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Films

 


Still waters run deep... still Out of the Blue, directed by Robert Sarkies
The film shrewdly combines traditional cinematic tropes with eyewitness accounts of the Aramoana massacre to emphasise that this catastrophe is merely one in a long line of similar stories the world over, being documented with frighteningly more frequency in recent decades.
Tania Patti

Too short to play Hamlet Restul e tacere [The Rest Is Silence], directed by Nae Caranfil
Caranfil is nostalgic and frivolous simultaneously. He is glad as a director that the pioneers fought for the independence of cinema as an art-form. More than that, in The Rest Is Silence we find a director who is truly comfortable with making cinema for the sake of it, treating the art as an end in itself.
Ion Martea

A poster-nun for the West Mother Teresa: In the Name of God's Poor, directed by Kevin Connor (DVD)
It is precisely this humanitarian culture of low expectations, of ministering to a romanticised poor, coupled with her reactionary social perspective, which endeared Mother Teresa to right-wing politicians in the West.
Lee Jones

A cycle of agent-less violence The Battle for Haditha, directed by Nick Broomfield
The film lurches way beyond any legitimate attempt to avoid a simple morality tale by putting the killings into a comprehensible context, instead positing a moral equivalence: insurgents and soldiers alike were forced into this scenario by circumstance, not choice, and, as fundamentally decent people, they all suffer.
Lee Jones

On the Romanian New Wave 4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile [4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days] directed by Cristian Mungiu
Mungiu's point of view is similar to ours, stuck in a corner of a room, or at the front of a dinner table, unable to move, unable to do a close-up or emphasise certain elements that might give us more clues about a character’s emotions, a character’s interpretation of morality. This way of film-making does indeed feel fresh, liberating.
Ion Martea

Let live or sacrifice? The Counterfeiters, directed by Cristian Mungiu
Both individuals are heroes in their own way, despite the fact that one is justified by social Darwinism and the other by political idealism. The director is almost trying to say that in the extreme horror created by the Nazi regime, the survival of a nation depended equally on physique and on reason.
Ion Martea

Piano rage Four Minutes, directed by Chris Kraus
In the end, the film bears an unlikely resemblance to the Eminem movie 8 Mile. Just as Eminem’s character Rabbit invests himself completely in his ‘one shot’ – the few minutes he has to express himself in a rap competition – Jenny must live a whole life in the four minutes she has to perform at the piano competition.
Dolan Cummings

California Dreamin' (Endless) Cristian Nemescu
As the back story of the Kosovo war is only roughly sketched out in this unfinished film, the two parties coming together in the village are invested with freedom and personality, much as the intensity of a game of chess is exacerbated by the contrast with the quiet and gluey-rigid audience.
Alexandru Anton

Sweeney Todd Tim Burton
Sacha Baron Cohen is unimaginatively cast as a comedy foreign hairdresser with a huge package. Timothy Spall’s Beedle Bamford is all grease and no elbow – you feel he really is going through the Dickensian motions - if Mike Leigh were dead he’d be turning in his grave.
Iona Firouzabadi

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford Andrew Dominik
After the tragic fall there’s a distinct epilogue that extracts and examines the running themes of fame and myth-making. Ford had idolised the Jesse James of dime novels and ‘bandit weeklies’; he identified with a man he didn’t know but whose fame created a false familiarity.
Iona Firouzabadi

I Am Legend Francis Lawrence
Between Will Smith’s performance, Lawrence’s direction and production designer Naomi Shohan’s vision, the first half of this film has the confidence to be detailed yet grand, emotional but not sentimental and slow though tense – very, very tense – despite the fact it’s essentially the narrative of one man and his dog.
Iona Firouzabadi

The Edge of Heaven Fatih Akin
Fatih Akin draws on his Turkish and German heritage to examine two aspects of the world: the clashes and conflicts within, and its inherent beauty. The conflicts between the two cultures are combined in each of the threads running through the film.
Tom Smith

