wed 01/02/2023

Film reviews, news & interviews

January review - the end is nigh in vampirised Bulgaria

Graham Fuller

At their best, horror movies reflect destabilisation caused by cracks in the social fabric. The crack indicated in the documentarist Andrey Paounov’s fiction debut January is the widening abyss that, one character fears, will swallow Bulgaria village by village, town by town; the entire world, he says, will eventually succumb to this state of waking death. Maybe it already has?

Blu-ray: The War Trilogy - Three Films by Andrzej Wajda

Graham Rickson

Watching these harrowing films in rapid succession allows us to watch a great director’s confidence develop at close hand; though 1955’s A Generation (Pokolenie) is an impressive debut for a 27-year old director, both Kanał (1957) and 1958’s Ashes and Diamonds (Popiół i diament) really show Wajda’s technique taking flight.

The Fabelmans review - Spielberg remembers with...

Nick Hasted

Spielberg sometimes directed The Fabelmans through a film of tears, as he recreated his cinema’s origins. Lightly fictionalising his own family...

All the Beauty and the Bloodshed review - superb...

Helen Hawkins

A film telling just the story of photographer Nan Goldin’s campaign against Purdue Pharmacy would have been worth the ticket price alone.But Laura...

The Last Stage review - a former prisoner returns...

Saskia Baron

Seventy-eight years ago, on January 27,1945, Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated by the Red Army. The iconic images of the ovens with charred...

DVD: Oscar Peterson - Black + White

Sebastian Scotney

Barry Avrich’s documentary celebrates the music and career of the great jazz pianist

Babylon review - sound and fury in silent Hollywood

Nick Hasted

Damien Chazelle's pounding tribute to Twenties cinema is a finally faltering blast

Blu-ray: The Velvet Underground

Nick Hasted

Todd Haynes' doc embodies the time-bending cultural ferment which fused the VU

The Substitute review - a Buenos Aires 'Blackboard Jungle'

Graham Fuller

A teacher marshals his inner-streetfighter to protect his endangered students

Dreaming Walls: Inside the Chelsea Hotel review - intriguing portrait of the end of an era

Sebastian Scotney

A documentary about Manhattan's celebrated enclave for bohemian artists

More than Ever - an idyllic way of dying

Saskia Baron

Vicky Krieps gives a luminous performance as a young woman facing death

Holy Spider review - problematic portrait of an Iranian serial killer

Saskia Baron

Ali Abbasi's first feature about his home country revisits a national trauma

Blu-ray: Reservoir Dogs

Nick Hasted

Tarantino's debut's sly technique and visceral violence still grip in 4K

Tár review - a towering Cate Blanchett conducts a classic

Demetrios Matheou

Blanchett is the classical superstar falling from grace, in Todd Field’s superlative drama

Enys Men review - mystifying Seventies Cornish folk horror

Markie Robson-Scott

Mark Jenkin's follow-up to Bait is rooted in pagan history but fails to engage

Blu-ray: Croupier

Mark Kidel

A masterpiece from the late Mike Hodges, giant of British cinema

Empire of Light review - cinema of broken dreams

Graham Fuller

Undercooked script mars Sam Mendes’ racially themed romantic drama

A Man Called Otto review - Tom Hanks stars but doesn't sparkle

Saskia Baron

Schmaltzy black comedy about yet another grumpy old man

Blu-ray: Nil by Mouth

Saskia Baron

Gary Oldman's sole film as a director casts a cool eye on the London of his youth

Corsage review - Vicky Krieps is superb as Empress Elisabeth of Austria

Markie Robson-Scott

No ordinary period drama: Marie Kreutzer's brilliantly inventive portrait of a royal rebel

'Corsage' director Marie Kreutzer: 'Being beautiful is her only currency'

Nick Hasted

The Austrian director on Vicky Krieps, a rotting empire's rebel royal and corsetry as control

The Pale Blue Eye review - telltale hearts

Nick Hasted

Christian Bale's detective and a young Edgar Allan Poe investigate a haunted whodunnit in early America

Blu-ray: Something in the Dirt

Nick Hasted

Moorhead and Benson find cosmic conspiracies and fractured friendship in weird LA

Blu-ray: Ghost Stories for Christmas, Volume 1

Graham Rickson

Low-budget, high-intensity chills, handsomely remastered with plenty of bonus features

Wildcat review - damaged war veteran reborn in the Peruvian jungle

Adam Sweeting

How a man found salvation in the love of a good cat

Top 10 Films of 2022: Conclusion

Graham Fuller

'The Banshees of Inisherin' won our reviewers' poll

Avatar: The Way of Water review - is that all there is?

Nick Hasted

Vast investment, little vision as James Cameron's eco-epic returns

theartsdesk Q&A: filmmaker Mike Hodges

David Thompson

The British writer-director reflects on the making and meaning of his thriller 'Black Rainbow'

Adam Sweeting's Top 10 Films of 2022

Adam Sweeting

'Nightmare Alley' and nine more

Footnote: a brief history of British film

England was movie-mad long before the US. Contrary to appearances in a Hollywood-dominated world, the celluloid film process was patented in London in 1890 and by 1905 minute-long films of news and horse-racing were being made and shown widely in purpose-built cinemas, with added sound. The race to set up a film industry, though, was swiftly won by the entrepreneurial Americans, attracting eager new UK talents like Charlie Chaplin. However, it was a British film that in 1925 was the world's first in-flight movie, and soon the arrival of young suspense genius Alfred Hitchcock and a new legal requirement for a "quota" of British film in cinemas assisted a golden age for UK film. Under the leadership of Alexander Korda's London Films, Hitchcock's Blackmail (1929) is considered the first true sound movie, documentary techniques developed and the first Technicolor movies were made.

Brief_EncounterWhen war intervened, British filmmakers turned effectively to lean, effective propaganda documentaries and heroic, studio-based war-films. After Hitchcock too left for Hollywood, David Lean launched into an epic career with Brief Encounter (pictured), Powell and Pressburger took up the fantasy mantle with The Red Shoes, while Carol Reed created Anglo films noirs such as The Third Man. Fifties tastes were more domestic, with Ealing comedies succeeded by Hammer horror and Carry-Ons; and more challenging in the Sixties, with New Wave films about sex and class by Lindsay Anderson, Joseph Losey and Tony Richardson. But it was Sixties British escapism which finally went global: the Bond films, Lean's Dr Zhivago, Mary Poppins and The Sound of Music made Sean Connery, Julie Christie and Julie Andrews Hollywood's top stars.

In the 1970s, recession and the TV boom undermined cinema-going and censorship changes brought controversy: a British porn boom and scandals over The Devils, Straw Dogs and A Clockwork Orange. While Hollywood fielded Spielberg, Coppola and Scorsese epics, Britain riposted with The Killing Fields, Chariots of Fire and Gandhi, but 1980s recession dealt a sharp blow to British cinema, and the Rank Organisation closed, after more than half a century. However more recently social comedies such as Four Weddings and a Funeral and The Full Monty, and royal dramas such as The Queen and The King's Speech have enhanced British reputation for wit, social observation and character acting.

As more films are globally co-produced, the success of British individual talents has come to outweigh the modest showing of the industry itself. Every week The Arts Desk reviews latest releases as well as leading international film festivals, and features in-depth career interviews with leading stars. Its writers include Jasper Rees, Graham Fuller, Anne Billson, Nick Hasted, Alexandra Coghlan, Veronica Lee, Emma Simmonds, Adam Sweeting and Matt Wolf

Close Footnote

Advertising feature

Dance meets film in a unique digital season from English National Ballet


Brilliant new works from leading choreographers created in collaboration with exciting filmmakers. Watch world class ballet from home when you rent these original titles, released as world premieres via the brand new Ballet on Demand service from ENB.


latest in Today

Two Billion Beats, Orange Tree Theatre review - lively, but...

Do the right thing! But doing the right thing isn’t easy – especially if you are a teen. And a female teen who is being pressurised by your mother...

January review - the end is nigh in vampirised Bulgaria

At their best, horror movies reflect destabilisation caused by cracks in the social fabric. The crack indicated in the documentarist Andrey...

Album: Lisa O'Neill - All of This Is Chance

Lisa O’Neill is a part of the new wave of Irish contemporary folk artists, one that encompasses the likes of Lankum, Ye Vagabonds...

Leonskaja, Staatskapelle Streichquartett, Wigmore Hall / Sec...

It’s dangerous to claim a sense of absolute rightness about a musical performance; that could mean no more than responding to an interpretation...

Othello, Lyric Hammersmith review - Frantic Assembly's...

Frantic Assembly’s Othello, originally co-developed with the Lyric in 2008, is back in its third iteration, and it’s still not...

Blu-ray: The War Trilogy - Three Films by Andrzej Wajda

Watching these harrowing films in rapid succession allows us to watch a great...

Ólafsson, LPO, Gardner, RFH review - spirit of delight

This concert was advertised as the completion of an Elgar symphony cycle, though in the absence of the reconstructed Third, that meant the second...

Sound of the Underground, Royal Court review - loud and triu...

Ever been to a queer club? You know, drag cabaret night at Madame Jojo’s, or the Black Cap or Her Upstairs. No? Well, not to worry – the...

Gerhardt, BBC Philharmonic, Gernon, Bridgewater Hall, Manche...

Ben Gernon’s calm and clear way of conducting an orchestra (something he once told me he’d observed in the work of his mentor, Colin Davis) is...

Album: Robert Forster - The Candle and the Flame

Reflections on how the past relates to now suffuse The Candle and the Flame. The album’s closing track is “When I Was a Young Man.” When...


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters