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Babylon

Director – Damien Chazelle – 2022 – US – Cert. 18 – 188m

***1/2

The rise and fall of stars and other talents navigating the excessive lifestyle and work ethic of the silent era US movie business – out in UK cinemas on Friday, January 20th

Having established himself as a top A-list Hollywood director with the likes of Whiplash (2014) and La La Land (2016), Chazelle delivers a cast of thousands epic about Hollywood in the silent era and beyond, a project that’s apparently been gestating in his head for some 15 years. With its name referencing a city that grew to great heights and considerable excess before crumbling into dust, Babylon starts with Manny Torres (Mexican actor Diego Calva in his first US role) and compatriots attempting to deliver an elephant to a Hollywood party at a desert mansion in the middle of nowhere. The tone for the whole is set – or perhaps set free from audience preconception about what is to follow – when one of Calva’s compadres, walking behind the trailer containing the creature pushing it up a hill, is unexpectedly covered in elephant excrement.

Effervescent force of nature Nellie LaRoy (Margot Robbie) considers herself a movie star before she actually is a movie star.… Read the rest

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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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Doctor Who Am I

Director – Matthew Jacobs, Vanessa Yuille – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 80m

****

Screenwriter Jacobs’ entry into US Dr. Who fan subculture follows his scripting of the 1996 Dr. Who TV movie that was supposed to launch the franchise Stateside but floppedout in UK cinemas on Thursday, October 27th and Blu-ray, DVD & Digital Download Monday, November 28th

What the hilarious narrative feature Galaxy Quest (Dean Parisot, 1999) did for Star Trek, this heartfelt yet hugely entertaining documentary does for Dr. Who. Matthew Jacobs, whose work includes the screenplay for Paperhouse (Bernard Rose, 1988) and the original story for offbeat Disney cartoon The Emperor’s New Groove (Mark Dindal, 2000), also wrote the script for the US network TV movie Doctor Who (1996) which was supposed to relaunch the BBC franchise in the US, a goal it spectacularly missed when no series proved forthcoming.

In retrospect, Jacobs considers that his script made two major errors in terms of the Doctor Who legacy. One, it recast the hitherto entirely alien Time Lord as half-human, and, two, it allowed him to kiss a member of the opposite sex, something no previous version of the doctor had ever been seen to do.… Read the rest

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The Road To The Race Track (Gyeongmajang Ganeun Kil, 경마장 가는 길)

Director – Jang Sun-woo – 1991 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 138m

*****

An academic returns to Korea expecting to hook up with the woman student with whom he lived in Paris, and they meet up, but she now repulses his physical advances part of a strand of films celebrating actress Kang Soo-Yeon (1966-2022) from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th

As soon as R (Moon Sung-keun) arrives at the airport in Korea, he makes contact with J (Kang Soo-Yeon) and they get a room together, but she confounds his expectations by fending off his attempts at physical sex with her. This wasn’t what he was expecting, since she seemed willing enough when they lived together in Paris. He is desperate to have sex with her, but instead she offers to drive him first to the bus station and then to his home town, where he is reunited with his wife (Kim Bo-yeon), kids and extended family.

Whatever affection he once had for his wife has long since evaporated, and he callously repulses her attempts at intimacy in the bedroom. Brief scenes between the husband and wife punctuate the remaining narrative, the wife becoming increasingly hostile.… Read the rest

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Come Come Come Upward (Aje Aje Bara Aje, 아제 아제 바라 아제)

Director – Im Kwon-taek – 1989 – South Korea – Cert. 18 – 121m

***1/2

As a young woman attempts to live as a Buddhist monk, she embarks on a series of increasingly physical sexual relationshipspart of a strand of films celebrating actress Kang Soo-Yeon (1966-2022) from LKFF, the London Korean Film Festival which runs in cinemas from Thursday, November 3rd to Thursday, November 17th

Soon Nyeo (Kang Soo-yeon) enters a monastery as a novice. She reflects on her earlier life. Alienated from her mother, who she accuses of living off the interest of money made exploiting poor people, she develops a habit of following men on their travels. First up is a monk who knew her father who suggests that the latter failed as a monk. After she’s walked with him a while, he deliberately puts her back on a train.

