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After Love

A girl in both ports

After Love
Directed by Aleem Khan
Certificate 12a, 89 minutes
Released in cinemas 4 June

*****

The South Coast. Mary (Joanna Scanlan) is married to Ahmed (Nasser Memarzia), a ferry captain who regularly travels to France and back in the course of work. They fell in love as teenagers. She is white British, he is south Asian. She has converted to Islam, his religion, and integrated into his Urdu-speaking family, a language she has herself learned.

One day he comes home from work, and dies while she’s making him a cup of tea. Going through his effects, she checks his mobile phone, and discovers messages from another woman. She goes over to France to confront Geneviève (Natalie Richard)… [read more]

Full review in Reform magazine.

Trailer:

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The New Girlfriend (Une Nouvelle Amie)

Director – François Ozon – 2014 – France – Cert. 15 – 108m

*****

On BFI Player subscription from Monday, May 17th 2021

UK release date 22/05/2015

Spring

Spring

Directors – Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead – 2014 – US – Cert. 15 – 109m

*****

UK release date 22/05/2015

Both these films can easily be ruined by spoilers, so be wary of reading reviews or cinema blurb or even watching trailers before you see them. That said, the following is spoiler free. Now read on.

Spring

The married, female protagonist of French maverick Ozon’s The New Girlfriend – based on a book by Ruth Rendell who passed away last month – suffers serious emotional trauma then becomes involved with a man who is not all that he seems. The single, male protagonist of US indie Spring suffers serious emotional trauma then becomes involved with a woman who is not all that she seems. In both films, the question is: can their relationship survive?

The New Girlfriend‘s Claire (Anaïs Demoustier) is distraught when friend since childhood Laura (Isild Le Besco) dies leaving behind a husband David (Romain Duris) and child. Having promised to look after David should Laura die, she sets about doing so…and makes an unexpected discovery.… Read the rest

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Once Upon A Time In China (Wong Fei Hung, 黃飛鴻)

Director – Tsui Hark – 1991 – Hong Kong – Cert. 15 – 135m

****1/2

Groundbreaking, period martial arts epic features some of the most spectacular stunt sequences ever filmed, spawned five sequels and made Jet Li a star – online in the UK as part of Focus Hong Kong 2021 Easter from Wednesday, March 31st to Tuesday, April 6th

The real life Wong Fei Hung (1847-1925) was a Chinese practitioner of martial arts and medicine who lived in Foshan and has been the subject of over a hundred films. Tsui Hark’s 1991 production is one of the best known and spawned a series of six movies in total, four of them with Jet Li as Wong, arguably his most iconic role.

Militia-laden American and British and French ships anchored in the harbour put Foshan in an uneasy position and Wong is concerned, as well he might be since it turns out in the course of the narrative that the Americans under a man named Jackson (Jonathan Isgar) are not only tricking local men into debt via getting them to pay for their passage to San Francisco but also trafficking Chinese women into prostitution in the New World. The film isn’t particularly interested in these misdemeanours except as providing motivation for its villain.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Top Ten

Top Ten Movies (and more) 2020

Work in progress – subject to change.

Top Ten (UK theatrical + online movie releases 2020)

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/20 and 31/01/20. I’ve never previously included online releases (well, maybe the odd on or two as a special case) but this year the film distribution business has been turned upside down by COVID-19. How 2021 and beyond will look is anyone’s guess.

Please click on titles to see reviews. (Some links yet to be added.)

1. Parasite (S.Korea) reviews one and two

2. Coup 53 (UK)

3. A Hidden Life (US/Austria/Germany)

4. Akira (1988, IMAX reissue) (Japan)

5. The Eight Hundred (China)

6. Possessor (Canada) reviews one and introductory link to two

7. Misbehaviour (UK)

8. Dick Johnson Is Dead (US)

9. Away (Latvia, no dialogue!)

10. Snowpiercer
(2013, Eng lang, S.Korea, UK theatrical release in 2020 – finally!)

11. Run (UK)

12. Sócrates (Brazil)

13. County Lines (UK)

14. First Love (Japan)

15. Parasite (Black & White) (S.Korea)

16. The Vast Of Night (US)

17. I’m Thinking Of Ending Things (US)

18. Over The Moon (US/China)

19. WolfWalkers (Ireland) reviews one and two

20. Sheep Without A Shepherd (China)

21.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

La Haine

Director – Mathieu Kassovitz – 1995 – France – Cert. 15 – 98m

***1/2

Three disenchanted, immigrant youths from a banlieu estate take themselves to Central Paris for 24 hours – in cinemas from Friday, September 11th, on Blu-ray from Monday, November 16th and on BFI Player from Friday, December 18th

There’s a verbal story opening and underscoring La Haine. A man falls off a building. Each storey he passes in his descent, he says, “so far, so good…” “so far, so good…” “so far, so good…” It’s not how you fall, it’s how you land. Cue an image of planet Earth with a flaming Mototov Cocktail descending towards it.

Shot in stylish black and white and set in the aftermath of a riot in a Parisian banlieu, the film follows three young friends who beneath their tough guy street banter are concerned for their friend Abdel who has been hospitalized and may well die. While ‘banlieu’ translates literally as ‘suburb’, the French banlieu is at the rough, opposite end of the social scale from cosy, English ‘suburbia’. The banlieu is more like an English sink estate, full of people at the bottom of the social order, powerless, excluded.

