streets, focussing on random individuals, making us see ourselves from a new perspective, exploring human behaviour through the eyes of an alien, until everything starts to look weird. With its bewildering narrative and intense visual experience this is certainly one of the most challenging and exciting films of the past decade . MT

Attenborough Award 2015| Best British Film UNDER THE SKIN is on MUBI

[youtube id=”7S1yhSp5jaI” width=”600″ height=”350″]

 

 

 

 

The Overnighters (2014) | DVD release

Writer/Director: Jesse Moss

With Keegan Edwards, Jay Reinke

102min  US Doc

Never has a film about the devastating effects of economic migration managed to be so haunting and visually appealing. In his effecting and humanistic Sundance-awarded documentary, Moss examines the men who have been disenfranchised in their search for honest work. But this exposé of victims of the oil industry boom also develops into a morally complex study of the issues surrounding religious and community guidance, elevating it above its seemingly mundane subject-matter.

In a small town called Williston, the population has doubled since 2010. Drawn here by the promise of jobs in the oil-related side of fracking, those who have arrived are caught between the soaring costs of local housing and the need to have a local address to satisfy employment regulations. Moss choses the sympathetic figure of Paster Jay Reinke to illustrate the plight of these people. Converting his Church to a makeshift sanctuary, each night he accommodates the vulnerable and homeless, despite bitter opposition from his congregation on the grounds that many of the ‘Overnighters” are petty criminals, addicts and even sex offenders – according to a local rag.  But Moss is non-judgemental in his approach, it is Reinke who provides the caring but controversial standpoint as he champions those who have somehow lost their way, seeming to alienate his existing parishioners in the process. And the problem doesn’t go away: the pastor is forced into defence mode in distancing himself from his new protegés, giving this engaging piece dramatic tension along with its engaging ethical and moral dilemmas. Themes of xenophobia and community leadership are teased out as the doc unspools, shining a light on the the pastor’s validity as a religious man of God and also questioning his responsibilities to his wife and family.

Moss remains pragmatic in his stance through all of this, despite including an emotional scene between the pastor and his wife. The final segment of the documentary is testament to the human qualities of our moral and religious counsellors showing them also to be occasional victims of judgement and subject to the vagaries of real-life events and people which are, by nature, beyond their control. With an atmospheric score by T Griffin giving the film a tangible sense of place and Jeff Gilbert’s superb visuals blending hard industry with the astounding natural beauty of North Dakota, The Overnighters makes for an absorbing and moving piece of filmmaking.

ON DVD FROM 9 FEBRUARY 2015

 

Erebus: Into the Unknown (2013)

On November 28th 1979, a New Zealand plane with 257 sightseers disappeared into thin air somewhere over Antarctica. It later emerged that the plane had crashed into Mount Erebus, apparently in broad daylight  It was then up to the emergency services to recover the bodies of the missing passengers – who all lost their lives in the freak tragedy.

This surprising yet harrowing story obviously means a great deal more to locals and New Zealanders than it does to international audiences nearly forty years later – quite why the story has taken so long to reach our shores and even merit a release is more of a mystery than the incident itself. In a atorythat fails to grip, endless talking  heads (including that of a senior member of Air New Zealand) debate the issue and delve into a mystery that raised serious questions at the time surrounding a possible cover-up by the national airline. Were the airline hiding something? Does this kind of story really need to be resurrected years later after wounds have healed? These are the questions EREBUS raises. The upshot is not rocket science.

EREBUS: INTO THE UNKNOWN is in cinemas 9 January and DVD/On Demand 12 January

 

Milius (2013) |DVD

Dir: Zak Knutson

Joey Figueroa; USA 2013, 95 min.

A documentary about John Milius, one of Hollywood’s most loved and hated filmmakers Hollywood in the last 50 years, has to be controversial: the man himself is a living contradiction, and it is impossible to be objective about a person who is seen as a ‘fascist’ (Pauline Kaen) and a victim of the liberal establishment by himself and his admirers. Knutson and Figueroa have tried to get as many witnesses as possible before the camera, without getting nearer to an explanation of the enigma called Milius.

John Milius, born 1944, went to USC film school with Francis Coppola, Steven Spielberg and John Lucas – at a time in the mid 60s, when there were only three film schools in the whole of the USA.  Milius was, according to his his co-students, a genius when it came to writing. His scripts for Apocalypse Now, ‘Dirty Harry’ and his work on ‘Jaws’ are legend – but as director, his personality got in his way.

Milius is a self-confessed “Zen-Anarchist”, what ever that means. He clearly loves weapons, and in the 70 and 80s he shows of his Kalashnikovs where ever he goes, and writes lines like “I love the smell of Napalm in the morning”. And herein lays the trauma: Milius wanted to fight in Vietnam, but was rejected because he had asthma. He says, “that I never thought I would be older than 26, because I wanted to fly fighter planes”. Instead he had to shoot movies, a substitute for his death wish, which he shares with many fascists. And his love for weapons is unbroken: even in relative old age, after recovering from a stroke in 2010, he re-learned to use a gun for skeet shooting, one of the first targets he set himself for his rehabilitation. (He is currently working on a production of Dschinghis Khan).

milius-001.jpg_rgb copy

He directed Red Dawn in 1984, at the height of Reagan’s political power, when one could get away with a script, which showed US school children being slaughtered by “Red” invaders. But even than, the dishonesty of his arguments (“we are fighting for this country because we were here first”) was picked up not only by the liberal establishment – “tell this the Indians, John” wrote one reviewer. Since 1984 Milius has only directed two more films in 1989 and 1991. Yes, his legendary skills as a script-writer and-doctor has kept him in the money, but for somebody who wants to be larger than life, this is not a solution. Whilst Spielberg, Lucas and Coppola have made their share of violent movies, they never believed to be the hero’s of their own films, they grew up.

And then, there is a little bit of the coward in Milius, blaming John Huston and Paul Newman for the flop of his script for the film The Life and Time of Judge Roy Bean, and the public for the lack of support for his surfer movie Big Wednesday. As Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger testify, being a Republican has never been a hindrance to success in Hollywood – but Milius is not so much a party politician, but suffers from a personality defect which has nothing to do with any era: his Grandiose Self can only accept the world the way he sees it  – like Schwarzenegger as Conan the Barbarian, where will power triumphs over reality ‘ – always.

The interviews and stills used are exhausting, but one wishes for more documents of Milius at work, perhaps they would help to explain this very gifted, but personally flawed man. AS

On dvd through Amazon.co.uk

 

 

Ida (2013) | BEST EUROPEAN FILM | European Film Awards | Oscars 2015

Director: Pawel Pawlikowski

Writer: Pawel Pawlikowski, Rebecca Lenkiewicz

Cast: Agata Trzebuchowska, Agata Kulesza, Dawid Ogrodnik

80mins  Polish Origin: Poland Picture: Black and White Drama 

Seven minutes into Ida, a startlingly beautiful return to Poland for UK-based director Pawel Pawlikowski, the character of Wanda Gruz stands against the window of her sparse kitchen, smoking, still in her dressing gown. Across the room sits a young novice, Sister Anna – Wanda’s niece. Wanda flicks ash from her cigarette, the smoke beautifully backlit. Casually, she opens her mouth and drops the bombshell that will shake Anna’s foundations to their core: ‘So you are a Jewish Nun’.

Sister Anna, we learn, is really Ida Lebenstein, a Jewish girl orphaned during the Second World War. Her Mother Superior has sent her into the world to meet her last remaining relative before she takes her vows. In Wanda, she finds a bullish presence, a world-weary judge with a formidable reputation (and immunity). Anna and Wanda may be opposites in so many ways, but their characterisation is deft and multifaceted enough to allow no easy answers. When the women set out on a quest to discover how Anna’s parents died, we glimpse beneath the surface, catching sight of the lasting impressions the estranged relatives will leave upon one another. Wanda believes in life, and encourages Anna to experience it in all its carnal forms – otherwise, she argues, ‘what sort of sacrifice are those vows of yours?’ And besides, she says later after referring to herself as a ‘slut’, ‘Jesus adored people like me’. Perhaps, the implication goes, living ‘life’ does not rule out God’s love? Perhaps there is room for both.

Ida-001 copy

But such religious angst is not the only dilemma pounding in the heart of Ida. As the women’s quest through 1960s Poland continues, the legacy of war comes under examination. Political currents ripple through Anna’s personal search for her parents, causing questions of national – and international – guilt to rise to the surface. The spectre of death hovers in the air. It seems our past cannot be easily buried: perhaps we are caught in the consequences of the actions of those who came before us?