Cultural Jam 'Global womanism' in The Jammed, directed by Dee McLachlan
What is missing is a thorough investigation into the racialised representations of women. The Jammed’s heroine Ashley becomes exemplary of a global womanism, in which the white, heterosexual Australian woman is duty bound to save non-Western women from the sex-trade industry.
Alice Burgin

Redacted Brian de Palma
This is definitely a powerful anti-war movie, but its power is diffused inwardly rather than outwardly focused onto the centres of political power. The dead cannot see, but neither can the living when the feeling is too strong to be understood.
Hugh Ortega Breton

Half Nelson (DVD) Bruce A Evans
This isn’t the film to rage at the dying of the light or to offer simple moral paradigms. Dunne may be a teacher, he may even be inspirational, but he’s also a soiled anti-hero, part Coupland part Dostoyevsky – sleazy, violent and alone. Dunne is in a hinterland, submerged in a haze of drugs and failed hope - caught in a headlock.
Iona Firouzabadi

Mr Brooks Bruce A Evans
The film is a parable of the modern animus that moves in darkly postmodern ironic/comic turns, welding the problems of violence, morality, and identity to the fleeting notion of self. Underlying Evans' anxious tale is the disquieting notion that the force that guides and sustains modern life may be violence and murder.
Stuart Lenig

Electroma Daft Punk
Daft Punk’s fictional robots strongly resemble real human beings in many ways - they wear human clothing, represent alternating genders and vary in age. But mostly the similarity is in the human-like emotions in the speechless interactions between the two main characters of the film.
Jurgis Karpus

Atonement Joe Wright
The problem is that none of the leads are interesting – they are devoid not only of psychological depth, but also of any broader social resonance. They exist in a vacuum, offering no wider comment on humanity, as if the world is merely a bland reflection of their own ill-drawn strife.
Iona Firouzabadi

Howard Goodall's 20th Century Greats: Lennon and McCartney Screened at the Barbican, London, 6 September 2007
Is the mere combination of unexpected chords that make 'I Am the Walrus' an incredible song? Any musical analyst can explain the technical tricks behind a musical composition. And Goodall is surely one of the more talented ones. But merely describing the pillars of a house does not account for the beauty of the whole house.
Anca Dumitrescu

Evening Lajos Koltai
Irrespective of how subtle Redgrave is in her delivery, she is buried in the density of colour and mood driven not by her acting, but by the music. The dogma that less is more is so closely adhered to in the performances, it is ironic that Koltai ignored it when judging the effect of other elements.
Ion Martea

As You Like It Kenneth Branagh
However you look at it, this really is a terrible film: bad cinema, bad Shakespeare, bad everything. Branagh has a made a selection of accessible, popular, well-made and generally enjoyable adaptations of Shakespeare for cinema. It is hard to guess what went so dreadfully wrong this time.
Andrew Haydon

Dry Season Mahamat-Saleh Haroun
The tap-tap of a blind man’s cane and the crunch of footsteps in the desert sand as the opening credits roll introduce us to a film that is as hypnotic in sound as it is in vision. The dryness of the Chadian desert juxtaposed with clean bright colours makes for a stunning film with fable-like quality.
Clemmy Manzo

Someone Else Col Spector
There are no tears in this film. It’s probably the most passionless romantic movie I’ve ever seen. If David’s sapped emotional life and frankly stagnant approach to life was the point of the movie, then these were qualities well represented in the overall tone: boring, boring, boring.
James Cross

Born and Bred Pablo Trapero
The portrayal of a man in distress has never been so raw and never so moving as in the scene when Santi breaks down during a hunting session with Robert - Guillermo Pfering’s acting is magnificent throughout the film, but especially here.
Clemmy Manzo

