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Features Live Action Movies

The Crazy Family
Gyakufunsha Kazoku,
逆噴射家族)

Director – Sogo Ishii – 1984 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 105m

*****

After proudly moving into their first home as owner-occupiers, a family go berserk and destroy the building – out in selected New York cinemas from Friday, April 19th and selected UK cinemas from Friday, April 25th

This seemingly starts out as a conservative family drama. The family in question comprises father Katsukuni Kobayashi (Katsuya Kobayashi in his debut feature role), mother Saeko (Mitsuko Baisho who worked with directors Akira Kurosawa, Shohei Imamura and Kaneto Shindo), elder teenage son Masaki (Yoshiki Arizono from Ichi the Killer, The Happiness of the Katakuris, both Takashi Miike; Electric Dragon, 80,000 V, Sogo Ishii, all 2001) and younger teenage daughter Erika (Youki Kudoh from Typhoon Club, Shinji Somai, 1985; Mystery Train, Jim Jarmusch, 1989; Heaven’s Burning, Craig Lahiff, 1997). The Kobayashis move in to their first home as owner-occupiers which, although it’s a little on the small side, promises an idyllic existence. Father is the breadwinner with a nondescript office job, mother waters the plants and does the cooking and housework, the daughter wants to be an idol singer and the son is spending all his time studying for school and university in his room upstairs.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Jeanne du Barry
(Jeanne du Barry)

Director – Maïwenn – 2023 – France – Cert. 15 – 117m

***1/2

A commoner works her way into the King of France’s affections and becomes a member of the aristocracy – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 19th

Born of the illicit union between a monk and a cook, the latter (Marianne Basler) taken in along with her daughter by the kindly M. Dumousseaux (Robin Renuchi) who ensures the child gets a decent education, Jeanne (Maïwenn) quickly realises her only viable career options are cooking, which she has no intention of pursuing, and harlotry. Before long, favoured client Compte Jean du Barry suggests to her that she should meet the King. To achieve this, she would need to become part of the King’s court for which a title is required, so she marries Jean in order to become the Countess du Barry and be presented to the King, Louis XV (Johnny Depp) .

Catching his majesty’s eye and favour, she is invited to his apartment, like many other women before or after her (although one suspects there were more before than after). Before meeting him alone, she is schooled in royal etiquette by the King’s trusted, right-hand man La Borde (Benjamin Lavernhe).… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Fantastic Machine
(original title:
And the King Said,
What a Fantastic Machine)

Directors – Axel Danielson, Maximilien Van Aertryck – 2023 – Norway, Sweden, Denmark – Cert. 15 – 88m

****

An idiosyncratic history of moving image technology and its increasingly pervasive role in human society, from camera obscura to smartphones and social media – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 19th

To understand what this movie is about, which I’m not sure I did going in, you have to understand its title. The fantastic machine in question is, in part, the camera. That might lead you to anticipate a history of photography, but that’s not quite what this is about. You’d be forgiven for believing that, though, for the first few minutes when we see a contemporary, on the street, walk-in exhibit of the camera obscura or pinhole camera, a natural optical phenomenon whereby light passes through a simple pinhole onto a surface or screen beyond to recreate an inverted image of where the light came from. As a visitor marvels of the resultant, real time moving image of people outside the exhibit walking around, “it’s upside down”. As a human guide to the exhibition explains, that’s how the human eye works. Our brains correct the upside down image so that appears the right way up.… Read the rest

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If Only I Could Hibernate
(Baavgai Bolohson)

Director – Zoljargal Purevdash – 2023 – Mongolia, France, Switzerland, Qatar – Cert. 12a– 96m

****

A gifted Mongolian boy is torn between providing for his siblings and pursuing his studies – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 19th

Teenager Ulzii (Battsooj Uurtsaikh) lives with his mum and his three younger siblings in the yurt district of Ulaanbaataar, Mongolia’s capital city, their father having long since disappeared. Mum (Ganchimeg Sandagdorj) is illiterate and struggles to find work, and there is much antagonism between her and Ulzii, who is going through the school system his mother never experienced and took money from his summer job to buy sneakers before giving the remainder to his mum, who needs it to buy coal for their yurt’s stove to keep the family warm in severe, subzero wintry conditions. Sometimes it’s all too much for their mum, who often gets drunk at night.

In class, Ulzii is the star pupil at physics, often completing complex equations using solutions his teacher wouldn’t expect from anyone less than two years older. His teacher (Batzorig Sukhbaatar), finding a prodigy on his hands, starts to coach him to do well in the National exams in order to win a free university scholarship to study physics, which the boy wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Exhibition on Screen:
John Singer Sargent
Fashion & Swagger

Director – David Bickerstaff – 2024 – UK – Cert. U – 93m

****

Late nineteenth century society portrait painter John Singer Sargent was fascinated more by their clothing and the possibilities of paint than he was by the women he painted – documentary is out in UK cinemas for selected screenings from Tuesday, April 16th

Based on the exhibition first at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) and now at Tate Britain, this opens with incidental music that conjures a contemporary dance floor, a soundtrack which provokes a strange tension with paintings hanging on walls and costumes displayed in glass cases as the camera moves through the physical spaces in which they are displayed. But then, the title suggests this might be a little different from Exhibition on Screen’s usual fare.

John Singer Sargent’s A Portrait of Miss Elsie Palmer (A Lady In White), 1889-90, shows the energy and intensity of his portraiture. The brushstrokes are arresting and like nothing else being done at the time. The paintings might be perfect, but the people within them most definitely are not: Sargent captures their imperfections in a most compelling way. He looked deeply at people, and some of his sitters were afraid to sit for him because of what he might see.… Read the rest

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Civil War

Director – Alex Garland – 2024 – US – Cert. 15 – 109m

*****

Four journalists travel across the war-torn US to interview the President before he resigns or flees the country – out in both UK and US cinemas on Friday, April 12th

The US President (Nick Offerman) is rehearsing a speech, But he can’t seem to work out how to deliver the words.

Seasoned photojournalist Lee Miller (Kirsten Dunst) and journalist colleague Joel (Wagner Moura) are on the front line in the war-torn US. She is in the thick of it, taking photographs, when she spots a twentysomething woman Jessie Colin (CaIlee Spaeny from Priscilla, Sofia Coppola, 2023) doing the same thing, and gives the young woman her hi-vis jacket to help her chances of staying alive.

The girl is so preoccupied with taking pictures that she cradles the jacket in an arm while shooting images with her stills camera. Later, she runs into Lee in their hotel where all the journalists are staying, among them the grizzled veteran Sammy (Stephen McKinley Henderson from Dune, Denis Villeneuve, 2021) who, despite mobility issues which require him to walk with a cane, insists on being in the thick of it as far as possible.… Read the rest

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The Teachers’ Lounge
(Das Lehrerzimmer)

Director – Ilker Çatak – 2023 – Germany – Cert. 12a – 98m

**** 1/2

A new teacher at a school where petty thefts have been taking place for some time makes some bad decisions which put her in a very difficult place – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 12th

Schoolboy Lukas (Okar Mats Zickur) is being questioned about recent thefts in the school. Does he have any suspicions as to which of the pupils might be doing this? A girl sits beside him, a class representative, to make sure everything is being done properly. “You don’t have to speak if you don’t want to”, teacher Carla Nowak (Leonie Bedesh) assures him. Nevertheless, her male colleague pressurises the boy. First, he gives him a printed list of names with checkboxes and asks the child to tick any relevant boxes. When that doesn’t work, he goes down the list with his finger and asks the boy simply to nod at any suspicious name. He gets a nod.

Teaching in class, with a number of the kids stumped by the current algebra problem, star pupil Oskar Kuhn (Leonard Stettnisch) works through a proof on the blackboard, way in advance of the capabilities his age would suggest.… Read the rest

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Opponent
(Motståndaren)

Director – Milad Alami – 2023 – Sweden, Norway – Cert. 15 – 119m

***1/2

Two asylum seekers – an Iranian pro-wrestler and his pianist wife – are confronted with inhospitable Scandiniavian hotel accommodation and state bureaucracy – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 12th.

An ominous pulsing, thumping soundtrack. Wearing training kit, an Iranian man runs until stopped in his tracks by the sight of men on the nearby road searching for someone. There is a man hiding from their sight behind a parked car. The first man goes down to the parked car and demands of him, why couldn’t you keep your mouth shut?

