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Features Live Action Movies

Holy Spider (Ankabut-e Moqaddas, عنکبوت مقدس)

Director – Ali Abassi – 2022 – Denmark, Norway, Sweden, France, Germany – Cert. 18 – 116m

*****

An Iranian lady crime journalist poses as a prostitute in an attempt to uncover the identity of a serial killer justifying his killing spree in the name of Islam – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 20th and on MUBI from Friday, March 10th

2000. The Holy City of Mashhad, Iran. Leaving her small daughter at home, a woman goes out into the night. She changes into high heels in a lavatory then goes onto the streets to ply her trade as a prostitute. She tells a streetcrawler to “fuck off”. In any encounter with male sexuality, violence is never far away; in a frenzied coupling in an apartment littered with the awards of a successful entrepreneur, a client tells her, “I’m going to tear your pussy apart.”

Another man refuses to pay more than half for a blow job when police are seen near the car in which she’s performing the service, preventing him from climaxing. A further man asks her onto his bike, but later in the stairwell to his apartment she thinks she may have made a mistake and tries to excuse herself.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Holy Spider

In God’s name

Holy Spider
Directed by Ali Abassi
Certificate 18, 116 minutes
Released 20 January (UK cinemas), 10 March (MUBI)

The year 2000. The Holy City of Mashhad, Iran. Prostitutes are being targeted by a killer who is justifying his crimes with Islamic rhetoric. With the notable exception of her editor Sahrifi (Arash Ashtiani), the journalist Rahimi (Zar Amir-Ebrahimi) investigating the case encounters sexism wherever she goes, and it’s hard not to draw parallels between these everyday attitudes of men towards most women and the atrocities being inflicted on a small number of them on the social margins.

A number of the killings are shown, in unpleasant detail, and are difficult to watch. (This film is an 18 for a reason.) [Read the full review at Reform magazine…]

[Read my longer review on this site…]

Holy Spider is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, January 20th and on MUBI from Friday, March 10th.

Trailer:

Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

All That Breathes

Director – Shaunak Sen – 2022 – India – Cert. – 97m

*

Set against the backdrop of heavily polluted Delhi, Muslim siblings devote their time to healing the local species of bird that seems to get injured more than most: the black kite – plays in the BFI London Film Festival 2022 which runs from Wednesday, October 5th to Sunday, October 16th in cinemas and on BFI Player, out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 14th

Plunging the viewer right from the start into a rarely seen, night time netherworld, this contains incredible intermittent footage of life in a modern city, in this case Delhi. We are on a patch of waste ground, whether an officially designated rubbish tip or simply the place people check their waste is not clear, but the refuse is piling up and you can hear creatures scuffling around. The takes are long and soon you’re picking out rats in the darkness, and thinking that if only the rubbish was more securely contained, the rat infestation wouldn’t be a problem.

There are several similar lengthy shots that punctuate All That Breathes, and they’re absolutely mesmerising. This is in no small part due to the use of the unbroken take, coupled with complex camera moves which reminded me of last year’s pig documentary Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky, 2020).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Mauritanian

Director – Kevin Macdonald – 2021 – UK – Cert. 15 – 129m

****

A pro bono lawyer defends a post-9/11 terrorist suspect in Guantánamo Bay against his US Army prosecutor – plays Curzon Home Cinema rental from Monday, October 4th

Based on a true story, this kicks off in Mauritania, North West Africa in November 2001 – as a title tells us, two months after 9/11. Mohamedou Ould Slahi (Tahar Rahim) walks on a beach then attends a Muslim wedding in Mauritania, to which he’s returned after living in abroad in Germany. During the celebrations, two local cops turn up and want him to come for questioning about his brother, whose current whereabouts he reminds them he doesn’t know. “The Americans are going crazy since the attacks two months ago,” they tell him. Momentarily alone, changing out of celebratory robes into something more casual, he erases his mobile phone contacts before agreeing to go with them.

Three years later, New Mexico law firm partner Nancy Hollander (Jodie Foster) learns of his disappearance and that the story has just broken in Der Spiegel that Slahi is currently allegedly being detained in Guantánamo Bay as “one of the organisers of 9/11”. The US government has recently stated that inmates have the right of ‘habeas corpus’ – if the evidence against them isn’t deemed sufficient to hold them in detention, they should be released.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

After Love

A girl in both ports

After Love
Directed by Aleem Khan
Certificate 12a, 89 minutes
Released in cinemas 4 June, on Blu-ray and BFI Player 23 August

*****

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 theatrical review in Reform magazine.

NB Blu-ray contains the director’s earlier short Three Brothers (2014) plus an informative 46-minute zoom Q&A, trailer and teaser trailer, a stills gallery, and (first pressing only) a booklet containing writing on the film.

Trailer:

2021

Cinemas

Friday, June 4th

Blu-ray, BFI Player (subscription exclusive)

Monday, August 23rd.

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

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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Features Live Action Movies

Ava

Director – Sadaf Foroughi – 2017 – Iran – 102m

** 1/2

Available on VoD from Friday, August 21st

Ava (Mahour Jabbari) is a schoolgirl studying music – against the wishes of her parents, particularly her straight-laced and conservative mother Bahar (Bahar Noohian) who thinks music isn’t a real job and her daughter should consider a career that pays. Bahar is a hospital doctor and her husband Vahid (Vahid Aghapoor) is a freelance architect.

By way of a prank, Ava makes a bet with her friends and classmates Melody (Shayesteh Sajadi) and Shirin (Sarah Alimoradi) that she can get a date with Nima (Houman Hoursan) who is currently dating another classmate Yasi (Mona Ghiasi). Her mother hates the fact that Ava and Melody are best friends and spend a lot of time together, not least because Melody’s mum is a single parent.

Meanwhile, Bahar recounts a difficult hospital shift where a girl was found screaming wandering at night although she can’t bring herself to use words as explicit as “pregnancy” or “abortion”. This recent experience is in the back of her mind when she discovers one Saturday that Ava is not round at Melody’s but somewhere else. (Ava is spending time with Nima and misses the bus to get back.)… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Papicha

Director – Mounia Meddour – 2019 – France, Algeria, Belgium, Qatar – Cert. 15 – 108m

****

In selected cinemas (Curzons Bloomsbury and Mayfair). Also on Barbican cinema on demand, BFI Player, Curzon Home Cinema and Peccadillo Pictures On Demand from Friday, August 7th.

Algerian university fashion student Nedjma (Lyna Khoudri) is often called ‘Papicha’, a typically Algerian word that refers to a funny, attractive, liberated young woman. Nedjma and her roommates love life and think nothing of going out to nightclubs to put on fashion parades.

However, this being the late 1990s an upsurge of Islamic conservatism manifests itself throughout the narrative. First, fly posters advocating the hijab for women appear on walls (Nedjma immediately tears down these posters on seeing them). Later, she confronts a young man putting these posters up, but after challenging him notices a handgun tucked in his waistband so quickly backs off.

Groups of hijab-clad women take the law into their own hands vigilante style. They surround and take away a lecturer addressing Nadjma’s class. They turn up in the middle of the night at her shared room and threaten the occupants. And worse is to come.

One of the difficulties about writing about this film is that some of its narrative incidents would be much more shocking if you don’t know exactly what’s coming.… Read the rest