This particular banlieu is home to immigrants of various different ethnic backgrounds: Sayid (Saïd Taghmaoui) is Arabic, Vinz (Vincent Cassell) Jewish and Hubert (Hubert Koundé) Black.… Read the rest

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I Am Greta

The Greta good

I am Greta
Directed by Nathan Grossman
Certificate 12a, 98 minutes
Released on 16 October

Greta Thunberg is, without doubt, a remarkable young woman. And this is a remarkable film, although not perhaps for the reasons you might expect.

What’s remarkable is that when the 15-year-old schoolgirl with Asperger’s started her strike for the climate outside the Swedish parliament, the documentary film-maker Nathan Grossman possessed the foresight to start filming her. He kept filming as she was invited to address organisations such as the European Parliament in Strasbourg, meet with world leaders such as France’s President Macron and speak to climate activist meetings and rallies around the globe.

You can’t get that close to a person without finding out something about them. Greta is driven by a focus on one issue. As it happens, that issue is the single most important one facing the survival of the human race and the planet. Read the rest…

I review I Am Greta for Reform.

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Capital In The 21st Century

Director – Justin Pemberton – 2019 – France, New Zealand – Cert. 12 – 103m

*****

An adaptation of Thomas Piketty’s controversial economic treatise Capital In The 21st Century – in cinemas from Friday, September 25th

The content of French economist Thomas Piketty’s eponymous book couldn’t be more relevant. Far from being dry economics, Piketty’s thesis begins that there has always been a minority of wealthy people whose wealth derives from nothing more than being born into wealth. They have done nothing to merit wealth. They do not own it because of any sort of achievement.

The industrial revolution, he argues, gave those with capital (financial assets) the means to substantially increase the amount of capital they own.

Throughout history, the rich have not looked after the whole of society but rather have merely defended their own interests, i.e. maintaining and if possible increasing their position of wealth. They have shown a disdain for the other 99% of people. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, society was broken into those two groups, wealthy and poor.

The rise of the middle class after World War One changed everything, with middle class people wanting their say in how things were run. Changes since the 1970s however threaten the power of the middle class and we may be seeing a return to a majority of very poor people beholden to a wealthy minority – unless we take the action necessary to prevent it.… Read the rest

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Les Misérables

Director – Ladj Ly – 2019 – France – Cert. 15 – 104m

****

Exclusively in cinemas from Friday, September 4th

Although this takes its title from Victor Hugo’s eponymous novel, it’s not really an adaptation except in the loosest possible sense. It ends on a quote from the book:

“There are no bad plants, nor bad people – only bad cultivators.”

What it DOES have is a poor underclass and a bunch of cops whose job it is to keep them in order and keep the peace. An optimistic prologue shows the whole of France watching a world cup match and celebrating as France wins – a joyous, transcendent occasion and an example of how things could or ought to be.

Then it quickly shifts gear: three cops in their car patrol a poor housing estate. Chris (Alexis Manenti) is white with an in your face, tough guy approach that commands the residents ‘respect’. The equally tough and no-nonsense Gwada (Djebril Zonga) is black, generally more conciliatory and better at negotiating with local people on the ground. Newcomer Ruiz (Damien Bonnard), in his first day on the job, hails from the countryside and finds himself at odds with the approach of the other two, particularly Chris.… Read the rest

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By the Grace of God (Grâce à Dieu)

Abuse in church

By the Grace of God (Grâce à Dieu)
Directed by François Ozon
Certificate 15, 137 minutes
London Film Festival, 5 and 6 October
Released 25 October

First published in Reform magazine. Now on Amazon and Curzon Home Cinema.

Over two hours long, this gripping and hugely topical affair dramatises the scandal of child abuse at Catholic summer camps over 20 years ago in the diocese of Lyon, France. The case has shaken the Church there since it became public in recent years. Despite Father Bernard Preynat (Bernard Verley) admitting his guilt, his superior, Cardinal Barbarin (François Marthouret) failed to curtail Preynat’s access to children thereby enabling his abuse of more victims in the ensuing years.

At a press conference, the cardinal uses the phrase ‘by the grace of God’ about the statute of limitations on many of the abuse cases. He is immediately criticised for the comment but it reveals how Barbarin is concerned more with protecting the institution of the Catholic Church than in caring for his flock.

Writer-director François Ozon constructs his narrative around three survivors… Read the rest

First published in Reform magazine. Now on Amazon and Curzon Home Cinema.

Trailer:

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Perfumes (Les Parfums)

Director – Grégory Magne – 2019 – France – Cert. tbc – 100m

****

In Cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, August 21st

GuGuillaume (Grégory Montel) is a chauffeur. His boss Arsène (Gustave Kervern) is thoroughly fed up with him, so gives him a job with a known difficult customer Mademoiselle Walberg. Guillaume is currently trying to get 50/50 custody of his daughter, so needs his job. And must put up with any nonsense his client comes up with. Like throwing his cigarette packet out of the car window. Or insisting he help her change the hotel bedsheets because she doesn’t like the smell of the chambermaid’s perfume.

The reclusive Anne Walberg (Emmanuelle Devos) is a ‘nose’. She combines smells to create perfumes and had a stint with the Dior company before her career took a wrong turn. These days, all her agent can get her is recreating the smells of caves or making the fumes from unpleasant factories smell nice. But she longs to make perfumes again.

This is a stylish and charming movie with unusual, olfactory subject matter. You can’t smell in movies, so this element is instead conjured by verbal description. In a trip to a cave – the real cave, not the duplicate nearer the highway for which she must compose the smells, Anne feels, rubs and sniffs cave interior surfaces, getting Guillaume to write everything she says in a notebook.… Read the rest