Hoping it will help him be seen as contributing positively to the cultural life of Sweden, thus enhancing his and the family’s chances as being accepted into citizenship, Imam joins a local wrestling team. He is clearly glad to be once again participating in the sport that was his life back in Iran, but his wife is less than happy to see him taking it up again, especially since he sometimes comes back to the hotel with a bloodied nose. Imam befriends Thomas (Björn Elgerd) at the club, who invites him out to parties where Imam spends the night rather than going home to his wife.… Read the rest

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Perfect Days

Director – Wim Wenders – 2023 – Germany, Japan – Cert. PG – 123m

*****

A cleaner for The Tokyo Toilet Company takes great pleasure in his everyday routine – on MUBI from Friday, April 12th

There is a pecking order in society. Right at the lowest level is anything to do with human waste. Nowhere is this more evident than towards the end of this film when his sister, who drives a large, impressive looking car and is making a rare visit to her sibling, asks, incredulously, “are you really cleaning toilets?”

In this remarkable film, Wenders turns this notion on its head. Welcome to the world of Hirayama (Koji Yakusho), employee of The Tokyo Toilet Company, who has been doing the job for five or six years and takes great pride in it. He is part of a two-person detail, however his young co-worker Takashi (Tokio Emoto) doesn’t share his enthusiasm, often arriving late for his shift and looking at his mobile phone on the job.

Hirayama drives a small van and has invested in various tools to help him carry out the job; Takashi rides a motor scooter. Hirayama takes great pleasure in his audio cassette collection (The Animals, Lou Reed, Patti Smith) which he listens to on his van’s cassette player driving to and from work.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Some recommendations
from
Ireland’s
Japanese Film Festival
2024

Runs from 11-27 April 2024.

Please click links to read reviews.

Blue Giant

Director – Yuzura Tachikawa – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 120m

*****

Three 18-year-olds form a jazz band with the aim of playing at Tokyo’s top jazz club

Evil Does Not Exist

Director – Ryosuke Hamaguchi – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 106m

**

A small, unspoiled village community is visited by two representatives of a company planning to set up a glamping facility.

The First Slam Dunk

Director – Takehiko Inoue – 2022 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

A high school basketball team sets out to defeat the seemingly unstoppable league champions

Nominated for Technical Achievement in Sound Design at the London Critics Circle Film Awards 2024.

Lonely Castle In The Mirror

Director – Keiichi Hara – 2022 – Japan – Cert. – 116m

*****

Seven children are sucked via mirrors in their homes into a mysterious castle perched high above a sea, presided over by a wolf queen, and prowled by a hungry wolf at night

Mondays: See You ‘This’ Week

Director – Ryo Takebayashi – 2022 – Japan – Cert. – 82m

****

A comedy in which a group of office workers must find a way to escape the week-long time loop in which they find themselves trapped

Monster

Director – Hirokazu Kore-eda – 2023 – Japan – Cert.… Read the rest

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Io Capitano
(Io Capitano)

Director – Matteo Garrone – 2023 – Italy – Cert. 12a – 121m

*****

Two teenage Senegalese boys set out on a journey to Europe and a better life – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 5th

Garrone’s earlier features (Gomorrah, 2008; Tale of Tales, 2015; Dogman, 2018; Pinocchio, 2019) have a particular, muted look, making considerable use of browns and, to a lesser extent, greys or greyish colours. These were all films set in Garrone’s native Italy, featuring characters with an Italian perspective of one sort or another. This new film eschews all that and, while it’s recognisably the work of the same director, exhibits a completely different colour palette in accordance with its different location. It’s brighter and much less dingy.

The different look very much fits with the different intent. Garrone wanted to deal with migrants crossing the Mediterranean from Africa to Europe, but portray the journey from the migrants’ perspective rather than that of their destination countries. So this starts with two teenage, Senegalese boys who want to run away to Europe and is made in various African dialects, with the main one spoken by the two boys being recognisable as French.… Read the rest

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Yannick
(Yannick)

Director – Quentin Dupieux – 2023 – France – Cert. – 67m

*****

An audience member, unhappy with the play currently being performed, hijacks it with a gun to write something more entertaining himself – on Mubi UK from Friday, April 5th

NSFW. Absolutely worth seeing.

A play, The Cuckold, is being performed at a two-thirds empty Paris theatre. In the play, the husband (Marmaï Pio from Daaaaaali!, Quentin Dupieux, 2023) had learned from his wife (Blanche Gardin from Smoking Causes Coughing, Quentin Dupieux, 2022) that she is seeing another man. Couldn’t she wait until the weekend to tell him?

Worse, the man is ill, having picked up some sort of stomach bug from Kenya. Finally, the man – Bruno (Sébastien Chassagne from Mars Express, Jérémie Périn, 2023; The Truth, Hirokzu Kore’eda, 2019; Eden, Mia Hansen-Løve, 2014) – comes back from the lavatory. The wife wants to leave with Bruno. The husband tries to talk him into staying. Perhaps a bite from the fridge? The wife doesn’t want him to open the fridge.

At this point, audience member Yannick (Raphaël Quenard from Jeanne du Barry, Maïwenn, 2023; Smoking Causes Coughing) stands up.… Read the rest

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Evil Does Not Exist
(Aku wa Sonzai Shinai,
悪は存在しない)

Director – Ryosuke Hamaguchi – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 106m

**

A small, unspoiled village community is visited by two representatives of a company planning to set up a glamping facility – out in UK cinemas on Friday, April 5th

This starts and ends with a journey on foot through a forest with a viewpoint looking up at the branches of trees as quiet, meditative and arresting music by Eiko Ishibashi plays on the soundtrack.

A young girl of about eight (was it her viewpoint?) wanders through the woods.

A man chainsaws chopped tree trunks into small logs, then takes them near to his house to chop them for firewood. He puts several big, plastic cans in his car boot and drives out to a stream to fill them with water. Kazuo drops by to help the man load the filled bottles into his car. They hear gunshots, which the first man remarks he heard they were hunting in Kunihara.

At this point the first man Takumi (Hitoshi Omika) realises he’s forgotten to pick up his daughter from daycare, and drives over there to discover she’s given up waiting and walked home along. He finds her in the forest and gives Hana (Ryo Nishikawa), for that is her name, a piggyback home.… Read the rest

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Typhoon Club
(Taifu Kurabu,
台風クラブ)

Director – Shinji Somai – 1985 – Japan – Cert. 18 – 115m

*****

A group of teenagers is trapped inside their school by a typhoon – screenings around the UK and Ireland from Wednesday, April 3rd; also available on Blu-ray from Third Window Films

A film about teenagers which uses tropical weather conditions – in this instance, an approaching and then all-encompassing typhoon – as a catalyst for exploring character. Its bravura visual style engages from the get-go, with a shot looking across a swimming pool between two ropes of a lane with a child swimmer.

Thursday. A bunch of girls in bathing costumes including Yasuko (Tomoko Aizawa) lark about outside in what is obviously hot and humid weather – one runs through a shallow pool and turns on a water spray to catch the others as they follow, but soon their tomfoolery looks like it may have dire consequences as they all but drown the boy pool swimmer Akira (Toshiyuki Matsunaga). Fortunately, Kyoichi Mikami (Yuichi Mikami), who turns up with his friend Ken (Shigeru Benibayashi) in tow, is able to sort the situation out by administering artificial respiration.

Later, Akira and Mikami, with Ken smoking between the pair of them, hang out on a bamboo scaffolding structure discussing girls, including Yasuko’s lesbian activities with another girl.… Read the rest

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Hoarder on the Border
(Danshari Paradise,
断捨離パラダイス)

Director – Takayuki Kayano – 2022 – Japan – 101m

****

A failed pianist takes on a job at a cleaning company which specialises in decluttering houses filling up with rubbish – played UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2024 between Friday, 2nd February and Sunday, 31st March

Promising young pianist Ritsuke Shirotaka (Ryo Shinoda), whose mantelpiece is adorned with prizes he won in school, can’t carry on due to hand tremors. His girlfriend pushes him towards eking out a living giving piano lessons, but that isn’t enough to stop her abandoning him.

In need of gainful employment, he interviews for and gets a job at cleaning company Danshari Paradise. (Note: Danshari is a Japanese philosophy of decluttering, based on principles that have been around in that culture a long time.)

This is a whole new world to him, and he must learn on the job. The houses or flats that the company deals with are typically places where you can’t see the floor for items of clothing and packaging that have been discarded there.

