Monday, 29 February 2016

James White by Josh Mond - Review

Bookended as it is by a young man’s parental deaths over the course of a few short months, James White is an emotionally fraught viewing experience, yet not for the paint-by-numbers, hammy melodrama you would expect. Rather, writer-director Josh Mond, producer of the excellent Martha Marcy May Marlene, brings a similarly minimal approach here to create an unflinching character study that relies on performance over traditional narrative. The result is an immersive mood piece, which is impressive—more so in that it’s a feature debut—and also brave in its stark depiction of the ravages of terminal illness and the emotional turmoil that accompanies it.

Monday, 22 February 2016

Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words by Stig Björkman - Review

Much of Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words, directed by Swedish film critic and writer/director Stig Björkman, is footage or photos from either her or her family, which allows the film to branch off into a personal territory far away from similar docs about icons. As you can likely tell from its title, Bjorkman's film is a personal portrait of arguably the greatest actress to ever grace the screen. The film premiered at the 2015 Cannes film festival where Ingrid Bergman was being paid tribute. Using Bergman's own words from her diary, Björkman takes us on a decade spanning love letter to the daughter, mother, movie star, artist, wife, and woman that was Ingrid Bergman.

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Taxi Tehran by Jafar Panahi - Review

That Taxi Tehran exists at all is a minor miracle, its production a brave act of defiance by director Jafar Panahi undertaken at considerable personal risk. Panahi was the subject of a 20-year filmmaking ban in 2010, accused by the authoritarian Iranian state of conspiring to distribute propaganda against the Islamic Republic. You can't keep a good man down, however, and Taxi Tehran, released on DVD and Blu-ray by New Wave Films on the 22nd of January, is actually the third clandestine project Panahi has completed since that sentence was passed.

Thursday, 18 February 2016

BFI Flare 2016

BFI Flare, formerly known as the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival, is celebrating its 30th birthday, and the programme for this year's edition has just been announced. As the years go by, and with the way society has evolved, there are some who question the need for lesbian & gay film festivals. The scene might have evolved and be more diverse, gay venues might be closing one after another in big cities (and particularly in Ballard-esque contemporary London), but there still battles to be fought, and stories that remain to be told within the community

While recent years have brought us some incredible films with gay characters in leading roles (Carol, Stranger by the Lake, The Duke of Burgundy...), it is a shame then the quality of specifically LGBTQ films vary so wildly, as few directors manage to transcend some well worn tropes. At a quick glance in the programme, it seems as if 90% of this kind of films are the usual tales of sexual awakening/coming of age/love in a forbidden country. And it has to be said, there is a rather opportunist streak within many films found at such film festivals, with its audience which at times does not seem to be too demanding when it comes to quality, as long as it can watch films it recognises itself in. Still, I have identified a few films in this year's festival that are definitely worth seeing.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Triple 9 by John Hillcoat - Review

Triple 9 opens with an extraordinarily well executed bank heist, both from the team of ex-soldiers breaking in to steal a safety deposit box and from director John Hillcoat and a great many talented people in his cast and crew. But the bank robbers make a single mistake, or at least one of their crew does, in getting greedy and snatching a pile of cash. The money has a red dye pack that explodes as they’re racing away and they ultimately have to abandon their vehicle on a bridge and engage in an intense shootout to escape.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Freeheld - Love and Justice with Julianne Moore and Ellen Page

Freeheld premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015, and will be released in the UK on the 19th Feb. The true story of New Jersey Detective Laurel Hester (Julianne Moore), diagnosed with stage four terminal cancer, and her fight to have her pension allocated to her domestic partner Stacie Andree (Ellen Page).