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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Princess

Director – Ed Perkins – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 109m

**

The story of Princess Diana told entirely through archive footage – out in cinemas on Thursday, June 30th

The strange thing about watching this documentary about the fairytale turned tragedy of Princess Diana, if you’re old enough to remember it unfolding over several decades, is that it takes you back to the news coverage removed from everything else that was happening in the world (or for that matter in your own life) at the time. To some extent, that’s a necessity of both storytelling and cinematic narrative.

At this point in the review, I could rehash the story as a synopsis of greater or lesser length. However, since rehashing the story is primarily what the film itself does, there seems little point in such an exercise. If you want to see this, you want to see this and little I can say about it will deter you.

What Perkins has done is to assemble a version of the story solely from archive footage: no vox pops from the great and the good to explain what was happening (although he does include the occasional piece of archive interview footage from Diana, Charles, or both together) or offer ‘expert’ or other insight.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Petrov’s Flu (Petrovy v Grippe)

Director – Kirill Serebrennikov – 2021 – Russia – Cert. 18 – 145m

*****

The stream of consciousness existence of an urban, Russian comic book artist who has the ‘flu – out on VoD on Tuesday, June 28th

Despite being under the weather with the ‘flu, city dweller Petrov (Semyon Serzin) is trying his best to carry on as normal. Not so easy when you’re out of it. His nightmare starts with a bus journey. A nine-year-old girl kindly offers him her seat, but before he’s sat down, someone else seems to have taken it. A misogynist old man talks to the girl, telling her that often girls her age are married off and possibly already cheating on their husbands.

in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sunday December 15, 2019. (Photo Sergey Ponomarev for The New York Times)

Before the old misogynist knows it, someone has had the bus stopped so the he can be thrown off, losing his false teeth in the process which Petrov picks up and which subsequently function like an intermittent Greek chorus, albeit one that doesn’t make any particular sense, throughout the remainder of the narrative. Then Petrov’s mate Igor (Yuri Kolokolnikov), who’s been pursuing the bus in a hearse, complete with coffined corpse, stops it to commandeer Petrov off the bus and into shooting an automatic rifle at victims as part of an impromptu firing squad.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Wings Of Desire (Der Himmel über Berlin)

Director – Wim Wenders – 1987 – Germany – Cert. PG – 128m

*****

Angels move around Berlin, watching over Berliners, until one of them sees a beautiful girl and decides he wants to become human and experience emotion for himself – out in cinemas on Friday, June 24th and playing on Film 4 from Wednesday, June 29th to Thursday, July 28th

This film is many things. It is, first and foremost, about angels, here captured in stunning black and white cinematography and represented as men moving invisibly among the population of Berlin, observing them, listening to their thoughts, hopes, fears and dreams, perhaps imparting some sort of spiritual comfort by a touch of the hand. And just as Henri Alekan’s camera photographs the actors playing angels, so too it photographs those Berliners they observe and comfort.

The iconic Hollywood actor Peter Falk – known to millions of TV viewers as the detective Columbo – plays himself playing a character on the set of a war film and hanging out between takes. The camera takes great pleasure in simply observing him doing what he does, for instance talking to an angel he can’t see (“I can’t see you, but I know you’re here”) which might be an attempt to communicate with invisible beings or might equally well be no more than an acting routine.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Luzzu

Director – Alex Camilleri – 2021 – Malta – Cert. 15 – 95m

****

As he repairs the small boat that’s been in his family for generations, a fisherman grapples with both his role as a new parent and the economic changes threatening his livelihood – on Curzon Home Cinema (CHC) from Monday, June 27th

While out on the sea in his small boat known as a ‘luzzu’, lone fisherman Jesmark (Jesmark Scicluna) notices water in the bottom of his boat and realises the vessel is in urgent need of repair. His friend David (David Scicluna) both helps him beach the craft in an appropriate location for doing the work and gives him work as crew on David’s more modern boat.

When they catch a swordfish out of season which must be thrown back according to EU regulations, Jes protests that it’s dead and no-one throws these fish back. David, mindful of his liability, phones the authorities to ask if they can keep it, then throws it back. Just as well, because an inspector (Anthony Ellul) checks the vessel on their return to port.

Taking their catch to market, where they are bottom of the pile, they watch the seller fail to interest buyers in their catch and then frantically hawk it around local restaurants in the hope of shifting it while still fresh, to no avail.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Mother Night

Director – Keith Gordon – 1996 – US – Cert. 15 – 114m

*****

In this adaptation of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel, a former Nazi propagandist awaits trial in Israel for war crimes – retail VHS review from Home Entertainment, 1997

From his Israeli prison cell where he must compose his memoirs while awaiting trial for his war crimes in black and white, Howard W. Campbell, Jr. (Nick Nolte in a career-defining performance) recalls in colour flashback his rise to fame in wartime Berlin as a radio propaganda writer/broadcaster for the Third Reich, surviving that regime’s madness by devoting himself to actress wife Helga (Sheryl Lee) and their self-contained Nation Of Two.