On his first assignment with such a team, Ritsuke attempts to physically pull blockages from a kitchen sink, only for a female colleague to pull him aside and pour liquid down the plughole to clear it.… Read the rest

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Restore Point
(Bod Obnovy)

Director – Robert Hloz – 2023 – Czech Republic – Cert. 15 – 113m

*****

A detective investigates the murder of a couple, one of who helped create the technology for restoring people to life after they die – thought-provoking SF thriller is out UK on digital on Monday, April 1st

In essence this is a crime movie about corporate conspiracy and murder, but with a difference putting it into the real of science fiction – although given the speed at which current technological advances are taking place, it’s the sort of thing one can imagine being reality in a matter of years. It’s set in the not too distant future of Central Europe 2041, where technology has been developed to back up people to restore them to life should they die. This has been guaranteed by the State for anyone dying a violent, unnatural death following an increase in violent crime. This in turn is the result of growing social and economic inequality (an element not explored beyond an introductory intertitle on the screen).

This allows for fascinating plot variants to the crime genre. If someone is shot dead, they can be brought back to life within 48 hours – provided they have a backup and only so far as that backup is up-to-date.… Read the rest

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Concrete Utopia
(Konkeuriteu Yutopia,
콘크리트 유토피아)

Director – Eom Tae-hwa – 2023 – South Korea – Cert. 15 – 130m

****1/2

A massive earthquake makes the residents of the sole Seoul apartment block still standing close their doors to survivors outside – out on UK digital platforms on Monday, April 1st

Concrete: a structural material made of aggregate, cement, and water. (Definition from Encyclopedia Britannica.) Harsh. Unyielding. Impenetrable. Opaque. Not alive. Commonly used in today’s world in the manufacture of buildings, and associated with Brutalist architecture.

Utopia: an ideal community whose inhabitants exist under seemingly perfect conditions. (Definition from Encyclopedia Britannica.) The English word derives from two Greek words, the compound meaning of which is nowhere. Hence, “seemingly”. Utopias tend to have some fatal flaw. If they didn’t, any story about them would lack dramatic conflict. Thus, the word carries within it a degree of irony.

The eponymous montage of these two words pits them against each other: an unyielding, dead physicality confronts the optimism of a better world. The title evokes JG Ballard’s novels Concrete Island (1974) and High-Rise (1975), the former about a stranded motorist struggling to survive on a spaghetti junction after a car accident, the latter about a newly built block of flats in which the residents descend through social breakdown towards a new order.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Disconnect Me

Director – Alex Lykos – 2023 – Australia – Cert. 12 – 87m

***1/2

A man attempts to live for 30 days without the use of his smartphone, tablet or computer – out on digital from Monday, April 1st

This documentary opens with an advisory to keep your phone handy during the screening, as you may be required to use it at some point. In the UK, it’s only available on digital platforms… but even so, that advisory marks it out as different from most films.

Lykos, who narrates his documentary, is old enough to have grown up without a smartphone or other digital devices, but kids today handle smartphones from a younger and younger age. What would happen, wonders Alex, if I disconnected myself for an entire month? His and his wife’s home contains their two smartphones, two tablets, and a TV. Learning that Alex wakes and checks his smartphone three or four times a night, Alex’s doctor wires him for a sleep test.

Like many of us, Alex finds himself spending an hour on social media and wondering, what just happened? He and others admit to feelings of envy when others post about good things in their lives. A near-tearful divorcee talks about it being hard seeing people having a good time with partner or family.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Godzilla x Kong
The New Empire

Director – Adam Wingard – 2024 – US – Cert. 12a – 115m

*****

Godzilla must leave the surface world to team up with Kong in the subterranean Hollow Earth below to defeat a powerful enemy – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 29th

The latest movie in the Toho / Warner Bros. Godzilla / Kong Monsterverse is globetrotting in scope, with scenes of monsters wreaking havoc in Rome and Rio; its central conceit is that Godzilla roams the surface of the Earth fighting off other monsters which humanity would be unable to see off alone, while Kong, reconceived as a similar size to Godzilla, lives in the subterranean paradise of Hollow Earth.

With one beast on the outer rim of the planet and the other in a world beneath its surface, there is no possibility one will run into the other, which fight would be devastating for mankind. To make sure the two monsters remain isolated from one another, the huge Monarch organisation monitors both constantly.

Yet a terrible force is on the ascendant in Hollow Earth, one that neither Kong nor Godzilla would be able to contain let alone defeat on their own. And so, to save humanity, they must join forces and fight it.… Read the rest

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Silver Haze

Director – Sacha Polak – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 102m

*****

A young nurse – who seeks closure and revenge from being burned in a fire as a child – falls into a romantic attachment which may lead her towards a sense of community – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 29th

This is the second collaboration between writer-director Polak and performer Vicky Knight, who in real life as a small child was burned in a fire and whose flesh is marked by the physical scars of that trauma. In Dirty God (2019), their first film together, Knight delivered a bravura performance as the victim of an acid attack.

In addition to her being compelling on the screen in that film, Knight apparently enjoyed the whole process of making and promoting it, and Polak wanted to do a further film with her, writing a twenty-page fictional treatment and then leaping into a shoot without fully knowing what she was doing. Her backers misunderstood her to be making a documentary about Knight, yet this is a work of fiction, using created characters to explore the effect of Knight’s real life trauma. If the scars are clearly visible on Knight’s body, what draws you in is something altogether beyond that, the trauma playing out in her interior life.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Ryuichi Sakamoto | Opus

Director – Neo Sora – 2023 – Japan – Cert. U – 103m

*****

Composer Ryuichi Sakamoto performs a final concert of his music in 2022, months before finally dying of cancer on March 28th, 2023 – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 29th, 2024

Released in the UK within a day of the anniversary of his passing, Ryuichi Sakamoto’s final concert is an intimate affair, shot in a sound studio by his son Neo Sora in crisp, iconic black and white, the sound of his piano recorded with state-of-the-art equipment. Within months of this performance, cancer would have taken him from us. This is very different from concert films where the performer(s) is / are still alive. Much of Sakamoto’s music tends towards the melancholy, and watching this remarkable, musical testament, one is constantly reminded of the fact that he is no longer with us.

Caught by the camera, he is clearly aware that he doesn’t have that much time left. One of the pieces, he struggles to get right. “This is too hard”, he says, “I need a break.” Nevertheless, the camera and sound recording equipment proceed to capture him playing his 20 chosen compositions with all the considerable skill of the great player that he is / was.… Read the rest

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The Lavender Hill Mob

Director – Charles Crichton – 1951 – UK – Cert. U – 78m

*****

A Bank of England employee stumbles upon the perfect means to rob his employer of the gold bullion he transports there on a daily basis– classic Ealing comedy is back out in a new 4k restoration in UK cinemas on Friday, March 29th

Holland (Alec Guinness) has a lowly job at the Bank of England supervising the transfer of recently minted bars of gold bullion to the bank’s secure vault by security van., He rides in the back and is forever asking the harried driver to check round the corner for suspected cars lying in wait to ambush the van. He is considered an honest nobody, an appearance he has cultivated for the best part of two decades. He has a mind to rob the van, if only he could work out how to smuggle the bullion out of the country.

Fate intervenes in the form of a newly arrived tenant at the downmarket Balmoral Guest House in Lavender Hill, where he lodges. Pendlebury (Stanley Holloway) runs a business selling tourist tat, including lead models of the Eiffel Tour for selling at that Parisian monument. He melts the lead down on his London premises to cast it into the models.… Read the rest

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Drift

Director – Anthony Chen – 2023 – Singapore, UK, France, US – Cert. 15 – 93m

****

A Liberian woman and former London student from a privileged background has lost everything and lives on her wits in a Greek holiday resort until she makes a connection with a tour guide – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 29th

A T-shirt-clad back sits on the beach, facing away from us, looking out to a calm, blue sky and sea. A figure of indeterminate gender at this point. In an isolated, unpopulated landscape. However, as this young black woman (Cynthia Erivo) starts to make her way around the place, elements of both are gradually revealed to us. She travels on a bus with white tourists to a small, sleepy town where Greek lettering on the shop signs gives us some idea of where we are. Later, she takes the return journey and is back on the beach. She washes her underwear (she appears to only have the one pair) and T-shirt in the sea, letting them dry in the sun while she shelters in a cave. She momentarily panics at the sight of a coastguard vessel before realising it’s merely a small fishing skiff.… Read the rest

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The Sweet East

Director – Sean Price Williams – 2023 – US – Cert. 18 – 104m

****

Dumping her boyfriend, a South Carolina high school student skips a class trip to Washington, DC and falls in with a series of outsiders living in their own isolated visions of America – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 29th

Although this starts off with heroine Lilian (Talia Ryder from West Side Story, Stephen Spielberg, 2021) in bed with her boyfriend Troy (Jack Irv), and a lot of visible flesh, it’s not so much a sex scene as a scene in which two people talk about the ending of the movie they watched last night. Soon after, the pair and their classmates are piled into a coach, complete with tour guide, driving them to Washington, DC. When Troy and others lark around in hotel corridors, she doesn’t really feel part of what’s going on.