12.08 East of Bucharest Corneliu Porumboiu
Mircea Andreescu’s final monologue, detailing Piscoci’s story on the morning of 22 December 1989, is menacing in its power to affect us. We, just like him, value the love of our partner more than of our country. Being a hero in the eyes of one’s beloved is arguably the best gift one can receive.
Ion Martea

The Bourne Ultimatum Paul Greengrass
You come to expect that whether in the frozen streets of Moscow or the blistering heat of Africa, whether in a crowd of London commuters or souk shoppers, Bourne will find a way out of any situation, but he does so with enough ingenuity (and yes punch) to sustain your interest.
Laure Thomas

Transylvania Tony Gatlik
What Gatlif is exploring is what makes the gypsy life so appealing on a cultural level, yet so marginalised on a social one. By using actors of different backgrounds, he immediately erases any possible caricature, thus allowing the discourse to flow unhindered by preconceived attitudes.
Ion Martea

Evan Almighty Tom Shadyac
American studios’ productions always have included an element of moral education, promoting traditional values. Evan Almighty is in this tradition, and its weaknesses are not so the result of secularisation, as the increasing isolationism of American politics.
Ion Martea

I for India Sandhya Suri
The film opens with a clip in which a man explains, for the sake of newcomers to this island and apparently to civilisation, how to switch on a light. Yes, it’s very disturbing to watch this. But it’s also darkly humorous.
James Cross

Jesus Camp Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
Evangelicals care more passionately about politics, and in greater numbers than their liberal counterparts. Their enormous fundraising power makes them a force to be reckoned with. Are they wrong to subject their children to brainwashing? Most certainly – but what alternative are kids being offered?
Lee Jones

Goya's Ghosts Milos Forman
For some reason director and co-writer Milos Forman decided it would be a good idea for everyone to speak English with a vaguely Spanish accent; now this is all well and good for Javier Bardem (Brother Lorenzo) who is, in fact, Spanish, but everyone else, particularly Natalie Portman, just sounds silly.
Joanna Caird

Everest: Man v Mountain Bravo TV, various directors
When the army team makes it to the very highest slopes of Everest, their bodies are beginning to shut down: the lack of oxygen causes their stomachs to stop digesting, their lungs begin to fill with fluid and their brains to go into meltdown (as the bravura male voiceover announces repeatedly).
James Cross

Ocean's Thirteen Steven Soderbergh
The plan is both a metaphoric and a very literal shake down of The Bank - Willie’s neatly, if egotistically, named gambling skyscraper – involving a giant drill and a fake earthquake. Yep, a giant drill and a fake earthquake - you can practically feel Dr No and Dr Evil seething with jealousy.
Iona Firouzabadi

Flandres Bruno Dumont
For Dumont the film belongs firmly to him, not the performers – he is the auteur. He has a purposefully difficult relationship with his actors – ‘I’m not looking to make friends’. And he expressly states he does not have affairs with actresses.
Iona Firouzabadi

The Painted Veil John Curran
Kitty could so easily come across merely as the spoilt child of Empire, annoying and vacuous, but Naomi Watts and her director John Curran bring out far more complexity in her. And importantly the story doesn’t judge her for not being as serious as her husband.
Iona Firouzabadi

When a Woman Ascends the Stairs Mikio Naruse
Naruse's whole body of work, like those of many of his 1960s European fellow directors, finds in the life of woman a undying source of inspiration. The love the director has for his heroine is heartbreaking in its purity, making her appear like a goddess demanding respect simply by being.
Ion Martea

Scott Walker: 30th Century Man Stephen Kijak
The scenes in the recording studio are alive, and fascinating for the obsessive quality that surrounds the bringing together of each recorded piece. Only Walker has the whole song in his head. The musicians come in and serve each small piece of a picture that only becomes whole in the mixing process.
Barb Jungr

La Vie en Rose Olivier Dahan
Marion Cotillard's transformation is astounding. Her interpretation of Piaf makes you feel you've met the singer personally by the time you leave the cinema. It isn't simply the admirable make-up job of Didier Lavergne, or Cotillard's mimetism of Piaf's every tic and attitude, but her voice.
Laure Thomas

The John Waters Trash Trilogy Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Desperate Living
In his 'mondo trasho', replete with bodily fluids, drag queens, incest and bestiality, low replaces high and the trashoisie replaces the bourgeoisie. And over the mess and the noise and the reek and the wrong, Waters reigns supreme.
Sarah Snider

Klimt Raoul Ruiz
This self-proclaimed ‘phantasmagoria’ of Ruiz’s cinema does not work as a literary narrative, but rather as an intrinsically visual one. Malkovich, as Klimt, is always in focus. The cinematography almost always sets him in the best light, continuously eclipsing his background or foreground.
Ion Martea

Opening Night John Cassavetes
Cassavetes shows that in order to be someone fully, we need to recognise, through pain, loss and grief, what we are not or can be no longer. Paradoxically, struggling with these questions and limitations provides a way to personal growth: recognising the boundary of the self is the first step to pushing it back.
Sarah Snider

Yiddish Theater: A Love Story Dan Katzir
As the title suggests, the film is indeed an ode to Yiddish theatre as well as a prayer for its continuance. Coming out of the film, however, is also an important arts policy question about what types of minority arts and culture should be funded by the state, and how.
Rachel Greenstein Savage

Taking Liberties Chris Atkins
This is an entertaining film that highlights a number of important issues and worthy campaigns, but it does not get under the skin of New Labour-style authoritarianism in the way that authoritarianism is getting under the skin of British society.
Dolan Cummings

This Is England Shane Meadows
For me the film was all about Combo. Shaun served as a device that allowed the audience to empathise with this man, who brings out all that is attractive in a marginalised, unhappy skinhead. Shaun finds in Combo a replacement father, Combo finds in Shaun a glimpse of himself at 12 years old.
James Cross

The Battle of Algiers Gillo Pontecorvo
Although it portrays a different era, the film has a timeless and universal quality: not in its depiction of the brutalities of war in some distant Eastern country, but in its portrayal of what is entailed in a genuine struggle for freedom.
Philip Cunliffe

28 Weeks Later Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Like its predecessor, this film has more to do with humanity than Hades. There’s a distinct sense of a post-God world in both films. The Rage Virus has been created in a laboratory – so what we have to fear is man-made, not supernatural. But Weeks is bleaker than Days.
Iona Firouzabadi

Joe Strummer: The Future is Unwritten Julien Temple
The soundtrack alone is enough to get most Clash fans into the cinema. But Temple adds value to an already precious pop cultural commodity. Highlighting the private life of Strummer, Temple shows how his public political project was tied to a personal ethics of care.
Sarah Snider

Black Snake Moan Craig Brewer
This is a bizarre film. It’s quite hard to work out what its point is. Hazarding a guess it seems to be that Southern girls who are sexually abused turn into nymphomaniacs who are cured by chastity belts. It’s ambiguous as to whether this is a) comic b) badly conceived c) misogynistic.
Iona Firouzabadi

Häxan Benjamin Christensen
Häxan couldn’t have been made without Freud. A short introduction to psychoanalysis later and the feeling becomes justified. First released in 1922, it is one of the first – and perhaps only – films of its kind. The unfortunate problem with this is that it makes Häxan difficult to judge.
Sarah Boyes

Hammer Classic All Nighter Sci-Fi London
These films demonstrate a process of internalisation of danger, and thus of problem-solving. A series of mutations, which took over sixty years for Hollywood and American B movies to accomplish took place in just over six years at Hammer in the 1950s.
Sarah Snider

Rescue Dawn Werner Herzog
Despite the title and plot, Rescue Dawn is not really a Vietnam war movie, and certainly not an Iraq movie in jungle drag – and much the better for it. For all the accoutrements of war and moments of almost unbearable tension, the film is not a thriller either.
Philip Cunliffe