Recruited from a park as an undercover American spy by raincoat‑wearing American top brass John Goodman (a small part, but likewise impressive), Campbell has to incorporate coded messages to the Allies in his broadcasts. In 1944, Helga dies. After the War, Campbell winds up alone in a seedy New York apartment where neighbours include fellow widower Alan Arkin and Auschwitz survivor‑turned‑doctor Ayre Gross.

When admiring right wing activists arrive at Campbell’s door, the tale (based on Kurt Vonnegut’s novel) lurches even further into surrealism. Gordon’s direction is flawless throughout.

SOUND Ironically bookended by White Christmas, the sparse but subtle surround mix manages two highly effective moments (the very start, the very end) that work as emotional punctuation marks.… Read the rest

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Swimming With Sharks

Director – George Huang – 1994 – US – Cert. 15 – 93m

*****

A film school graduate’s job with a Hollywood producer turns out to be a nightmare

To the blissfully ignorant outsider, the Hollywood movie business is a glamorous place where dreams come true. In reality, it’s often closer to a personal hell where the aspirant’s dreams are trampled underfoot by passing megalomaniacs. At least, that’s what the nightmarish Swimming With Sharks would have us believe as it cheerfully plunges green film school graduate Guy (Frank Whaley) into an assistant’s job with major Hollywood producer Buddy Ackerman (Kevin Spacey).

Buddy is the sort of boss who tells underlings, “your brain counts as nothing”, then insults them viciously in front of visiting clients. Reasons for insults heaped on Guy include bringing the coffee with the wrong kind of sweetener and leaving at the office the phone number of the starlet wannabe his boss is currently bedding. Further employer vitriol erupts when Buddy’s superior (a welcome if all too brief appearance from veteran Brit Roy Dotrice) notices spelling errors Buddy had earlier refused to allow Guy to correct – in script notes supplied Buddy by Guy but palmed off by Buddy as his own.… Read the rest

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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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Features Live Action Movies Music

Elvis

Director – Baz Luhrmann – 2022 – US, Australia – Cert. 12a – 159m

***

Elvis Presley’s career from the mid-1950s through to his death in 1977, and his complex business relationship with his manager Colonel Tom Parker – out in cinemas on Friday, June 24th

Colonel Tom Parker (Tom Hanks), having a heart attack, reminisces to himself about his career. Many considered him the abuser and exploiter of the singer Elvis Presley, but that wasn’t the way it was. In the early 1950s, when Parker was managing the touring show of country singer Hank Snow (David Wenham), he heard Presley’s first recording on Sun Records though Hank’s son Jimmie Rodgers Snow (Kodi Smit-Mcphee), a singer in his own right who Parker didn’t think was anything like as good as his father.

Parker, an old time carnival showman, is always on the lookout for that one act that’s a little bit different, affects audiences and might well clean up at the box office. When he first sees Elvis (Austin Butler) perform, and notices young girls and older women going wild at the singer’s dance moves, he is convinced there’s money to be made and determines to sign him before someone else does.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Beyond The Mask

Directors – Jane Harris, Jimmy Edmonds – 2021 – UK – 60m

****

People talk about their experiences of bereavement in the light of the COVID-19 lockdown – now free to watch (donation suggested)

In March 2020, the unthinkable happened as the world entered a global pandemic. In the ensuing year or so many people lost their lives while many more felt and indeed still feel a sense of loss for the ’normal’ life that existed beforehand. Directors Harris and Edmonds are no strangers to bereavement having lost their son unexpectedly at age 22 while he was travelling abroad in 2013 and part of their process of dealing with it was to make the excellent documentary A Love That Never Dies (Jane Harris, Jimmy Edmonds, 2018) in which bereaved parents talk about their different experiences of losing children.

Not everyone has suffered the misfortune of losing a child, but if you’re reading this you will invariably have lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, at least thus far. This latter condition is universal. So, what does the experience of bereavement have to say to our current situation of the pandemic – or, for that matter, what does our current situation of the pandemic have to say to our experience of bereavement?… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Between Two Worlds (Ouistreham)

Director – Emmanuel Carrère – 2022 – France – Cert. 12a – 106m

****

A successful journalist goes undercover in Caen to pose as unemployed and get a job as a cleaner to write a book on conditions in the cleaning industry – out on BFI Player (rental) from Friday, June 24th

This opens at an unemployment office where Christèle (Hélène Lambert) insists on seeing a staff member without an appointment which swiftly develops into a full blown row as she asks, how am I supposed to feed my kids? This is a film about those at the bottom of the social pile, the women who work in the cleaning industry.

The tone shifts to something much quieter as Marianne Winckler (Juliette Binoche) is interviewed for work. She’s asked about the 23-year gap in her employment record, She was married, she explains, but then her husband moved his lover into the family home and the situation became intolerable. So she came to Caen and is now looking for work.

Given a job as a maintenance agent (i.e. cleaning lady), she finds herself on a crew with Christèle who teaches her the ropes. The amount of toilet cubicles that must be cleaned in a day requires the women work at speed, which means that the work isn’t always done to the employer’s satisfaction.… Read the rest