See my more recent work and festival coverage at KinoSelect – a home from home for all those who […]
Enchantment takes many forms. A Cannes Film Festival favourite, Alice Rohrwacher’s latest film is a deliciously subtle tragi-comic fable, told with the lightest of touches.
An aesthetically stunning cinematic feat, Roma gives a vivid account of a Mexico City childhood set against a backdrop of surging political repression.
The past is a dream in this bittersweet tale of a writer adrift in Brezhnev’s USSR. An elegiac journey into a luminously hazy Leningrad, Aleksey German Jr’s new film Dovlatov follows the life of the now celebrated writer Sergei Dovlatov over six days in 1971, as he struggles to get published.
A world of dark impulses hides in plain sight in the luminous landscapes of Jersey. A serial killer is about. This does not stop Moll (Jessie Buckley) from roaming freely. Her icy mother (Geraldine James) does not seem too concerned about her daughter’s safety, yet very concerned with controlling her.
Hollywood star Hedy Lamarr has long had a place of honour in Bletchley Park, at the National Museum of Computing. It’s a fascinating place, just a short walk away from Hut 8, where Alan Turing and his colleagues were codebreaking in the early 1940s. Lamarr’s work is presented next to luminaries such as Ada Lovelace, the 18th century mathematician and author of the first computer algorithm.
Girls Always Happy was a breath of fresh air during a Berlinale which has featured a remarkable number of downbeat stories. It’s an accomplished film. It presents an original point of view about how to lead a life, in a changing society which still remains restrictive about a young woman’s place in the world. The film was nominated for Best First Feature Award for its director (and lead actress), Yang Mingming – a strong contender which deserved to win.
The stark landscapes of Galway, on the West coast of Ireland, form the backdrop to Song of Granite. It’s an elegantly understated, and original, documentary about a remarkable life. Joe Heaney, the now long-gone but much loved sean-nós singer, who died in 1984, is celebrated here again after a spell of obscurity.
What short film manages to win 82 awards and get invited to over a hundred film festivals? The remarkable Silent River, by writer-director Anca Miruna Lǎzǎrescu, achieved that feat back in 2011. Her 2005 short film Bucuresti-Berlin had been an early sign of a promising career. Lǎzǎrescu studied in Munich, and started out as a documentary filmmaker. Her documentary film The Secret of Deva won Best German Newcomer Film in 2007. Since then, Lǎzǎrescu has gone from strength to strength.
Completed just a few days before its festival launch, The Heiresses was probably the best film at the 2018 Berlinale – and one that inspired both affection and a high degree of esteem. It won the Alfred Bauer Silver Bear and the FIPRESCI prize, alongside the Silver Bear for Best Actress awarded to Anna Brun for her nuanced portrait of a woman finding grace as she falls.
A cheerfully iconoclastic film, Michel Hazanavicius’s Redoubtable has provoked both ire and delight. Jean-Luc Godard is considered such a key figure in both European culture and political history that to treat him with levity is outrageous to some, and just deserts to others. Hazanavicius has said that critical responses have, at times, been as if he’d peed on the Sistine Chapel.
Western, Valeska Grisebach’s latest work, was met with significant critical acclaim when it screened at Cannes’ Un Certain Regard last May. It’s a memorable film. It digs deep without seeming to. Grisebach is based in Berlin, and we met there earlier this year, to discuss her work.
A deliciously funny romantic comedy, I Got Life is a reminder that with love and determination, there’s always hope. In the picturesque seaside town of La Rochelle, Aurore (Agnès Jaoui) is having a bad day. Pre-menopausal hot flushes, a husband who’s decamped to have babies with a young woman, a sleazy boss, and a newly pregnant daughter – everything is conspiring to overwhelm her. This could go all Ken Loach and pear-shaped.
The re-release of The Magic Flute, part of the BFI’s Ingmar Bergman centenary celebrations, is a joy and a delight. Filmed for Swedish television in 1975, the film soon gained international critical acclaim. Since then, it has become regular festive television fare. It is wonderful to see it again on the big screen.
Mozart’s opera is probably best remembered for its duets, repeated motif of a chirrupping flute, and cascading peals of glockenspiel. There’s love, in its many guises: romantic, lustful, embittered and disenchanted. In counterpoint, high drama, darkness and treachery wreak havoc. Steadfast love eventually triumphs. It’s a gorgeous story. The music is ineffably delightful.
There’s something irresistibly alluring about this film’s title. It promises crime, glamour and intrigue. The Nile Hilton Incident delivers that in spades. A police procedural and a political thriller, a Cairo Confidential by way of Casablanca, it’s a homage to film noir and to the novels of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and James Ellroy. The film is heavily stylised, knowingly alluding to Polanski’s Chinatown. But then something cuts across that stylised world, sharply: a subplot featuring a hotel cleaner, Salwa (played by Mari Malek). It brings the story, vividly, into relevance, into the here and now.
The past brings up unexpected treasures in Ingmar Bergman’s 1971 The Touch. This delightful tale of a woman’s journey towards inner freedom was wildly underestimated by critics when it was originally released – and often wildly misinterpreted – perhaps because of the life it portrayed. This is our gain: a new Bergman to discover, another facet of his work, rediscovered pleasures.
A half-forgotten but important episode in British history is given a new perspective in ‘Theatre of War’, an absorbing new film by Argentinian artist Lola Arias.
Dark River presents an unflinching gaze at something unpalatable: the way a traumatised person can be fiercely attached to the very thing that harms them.
Lady Bird is as eager to propel herself out of Sacramento as she is to fling herself out of her mother’s moving car when they suddenly argue. That moment captures perfectly their relationship, and the restlessness of a young person just on the cusp of independence. The only way forward – and out – is propulsive.