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Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Getting It Back:
The Story of Cymande

Director – Tim MacKenzie-Smith – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 90m

****

How a promising, innovative black 1970s band failed to crack the UK music business, only for their music to take on a life of its own through various later, popular musical movements – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 16th and out on BFI Blu-ray, BFI Player Subscription, iTunes and Amazon Prime on Monday, 26 February

Film critics have their blind spots (there are films you’d assume I’ve seen which I never have) and so too do serious music listeners, among whom I number myself. Prior to this film, I had never heard of Cymande. That’s surprising to me, actually, because I started seriously listening to music in the 1970s and have never stopped (although, significantly, rap and hip-hop, which came later, never really did it for me). And Cymande, it turns out, were a band of the early 1970s. It’s not mentioned in this film, but they played a couple of sessions for legendary UK Radio One DJ John Peel where it’s likely I would have heard them, had I started listening regularly to his show earlier than 1974, after they recorded a session.

The narrative in MacKenzie-Smith’s documentary runs something like this: in the 1950s and 60s, Britain invited numerous Commonwealth citizens from Caribbean islands like Jamaica, St.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies Music

Bob Marley
One Love

Director – Reinaldo Marcus Green – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 104m

***1/2

From his childhood in poverty in Jamaica, Bob Marley rises to stardom and international fame as the bast known proponent of reggae music – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 16th

All this movie has to do to succeed is give us lots of Bob Marley’s recordings and show us lots of images of him doing things in the process. That’s what the movie says on the tin and that’s what you find inside. It fundamentally delivers what its audience expects and will probably do very well. Although I wouldn’t describe myself as a particular fan, over the years Marley’s music has seeped inescapably into both the popular and my own consciousness: it’s good, positive stuff which genuinely hits a tangible musical groove. I watched the movie and had the good time I was expecting. And Kingsley Ben-Adir is watchable enough as Marley.

However.

Anyone who comes to this wanting to know more about Bob Marley will find this a frustrating experience. Director Green, who co-wrote the script, fails to introduce a number of characters properly. Among Marley’s entourage of musicians and friends, for instance, I couldn’t tell you which one in the film is Peter Tosh (Alex-A Game), who is something of a lesser legend in the world of reggae.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

All of Us Strangers

Director – Andrew Haigh – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 105m

*****

A gay Londoner travels by train to visit his parents in Sanderstead, following their deaths in a car crash when he was 12 years old – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 26th

He (Andrew Scott) lives alone in a London tower block. Not only is he the single occupant of his flat, there’s almost no-one else in the building. When he goes outside for a breath of fresh air, he sees a guy in the window of one of the other apartments. Later, there’s a knock at his door. It’s the guy (Paul Mescal), who is slightly drunk, comes on strong and tries to get himself invited in. The visitor’s name is Harry. The occupant introduces himself as Adam, but doesn’t let Harry in.

By day, Adam writes screenplays. But he’s got stuck, so after perusing some personal effects, he takes the train to Sanderstead. There, he watches a boy in a window. He follows a man across an area of parkland. Coming out of a shop, the man spots him and asks him to come over. You think it might be a pickup – but no, it’s his dad (Jamie Bell).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The End We Start From

Director – Mahalia Belo – 2023 – UK – Cert. 15 – 102m

***1/2

As parts of the UK are flooded and submerged by an ecological disaster, a woman births a baby she must then bring up – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 19th

On the one hand, this starts off with a woman (Jodie Comer) giving birth and then experiencing the process of being a new mother, with all the joys and stresses that entails. On the other, this shows the UK being overtaken and flooded by an eco-disaster, and how people respond to that situation both individually and en masse. The second scenario is reminiscent of any number of disaster and / or science fiction movies about flooding, apocalypse or dystopia (When Worlds Collide, Rudolph Maté, 1951; Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón, 2006; Waterworld, Kevin Reynolds, 1995): if you approach this movie expecting something like that, you’re going to be disappointed, because although that element is very much present in the film, it’s little more than the backdrop.

It plays more like a road movie, in which the heroine – the husband having dropped out of the narrative towards the end of the first reel – meets a series of people on her travels, each of whom offer their own individual insight into the state of things and how the new mother might move forward.… Read the rest

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Animation Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

SCALA!!!
Or, the incredibly strange rise and fall of the world’s wildest cinema and how it influenced a mixed-up generation of weirdos and misfits

Directors – Ali Catterall, Jane Giles – 2023 – UK – Cert. 18 – 96m

*****

From 1978 to 1993, London’s Scala Cinema programmed everything from art house to sexploitation, ushering in the upcoming generation of anti-establishment musicians, filmmakers, and others – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 5th

Whatever the strengths of this film – and they are legion – it may be impossible for me to write an objective review of it. From my first visit to Tottenham Street to watch an afternoon programme of back-to-back Tex Avery animation shorts on Saturday, 25th October 1980, I could often be found at London’s Scala cinema in the 1980s, broadening my mind as I lapped up welcome servings of movies long or short, old or new, highbrow or trashy. So there are a few additional titbits in what follows which come from my own personal, mental Scala archive of memory rather than from the documentary itself.

As for the date, my memory’s not actually that good. Such information can, however, be discerned from the wondrous if unfeasibly large-sized book SCALA CINEMA 1978-1993, which amongst other things contains all the monthly Scala programmes. It was written by co-director and former Scala employee / programmer Jane Giles’ and edited by fellow co-director Ali Catterall.… Read the rest

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Animation Documentary Features Live Action Movies Shorts

The Picks that spoiled our film critic!