Fast Food Nation Richard Linklater
Despite the film’s didacticism, it isn’t a left-wing polemic. It’s a riff on the book - not a celluloid equivalent of it. It’s not an expose, jumping up and down and shouting. In fact it’s a film whose argument has more in common with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis than with the work of Michael Moore.
Iona Firouzabadi

Repulsion Roman Polanksi
First and foremost, this is a 105 minute close-up of Catherine Deneuve. In one of her earliest big roles, her first in English, Deneuve makes a fascinating subject. The pace of the film is slow, sometimes desperately so, aptly impressing on the viewer the sense of what her lonely world must be like.
Laure Thomas

Things to Come William Cameron Menzies
The film is heavy on ideas and obviously didactic. I feel it gets away with it, mainly because its ideas are interesting. They are clearly the issues that concerned HG Wells and the novel on which the film is based was his means of dramatising them.
John Dennen

Crime and Punishment Lev Kulidzhanov
This adaptation comes either from a cursory reading and understanding of Dostoevsky's novel, or, more likely, an impulse to bring it to a wider audience that chooses to ignore the fact that the only way one can truly interact with Dostoevsky is through his writing.
Dan Sumners

El Topo Alejandro Jodorowsky
What made El Topo subversive enough to be deemed illegal in several countries was precisely the confusion between genres and modes of thinking, the incomplete allusions to allegory and myth, the heteroglot centres, the inclusion of the marginalised.
Sarah Snider

The Way I Spent the End of the World Catalin Mitulescu
It has become such a cliché to see young children as the answer to a history’s truth that it is rather refreshing to see a child portrayed as nothing more than what they should be: adventurous, free players, whose opinion never counts, and for whom everything is thus permitted.
Ion Martea

The Lives of Others Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
This is at the core a tragedy which could have suffered from one-dimensional characters, but on the contrary they develop fully: they cry but also laugh, they feel disgust and desire, they gather and are merry but are also alone and miserable, they grieve and rebel, die and live on.
Laure Thomas

The Tulse Luper Suitcases: a personal history of Uranium Peter Greenaway
Isn’t the creative capacity of the human being exemplified by its ability to step outside of actual experience and invent possibilities and alternative ways of thinking and doing? Greenaway may present the extended possibilities of the way cinema could be, but his vision of humanity is resolutely stuck on the way we are.
Sarah Snider

The Curse of the Golden Flower Zhang Yimou
Golden Flower, wittingly or otherwise, conveys an essential truth about modern Chinese politics. Despite growing dissatisfaction with the regime, expressed in the rising numbers of protests and demonstrations each year, the masses remain broadly politically quiescent, a testament to their depoliticisation under Deng Xiaoping.
Lee Jones

The East End on Film Various directors, East End Film Festival, London
No doubt I am just not suited to such difficult and challenging work. Such ‘artist filmmakers’ perhaps don’t take kindly to bourgeois constraints on their creativity. But surely an attempt to ‘visualise the experience of living and working in the East End of London’ wasn’t a big ask. And yet only a couple managed to do this.
Dave Clements

Essential Films, Chapter Sixteen: A Midsummer Night's Dream Charles Kent and J Stuart Blackton
Kent and Blackton managed to construct a narrative that was solely cinematic: establishing a tradition of celebrity, magic and action-based scenarios, but most importantly the construction of a chimerical world, functioning by its own rules, which are easily understood by the film-going public.
Ion Martea

The Australian Dialectic The Story of the Kelly Gang, Charles Tait; The Life Story of John Lee: The Man They Could Not Hang, Arthur W Sterry
Australian cinema shifts between two contrasting styles, that of a commercial Hollywood photocopy and that of a Third World national cinema, and this dialectic is rooted in the country’s cinematic history.
Ion Martea

Red Road Andrea Arnold
The meat of Lars von Trier-related productions is relationships between characters, between actors, between actors and their director. When Jackie's obsession with Clyde leads to her failing in her duty, it is the realisation that she has fallen to directing her own film that snaps her back to reality, if only for a short time.
Dan Sumners

