Thursday, 30 June 2016


As if to tease an older generation of cinephiles, Terrence Malick demonstrates his outrageous profligacy this decade with not one but two versions of his upcoming project, Voyage of Time. And, with last year's Knight of Cups only being seen by many audiences this year, between these two, reportedly rather different offerings, certain viewers may be treated to three Malick films in one year! Three! In one year! This from the man who took 20 years to make The Thin Red Line! Worth noting that the above trailer with narration by Brad Pitt is for the 40-minute version for IMAX, due to be released in the US on the 7th of October, while the 90-minute version with narration by Cate Blanchett is just for your nerves!


The Mafia thriller as melodrama, Suburra is a very promising, very disappointing, very Italian version of those ensemble stories where every character is linked to another, themselves linked to another, and another, and another... These films are meant to imply an expansive scene of infinite connections, but are actually of the opposite effect - they create a closed loop, a hothouse of hysteria whose melodramatic accumulation of any number of high-stakes storylines itself holds no connection to any identifiable reality. These storylines are the usual: necessarily underdeveloped, and thus unnecessarily overcooked in order to cover lost ground, or so the intention goes. At least you can't accuse Suburra of doing anything by half - it's all drama, all action, all boring. Sorry, reader, that the tiresome old complaint, itself by now a terribly boring one, that a film has bored this reviewer should crop up once more, but it's of particular note here. Suburra is so stuffed with content that it's quite the shock to feel the urge to check one's watch at the two-hour mark (or even at all), only to discover that not even 90 minutes have passed. Perhaps the persistent predictability of the narrative - with four contributors, indeed - signalling every twist and turn long in advance and thereby expending much of their impact prior to arrival, is responsible. Director Stefano Sollima certainly is not; here is a film to convince anyone that the director is not always solely responsible for a film's failure. In fact, Sollima is near the only person responsible for Suburra's successes. His direction is unfocused in its style, though consistently vibrant, thoughtful, sensorially engaged, infused with energy that is infused right back into the film. He provides the thrills to this thriller, and promises exciting things to come in a career that's about to step up a gear.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016


I hope you weren't expecting highbrow political commentary... Elvis & Nixon is a fantastical little comedy, fuelled by gentle caricature. Like its two protagonists, it holds scant connection to the real world, as Liza Johnson's quirkier tendencies maintain a detachment between their fantasy and our reality, and as its lightweight lightheartedness allows for negligible resonance in the long run. Such a disposable product is best consumed with a vigorous appetite, before it is, indeed, disposed of, so relish Elvis & Nixon's vibrant performances, its smart dialogue, its carefree spirit, before you forget they even existed. No great work of art, nor great piece of entertainment, it's likely to be forgotten fairly soon. The innate pleasure in imagining this factual yet fictionalized encounter between Elvis Presley and Richard Nixon is integral to one's enjoyment of the film - it's celeb-snooping, as crass and as dubious as any gossip rag, and it must be attended to properly if one is to tolerate its absurdities. You're meant to notice the actors in this most recognizable of ensembles, you're meant to register every gauche period detail, it's all part of the chintzy, charmingly ersatz design of this non-biopic. And there's value to be found in such a seemingly valueless enterprise, most notably in Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey's superb renditions of the titular characters, exploiting their idiosyncrasies solely for the benefit of this most singular joint portrayal. Any sense of realism is rather lost beneath the low-key looniness, but that's much the point. Elvis & Nixon holds the political commentary, and lets loose - very loose - everything else.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016