At a restaurant, she meets activist and body-piercing enthusiast Caleb (Earl Cave from True History of the Kelly Gang, Justin Kurzel, 2019, Days of the Bagnold Summer, Simon Bird, 2019), who without sexual intent shows her the piercings and metal studs encrusting his penis. Going with him and his fellow commune members to an activists’ event, she finds herself at an outdoor radicals’ fair where she meets Laurence (Simon Rex from Red Rocket, Sean Baker, 2021) to whom she gives her name as Annabelle and who kindly offers her a place to stay – his place in Delaware, no strings attached.… Read the rest

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The Shift

Director – Brock Heasley – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 115m

***

A former hedge fund manager is separated from his wife when a mysterious stranger ‘shifts’ him into a parallel world devoid of hopeout on digital from Monday, March 25th and Blu-ray / DVD from Monday, April 1st following its release in cinemas in the UK on Friday, December 15th

A fully clothed, bloody-handed man unexpectedly finds himself in the middle of a lake, swims to shore and, in voice-over, introduces us to a flashback as to how he got there. Fearing for his job security in a stock market crash, Wall Street hedge fund manager Kevin (Kristoffer Polaha from Jurassic World Dominion, Colin Trevorrow, 2022; Mad Men TV series, 2007-9) hits a hotel bar where he is approached by Molly (Elizabeth Tabish from The Chosen TV series, 2019-2024) who was dared to get him to date her by her three drinking companions.

To both of their surprises the pair end up going on a date, and then, in a rapid fire montage, marrying and having a child, only to later lose the child and have their relationship slowly implode as a result. One day, everything falls finally apart: he (it’s about him, not her) has failed to pay some bills, misses an important early morning meeting at the office, and is hit by another car whilst driving home talking to her on the phone.… Read the rest

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Cape Fear
(1991)

Director – Martin Scorsese – 1991 – US – Cert. 18 – 128m

*****

A vicious ex-con seeks revenge on the family of the lawyer he sees responsible for his incarceration in prison – review from Strait – the Greenbelt Newspaper, March 1992.

Directed by Martin Scorsese with characteristic and frenetic energy, Cape Fear is his best movie in years. It ranks not so much alongside The Last Temptation of Christ (1988, file under embarrassing personal projects along with Until the End of the World, Wim Wenders, 1991) but rather as a companion piece to early collaborations with actor Robert De Niro like Mean Streets (1973), Taxi Driver (1976) and Raging Bull (1980).

Here, the actor is first glimpsed from behind as a muscled torso tattooed with the Scales of Justice and numerous biblical verses. It’s a foretaste of things to come.

While the original Cape Fear (J. Lee Thompson, 1962) had Robert Mitchum as ex-con Max Cady who terrorises the lawyer (and his wife and daughter) responsible for his prosecution, Scorsese’s remake borrows religious elements from another Mitchum-as-villain vehicle, Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955), in which his character justifies his actions in fundamentalist Christian terminology.

De Niro’s Cady is specifically a self-designated vessel of judgement upon the lawyer and his kin.… Read the rest

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Ghostbusters
Frozen Empire

Director – Gil Kenan – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 115m

****

Back in New York, running the family Ghostbusters business out of the old fire station, the Spenglers must thwart an evil entity who possesses the power to freeze things – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 22nd

This sequel to Ghostbusters Afterlife (Jason Reitman, 2021), written by the same three-man writing team of father and son Ivan and Jason Reitman and Ghostbusters geek Gil Kenan, picks up and runs with some of the strengths of its predecessor even as it dispenses with others. One thing it dumps is the previous entry’s completely out-there originality; instead, it follows the time-honoured principle of Hollywood movie sequels: go out and make the first movie again.

It’s basically a rehash of the original Ghostbusters (Ivan Reitman, 1984) with the younger generation of Spenglers standing in for the old, and with Winston Zeddemore (Ernie Hudson), Ray Stantz (Dan Ackroyd), Janine Melnitz (Annie Potts) and Peter Venkman (Bill Murray) from the original helping the newer characters out. There is not, perhaps, as much of Bill Murray as one would like, and his heart doesn’t seem to be in it. Otherwise, though, fans of the franchise will probably be happy.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Robot Dreams

Director – Pablo Berger – 2023 – Spain – Cert. PG – 102m

*****

In need of a companion, Dog builds Robot – but then, disaster strikes – charming, dialogue-free 2D animation is out in UK cinemas Friday, 22nd March following its screenings in the 2023 London Film Festival

The 1980s. Brooklyn. The East Village. Bored with endless, cook from frozen macaroni cheese meals from the fridge and channel hopping or playing both parts of computerised table tennis against himself, Dog longs for a companion. To this end, he buys a DIY self-assembly kit from which he builds Robot. For a short period, the pair are inseparable, walking and eating hot dogs together in Central Park, but then disaster strikes after Robot swims in the sea when the pair visit the beach. When it’s time to go home, his battery power is depleted, and he can’t move.

So Dog has to leave incapacitated Robot there. He buys books on robots from the local bookstore to work out how to repair his friend. Alas, on arrival at the beach, he discovers it’s closed since yesterday was the last day of the Summer season. A less than sympathetic cop won’t listen to his entreaties and sends him packing; Dog later returns with bolt cutters and removed the chain and padlock preventing entry, but is apprehended by the unsympathetic policeman before he can rescue Robot.… Read the rest

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Immaculate

Director – Michael Mohan – 2023 – US – Cert. – 89m

***

A virginal, American, novice nun cloistered in an Italian convent finds herself mysteriously pregnant – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 22nd

A young nun attempts to flee a convent in the middle of the night, but before she can gate the gate open with a key on a large bunch is caught by mysterious nuns with red coverings over their faces, and finds herself buried alive in a coffin. This opening sequence doesn’t bode well for any new nun entering the convent such as the novice Sister Cecilia (Sydney Sweeney, also the film’s producer, from Reality, Tina Satter, 2023), a young woman from a parish in the US that closed down, forcing her to seek a position elsewhere, and who believes God wants her to enter this particular convent, which doubles as a care home for ageing nuns run by Father Tedeschi (Álvaro Morte) and the incumbent Mother Superior (Dora Romano). The premises are built over a network of catacombs.

Before taking her vows on the day she arrives – of which she is told she could opt out beforehand if she doesn’t want to go through with them – Sister Cecilia is entrusted into the care of Sister Isabelle (Giulia Heathfield Di Renzi), an embittered type who doesn’t feel anything like a woman who has given herself to the service of God.… Read the rest

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Full Time
(À Plein Temps)

Director – Eric Gravel – 2021 – France – Cert. 12a – 87m

*****

A single mum with two young kids struggles to hold her working life together in a Paris where the transport network in and out of the city is paralysed by strikes – on BBC iPlayer until end 2024 following its release in UK cinemas on Friday, May 26th 2023

The brief moment of calm at the start gives little indication of the relentless nature of what is to follow. Julie Roy (Laure Calamy) sleeps deeply, a figure at rest, as we watch parts of her face in close-ups. Suddenly, this tranquillity is shattered by the aural violation of the quiet by an alarm clock. As she gets the kids up, the radio blares out something about an increase in working hours and something else about the welfare state. The impression is of the microcosm of her life and the macrocosm of the wider world (France) in a state of crisis. She bundles her kids off to the child-minder’s and boards a pre-dawn train to Paris. The train is terminated because of an unwell passenger, so she has to switch to a bus to get to St. Lazare, and as she is trying to get to The Churchill, the luxury hotel where she works as a head chambermaid, she must fend off a mobile phone call about her mortgage repayments.… Read the rest

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Monster
(Kaibutsu,
怪物)

Director – Hirokazu Kore-eda – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 126m

****

The mother of a school pupil believes her son is being abused by his teacher, who in turn protests his own innocence, yet the truth is more complex – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 15th

A movie at once spellbinding and infuriating, as a seemingly straightforward narrative is retold from different points of view and shifts subtly as further details emerge. It’s not a film to see if you’re tired, as it requires considerable attention on the part of the audience.

It starts off with a child’s feet walking along a patch of wasteland at night, sirens in the distance and then a blazing urban building which his single-parent mother Saori Mugino (Sakura Ando from Godzilla Minus One, 2023; Shoplifters, 2018 and Love Exposure, 2008) summons her son Minato (Soya Kurokawa) out onto their flat’s balcony to watch. Overheard conversation later suggests that not only was there a hostess bar on the third floor of the burning building, but that Minato’s teacher Mr. Hori (Eita Nagayama from Toshiaki Toyoda’s 9 Souls, 2003 and Blue Spring, 2001) used to go there.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Lyricist Wannabe
(Tin4 Ci4 L,
填詞L,
lit. Lyrics Nerd / Dickhead)

Director – Norris Wong – 2023 – Hong Kong – Cert. 12a – 112m

****

A girl pursues her dream of becoming a Cantopop lyricist – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 15th

The movies are full of rags-to-riches stories in which someone dreams of becoming a star, works hard to achieve that, and it ultimately all comes true. While that can happen, because in real life there are clearly stars out there, in most cases it doesn’t. This film follows a similar path: a girl gives her all to achieve her chosen dream but ultimately doesn’t make it, which is probably a far more common occurrence than the one in which the aspirant succeeds.

Law Wing Sze (Chung Suet-Ying) is a student at a church school run by nuns. She doesn’t read music, but is obsessed by Cantopop and wants to write lyrics, spending much time rewriting lyrics of old Cantopop songs such as Infernal Affairs which she rewrites as Student Affairs. For this endeavour she is summoned to Sister Che’s office where the nun / teacher helpfully gives her a crit session and suggests she change certain words to more accurately express what she’s trying to say without unintended double entendres.… Read the rest

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All of Us Strangers

Director – Andrew Haigh – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 105m

*****

A gay Londoner travels by train to visit his parents in Sanderstead, following their deaths in a car crash when he was 12 years old – out on digital from Tuesday, March 12th

He (Andrew Scott) lives alone in a London tower block. Not only is he the single occupant of his flat, there’s almost no-one else in the building. When he goes outside for a breath of fresh air, he sees a guy in the window of one of the other apartments. Later, there’s a knock at his door. It’s the guy (Paul Mescal), who is slightly drunk, comes on strong and tries to get himself invited in. The visitor’s name is Harry. The occupant introduces himself as Adam, but doesn’t let Harry in.

By day, Adam writes screenplays. But he’s got stuck, so after perusing some personal effects, he takes the train to Sanderstead. There, he watches a boy in a window. He follows a man across an area of parkland. Coming out of a shop, the man spots him and asks him to come over. You think it might be a pickup – but no, it’s his dad (Jamie Bell).… Read the rest

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Padre Pio

Director – Abel Ferrara – 2022 – Germany, Italy – Cert. 15 – 104m

***1/2

Post-WW1, In San Giovanni Rotondo, Italy, a Catholic mystic undergoes temptation while down in the village, armed landowners and military officers attempt to halt the rising tide of socialism – out on Blu-ray, DVD & DL from Monday, March 11th

Ferrara has long been something of an outsider, working with small budgets. This current offering is highly uneven, very strong and moving in places, betrayed by a lack of planning and resources in others. Perhaps its besetting sin (to use Christian religious parlance) is that it doesn’t deliver exactly what it sets out to: this is not exactly a portrait of early 20th Century, Catholic mystic Pio (Shia LaBeouf). The friar really only forms half of the film – arguably its weaker half – dealing only intermittently with his life from arrival in the impoverished Italian village of San Giovanni Rotondo in 1916 through to his visitation by Jesus and first manifestation of stigmata some years later.

The other half of the film, running in parallel to this, deals with the aftermath of World War One in that same village, as men return from the Front to be reunited with wives and mothers.… Read the rest

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Animation Movies Shorts

Pachyderm
(Pachyderme)

Director – Stéphanie Clément – 2022 – France – 11m

*****

A nine-year-old struggles with the trauma that befalls her at her grandpa’s – nominated for Best Animated Short at the 2024 Academy Awards, VoD details below review

She’s nine (voice-over: Christa Theret), and in the Summer she goes to stay with granny and grandpa. She plays on a swing, missing mum and dad, she watches a cabbage white butterfly in the garden. The house is tidy, ordered, perhaps obsessively so. It smells of polish; the kitchen smells of bleach. Tomorrow, grandpa will take her to the lake, where he likes to fish. To get to her bedroom, she must pass the big, intimidating horn mounted at the top of the stairs, a hunting trophy from a pachyderm. In her room, she can see eyes watching her from the wood grain of the ceiling timbers. She doesn’t sleep by counting sheep; she kills monsters. As the floorboards creak outside her door, she hides in the wallpaper, in the flowers, in sleep. After all, as grandma says, what could happen?

Before the trip, she accidentally pricks a finger on one of grandpa’s fishing hooks – lures, as they call them – but grandpa kisses the cut better with the kiss that heals all things.… Read the rest

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Animation Live Action Movies Shorts

Letter to a Pig

Director – Tal Kantor – 2022 – France, Israel – 17m

*****

Under the watchful eye of an authoritarian teacher, as a class of bored teenagers listens to a visiting Holocaust survivor recount his experiences, one of their number daydreams about the pig with which the survivor shared a barn – nominated for Best Animated Short at the 2024 Academy Awards, VoD details below review

A figure (voice: Indra Maharik) with one shoe flees, running through a forest. “Nothing mattered”, says the old man sitting, his hands clasped together on the desk, in front of the schoolroom of bored Israeli teenagers. Haim (voice: Alexander Peleg) is recounting his experiences under the Nazi regime, but the teenagers would rather be somewhere else. Haim tells how he fled to a barn, where the pig there effectively saved his life. The severe teacher (voice: Ayelet Margalit) ejects one of them for remarking, “oink, oink”. Haim, recounting the past, talks about people capable of hate not deserving to live; he has clearly been unable to forgive those who acted on behalf of the Nazi regime.

Drifting off into a reverie, in her mind’s eye, one girl (voice: Moriyah Meerson) sees the SS send a pig to pursue the boy through the forest.… Read the rest

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Do Not Expect Too Much
from
the End of the World
(Nu Astepta Prea Mult
de la Sfârsitul Lumii)

Director – Radu Jude – 2023 – UK – Cert. 18 – 163m

*****

The daily, working life of an overworked production assistant on a corporate film about victims of industrial accident – plays Glasgow Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, February 28th to Sunday, March 10th, and is out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 8th

Angela (Ilinka Manolache) wakes in her mess of an apartment. Another busy day of overwork. She drives to the homes of serial, prospective interviewees for the corporate film on which she is currently working as a production assistant to evaluate their suitability for the film and take mobile phone videos of them herself.

Whenever she gets a spare moment, she posts on TikTok using a filter that changes her head into that of a man, and under the name Bobita posts colourful and sweary, verbal rants about the British Royal family and other topics. Suffering from sleep deprivation, she dozes during the afternoon production meeting and keeps the radio on while driving to prevent sleeping at the wheel.

Towards the end of the day, she finds time for an in-car assignation with her lover, but that doesn’t last long as she has to go and pick up the production’s corporate commissioning marketing person Doris Goethe (Nina Hoss), direct descendant of the famous writer, from the airport.… Read the rest

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Origin

Director – Ava DuVernay – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 135m

***

A US journalist researches a book reinterpreting US racist attitudes to black people through both the Nazi’s segregation of Jews and the Indian caste system’s treatment of Dalits – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 8th

This is based on both the 2020 nonfiction book Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents and its author US journalist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Isabel Wilkerson’s journey in writing that book. Highly effective in putting the first of those elements on the screen, the screenplay, credited to both DuVernay and Wilkerson, proves much more uneven in its attempts to do so with the second.

Wilkerson’s thesis looks at the US’ historic racist treatment of black people through the lens of a caste system. The term caste system derives from the Western European analysis of Indian society, and to a lesser extent other South Asian societies, in which certain designated groups are elevated above others to produce and maintain a social hierarchy. As portrayed here in the film, the book looks firstly at the US in these terms – a caste system favouring white people over blacks – then Nazi Germany – a caste system favouring Germans over Jews, a radical use of caste as an historical analytical tool I have never come across before – and finally India – a caste system putting the Dalits, the untouchables who traditionally clean latrines, at the bottom of the pile below everyone else.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

The Inventor

Directors – Jim Capobianco, Pierre-Luc Granjon – 2023 – US, France, Ireland – Cert. PG – 100m

****

Towards the end of his life, inventor Leonardo da Vinci goes to live in France under the patronage of the King – stop frame / drawn animation composite is out in the UK’s Vue cinemas on Friday, March 8th

Rome, Italy, 1516. Leonardo da Vinci (voice: Stephen Fry) happily shows off a giant optical system of magnifying glasses for observing the heavens to his assistant Francesco Melzi (voice: Angelino Sandri). Francesco retorts that Leonardo ought to be worried about the Pope who has spies everywhere (and sure enough, there are eyes watching from nearby peepholes). Leonardo’s other assistant, the hulking, mute Zoroastro sources corpses for him, on which the curious Leonardo performs dissections and studies what he finds through making drawings in his quest for find the animated spirit of man, a search which, in dreams and visions, often leads him into confrontation with a mysterious, gargantuan, dark-hooded figure.

The inventor is summoned to Pope Leo X (voice: Matt Berry) who wants to know, why can’t Leonardo just make pretty things? The arrival of a messenger whose helmet is half crushed by a cannonball leads Leo to suggest Leonardo fashion him machines of war.… Read the rest

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The Beast
(La Bête)
(2023)

Director – Bertrand Bonello – 2023 – France – Cert. tbc – 146m

*****

Required to expunge her emotions by the ruling AI of 2044, a woman with a sense of dread revisits her past lives in 1910 and 2014 and their incarnations of the love of her life – curious mix of art house movie and science fiction plays Glasgow Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, February 28th to Sunday, March 10th, and is out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 31st

An actress (Léa Seydoux) against green screen rehearses a scene in a house – the director’s voice tells her where the stairs and other features are in relation to her position and marks on the floor. With these minimal visuals but with the addition of music and full sound effects, she works through the scene up to the point where she sees the terrifying shadow of the Beast on a wall and screams. Consciously or unconsciously, this echoes the screen test on the boat of Ann Darrow (Fay Wray) in King Kong (Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933) as she is required to scream at an unseen, gargantuan monster for the camera.

As in Kong, this scene anticipates one that will play out later in the film.… Read the rest

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Hoard

Director – Luna Carmoon – 2023 – UK – Cert. – 126m

****

A young girl’s strange relationship with her rubbish-hoarding mother, cut short in childhood, leads to an equally bizarre bond in adult life – plays Glasgow Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, February 28th to Sunday, March 10th, and is out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 17th

When I first stumbled across the title of this film, and the image used to promote it of a young couple staring into what I took to be a circular hole, which, I realised after seeing the film, was in fact the outline of a communal bin of the type commonly found on an English housing estate, I guessed it was a thriller – two people stumble upon a hoard: a bag of money or otherwise valuable contents. A noun. However, after viewing, I now realise the title could equally well suggest an activity, a verb. To hoard. The act of hoarding. The state of being which is hoarding. The film isn’t really a thriller. To describe it as a drama might be closer to the mark, but that doesn’t prepare the viewer for how utterly strange and alien the experience of watching this is.… Read the rest

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The Old Man
And The Land

Director – Nicholas Parish – 2023 – UK – Cert. none – 100m

*****

As he works on the land, an aging farmer hears his two adult children argue about the future of the family farmplays Glasgow Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, February 28th to Sunday, March 10th following its premiere in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival, where it was the best film out of a superb lot

Movies. You think everything’s been done, then along comes something you’ve never seen before. Or, in this case, seen or heard before.

The Old Man in question is an English farmer (Roger Marten) whose family have worked the land for generations. He’s getting on in years, so won’t be around forever. His wife died a while ago, so he’s now running the farm on his own. He has two children who have long since grown up and left home: a son (voice: Rory Kinnear) and a daughter (voice: Emily Beecham), and the big question is, when he dies, will they take over – or will they get rid of the farm?

In recent years, the UK has produced a number of rural movies that stand in stark contrast to the urban- (Often London-) based films produced.… Read the rest

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The End We Start From

Director – Mahalia Belo – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 102m

***1/2

As parts of the UK are flooded and submerged by an ecological disaster, a woman births a baby she must then bring up – on Digital from Monday, March 4th following its release in UK cinemas on Friday, January 19th

On the one hand, this starts off with a woman (Jodie Comer) giving birth and then experiencing the process of being a new mother, with all the joys and stresses that entails. On the other, this shows the UK being overtaken and flooded by an eco-disaster, and how people respond to that situation both individually and en masse. The second scenario is reminiscent of any number of disaster and / or science fiction movies about flooding, apocalypse or dystopia (When Worlds Collide, Rudolph Maté, 1951; Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón, 2006; Waterworld, Kevin Reynolds, 1995): if you approach this movie expecting something like that, you’re going to be disappointed, because although that element is very much present in the film, it’s little more than the backdrop.

It plays more like a road movie, in which the heroine – the husband having dropped out of the narrative towards the end of the first reel – meets a series of people on her travels, each of whom offer their own individual insight into the state of things and how the new mother might move forward.… Read the rest

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Dune Part Two

Director – Denis Villeneuve – 2024 – US – Cert. 12a – 166m

*****

Afallen dynastyfights back on a desert planet populated with giant sandworms– out in cinemas on Friday, March 1st

The second part of the adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sprawling novel Dune (1965) – the title Dune Part Two following the title Dune Part One on the print of the previous film – poses the filmmakers a greater adaptation challenge than the first in terms of the magnitude of, exactly what do you leave out to turn it into a strong, two and a half hours plus movie, and what do you keep in.

Villeneuve clearly doesn’t want to repeat himself, because he takes a very different approach adapting the second half of the book than he did for the first, which may or may not serve to make the two halves feel weirdly incongruent when viewed, as they surely will be, back to back. Indeed, it makes you wonder whether there exists a much longer cut of Dune Part Two or a much longer version of the screenplay – it all depends on whether the pruning took place at the scripting stage, the shooting stage, or the editing stage.… Read the rest

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Driving Mum
(Á Ferð Með Mömmu)

Director – Hilda Oddsson – 2023 – Iceland, Estonia – Cert. 12a – 112m

****1/2

After his mum dies, a man must honour her last wish by driving her to her final resting place… On the way, she talks to him… – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 1st

The 1980s. Jón (Þröstur Leó Gunnarsson) lives with his mother (Kristbjörg Kjeld) and his faithful dog Brezhnev in a remote part of rural Iceland. Days are spent sitting in the house knitting sweaters and listening to the radio – actually audio cassette recordings of the radio which run out in mid-sentence. These are periodically received in batches in boxes from a visiting trader in a boat in exchange for Jon and his mum’s home-knitted sweaters. Mum regrets never having been to Gullfoss, and Jon points out it’s unlikely to happen now. He is also a keen amateur photographer who operates his own darkroom. Rightly or wrongly, his mum worries about how he will survive after she’s gone.

One morning, he wakes to discover she has died in her sleep. He makes her corpse up as best he can, which leaves much to be desired, since her resultant look is somewhere between a clown and a zombie.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Lonely Castle
in the Mirror
(Kagami no Kojo,
かがみの孤城)

Director – Keiichi Hara – 2022 – Japan – Cert. – 116m

*****

Seven children are sucked via mirrors in their homes into a mysterious castle perched high above a sea, presided over by a wolf queen, and prowled by a hungry wolf at night – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2024 between Friday, 2nd February and Sunday, 31st March

Teenager Kokoro Anzai (voice: Ami Touma) can’t face going to school. Her understanding mother (voice: Kumiko Aso) takes her instead to the Classroom of the Heart at an alternative school for a session with friendly teacher Mrs. Kitajima (voice: Aoi Miyazaki). This is to be Kokoro’s new school, but in the end, she can’t face going to that one either, so her mum phones her in as sick.

Moping in her bedroom, she is attracted to lights glowing around the tall mirror there before touching its surface which, like the mirrors in Orphée (Jean Cocteau, 1950) dissolve to allow her to pass through them into another world. On the other side, she finds herself in a castle perched high on a rock above a sea along with six other kids – tall Aki (voice: Sakura Kiryu), soccer player Rion (voice: Takumi Kitamura), computer geek Subaru (voice: Rihito Itagaki), piano player Fuka (voice: Naho Yokomizo), enigmatic Masamune (voice: Minami Takayama), and dumpy Ureshiro (voice: Yuki Kaji).… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Exhibitions Features Live Action Movies

Exhibition on Screen:
Painting
the Modern Garden
– Monet to Matisse

Director – David Bickerstaff – 2016 – UK – Cert. U – 93m

***1/2

The relationship of Claude Monet’s late water lily paintings to the history of horticulture, along with a few other artists and their gardens – out in UK cinemas for one day only on Tuesday, February 27th

Originally made to coincide with the Royal Academy’s 2016 exhibition of the same name, this basically does what it says on the tin. With Exhibition on Screen’s excellent series of documentaries about art and artists receiving brief cinema outings in recent years, this entry from the back catalogue is given a big screen outing. While the exhibition has long since been and gone, French Impressionist painter Claude Monet is one of those figures from the history of art who is incredibly popular, especially the late garden or water lily paintings, so a documentary about those late paintings ought to be a fairly easy sell.

Those Monet works and the garden he built at his house in Giverny – rented from 1893, owned from 1900 thanks to a loan from his dealer – are very much the spiritual centre of the film, along with Monet’s skill as a horticulturalist, which is explored at quite some length.… Read the rest

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The Moon Thieves
(Dou Yeut Ze,
盜月者)

Director – Yuen Kim-wei – 2024 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 107m

**

A gang including a counterfeit watchmaker and an amateur safe cracker attempt to steal a watch worn by an astronaut on the 1969 moon landing – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 23rd

This heist movie is built around three members of hugely popular Cantopop boy band Mirror: Anson Lo, Edan Lui and Keung To. Vincent Ma (Lui) is a watchmaker who builds counterfeit (i.e. non-brand name) watches out of genuine parts. He takes great pride in his work and his watches are very reliable as a result. Yoh (Lo) desperately needs money to pay for the operation that will save the ailing eyesight of his mom Ms. Hong (Luna Shaw), so he signs up to work with the ruthless young crime boss heir known simply as Uncle (Keung) despite the fact that Yoh’s elder brother was previously killed by gangsters, so he ought to know better.

Uncle has enlisted Ma to look at three watches in Tokyo that might be worth stealing – he is to take them apart, examine their insides and confirm as to whether or not they are genuine.… Read the rest

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Klokkenluider

Director – Neil Maskell – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 84m

*****

A couple have seen something; two men are assigned to look after them as they wait in the middle of nowhere for a journalist to come and interview them – a subscription exclusive on BFI Player from Thursday, February 22nd

Mr. Appleby (Amit Shah) and Mrs. Appleby (Sura Dohnke) arrive at the house on the outskirts of a small village in Belgium they’ve booked for a party. Appleby is not their real surname, and nor will there be a party. He is what the Dutch call a ‘klokkenluider’ or bell ringer, slang in that language for whistleblower. He has approached a newspaper and is following instructions. They are at the house awaiting the arrival of a journalist to interview them.

Meanwhile, Brits Kevin (Tom Burke) and Ben (Roger Evans) are driving to meet them. They have guns in the boot. We don’t really see them at first. For the first few minutes, they are shown only in little details cropped or in shade so as to be almost unrecognisable – a fragment of a detail in a wing mirror here, a view beyond a car window part obscured by a reflection there – and they choose their words carefully so as not to give away anything more than they need to.… Read the rest

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Twilight Cinema Blues
(Ginpei-cho Cinema Blues,
銀平町シネマブルース)

Director – Hideo Jojo – 2022 – Japan – 99m

*****

Two homeless men find a new spiritual home at a run-down, local cinema which, like them, is struggling to survive – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2024 between Friday, 2nd February and Sunday, 31st March

Down on his luck in his home town of Ginpei-cho, Takeshi Kondo (Keisuke Koide fromShin Godzilla, Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi, 2016) is napping by the riverside in daylight. Along comes another tramp Sato (Shohei Uno from A Far Shore, Masaaki Kudo, 2022; 37 Seconds, Hikari, 2019) to sell him a flier for money and, when Kondo is distracted by the arrival of his old friend Kumika, to steal his bag. After Kondo tracks Sato down and retrieves his bag – “sorry, it’s a habit”, says Sato – the two tramps respond to an ad claiming it can help them play the system and receive welfare payments. Sadly, the people behind the scheme will turn out to be, as a fellow tramp vocally suspects, crooks with a whole other moneymaking agenda.

Kondo attends welfare-claiming training sessions with Sato, but his heart isn’t in it.… Read the rest

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Mondays:
See You ‘This’ Week!
(Mondays/
Kono Taimu Ruupu,
Joshi ni Kizukasenaito Owaranai,
MONDAYS/
このタイムループ、
上司に気づかせないと
終わらない)

Director – Ryo Takebayashi – 2022 – Japan – Cert. – 82m

****

A comedy in which a group of office workers must find a way to escape the week-long time loop in which they find themselves trapped – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2024 between Friday, 2nd February and Sunday, 31st March

A dream. A Friday night conversation with the client she’s always wanted to work for and with whom she starts a job next Monday. Monday, October 25th. Akemi Yoshikawa (Wan Marui) wakes up in the office where she and advertising her co-workers have just pulled an all-nighter to get the presentations done for the client. They are exhausted, necks in travel pillows as they kip on the floor. A hapless bird strikes the window. Their middle-aged boss Mr. Nagahisa (Sports Makita) saunters in after a restful weekend.

Now Yoshiwaka must get working on that Miso Soup Soda Tablet product launch that the client wants to sound like something out of the ordinary. But then, the two guys at the next desk try to tell her that they are trapped in a time loop. They, as in, everyone in the office. She doesn’t really have the time to listen.… Read the rest

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Shadow of Fire
(Hokage,
ほかげ)

Director – Shinya Tsukamoto – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 15 – 95m

****

A woman has drifted into prostitution, while a small boy struggles to survive in post-war Tokyo – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2024 between Friday, 2nd February and Sunday, 31st March

An interior in the ruins of post-war Tokyo. A figure sleeps restlessly on a mat. A man hunts for a child who has broken in and is stealing food to survive. The man says to the waking woman (Shuri), “I approach the ones who look harmless – but who knows?” As he forces himself upon here, the image cuts away to decay on the walls. The woman’s hand, like a strange, disembodied limb, appears over a parapet fixture. The man goes out to solicit clients from the woman.

A soldier (Hiroki Kono) comes in, clearly in a bad way, drinks some Sake, pays the fee, then falls asleep. In the morning, she makes him breakfast. He asks to stay, promising to get work and pay his way, but after a day or so the young boy (Oga Tsukao), who she has taken under her wing, reports that he just sits in the same spot and does no work-hunting.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Getting It Back:
The Story of Cymande

Director – Tim MacKenzie-Smith – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 90m

****

How a promising, innovative black 1970s band failed to crack the UK music business, only for their music to take on a life of its own through various later, popular musical movements – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 16th and out on BFI Blu-ray, BFI Player Subscription, iTunes and Amazon Prime on Monday, 26 February

Film critics have their blind spots (there are films you’d assume I’ve seen which I never have) and so too do serious music listeners, among whom I number myself. Prior to this film, I had never heard of Cymande. That’s surprising to me, actually, because I started seriously listening to music in the 1970s and have never stopped (although, significantly, rap and hip-hop, which came later, never really did it for me). And Cymande, it turns out, were a band of the early 1970s. It’s not mentioned in this film, but they played a couple of sessions for legendary UK Radio One DJ John Peel where it’s likely I would have heard them, had I started listening regularly to his show earlier than 1974, after they recorded a session.

The narrative in MacKenzie-Smith’s documentary runs something like this: in the 1950s and 60s, Britain invited numerous Commonwealth citizens from Caribbean islands like Jamaica, St.… Read the rest

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Bob Marley
One Love

Director – Reinaldo Marcus Green – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 104m

***1/2

From his childhood in poverty in Jamaica, Bob Marley rises to stardom and international fame as the bast known proponent of reggae music – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 16th

All this movie has to do to succeed is give us lots of Bob Marley’s recordings and show us lots of images of him doing things in the process. That’s what the movie says on the tin and that’s what you find inside. It fundamentally delivers what its audience expects and will probably do very well. Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a particular fan, over the years Marley’s music has seeped inescapably into both the popular and my own consciousness: it’s good, positive stuff which genuinely hits a tangible musical groove. I watched the movie and had the good time I was expecting. And Kingsley Ben-Adir is watchable enough as Marley.

However.