As a film, Ida too seems to be built upon forbears; the spirits of Bresson, Dreyer and Antonioni are all here, alive and well, not least in the film’s stunning, 1.37:1 black and white images. If those names imply an austere coldness alongside a total mastery of the cinematic medium, then all the better – when it is handled as well as this, such a tone is surely something to commend. Ida is intensely visual, impeccably performed and quietly profound – and, at a compact 80 minutes, it may even be perfect.  ALEX BARRETT

FIPRESCI AWARD WINNER Toronto Film Festival 2013 | WINNER-BEST FILM 57th BFI London Film Festival 2013| Golden Globe Nominee (2015) | European Film Award Winner 2014 |IDA is on DVD BLU-ray from 24 November 2014

 

Sofia’s Last Ambulance (2012)| DVD release

Dir: Writer: Ilian Metev

Cast: Mila Mikhalilova, Plamen Slavkov, Krassimir Yordanov, Ilian Metev

75min   Doc   Bulgaria

Director Ilian Metev joins a stressed-out and under-funded medical team of Mila, Krassi and Plamen as they race around Sofia in their clapped-out ambulances, ministering to the needs of a growing population and remaining cheerful to the last against all odds. A story full of humour and humanity making us glad of our own National Health Service in the UK.

The Bulgarian capital is one of Europe’s poorest and has just over 2 million inhabitants and only 13 operable ambulances in a health care system that’s fit to bust. Chain-smoking their way through endless casualties, inured to the tiredness and despondency that threaten to dog and denigrate their medical expertise. Thankfully we are spared the blood and gore, but what emerges more saliently here is the gruelling nature of the work that takes its toll on their own well-being and, by the end of it, we too appreciate their pain. MT

VOTED BEST DOCUMENTARY AT KARLOVY VARY INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 2012.

 

Locke (2013) – DVD

Writer/Director: Steven Knight

Cast: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Tom Holland, Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels

85mins   UK    Thriller

Steve Knight’s one-handed ‘driving seat drama’ never feels claustrophobic although all the action takes place within the confines of a car on a journey from Wales to London. Tom Hardy plays Ivan Locke, in a skilled and gripping performance,  that window into his life and the people he shares it with plenty of action-packed thrills despite its decidedly low-budget premise. He plays a father, husband and lover whose life unravels as he races South on the M1 to meet the latest of his offspring while managing the tendering of a complex building project, that . All conducted over the telephone from his BMW, he talks to his wife (Ruth Wilson), his lover (Olivia Colman), two teenage sons and members of his building team: the traffic police would have a field day but they’d probably thoroughly enjoy this seat-clenching thriller.

[youtube id=”TsBDYAYnQb0″ width=”600″ height=”350″]

NOW ON DVD

 

 

Super Duper Alice Cooper (2014) DVD

Director/Writer: Sam Dunn, Scot McFadyen, Reginald Harkema

98min   US   Music documentary

SUPER DUPER ALICE COOPER is unexpectedly brilliant – really witty and visually interesting. They’ve found a way of animating old photos and turning them almost into films – and almost into 3D films, at that. And it’s a great tale of the transformation of a bunch of mundane suburban kids into glam-rock gods. Part of the general speeding-up of lifestyles that happened in the 60s.

It is well-paced and made with some artistry: I think they’ve seen Julien Temple docs like London – the Modern Babylon and used that “tiny scraps of film” technique, plus the aforementioned doctored photos. And it’s all done in voiceover, which is a way of getting round watching ancient-looking rockers being interviewed, I suppose. I don’t think you would need to like Alice Cooper to enjoy it, as it’s a bit of a social/cultural document; entertaining and funny. Also, it emerges that Alice himself always looked like an emaciated 70-year-old – even when he was a teenager! Ian Long.

IAN LONG IS HEAD OF CONSULTANCY AT EUROSCRIPT.CO.UK

DVD out on May 26

[youtube id=”nAuyznrcR5U” width=”600″ height=”350″]

 

Back to the Garden (2014). DVD

Dir.: Jon Sanders

Cast: Emma Garden, Anna Mottram, Bob Goody, Charlotte Palmer, Richard Garaghty

93 min   UK   Drama

Even though it’s summer, the emotional temperature in BACK TO THE GARDEN is very much late autumn, much in the same vein as his recent outing LATE SEPTEMBER. A group of friends are visiting the widow Maggie, whose husband, a theatre director, died a year ago. The friends from the theatre milieu have gathered to bury his ashes under a tree in Emma’s garden in Kent. Whilst the women are aware of their responsibilities to Maggie, Julia’s womanising husband Jack takes the opportunity to make a direct pass at Stella, a younger actress, and a longstanding friend of the couple. Maxine, also in a relationship, meets her younger lover Ed, for one of their weekend trysts. Ed is the outsider of the group, he feels uncomfortable, and Maxine knows, that she has to make a decision soon about their relationship.

The maudlin atmosphere of the meeting is underlined by the claustrophobic sets: Maxine and Ed spending the night before the meeting on Maggie’s boat, cramped and anything but romantic. And the little cottage seems to suffocate the many visitors, the tiny rooms more like traps than living accommodation, make it difficult to breathe. Even the outdoor scenes are not joyous, the spaces seem confined, restricted, even though the protagonists praise the beauty of nature all the time. The camera shows exactly how the emotional turmoil of the participants determines their view of the surroundings: they project the “Endzeitstimmung” (Apocalyptic mood) on their environment. The atmosphere is never dramatic, but the underlining resignation is quiet deadly, served in small portions.

Apart from Ed, all the friends have been young in the seventies – they grew up with hopes of a different society, and feel somehow betrayed by the development, which leaves them as has-beens in a much harsher and unforgiving world. Therefore Maggie’s loss is a double one: she has lost her husband, their close relationship means that she has also lost a big part of her identity. She feels fragmented, a ship without an anchor. But on top, and this goes for the rest of the group, she knows that her time will come soon too, and that life has not been as fulfilled as hoped for.  Not a disaster, but a disappointment.  The women in particularly are victims of a professional environment, which is ageist and discriminates against their gender.  In contrast, Jack is the prototype of the ageing hippy with long hair and surplus vanity, who finds himself still very interesting at the age of nearly sixty, and has the professional and personal success to prove that arrested development and self delusions can get you a long way.

BACK TO THE GARDEN is a perfect autumn sonata, which evokes the first stanza of Verlaine’s “Chanson d’Automme”: The long sobs/Of the violins/Of autumn/Wound my heart/With a monotonous/Languor. AS

[youtube id=”DpzafMv06Ic” width=”600″ height=”350″]

ON DVD MAY 12th 2014

 

Like Father, Like Son (2013) DVD

The theme of paternity and nature versus nurture has captured the imagination of directors and filmgoers of late: Place Beyond the Pines, It’s All So Quiet and While I Lay Dying are some recent outings. Hirokazu Kore-eda’s films tend to focus on family life and Like Father, Like Son is no exception, looking at the question of whether paternity is a genetic issue or one connected to the ties that build up gradually between parents and their offspring as mutual affection bonds them over time.

LIKE_FATHER_LIKE_SON_-001

Here Japanese TV and Music star Masaharu Fukuyama brings a touch of glamour and a great of insight to the role of Ryota, an emotionally distant but sophisticated architect and father who seems to have the perfect life with submissive wife Midori (Michoko Ono) and adorable little boy Keita. Perfect, of course, until we discover that due to a grave error, his son is actually not related to him at all.  On the other side of town, his real boy is being raised by Yudai (Frank Lily), a warm-hearted shopkeeper who has completely different priorities about parenting from Ryota; prioritising shared experiences with his family and three kids.

Naturally, when the hospital admits the error, a switch at birth, the parents’ lives are blown apart in ways that seem entirely plausible. As the predictable issues gradually surface, it becomes increasingly apparent that there can be no satisfactory outcome for anyone concerned in this gentle, almost wistful story with its soft and sympathetic visuals, atmospheric classical score and moments of idiosyncratic humour that lift the unleavened tone of sadness as the tragic fallout send ripples through their lives.

There are some lovely naturalistic performances here from the children and despite a rather schematic storyline this is a sweetly moving and deeply heartfelt drama that will resonate with fathers everywhere. MT

NOW OUT ON DVD

Klown (2010) Prime

Dir: Mikkel Nørgaard | Cast: Frank Hvam, Casper Christiansen, Mia Lyhne, Iben Hjelje, Marcus Jess Petersen| Denmark, 89min  Comedy

_MG_8727 copy

Dont’ listen to the po-faced critics who tell you this is ‘crass, unfunny or outrageous’ – it’s a bit of adult fun, even Peter Bradshaw, the Guardian’s  trusty critic, was seen laughing out loud. You might think this Danish road comedy is going to be dire, then you’ll start to enjoy the ludicrous humour that touches on The Hangover – but much more ridiculous and real:  A trip into strictly grown-up territory – so don’t take the kids – for once they can stay at home!

