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EO (IO)

Director – Jerzy Skolimowski – 2022 – Poland – Cert. 15 – 88m

*****

Forced to leave his home in the circus, a donkey undergoes a series of adventures – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 3rd

After an absence of some seven years from the cinema, Skolimowski has chosen to make a movie with an animal as its central character rather than a human being. EO is a donkey (played by some six donkeys over different parts of the film) who undergoes a series of adventures as things happen around him. He starts out as a performer in a circus with a girl called Kasandra (Sandra Drzymalska), who takes good care of him and treats him with genuine affection.

Life is good. But then he finds himself co-opted by (and Kasandra arguing with) another circus person Wasyl (Maciej Stepniak) who uses a whip on him to get him to drive a cart of rubbish to the local tip. These two episodes set the tone for what is to follow: while all the humans here use the animal for their own ends, some treat him with kindness while others don’t, rather using him as a means to an end without any sense of his being a conscious creature.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Top Ten

Top Ten Movies (and more, excluding re-releases) 2022

Work in progress – subject to change. Because I am still watching movies released in 2022, so it’s always possible that a new title could usurp the number one in due course. Before that, I have a lot more movies still to add.

All films received either a theatrical or an online release in the UK between 01/01/22 and 31/12/22. Prior to 2020, I’d never included online releases (well, maybe the odd one or two as a special case) but that year saw the film distribution business turned upside down by COVID-19. The movie business is still changing, and the dust hasn’t yet settled.

This version excludes re-releases (Psycho, Paris, Texas and Pickpocket, not to mention the first six Bond movies, would top everything here). It has been an amazing year for re-releases including one or two incredible, old movies being released in the UK for the first time on Blu-ray. This is the year I get to rank all 25 Eon Bond movies, and why not? A link to that longer list will be added here in due course.

In addition to re-releases, this version also excludes films seen in festivals which haven’t had any other UK release in 2022.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio

Directors – Guillermo del Toro, Mark Gustafson – 2022 – US – Cert. PG – 114m

*****

Created as a puppet by a bereaved, religious woodcarver father, a little wooden boy must make his way in a world of ruthless show business, Fascism and war – stop-frame puppet movie is out on Netflix on Friday, December 9th

Co-helmed by Will Vinton alumnus Gustafson, del Toro’s Carlo Collodi adaptation sees him return to the theme of the Catholic Church collaborating with Fascism that he previously explored in Pan’s Labyrinth (2006). The story roughly follows the familiar template of Disney’s Pinocchio (1940), even down to punctuating the action with songs, but with the loosely defined place and time of a fairytale shifted to a very specific Italy before (briefly) and during World War II, with Pleasure Island replaced by a boys’ military training camp. The emphasis has shifted, too, from the notion of the narrator cricket character as conscience to coming to terms with mortality, although the idea that just because things appear to be fun they may not necessarily be good is knocking around in there too.

A narrator who will later identify himself as Sebastian J. Cricket (voice: Ewan McGregor) introduces us to churchgoing woodcarver Gepetto (voice: David Bradley), who is working on a statue of Jesus Christ crucified for the local church, raising dutiful son Carlo (voice: Gregory Mann), an equally religious child with a true sense of wonder at the world around him, including planes in the sky.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Rimini (Rimini)

Director – Ulrich Siedl – 2022 – Austria, France, Germany – Cert. 18 – 114m

*****

A singer of romantic songs performs to elderly female fans (in more ways than one) in an off-season seaside town as his past catches up with him – in cinemas from Friday, December 9th following its screening in the BFI London Film Festival 2022

An old man (Hans-Michael Rehberg, who died in 2016 and whose last lensed appearance on film this performance, split between this film and Siedl’s Sparta, 2022, represents) is lost in a care home where he’s a patient. None of the doors will open. His son (Michael Thomas) arrives and takes him to the man’s wife’s funeral.

His son travels to the off-season, Italian seaside resort of Rimini for bookings as Richie Bravo (presumably his stage rather than his real name, although this is never clarified) at hotels to sing romantic songs to his admiring, elderly, female fan base. The dull, monolithic hotel buildings have exotic names like Soleil and 007 belying their inherent blandness.

In between those performances and traipsing around through heavy rain and snow, he engages in sexual congress in hotel rooms with a small number of his most devoted fans including the single Anna (Claudia Martini) and the married Emmi (Inge Maux).… Read the rest

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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

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Features Live Action Movies

Il Buco

Director – Michelangelo Frammartino – 2021 – Italy – Cert. U – 93m

**1/2

A Calabrian cowherd nears the end of his life while a group of explorers journey down a deep hole to find out how deep into the ground it descends – out in cinemas on Friday, June 10th

Literally, ‘The Hole’. Frammartino again brings to the cinema the style that made his earlier Le Quattro Volte (2010) so special. He sets up the camera, often at a great distance from the action, then leaves it there to record whatever happens. The narrative of Il Buco is actually pretty simple, a recreation of an expedition by a group of young, amateur speleologists into a hole in the ground in Calabria. (Speleology is the branch of science involved in mapping and measuring the interiors of caves, natural underground systems, and the like.)

