IN CINEMAS/ Streaming Now
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Directed by Matteo Garrone.
Starring Federico Ielapi, Roberto Benigni, Rocco Papaleo, Massino Ceccherini and Marine Vacht. In cinemas. In Italian with subtiles, or dubbed. 125 mins.
Of course, Stanley Johnson, the Great British Public couldn't spell Pinocchio if they tried: it's a foreign proper noun. It Dizney matter that it's famous, as a point of principle, no true patriot has any business knowing that it's one "n" and two "c"s. So universal is its influence that it is easy to forget its origin, but this new live-action version is very, very Italian. Even the dubbed English version is proper pasta-pizza, mamma-mia, tutti-frutti Italian. (Where possible, it is performed by the original cast.)
Directed by Josephine Mackerras.
Starring Emilie Piponnier, Martin Swabey, Chloé Boreham, Jules Milo and Levy Mackerras. In French with subtitles. Available to stream. 105 mins.
For any film critic, the indignant "I've never paid for it in my life," is an almost sacred credo by which to live. Let me tell you, the sight of a pack of film reviewers descending on a free bar is not an easy one to recover from. Movies, alcohol, food, we try to avoid paying for it all; we'll hoover up anything that isn't nailed down. It is our due, and our calling. Paying for sex though is not a quandary any of us are in a financial position to concern ourselves with; unless you know of any sex workers willing to trade services for a box of used Criterion Collection review discs. Anyway, on the evidence of this French film, the world of the high-end escort is not all it is cracked up to be.
Love Sarah. (15.)
Directed by Eliza Schroeder
Starring Celia Imrie, Shelley Conn, Shannon Tarbet, Rupert Penry-Jones and Bill Paterson. 97 mins.
Around the middle of March, I was looking forward to a relaxing April having gotten all my reviews written up for the next six weeks. I had a clear calendar right up to the release of Black Widow at the start of May. That will teach me to be diligent.
A Zed And Two Noughts. (15.)
Directed by Peter Greenaway. 1985.
Starring Andrea Ferreol, Eric Deacon, Brian Deacon, Frances Barber, Joss Ackland, Geoffrey Palmer and Jim Davidson. Available to stream on subscription on the BFI Player. 115 mins.
His follow up to breakthrough picture Draughtsman's Contract is the moment Greenaway really hits his stride: it's him at its most exhilarating and its most unbearably facepunchably smug. The big advance was teaming up with classic cinematographer Sacha Vierny, who shot numerous classics of European cinema (including, Last Year in Marienbad, Hiroshima Mon Amour and Belle de Jour.) They would work together until Vierny's death at the end of the century.
Women Make Film: A New Road Movie Through Cinema.
Directed by Mark Cousins.
Featuring Tilda Swinton, Jane Fonda, Kerry Fox, Adjoa Andoh, Thandie Newton, Sharmila Tagore and Debra Winger. Streaming in five parts on BFI Player. Or a Four-disc Blu-ray set. 848 mins.
There are precious few mercies offered by this 14-hour exploration of the work of women filmmakers, but one is that writer/director Mark "The Whispering Death" Cousins doesn't provide the narration. In his place, a selection of women actors and directors do the voiceover, which seems only right. It's their voices; reading His words, giving His views, His interpretations of His selection of scenes from the work of 183 female directors. Mansplaining is avoided; instead 13 decades of female filmmaking is Marksplained to us.
The Uncertain Kingdom. (15.)
Directed by Guy Jenkins, Carol Salter, Hope Dickson Leach and many others.
Featuring Mark Addy, Hugh Dennis, Ruth Madeley, Alice Lowe, Steve Evets, Andy Hamilton, Rosalind Ayers and many more. 237 mins.
This compilation of 20 short British Films For Uncertain Times is a nice, well-meaning project made by nice, well-meaning people that might drive you to furious distraction. It seems to be another expression of the now popular principle that if you are in a hole, the best course of action is to keep digging until the hole realises the error of its way.
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard. 1965.
Starring Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Akim Tamiroff. Available to stream from the MUBI library, or to rent from the BFI Player. Black and white. 95 mins.
Having anticipation for a Godard film is a perilous position: he is one of cinema's most casually gifted talents, but generally delivers frustration and disappointment. If you'd like a football analogy, he's a Zlatan Ibrahimovic who insists on playing the N'Golo Kante role. For decades I've been meaning to see his sixties sci-fi pastiche, where black and white sixties Paris play the title role of the futuristic city. It seemed like a premise loaded with possibility and people that had seen it seemed to have actually enjoyed it. But even so, he'd find a way to make it miserable wouldn't he? But no, this is it, this is the Godard film that flies, that entertains or something very close, that is almost as enjoyable as you hoped it could be.
