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Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Eric Ravilious: Drawn To War

Director – Margy Kinmonth – 2022 – UK – Cert. PG – 87m

***1/2

The career of the British watercolour artist tragically killed while serving as an official war artist in World War Two – out in cinemas on Friday, July 1st

The first official war artist to be commissioned in World War Two, Eric Ravilious was on an aircraft which set out from Iceland in 1942 and never came back. There is no exact record of what took place, covered by the phrase “missing in action”, but in all likelihood the plane went down in the sea. Kinmonth finds simple images to convey the incident, which appears in both her opening introduction to Ravilious’ life and her closing reel representing his passing – a warplane descending, our viewpoint falling towards the surface of the sea, an indistinct body moving in water filled with bubbles. At the end, the cold blue of the water contrasts with the gentler, rural green of the family house and surroundings back home.

After his death, Ravilious’ art was largely ignored. Alan Bennett, an admirer of the artist’s work, puts this down to the work’s cheerful and unthreatening nature and a prevailing view that art should grapple with dark and foreboding subject matter.… Read the rest

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Art Features Live Action Movies

Benedetta

Sins of the flesh

Benedetta
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Certificate 18, 131 minutes
Released 15 April

The Dutch director Paul Verhoeven revels in controversy… His latest work, Benedetta, is… sexually explicit, but also tackles religion within a historical context. It clearly has plenty of potential to offend.

Benedetta is based on the story of the 17th-century Italian nun Benedetta Carlini who had visions and exhibited stigmata. She became an abbess and was investigated and discredited by Catholic officials. There were suggestions that Benedetta’s visionary traffic was with the Devil rather than God, while various nuns’ testimonies claimed her stigmata to be faked. Her roommate Bartolomea confessed to regular sexual activity with Benedetta. Benedetta was demoted.

Verhoeven eschews historical accuracy for the spiritual, the spectacular and the carnal… [Read more…]

Full review published in Reform magazine.

See also my alternative review.

Teaser trailer:

Trailer:

Categories
Animation Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Escher: Journey Into Infinity (Escher: Het Oneindige Zoeken)

Director – Robin Lutz – 2018 – The Netherlands – Cert. PG – 81m

*****

The life and work of graphic artist M.C. Escher is explored through his own images and words (read by Stephen Fry) – on UK/Ireland digital download platforms from Monday, October 18th – iTunes, Amazon, Sky Store, Curzon Home Cinema, Google and Microsoft

Maurits Cornelius Escher’s words at the start of this film suggest a production doomed to fail: “I am afraid there is only one person in the world who could make a good film about my prints: me.” Sadly, since Escher passed away in 1972, we will never see that film. Happily, Robin Lutz has proved Escher wrong by making this one. And so too has his collaborator Stephen Fry whose voice-over for the English language version, recorded in under three hours at a London dubbing studio, is nothing short of inspired (of which more later). He must have done some serious preparation beforehand.

For the uninitiated, Escher (1898-1972) is the Dutch graphic artist whose prints famously include Ascending and Descending (March 1960), the impossible staircase which keeps going up and up, or down and down for people travelling in the opposite direction – as it goes round and round in a square.… Read the rest

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Art Features Live Action Movies

Benedetta

Director – Paul Verhoeven – 2021 – France – Cert. tbc – 131m

*****

A 17th Century nun subject to religious visions embarks on a lesbian relationship with a novice – in cinemas from Friday, April 15th

Christianity. The Church. Religion. Treat them the wrong way, and you can get into trouble. Horror The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973), drama The Devils (Ken Russell, 1971) and comedy Life Of Brian (Terry Jones, 1971) remain controversial. Lesbian nun relationship drama Benedetta may be about to join their ranks. Or perhaps times have moved on. The film is apparently based on a real 17th Century case.

As a young girl, Benedetta (Elena Plonka) claims to commune with the Divine – convincingly so, too, enough to suggest to a bandit gang about to rob her parents and her that a chirping bird is God’s voice, especially when said bird deposits excrement in the eye of the bandit leader who promptly returns a gold necklace to Benedetta’s mother.

On arrival at the convent in Pescia, Benedetta’s father (David Clavel) must pay the Reverend Mother (Charlotte Rampling who seems to have cornered the market in Reverend Mothers judging by Dune, Denis Villeneuve, 2021) a dowry to enable his daughter to become a novice, which suggests that the institution, like the wealthy Catholic Church under whose umbrella it exists, may have ignored Jesus’ injunction to sell all you have and give to the poor.… Read the rest

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Art Features Live Action Movies

Tove

Creator of the Moomins

Tove
Directed by Zaida Bergroth
Certificate 12, 103 minutes
Released 9 July

The Swedish-speaking Finnish writer and artist Tove Jansson is best known as the creator of the Moomins, a friendly family of trolls who live in Moominvalley, who appeared in her own books, newspaper strips and plays for children. The Moomins later spawned numerous animated movies, TV shows, and more. Tove also painted pictures, wrote novels, and worked as an illustrator.

Set in the period from the end of the Second World War up to her signing a contract for a Moomin cartoon strip for the Evening News, this drama focuses on both Jansson’s turbulent personal life, and her creation and development of the Moomins during that time.

Born into a family of artists who take pity on all non-artists, Tove (Alma Pöysti) is a free-spirited type at odds with her conventional sculptor father Viktor (Robert Enckell). [Read more…]

Full review published in Reform.

