Categories
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 out in UK cinemas on Tuesday, October 18th

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

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Emily

Director – Frances O’Connor – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 130m

varies between ** and ****

An imagined account of how Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights – out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 14th

The three Brontë sisters Charlotte (Alexandra Dowling), Emily (Emma Mackey), and Anne (Amelia Gething) live with their brother Branwell (Fionn Whitehead) and their chapel minister father Patrick (Adrian Dunbar) in the large parsonage in the West Riding of Yorkshire’s village of Haworth. The three girls have a lively, literary imagination, make up numerous stories for their own amusement, and spend much time outside in the landscape of the moors. A young curate Weightman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) arrives in the village, piquing the girls’ interest, and Charlotte soon departs for a distant teaching post. Emily likes her own company and spends much time alone on the moors.

Branwell is accepted by the Royal Academy to study painting, but drops out and returns to the village, where he and Emily get into mischief together, chiefly by spying on one of the neighbours at night through their window and getting chased off the premises several times by dogs before Branwell eventually gets caught and has to endure punishment from father.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song

Directors – Daniel Geller, Dayna Goldfine – 2021 – UK – Cert. 12 – 118m

***

The career of writer-turned-singer/songwriter Leonard Cohen, with particular emphasis on his best known song Hallelujah – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 16th

There have been films about Leonard Cohen before, hardly surprising given his status as one of the major singer / songwriters of the twentieth century. This one falls between two stools.

Leonard Cohen

On the one hand, it’s an attempt to document his career, and as such comes across as another Leonard Cohen movie which is fine as an introduction if you don’t know his career and music and I suspect fine for Leonard completists. As someone in the middle, this aspect seemed to be all talking heads treading mostly predictable ground.

On the other, it explores Cohen’s best known song Hallelujah, his struggles in writing it and how the piece ultimately took on a life of its own. This second aspect hasn’t been explored that widely to the best of my knowledge and proves a far richer seam into the mind, workings, practices and artistry of Cohen, making you wish the filmmakers had dumped much of the other material and explored this area at greater length.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Railway Children (1970)

Director – Lionel Jeffries –1970 – UK – Cert. U – 109m

****1/2

After their father is arrested and the family plunged into poverty, three siblings and their mother leave London for the Yorkshire countryside – now on BBC iPlayer until around mid-August, also recently back out in cinemas for one day only on Sunday, July 3rd

E. Nesbit’s book The Railway Children, set in 1905, has been filmed several times, most notably as the BBC TV series of 1968 and Lionel Jeffries’ 1970 cinema film, both of which starred Jenny Agutter as the eldest of three children sent from the city to Oakworth in Yorkshire. What is arguably the 1968 and 1970 version’s most memorable sequence has the children stand on train tracks waving red flags to stop an oncoming train and prevent an accident after a tree falls on the line ahead.

My parents used to sit me and my younger brother down and make us watch Sunday teatime BBC classic serials, something which has engendered a deep seated dislike within me for both filmed costume drama and literature considered worthy enough to film. I found the former stodgy and suspect the latter may be more to do with BBC cultural filters than anything else.… Read the rest

Categories
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 – exclusively on MUBI from Friday, July 1st

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

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Pickpocket

Director – Robert Bresson – 1959 – France – Cert. PG – 76m

*****

Why is a man compelled to pursue acts of petty thievery – acclaimed, arresting, existential drama is out in cinemas on Friday, June 3rd

I have just rewatched Bresson’s classic and am still not entirely sure I have its measure. Perhaps that’s the thing about great works of art. Oh, to have seen it on its original release, had I been old enough, and watch it without the baggage of it being proclaimed a cinematic masterwork.

Words on the screen proclaim at the outset that this is not the thriller its title might suggest; it’s rather a study of a man who repeatedly commits crimes which is trying to understand why he would do that.