Supreme silliness, with no impulse to acknowledge its silliness. Independence Day: Resurgence is thus also serious silliness, a bad film that is a particularly bothersome brand of bad: it's boring. And yet it's set at record speed, as though to make up for the 20 years that have passed since Roland Emmerich last made an attempt (and an altogether more persuasive one) at selling this material as relevant. There's a whole planet-full of characters, in a universe-full of locations (though each capable of appearing in any number of them at a moment's notice, or even not). There's backstory dribbling out of every orifice. There's sci-fi psycho-babble that seems to emanate from one particular orifice (and it's not the mouth, alas). Why, then, does this most hurried, jam-packed, ludicrous of films feel like such an interminable slog? As every comedic quip misses its mark, Independence Day: Resurgence descends into a dreary drag, each set-piece the same as the last; Emmerich's proclivity for scenes of mega-destruction indulged to the maximum here, the film thus becomes literally one massive catastrophe after another. As every CGI effect, buried beneath a bottomless pit of gloom provided by Markus Forderer's cinematography, recalls countless better designs in countless better films before it, what moderate interest Emmerich might have aroused is lost entirely, not least due to the total lack of interest invested in the characters, by filmmakers and viewers alike. One might query whether or not this film was ever meant to be about its characters, but this only raises further queries: if it's not meant to be about its characters, then why is everything else about Resurgence so similarly sub-standard, and indeed, what was it actually meant to be about? Silly queries, then, for a silly film. Silly me for sitting through it.

Friday, 24 June 2016


My country has turned its back on these people. An island nation of whites, condemning countless brown and black faces to dehydrate and drown on waters mere miles from our own, mere miles that yet we've found all too easy to ignore, an ease that seems set to only increase. Gianfranco Rosi's observational style, its apparent passivity contrasted by its intensity of focus and by Rosi's choices of focus points, thoughtful and thought-provoking, provides an ideal outlook to Fire at Sea's more disquieting sections. No flourishes, no embellishments, no direction except that of the action that it documents - a powerful film in that it captures a powerful reality. It is thus that Rosi's focus points must then come under more sceptical scrutiny. The lives of Lampedusa's inhabitants remain curiously unchanged, and inferences are drawn between the lack of concern Rosi identifies in his subjects and that of the wider European community, growing all too accustomed to tragedy no longer on its doorstep but with both feet already through it. But these inferences are altogether too subtle in Fire at Sea, which often gets caught up in gentle character comedy and a thoroughly un-cinematic mundanity in that observational style. It's a fine contrast to the more harrowing material, but it's unnecessarily dwelt upon in this regard, distracting from the crux of this film's own concerns, which leaves much of its first two thirds worthy but bland. This powerful reality does receive the treatment warranted by its power, but too little, too late. As a statement on this cleft continent's current situation, it's as thought-provoking as any other.

Thursday, 23 June 2016


If every film is, in fact, a documentary, in that it serves as a document of the creative process that engendered it, specifically that of the creation of the images on screen, Peter Tscherkassky's The Exquisite Corpus is not merely a documentary film but a documentary of film. And while many artists have previously legitimized this medium via suggesting and stressing its value in both reflecting and informing many aspects of the way we live our lives, few non-pornographic films have ever truly tackled that most integral aspect: sex. In bucking the trend, Tscherkassky's film not only documents sex on film but actively participates in it - film is a physical object in The Exquisite Corpus, manipulated in its physical form in order to engage in the processes it depicts. It forms a tactile, tangible link between the titillation on screen and the titillated before it, occupying the formerly blank space between the patently unreal softcore that is the zero point of Tscherkassky's content and the inevitably real arousal that it inspires. We now not only watch but feel, transcending the voyeurism that often marks the destination en route to making sense of our response to erotic art. The Exquisite Corpus is a full corpus of sensory immersion, imitating the seduction within itself and the arousal within its audience in a most vivid, all-consuming manner. This remarkable engagement with the language of eroticism, both in art and in life, makes inferences that few artists dare to, framing sex as an insatiable, unstoppable, unavoidable essentiality; the film literally speeds up, slows down, warps, dies, commits its every act of existence in sex. Its images depict the full body as a sexual object, its structure presents all of life as a sexual experience, its rhythms imitate the throbbing, thrilling repetition of sexual excitement. The Exquisite Corpus is one of the most intelligent, invaluable works of cinematic art - erotic or not - in recent years.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016