Jeremy Clarke returns to the Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival in order to cover the Critics’ Picks section (which is now on its second year); he encounters what’s probably the strongest section of the event

Some people have a fear of flying. I don’t, but dislike of all the bureaucratic paraphernalia that surrounds airports. Not to mention London’s transport system, which is good most of the time, but not so much when it goes wrong. Coming home from the Festival last year, I got caught up in a tube strike. That didn’t happen this year. Indeed, the travel to and from the airport worked better for a number of reasons.

One was that the Festival’s hospitality team were kind enough to book my flights to and from Heathrow. This meant I could use the Elizabeth Line to travel to and from the airport. I currently live on the Victoria Line, which connects directly with three major rail terminals (Kings Cross, Euston, Victoria) but not the Elizabeth Line. The Elizabeth was all a bit too new last year, but Londoners who frequently travel into the centre of town as I do have got rather more used to it, and the Oxford Circus (Victoria Line) to Bond Street (Central Line) to Heathrow (Elizabeth Line) is reasonably easy to navigate.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Old Man
And The Land

Director – Nicholas Parish – 2023 – UK – Cert. none – 100m

*****

As he works on the land, an aging farmer hears his two adult children argue about the future of the family farm – premieres in the Critics’ Picks Competition at the 27th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

Movies. You think everything’s been done, then along comes something you’ve never seen before. Or, in this case, seen or heard before.

The Old Man in question is an English farmer (Roger Marten) whose family have worked the land for generations. He’s getting on in years, so won’t be around forever. His wife died a while ago, so he’s now running the farm on his own. He has two children who have long since grown up and left home: a son (voice: Rory Kinnear) and a daughter (voice: Emily Beecham), and the big question is, when he dies, will they take over – or will they get rid of the farm?

In recent years, the UK has produced a number of rural movies that stand in stark contrast to the urban- (Often London-) based films produced. Quite a few of these have been about farms or farmers (e.g.… Read the rest

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“i know
where i’m going!”
(IKWIG)

Producers-Writers-Directors – The Archers (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) – 1945 – UK – Cert. PG – 92m

*****

A London banker’s daughter’s determined to marry her wealthy fiancé on an Hebridean island has reckoned without the weather and other local factors preventing her from doing so – engaging romantic drama is out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 20th while major season Cinema Unbound: The Creative Worlds Of Powell + Pressburger opens Monday, October 16th at BFI Southbank and on BFI Player

You wouldn’t expect a film which is essentially a romantic comedy to open with its leading lady at age one, but that’s exactly what The Archers do here. Joan crawls, going (as the male voice over would have it) neither right nor left but straight on. By age five the male voice has her asking Santa for silk stockings (real, not artificial, a request that will have chimed with austerity-pressed, British audiences in 1945 after six years of war), by 12 she’s the one schoolgirl getting a lift home in the milk van. She’s accustomed to getting her own way and by her mid-twenties Joan (Wendy Hiller) is surprising her banker father, who she has wrapped around her little finger, with the news that she is going to marry the lucrative Consolidated Chemical Industries, specifically their ageing owner Sir Robert Bellinger.… Read the rest

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Bolan’s Shoes

Director – Ian Puleston-Davies – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 97m

****

Two traumatised siblings reconnect as adults years after a childhood coach crash coming back from a Liverpudlian orphanage trip to a T.Rex gig in the 1970s – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 15th

*** SPOILER ALERT ***

Picture black. A radio DJ dedication to Bob and Sally. T.Rex’s Calling All Destroyers blasts out on the soundtrack against a sudden image of a coach travelling through the English countryside. On board: excited orphanage kids with the trip organiser Simon (Louis Emerick) plus their local vicar (Andrew Lancel) and his daughter Penny (Eden Beach). Sadie (Amelia Rose Smith) nuts Tommo (Alfie Donnahey) for, as she swearily and excitedly explains to Penny, picking on her older brother Jimmy (Isaac Lancel-Watkinson). There is blood. To the consternation of Simon, who isn’t going to let the incident get in the way of the day’s enjoyment. “You’ll thank me in later years,” he says. “You’ll be able to say, I was there.”

After the gig, Simon has fixed up a trip backstage for the kids to meet founding T.Rex member Marc Bolan, getting them past other fans waiting outside for a glimpse of their hero.… Read the rest

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Art Documentary Features Live Action Movies Music

Squaring The Circle:
(The Story Of
Hipgnosis)

Director – Anton Corbijn – 2022 – UK – Cert. – 101m

*****

The story of the visual creatives behind album sleeves, for Pink Floyd and others, who revolutionised the field from the late 1960s and through the 1970snow out on Blu-ray/DVD combo and various streaming services plus BFI Player following its release in cinemas in the UK and Ireland on Friday, July 14th

Everyone who bought LP records from the late 1960s through to the very end of the 1970s knows the name Hipgnosis. As one interviewee points out, you would go in to the centre of your town to buy the latest album and mull over all the written information on the sleeve on the bus coming home to find out who played on it and who was responsible for the cover. Many of the most memorable sleeves were designed by Hipgnosis, the name coming from ‘hip’, meaning ‘cool’, and ‘gnosis’ meaning ‘secret wisdom’.

Director Corbijn made his name in black and white photography and album sleeves for such bands as U2 and Depeche Mode in the 1980s, so has a background in the album cover world in a later decade. He is therefore extremely well placed to tackle the subject and chooses to film many of his interviewees in trademark black and white.… Read the rest