The characters, of whom the main protagonist Michel (Martin LaSalle) is the one who gets most screen time and indeed, is scarcely if ever off the scree, are played deadpan, with Bresson doing his utmost to ensure that his cast perform the roles without acting. He doesn’t want the actors’ craft to come between us and his images of people doing, being, talking. He seeks to avoid the artificiality of acting thereby allowing his performers to realise his images without any acting technique mediating them.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

The Wicker Man: The Final Cut

Director – Robin Hardy – 1973 – UK – Cert. 15 – 94m

*****

A Christian police sergeant investigating a missing child on a remote Scottish island meets a terrible fate – out in UK cinemas from Friday, September 27th, 2013

Originally released forty years ago in the UK in a cut down version its director disliked, The Wicker Man now reaches our cinema screens in a longer, restored version which he says fulfils his original vision. Its plot is deceptively simple. A Christian police sergeant flies to a remote Scottish island in response to a letter about a missing child. But when he arrives on Summerisle, no-one seems to have heard of that child. It gradually emerges that the policeman has stumbled into an intricate web of lies and deceit wherein a terrible fate awaits him….

Using material from a recently discovered, longer US release print – rechristened The Final Cut by Hardy who assembled this cut in 1979 – it’s a provocative work on a number of levels. Sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward)’s Christian values comprise dogma about Christ being the Resurrection and the Life plus traditional sexual mores: he’s engaged to be married and does not believe in sex before marriage.… Read the rest

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Wake Wood

Director – David Keating – 2009 – UK, Ireland – Cert. 18 – 90m

*****

Things are not what they seem, supernatural power is abroad and terrible prices have to be paid in a mysterious, close-knit village community – out in UK cinemas from Friday, March 25th, 2011

This review originally appeared in Third Way.

This presages the recent relaunching of Hammer Films, a huge cultural force back in the 1950s and 60s reworking such horror staples as Dracula and Frankenstein. So far UK cinemas have hosted (1) Let Me In‘s arguably pointless US remake of terrific Swedish vampire effort Let The Right One In and (2) predictable, New York tenant in peril outing The Resident. Wake Wood is not only far and away the best of the three, but also fits in with the Hammer ethos – here represented by a mysterious, close-knit village community where things are not what they seem, supernatural power is abroad, and terrible prices have to be paid for misjudged actions. A fair bit of blood and gore is added for good measure.

After their only daughter Alice (Ella Connolly) is fatally savaged by a dog, Irish city dwellers vets Patrick and Louise Daly (Aidan Gillen from The Wire and Eva Birthistle) move to the isolated village of Wake Wood to start over.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Lancaster

Directors – David Fairhead, Anthony Palmer – 2022 – UK – Cert. PG – 110m

****

The story of World War Two’s iconic Lancaster bomber aircraft, the missions it flew and the airmen who served as its crews – out in cinemas on Friday, May 27th

The constant drone-like sound, the view looking downwards moving over water, a Lancaster bomber aircraft flying the length of a lake, the camera above it titling down as it passes to reveal it crossing a dam. This sequence, impressive on a big cinema screen equipped with a really good sound system, opens this informative and compelling documentary.

The Lancaster is entrenched in the British psyche from The Dam Busters (Michael Anderson, 1955) and in due course clips from that film and a few others appear here. I can remember seeing it many times on afternoon television as a child in the late 1960s / early 1970s. Present day footage of this amazing aircraft in flight jostles with comments by present day airmen who fly in it, and their enormous affection and respect for the aircraft comes through loud and clear. They are seen touching a plaque by the plane’s entrance doorway commemorating all those who flew her during World War Two as a way of taking the spirits of those people with them on flights today.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Features Movies

Tokyo Godfathers (Tokyo Goddofazazu, 東京ゴッドファーザーズ)

Director – Satoshi Kon – 2003 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 91m

*****

Three homeless people – a drag queen, a hard drinker and a runaway teenage girl – find an abandoned baby at Christmas and resolve to return her to her parents – plays in the Anime season April / May 2022 at BFI Southbank

This opens with a nativity play to an audience of what one initially presumes to be admiring parents, a perception rapidly revised with the realisation that what is on offer is a programme of ‘nativity play, sermon, dinner’ for Tokyo’s homeless, with the first two items something to endure in order to access the much wanted third one. Any thought that the film is going to deal with religion is however swiftly dismissed with the introduction of three homeless characters holed up in an empty house containing a piles of discarded and bagged up goods, one of which turns out to contain an abandoned baby.

Teenage runaway Miyuki (voice: Aya Okamoto) has fallen in with two men old enough to be her father (if not her grandfather) who look out for her: the cross-dressing Miss Hana (voice: Yoshiaki Umegaki) and the hard-drinking Gin (voice: Toru Emori).… Read the rest