It's too easy to scoff at a film like Warcraft. It offers no promise of hope, no suggestion of respite from the overbearing vulgarity of its style, lifted so faithfully from its video game source. Here is a work of art that engages with the language of a form of entertainment often dismissed as inherently unartistic. In objective analysis, there is thus much that Warcraft misjudges from an artistic perspective - it's a derivative, aesthetically ugly, laughably macho fantasy, marred by some poor acting and even poorer scripting. But to dwell on these mistakes is itself a mistake, since these are mostly anything but - Duncan Jones has grappled with this aforementioned video game language in a manner unlike those directors before him attempting similar tasks. He strives not for the incoherent chaos of the action sequences, nor the perfunctory yet convoluted narrative structure of his inspiration (though fails to entirely excise either), rather its style, its stakes, its sense of purpose which the action and the narrative only serve. While the quality he engenders from such a sub-standard product is surprisingly strong, more admirable still is Jones' refusal to acknowledge it as sub-standard at all. He's a fanboy, but an intelligent one, and instead of accepting the lowliness of this enterprise, prescribed by a narrow-minded elite of cynical cinephiles, or vainly aspiring to exalt it, he addresses it as a worthy approach to art-making in and of itself. Warcraft is the video game adaptation warts and all, but with a dedication to the design of those warts that betrays a contagious love and respect for them. To scoff at such craftsmanship is too easy, precisely because it only requires an easy glance in its direction. Look closer at Warcraft, both because you can and because it deserves it.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016


Here's a first look at one of the most promising features from the Cannes official competition this year, Andrea Arnold's American Honey. The British auteur ventures outside of her home nation for the first time with this jumbo-sized portrait of the contemporary American youth lifestyle. It won Arnold her third Jury Prize out of three appearances at Cannes. No release dates have yet been confirmed for the film, but no doubt A24 will embark on a robust release strategy when they open it Stateside.


The horror movie mini-masterclass continues. The Conjuring 2 conjures up faith in a story long since proved false; James Wan's manipulation of the truth is rather easier to submit to than the mental manipulations his audience must do. Give into this film's technical charms - it's worth it - but keep a talisman of common sense and smarts clasped at the ready for its thematic toxicity. For the first half, The Conjuring 2 operates much as its predecessor, serving as a condensed catalogue of all the horror movie tropes and techniques that inspired it. If it's less ingenious than that predecessor (and as the many more from which it follows), it's actually scarier - the threats here are more palatable, more harrowing, closer to hand. Wan has unearthed a direct line to his audience's nerves, and he near strips it bare. And then he exploits us further - having worn us down with one terror after another, he seeks to turn his film into more (or is it less) than the crass but atmospherically effective rebuttal of a hoax. It becomes a prophet of trust in the catholic church, ridiculing the sceptics, mocking their plausible theories - since found to be genuine - and exalting the process of lying in the pursuit of attention, converted here into the pursuit of religious conviction. It was all working so well as a slightly shlocky horror movie, made with more care than it perhaps deserved; too much care, in the end, in both the right places and the wrong. It's at once an improvement in quality and a deterioration in intent.

Monday, 20 June 2016


Bleecker Street will make a bid for awards glory this year with Denial, the story of Holocaust denier David Irving's libel case against historian Deborah Lipstadt, played here by Rachel Weisz. The trailer above showcases good performances and a promising plot, though just how successful the filmmakers' attempt at courting votes come awards season will be remains to be seen. Out on the 30th of September in the US and on the 3rd of February in the UK - much as many films take a similar release route between the two countries, with a Fall release in the US and an early-year one in the UK, this is a peculiarly large gap, especially for a film largely set in the UK.


Sad news from California, as actor Anton Yelchin has been declared dead following a car accident. He was a mere 27 years of age. A bright young star with many fans, thanks to a resume of impressive performances in well-regarded films, he will be much missed by cinephiles and more casual movie-watchers worldwide. Born in St. Petersburg, his family emigrated to the US before Anton was even one year old. It proved to be a fortuitous move for his career, as he would soon become one of the American film industry's most valuable young stars. Breakout roles in 2001 films Along Came a Spider and Hearts in Atlantis, the latter for which he won a Young Artist Award, led to more high-profile gigs, in films like Alpha Dog, Charlie Bartlett and, with three appearances under his belt, as Pavel Chekov in the rebooted Star Trek franchise, the role for which he is arguably best-known. Subsequent performances confirmed that his talent was the equal of his burgeoning fame, in films such as Like Crazy, The Beaver, Fright Night, Only Lovers Left Alive, Cymbeline, Experimenter and Green Room. Despite his tragic passing, we haven't yet seen the last of Yelchin, as he has five upcoming projects yet to be released. May we savour these final films from a life taken much too soon.