Sunshine Danny Boyle
The way the sun is presented on screen is crucial to the success of the film. On the spaceship is an observation room that allows its crew to look at the sun through a screen. This is exactly what we are doing in the audience. The film shows us what they see and tries to give us a sense of what they feel.
John Dennen

Close to Home Dalia Hager and Vidi Bilu
Although clothes and boys are at the forefront of the girls’ thoughts, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is always present in the minds of the characters - and of the audience. In fact, it is the effects of the conflict that bring the two very different protagonists closer together.
Clemmy Manzo

Whose Human Rights? The Railroad All-Stars, Chema Rodriguez, Hot House, Shimon Dotan
'Human rights' are now the foremost platform for the expression of political and social ills. But there is nothing universal about the predicaments faced by the two very different groups in these films, both of which convey the individual misfortunes of the protagonists, in contrasting and highly gendered settings.
Hugh Ortega Breton and Caroline Bainbridge

Water Deepa Mehta
The serene setting and dreamy landscapes contrast with the horror of the ordeal these women have to bear. Mehta sensitively exposes the treatment of widows under Hindu law as a patriarchal custom that has been veiled as a sancrosanct belief.
Clemmy Manzo

Ghosts of Abu Ghraib Rory Kennedy
This is far from a polemic. In fact, in TV-trend terms, it's not particularly 'now' - it's not 'counter intuitive' or 'authored'. There's no journo or filmmaker in front of the camera screeching out a sensationalist, skewed angle or seeking the limelight. What it is is an utterly compelling, serious film about a big issue.
Iona Firouzabadi

Essential Films, Chapter Fifteen: A Day in the Life of a Coal Miner Charles Urban
The film is thus not about capturing reality directly on film, but presenting us with an a priori view of reality. Each chapter is a staged sequence which does nothing but act out the activity promised to us in the intertitle. Whether the process is shown to us by an actual worker or an actor is secondary.
Ion Martea

Notes on a Scandal Richard Eyre
This is not Fatal Attraction, but it is a dark little tale. Claustrophobic and airless, it skirts the edges of being a thriller without immersing itself in those waters. Barbara is pitiable as well as frightening. In this sense, it's a very English drama - far from the grandiose, it has a lot of realism about it.
Iona Firouzabadi

The Last King of Scotland Kevin Macdonald
While on one level it takes the form of a 'coming of age' movie, this is rather more besides; Garrigan isn't someone who loses his childhood sweetheart. What he is confronted with when he finally delves deep into the heart of Uganda is more reminiscent of Conrad's novel than a mere rite of passage.
Laure Thomas

After the Wedding Susanne Bier
Despite the wealth of thematic accents, the film is absolutely character-driven. The performances are extraordinary. At times it feels like the sophisticated script is simply there to confirm what the actors have already conveyed to the audience - through stolen looks, almost imperceptible movements.
Irina Janakievska

Babel Alejandro González Iñárritu
This is a film with beautiful, even profound parts. It looks great, its performances are great and it will hold your attention - even catch you up in its primal scream of emotion. But its whole is malformed and peculiarly vapid. It shrinks in the memory.
Iona Firouzabadi

Essential Films, Chapter Fourteen: A Trip to the Moon Georges Méliès
A Trip to the Moon is canonised for becoming and holding its place as a blockbuster, and its age is often seen as a sign of quality. While it may be an important film, however, it is by no means a standard-setter in terms of artistic achievements.
Ion Martea

The Pursuit of Happyness Gabriele Muccino
While Frank Capra's movies were born out of the Roosevelt era and gave us the message that truth, justice, family, community and other such old-fashioned values have worth, by contrast the story of Chris Gardner is forged in the crucible of Reaganite economics. Welcome to 1981.
Iona Firouzabadi

 

 

 
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