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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

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Features Live Action Movies

Nitram

Director – Justin Kurzel – 2022 – Australia – Cert. 15 – 112m

*****

A drama re-imagining of the events in the life of a young man leading up to Tasmania’s 1996 Port Arthur Massacre – out in cinemas on Friday, July 1st

This extraordinary character study starts off with a sense of foreboding which never really lets up. Children are interviewed at the Royal Tasmania Hospital’s Burns Unit and asked how their accidents occurred. We expect cautionary tales of lessons learned. But the second child interviewed states matter-of-factly that he still plays with firecrackers, Then we see Nitram (Caleb Landry Jones) as a grown youth, some years later, doing exactly that in the garden of the house in which he lives with his parents, to the annoyance not only to his parents who have to put up with it but also to the neighbours.

His mum (Judy Davis), worn down by years of such behaviour, insists Nitram surrender the fireworks to his father (Anthony LaPaglia) who is weighed down by financial worries – he needs to get a loan off the bank – and ineffectual at discipline. She also insists he put his filthy overalls in the wash (and they are pretty disgusting) before sitting down to eat dinner with them, which he then does, returning to the table in his underpants, which she lets pass with no comment since he’s complied.… Read the rest

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The Shadows (殘影空間)

Director – Glenn Chan – 2020 – Hong Kong, China – 94m

*****

A forensic lady psychiatrist becomes convinced that a fellow psychiatrist’s treatment of his patients is encouraging them to commit murder – playing in the UK as part of the Chinese Visual Festival which runs until Sunday, July 25th

Award-winning social worker Chu kills his mother, wife and little girl before throwing himself out of a second floor window in a suicide attempt. Psychiatrist Dr. Tsui Ching (Stephy Tang from My Prince Edward, Norris Wong Yee-Lam, 2019; The Empty Hands, Chapman To, 2017) possesses the ability to see inside the subconscious mind of her patients, something she experiences like a vivid dream. She appears in a public talk before an audience alongside Dr.Yan. When he asks her view of humanity, she expresses her belief that people are inherently good. He thinks they are inherently bad, ascribing their motives to selfishness.

When Chu turns out to have been one of Dr.Yan’s patients, Tsui becomes convinced that by telling them to embrace their dark side rather than repress it, he is effectively encouraging them to commit murder. Advising Ho (Philip Keung – A Witness Out Of The Blue, Fung Chi-Keung, 2019; Tracey, Li Jun, 2018; Shock Wave, Herman Yau, 2017), the cop who is investigating the case, she persuades him without any admissable evidence to investigate all of Yan’s patients.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Pinocchio

Director – Matteo Garrone – 2019 – Italy – Cert. PG – 125m

*****

In cinemas from Friday, August 14th, on BFI Player rental from Monday, December 14th

Impoverished woodcarver Geppetto (Roberto Benigni) decides to make the greatest puppet the world has ever seen, tour the world with it and make his fortune. A wood merchant lets him have a log because it seems to have a life of its own. Unaware of its animate properties, Geppetto begins carving his puppet, a life-sized representation of the son he’s never had.

After he starts talking to it as its “Babba”, he is surprised when the puppet (nine year old Frederico Ielapi) talks back. Geppetto names him Pinocchio. No sooner has he carved the feet than Pinocchio runs out of Geppetto’s workshop to discover the world. In many ways, that defines the character and the story to come. The innocent Pinocchio is forever in pursuit of his own gratification, prey to the perils of the world around him and initially devoid of any sense of morality, something he struggles to learn throughout the course of the story in his quest to become a real boy.

There have been numerous versions of Pinocchio in film, television and theatre since it first appeared as a written serial in an Italian newspaper in 1881.… Read the rest

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Books Features Live Action Movies

The Lord Of The Rings

The following article was written for Sussed magazine in 2001 before The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring (2001) had been screened to press.

Elsewhere on this site: a short review for What’s On In London and a longer review also discussing TLOTR trilogy for Third Way of The Lord Of The Rings: The Return Of The King.

FANTASY OBSESSIVE: JACKSON DOES TOLKIEN

Jeremy Clarke explores The Lord Of The Rings and the upcoming film’s director Peter Jackson

Harry Potter might be the obvious franchise of the moment, but anyone who knows anything about the fantasy genre knows one book towers above the rest. The Lord of The Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien came out in three volumes: the first The Fellowship of The Ring was published in 1954. The Sunday Times review divided people into those who have read The Lord of The Rings and those who are going to.”

By the sixties, it had become obligatory reading. Most fantasy derives from it, including today’s bestsellers Terry Pratchett and J.K.Rowling. It details the archetypal struggle against good and evil, set in Tolkien’s incredibly detailed world of Middle-earth populated with all manner of original creatures – hobbits, humans, elves, ringwraiths and trolls.… Read the rest