Showing posts with tag: film

JANUARY

Documentary: Cotton for my Shroud

It strikes me that the film, Cotton for my Shroud, has an ominous title with various connotations. The word “shroud” refers to a cloth used to wrap a body for burial. It can also mean a thing that screens, obscuring something from view. It is, additionally, something that protects. The first definition is evoked most directly in this film, which follows the lives of cotton farmers and their families in Maharashtra, India, home of the highest recorded suicide rate in the world today. As an investigative piece of journalism, the film exposes and explores the untold stories that have been shrouded by these statistics. Read more →
JANUARY

Feature Film: Madame Brouette

In 2009, the film critic Danny Leigh wrote a fantastic piece in the Guardian on the lack of African cinema enjoyed in British cinemas. It doesn’t seem that much has changed since then. Outside a few niche audiences, films from the African continent have largely been ignored by mainstream UK audiences—unless we count Meryl Streep (and that bizarre Danish accent) in Out of Africa. So when I had the opportunity, I enthusiastically scooted off to the Africa Centre in Covent Garden, which often has free screenings of African films, to watch a contemporary classic of Senegalese cinema, Madame Brouette. Away from the bustling crowds of Covent Garden’s Christmas shoppers, I found myself transported from the cold, wet streets of London to the vivid, dusty shantytowns of Western Africa. Read more →
JANUARY

Other People

Of all the irritations of the cinema, other people are the worst. A modern cinema audience may chatter, eat, obscure the view, throw litter, snore and confidently make pronouncements on the plot to all and sundry. Friends will shush friends, then giggle. There are people who I know and love and have planned to murder for 90 painful minutes on a weekend, listening to them talk back to the characters on screen, self-censored by a half-whisper, which only goes to show they know that they are doing something forbidden. It’s true: you are. Read more →
DECEMBER

The Showcase Cinema, Teesside.

The last time I went to the Showcase, a 14-screen multiplex alongside a dual carriageway just outside Middlesbrough, I was two feet shorter and a lot more interested in dinosaurs. The set-up is a relic of the early ‘90s: a sprawling strip mall, bookended by a casino and a bowling alley, close to a commercial horseshoe and a cluster of chain restaurants. It was American devised, and remains to this day American owned. There are twenty-one other Showcase Cinemas on the peripheries of smaller towns and cities across the UK: Dudley, Newham, Paisley. Because they are geared towards drivers, they are often frighteningly quiet at night. Read more →
DECEMBER

Artists’ Film: Under the Cranes

Cities are challenging: to live in and to define. They are each a unique life form constructed from many smaller ones. For some they are amazing, baffling or frustrating, particularly for the planners and architects responsible for so much of the life that goes on within them. For others, they are a place for living. You may feel alone in the city but you are actually always among others. Read more →
DECEMBER

The Hackney Picturehouse

The Hackney Picturehouse is a marvel. Particularly on a Sunday morning, when the weather is cold and bright in the way that one imagines Sweden must be. The buildings seem more real than usual, because the sky is so pale. Skips and kebab shops look vivid and wonderful. I half expected a bear to lumber from an alley, coddled in a sheep’s wool ski hat and tight black jeans. The Town Hall Square looks like a film set. There is a library, museum, theatre, municipal offices and an arthouse cinema, making a strong (if a little superficial) claim for Hackney’s independence from the city around it: an idealistic vision, like a miniature Brasilia or Milton Keynes. Read more →
DECEMBER

Feature Film: White Material

There’s a scene early on in Claire Denis’ tenth film in which a child soldier fingers a cheap-looking gold lighter and refers to it as "just white material". What does he mean when he says this? It’s a question that wends its way throughout Denis’ remarkable film. Set in an unnamed African country, the inimitable French actress Isabelle Huppert plays Maria, who is resolute in keeping hold of the failing coffee plantation she runs, even as her workers flee and the country around her erupts into civil war. Her decision to stay seems wilfully naive in the face of the chaos around her. A helicopter whips up blinding red dust around her as the French military retreats from the area; similarly, Maria seems blind to the dangers she faces by staying. Even more dangerous: she is harbouring a wounded rebel soldier, known as "the Boxer", even as her ex-husband André negotiates with the mayor to help his family return to France safely. Read more →
DECEMBER

Feature Film: Amour

As I was heading through the rain to see Michael Haneke’s latest film, Amour, I sent a text to a friend that read, ‘Off to be bludgeoned by Haneke’s latest oeuvre.’ I was only half joking as there is an element of masochism involved in watching his work. It is the sort of masochism, however, that I personally welcome. I have been a Haneke fan for a long time, and I stand by his earlier, sensationalist and violent films like Benny’s Video and Funny Games, but I have found his more recent work, such as Caché and The White Ribbon more measured and in some ways more profound. Amour certainly follows on from the latter two films. Read more →
NOVEMBER

Projections: Going to the Cinema Alone

I am a man of many rituals. One is that I like to go for a jog, or at least a walk, before I write anything. Another is that I try to eat a fancy lunch on Fridays. I think it is perfectly normal to do things regularly, in a manner that appeals to you, and to be petty and particular about it. I do not think this makes a person superstitious, or untrue to their nature, or out of touch with the world. This morning I ran around Kennington Park, so that I could write this. Read more →
NOVEMBER

Feature Film: The Master

Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master is a good-looking film with a dramatic composition and a narrative that is full of ideas, peppered with intriguing spaces for thought. It is a remarkable accomplishment for these reasons. I have been left mulling the story over in my mind for the last couple of days since I saw it, but why did it also leave me feeling rather cold? Before reading on, I recommend you go and see the film and decide how you feel about it, for fear of spoiling your own experience. Having seen the film, I felt I needed to explore these engaging and niggling ideas that had been washed up behind. Read more →
NOVEMBER

Feature Film: Argo

When a film declares itself to be "based on real events", there is a certain temptation for me to do as much research as I can on the subject matter beforehand in order to engage with the film by contradicting the veracity of each detail. Of course you have to allow for the limitations of the medium and a degree of creative licence, but, as an amateur snob, I find no greater self-righteous titillation than poking holes in Hollywood's attempts to present the truth when it comes to historical events. Read more →
NOVEMBER

Feature Film: Wonderful Town

A stranger rolls into town in a car carried by the force of a great wave, a wave that lives on in the memories and haunts the dreams of the local people. This is the moment that marks the opening to Aditya Assarat’s 2007 film Wonderful Town, a beautifully observed and subtly nuanced film from Thailand. Ton is a young man working for a big-city architectural firm, here to supervise the new hotel resort being built along the beach. He checks into a small hotel in the town, further inland, owned and managed by Na, a young woman who has grown up here, and witnessed first-hand the terrorising wave that swept through the area in 2004. Read more →

Feature Film: The Woman in Black

While many horror writers imagine ghosts along distinctly sympathetic Freudian lines—there's something in their past that's making them behave in such wicked ways, and if they can just work through their issues with the help of a willing human being everything will be all right again—Susan Hill isn't having any of it. There's something refreshingly awful about Susan Hill's ghosts. She brings random nastiness back to the ghost story; the haunting is just bad luck in a chaotic universe, something like cancer or a lightning strike. Read more →

Raindance: Film Reviews and Winners

Last week I attended the 19th Raindance Film Festival in London, watching six films out of the 12 days. Looking back, I wish I had gone to more screenings, but alas, there were only so many films I could process in a single day (it’s not advisable to hermit oneself away in a dark room). The Apollo Theatre in Piccadilly had been specially transformed for the festival – the waiting foyer was artfully arranged with posters, flyers and Raindance programmes. 

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