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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Originally made to coincide with the Royal Academy’s 2016 exhibition of the same name, this basically does what it says on the tin.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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Features Live Action Movies

The Red Shoes

Producers-Writers-Directors – The Archers (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) – 1948 – UK – Cert. PG – 135m

*****

A young dancer gives her all to the art of ballet, symbolised by the story’s centrepiece of the Ballet of the Red Shoes, in which the heroine is danced to death by the eponymous footwear – out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 8th; major season Cinema Unbound: The Creative Worlds Of Powell + Pressburger continues at BFI Southbank and on BFI Player until the end of December with a free exhibition The Red Shoes: Beyond The Mirror (booking essential) running until Sunday, January 7th 2024

The second movie by the Archers not to deal with wartime issues in any way, shape or form (the first being Black Narcissus, 1947) deals with art in the story of a young dancer torn between love and her chosen art form. Student Julian Craster (Marius Goring) is outraged to discover, during its debut performance, that his music tutor Professor Palmer (Austin Trevor) has lifted several passages of Craster’s college work to pass them off as part of his latest dance score Heart of Fire. His subsequent interview with ballet company head and creative genius Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook, who appeared in four Productions of the Archers and later in The Queen Of Spades, Thorold Dickinson, 1949) secures him a lowly job as music arranger for the prestigious Ballet Lermontov.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Anselm
(Anselm
– Das Rauschen
Der Zeit)

Director – Wim Wenders – 2023 – Germany – Cert. PG – 93m

****

An exploration of the work of German artist Anselm Kiefer and the influences which lie behind it – 3D documentary plays the 2023 London Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, October 4th until Sunday, October 15th, and will be out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 8th

Wim Wenders seems to step effortlessly between narrative and documentary feature films, and you never feel that he considers one or the other more important. To him, they are all movies. As with his earlier Pina (2011), similarly about an artist – the choreographer Pina Bausch – this is another portrait of an artist shot in 3D. Wenders’ subject here, again eponymously designated by Christian name, is Anselm Kiefer, a practitioner of the plastic rather than the performing arts.

From the outset, it’s clear that the film needs to be seen in 3D. Wenders’ camera moves deliberately and formally around maquettes that resemble life-sized women wearing dresses, but without the women in them so that they stand as empty objects, often with strange constructions in the space where you would expect their neck and heads to be. The forest setting in which Wenders films them seems almost as significant as the maquettes themselves as we slowly pass by an upright tree trunk between the sculpture and us.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Daaaaaali! (Daaaaaali!)

Director – Quentin Dupieux – 2023 – France – Cert. none – 77m

*****

Dali, played by five actors, repeatedly stalls a journalist’s attempts to film an interview with him, and a priest describes a dream over a meal – plays in the spirit of the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

There are movies about art and artists. There are documentaries. And then there is Daaaaaali!

Whatever expectations one has of a Quentin Dupieux movie (Deerskin, 2019; Smoking Causes Coughing, 2022), this fulfils them. France’s comic auteur makes movies unlike anyone else, completely bonkers and very funny.

It doesn’t start off with celebrated Surrealist artist Salvador Dali but with Judith (Anaïs Demoustier from Smoking Causes Coughing and The New Girlfriend, François Ozon, 2014), 33, a former pharmacist who decided one day to become a journalist.

Actually, it doesn’t start off with Judith but with a scenario that stages a Dali painting (Necrophilic Fountain Flowing from a Grand Piano, 1932). A piano in barren Spanish countryside with a tree-shaped, potted plant sitting on top and a continuous arc of water flowing from a hole in the side of the piano.… Read the rest

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Art Features Live Action Movies

Twin Peaks
Fire
Walk With Me

Director – David Lynch – 1992 – US – Cert. 18 – 135 mins

****

Movie prequel to Lynch’s Twin Peaks TV series.

David Lynch appears early on in his Twin Peaks prequel Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me as FBI chief Gordon Cole. The TV series’ ubiquitous Agent Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) is soon wandering up and down a nearby corridor before rushing to check himself in the security video monitor, when a crazed David Bowie (as a long disappeared Bureau operative) turns up from what appears to be another dimension.

If you’re one of those who didn’t make it to the end of the TV series, you might just enjoy the apparent wackiness in itself; however, if you stayed with the series, you’ll know all about The White Lodge and The Black Lodge and a lot of other stuff without which this movie doesn’t make half as much sense.

For example, the mutilated body which briefly materialises in Laura’s bed is Cooper’s true love Annie Blackburn (Heather Graham). Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me isn’t so much a straightforward movie as a movie springing from a successful TV series, which makes it a rather different animal altogether.

As demented as – but more structured than – Wild At Heart (1990), the opening three-quarter hour segment investigates a pre-Laura Palmer murder through an FBI Agent who subsequently vanishes and is punctuated by a riot of typically quirky Lynchian detail.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Squaring The Circle:
(The Story Of
Hipgnosis)

Director – Anton Corbijn – 2022 – UK – Cert. – 101m

*****

The story of the visual creatives behind album sleeves, for Pink Floyd and others, who revolutionised the field from the late 1960s and through the 1970snow out on Blu-ray/DVD combo and various streaming services plus BFI Player following its release in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on Friday, July 14th

Everyone who bought LP records from the late 1960s through to the very end of the 1970s knows the name Hipgnosis. As one interviewee points out, you would go in to the centre of your town to buy the latest album and mull over all the written information on the sleeve on the bus coming home to find out who played on it and who was responsible for the cover. Many of the most memorable sleeves were designed by Hipgnosis, the name coming from ‘hip’, meaning ‘cool’, and ‘gnosis’ meaning ‘secret wisdom’.

Director Corbijn made his name in black and white photography and album sleeves for such bands as U2 and Depeche Mode in the 1980s, so has a background in the album cover world in a later decade. He is therefore extremely well placed to tackle the subject and chooses to film many of his interviewees in trademark black and white.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The End Of Sex

Director – Sean Garrity – 2022 – Canada – Cert. 15 – 87m

***1/2

A married couple’s attempts to rekindle their sex life while their kids are away for a week go horribly wrong – out on digital from Monday, July 3rd

Packing their two young daughters off in the school bus to Winter Camp, Josh (Jonas Chernick) and Emma (Emily Hampshire) suddenly realise they have a week free to do…what? Drive to gymnastics and sit in the parents’ waiting area? Then it dawns on her: we don’t have to close the door. We can be as loud as we want. But while their parenting is generally successful, their sex life is much less so, with an attempt at coitus leading both of them to fake orgasm.

Sex seems to be in the air. Emily takes the opportunity of having extra time available to visit an art gallery with her best friend Wendy (Melanie Scrofano) for an exhibition which turns out to include black and white photographic print enlargements of testicles, where she runs into old art college friend Marlon (Gray Powell) who she fancies and who, it transpires, is not only the gallery owner but also fantasized about her back in their student days.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Exhibitions Features Live Action Movies

Tokyo Stories

Director – David Bickerstaff – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 90m

*****

Japan generally and Tokyo specifically are viewed through that city’s art and photography – out in UK, Irish and worldwide cinemas on Tuesday, May 23rd

The refreshing thing about this latest entry in producer Phil Grabsky’s excellent Exhibition On Screen series is that it breaks the mould. Like Vermeer The Greatest Exhibition (David Bickerstaff, 2023), it is centred around a particular art exhibition, in this instance 2022’s Tokyo: Art + Photography show at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum. That event sought to give a perspective on the country of Japan generally and the city of Tokyo specifically through its art, both historical and contemporary. The Ashmolean is well-placed to do this, given that it already houses a wide-ranging, historical Japanese collection. Sadly, it means that if this film whets your appetite and makes you want to visit the exhibition, you can’t then do so because it’s been and gone. In a way, though, that’s not so dissimilar from the Vermeer exhibition, which had sold out before the documentary about it appeared.

While the film is swift to acknowledge areas of Japanese culture as diverse as manga (one of the first shots of Tokyo features a giant image of manga and anime favourites Dirty Pair) and traditional Japanese music (a stringed and a woodwind instrument are shown being played by musicians without any explanation or even naming of the instruments), such elements remain largely in the background.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Features Live Action Movies

Hilma

Director – Lasse Hallström – 2022 – Sweden – Cert. 12a – 119m

****

Late in her life, Swedish artist Hilma af Klint, today considered the world’s first abstract painter, remembers her life – out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 28th

As Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (Lena Olin) takes a tram journey, she remembers key events and moments within it: she is haunted by the memory of her little sister Hermina (Emmi Tjernström), who tragically died when Hilma (Tora Hallström) was 18 and with whom she often played hide and seek.

Interested in drawing and painting from nature as a form of scientific inquiry – at her art school interview panel she lists mathematics, geometry, biology and astronomy as interests other than flowers – she meets up with other women studying technical painting and drawing in Stockholm, among them the wealthy Anna Cassel (Catherine Chalk) who becomes her lover and finances her as an artist – and becomes part of their group of five women artists interested in spiritism. She also studies the Theosophical writings of Madame Blavatsky and makes a particular connection to the Anthroposophist ideas of Rudolf Steiner.

Acknowledging these interests, the film infuriatingly refuses to explore them at any great depth, perhaps because it fears such ideas might prove controversial and perhaps because they might prove boring to a contemporary audience, it’s impossible to tell.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Exhibitions Features Live Action Movies

Hopper:
An American Love Story

Director – Phil Grabsky – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 94m

*****

The story of American painter Edward Hopper, and how his artistic career was facilitated by his fellow artist wife Jo – originally out in UK cinemas on Tuesday, October 18th 2022, now available on home video (see bottom of review)

The latest entry in Grabsky’s generally excellent Exhibition On Screen series about art and artists covers the career of Edward Hopper to tie in with a major Hopper exhibition (Edward Hopper’s New York) at the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. The big (and most welcome) surprise is that it charts not just Hopper’s life and work but also that of fellow artist Josephine Nivison, later his wife Josephine Nivison Hopper, whose career was largely eclipsed by his during his lifetime. To be fair, it doesn’t really go into her life before the point at which she became involved in his.

Hopper was born in 1882 and raised in the Nyack, New York house his parents had built (an enviable state, indicative of their and his time, which must surely influence one’s outlook on life). Religion and church were important to the Hoppers, but theirs was the brand of Christianity unafraid to engage with the outside world which at that time meant vast quantities of books and periodicals; the young Edward acquired a love of books from his avid reader father.… Read the rest