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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Big Banana Feet

Director – Murray Grigor – 1976 – UK – Cert. 12 – 77m

****1/2

The camera follows comedian Billy Connolly to Dublin and Belfast for the final dates of his 1975 tour – 2K restoration is out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 10th, and on BFI Blu-ray/DVD (Dual Format Edition) and digital from Monday, May 20th

This played the Scala Cinema a few times back in the day. I always thought there must be a reason why, and now, with its release in a restored form by the BFI, I get to find out. I must admit to mixed feelings prior to viewing – I’m not someone who particularly enjoys stand-up comedy; indeed, watching videos of comedians doing their material onstage has been known to bore me to tears, even as it enthralls fans.

Although this has clips of Billy Connolly performing on stage – comic routines, songs with banjo and guitar – it’s essentially a fly-on-the-wall piece that captures his personality as he, with the help of his seemingly tireless road manager Billy Johnson, plays dates in Dublin and Belfast on the final leg of his 1975 tour. Watching it, you feel you get to know Connolly well, at least at the period of his career being filmed.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Catching Fire:
The Story of
Anita Pallenberg

Directors – Alexis Bloom, Svetlana Zill – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 113m

***1/2

The chaotic life of the archetypal rock chick, told through her own words and those of her children – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 17th

After her death in 2017, Anita Pallenberg’s two surviving children Marlon and Angela discovered a manuscript; she had written an autobiography. Marlon worked his way through it as part of his bereavement process and was so taken with the articulate text that he sought out producers to turn it into a film. (He is one of the film’s executive producers himself, while both directors are credited as among the producers). Numerous clips from an interview with him are used in this resultant documentary, along with excerpts from Anita’s manuscript voiced by an actress, along with interview footage with Angela and verbal audio from Rolling Stones band member Keith Richards, Anita’s partner for a decade and the father of her children.

Like many of the young generation who rose meteorically to cultural prominence in the swinging sixties, Anita Pallenberg was a war baby. Her first years were accompanied by the sound of falling bombs; as she puts it, she didn’t learn to walk, but to run.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Do Not Expect Too Much
from
the End of the World
(Nu Astepta Prea Mult
de la Sfârsitul Lumii)

Director – Radu Jude – 2023 – UK – Cert. 18 – 163m

*****

The daily, working life of an overworked production assistant on a corporate film about victims of industrial accident – plays Glasgow Film Festival which runs from Wednesday, February 28th to Sunday, March 10th, and is out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 8th

Angela (Ilinka Manolache) wakes in her mess of an apartment. Another busy day of overwork. She drives to the homes of serial, prospective interviewees for the corporate film on which she is currently working as a production assistant to evaluate their suitability for the film and take mobile phone videos of them herself.

Whenever she gets a spare moment, she posts on TikTok using a filter that changes her head into that of a man, and under the name Bobita posts colourful and sweary, verbal rants about the British Royal family and other topics. Suffering from sleep deprivation, she dozes during the afternoon production meeting and keeps the radio on while driving to prevent sleeping at the wheel.

Towards the end of the day, she finds time for an in-car assignation with her lover, but that doesn’t last long as she has to go and pick up the production’s corporate commissioning marketing person Doris Goethe (Nina Hoss), direct descendant of the famous writer, from the airport.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Klokkenluider

Director – Neil Maskell – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 84m

*****

A couple have seen something; two men are assigned to look after them as they wait in the middle of nowhere for a journalist to come and interview them – a subscription exclusive on BFI Player from Thursday, February 22nd

Mr. Appleby (Amit Shah) and Mrs. Appleby (Sura Dohnke) arrive at the house on the outskirts of a small village in Belgium they’ve booked for a party. Appleby is not their real surname, and nor will there be a party. He is what the Dutch call a ‘klokkenluider’ or bell ringer, slang in that language for whistleblower. He has approached a newspaper and is following instructions. They are at the house awaiting the arrival of a journalist to interview them.

Meanwhile, Brits Kevin (Tom Burke) and Ben (Roger Evans) are driving to meet them. They have guns in the boot. We don’t really see them at first. For the first few minutes, they are shown only in little details cropped or in shade so as to be almost unrecognisable – a fragment of a detail in a wing mirror here, a view beyond a car window part obscured by a reflection there – and they choose their words carefully so as not to give away anything more than they need to.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Small, Slow But Steady
(Keiko,
Me Wo Sumasete,
ケイコ目を澄ませて)

Director – Sho Miyake – 2022 – Japan, France – Cert. 12 – 99m

The first half hour ****

The rest ***1/2

A completely deaf, young woman trains in the boxing ring at the local gym and turns professional, but when the gym’s closure is announced, she loses the focus needed to carry on – out in UK cinemas and on Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, June 30th

Young woman Keiko (Yukino Kishii from Foreboding, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, 2017) has suffered since birth (a title tells us at the start) from sensorineural hearing loss. She and her younger brother (Himi Sato) rent a flat in Tokyo’s Arakawa neighbourhood, where she has taken up boxing at the local gym. While her brother plays music on an electric guitar for his girlfriend Hana, in the next room, Keiko scribbles obsessively writing down her progress at the gym in her notebook.