As a student, she becomes fascinated by her class’ teacher Hyeon Jong, 29, (Chon Yoo-in) who, she learns later, lost his wife when she was killed in the Gwangju uprising while eight months pregnant. Uninvited, Soon accompanies Hyeon in his train travels around the country investigating sites of historical interest relating to a peasant uprising having promised his late wife he would one day write about this for her.… 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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Doctor Who Am I

Directed by Matthew Jacobs & Vanessa Yuille
Certificate 12a, 80 minutes
Released in cinemas 27 October and
DVD & Digital 28 November

What is a church, and why do people attend it? This is a documentary about Doctor Who fandom and conventions. At no point does it suggest, at least not in so many words, that such gatherings might be churches. Hold that word, ‘gathering’. It’s one that those of us who are religious often employ to describe ‘church’.

Screenwriter Matthew Jacobs has, for many years, avoided attending such gatherings… [Read the full review in Reform Magazine.]

Doctor Who Am I is out in cinemas in the UK on Thursday, October 27th and DVD & Digital Download Monday, 28th November.

Read a longer review elsewhere on this site.

Trailer:

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Girls Girls Girls (Tytöt Tytöt Tytöt; US: Girl Picture)

Director – Alli Haapasalo – 2022 – Finland – Cert. 15 – 100m

****

Three teenage girls’ lives are turned upside down by sex, romance and fledgeling relationships – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 30th

Ice hockey class. In the spur of the moment, Mimmi (Aamu Milonoff) attacks another girl with her hockey stick. She and her best friend Rönkkö (Eleonoora Kauhanen) talk about it after. They are like two misfits, spurned by everyone else, but happy in each other’s company.

Elsewhere, under the watchful eye of her coach Tarja (Sonya Lindfors), Emma (Linnea Leino) is doing ice skating practice but it’s all going horribly wrong. She seems to have forgotten how to do the Triple Lutz – the build up is fine, the spin into the air is fine, but she keeps coming a cropper on the landing, falling flat on the ice. She tries to calm herself with her meditation app. She talks about it in French with her mum.

Mimmi and Rönkkö are on their shift at the health food drink stand in the local shopping mall. Mimmi takes the mick (or the mimmi) out of customer Emma while Rönkkö plays it so cool with the boy that she fancies when he tries to chat her up at the counter it’s as if nothing happened.… Read the rest

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Contempt (Le Mépris)

Director – Jean-Luc Godard – 1963 – France – Cert. 15 – 103m

*****

Review originally published in What’s On In London when the film was reissued in 1996 – reprinted here to commemorate Godard’s passing on Tuesday, 13th September, 2022

Made back in 1963 in the latter days of the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard’s Contempt (Le Mépris) anticipates J.G. Ballard’s seminal novel Crash, David Cronenberg’s controversial film of which currently awaits a British distributor. Alongside a director in a film studio (Godard casts the great Fritz Lang, who famously made the silent classic Metropolis at UFA in 1926 before a subsequent career in Hollywood on westerns and crime thrillers), Contempt boasts a central protagonist obsessed by his wife’s sexual peccadilloes, not to mention bleak, domestic, modernist architecture and mythical car crash aftermaths.

The camera lingers lovingly over the latter to George Delerue’s unforgettable and heavily romantic score, but (as apparently in Cronenberg’s Crash) pays little attention to the actual moment of impact.

It’s one of Godard’s best films and possibly his most accessible. Director Lang struggles to film The Odyssey at CineCitta with unsympathetic producer Jeremiah Prokosh (a towering Jack Palance) who waxes lyrical about life and art while seducing Camille (a stunningly contemptuous Brigitte Bardot), wife of hired screenwriter Michel Piccoli.… Read the rest

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The Forgiven

Director – John Michael McDonagh – 2021 – UK/Ireland – Cert. 18 – 117m

****

A wealthy alcoholic driving to a rich school friend’s party in the Sahar desert accidentally kills a local and sparks a cross-cultural incident that will have profound consequences for him – out in UK cinemas on Friday, September 2nd

Wealthy married couple David and Jo Henninger (Ralph Fiennes and Jessica Chastain) travel to Tangier in what he calls “ah – l’Afrique” to attend a rich friend’s party at his isolated home in the middle of the Sahara. This involves driving some 400 miles through poorly mapped desert terrain. David is a high-functioning alcoholic (“I’ve always thought the high-functioning should cancel out the alcoholic”, he says) who indulges himself from a bottle before he starts to drive and the couple argue a great deal. Perhaps their relationship is nearing its end.

En route, they get lost, but in the middle of the night eventually find the turn off. They stop, bicker, then start up again and immediately hit local teenager Driss (Omar Ghazaoui) who has stepped out in front of the stationary car to sell them a fossil. Burying his ID, they bundle his dead body into the car hoping that their host will know what to do.… Read the rest