Anyone who comes to this wanting to know more about Bob Marley will find this a frustrating experience. Director Green, who co-wrote the script, fails to introduce a number of characters properly. Among Marley’s entourage of musicians and friends, for instance, I couldn’t tell you which one in the film is Peter Tosh (Alex-A Game), who is something of a lesser legend in the world of reggae.… Read the rest

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The Taste of Things
(The Pot-au-Feu)
(La Passion
de Dodin Bouffant)

Director – Tran Anh Hung – 2023 – France – Cert. 12a – 145m

*****

A nineteenth century, French gastronome tries to persuade his live-in cook to become his wife – in cinemas in the UK and Ireland from Wednesday, February 14th

1885. Eugénie (Juliette Binoche) is the live-in cook for celebrated gastronome Dodin Bouffant (Benoît Magimel). Over the years, he and his male friends have enjoyed her culinary skills. They are in a relationship: some nights, her bedroom door is unlocked and he can gain admission, other nights, it’s locked. She likes things the way they are and has no plans to marry him. However, he has other ideas…

This opens with a bravura cooking sequence in a huge, French chateau kitchen as Eugénie and her assistant Violette (Galatéa Bellugi) and Violette’s younger, visiting cousin Pauline (Bonnie Chagneau-Ravoire), with a degree of assistance from Dodin, prepare the most amazing French meal you’ve ever seen. You start to think you’re in for two and a half hours of hunger-inducing food porn when the tone starts to shift, and the threads of a plot impose themselves ever so subtly on the proceedings.

Dodin accepts a challenge from a foreign prince, used to lengthy meals that last longer than 24 hours, to cook a meal the challenger will never forget.… Read the rest

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Dune
(2021)

Director – Denis Villeneuve – 2021 – US – Cert. 12a – 155m

*****

A powerful family is exiled to a desert planet populated with giant sandworms as part of an interplanetary conspiracy to end their dynasty – back out in cinemas from Friday, February 8th 2024

Frank Herbert’s sprawling novel Dune (1965) was read in the late 1960s and 1970s by any teenage boy with the slightest interest in science fiction and fantasy. It had (a little) space travel but more significantly it had alien worlds, notably the desert planet Arrakis on which 95% of the action takes place, and so ticked the SF box.

Then it had a whole ecology involving the planet’s occupants the Fremen, a drug known as ‘the Spice’, and giant sandworms, so it also ticked the fantasy box.

On top of this, it pitted dynasties – ‘Houses’ – against each other in a tale of interplanetary political intrigue.

The plot was unbelievably convoluted, spawning a lengthy series of sequels. I gave up around the fifth or sixth book. And yet, the first book possessed an almost mythic quality that my diminishing interest in the later volumes was unable to dispel.

The sheer quantity of plot was always going to be a challenge for a standalone movie.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Fungi Web of Life
laser digital IMAX 3D

Director – Joseph Nizeti – Co-directors – Gisela Kaufmann, Paul Phelan – 2023 – Australia – Cert. U – 40m

*****

The amazing world of fungi, its place in the ecosystem and how it may be able to help solve some environmental issues; narrated by Björk, presented by Merlin Sheldrake – out at the BFI Waterloo IMAX on Friday, February 9th

Think of fungi and most of us immediately think of mushrooms or toadstools, but those are merely its above ground manifestation. In fact, the wood wide web (a phrase easily misheard as the more familiar World Wide Web) extends through forests which are, as this notes in passing, disappearing at an alarming rate through deforestation, when the mostly slow paced and marvellous imagery and peaceful sounds and music on offer are briefly interrupted by a close up of the huge drive wheel of a mechanical digger and grating sounds of machinery to match.

Innovative Icelandic musician Björk, who has referred to her 2022 album Fossora as her ‘mushroom album’, lends her voice to the English language narration here. This gives the piece a strange, unearthly feeling that’s somehow perfect for its subject matter. Also on hand is biologist, writer and speaker Merlin Sheldrake, who wanders through the proceedings to visit Kew Gardens and assorted natural areas of forest around the planet to point out pertinent items and features.… Read the rest

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Born To Fly
(Chang Kong
Zhi Wang,
长空之王,
lit.
King Of The Sky)

Director – Liu Xiaoshi – 2023 – China – Cert. 12a – 128m

***1/2

Genuinely thrilling action movie about Chinese test pilots owes much to US movies Top Gun and The Right Stuff, even as it attempts to justify current expansionist Chinese views – out on Blu-ray and Digital from Monday, February 5th

From above the clouds. Two stealth jets. Down towards the sea surface and an oil platform flying a Chinese flag. Coffee in a cup vibrating Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993) style to indicate the imminent approach of the monster. Sonic boom. Aircraft fly past. Oil rig windows blow out. Faces are cut to ribbons. In one cockpit, the pilot radios his colleague and, presumably, anyone else listening (in US English): “we can come and go anywhere we want.”

Then, a Chinese plane after them. In their sights. But, before the American can shoot it down, the Chinese loops the loop, transforming from target to shooter. Vowing, like that villainous Hollywood icon The Terminator (James Cameron, 1984) to be back, the US pilots leave Chinese airspace.

The Chinese aircraft, meanwhile, clearly inferior to its US counterparts, suffers flameout requiring its ace pilot to make a forced landing during which its drogue parachute fails to open.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

The Japan Foundation Touring Programme 2024

This year’s Japan Foundation (JPF) Touring Programme, which runs throughout February and March and is celebrating its 21st edition, is based around one of the great theme of cinema: memories. With screening venues spread widely over the UK, it covers the following thirty UK cities or counties (six more than last year, making it the largest number of JPF venues to date):

Aberystwyth Belfast Birmingham Bristol Cambridge Cardiff Chester Chichester Colchester Coventry Derby Dundee Edinburgh Exeter Inverness Kendal Lancaster Leicester Lewes Liverpool London Manchester Newcastle upon Tyne Norwich Nottingham Orkney Oxford Plymouth Sheffield and York.

(Click on any of the cities or counties above for more information.)

Under the moniker Unforgettable: Memories, Times and Reflections in Japanese Cinema, the programme gathers together films showing how Japanese filmmakers employ memories, from those using them as a focal point to those where they subliminally drive or affect characters’ behaviour.

Highlights include:

– the UK Premiere of Shadow of Fire, the latest work from festival favourite Shinya Tsukamoto (Tetsuo: The Iron Man),

– a new entry in the Roman Porno genre, Hand, commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Nikkatsu’s controversial line of erotic cinema,

– visually stunning anime Lonely Castle in the Mirror,

– fascinating courtroom drama Winny about a computer programmer arrested for creating a P2P file-sharing platform,

– a retrospective classic from the Golden Age of Japanese cinema in Keisuke Kinoshita’s The Snow Flurry.… Read the rest

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Winny
(Winny)

Director – Yusaku Matsumoto – 2023 – Japan – Cert. tbc – 127m

*****

Based on a true story; the state attempts to prosecute the software developer of the file sharing programme Winny for copyright violation – plays UK cinemas in the Japan Foundation Touring Film Programme 2024 between Friday, 2nd February and Sunday, 31st March

2003. After programmer Isamu Kaneko (Masahiro Takashide) creates a file-sharing programme Winny, the media reports that people are using it to illegally download movies. Across Japan in late November, a series of police raids on flats leads to the arrests of several Winny users, along with its creator. In custody and being questioned, Kaneko is very bad at paying attention. Believing the cops have his and society’s best interests at heart, he cooperates by copying into his own handwriting a confession they have written and signing it, on the verbal understanding that he can change or tweak the document before it is used in court. The interrogating cop, however, has deceived him into making a statement that will stand as evidence in court.

Defence attorney Toshimitsu Dan (Takahiro Miura) agrees to take on Kaneko’s case and is horrified by the computer programmer’s naivety about all things legal.… Read the rest

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The Zone of Interest

Director – Jonathan Glazer – 2023 – UK, Poland – Cert. 12a – 106m

*****

A drama about the everyday, domestic lives of the Commandant of Auschwitz, his wife, and their family – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 2nd

How do people sleep at night? If they do bad things? Well, some people who do bad things are tormented by them. They sleep badly. Their conscience, however repressed by them, disturbs them. The others? Well, they seem to sleep soundly.

The Zone of Interest is about people who, as part of their daily routine, do or at least consent to, even inaugurate, unspeakable things. These people are a respectable married couple and their extended family. The focus here is on the ordinary, everyday activities they pursue rather than the unspeakable activities. A nice bathing trip to the river; a later panic when there might be an infection in the river and family members are bathing in it. (The bad stuff seeps into the everyday, routine, speakable stuff, it seems.) Mum taking the little one round the garden and telling her the names of the flowers. Mum running an efficient household, with an army of servants. Mum trying on a second-hand, fur coat.… Read the rest