She beats an opponent by the narrowest of margins. As the old chairman of the boxing club (Tomokazu Miura from Detective Chinatown 3, Chen Sicheng, 2021; The Outrage, Takeshi Kitano, 2010; Arietty, Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2010; The Taste Of Tea, Katsuhiro Ishii, 2004) explains to a journalist interviewing him later at the gym, Keiko can’t hear either the bell or anything the ref says.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Middle Man

Director – Bent Hamer – 2021 – Norway, Denmark, Canada, UK, Germany, Switzerland – Cert. 15 – 95m

****

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but… A man in a heartland American town becomes a middle man, whose job it is to convey bad news to local people – out in UK cinemas on Friday, March 10th

Curiously for an English language film set in a small American town, this one was funded by a variety of European countries and Canada. While its visuals clearly owe much to the films of David Lynch, particularly Blue Velvet (1986) and Lost Highway (1997) with their heavy night time interiors filled with dark, impenetrable black spaces, it eschews the over the top moments of sex and violence with which Lynch peppers these films with something much less jocular and more deadpan. Like Lynch it feels distinctly odd, yet in a completely different way. Unlike those films, it’s adapted from (part of) a novel.

Opening images. Factories in a town belch smoke. A small, industrial town on a river. This is Karmack, USA.

Frank Farrelli (Pål Sverre Hagen) is the second interviewee by the three person panel (the local sheriff, pastor and doctor played respectively by Paul Gross, Nicholas Bro and Canadian regular Don McKellar) for the town’s job of middle man, the person who has to deliver bad news, e.g.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

After Life
(Wandafuru Raifu,
ワンダフルライフ)

Director – Hirokazu Kore-eda – 1998 – Japan – Cert. PG – 119m

*****

…Kore-eda fell back on his TV documentary roots, interviewing 500 ordinary people about their most important memory if they could take only one with them to heaven. He incorporated ten into After Life (1998), playing recently deceased clients in the care of petty bureaucrats played by professional actors. They are given one week to choose and recreate that memory on film before being sent off to the next place…

Read the rest at All The Anime where I covered this title as part of the BFI’s Flesh And Blood Blu-ray box set which includes Maborosi (1995), After Life (1998), Nobody Knows (2004) and Still Walking (2008). Also available on BFI Player subscription and to rent on Curzon Home Cinema.

Trailer (After Life – original Japanese, subs):

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Kurt Vonnegut:
Unstuck In Time

Directors – Robert B. Weide, Dan Argott – 2021 – US – Cert. 15 – 127m

*****

A warm and compelling look at the life of writer Kurt Vonnegut, the influence upon him of the bombing of Dresden, and his decades-long friendship with director Weide – out in cinemas and on digital platforms from Friday, July 22nd, BFI Player Rental from Monday, August 22nd

Read my shorter review for Reform magazine.

The documentary Weide eventually made about Vonnegut took him the best part of four decades to complete. Weide opens with a statement about Vonnegut walking in the woods, feeling a tree and seeing the bombing of Dresden before it occurred. There seems no reason to doubt Vonnegut. He was unstuck in time, jumping around the years and decades. Weide first contacted him in 1982, never imagining that it would take him anything like as long to complete the film as it did. He starts looking at interviews of himself (“who wants to see a documentary in which a filmmaker appears as himself?”, he asks) – defined by where they were shot or what shirt Weide was wearing at the time.

Whatever else Vonnegut and his writing are, they are not conventional.… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Kurt Vonnegut:
Unstuck In Time

Transformed by an atrocity

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time
Directed by Robert B. Weide, Dan Argott
Certificate 15
Released 22 July (cinemas and digital platforms)

Full review published in Reform magazine.

The late Kurt Vonnegut claims that after touching a tree trunk he saw the bombing of Dresden before it actually happened, and it’s easy to believe him. His whole life, he says, has been unstuck in time. Born in Indianapolis in 1922, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge in 1944 and was shipped off as a POW to Dresden, a bustling metropolis unlike anything he’d previously seen. He survived the Allied bombing of that city inside an underground meat locker and emerged to see it razed to the ground. The Germans had him and fellow prisoners search for bodies amongst the ruins.

Back in the States… [Read the rest at Reform magazine]

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck In Time is out in cinemas and on Altitude Film digital platform in the UK from Friday, July 22nd.

Read my longer review.

Adaptation of Vonnegut’s Mother Night (writer-producer Robert B. Weide, 1996) – review.

Never Look Away (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2018) also covers the bombing of Dresden – review.… Read the rest

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

The Princess

Director – Ed Perkins – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 109m

**

The story of Princess Diana told entirely through archive footage – out in cinemas on Thursday, June 30th

The strange thing about watching this documentary about the fairytale turned tragedy of Princess Diana, if you’re old enough to remember it unfolding over several decades, is that it takes you back to the news coverage removed from everything else that was happening in the world (or for that matter in your own life) at the time. To some extent, that’s a necessity of both storytelling and cinematic narrative.

At this point in the review, I could rehash the story as a synopsis of greater or lesser length. However, since rehashing the story is primarily what the film itself does, there seems little point in such an exercise. If you want to see this, you want to see this and little I can say about it will deter you.

What Perkins has done is to assemble a version of the story solely from archive footage: no vox pops from the great and the good to explain what was happening (although he does include the occasional piece of archive interview footage from Diana, Charles, or both together) or offer ‘expert’ or other insight.… Read the rest