Approaching the Unknown boasts simple aspirations, and thus fails on simple terms. Short, straightforward and characterized by a scarcity of actual identifiable content (equally an indicator of the film's low budget as of its writer-director's creative ineptitude), this is a humdrum, mercifully forgettable piece that feels more like an ill-advised attempt at testing the water, rather than actually treading it. Mark Elijah Rosenberg's first film appears more calling card than fully-fledged feature, though even on such a basic mandate, Approaching the Unknown misses its already-modest targets. A story of an astronaut's journey to Mars, the first in the history of this film's vision of the future, is potentially ripe ground for rich psychological enquiry and/or artistic exploration. Rosenberg dabbles in each, but is inexplicably preoccupied with surely the least promising aspect of such a scenario: narrative development. One man in one room - largely the most of what this film constitutes (although a space station stop-off, flashbacks, and intermittent video calls to Earth interrupt the solitary atmosphere, to enervating effect), yet Rosenberg seems to consider this a prime opportunity to construct a proper story. It's nothing of the sort, and certainly not with the laziness displayed here: predictable plotting and horrible dialogue conspire to spoil every single scene, at least until they're dispensed with in the film's silly (though still predictably silly) final act. Redemption, no, but some amount of mitigation in Rosenberg's direction, at least the impetus to survive the scene and battle on into the next. He deploys his sense of space, of the effect of architectural design and our place therein, and in the larger context of the galaxy, to decent use, though it's nothing groundbreaking within this genre of filmmaking. Simply put, it's not enough to rescue this simple failure.

Sunday, 19 June 2016


Honest and heartfelt, here arrives the UK trailer for the latest film from  the country's own Ken Loach, I, Daniel Blake. It was the surprise winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival last month, securing a second Palme for Loach, upon his swift return to filmmaking following an intended retirement two years ago. The film is released in the UK on the 21st of October; no US release date has been confirmed at time of writing.


The hazy clarity of fact transposed into the clear haze of fiction. The Stanford Prison Experiment is the sensationalization of an event that didn't need sensationalized, the simplification of a story that didn't need simplified, and nevertheless an inherently compelling film on the nature of the male psyche as expressed through, or controlled by, our societal institutions. That's nothing less than the very intention of the infamous 1971 experiment itself, if not the most valuable angle from which to approach the outcomes of its notoriously compromised method. Kyle Patrick Alvarez astutely shifts the focus of his film from the psychological study of the experiment's participants to a similar study of its creators, themselves adopting increasingly participatory roles. Alas, perhaps aptly, if counter-intuitively, The Stanford Prison Experiment functions as a study of its own creators, and their drive to manipulate a process whose intentions were much more meritable. Alvarez and writer Tim Talbott's psychological inquiry has only the semblance of depth - and remarkably little breadth given the number of notable characters - rather ringing out the same points over and over. Cinematically, Alvarez achieves an admirable level of emotional intensity that acutely captures the feverish friction that must have distinguished the experiences of those who submitted themselves to this most audacious venture. But that audacity, if indeed not even marred by but accentuated by its flawed nature, is not reflected in this artistic venture. There's little sense of appreciation for the ethical and emotional complexities that are so readily inferred by mere mention of this experiment; in their place, a fun, fictionalized reduction.

Thursday, 9 June 2016


Keeping you guessing and keeping you caring - the dramatic thriller has two basic requirements, interconnected and virtually essential for their success. Though the ends somewhat justify the means in The Ones Below, and also though David Farr's film makes some sensitive observations in the process, there's little guessing to be done here at all. A narrative of confusion and curiosity, it's nevertheless nothing that hasn't been done before. Clemence Poesy plays Kate, a new mother with some serious concerns over the safety of her baby - the film presents those concerns as equally legitimate and dubious, in a character trope typical of films of this ilk (arguably even crucial). Questioning the reality of her increasingly, predictably fraught suspicions is an expected angle to take; encouraging trust in as well as sympathy for this character rather gives the game away, however, or alternatively would suggest a volte-face at the end that's wholly unearned. And yet The Ones Below maintains enough material of surprising substance to keep you caring. The imperilled new mother is perhaps a tale that no feminist needs told yet again, but Farr taps into some salient details around the desires and the duties of motherhood that give credence to actions that might otherwise seem routine for a thriller like this. In narrowing the range of the plot onto the respective emotional drives of each figure herein, and with ample assistance from a talented ensemble of actors, Farr builds to a series of small revelations with a large impact, even if he's laboured too hard at hinting toward the precise particulars of his conclusion.

Wednesday, 8 June 2016


An ideal accompaniment to the works of Ken Loach, in that it illustrates that which engenders them, drives them, stands responsible for their existence. An ideal starter course for the unfamiliar audience too, for the very same reasons. Neither a biopic nor a catalogue, nor even a humdrum hybrid of the two, Versus: The Life and Films of Ken Loach is an intelligent, incisive essay on that very subject; like the most valuable essays, it offers up new arguments and old evidence, communicates its central thematic tenets with clarity yet covers a considerable amount of detail. Though not the political statement as which any one of Loach's own films might qualify, Versus unpacks the emotional, societal and mental motivation that first developed this most essential quality of those works. A portrait of Loach which the man himself could never have conceived, Louise Osmond's film is nevertheless the perfect counterpart to his portraits of society - drawn out as they are from the minds of the types of ordinary people depicted therein, so too does their depiction here evoke a similar tone in Osmond's enquiries, and a similar response from the viewer. The film is subtly artful and overtly compassionate, and a fantastic model for documentary filmmakers in the matter of combining those two, often seemingly mutually exclusive features. Osmond deploys a casually non-linear narrative, and dwells on certain junctures, certain films in Loach's life and career for only as long as the need to explicate a certain point remains. It's a patchy portrait, then, but smartly so, since any extra breadth might have been at the expense of depth. And, for the committed cinephile, there's always the option of exploring said breadth for oneself. Versus is, as aforementioned, the ideal accompaniment to such an endeavour.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016


The artistic landscape, dominated as it is by grand concepts and visions, by theories rather than truths, aspiration rather than compliance, fantasy rather than reality. Here is a film that rejects these trends, instead embraces those qualities of life that make it for so many real people, if not make it worth living. The Measure of a Man does not merely identify the facts of everyday mundanity in the modern workplace, it identifies with the people who participate therein, exposing, examining and sympathising with the thought processes that both influence and are influenced by the choices they make, and those made for them. Stephane Brize's hand-held camera generates less an observational style than an inquisitively intrusive one, not engaging the viewer in the action but affording them access to it - like the CCTV cameras in the film's latter half. As Vincent Lindon's beleaguered security guard becomes complicit in the cruelty of a system that once enacted such cruelty upon himself, so too do we acknowledge our role in witnessing similar events of subtle, slow-burning dehumanisation in the film's earlier half, in passing judgement on others for reasons beyond their control. This man (isn't it always a man?) may stand alone, but he is not alone in standing so; The Measure of a Man is a portrait of an entire social class in a portrait of one of its denizens, and never in that clumsy, didactic fashion purveyed by so many socially-conscious dramas. Indeed, compiled largely of fraught scenes of quiet despair shot in riveting long takes, excessive dramatic catharsis is rigorously avoided, an artistic stance that further complicates the film's conclusion - does it betray the nature of Brize's film? Is it too signposted to be effective? Or is it the denouement that best befits the narrative? The thought processes in The Measure of a Man transmute into those into the viewers' own minds. Reality is thus not only reflected, but informed by this most intelligent film.

Monday, 6 June 2016


Giddy rambunctiousness fuels Shane Black's The Nice Guys, a frothy and foul step back in time that can't help but court one gross lapse in judgement after another. It gets away with it, given Black's steadfast appreciation of the exact position of every line he cheekily threatens to cross, and his twin appreciation of the gleefully reckless effects of just fucking crossing them and being done with it. Detective comedies need two simple things: a good detective story and good comedy - The Nice Guys has both. That's about all. Shit, that could be about all for this review! This is Black's formative era, the late 1970s, thus its recreation here is free of any artistic intent; the whole film feels free, to make its own honest mistakes and to hit its own accidental home-runs too. It's neither fresh nor retro, neither original nor derivative. Its setting is of narrative significance only, and leaves behind thoughts on society's attitude toward sexuality (and sexualisation) then and now, thoughts that don't linger. It's predictable in an inoffensive way, and offensive in a predictable way. The acting is good, very lively, let down a little by Kim Basinger's surgeon; the action scenes are incoherent and expose the coincidences rife through Black and Anthony Bagarozzi's screenplay. It's all appropriately adolescent mayhem, careless and carefree, energised out of sheer excitement for itself. More of a sugar rush than a drug bender - not much of a comedown, for better or worse.

