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Features Live Action Movies

Freud’s Last Session

Director – Matthew Brown – 2023 – UK – Cert. 12a – 108m

****

Celebrated psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud is visited in the last month of his life, living in Britain, by young Oxford don and Christian apologist CS Lewis – out in UK cinemas on Friday, June 14th

September 1939. Chamberlain has issued his ultimatum to Hitler, and Britain waits to find out whether it will shortly be at war with Germany. Celebrated psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud (Anthony Hopkins), recently moved to Britain from Vienna to escape the Nazis, keeps turning the radio on and off in the hope of an update from the BBC. He is also expecting a visit from a young Oxford don, CS Lewis (Matthew Goode), “the Christian apologist”, with whose views he profoundly disagrees. 

Lewis has written books including a parody of Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress called The Pilgrim’s Regress, which is mentioned here, and the first book in his science fiction trilogy Out of the Silent Planet, which isn’t. He has however yet to either give his BBC broadcasts about the Christian faith, which will later form the basis of his most celebrated apologetic work Mere Christianity, or write his Narnia children’s fantasy novels.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Small Back Room

Directors – Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger – 1949 – UK – Cert. PG – 106m

*****

In London during World War Two, a back room boffin and bomb disposal man struggles with alcoholism – 4K restoration played at BFI Southbank on Tuesday, May 28th prior to release on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on Monday, June 3rd

This black and white, post-war era drama isn’t the first film that comes to mind when people think about Powell and Pressburger – it was made immediately after what today are regarded as three of their best colour features – A Matter of Life and Death (1946), Black Narcissus (1947) and their arguable masterpiece The Red Shoes (1948). And that was preceded by one of their finest black and white works, i know where i’m going!” (1945).

In many ways, The Small Back Room couldn’t be more different. There’s a marvellous sense of whimsy about those films, even if the later ones are intense and savage in places. Like Black Narcissus and The Red Shoes – and, for that matter, Powell’s late solo masterpiece Peeping Tom (1960), an intensity lies at the heart of The Small Back Room.

Gone are the light, airy spaces of the earlier films, their sense of the outdoors expanse (and, in The Red Shoes, the expanded landscapes of the eponymous ballet sequence within the film).… Read the rest

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Animation Features Live Action Movies

Godzilla Minus One
(Gojira -1.0,
ゴジラ -1.0)

Director – Takashi Yamazaki – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

Japan, defeated and demoralised after World War Two, must somehow defeat the seemingly unstoppable menace of Godzilla when it rises from the depths of the ocean – out on Netflix from Sunday, June 1st

World War Two, Pacific theatre. Unwilling Kamikaze pilot Koichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki) feigns engine trouble and lands on an island for aircraft maintenance, where he is grounded. While there, he notices deep sea fish curiously floating on the surface of the surrounding ocean: they presage the arrival of a huge monster, named Godzilla by the locals. With Koichi failing to fire his 20mm aircraft guns at the creature to kill it, almost everyone else on the small island is killed. (Whether his guns would have had any effect in halting the creature’s advance is debatable. They probably wouldn’t have had any effect whatsoever.) The only other survivor, who had previously congratulated Koichi for a near impossible landing on a tiny runway, blames him for the multiple deaths because he didn’t pull the trigger.

In 1945, in the ruins of post-war Tokyo, Shikishima is accused by a survivor – a woman whose children have died – of being a disgrace.… Read the rest

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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Made in England:
The Films of
Powell and Pressburger

Director – David Hinton – 2023 – US – Cert. 12a – 129m

*****

Martin Scorsese talks about the seminal British filmmaking duo, and how they inspired his own movies – out in UK cinemas on Friday, May 10th

As a child, Martin Scorsese suffered from asthma and would constantly find himself at home while other kids were outside playing. He often found himself sitting front of the black and white TV watching a show called Million Dollar Movie. This would show a movie a week, playing it several times, and it was at a time when US producers wouldn’t sell their movie rights to TV but British producers would. Consequently, he grew up watching black and white versions of old British movies.

The ones he particularly liked opened with an arrow hitting a target: “a production of the Archers. Written, produced and directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger.” When this logo and these names appeared, Scorsese always knew he was in good hands. He watched these movies over and over again whenever they were shown, and learned much of his filmmaking craft from them. The first of these films to which he thrilled didn’t have this logo: it was the Alexander Korda production of The Thief of Baghdad (Ludwig Berger, Michael Powell, Tim Whelan, 1940) and parts of the film have the unmistakeable Powell visual stamp.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

The Zone of Interest

Director – Jonathan Glazer – 2023 – UK, Poland – Cert. 12a – 106m

*****

A drama about the everyday, domestic lives of the Commandant of Auschwitz, his wife, and their family – out in UK cinemas on Friday, February 2nd

How do people sleep at night? If they do bad things? Well, some people who do bad things are tormented by them. They sleep badly. Their conscience, however repressed by them, disturbs them. The others? Well, they seem to sleep soundly.