_MG_6897 copy

Frank (Frank Hyam) makes a geeky and unfanciable boyfriend for Mia (Mia Lyhne), prancing around in his y-fronts and a baseball cap. But when she discovers she’s pregnant, the time has come to settle down. Before making the final commitment, Frank plans a boys’ weekend of fun with his womanising married friend Caspar (Caspar Christiansen): A spot of canoeing and then canoodling with the local talent at a music festival and, to round off the trip, a visit to a friend’s upmarket brothel located in a fairytale castle.  The only problem is that Frank has been left in charge of Bo, Mia’s 12-year-old nephew.  This may be a chance to prove his fatherhood potential, or it could be a complete disaster.  No prizes for guessing which one it turns out to be.

Apart from the totally inane humour, Klown is imaginatively set in the idyllic Danish summer countryside and there are some gloriously cinematic moments as they navigate the waterways of this beautiful part of Scandinavia. The brothel setting is like something out of Festen – location-wise, promising an evening of upmarket naughtiness and nastiness too. It’s watchable and convincing, written by Hyam and Christiansen: two of Denmark’s most popular stand-up comedians.

_MG_8304 copy

So off they go with one mishap leading to another. There’s not much of a storyline but instead you get a good hour of politically incorrect shenanigans and arch ribaldry on the river. With themes of male-bonding and female-bonding, the only bonding that doesn’t feature is bondage itself but there is a little scene that really hits the spot – you’ll either love it or hate it – but see it before the Hollywood re-make! MT

KLOWN IS OUT on PRIME VIDEO

 

 

 

Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013) NOW ON DVD/BLU

w311_4133335_blueisthewarmestcolour7311x311Directors: Abdellatif Kechiche

Writers: Ghalia Lacroix and Abdellatif Kechiche

Main Actors: Léa Seydoux, Adèle Exarchopoulos, Jérémie Laheurte

179 mins  French with English subtitles  France   Drama

On her way to meet her would-be boyfriend Thomas, Adèle passes a girl with bright blue hair in the street. The world seems to slow around her: Adèle is transfixed. In class, she has been discussing a passage in a book relating exactly to such fleeting glances, to love at first sight. Could this be what Adèle is experiencing? It certainly seems like it. It’s one of the weaker moments in Abdellatif Kechiche’s heart-breaking romantic drama, but it’s also a defining moment for Adèle.

During lunch with Thomas, Adèle will question whether it’s better to study books in class, or read them alone for pleasure. She likes to read, Thomas doesn’t. But later, when Adèle reconnects with the blue-haired girl – Emma – in a gay bar, we learn that her knowledge doesn’t extend to art. In fact, the only artist she knows is Picasso, in sharp contrast to Emma’s expansive knowledge as a Fine Art student. Their meeting in the bar seems, perhaps, a little too coincidental – but Emma doesn’t believe in chance, and maybe we shouldn’t either.

Blue_Is_the_Warmest_Colour-001 copy

As a relationship begins to form between the two women, Adèle becomes uncomfortable around Emma’s friends, feeling she is not their equal culturally. Adèle might know literature, but not art or philosophy, and Emma’s knowledge in the latter area allows the girls a cover story: to Adèle’s parents, Emma is a friend who is helping her learn philosophy. There is truth in this alibi. Emma is broadening Adèle’s horizons: sexually, culturally and socially. Emma’s values, and her sense of freedom (both as a lesbian and as an artist), come from Sartre, who has taught her that humans are defined by their actions.

Sartre’s ideas, then, become the philosophical underpinning of a tale about the journey into womanhood, sexual awakening and the construction of human identities. Adèle’s reaction to Emma’s cultured friends mirrors her earlier conversations with Thomas, but with the tables turned. Culture and society form a part of who we are, who we become. As Adèle grows, becoming a woman, the film’s protracted duration allows Kechiche to leisurely build a detailed portrait, both of her personal development and her relationship with Emma – which Kechiche portrays with warmth, humour, drama and sex.

Julie Maroh, author of the graphic novel on which the film is based, has condemned the explicit nature of the sex scenes, labelling them ridiculous and unconvincing – and there’s certainly no denying that they are graphic and prolonged (their duration often seems excessive). At times, too, the camera lingers or pans over bodies in a gratuitous manner. When Emma teaches Adèle to enjoy the taste of shellfish, one can’t help but wonder if it’s all a cheap, sleazy metaphor.

Blue_Is_the_Warmest_Colour-002 copy

But, the sex scenes aside, the film is a convincing and moving exploration of romance. Kechiche’s camera catches much of the action in close up and, if the visuals themselves at times seem rather unexceptional, the sterling work of lead actors Adèle Exarchopoulos (Adèle) and Léa Seydoux (Emma) more than makes up for it. The film’s original French title translates literally as Life of Adele: Chapters 1 + 2, and the thought of seeing further parts would be extremely tantalising, were it not for the reports of the ‘horrible’ experiences that Kechiche put his actors through on set. In response, Kechiche has even said the film shouldn’t be released, that it’s ‘too sullied’ – but that’s too far. The shoot may have been gruelling, but the results speak for themselves. Blue Is The Warmest Colour is a film that deserves to be seen. ALEX BARRETT

[youtube id=”IDHv7XMyA1c” width=”600″ height=”350″]

NOW OUT ON DVD BLU COURTESY OF ARTIFICIAL EYE

Diana (2013) Now on DVD

Diana_BR_3D copyDirector: Oliver Hirschbiegel

Writers: Stephen Jeffreys and Kate Snell

Cast: Naomi Watts, Naveen Andrews, Douglas Hodge, Geraldine James, Juliet Stevenson, Cas Anvar

103min  Drama

So DIANA is now on DVD and the full horror of this sad ‘tribute’ can be viewed from the privacy of one’s own boudoir. Well, pour yourself a glass of late harvested Riesling and settle down with the girls for a couple of hours of noble rot. Purporting to represent the real face of the Princess behind the pages of ‘Hello’, it focuses on her relationship with heart surgeon, Hasnat Khan (Naveen Andrews).  And what a travesty, in more ways than one. Portraying Diana as a simpering, eyelash fluttering heiress (a nineties ‘Made in Chelsea’ one at that), Naomi Watts completely fails to convey the allure of a woman whose innate style and bearing conquered the hearts and minds of millions all over the World. Dressed in ASOS meets Country Casuals, she scuttles around giggling and blushing, like a skittish teenage ingénue, completely in awe of her surroundings during hospital visits and awkward in public appearances when posing on the international stage.

With his dark, sultry magnetism, Naveen Andrews looks the part but has nothing to work with but a stilted script full of trite clichés (“if I marry you I marry the whole World”).  Their sexual chemistry is as tantric as tea with the Vicar, yet this man is supposed to be her sexual nirvana after years in the sack of jug-eared clumsiness (“I love it when you put your hand there”). Sofa suppers in front of ‘Casualty’ (as if!) and cosy trips in his Ford Mondeo to the seaside (at least give him a Saab): feel like excerpts in the life of Kevin and Janice from Staines not a recherché couple with grace and breeding. Geraldine James and Juliet Stevenson are believable and well-cast as her kindly therapists, but the episode in Pakistan just feels implausible.  When things fall apart, Diana comes across as irritated and defensive rather than emotionally devastated although Andrews manages some tear-jerking ‘can’t live with you, can’t live without you’ pathos.  As Diana walks away from love and rebounds into the swarthy arms of Dodi, she creeps back into her Cancerian shell only to emerge a hard-edged, manipulator of men and the media, on his yacht.  Shame that one so talented as Oliver Hirshbiegel (Downfall) should put his name to this clunky cable TV crud. MT

DIANA IS OUT ON DVD FROM 24 MARCH 2014

 

 

Le Mani sulla Citta (1963) Hands Over the City

HANDS OVER THE CITY (Le Mani sulla citta)

Dir. Francesco Rosi; Cast: Rod Steiger, Salvo Randole, Guido Alberti, Carlo Fermarielli

Italy 1963, 105 min.

In one of the finest political dramas ever made, Francesco Rosi exposes the unscrupulous culture of civic corruption in post-war Naples, still endemic and universal today within the corridors of power.

After a panoramic view of Naples, we see Eduardo Nottola (Rod Steiger), a land speculator and owner of a big building company in Naples, explaining to Maglione, mayor of the city, the benefits of a new development at the outskirts of the city. Nottola holds up his hands and tells Maglione the profit margins, which he will share with him and the Christian Democrats, for whom he sits as a councillor on the city council. The next hands stretched up belong to the councillors of the CD, who are defending Nottola against a few communist councillors, who accuse him of responsibility for the death of two people, after one of the old buildings, which stands next to one of his new projects, collapses because of the pneumatic drills used for the foundations of the adjacent site. The Liberals, under the leadership of Professor De Angelis, join the communist, but it turns out that it was only a manoeuvre for the forthcoming election: the Liberals are the strongest party, but need the CD, so a bargain is struck: Nottola, who has joined the Liberals, will become the new Commissioner responsible for all building works in the city, after De Angelis promises Maglione, who had fallen out with Nottola for personal reasons, a share in the forthcoming profits of the new city development. The film ends with another panoramic overview of the city: it can sleep peacefully under the protecting hands of its leading citizens.

HANDS OVER THE CITY is not a film about Mafiosi, but about people who only have their own interests at heart. The politicians including de Vita, the leader of the communists, are only concerned with winning elections – the rest is talk. All parties are part of the system. And they need a powerful figure like Nottola, to make things happen. He is rightfully not shown as evil, but as part of a pseudo-democratic system, which excludes the majority of citizens. The new buildings Nottola is so proud of, are not for the inhabitants of the slum buildings he is demolishing – they are being ferried out on lorries to just another slum further away from the city centre. And the two victims of the accident are just footnotes, whilst the little boy, who has lost his legs in the accident, is being groomed as a beneficiary of the public health system, which otherwise is as underfunded as the rest of the public services – whilst Maglione is showing off his sumptuous art treasures to a friend.

Rod Steiger dominates the film, not only physically but emotionally. Whilst being critical, Rosi shows him as a tiger among hyenas. He paces the rooms, uses the telephone like a weapon as he barks orders and is not afraid to scarify his own son, who was in charge of the site where the accident occured. The politicians are greedy and self-seeking, but they don’t want to get their hands dirty. Camera work and music have all the elements of a thriller: the politicians are shown as conspirators, who hide in dark corners, afraid of Nottola and their own shadows. The music underlines the noir atmosphere, always threatening and dissonant. AS

[youtube id=” [youtube id=”wzUuYXJmBKg” width=”600″ height=”350″]

LE MANI SULLA CITTA IS NOW ON DUAL FORMAT (BLU-RAY AND DVD) AS PART OF AWARD-WINNING MASTERS OF CINEMA SERIES ON EUREKA FROM 31 MARCH 2014

 

 

 

 

Meteora (2012) Now on DVD

METEORA is a densely mountainous region in central Greece. Steeped in ancient history, it’s best known for its medieval Orthodox monasteries that cling miraculously to the peaks. In one such holy setting, filmmaker Spiros Stathoulopoulos’s part-animated drama imagines a love affair between a young lustful monk and his courtship with a nun in the convent on the opposite mountain-side. Making a perilous journey each day from their precarious perches they embark on an affair made all the more exciting by its illicit and dangerous nature.

Meteora_STILLS-30

Meteora_STILLS-89Spiros Stathoulopoulos uses delicately rendered animations of icons and religious motifs to illustrate his narrative conveying guilt, desire and inner conflict: the struggle of man against the strictures imposed by his pious maker serve to heighten the eroticism of their clandestine meetings which take place in sun-baked fields nearby, over a well-lubricated ‘dejeuner sur l’herbe’.

A million miles away from the Greek New Wave, hovering between the sacred and profane (in tone as well as concept),  METEORA feels like a legend from an illuminated manuscript that bursts into life in the arid heat of its heady summer setting, as the lovers finally unite. Fraught with images of desire and damnation, it references classical mythology and biblical events that are cleverly interwoven into the narrative (The Minotaur and Theseus, Christ’s crucifixion). Theodor (Theo Alexander/True Blood) and Urania (Tamila Kulieva) radiate strong sexual chemistry as they stray from cloistered celibacy to unbridled fornication in scenes reminiscent of Ken Russell’s The Devils or Dominic Moll’s The Monk.  Ultimately the message is a simple one: we’re all sinners in the eyes of God and this makes carnal love all the more appealing.  Despite some tonal shifts, the overall vibe is serene, slow-burning and sultry and suitably scored by music from the Middle Ages, including Perotin’s ‘Viderunt Omnes’. MT

[youtube id=”OKvUU7Ml4LY” width=”600″ height=”350″]

METEORA IS RELEASED ON DVD ON 23 MARCH 2014

Interior. Leather Bar (2013)

Directors: James Franco/Travis Mathews    Writer: Travis Mathews

Cast: Val Lauren, Christian Patrick, Brenden Gregory, Brad Roberge

60mins  US     Docu-fiction

[youtube id=”hBPHH0wWADI” width=”600″ height=”350″]

INTERIOR. LEATHER BAR was inspired by William Friedkin’s original drama CRUISING (1980) that saw Al Pacino’s rookie policeman ‘going underground’ in search of a gay serial killer in New York.  In order to pacify the censors, Friedkin cut 40 minutes of salacious footage from CRUISING and this has never been seen in a public screening.  So this experimental collaboration between Franco and Mathews attempts to re-imagine the missing footage with a  look at how male gay sexuality is portrayed in film.  The resulting docu-fiction outing mixes reality with fantasy in contemporary LA.  The piece has a loose and laid-back vibe to it as Franco tries to coax his lead and friend (the very heterosexual) Val Lauren, into a gay bar to help him in his mission to scope out the full spectrum of gay behaviour from cruising to sex within a committed relationship. His reactions to overt gay males all butched-up to the nines in leather bondage gear  are revealing as he states after the first day’s filming “I’m not the same guy as I was this morning”.

Travis Mathews copy

Naturally Val Lauren is rather back-footed by the whole project and this comes across in spades, as is intended by Franco. The two engage in endless banter and displacement chat about his role as a straight man entering such a premises in the 1980s. He seems uneasy about it all and chats to his girlfriend on the mobile, for re-assurance.  Allegedly this dialogue is scripted but it has such an authentic feel to it that one can’t help thinking that most of it was ‘ad lib’.  The essentially waffly dialogue is intercut with stylishly ‘re-created’ scenes of how Franco imagines the lost 40 minutes of original film footage may have played out back then and offers a provocative and erotically-charged twist to the proceedings with some ‘no-holds-barred encounters between cruisers and a couple who are in committed relationship.

At just 60 minutes this latest Franco outing is not long enough to merit a full theatrical release but nevertheless merits a watch if it comes to a film festival or one-off screening near you. MT

SHOWING AT HACKNEY PICTUREHOUSE AND GREENWICH PICTUREHOUSE ON 9TH DECEMBER AND ICA ON 15TH DECEMBER 2013

DVD ON SALE 9TH DECEMBER WITH EXTRAS: FEAST OF STEPHEN – A SHORT FILM BY JAMES FRANCO

 

 

 

 

 

 

[vimeo id=”hBPHH0wWADI” width=”600″ height=”350″]

 


The Patience Stone (2012) DVD/VOD

Director: Atiq Rahimi  Writer: Jean-Claude Carriere and Ariq Rahimi

Cast: Golshifteh Farahani, Hamid Djavadan, Hassina Burgan, Massi Mrowat

102min   Drama    FARSI with English subtitles

This poetic follow-up to EARTH AND ASHES  is Atiq Rahimi’s second feature and based on his book which won the French literary equivalent to the Booker Prize.  Essentially a chamber piece, filmed in a dusty house (putatively during the Afghan conflict), a woman is tending to her wounded older husband who has been shot.  Golshifteh Farahani gives a magnificent portrait of vulnerability and desperation in the central role. Recounting her memories and feelings to her comotose husband, she tells her story in an extended monologue that serves as a quiet backlash to their unsatisfactory time together.  The couple met when she was only 17.

129_image_4 copy

The ambient sound is of war: the only visits from men.  A Mullah who comes to pray for her husband, aggressive incursions from soldiers, one of whom rapes her then pays her to have sex (providing valuable income for the household).  It’s a drama very similar in form to that of Jafar Panahi’s recent CLOSED CURTAIN.  As ‘the woman’ talks she remains focused on the medical needs of her husband, and he represents a  “Patience Stone” (from Persian folklore), an absorbing ‘oracle’ that is reputed to shatter when it can take no more of the unburdening.

The woman is strengthened by this therapeutic, low-key, rant about his lack of lovemaking skills and her fear of doing the right thing.  She expresses and shares her new experiences of sexual awakening with her soldier pupil, who she’s ashamed of enjoying.   Her worldly and more sophisticated aunt (Hassina Burghan) also provides comfort although we only meet her once. More of Hassina Burghan’s input would had added texture and cinematic contrast to the narrative. She is evidence that more urbane women do exist in this closed society.

With its muted visuals and themes that focus on womens’ issues in a society of religious and social repression and bigotry, this is a brave and controversial drama.  Golshifteh Farahani now lives in Paris and is one of the most important and well known actresses working in Iranian cinema.  Her delicately sensual role in THE PATIENCE STONE shows how this repressed comes full circle from the submissive teenage virgin to a finale of sexual realisation where she gains control of her life, all within her husband’s earshot.

Golshifteh has previously given strong performances in Chicken With PlumsAsghar Farhadi‘s About Elly and Ridley Scott‘s 2008 Body of Lies. 

THE PATIENCE STONE IS OUT ON DVD AND VOD FROM 3 MARCH 2014 COURTESY OF AXIOM FILMS

[youtube id=”ZAhtT7zfF6U” width=”600″ height=”350″]

 

Le Week-End (2013) Netflix UK

Dir: Roger Michell  Wri: Hanif Kureishi | Cast: Jim Broadbent, Lindsay Duncan, Jeff Goldblum, Olly Alexander, Brice Beaugier | UK Comedy Drama 93min

Hanif Kureishi and Roger Michell were regular collaborators on the subject of mature adult love (Venus, The Mother). LE WEEK-END sees a teaching couple from Birmingham in their sixties (well-known British thesps: Lindsay Duncan and Jim Broadbent), embark on a second honeymoon to Paris in a bid to spice up their tired marriage. Predictable premise: yes, but don’t let this put you off.  The city of love is always a welcome setting for any romantic drama and Paris doesn’t disappoint as we hurtle down open boulevards and swing by Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur.  But time doesn’t stand still and Meg and Nick discover the hotel of their honeymoon has rather gone downhill.  In a moment of pure madness, they head for the Georges V and find themselves in the Presidential Suite.

 

Hanif Kureishi reflects their well-worn resentments, hopes and idiosyncracies in his sharp and well-judged script that sails close to the wind with bittersweet and laugh-out-loud authenticity appealing to art house and mature sensibilities.

As Nick, Broadbent’s keen attempts on the physical front are met will derision from Meg who feels sexual but not sexy despite her Laboutin stilettos and black lacy dress. They resurrect the vamp in her and excite Nick’s dormant libido; still alive but flailing desperately in search of encouragement.

Both nurse secret agendas as they chomp their way through gastronomic blow-outs: Nick has bad news on the work front and Meg feels restless and unchallenged by her job, fearing the future.  There’s a feistiness to this relationship that, despite its bickering, feels so much more upbeat than the tawdry sniping of Before Midnight.  We actually feel for them both and want things to work out.

CFW_-_LW_-_04 copy

A chance meeting with an ex-student of Nick’s (Jeff Goldblum) throws up an invitation to a soirée the next day.  Full of false bonhomie and pretentiousness, it’s an evening of self-gratification for a group of minor intellectuals but brings Nick’s sincerity and openness into sharp-relief amid a barage of boastful toadying. Here Broadbent is unexpectedly moving in a performance that breathes honesty from every pore. Lindsay Duncan too is surprisingly touching and believable in one of her best turns so far. There’s a gung-ho attitude to these two that feels both appealing and genuine and very much buys into the theory that you only live once and life is not a rehearsal. Refreshing, fun and everything that Blue Jasmine was cracked up to be and wasn’t. MT

LE WEEK-END IS ON NETFLIX UK

 

 

For Those In Peril (2013)

Director/Writer: Paul Wright

Michael Smiley, George MacKay, Kate Dickie, Brian McCardie, Nichola Burley

92mins   UK Thriller

This low budget britflic has a brilliant central performance from George MacKay who plays Aaron, a bereaved brother and the lone survivor of a fishing trip in Scotland. Part ghost-story, part psychological thriller, its atmospheric visuals and pervading sense of sadness and loss mark it out as a stunning feature debut for writer director Paul Wright.       agatha a. nitecka-000037540015 copy

Aaron is caught in a fog of amnesia surrounding the fishing expedition which has blighted the small Scottish community of which he is part.  Haunted by guilt and caught with the notion that he may have somehow been responsible, he heads out to sea, searching aimlessly in a makeshift raft in the hope of jolting his memory or communing with his fellow crew and brother who may have survived the cruel waves against the odds.

Moral is low in the village and Aaron feels keenly that his life  has angered some of the locals who have lost their loved ones while he remains a tragic reminder of their loss.  Cathy (Kate Dickie) has lost her partner in the accident and provides an emotional shelter for Aaron, although their friendship is viewed with suspicion by the others, further exacerbating his pain.

agatha a. nitecka-000075160006 copyPaul Wright’s drama is shot through with Scottish folklore and the traditional culture of seafaring. His Super-8 camerawork has a grainy indie feel to it, saturated in a palette of marine blue and washed-out turquoise and teal.

Watching Mackay’s anguish and bitter despair, it’s impossible not to be affected by the strength of this heart-rending performance.  And while he appears to be a lost and lonely presence, the sheer force of his acting carries the narrative forward  offering an immersive and haunting experience that remains in the memory. MT

 

FOR THOSE IN PERIL IS ON DVD and there will be a screening followed by live broadcast Q&A on February 13th 2014 with Danny Leigh at the BFI

Last Passenger (2013) DVD

Director: Omid Nooshin

Cast: Dougray Scott, Kara Tointon, Iddo Goldberg, David Schofield, Lindsay Duncan, Joshua Kaynama

90 mins   Thriller    UK

This Britflic is part drama, part thriller with a touch of horror thrown in. It’s also the debut feature of shorts director Omid Nooshin and a technically ambitious one that he surprisingly pulls off with some success.

Set in the confines of a commuter train from Victoria, it ambles along uneventfully for the first 40 minutes where we meet a crew of cut-out characters who fail to engage our interest further than an average trip on the Gatwick Express. A jowly, knackered Dougray Scott is believable as the stressed Dr Lewis Skolar heading to an A&E emergency with his cute little boy (not unlike Danny from The Shining). Flirting with Kara Tointon’s chirpily flirty events manager; he locks horns with a taciturn accountant played by Brian Schofield in his usual sinister style, but here with no real depth. Then there is a caricature Polish LT worker (Iddo Goldberg) who turns nasty and threatens the guard (as if: Poles are disciplined and respectful of authority?). Meanwhile, Lindsay Duncan plays the ‘token’ older woman sitting winsomely with her knitting, the epitome of the smug grandma.

But the real baddie appears to be the mysterious driver who seems to be sealed into his carriage; never to appear. And as the train gathers breakneck momentum, the passengers are unable to work out what’s going on. LAST PASSENGER is a well-meaning thriller that lives up to its tagline: One Train. Six Passengers. No Chance.  It tantalises us with some scary moments and the promise of exciting things to come, but then fails to deliver its goods.  Ultimately this vehicle that has momentum but never really takes off. British Rail: eat your heart out. MT

[youtube id=”DeqYC3At0Kw” width=”600″ height=”350″]

LAST PASSENGER IS ON DVD FROM 27 January 2014

 

Frankenstein (2004) DVD

Director: Kevin Connor   Writer: Mark Kruger

Cast: Donald Sutherland, Alec Newman, Julie Delpy, William Hurt, Luke Goss

204 minutes/Discs 1 and 2   Horror   US (Hallmark)

There have been endless re-workings of Mary Shelley’s saturnine Gothic tale.  The good thing about this made for TV 10th Anniversary Edition, is that it stars Donald Sutherland, Julie Delpy and William Hurt.  It also has pop star Luke Goss in the role of the monster fashioned from human corpses.  The film opens as Victor Frankenstein (Alec Newman) fetches up on the deck of an icebound trawler in Arctic waters having being hotly pursued across the ice, in sinister circumstances.  Captained by one Robert Walton, who is exploring the North Pole in the hope that the icy winds will blow away a serious case of writer’s block, the ship provides refuge as Frankenstein recounts his life story, growing up in a wealthy Swiss family at the end of the 18th Century.  The rest is history. What follows here is a bland but respectable costume drama that lacks drama or terror, for that matter, but clings faithfully to the original storyline.  An excellent assembled cast make a decent go of the pedestrian script and lacklustre direction. That said, the tone is more redolent of anguish than Gothic horror.  A perfect backdrop to those snoozy Sunday afternoons. MT

The miniseries originally aired on Hallmark cable channel in  2005 is now available on DVD.

 

 

The Act of Killing (2012) DVD Open City Docs Fest 2013

Director Joshua Oppenheimer

Uncut version 159min

Docu-Drama   Indonesian with subtitles

Joshua Oppenheimer is gentle and unassuming as he presents the uncut version of his bold and provocative documentary, on stage at the Open City Docs Fest in London.  It brings to light one of the most cruel episodes of state-sponsored genocide that took place in Indonesia in 1965 following an abortive coup, presenting the narrative as a recreation of the killings from the viewpoint of the killers, in a subversion of Augusto Boal’s ‘theatre of the oppressor’.