Friday, 3 June 2016


The simple pleasures, somewhat undone by their simplicity. And a simple reason why Courted doesn't quite succeed: gentle, passive, intentionally inert, much as Christian Vincent's film may satisfy at first, the lack of dramatic or stylistic verve that was once so soothing soon becomes dull. That's the thing about inertia, intentionally or not - it is dull. That such a quality has been extracted from a film that's equal parts romance and courtroom drama doesn't quite make Courted the formal curio it could have been; instead, it makes of it a disappointment, one that amasses ever stronger shape as Vincent gradually reveals his disinterest in developing such shape for his film. Wisely, its brevity keeps the disappointment from dominating the film, and ensures a snappy, if unsatisfactory conclusion for the film's connecting plot threads. And if the romance fails to follow through on the intriguing, tentative promise with which it starts, the courtroom scenes are considerably more compelling - rarely more so than the average episode of Judge Judy, to be fair, but then that's quite the endorsement! Vincent's motive behind devoting so much time to these scenes seems irrelevant, but there's genuine craftsmanship therein and elsewhere. Courted runs on subtle cues of communication, both willful and not, on first impressions and lasting impressions, on glances caught and missed, conversations overheard and participated in. It's fuel enough for a film that's content to chug along in no particular hurry, though who'd be in a hurry to catch it is simply a mystery to me.


Excellent reviews for Na Hong Jin's The Wailing at Cannes have brought forth fruit for the supernatural thriller: this second trailer (the first is here) is a most professional job, no doubt after the encouraging news that 20th Century Fox has acquired worldwide distribution rights to the film and is releasing it under its flagship label. It's released today, the 3rd of June, in the US. Definitely one to check out!


A documentary about America that is situated entirely outside America, Michael Moore's Where to Invade Next is the anti-Borat but with a similar effect, with a greater hit-rate though with half the humour. Whether you laugh or cry is as much up to your response to the film's content as it is to your response to Moore's presentation of it. Both in the scene and in the studio, this domineering figure can't resist placing a personal imprint upon material provided by his subjects. If it's excusable as his unique style of directing, it's often inexcusable in its sloppiness - much as this may be the point, Where to Invade Next suffers from a lack of insight, in Moore's frequent insistence upon playing for dumb comedy over detailed analysis. If it's his arrogance that he supposes he needs not ask these questions, perhaps it's my arrogance to think that I'd do better in his place, but my expectation is that you probably would too. He makes a point of cherry-picking in this most one-sided of arguments, which neither forgives the act itself nor even helps bolster the film's main thematic thrust; as one-sided as it may seem, however, Moore counters the cultural excoriation of his homeland here with a persistent, surprising generosity toward it. It's heartening, if fairly unconvincing, but the light that flickers on every now and then in this tunnel of otherwise utter darkness does supply Where to Invade Next with welcome contrast, a sense that, for once, Moore is seeking not only criticism but also solution. Moreover, above the ethical spottiness of his approach, beyond the endearing comedy that he uses to deflect attention, Moore's just right.

Thursday, 2 June 2016


A typically multi-national lineup of titles is set to screen at this year's Karlovy Vary festival, which takes place from the 1st to the 9th of July. The 51st addition of the annual fest will feature films from Sean Ellis, Jan Hrebejk and the recently deceased Jan Nemec. Check out the full slate below:

Official Competition
By the Rails (Catalin Mitulescu)
The Confessions (Roberto Ando)
It's Not the Time of My Life (Szabolcs Hadju)
My Father's Wings (Kivanc Sezer)
The Next Skin (Isaki Lacuesta)
Nightlife (Damjan Kozole)
Original Bliss (Sven Taddicken)
The Teacher (Jan Hrebejk)
Waves (Grzegorz Zariczny)
We're Still Together (Jesse Klein)
The Wolf from Royal Vineyard Street (Jan Nemec)
Zoology (Ivan I. Tverdovsky)

