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Art Documentary Exhibitions Features Live Action Movies

Exhibition on Screen:
Painting
the Modern Garden
– Monet to Matisse

Director – David Bickerstaff – 2016 – UK – Cert. U – 93m

***1/2

The relationship of Claude Monet’s late water lily paintings to the history of horticulture, along with a few other artists and their gardens – out in UK cinemas for one day only on Tuesday, February 27th

Originally made to coincide with the Royal Academy’s 2016 exhibition of the same name, this basically does what it says on the tin. With Exhibition on Screen’s excellent series of documentaries about art and artists receiving brief cinema outings in recent years, this entry from the back catalogue is given a big screen outing. While the exhibition has long since been and gone, French Impressionist painter Claude Monet is one of those figures from the history of art who is incredibly popular, especially the late garden or water lily paintings, so a documentary about those late paintings ought to be a fairly easy sell.

Those Monet works and the garden he built at his house in Giverny – rented from 1893, owned from 1900 thanks to a loan from his dealer – are very much the spiritual centre of the film, along with Monet’s skill as a horticulturalist, which is explored at quite some length.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Land
Where Winds
Stood Still
(Zhel Toqtaghan Zher)

Director – Ardak Amirkulov – 2023 – Kazakhstan – Cert. none – 108m

*****

A Kazakh mother made homeless by Soviet policy must protect her two sons in the harsh environment of the Steppes – premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

An historical, period, survival movie. In the wake of the Russian Revolution, Soviet forced collectivisation polices, intended to have a levelling effect, instead forced Kazakh peasants off the land and led to the famine of the early 1930s. People were reduced to eating livestock essential for agricultural production, not to mention each other.

In a barren Steppes landscape loosely reminiscent of the Spaghetti Western, mother Jupar and her two pre-teenage sons Jolan and Boshay must survive mounted gunmen, starvation, extreme weather, wolves, and hungry fellow human beings. Jupar carries a concealed knife within her clothing and will stop at nothing to protect her kids in one of the most powerful expressions of motherhood ever to grace the screen.

Their seeming nomadic existence is however not without purpose; she has to get them to the eponymous Land, the village where she was born, and safety. Yet the dangers they face on the way are legion.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

127 Hours

Director – Danny Boyle – 2010 – US – Cert. 15 – 93m

UK release date 07/01/2011, cert. 15, 93 mins

The trailer for this gives a pretty good impression of about its first third. Experienced, youthful and single outdoor explorer Aron Ralston (James Franco) mountain bikes through the Utah landscape, meets a couple of girls and shows them an incredible underground lake, continues on his merry solo way until, rock climbing, he slips down a crevasse where a falling boulder pinions his wrist…trapping him for the eponymous and subsequent 127 hours / the rest of the film.

Where Buried (Rodrigo Cortés, 2010) relentlessly encased its leading man in a coffin from opening to closing frame, 127 Hours not only starts off in wide open landscapes but also punctuates its narrative with memory flashbacks, dreams and visions. Thus, when you see Aron freeing himself, you’re not initially sure whether he’s actually doing so or merely imagining it in his head. Such devices provide space to deal with the transcendent in a way that Buried never really did.

If Buried is a horror movie (will he survive being buried alive? can he escape?), 127 Hours starts off as outdoor adventure then veers into the question of: if you knew for certain you were going to die, what would you want to do with the ever decreasing amount of time you had left?… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Enys Men

Director – Mark Jenkin – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 96m

*****

A lady environmentalist working on an uninhabited island off the Cornish coast becomes subject to powerful, localised forces from the area’s past – out on UK Blu-ray/DVD combi and on BFI Player on Monday, May 8th

NB The title is pronounced “Enys Main”, the eponymous “Men” being as in “menhir”.

A radio receiver. A bird. An island. A woman in a red coat (Mary Woodvine). A flower. Jenkin seems to love the process of putting little bits of film together to make a whole that’s altogether larger than the sum of its constructed parts. If that same process was evident in his earlier, equally Cornish if less fantastical and black and white Bait (2019), his new film is radically different and, moreover, it’s in colour.

Enys Men is being touted as a horror film – presumably with Jenkin’s blessing if the trailer is any indication – but I’m not sure that’s exactly what this film is. Some horror fans may well come away wondering while they bothered, while viewers put off by the term ‘horror’ may well respond positively to Jenkin’s latest – provided they can be persuaded into the cinema to see it.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

Godland
(Vanskabte Land)

Director – Hlynur Pálmason – 2022 – Denmark, Iceland – Cert. 12a – 138m

***1/2

Winter is coming. In the late nineteenth century, a Danish priest who is also an amateur photographer travels to an Icelandic island to oversee the construction of a church before Winter comes – out to rent on Amazon Video, Sky Store, Chili, Rakuten TV, BFI Player and Curzon Home Cinema from Friday, May 5th

The late nineteenth century. Lutheran priest Lucas (Elliott Crosset Hove) meets with his Church of Denmark bishop regarding his forthcoming ministry to a remote village in Iceland where he is to oversee the construction of a church building before the harsh winter sets in. While that’s his official, designated task, the young man being something of an enthusiast for the newly emerging art of photography decides to take a camera and tripod with him to document his journey, and to this end, rather than take the simplest, safest and quickest route to his destination, he resolves to travel cross-country. (Although the film is a work of fiction, it was inspired by an actual series of photographs taken on a similar journey around this period.) He is allocated an Icelandic guide Ragnar (Ingvar Sigurðsson) to accompany him.… Read the rest

Categories
Art Documentary Exhibitions Features Live Action Movies

Vermeer
The Greatest Exhibition

Director – David Bickerstaff – 2023 – UK – Cert. PG – 90m

****

A tour around the Rijksmuseum’s current, sold out Closer to Johannes Vermeer exhibition, with comments from museum staff members and an art critic – out in cinemas both in the UK and around the world from Tuesday, April 18th

The latest instalment in producer Phil Grabsky’s excellent Exhibition On Screen series about art might be seen as something of a blockbuster: its subject is at once a famous artist and the current unprecedented, likely never to be repeated, comprehensive exhibition of that artist’s work. This allows the film to navigate the painter’s entire career in a chronological journey both through his images and, in a secondary, incidental journey, through the gallery itself. The latter journey is just there, visible but never described. Visitors tends to go to an art gallery to see its contents, or as in this case, a particular exhibition, not the gallery itself.

The blockbuster is the current exhibition at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, entitled Closer To Johannes Vermeer, which runs from Friday, February 10th to Sunday, June 4th 2023 and is completely sold out. Vermeer (1632-1675) lived in the Dutch town of Delft, and in his active years as an artist painted only two or three pictures a year.… Read the rest

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Emily

Director – Frances O’Connor – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 130m

varies between ** and ****

An imagined account of how Emily Brontë wrote Wuthering Heights – out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 14th

The three Brontë sisters Charlotte (Alexandra Dowling), Emily (Emma Mackey), and Anne (Amelia Gething) live with their brother Branwell (Fionn Whitehead) and their chapel minister father Patrick (Adrian Dunbar) in the large parsonage in the West Riding of Yorkshire’s village of Haworth. The three girls have a lively, literary imagination, make up numerous stories for their own amusement, and spend much time outside in the landscape of the moors. A young curate Weightman (Oliver Jackson-Cohen) arrives in the village, piquing the girls’ interest, and Charlotte soon departs for a distant teaching post. Emily likes her own company and spends much time alone on the moors.

Branwell is accepted by the Royal Academy to study painting, but drops out and returns to the village, where he and Emily get into mischief together, chiefly by spying on one of the neighbours at night through their window and getting chased off the premises several times by dogs before Branwell eventually gets caught and has to endure punishment from father.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Eric Ravilious:
Drawn To War

Director – Margy Kinmonth – 2022 – UK – Cert. PG – 87m

***1/2

The career of the British watercolour artist tragically killed while serving as an official war artist in World War Two – now available to watch online following UK cinema release on Friday, July 1st 2022

The first official war artist to be commissioned in World War Two, Eric Ravilious was on an aircraft which set out from Iceland in 1942 and never came back. There is no exact record of what took place, covered by the phrase “missing in action”, but in all likelihood the plane went down in the sea. Kinmonth finds simple images to convey the incident, which appears in both her opening introduction to Ravilious’ life and her closing reel representing his passing – a warplane descending, our viewpoint falling towards the surface of the sea, an indistinct body moving in water filled with bubbles. At the end, the cold blue of the water contrasts with the gentler, rural green of the family house and surroundings back home.

After his death, Ravilious’ art was largely ignored. Alan Bennett, an admirer of the artist’s work, puts this down to the work’s cheerful and unthreatening nature and a prevailing view that art should grapple with dark and foreboding subject matter.… Read the rest

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The Mourning Forest
(Mogari
No Mori,
殯の森)

Director – Naomi Kawase – 2017 – Japan – Cert. 12 – 97m

****

Currently on BFI Player as part of 21st Century Japan.

Wind. Trees. Tall grass. A road barely discernible but for the occasional top of a hedge. A fluttering, white banner of a funeral procession moves imperceptibly across the landscape, a futile ritual for an unknown person.

A room’s corner between two windows. Beyond them: wind and trees. Against the corner leans the sleeping Mr Shigeki (Shigeki Uda). The boss of this old people’s home Wakako (Makiko Watanabe) is showing new care worker Machiko (Machiko Ono) the ropes. “There are no rules here”, she tells her. Machiko is in emotional free-fall. At home, a candle beside a photograph of a young boy. Berated by her husband for letting go of her child’s hand, Machiko has never got over the incident.

Kawase is a master of understatement… [Read the rest]

Currently on BFI Player as part of 21st Century Japan.

Full review at All The Anime.

Trailer:

2020

Monday, August 24th: MUBI

2017

August: Eureka! Video released the film on BD/DVD

Categories
Features Live Action Movies

Limbo

Director – Ben Sharrock – 2020 – UK – Cert. N/C 15+ – 103m

****1/2

Immigrants are holed up in a rundown house on a bleak Scottish island as they await letters granting their requests for asylum in the UK on MUBI from Thursday, September 23rd

A smiley chalked on a blackboard. A woman’s austere face suggesting exactly the opposite. Instructors Helga (Sidse Babett Knudsen) and Boris (Kenneth Collard) are demonstrating how a man should behave towards a woman dancing to pop music. Helga’s top looks far too proper and her skirt both far too formal and long for a good night out, as if she were dressed for work in an office. Boris is admonished for first resting his head on Helga’s clothed breast then putting his hands on her bottom. “Now, can anyone tell me what Boris did wrong,” she asks the group of stunned men watching, seated.

Behind her on the blackboard are the words, “Cultural Awareness 101. Sex. Is a smile an invitation?”

Welcome (or maybe not) to the world of an asylum seeker from Syria placed on a remote Scots island. Welcome (or maybe not) to the UK’s Hostile Environment.

A rudimentary training centre.… Read the rest