Garish in both style and content with its rich reds, earthy browns and vibrantly incandescent Sumatran setting, the film focuses on these perpetrators of violence like a chamber of tropical horrors.  These ‘gangsters’ are former death-squad bosses who ‘re-enact’ their crimes before our eyes, in the vain hope that they may regret their actions during a cathartic process.  Clever idea but does it actually succeed?  In a process that took seven years from start to finish, Oppenheimer began by interviewing victims of the massacre.  Not surprisingly, many did not want to revisit the horrors of the past so he turns his camera on those responsible befriending them and getting them on board for a gore-fest in which nobody actually gets killed.

The murderers emerge as vain and ego-driven men who are buoyed up by their reputations as tough guys, still feared in the local community and enjoying continued government protection.  Anwar Congo, a particularly unpleasant piece of work, has no qualms about the past and still thinks himself attractive to the opposite sex, having his teeth whitened in a beauty parlour before demonstrating his garotting techniques. Blithely, he recounts how he perfected them to avoid having to deal with all the bloodshed caused by the ‘machete method’.  In a bizarre twist, he also attempts to garner sympathy with a tearful episode on returning to the scene of the crimes. Sensibly Oppenheimer plays this down.

The Act of Killing is not an easy film to watch or to listen to not least because of its subject matter.  Indonesian is a highly fricative and percussive language and the English subtitles, often set on a pale background, are often difficult to read.  At over two hours, the middle section rambles and becomes laboriously repetitive and without a clear editorial voice or clearer historical context, it’s easy to disconnect.  That said, it’s still a mind-blowing piece of filmmaking that revisits a regrettable period of Cold War history.  However, there’s no real closure here apart from mild regret from Anwar Congo, who is still at liberty, and one wonders whether the whole chapter would have been better left in the dark. MT

THE ACT OF KILLING is NOW ON DVD/BLU

Computer Chess (2013) MUBI DVD/BLU-

Dir: Andrew Bujalski, Cast: Patrick Riester, Wiley Wiggins, Myles Paige, Robin Schwartz | USA 2013, 92 min.  Comedy

Andrew Bujalski’s latest film COMPUTER CHESS defies any genre classification: sounding a death knell for human discourse as we know it, this is simply on its own. Set in a sleazy, low class hotel in Texas at the beginning of the 80s, it features two group of humans (the computer chess group of the title and a New-Age cult meeting) and an overwhelming horde of Persian cats who seem to take over the hotel; at least at night. Whilst all the humans are awkward and geeky, the cats are full of themselves marauding the place in a quest for domination.

 

The fuzzy black and white of the 4:3 format (shot with a Sony video camera from the 1960s, but not in a gimmicky way, gives the film its sci-fi element: pioneers from another world, creating a an almost surreal otherworldly atmosphere  in which all three tribes vy for supremacy is both absurd and unsettling. The unintended ludicrousness of the situation engenders an atmosphere of alienation, the participants existing in their own bubbles, where words are lost as a means of communication, and emotions have yet to be invented.

The annual chess meeting has a long tradition and the winner wears a glittering crown at the end and takes on the chess Grand Master Paul Henderson, who has met a bet that he will successfully beat all computers until 1984. The players – in their thirties – are humourless and emotionally inhibited (the only female competitor, Shelly, is no different), the term ‘nerd’ could have been invented for them. The youngest of them Peter (Riester), is oblivious of Shelly, even though she gives him tame encouragement. Peter wanders into the next emotional trap when he visits an older couple in their room: they want to seduce him into a ménage-a-trois, but he literally runs away, like the frightened boy he is.

One of the programmers, Papageorge (Paige) roams the hotel at night, trying to find a room to sleep in. He is brazen in his attempts, but everyone is too polite to point this out to him. The New Age group members are very accommodating to start with (putting their fingers in freshly baked loaves of bread and “replaying” their birth to re-engage with their inner beings), but when the chess congress overruns into Monday, they insist on sharing the meeting room with them, in spite of Henderson’s loud protests: he senses their intrusion may disrupt his concentration. A unique, enigmatic, unique and innovative masterpiece. AS

COMPUTER CHESS IS on DUAL FORMAT BLU-RAY ON 20 courtesy of www.eurekavideo.co.uk | and also on MUBI

Christmas Film for kids

MagicReindeer_2D-packshot copyTHE MAGIC REINDEER reviewed by Daniel Pyszora, 11

Dir.: Kari Juusonan, Jorgen Lerdam; Animation; Finland 2012, 74 min

Nico the reindeer has a father who was in the flying forces to help Santa. Nico could fly, because he had some of his father’s genes. They were going at Santa speed, and the father said “if you want to go at Santa speed, you have to have a big heart, open eyes and look up”. Nico’s mum had met another man after her divorce, and this man had another son, with a different woman, so now Nico discovers a half brother. He doesn’t like the fact that his mum met somebody else, particularly he did not like his new half-brother. After Nico slept, his best friend, a flying squirrel, said that the little brother was cute.  Nico goes with the little boy into the woods to play hide and seek. They hid, but an eagle took the little boy and Nico chased after them, but he lost them. He tried to find them and he bumped into another reindeer. They walked together to the eagles domain, where they found the little boy. Then they met the white wolf, the leader of the eagles, she wanted to take revenge, killing his brother, and they run away. They went back home, and the stepdad was talking to Nico’s dad. The eagles broke into Santa factory and placed a booby trap. But Nico trapped the wolf in a box, and they run away. Santa flew away delivering presents.

It was brilliant animation, the story was perfect and I would like to see a sequel being made. DP

THE MAGIC REINDEER IS OUT ON DVD MRP £5.99

GREAT_SANTA_2dpackshot copyTHE GREAT SANTA RESCUE – reviewed by Daniel Pyszora, 11

Dir: Dustin Rikert;

Cast: Caitlin Carmichael, Benjamin Stockham, Kevin Pollack; USA 2013, 87 min.

First a boy, Zach wakes up and sees Santa. Then Santa disappears. Then Zach and his sister Miley are watching TV and find out that an evil politician, Schmucker, is banning Santa robbing him of his magic powers. The two kids go to school. In the lessons the girl was drawing a Santa, but the teacher came over and said: “What are you drawing?” She said: “I am drawing a picture of Santa, because nobody believes in him.” The teacher whispers to her “I believe in Santa”. After that Schmucker comes and says: “Don’t talk about Santa, because we are banning him”. Then it was playtime, the girl went outside and she saw a Santa’s coat hanging on the wall, and a man ripped it off and threw it on the floor.

When Miley and Zach get home, the girl saw a gleaming light in the barn, and they went into the barn and saw Santa. But when they opened the door, there was nothing there. Then their mother gets ill. But the two children pretended to be ill too, because they want to save Santa, who was dying, because nobody believed in him. The mother came home from the hospital and told them she had cancer. The children made their own YouTube video about Santa, and send it to all websites. Everybody saw the video.  The evil politician sees the video and he and the children have a debate about Santa on TV. Later the politician meets Santa, and he says to him ,” all you needed was love, but you didn’t get it, because your parents thought giving you toys made you happier than their love”. Santa’s magic powers come back and on Xmas night Santa uses his magic to save the Mum.

The acting was good but not great, the camera was alright, but it is the the design I liked best, particularly the house, it was real. The story was very sad, but it had a happy ending.

THE GREAT SANTA RESCUE IS AVAILABLE ON DVD

JourneyXmas_2dpackshot copyJOURNEY TO THE CHRISTMAS  STAR, reviewed by Daniel Pyszora, 11

Dir.: Nils Graup; Cast: Vilde Zeiner, Anders Baasmo-Christiansen, Agnes Kittelsen; Norway 2012, 77 min.

The story is about a little princess, who was looking for the Christmas star, and then  an evil witch made the her disappear, putting a curse on her. Her father, the King, was really distressed and her mother died from grief. The King had to find the Christmas Star in ten years, to get his daughter back. He looked for nine years, but no hope of finding her. Sonja, a young girl, was working for a woman who was really horrible to her, and who had other people who stole for her jewellery and food. One day they nicked lots of jewellery, but Sonja walked trough the door and ran away to the city. When she was in the city, she saw a horse carrying people, and she saw a white cloth, and hid under it, whilst the thieves working for the bad lady were chasing her. The horse caravan entered the castle and Sonja went into a big hall in the castle, and there she hid behind a curtained door, and she observed a meeting with the King; they were talking about the Christmas Star. The King took her into his room, where they talked about the Christmas Star and how to find it, and she said she would find the Christmas Star. Then she went off into the woods, but the evil witch was after her, but a little boy shrunk her and invited her into his tree house, so they could get away from the witch’s helper. Then she mentioned to the boy the Christmas Star, and the boy knew a bear who could help her to get see the Christmas Star. Then Sonja met a flying cloud, which flew her to the North Pole, where Santa Claus lived. There she met Santa Claus, and asked him where the Christmas Star was, and he said “it is in your heart”. She travelled back to the castle, and the King asked her “where is the Christmas Star”, and she said it is in my heart, and a shining Christmas Star came out of her body and it shone up to the sky and everybody could see the Christmas Star. And than there was a happy-end for everybody.

The acting was good, the girl who played Sonja was the best. Lovely sets, and the story made you interested in the film, it draws you in. The camera’s views were brilliant, they were showing everything important. It looked very realistic. It should be an “U” certificate, for younger children. But there was no comedy, which I like most, therefore it gets only four stars. DP

JOURNEY TO THE CHRISTMAS STAR IS AVAILABLE ON DVD MRP £5.99

 

 

 

 

Only God Forgives (2013)

Dir: Nicolas Winding Refyn | Cast: Kristen Scott Thomas, Ryan Gosling, Vithaya Pansringarm, Rhatha Phongam, Gordon Brown, Tom Burke | 90mins    Denmark/France

Only_God_Forgives_2.jpg_rgb-e1374149983876

For sheer cinematic brilliance and artistic style, Nicolas Winding Refyn’s Bangkok-set revenge tale really set the night on fire at its Cannes premiere back in 2013, dividing critics and polarising opinion.  Some derided it for its cold brutality and lack of emotion but Heli was equally violent, gratuitously so, and won an award.  

Only God Forgives is all about controlled emotion, seething under the surface of Refyn’s glittering jewel-box of visual tricks: brooding resentment, latent anger, moody scorn and dysfunctional lust also join the party in a thriller seething with a pervasive sense of dread,  heightened by a dynamite score.

The performances are stylised, mannered and supremely elegant: Ryan Gosling, who runs a Thai boxing club, very much serves the film rather than stars in it, wearing a sharp suit and the expression of a frightened rabbit as the submissively loyal son of Kristen Scott Thomas’s vampish mother and drug baroness, Crystal.  She’s a woman at the top of her game, her two sons are trophies she toys with dispassionately.

 

We first see her arriving in Bangkok to demand retribution for the murder of her ‘first son’ Billy (Tom Burke) on the grounds of his raping and killing a local teenager. “I’m sure he had his reasons” she claims, very much her own woman.  It’s a superbly entertaining performance and one which should have won her Best Actress. Sporting a long blond wig and killer heals, she is every bit as sexy, poised and alluring as any actress half her age, or less.

Against advice, she hires a hit man to take out Chang (Pansringarm), the local police chief responsible for the killing of her son Billy. But the plan backfires and Chang turns the tables on Crystal and her agent (Gordon Brown) who is tortured and killed in possibly one of the most inventive and exquisitely painful deaths in cinema history, all playing against a glimmering back-drop of the lacquered night club interior.  Glamorous hostesses look on motionless and expressionless in compliance with their oriental culture of self control.

Only God Forgives glides gracefully along, each frame an expertly composed, perfectly balanced, a shimming masterpiece. Punctuated by brusque episodes of savage violence, it epitomises a world of clandestine doings and shady characters suggested but not fully fleshed-out, adding an exotic mystique to the piece rather than detracting from it, leaving room for the imagination to wander, to speculate and to dream.  It’s a world where evil meets evil and no one is up to any good.

Nicolas Winding Refyn’s points out “We must not forget that the second enemy of creativity, after having ‘good taste’ is being safe”.  This is not a safe film, it’s a daring, exciting and malevolent. MT

NOW ON MUBI | OUT ON DVD

 

Hannah Arendt (2013) Now on DVD

Director: Margarethe von Trotta     Writers: Pam Katz and Margarethe von Trotta

Cast: Barbara Sukowa, Axel Milberg, Janet McTeer

103 mins   Germany   Drama   German/English

Hannah Arendt, the eponymous real-life subject of this well-meaning biopic, was a political theorist who studied under a series a great twentieth century philosophers, including Jaspers, Husserl and Heidegger. Born in Germany in 1906, the Jewish Arendt fled her home country amidst the rise of pre-war anti-Semitism, finally settling in America. Among the many important works Arendt would go on to produce were The Origins of Totalitarianism and Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, about the trial of Adolf Eichmann, a lieutenant colonel in the Nazi  HYPERLINK “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schutzstaffel” \o “Schutzstaffel” SS who oversaw the deportation of Jews from Germany. It is Arendt writing the latter work which forms the basis of Hannah Arendt. 

hannaharendt.photo04 copy

After persuading The New Yorker to send her to Jerusalem to cover Eichmann’s trial, Arendt is overcome by Eichmann’s sheer ‘mediocrity’, and unable to reconcile this with the ‘greatness’ of his crimes – thus leading her to develop her concept of ‘the banality of evil’. Expressing the concept in her New Yorker piece, alongside some ambiguous comments about the conduct of Jewish leaders during the war, Arendt unwittingly unleashed a tidal wave of controversy. As her friend Hans Jonas says in the film, Arendt turned the trial into a philosophy lesson, using it to raise important questions about the nature of evil. In reliving the story and controversy behind Arendt’s piece, Hannah Arendt shares these preoccupations, transferring Arendt’s ideas from the page to the screen.

hannaharendt.photo07 copy

The film’s key themes are neatly summarised by the darkness of the film’s opening, which shows Eichmann’s capture followed by a scene of Arendt smoking and thinking, lying alone in darkness – an apt visual metaphor for what’s to follow. And in perusing Arendt’s thoughts, the film seems to posit that her attempts to understand Eichmann were at least in part also an attempt to understand how Heidegger, her former mentor and lover, could have likewise become a member of the Nazi party.

It’s a very human motivation for a woman who was criticised for being ‘all arrogance and no feeling’, as one character says here. In attempting to try and show us Arendt’s mind at work, it could be argued that Hannah Arendt likewise fails to truly engage feelings. There are attempts: quickly sketched friendships and romantic exchanges, and yet when health troubles strike for both her husband and an old friend, neither moment carries the necessary dramatic impact. We’re constantly told how great Arendt is (students fawn over her, the editor of the New Yorker claims ‘she wrote one of the most important books of the twentieth century’) – and yet, as portrayed in the film, her humble, human side never feels truly exposed. Though we see her criticised and hounded, it feels like the film presupposes our sympathy, assuming Arendt’s likeability without the need to actually show it to us.

Thankfully, the power of the story,  and the ideas ultimately win out, the film becoming powerful, gripping and thought-provoking. But it’s a shame that the film never engages emotions quite as successfully as it does the intellect. Alex Barrett.

HANNAH ARENDT IS SHOW AT THE EVERYMAN HAMPSTEAD, TRICYCLE KILBURN. WATERMANS ART CENTRE BRENTFORD, CURZON RENOIR and IS NOW OUT ON DVD

Alpha Papa (2013) Now on DVD/BlU

Director: Declan Lowney

Cast: Steve Coogan, Colm Meamey, Sean Pertwee, Anna Maxwell Martin, Felicity Montagu, Jason Tresswell

Writers: Armando Iannucci, Peter Baynham, Steve Coogan, Rob Gibbons, Neil Gibbons

90mins  Comedy UK

Gun_Cropped-672x1024Steve Coogan’s famous local radio DJ and talk show host Alan Partridge is one of the UK’s favourite comedy characters and has now arrived on the big screen in this Summer’s unmissable British comedy ALAN PARTRIDGE: ALPHA PAPA.

There are plenty of laughs to be had in this close-up and personal film debut of the saddo presenter at North Norfolk Radio. Awash with ‘too much information’ (he loses his trousers, quite literally!), it records every crack and crevice of Alan’s cringeworthy physique and shamelessly pursues a politically incorrect agenda of witty one-liners skilfully crafted by co-writers Peter Baynham and Armando Iannucci (“Forget about Jesus, as far as I’m concerned, Neil Diamond is the real King of the Jews!.) and helmed by the safe hands of ‘Father Ted’ creator Declan Lowney.

Featuring the usual team of co-presenter Simon (Tim Key), Radio Norwich pal Dave Clifton (Phil Cornwell), long-suffering PA, Lynn (Felicity Montagu), ageing DJ, Pat Farrell (Colm Meamey) and his Geordie friend Michael (Simon Greenhall) now a security guard, this outing is sadly missing a love interest for Alan, more’s the pity!.

After the unfortunate turn of events on his BBC show ‘Knowing Me, Knowing You’ where a guest accidentally gets shot, Alan’s fighting for his career for the second time around when a multimedia conglomerate “Shape” takes over the station threatening a round of redundancies and putting his slot ‘Mid-Morning Matters’ into jeopardy.  The first head to roll is that of fellow presenter and ‘has-been’ Pat Farrell. But Pat’s having none of it and returns with a gun, fully-loaded and firing on all cylinders to plunge the station into full siege mode, forcing Michael into a cupboard (‘Like a Geordie version of Ann Frank’) and Alan into the limelight acting as a mediator between Pat and the Police.

Unknown-1-e1375693601339

Naturally Alan relishes this chance to take centre stage in a media circus of heightened melodrama, but the emphasis here shifts onto fast-paced action and slapstick sequences descending into banality at times, and away from the element we’ve all been waiting for: the next chapter of Alan’s life as a delusional porn-obsessed loser whose children no longer speak to him, whose PA’s preoccupation with him is unwanted and unwholesome and whose ‘mildly cretinous’ Ukrainian girlfriend ‘Sonja’ has him firmly by the short and curlies.

That said, this big screen debut offers great entertainment value, preserving the integrity of the ‘Alan Partridge brand’ where so many others such as League of Gentlemen, Borat and Brüno are a shadow of their TV and radio versions. Alan may have lost his trousers but Alpha Papa definitely has us wanting more. MT

 

  DVD / Blu-ray / Steelbook Extras:

  Hectic Danger Days: The Making of Alpha Papa

  Deleted Scenes

  Bloopers

  Audio Commentary with Steve Coogan and Writers Rob & Neil Gibbons

  ASDA 2-Disc Bonus Extras:

  Exclusive Interviews with Steve Coogan / Rob & Neil Gibbons / Declan Lowney

  Exclusive Q&A with Armando Iannucci

  Premiere Day Sizzle Reel

  Irish Screening Introduction

  Trailers – Teaser and Full

  TV Spots

 

Looking for Hortense 2012 DVD/BLU

Director: Pascal Bonitzer

Writers: Pascal Bonitzer and Agnès de Sacy

Cast: Kristin Scott Thomas, Jean-Pierre Bacri, Isabelle Carré, Marin Orcand Tourrès

100min Drama  French with subtitles

CHE0193small-e1375791190106Kristin Scott Thomas and Jean-Pierre Bacri star in this intelligent Parisian drama about a married couple who’ve lost their spark and are slowly drifting apart.

Billed as a comedy, it’s not quite up there with Bacri’s previous outings Le Gout des Autres or On Connait Le Chanson but will satisfy the arthouse crowd who enjoyed Scott Thomas’s performance in François Ozon’s recent In The House.

CHE0056small-e1375791128710Here Bacri leads as Damien, a middle-aged professor of Japanese Civilisation whose relationship with his father is also causing him grief and diminishing his masculinity as a fully-fledged adult. Having discovered to his chagrin that theatre-director Iva (Scott Thomas) is contemplating an affair with one of her young actors, his ego is boosted by the delightful Aurore (Isabelle Carré), who he meets in a nearby restaurant. The local Asian community is also drawn in with a humorous subplot that offers a contemporary nod to multiculturalism.

Jean-Pierre Bacri is as sullen-faced as usual here and the script doesn’t quite give rein to his signature deadpan humour that has made previous outings so engaging so it’s a shame Bonitzer doesn’t give more time to Kristin Scott Thomas’s sublime acting skills and the development of her romantic story. But if you’re looking for solid and sophisticated French fare, well-acted and skillfully told then Looking for Hortense will fit the bill . MT

LOOKING FOR HORTENSE IS ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 9TH AUGUST 2013 AT WATERMANS ARTS CENTRE, BRENTFORD AND OUT ON DVD ON 2ND DECEMBER 2013

 

Pieta (2012) Now on DVD

Director: Kim Ki-duk

Cast: Min-soo Jo, Jeong-jin Lee, Ki-Hong Woo, Eunjin Kang, Jae-ryong Cho

104mins   Drama

Pietá means mercy in Italian. And mercy is very much the central theme in Kim Ki-duk’s Golden Lion Winner that muses on the lack of this inherently human quality in the daily life of a sadistic Korean loan-shark, Gang-do (Lee Jung-jin).

Each day after devouring hand-slaughtered animals, he emerges from a bare apartment in a poverty-ridden district of Seoul,  a vengeful and mercenary creature who exacts crippling injuries on his hapless debtors usually by forcing their limbs into their own machine tools, cashing in the insurance claims they’ve signed before their painful fate.

PIETA Asian Pacific Awards

An fervent and anti-capitalist drama, Kim Ki-duk’s 18th outing is well-served by disenfranchised characters who are sinking below the poverty line at the mercy of encroaching urban development and economic hardship.  Ming-Soo Jo stands out in a superlative tour de force as stranger Mi-sun, who arrives at Gang-do’s place one day purporting to be the mother who abandoned him but her enigmatic agenda offers a lethal cocktail of redemption, remorse and retribution . MT

PIETA IS ON GENERAL RELEASE FROM 6TH SEPTEMBER AND ON DVD FROM 14 OCTOBER 2013

Come As You Are (Hasta La Vista)**** Out on DVD

[youtube id=”ez5SwIGYBu8″ width=”600″ height=”350″]

Director: Geoffrey Enthoven

Script: Pierre De Clercq, Asta Philpot, Mariano Vanhoof

Producer: Mariano Vanhoof

Cast: Robrecht Vanden Thoren, Gilles De Schrijver, Tom Audenaert, Karel Vingerhoets, Katelijne Verbeke, Karlijn Sileghem, Marilou Mermans, Johan Heldenbergh, Isabelle de Hertogh

Belgium                                    149mins                     2011               Drama

A road movie with a difference. Three Flemish guys in their Twenties- Philip, Lars and Jozef, with a taste for fine wine, a good time and hot women, decide they want to go to Spain for some sun, sea and sex.

The problem is, they all live at home, cared for their whole lives by their parents. Philip is paralysed from the neck down, Jozef is blind and Lars is wheelchair bound due to a brain tumour. And all of them are virgins. It’s one thing to want to rebel and fly the coup, but if you’ve never travelled and your life actually depends on the coup, it becomes another thing entirely.

623D1AD7-05D9-4E6B-B594-53C57BC97F4ERunning similar territory to Midnight CowboyIntouchables, Rain Man even Scent of a Woman, this is a very honest film about real people, not those you would normally expect to see in a ‘movie’.  People who are otherwise like you and me: just unable to survive without unconditional friendship: and therein lies the poignancy, drama and even humour, particularly appealing here.91A6E8CC-F864-4C09-9D13-3B40276B789A

It’s by turns a hugely enjoyable and affecting romp and for anyone not so afflicted, an eye opening insight into the other worldliness that confronts people with disability, making the day-to-day mundane that most of us would never think twice about, into insurmountable obstacles; reaching objects from a top shelf. Steps. Dropping something on the floor. Pushing a button.

But the humour is also perfectly pitched, the interplay between the three main protagonists just right, as their characters come to the fore under duress and the negotiation that is any friendship is played out with a ring of truth to it. What makes this film is the commitment of the leads and strength of the supporting cast.

F3A2CACF-9771-4EC6-8EA1-0E02BEAF5163

Taking its time to reach our screens due to a thorough stint on the festival circuit, it is no surprise that Come As You Are won the Audience Award at both Karlovy Vary and the European Film Awards. It also won Most Popular Film of the Festival and Special Jury Mention at Montreal in 2012. It’s a real feel-good crowd pleaser that will go down particularly well with arthouse festival-goers the world over. Come As You Are: funny, moving, affording insight and examining wider issues. Andrew Tomlinson

COME AS YOU ARE IS OUT ON DVD AND BLU-RAY FROM 7 OCTOBER 2013 

 

Circumstance (2012)

Director Maryam Keshavarz

Cast: Nikohl Bosheri, Sarah Kazemy

105mins  Drama

Circ4Politics and sapphic desire go hand in hand in this coming of age drama from Iranian director, Maryam Keshavarz.  It starts off as a fairly formulaic affair focusing on a group of friends kicking against the system of contemporary Iran but soon edges towards a strikingly sensual and provocative story of forbidden love between two lesbians.

Atafeh (Nikohl Bosheri) and Shireen Sarah Kazemy) are clearly in love. Both coming from enlightened backgrounds of affluent Tehran society, Shireen’s parents were victims of the strict regime, Atefeh’s are a professional couple.  Thirty years ago they would have had the glamorous lifestyle of young Westerners but that was pre-revolution and nowadays they could be arrested for holding hands. But when Atafeh’s brother Mehran (Rezo Sixo Safai) turns fundamentalist as a throw-back from addiction and starts laying down shariah law with predictable consequences for all concerned, the picture becomes darker.

Strong images of female discrimination drive the narrative forward and the girls are subtle and convincing as friends and lovers but the standout performance comes from Rezo in his slow and and sinister transformation from sensitive musician to controlling religious bigot.

Meredith Taylor ©

DVD release on 24th September 2012.

[youtube id=”leqn3HTytmg” width=”600″ height=”350″]

.

Copyright © 2022 Filmuforia