The Zone of Interest is about people who, as part of their daily routine, do or at least consent to, even inaugurate, unspeakable things. These people are a respectable married couple and their extended family. The focus here is on the ordinary, everyday activities they pursue rather than the unspeakable activities. A nice bathing trip to the river; a later panic when there might be an infection in the river and family members are bathing in it. (The bad stuff seeps into the everyday, routine, speakable stuff, it seems.) Mum taking the little one round the garden and telling her the names of the flowers. Mum running an efficient household, with an army of servants. Mum trying on a second-hand, fur coat.… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

The Boy And The Heron
(Kimitachi Wa
Do Ikiru Ka,
君たちはど
う生きるか,
lit.
How Do You Live?)

Director – Hayao Miyazaki – 2023 – Japan – Cert. 12a – 124m

*****

During WorldWar Two, a boy bereaved of his mother moves to the countryside with his businessman father where a heron lures him into another dimension to rescue his vanished stepmother – out in UK cinemas on Friday, December 26th

Directors, eh? They make their last film, then, some time later, they go and make another one. The Wind Rises (2013) was supposed to be Hayao Miyazaki’s last film, but three years later, he was working on his next one. And seven years further on, The Boy And The Heron hits cinemas. The Japanese title How Do You Live? comes from a popular children’s novel, a copy of which appears in the film, rather than the film being an adaptation of the novel.

Three years into World War Two, young boy Mahito (Japanese dub: Soma Santoki; English dub: Luca Padovan) loses his mother in a Tokyo hospital fire. Four years into the war, his father (Japanese dub: Takuya Kimura; English dub: Christian Bale) – a businessman who manufactures aircraft cockpits for the war effort – decides to move both his factory and his son out of Tokyo to the countryside where he plans to marry his late wife’s younger sister Natsuko (Japanese dub: Yoshino Kimura; English dub: Gemma Chan).… Read the rest

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Animation Features Movies

Chicken Run

Producer-Directors: Nick Park, Peter Lord – Producer – David Sproxton – 2000 – UK – Cert. PG – 84m

*****

Which came first – the chicken or the egg? Plasticene stop-frame animation house Aardman Animations’ debut feature film reconceives The Great Escape with chickens – review originally published in year 2000

Aardman Animations’ A Close Shave (1995), the third half-hour outing for Nick Park’s popular Wallace & Gromit duo, exhibited several danger signs – specifically its close resemblance to brilliant, immediate precursor The Wrong Trousers (1993). Clearly aware of such pitfalls, Park and founding Aards Sproxton and Lord shrewdly signed a five-picture deal with Dreamworks but refused to rush into a first feature. Their caution has paid dividends: this first full length Aardmovie proves an unexpectedly wondrous odyssey.

It’s The Great Escape reconceived with chickens: familiar WW2 prison camp is reconfigured as North of England chicken coop with impenetrable fencing, rows of huts and a motley assortment of portly hen inmates. Ginger (voice: Julia Sawalha) wants to escape, but several disastrous attempts lead to solitary confinement (where she bounces a ball off the wall Steve McQueen style). Other chickens can’t see a problem – Bunty (voice: Imelda Staunton) simply keeps on laying eggs, while Babs (Horrocks) busies herself with constant knitting.… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

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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Documentary Features Live Action Movies

Rock Hudson:
All That
Heaven Allowed

Director – Stephen Kijak – 2023 – US – Cert. 15 – 104m

***1/2

Matinée idol Rock Hudson epitomised the Hollywood dream until he died of AIDS in 1985 – documentary portrait available on digital platforms from Monday, 23 October

It was only when Rock Hudson tragically died of AIDS in 1985 that the fact that he was gay entered into the consciousness of the American, movie-going public.

He originally came to Hollywood to pursue an acting career after a stint in the US Navy in the final years of World War Two, signing up with agent Henry Willson. Willson had a knack for renaming actors, and it was he who gave the young Roy Fitzgerald the name Rock Hudson with which he was to achieve stardom. Even so, the twentysomething spent the best part of a decade playing roles in Westerns and adventures before director Douglas Sirk cast him in the romantic melodrama Magnificent Obsession (1954) opposite Jane Wyman. Sirk clearly saw a quality in the actor that no-one else had identified, and a screen legend was born.

Rock Hudson, 1954

Hudson was to prove the perfect fit for the onscreen romantic lead and would play similar roles for much of his career which included not only further roles for Sirk in All That Heaven Allows (1955), again with Wyman, and Written On The Wind (1956), opposite Lauren Bacall, but also starring with James Dean in what was to be the latter’s final film Giant (George Stevens, 1956).… Read the rest

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Features Live Action Movies

“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