Arts – Film

De Gaulle 

Palace Films
by
04 May 2021

General Charles de Gaulle (1890–1970) was an icon of the French Resistance movement during the Nazi occupation of France in World War II. Lending his name to the postwar Gaullist myth that presented France as a collective, unalloyed nation of resistance fighters, de Gaulle (founder and president of the Fifth Republic from 1959 to 1969) became a symbol of French strength, determination, and honour during a divisive and turbulent period of history.

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The Dissident 

Madman Films
by
22 April 2021

Watch out. Depending on the tone and context in which they’re said, these words combine to various effects. In the presence of a definite danger – a frisbee flung carelessly or a vehicle careening off course – they ring with a flinching impact. Muttered indistinctly and without danger, ‘watch out’ becomes the threat itself, from word of caution to verbal omen. Watch this. With the alteration of a word, caution transforms into excitement. The demand to look twists into a signal of anticipation, uttered, perhaps, by a hopeful entertainer, preparing some spectacle or act of prestidigitation. Now, you’ve got to watch this. Less immediate, less anticipatory, here the pressure to look is pressed further, with renewed urgency, connecting it to social or even civic expectations.

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Supernova 

Madman Films
by
12 April 2021

Supernova marks the second film released in cinemas this month to deal with dementia, following The Father (2020). While Florian Zeller’s film, based on his own stage play, employs inventive devices to place the audience inside the mind of a character afflicted with the condition, Supernova’s more traditional approach is in service of achieving maximum emotional impact.

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The Father 

Sharmill Films
by
29 March 2021

So much critical discussion of films adapted from plays centres on the notion of the ‘opening out’ of the action and on the ways in which the director and screenwriter have disguised the work’s theatrical origins, the implication being that this is always desirable or appropriate. Mike Nichols, with his extraordinary adaptation of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), understood that some works demand a restricted, claustrophobic setting; that film can indeed feed off the physical limitations that define the stage. With this principle squarely in mind, French playwright Florian Zeller has, along with English screenwriter Christopher Hampton, adapted for the screen his own play La Père (2012). A finer example of the process of translation is hard to conceive.

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French Exit 

Sony Pictures Classics
by
19 March 2021

‘My plan was to die before the money ran out,’ says Manhattan socialite Frances Price (Michelle Pfeiffer) when confronted with the fact that, after a lifetime of wealth and privilege, she is soon to become insolvent. This rationalisation on the part of our glamorous, widowed heroine tells us a lot about her, and a lot about the film French Exit: they are both unfailingly sardonic, somewhat ill-conceived, and utterly preoccupied with death. The film comes from the Patrick deWitt’s 2018 novel of the same name, and deWitt serves as the sole screenwriter. This also marks the second collaboration between deWitt and director Azazel Jacobs (Terri, 2011), which suggests a certain synergy, a healthy creative continuity from page to screen. It’s all the more disheartening, then, that the film adaptation feels so unfocused; a collection of missed opportunities hinged around a stellar central performance from Pfeiffer.

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The Alliance Française French Film Festival is on again. After a stop-start 2020 with the Festival twice interrupted by lockdowns and then cancelled altogether, it is good to be back in the cinema (masks ‘strongly recommended but not compulsory’). This year the festival has a new artistic director, Karine Mauris, and there is a diverse range of films from France and the Francophonie.

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Nomadland 

Searchlight Pictures
by
25 February 2021

Life in the Nevada town of Empire has become extinct: the town’s plant has been shut, the houses emptied, the postcode eliminated. Fern’s (Frances McDormand) husband has died recently, and when we see meet her at the start of Nomadland, written and directed by Chloé Zhao (The Rider, Songs My Brother Taught Me), Fern’s sole earthly anchor is a small van in which she has packed all her remaining belongings. She cuts ties with the last of Empire’s residents with a firm hug and a tight smile, then drives off into a vast, frozen landscape. Untied from the comforts and constraints of a stationary life, she navigates a difficult freedom, relying for her livelihood on the fortuity of sporadic employment, free parking spaces, and human decency.

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My Octopus Teacher

Netflix
by
17 February 2021

In the hands of an occupational hygienist, the combination of light and a fluid medium is a scientific tool to demonstrate the flow of vapours, the way aerosols hang suspended in the air, tiny particles that linger and drift, hovering like miasmas. When the gaseous medium of air is freighted with moisture, light makes air visible, revealing it as dense and saturated. This sudden revelation brings into sharp relief the normally unseen residues that we share with those around us each time we breathe and speak – potentially lethal fluid vectors of contamination. However, if we step back from the anxiety this revelation might induce, we can see this demonstration as a key to understanding how an encounter between linear streams of light and meandering fractals of a fluid medium is at the core of some of the most exquisite and enlivening aesthetic experiences in contemporary culture.

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Minari 

Madman Entertainment
by
10 February 2021

The immigrant experience in America has been told on film many times, but Lee Isaac Chung’s tangibly personal Minari is as distinguished by all the familiar things than by the disarming intimacy evoked by small, unexpected details.

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The Dig 

Netflix
by
02 February 2021

Though one of the most sparing titles in recent film history, The Dig announces what proves to be one of the richest cinema experiences for some time. Based on true events and on John Preston’s 2007 novel of the same name, Simon Stone’s film creates a subtly textured account of a historical phenomenon as well as a moving reflection on the lives that are transformed by this.

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