East of the West Competition
Collector (Alexei Krasovskiy)
The Days That Confused (Triin Ruumet)
Double (Catrinel Danaiata)
Home Sweet Home (Faton Bajraktari)
House of Others (Rusudan Glurjidze)
Houston, We Have a Problem! (Ziga Virc)
Kamper (Lukasz Grezegorzek)
Kills on Wheels (Attila Till)
The Noonday Witch (Jiri Sadek)
The Spy and the Poet (Toomas Hussar)
Together For Ever (Lina Luzyte)
Verge (Ayhan Salar and Erkan Tahhusoglu)

Documentary Competition
All These Sleepless Nights (Michal Marczak)
Ama-San (Claudia Varejao)
Close Relations (Vitaly Mansky)
FC Roma (Tomas Bojar and Rozalie Kohoutova)
The Last Summer (Leire Apellaniz Lopez)
LoveTrue (Alma Har'el)
Normal Autistic Film (Miroslav Janek)
On Call (Alice Diop)
Solar (Manuel Abramovich)
Tower (Keith Maitland)
Transit Havana (Daniel Abma)
Whose Country? (Mohamed Siam)

Opening Night Gala
Anthropoid (Sean Ellis)


Stars do the silliest things. I'm never fond of films wherein the success of a single moment, or even of the entire enterprise, is predicated upon one element of its construction. Money Monster's success isn't predicated upon such, it's the film's very existence that relies upon the presence of its leads, George Clooney and Julia Roberts. It almost wants us to be grateful for that presence, as Jodie Foster dutifully fawns over their flatteringly-lit visages in scene after scene. And it rather succeeds - Money Monster is light entertainment, flavoured with a dash of intellectual spice but never surrendering to it, the kind of disposable cinema that gets by on the ephemeral pleasures it can provide the audience, not least the high star-wattage featured herein. You might even say the film's success is predicated upon their presence. So Money Monster wisely settles into itself, now shooting not for the stars but for closer, safer targets - the moon, perhaps, since its capacity to probe further is limited by its creative vapidity and adherence to genre conventions. But that adherence it exploits for all it's worth, wringing a hostage thriller, a corporate drama and flashes of action and comedy out of its minimal means, oddly even earning its third act diversion outside the location that dominated its first two acts (a normally foolish development). And as disposable as it may seem - and indeed may actually be - Foster maintains an intriguing focus on a lack thereof, honing in on alternative interpretations of apparently straightforward events, ambiguous moral concepts and humanity's inevitable inclination toward ignorance. Today's news is tomorrow's chip paper. About as disposable as they come.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016


A Summer in England, with Jane Austen for company. The stuff of sad Sunday afternoons is granted a renewal in Whit Stillman's lightly barbed adaptation of Lady Susan, Love & Friendship. It's a brisk, witty comedy whose humour works so well because it is so refreshing - rarely (if ever) exploited to this extent in an Austen dramatisation, and equally rarely delivered in this form in the 21st Century. Entirely inoffensive with broad-ranging appeal, it's thus a wonder that Love & Friendship is remarkable at all, though such is the charm of Stillman's film - one never queries the director's intentions nor his methods, never doubts the surety of his hand nor the success of its work, since the whole project has been crafted out of that most elusive, temperamental of qualities: quality itself. It's rather a treat to watch a film so comfortable in its style and tone, yet neither complacent nor excessively conventional. Indeed, the viewer may become so comfortable themselves with the many obvious positive attributes of Love & Friendship as to seek out alternative sources of satisfaction herein: strange how something as simple as two ladies ascending a staircase in tandem can be such a transfixing sight, but that is the integrity of Stillman's conceit. Alas, though the knotty verbosity of the script may result in one classic exchange of dialogue after another, so too does it result in a few bouts of narrative obfuscation; of little consequence, perhaps, but a genuine identifiable crease in the film's fabric. Furthermore, the stylistic value of Stillman's films remains as negligible as ever, even with expectations and obligations as low as they stand. But enough of judging a film for what it is not - what Love & Friendship is is a joyous film, delightfully written, perfectly performed, and willfully devoured!