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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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LFF 2018 – Five Must-Sees

Freda Cooper picks her 5 must see film in this year’s London Film Festival programme.

For any self-respecting film fan, the London Film Festival is a tantalizing mix of heaven and hell. Heaven is the prospect of some wonderful films, events, red carpets and more than a sprinkle or two of good old fashioned glamour and glitz. Hell is working out how many of the 225 features in this year’s programme you can fit in without breaking the bank.

Some of the big films have already been announced. This year’s festival kicks off on 10 October with Steve McQueen’s Widows and closes on the 21st with Stan And Ollie. The American Express Gala on the 18th sees the return of festival favourite Yorgos Lanthimos with The Favourite, Mike Leigh’s Peterloo breaks new LFF ground with its screening in Manchester and the festival’s official competition includes the likes of David Lowery’s The Old Man And The Gun, Ben Wheatley’s Happy New Year Colin Burstead, Nicole Kidman in Destroyer and Sunset, the latest from Son Of Saul director, Laszlo Nemes.

But what of all the others? Whittling them just down to five must-sees is almost impossible, but we love a challenge. Here goes …….

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Film Review: Columbus

Reviewed by Lee Hill

It is one of the curious ironies of cinema history that many great films deal with characters in near static moments of transition. Something life changing has just happened or perhaps, more poignantly, characters are waiting for signs of the life they are meant to lead to finally appear. You could have a very provocative film season with such investigations of the space between (Tokyo Story, L’Avventura, The King of Marvin Gardens, Breaking Away, Diner, Kings of The Road or Lost in Translation come to this writer’s mind).  With his impeccably shot, sensitively acted and unapologetically meditative debut, Columbus, the Korean-American video essayist, Kogonada, would be a welcome participant in such a season .

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Film Review: Cold War

Reviewed by Zoe Margolis

Paweł Pawlikowski’s Cold War is a story of two people whose paths cross and their hearts become entangled forevermore. At its core, it’s an epic romance, but also a social commentary of post-war communist politics, sumptuously shot in exquisite black and white cinematography (Łukasz Żal).

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Film Review: The Children Act

Adapted by Ian McEwan from his acclaimed novel, based on the 1989 UK law of the same name, The Children Act asks the question: should the laws of a society, or the rules of a religion, take precedence? Set in London, around its central law courts, Emma Thompson plays Justice Fiona Maye, a High Court Judge who works on some of the most morally challenging cases, with literal life and death consequences; we are reminded of the real-life Charlie Gard, and Alfie Evans, and the public opposition those cases attracted. Early on, Fiona is tasked with rendering a ruling on the separation of conjoined twins, both of whom will die if not separated, but only one will survive if they’re parted. Faced with critical media coverage, and a heart-wrenching decision, Fiona still maintains calm as she issues her verdict; her ability to distance herself from emotion and issue a ruling show how clear-headed she is about these issues, and how seriously she takes her work in family law.

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