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The Red Shoes

Producers-Writers-Directors – The Archers (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) – 1948 – UK – Cert. PG – 135m

*****

A young dancer gives her all to the art of ballet, symbolised by the story’s centrepiece of the Ballet of the Red Shoes, in which the heroine is danced to death by the eponymous footwear – out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 8th; major season Cinema Unbound: The Creative Worlds Of Powell + Pressburger continues at BFI Southbank and on BFI Player until the end of December with a free exhibition The Red Shoes: Beyond The Mirror (booking essential) running until Sunday, January 7th 2024

The second movie by the Archers not to deal with wartime issues in any way, shape or form (the first being Black Narcissus, 1947) deals with art in the story of a young dancer torn between love and her chosen art form. Student Julian Craster (Marius Goring) is outraged to discover, during its debut performance, that his music tutor Professor Palmer (Austin Trevor) has lifted several passages of Craster’s college work to pass them off as part of his latest dance score Heart of Fire. His subsequent interview with ballet company head and creative genius Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook, who appeared in four Productions of the Archers and later in The Queen Of Spades, Thorold Dickinson, 1949) secures him a lowly job as music arranger for the prestigious Ballet Lermontov.… Read the rest

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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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Klimt & The Kiss

Director – Ali Ray – 2023 – UK – Cert. 12a – 90m

*****

A look at one of the world’s favourite paintings, housed in Vienna’s Belvedere Museum, and the wider body of work of the artist who created it – out in UK cinemas on Monday, October 30th for one day only

All lovers of art have their blind spots. That’s partly why we go to exhibitions, to fill in the gaps in our knowledge. Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss is one of those images everyone knows, since it’s been widely reproduced as prints, while movie buffs know it from the opening museum sequence of Bad Timing (Nicolas Roeg, 1980) and as a major influence on the visuals of The Thief And The Cobbler (Richard Williams, 1993). Beyond that, however, my knowledge of both Klimt and the painting itself are sparse. This latest entry in producer Phil Grabsky’s excellent Exhibition On Screen series about art is therefore most welcome since it proves highly informative about both.

Accompanied by a perfectly judged piano score of sequences of notes rising and falling, it opens on out of focus images of gold surfaces before showing us a detail of the two heads in the painting viewed not, as you might expect, straight on, but from a side angle.… Read the rest

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Peeping Tom

Director – Michael Powell – 1960 – UK – Cert. 15 – 101m

*****

It’s just a film – isn’t it?” The obsessive home moviemaker who lives in the attic is photographing women as he kills them, leaving an inexplicable look of abject terror on his victims’ faces as they die – back out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 27th; major season Cinema Unbound: The Creative Worlds Of Powell + Pressburger continues at BFI Southbank and on BFI Player until the end of December

What would have happened to Michael Powell if he and Emeric Pressburger had never met each other? Powell cut his teeth making ‘quota quickies’ in the 1930s British film industry: low budget films whose function was to ensure British talent got a chance in an international industry dominated by product from Hollywood. His final film before he and Pressburger began working together is the impressive The Edge Of The World (1937) about a remote Scottish island. One of his first after they went their separate artistic ways was Peeping Tom (1960), now widely regarded as his strongest solo outing.

It was made the same year Hitchcock released Psycho, but where that film about a psychopathic killer worked wonders for Hitch’s career in Hollywood, this one saw Powell vilified by contemporary critics.… Read the rest

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Typist Artist Pirate King

Director – Carol Morley – 2022 – UK – Cert. 12a – 106m

****1/2

Road movie in which her psychiatric nurse drives an artist with mental health issues from London to an open entry exhibition in the Northin cinemas on Friday, October 27thfollowing premieres in the premieres in the 2023Raindance Film Festivaland 2022 Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival

In these days of US-style promotion, branding and media, it’s easy to think of artists as high profile, rich and successful. While some are, that’s not what an artist is: an artist is, quite simply, someone who makes art. (If they’re a good artist, they make good art. Whatever that is.) The subject of Morley’s new road movie is the artist Audrey Amiss (1933-2013) who, although she exhibited her work an number of times during her lifetime, received scarcely any recognition in that period. She suffered from mental health issues and was in and out of mental hospitals throughout her life.

Audrey (Monica Dolan) is regularly visited in her London flat by psychiatric nurse Sandra (Kelly Macdonald). One day, she asks Sandra to drive her to an exhibition which has an open call for artists, as she’s never exhibited and feels the time has come.… Read the rest

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One Of Our Aircraft
Is Missing

Producers-Writers-Directors – The Archers (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger) – 1942 – UK – Cert. PG – 103m

*****

Forced to bail out following an otherwise successful mission in which one engine is disabled, a British bomber crew must find their way across occupied Holland to return to the safety of Britain – part of major season Cinema Unbound: The Creative Worlds Of Powell + Pressburger from Monday, October 16th at BFI Southbank, also on BFI Blu-ray; other films in the season can be found on BFI Player

Made at the height of World War II, the first Powell and Pressburger / The Archers movie to deploy that verbal credit as such – but without their later trademark opening shot of an arrow striking its target – is in essence a propaganda exercise in the guise of a narrative feature film made to bolster wartime morale at home. However, the pair pull the whole thing off with such verve and inventiveness that it feels less an exercise in propaganda and more a rattling good yarn (without compromising either way).

It opens like a bizarre ghost story (as bizarre as the curse upon the Lairds of Kiloran in the castle ruins of “i know where I’m going!”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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The Latent Image

Director – Alexander McGregor Birrell – 2022 – UK – Cert. 15 – 82m

***1/2

A mystery thriller writer working alone in a secluded cabin in the woods is interrupted by the arrival of a stranger – out in UK cinemas and on digital platforms from Sunday, October 8th

Developed from his 20 minute, 2019 short of the same name and starring the same two leads, Birrell’s debut feature is a curious mixture of innovation and genre cliché. Yet, enough of what’s going on here works sufficiently to hold the viewer’s attention.

Ben (Joshua Tonks, who co-wrote the screenplay with director Birrell), who isn’t named until quite some way into the film, has rented a cabin in the woods in order to write his latest novel, “if you can call it that” – he’s working in horror, thriller fiction. Tonight, he becomes engrossed in writing about his antagonist – a mysterious stranger – he suddenly becomes convinced that there is someone lurking outside the cabin. When he looks, he can see no-one. Nevertheless, his gut instinct is correct: someone is watching the cabin from the darkness.

What follows skilfully walks a knife edge between someone writing or imagining a story about being terrorised by a stranger whilst staying at a cabin in the woods and someone actually being terrorised by a stranger whilst staying at a cabin in the woods.… Read the rest

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Mind-Set

Director – Mikey Murray – 2022 – UK – Cert. 18 – 90m

***1/2

A woman seeks her way out of a relationship crisis via an affair with a new work colleague – drama masked as deadpan comedy is out in UK cinemas and on demand on Friday, October 6th

NSFW

Lucy (Eilis Cahill) and Paul (Steve Oram) have grown tired of one another. She works days at an uninspiring office job, bringing in the bread and butter money. He works from home as a screenwriter, with one filmed script to his credit. The film received poor reviews because, as she charitably says, the director did a poor job. Paul is now working on another screenplay, about “a space cadet coming to terms with his sexuality”, and there is a possibility that Nick (Jason Isaacs) might just make it happen.

Hosting a party, the couple give a tour of the premises. Paul opines about the virtues of the bidet in the bathroom – it can wash your cock or your vag if, say, you were at a party – while Luce notices the new bloke from work Daniel (Peter Bankolé) has turned up, presumably invited by one of her work colleagues.… Read the rest

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Monsters

Director – Gareth Edwards – 2010 – UK – Cert. 12 – 90m

*****

Gareth Edwards’ remarkable feature debut is like nothing you’ve ever seen – out on DVD Monday, April 11th 2011 following its release in UK cinemas on Friday, December 3rd, 2010

An extraordinary film defying easy classification, Monsters looks from the outside like a cheap District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009) but is actually something else entirely: a sci-fi road movie, a romantic drama, radical and inventive like nothing you’ve ever seen. Made on a shoestring in and around Mexico with a four-man crew and a two-man cast (plus anyone else who was around at the time), it’s the brainchild of former BBC CG FX maestro Edwards, who added all the creature effects himself in post-production in his living room. A remarkable, transcendent work, it hits DVD with scads of extras.

Pre-emptive titles inform us that a returning space probe broke up over Mexico scattering alien samples gathered during its voyage, resulting in part of that country’s being declared an ‘Infected Zone’, a no-go area for mankind populated by giant monsters. Some years later, Mexico-based photojournalist Kaulder (Scoot McNairy from In Search Of A Midnight Kiss) gets a call from his US-based boss to bring home the latter’s daughter Sam (Whitney Able).… Read the rest