Directed by Egor Abramenko.
Starring Oksana Akinshina, Fedor Bondarchuk and Pyotr Fyodorov. Out on digital platforms. In Russian with subtitles. 113 mins.
Sigue, Sigue, Sigue went the Sputnik/ bang, bang, bang went the guns/ squelch, squelch, squelch went the alien lizard symbiote who arrived on Earth inside the body of a Soviet Cosmonaut (Fyodorov) in 1983. It's not much of an existence, but every night he emerges from his host for walkies and dinner and it probably beats whatever it was doing up in space on his lonesome before he attached himself.
Around The Sun.
Directed by Oliver Krimpas.
Starring Cara Theobold and Gethin Anthony. 78 mins
Interesting. It's an interesting word. If I were to say to you that this bold attempt to create a new genre – the Romantic Philosophical Discussion – in which a man and a woman play out several different versions of meeting up in a deserted chateau in Normandy and conducting a flirtatious discussion of humanity's place in the universe, or universes, all inspired by the 17th century novel by Fontenelle, Conversations on The Plurality of Planets, is “interesting,” would you take that to mean something positive or negative?
Directed by Alice Winocour.
Starring Eva Green, Zélie Boulant, Matt Dillon, Aleksey Fateev, Lars Eidinger, Sandra Hüller. In French, English, German and Russian with subtitles. In cinemas. 107 mins.
Eva Green has been selected to go into space, representing France. She will be a member of an international team that will spend a year in a space station, making preparations for an expedition to Mars. Wow, she must be so excited; she's dreamed of being an astronaut since she was eight. But, she spends most of the film resentful that the period of intense training and preparation she has to go through means she can't spend any quality time with her daughter (Bolant.)
Bunuel in The Labyrinth Of Turtles.
Directed by Salvador Simo.
Featuring Jorde Uson, Fernando Ramos, Cyril Corral and Luis Enrique de Tomas. In Spanish and French with subtitles. Available to stream now on the BFI Player. 80 mins.
After the scandal of L'Age D'Or, his surreal 1930 assault on the church, bourgeoisie and every other sacred cow, Luis Bunuel found all of the big doors slamming in his face in Paris. So in an abrupt career about-face, he went back to his native Spain to make a documentary about the extreme poverty in the Las Hurdes region. In a single bound he went from Damian Hirst to John Pilger.
How To Build A Girl. (15.)
Directed by Coky Giedroyc.
Starring Beanie Feldstein, Paddy Considine, Sarah Solemani, Laurie Kynaston, Frank Dillane and Alfie Allen. Available to stream July 24th. 104 mins.
The How I Grew Up To Be A Journalist movie is not one of the most fiercely contested film genres. Generally, biopics are restricted to proper writers who write/wrote proper books. At the moment the clear winner in this limited field is An Education, but if you can make a successful film of How I Grew Up To Be Lynn Barber, surely you can make one on the rise of Caitlin Moran. The distributors aren't so sure; even though the reopened cinemas have very little in the way of new releases to go around (after some early bravado everybody is holding off to next week) this is being banished to the naughty step of Amazon Prime.
Directed by Kenneth Branagh.
Starring Ferdia Shaw, Colin Farrell, Judy Dench, Josh Gad, Nonso Anozio and Lara McDonnell. Now streaming on Disney +. 95 mins.
I don't really want to be delivering a lecture on white privilege but, seriously, how does Kenneth Branagh keep getting work in the movies? He's good in the fearta apparently and he done a good Hamlet once, but he hasn't delivered a memorable role on the big screen while the seventeen films he's directed have ranged from alright (Thor, Jack Ryan) to god awful (Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Sleuth) to Shakespeare. Now he's overseen an Artemis most foul.
W.C. Field's Comedy Shorts.
The Pharmacist / That Fatal Glass of Beer/ The Barber Shop (all 1933)/ The Golf Specialist(1930) and The Pool Shark. (1915.) Available to stream as part of the Cohen Film Collection on Curzon Home Cinema. 93 mins.
Somewhere down the line W.C. Fields went the way of Eddie Waring and Frank Spencer; figures that were an impressionist's staple when I were a boy but have now almost disappeared from the public communal memory. Fields, or representations and caricatures of Fields, were ubiquitous fifty years ago and he was as iconic as Chaplin, Groucho or Laurel and Hardy, but now I doubt more than a handful of people would recognise a WC living statue in Covent Garden.