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Compartment No. 6 (Hytti Nro 6)

Director – Juho Kuosmanen – 2021 – Finland – Cert. 15 tbc – 107m

*****

A student taking a long, sleeper train from Moscow to the Arctic finds herself sharing a compartment with a drunken male slob – from the BFI London Film Festival 2021 which runs from Wednesday, October 6th to Sunday, October 17th in cinemas and on BFI Player

Finnish archaeology student Laura (Seidi Haarla) lives in Moscow with her life of the party, professor lover Irina (Dinara Druckerova) in the latter’s Moscow flat where life is a constant round of social gatherings and parties. Irina’s busy schedule causes her to drop out of a proposed visit to Murmansk to see the petroglyphs, so Laura takes the Artika train (Artic train) alone and finds herself sharing her first class, two person sleeper cabin with Lhoja (Yuriy Borisov) who knocks back the vodka and leaves half-eaten packets of food all over the shared table. She takes an immediate dislike to him.

And that’s the setup of the film: not so much a road movie as a rail movie, the bulk of what follows taking place on the train (a fascinating location in itself) with off-train episodes at various stops en route including St.Read the rest

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Another Round (Druk)

Director – Thomas Vinterberg – 2020 – Denmark – Cert. 12a – 115m

****1/2

Four teachers decide to test the theory that human beings function better with a little alcohol permanently in their blood – out on rental on various platforms including BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema in the UK from Monday, September 27th

Racing round the lake carrying a crate of beer. Drink a bottle at every stop. Penalty points if you puke, less points if you all puke together as a team. 

That’s a typical weekend activity for their students, but four teachers are an older generation, some of them married with kids and dealing with more mature relationship issues. 

One of them has been reading an academic theory that humans have an alcohol deficiency of about 0.5% and convinces the other three to help him conduct an experiment. They will all consume the amount of alcohol required to bring them up to the theory’s optimum level. 

The experiment is initially successful, but then wreaks havoc within each of their lives as they up the quantity of alcohol to the next level. 

Using intertitles to indicate the increasing percentage of alcohol in the blood as the four drink collectively or individually, this drama charts what happens to the four as they pursue their idea to its logical conclusion and beyond.… Read the rest

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The Courier

Director – Dominic Cooke – 2020 – UK – Cert. 12a – 112m

*****

The real life story of businessman Greville Wynne who smuggled secrets out of Moscow and helped avert the Cuban missile crisis – out on premium digital Monday, September 27th

The early 1960s. The cold war. High up Kremlin bureaucrat Oleg Penkovsky (Merab Ninidze) is convinced Kruschev wants to start a nuclear war. He has information about this he wants to leak to the West, for which the Soviet state is likely to punish him should they find out, possibly with death. However he has no easy route through which to send the information. He accosts American tourists and tells them to take packages straight to their embassy and then leave the country immediately.

Impressed with the calibre of his leaks, MI6 and the CIA, represented respectively by London operatives Dickie Franks (Angus Wright) and Emily Donovan (Rachel Brosnahan), set about finding the perfect person to to bring his packages back to the West. They meet businessman Greville Wynne (Benedict Cumberbatch) under the aliases James Dobbin from the Board of Trade and his associate Helen Talbot.

Greville does business by talking to (and drinking with) clients to find out what their businesses need and putting them in touch with other businesses who might be able to work with them, the classic networker.… Read the rest

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Underground (Souterrain)

Director – Sophie Dupuis – 2020 – Canada – Cert. 15 – 97m

**

A tale of friendship, loss and regret plays out against the working lives of miners – out in cinemas and on Virtual Cinemas and VoD from Friday, August 20th

A vast, modern, industrial mine in the French-speaking part of Canada. An explosion is heard, so a rescue team is put together to go and extract the trapped workers. Max, full name Maxime (Joakim Robillard) is one of the youngest team members and has a disagreement with the leader Catherine (Catherine Trudeau). They have two men on stretchers and need to get them out to safety. Protocol insists they should not go and rescue anyone else as it would endanger not only the two they are ready to take to safety but also the rescue crew members.

However, the headstrong Max wants to go down and save the remaining trapped miners. He seems incapable of following either protocol or orders.

We flash back two months and get to know Max’s life. He and his partner Andrée-Anne (Lauren Hartley) have for some time been trying to start a family using in vitro fertilisation, but when she miscarries, she decides she can’t go on with the process any more.… Read the rest

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Minamata

Director – Andrew Levitas – 2020 – US – Cert. 15 – 114m

****

A dramatisation of celebrated photographer W. Eugene Smith’s investigation of Japan’s Minamata environmental atrocity in 1971 – out in cinemas and on digital from Friday, August 13th

This feels like a Hollywood actor-led project with laudable aims which comes unstuck somewhere in the execution. That said, there’s still much to admire.

Minamata is the name of a Japanese coastal town which became synonymous with Mercury poisoning caused by the Chisso chemicals factory in the 1950s and ‘60s.

Following a celebrated career as a war photographer in WW2, W. Eugene Smith photographed the series Country Doctor for Life magazine, now recognised as a landmark in the medium of the photo-essay. In the early 1970s, he and his Japanese-American wife Aileen were introduced to the town of Minamata and its dark secret, and collaborated on a photographic book about it. When we meet him in 1971, played by Johnny Depp (from such films as Charlie And The Chocolate Factory, 2005; Sleepy Hollow, 1999; Edward Scissorhands, 1990, all Tim Burton) he has his own darkroom in a New York loft and has clearly seen better days as he is constantly on the whisky and amphetamines.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

WITCH We Intend To Cause Havoc

Director – Gio Arlotta – 2019 – Italy, Czech Republic – Cert. 12 – 98m – English Language

***1/2

Winsome if shallow documentary follows survivors from Zambia’s seventies music Zamrock phenomenon as they reform and tour Europe – in cinemas and on VoD from Friday, July 2nd

On the verge of a pan-African trip that will take the narrator through Zambia alongside bassist / vocalist Jacco Gardner and drummer Nic Mauskoviç, intensive research reveals the Zamrock phenomenon of the 1970s which mixed traditional African rhythms with psychedelic rock music of which the band WITCH was the leading proponent. The name later turned in to an acronym for We Intend To Cause Havoc at the suggestion of the band’s then graphic designer. Sadly, many of the original band members are now dead following the AIDS crisis which hit the African continent pretty hard.