It’s 1961. We’re first introduced to the place in a shot looking out of the ground at the edge of the hole as, eventually, the heads of two bulls come into view over the ridge. An elderly cowherd watches over the grazing cattle from a position halfway up a forty degree incline hillside. As the bus leaves the rich, urban developments of Northern Italy for the still unspoiled Southern region of Calabria, we watch it slowly make its way along rounds, through a small rural town where the party stops for the night to bed down in sleeping bags in the local, Catholic Church alongside statues of monks and the crucified Christ lying on his back, across open country until it arrives at the vast plain where the explorers will set up camp.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Ennio: The Maestro (Ennio)

Director – Giuseppe Tornatore – 2021 – Italy – Cert. 15 – 156m

****

Documentary Ennio: The Maestro looks at the career of Italian film composer Ennio Morricone – out in cinemas on Friday, April 22nd

It’s difficult to know where to start with Ennio Morricone, whose career in film music covers some 70 years. Tornatore adopts the chronological approach, starting with his early life. The composer’s father was a trumpeter who pushed young Ennio to learn that same instrument, leading to entry into Rome’s Santa Cecilia Conservatory where he studied both trumpet and composition. His father had raised him with a strong work ethic – using the trumpet to feed your family – and much of his early work was as a trumpeter on movie soundtrack sessions, including Othello (Orson Welles, 1951).

His wife secured him a brief stint at TV channel RAI where she was working, but on being told that he wouldn’t be able to perform anything recorded there anywhere else, Morricone quit almost immediately. Inspired by seeing experimental composer John Cage perform live, he formed the Nuovo Consonanza Improvisation Group to experiment with what he called “traumatic sounds”. This approach would inform a number of his later soundtracks.… Read the rest

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Art Features Live Action Movies

Benedetta

Sins of the flesh

Benedetta
Directed by Paul Verhoeven
Certificate 18, 131 minutes
Released 15 April

The Dutch director Paul Verhoeven revels in controversy… His latest work, Benedetta, is… sexually explicit, but also tackles religion within a historical context. It clearly has plenty of potential to offend.

Benedetta is based on the story of the 17th-century Italian nun Benedetta Carlini who had visions and exhibited stigmata. She became an abbess and was investigated and discredited by Catholic officials. There were suggestions that Benedetta’s visionary traffic was with the Devil rather than God, while various nuns’ testimonies claimed her stigmata to be faked. Her roommate Bartolomea confessed to regular sexual activity with Benedetta. Benedetta was demoted.

Verhoeven eschews historical accuracy for the spiritual, the spectacular and the carnal… [Read more…]

Full review published in Reform magazine.

See also my alternative review.

Teaser trailer:

Trailer:

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Features Live Action Movies

Three Floors (Tre Piani)

Director – Nanni Moretti – 2021 – Italy – Cert. 18 – 117m

***1/2

Various personal crises beset three families occupying the separate floors of a three storeyapartment block – out in cinemas on Friday, March 18th

This drama is based around the lives of three families, the occupants of three floors of a three storey residential block in Rome. On the ground floor is a couple with a young daughter, on the first is a woman whose husband is frequently away on business, on the top are are married couple who are also judges.

In the course of its narrative it runs through in greater or lesser detail the subjects of birth, drink-driving, dementia, child sex abuse, seduction, jealousy, financial fraud, and flight from the law. It divides neatly into three sections, each five years apart, by means of two ‘Five Years Later’ titles. Most of the story’s surprises occur in the first section, with the two later sections providing time for the consequences of these events to be explored in the long run.

It adapts a novel that was originally set in Tel Aviv, here moving the action to Rome.

Frames from “Tre Piani” . Director Nanni Moretti DOP Michele D’Attanasio

It is (to say the least) a challenging film to review – or for that matter to sell – without ruining it in advance for audiences, containing, as it does, a number of major plot twists which completely redefine what happens afterwards, one of them occurring in the opening minutes.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Cyrano

Romantic self-doubt

Cyrano
Directed by Joe Wright
Certificate 12a, 124 minutes
Released 25 February

Edmond Rostand’s 1897 romantic play Cyrano de Bergerac concerns a man who, because of his long nose, considers himself too ugly to tell the girl of his dreams and childhood friend Roxanne that he loves her. This new version ditches the nose to cast Peter Dinklage (Game Of Thrones) as the hero whose dwarfism becomes his reason for thinking Roxanne (Haley Bennett) couldn’t possibly love him. Then she falls in love… with one of the men in the regiment he commands.

However… [Read more]

Full review published in Reform magazine.

See also my alternative review.

Cyrano is nominated for Best Costume Design in the 2021/22 (94th) Oscars.

Cyrano is out in cinemas in the UK on Friday, February 25th.

Trailer: