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Film Review: Papillon

Reviewed by April McIntyre

Adapted from the autobiographical novel of the same name and following Franklin J. Shaffner’s 1973 film, Michael Noer’s remake of Papillon follows the story of safe cracker and thief, Henri “Papillon” Charrière as he serves out his sentence in a penal colony in French Guiana.

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LFF 2018 – Stan and Ollie

Reviewed by Freda Cooper

Comedians have notoriously unfunny private lives, so Jon S Baird’s Stan And Ollie faces an uphill task right from the get-go. It’s multiplied by the fact that Messrs Laurel and Hardy were at their peak some 80 years ago, which means the film has to walk something of a tightrope. On the one hand, avoiding patronising members of the audience who are familiar with the duo’s films and legendary scenes, but on the other showing newcomers why they were so great and what made them funny. A neat trick, if you can pull it off.

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Film Review: Possum

 

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Is it possible for a film to be too well executed? This is the conundrum presented by Possum, an ambitious and brooding portrait of an individual tortured by demons that may or may not be entirely psychological. First time director Matthew Holness, maps out the nightmarish headspace of a disgraced puppeteer returning to his family home in Norfolk. The result is a remarkable vision of suburban England in decline that evokes Kafka, Poe, Beckett, Lynch and Cronenberg, particularly the latter’s 2002 adaptation of Patrick McGrath’s Spider.

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LFF 2018 – The Favourite

Reviewed By Freda Cooper

A Yorgos Lanthimos movie has become something of a tradition at the London Film Festival. The Lobster made its debut in 2015 and last year it was The Killing Of A Sacred Deer but his 2018 offering comes with the loudest fanfare. After winning big at Venice – the Grand Jury Prize and the Best Actress award for Olivia Colman – The Favourite is already looking like one of the major contenders come the awards season.

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LFF 2018 – Widows

Reviewed by Lee Hill

After winning the Best Picture for 12 Years A Slave in 2014, expectations for Steve McQueen’s next feature were high. The news that McQueen was going to remake a well regarded, but distantly recalled 1983 ITV mini-series by Lynda LaPlante seemed a tad perverse (would this be his At Long Last Love or 1941?). However, McQueen and his co-writer, Gone Girl’s Gillian Flynn have, for the most part, successfully transformed the original “gangsters’ wives pull off heist” premise to tap into our current preoccupations with race, gender equality and the general cynicism, if not outright contempt, towards politics as usual.

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Film Review: The Wife

Film can be a depressingly literal medium at times. Certain areas of human experience – religious faith, sex or, as in the case of The Wife, what goes on in a writer’s head – can feel opaque, ridiculous or simply fall flat. In recent years, there have been many well intentioned, but not particularly memorable films about writers as mythic as Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath and Allen Ginsberg. These writers certainly weren’t shut-ins. And yet unless you are hanging out at some groovy film quiz, you might have have trouble remembering Hemingway and Gellhorn, Sylvia or Howl. Although the author in The Wife is a composite of Philip Roth/John Updike (arguably giving the filmmakers sufficient poetic license to keep things exciting), the end result is as unmemorable as these recent films about actual writers.

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Film Review: Reinventing Marvin

A claustrophobic close-up of a body, the light bouncing off the skin of an unidentified figure. This is how the film introduces us to Marvin, an aspiring actor and someone whose work is directly influenced by his upbringing. Anne Fontaine’s coming out film has its feet planted both in Marvin’s past and his present. We’re instantly thrust into his childhood and school-life as he struggles with homophobia, sexual abuse and his dawning homosexuality in working class small-town, Vosges.

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Film Review: Wajib

Annemarie Jacir’s family drama, Wajib follows father, Abu Shadi (Mohammad Bakri) and his estranged son, Shadi (Saleh Bakri), as they hand deliver wedding invitations in Nazareth. The coming together of jet setting son and his traditional father highlights the differences of what it is to be a Palestinian living in Israel and a Palestinian living abroad.
The leads, played by real-life father and son bring an authenticity to an already sincere narrative. Shadi has relocated to Italy, returning to Nazareth for his sister’s wedding. They struggle to see eye to eye throughout the film. Abu Shadi, of the older generation, accepts his life in Israel while Shadi fights against it. They constantly bicker with one another while their banged up volvo carries them from house to house.

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Film Review: The Seagull

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Unlike Shakespeare or Tennessee Williams, the film adaptations of Anton Chekhov’s plays and short stories have not made much of an impact beyond festivals or art houses. While I still have vivid memories of watching Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Richardson and Jonathan Pryce in a 1985 West End production of The Seagull, only Sidney Lumet obsessives are likely to remember the director’s curious 1968 version with Redgrave, James Mason and Simone Signoret. Lumet was probably more faithful to Chekhov’s themes of families and fading dreams in Running on Empty, his potent 1988 elegy for the idealism and myopia of New Left radicals on the run.

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Film Review: Hurricane

Reviewed by Lee Hill

World War Two is the safe space for a great deal of recent British film, television and theatre. Last year, Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk and Joe Wright’s The Darkest Hour went mano a mano to prove that while our present Oxbridge brain trust in Parliament and other corridors of power may have difficulty deciding on a latte order, times were different during the Blitz. If you dash, you can also catch actor David Haig’s play Pressure in the West End, a reconstruction of the nerve-racking planning and brinkmanship that prepared Britain for D-Day. And pub bores, particularly those whose history of cinema often begins and ends with Pulp Fiction, would lose much of their material if Band of Brothers hadn’t nailed a certain type of haunted gaze/grace under pressure/male weepie to the mast.

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