Tove is out in cinemas and in the UK from Friday, July 9th.

Trailer:

Categories
Animation Art Features Movies

Son Of The White Mare (Fehérlófia)

Director – Marcell Jankovics – 1981 – Hungary – 86m

*****

Based on Hungarian folk legends, tells the story of three sons of the white mare who must free three princesses from their dragon husbands and restore the kingdom from chaos – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Special Screenings – Annecy Classics section

This has a script sourced from Hungarian folk tales. While it’s very cinematic, the writing is similar to religious texts like the Bible or mythological stories like the Iliad where events are related in a paired down, straightforward way no matter how far removed from everyday experience they might be. Thus, there’s a prologue about three princes begging their father for their inheritance so they can marry, only for their foolish new brides to disobey the patriarch and explore all the castle’s locked doors until they unwittingly unleash a dragon and are sucked into its domain.

In the ensuing chaos, the only hope comes when the white mare births two sons then escapes into the woods pregnant with a third. She weans him for eight years until her milk makes him strong enough to uproot a tree. Drained of milk, she dies. Treeshaker sets out to find his brothers Stonecrumbler and Irontemperer, of whom it turns out Treeshaker is the strongest.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Art Movies Shorts

Opera

Director – Erick Oh – 2020 – South Korea – 9m

*****

Compelling, Oscar-nominated schematic of a self-contained society’s infrastructure behaviour and movement of groups of people within it over a day and a night – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Short Films In Competition section – Official 4

This feels like it ought to exist as an art exhibit in a gallery playing over and over again. Watching it online, I went back and immediately rewatched bits of it until I’d seen the whole thing about five times. It’s like a massive moving painting where the camera starts at the top and slowly works its way down to the bottom before slowly panning up again. It makes me wonder if an installation version exists without the panning where visitor can just watch the whole thing on repeat until they’ve taken it all in.

It’s a picture of a self-contained society with the ruler at the top (and a deity above him/her), an elite, the workers at the bottom and several strata in between. In the space of nine minutes, we watch the sun come up and the society go through its daily ritual from morning to night then daily renewal in the morning.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Features Movies

Snotty Boy (Rotzbub)

Directors – Santiago Lopez Jover, Marcus H. Rosenmüller – 2021 – Austria, Germany – 95m

*****

A young artist with a predilection for large ladies with large breasts finds himself in confrontation with closet Nazi racists – from the Annecy 2021 Animation Festival in the Official Competition section

1968, the small, rural Austrian town of Siegheilkirchen. Teenage schoolboy Snotty Boy (voice: Markus Freistätter) is obsessed with members of the opposite sex. He is equally obsessed with drawing. He combines the two passions in making a flick book of newly arrived in town, large-breasted girl next door Trude (Katharina Straßer) in her underwear so he can watch her remove her bra whenever he wants.

Two boys at school, the enterpreneurial and duplicitous Spotface (Mario Canedo) and his side-kick Grasberger (Maurice Ernst) discover the book and befriend him so he can draw them pictures for sale to the town’s boys. Class swot and tell-tale Fridolin shows a purchased Trude drawing to his mother and gets Snotty Boy in trouble.

Such activities run counter to the way the authorities would have things. The school is run by a repressive priest (Juergen Maurer) who is first seen teaching his bored class of boys St. Paul’s admonition against fornication.… Read the rest

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Art Features Live Action Movies

Effie Gray

Director – Richard Laxton – 2014 – UK – Cert. 12a – 104m

****

The eponymous heroine marries art critic John Ruskin who then fails to consummate their relationship – in Virtual Cinemas and on VoD from Monday, April 19th and BD/DVD Special Collector’s Edition from Monday, May 31st

The real life story of Effie Gray provides a fascinating footnote to an episode of English art history. At age 19, she married ascendant critic John Ruskin but for reasons we shall probably never fully know, their sexual relationship was never consummated and she had the marriage annulled six years later. Meanwhile, she had got to know Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais through Ruskin, marrying him a year after the annulment. Effie’s second marriage was to prove a much happier affair and she bore John eight children.

The story has been dramatised numerous times, mostly either on radio or screen, as well as the odd stage play, short story or novel. Emma Thompson’s slow and deliberate screenplay may be the first time the story has been put on the big screen in a full length feature (one of the very first adaptations was the silent short The Love Of John Ruskin, Van Dyke Brooke, 1912).… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Art Movies Shorts

The Cowboy’s Flute (Mu Di, 牧笛)

Directors – Qian Jiajun, Te Wei – 1963 – China – Cert. N/C U – 20m

*****

A flute-playing forest boy loses then is reunited with his beloved water buffalo in the mountains. available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

This opens with a lengthy panning shot of a forest drawn with pen and ink in a distinctive Chinese style not entirely dissimilar to the animated opening of the Japanese live action feature The Mad Fox (Tomu Uchida, 1962) but without the chaos or violence. Among the ink and watercolour-rendered trees wanders a boy playing a flute as he rides a slow moving buffalo, rendered like the backgrounds in pen and ink so that the effect is not of watching clumsily moving images over exquisitely rendered backgrounds, as has often been the case in Western animation departing from the 2D Disney model, but rather of watching a seamlessly moving brush and ink painting. Te Wei had already done this with his groundbreaking Where is Mama? (1960) and he pulls off the same trick again here.… Read the rest