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Category: Film

Film Review: Studio 54

Reviewed by Lee Hill

In the mid-70s, reggae, punk and disco pushed and shoved a complacent rock scene into new musical frontiers. When two Syracuse University buddies, Ian Schrager and Steve Rubell, with the aid of $500k from silent partner, Jack Dushey, converted an old CBS TV studio in mid-town Manhattan into the legendary dance club, Studio 54, disco got a cocaine fueled boost into the mainstream. From 1977 to 1980, the club became mythic as a hedonistic living theater for celebrities, jet setters (or what was not so long ago called Eurotrash), bohemians, gays, die-hard eccentrics and people who just wanted to dance the night away.

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Film Review: The Racer and The Jailbird

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Flemish director Michael R Roskam is best known for his noirish debut, Bullhead (2011), a searing character study of a young farmer caught up in the black market for illegal beef products. Bullhead made Matthias Schoenaerts one of the latest stars of European arthouse cinema to cross over to a global audience. It also established Roskam as a director who could combine character driven drama with suspense. Roskam and Schoenaerts worked on James Gandofini’s last film, The Drop (2014), and have reunited for a third time on this thriller about two seemingly mismatched, but obsessive lovers.

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Film Review: Zama

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Zama is a sly historical anti-epic that deconstructs the expectations and assumptions viewers often bring to a certain kind of prestige film. Writer/director Lucrecia Martel’s first feature since The Headless Woman in 2008, follows the tragicomic efforts of a loyal colonial magistrate to maintain dignity as his superiors and those he rules treat him with contempt or indifference.

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Film Review: A Cambodian Spring

Reviewed by Lee Hill

On paper, a two hour plus account of a land dispute in Cambodia sounds like a worthy documentary subject, but also like being forced to eat all your vegetables. The reality is that A Cambodian Spring works on the senses like a sly thriller with close to the bone reminders of how many developers flaunt the law and human rights in collaboration with governments ducking responsibility (see also Grenfell Tower Fire). Chris Kelly’s film is a heart-breaking look at how those with the least are driven to super heroic feats of activism. It is also a sobering study of how an unchecked free market drains the souls of local communities and corrupts the legal protections a civil society should never treat lightly.

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Film Review: Mansfield 66/67

Reviewed by Lee Hill

After Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield is the other mythic blonde bombshell that haunts Hollywood’s past and present. Her fame mainly rests on her comedic roles in two Frank Tashlin films, The Girl Can’t Help It (1956), arguably the first truly visionary rock n’ roll movie, and Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter (1957). Typecast as a well-endowed bimbo, Mansfield tried to do more serious work, but earned most of her wealth as a nightclub performer and in many cases, for simply showing up to be Jayne Mansfield. She was married four times and her third and fourth husbands, Mickey Hargity, a former Mr. Universe and father of Law and Order regular Marisa Hargity, and Matt Cimber, an Actors Studio veteran and film director, are worthy of documentary treatment themselves.

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Film Review: Entebbe

Reviewed by Lee Hill

A glance at the Wikipedia entry for Operation Entebbe, the 4 July 1976 raid by Israeli commandos into Uganda to rescue 106 passengers of a hijacked Air France flight from Tel Aviv to Paris, reveals a depressing number of near forgotten films, made-for-TV movies, documentaries and other fictions inspired-by. The historical record somehow remains unsullied by these attempts at a greater truth (read: mega-box office success and maybe an Emmy or Oscar). Viewers of a certain age – old enough to remember the news reports of the time as well as Hollywood’s unseemly haste to release Victory at Entebbe with Burt Lancaster, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Dreyfuss before the year was out – are forgiven for rolling their eyes at another docudrama about these events.

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Film Review: New Town Utopia

Reviewed by Lee Hill

Christopher Ian Smith’s lyrical documentary looks at Basildon, one of 10 new towns approved and developed to provide innovative as well as affordable housing solutions after the Second World War. In September 1948 MP Lewis Silkin. Minister of Town and Country Planning in Prime Minister Clement Attlee’s government said: “Basildon will become a City which people from all over the world will want to visit. It will be a place where all classes of community can meet freely together on equal terms and enjoy common cultural recreational facilities.” These and other homilies by Silken to a brighter future are spoken by actor Jim Broadbent and provide a poignant contrast to the tracking shots of the worn and faded concrete facades of homes and streets that have seen better days.

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Film Review: ANON

Reviewed by Zoe Margolis

Shot in a monochromatic, desaturated style, ANON offers a dulled vision of a near-future where no one has any secrets, or privacy. Unlike now, where people voluntarily upload personal information to social media platforms (or involuntarily, as is the case with Cambridge Analytica’s exploitation of Facebook content), citizens of this society appear to have no choice as to how their data is accessed. Instead of mobile devices capturing events, human beings have biological computer implants – a “Mind’s Eye” – which work as personal video recorders, enabling others to witness their point of view (POV), similar to Strange Days’ S.Q.U.I.Ds. In ANON this happens without the use of external equipment: the brain itself has become a shareable hard drive. Whilst this means people can return to any moment of their life that they wish to, the recording of every millisecond is downloaded to a vast grid called The Ether which law enforcement can access, so nothing anyone does or says is private.

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LFF 2017: Redoubtable

One of the unofficial laws surrounding biopics is the more complex and rich the subject, the more reductive and superficial the treatment of the life. Redoubtable is ostensibly about a great cinema revolutionary, Jean-Luc Godard, but his life and art are alas interpreted by Michel Hazanavicius, a director who wears his slim talent for pastiche heavily.

Hazanavicius is best known for The Artist, one of the least deserving Best Picture Winners in recent times. The Artist was an amusing idea for a short film inflated into a bland caricature of silent film comedy. Before The Artist, he was best known in France for the OSS117 films, the kind of James Bond parodies that make a rainy Sunday afternoon bearable when there are no real James Bond films on TV. After The Artist, Hazanvicius reached for the stars and fell from his stepladder with an unwieldy remake of Fred Zinnemann’s The Search. Not without ambition (or humility) he now gives the world his take on Godard’s mid-sixties period and marriage to actress Anna Wiazemsky with a few rear-view glances of the political ferment of France in 1967/68.

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