At Zanis, the state-owned television company, we enter a 16mm archive that hasn’t been opened for 17 years because the room key had been lost. The music section reveals footage of James Brown performing in Africa but nothing of WITCH even though apparently they were all over broadcast TV at the time – much of what was taped of them may well have been recorded over by footage of President Kaunda on his latest walkabout.… Read the rest

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Delia Derbyshire: The Myths And Legendary Tapes

Director – Caroline Catz – 2020 – UK – 98m

*****

Docudrama explores the ten years the legendary electronic musician spent at the BBC Radiophonic Workshop – on BBC iPlayer from Sunday, May 16th for a year

Part documentary, part drama and part performance art, this is a fascinating examination of Delia Derbyshire, the woman who between 1962 and 1973 worked in the BBC Radiophonic Workshop. The film does examine her life and career before and after that, but only briefly. After studying mathematics and music at Cambridge, she became interested in music as an expression of mathematics and, as such, knew that the Radiophonic Workshop was the place she wanted to be.

We see Delia (writer-director Caroline Katz) interviewed for a job at Decca Records only to be told that women don’t work in the technical department but there are openings for secretaries. It’s easy to see that as sexism now, but at that time such attitudes were commonplace. She wonders if her interviewer was the person who turned down the Beatles. We see interviewed Dutch video artist Madelon Hoodykas with whom she collaborated in The Netherlands after her BBC period and there’s some brief footage of the LYC museum set up by Li Yuan-chia near Hadrian’s Wall where she spent some time after a disastrous marriage to a man with whom she had little in common with beyond drinking.… Read the rest

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One Night (Hitoyo, ひとよ)

Director – Kazuya Shiraishi – 2019 – Japan – Cert. N/C 15+ – 123m

****1/2

A woman murders her violent husband after years of his beating up the kids, goes to prison then returns 15 years later to find the siblings in turmoil – played online in the Japan Foundation Touring Programme 2021 in the UK

A night of torrential rain proves a defining moment in the lives of the Inamura family which owns and runs a taxi business. Koharu (Yuko Tanaka – Princess Mononoke, 1997) enters, dressed in her usual suit she wears to drive customers around, to announce to her three teenager children, “I’ve just killed your father. Nobody will ever beat you again. You can live however you want. You’re totally free.” Expressing no remorse and convinced she’s done the right thing, she promises to return in fifteen years then disappears to hand herself in to the cops.

Koharu’s designs of freeing her kids from their father’s years of violent abuse don’t quite play out the way she had hoped. Their father would beat them for any suggestion that they’d want to do anything other than work in the family taxi business. The eldest Daiki (Ryohei Suzuki – Our Little Sister, Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2015; Tokyo Tribe, Sion Sono, 2014) is a stutterer whose relationship with wife Fumiko (Megumi) is mired in divorce proceedings as he struggles to hold down a regular job.… Read the rest

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Justine

Director – Jamie Patterson – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 82m

***1/2

LGBQT romance. Fiercely intelligent, young woman living in Brighton with no prospects falls for a student teacher – out exclusively on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, February 5th

A young woman with a bruised lip soaks in the bath. Her landlord pounds on the door of the flat demanding rent. She gets out of the bath – in wet clothes, and answers, putting him off ’til another day.

Welcome to the world of Justine (Tallulah Haddon) – young, intelligent, in good health and damaged. She fills a plastic water bottle with vodka and swigs from it regularly. She hangs out and goes shoplifting with her best mate (Xavien Russell) who has his own problems – his mother has a new boyfriend who’s all over her and he can’t bear to be in the house. Regular meetings with her probation officer (Sian Reese-Williams) suggest a young woman closed in on herself, desperate for love and affection. No educational qualifications. No job. Lacking hope or ambition for anything. Except, perhaps, death or oblivion.

And yet, she loves to read. And one day browsing and lifting in a bookshop she spots a young woman.… Read the rest

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The Ice Cream Truck

Director – Megan Freels Johnston – 2018 – US – Cert. 15 – 96m

**1/2

A housewife newly moved in to a suburb is unnerved by the creepy, local ice cream man and van… with good reason, as it turns out – on VoD and DVD from Monday, March 1st

Having just moved back into the neighbourhood where she grew up, Mary (Deanna Russo) should probably be worried that it looks a lot like the location of classic shocker Halloween (John Carpenter, 1979) with its pavements bordering lawns and hedges around residential houses. (There’s now prowling, gliding camera here though – the shots are mostly static.)

The locality also now boasts the traditional American ice cream truck, a simple, slow moving van which still serves exactly the same traditional ice cream that it has for generations. The ice cream man himself (Emil Johnsen) seems almost a parody of his profession, addressing both children and adults alike with archaic lines like, “hello there, young fellow.”

She takes an immediate dislike to nosy next-door neighbour Jessica (Hilary Barraford) but nevertheless accepts an invitation to a barbecue where it’s promised drink will flow celebrating the recent graduation of local couple’s son Max (John Redlinger – who feels a lot older than 18) who she meets on her way to the party as he hangs out with his girlfriend Tracy (Bailey Anne Borders) to smoke pot.… Read the rest