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Southland Tales. (15.)
Directed by Richard Kelly.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, Cheri Oteri, Wallace Shawn, Amy Poehler, Nora Dunn, Bai Ling, Holmes Osbourne, Miranda Richardson, Jon Lovitz, John Larroquette and Justin Timberlake. Streaming on MUBI.com from April 5th as part of their Perfect Failures season. 145 mins.
As self-indulgent, megalomaniac, follow-ups to a classic debut feature go, Richard Kelly's Southland Tales is the most extreme example since Dennis Hopper's The Last Movie. It's part old testament, part Rocky Horror, part MTV Spring Break, part Fahrenheit 9/11, part bad David Lynch, at least three parts a rehash Katherine Bigelow's pre-millennial LA thriller Strange Days and a cheeky smidgen of the ending of Repo Man. But most of all, it's exactly no part Donnie Darko.
Directed by Mark Jenkin.
Starring Ed Rowe, Mary Woodvine, Giles Smith, Simon Shepherd. Black & white. Available to stream from Curzon Home Cinema and BFI Player. 89 mins.
On Tuesday 31st at 8.30 Curzon Home Cinema will be hosting a live Q&A with director Jenkin, hosted by Mark Kermode. The idea is watch the film from 7.00 to get the authentic experience.
Misery may love company but not as much as British cinema loves misery. (Company it can take or leave.) So it's no wonder that Jenkin's lo-fi debut feature was the most lauded homegrown feature of last year: it came up with an aesthetic that encompasses the length and breadth of this nation's history of celluloid gloom and gave it contemporary relevance.
Sympathy for Mr Vengeance. (18.)
Directed by Park Chan-wook. 2002.
Starring Song Kang-Ho, Shin Ha-Kyun, Bae Du-Na and Lim Ji-eun. Korean with subtitles. 121 mins. Streaming on BFI Player with a subscription.
Park Chan-wook's conclusion to his Vengeance trilogy, Lady Vengeance, is also available on the BFI Player but there are two reasons for me to focus on this first instalment. One, it's the only one I hadn't seen before. Two, it's the best of them. True, it doesn't have the rich colour composition of his subsequent films, (though it looks pretty good considering its comparatively small budget) and there isn't anything quite as spectacular as the Oldboy hammer fight, but overall it's such an accomplished piece of filmmaking that after it you might look at his other films with a slight sense of disappointment.
System Crasher. (15.)
Directed by Nora Fingscheidt
Starring Helena Zengel, Albrecht Schuch, Gabriela Maria Schmeide, Lisa Hagmeister, Melanie Straub and Victoria Trauttmansdorff. 125 mins.
It's never really clarified exactly what condition 9-year-old Benni (Zengel) has in this German drama, but at a rough guess I'd say, all of them. She's hyperactively violent, sweary, spitty, demanding and destructive. Part or all of this behaviour is rooted in childhood trauma, the details of which aren't revealed. She can't go five minutes without demolishing whatever situation she's in or opportunity she has been given. So she spends her life being moved from one care facility to another.
Directed by Autumn De Wilde.
Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Johnny Flynn, Mia Goth, Bill Nighy, Josh O'Connor and Miranda Hart. 125 mins.
It is my wish that there be bagpipe music played at my funeral. The sound of the highland pipes is, of course, the most godawful honk ever to masquerade as music but I won't be there to hear it and it is my most fervent desire that I leave a little misery behind when I'm gone. But my efforts in this regard will be as nothing to those of Ms Jane Austen.
The Invisible Man. (15.)
Directed by Leigh Whannell
Starring Elisabeth Moss, Aldis Hodge, Storm Reid, Harriet Dyer and Oliver Jackson-Cohen. 124 mins.
Is an Invisible Man where the name above the title is female a Me Too Far? Or, a perfectly obvious piece of downsizing by the studio? After all, why shell out on a Johnny Depp or Armie Hammer when all the role really requires is a quantity of fresh air? If nothing else, this is a film that is true to its title. He is invisible to the point of anonymity. Most of the time you're wondering where he is. And when he does show his face, you're wondering who he is. In this version, they even bother to give him any bandages.
Portrait of a Lady on Fire. (15.)
Directed by Céline Sciamma.
Starring Noémie Merlant, Adèle Haenel, Luàna Bajrami, Valeria Golino, Christel Baras, Armande Boulanger. Subtitled. 122 mins.
An artist (Merlant) is commissioned by the mother (Golina) to go to an isolated island and paint a young lady (Haenel.) The catch is that the portrait is an enticement to purchase, to be sent to Milan to secure a match with a well-placed suitor. The subject refuses to be painted so the painter has to pose as a companion and try to complete the work from memory.
The Iron Mask. (12A.)
Directed by Oleg Stepchenko.
Starring Jason Flemyng, Xingtong Yao, Anna Churina, Rutger Hauer, Charles Dance, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jackie Chan. Streaming from April 10th 120 mins.
This Russian Chinese co-production is a film full of wonders: wonder why Schwarzenegger, Chan, Hauer and Dance are hardly in it; wonder who the audience for this is; wonder why it is called Iron Mask when the man in it is an unknown and peripheral to the plot; wonder what the hell they were thinking of.
Directed by Bi Gan.
Starring Yongzhong Chen, Yue Guo, Linyan Lui, Feiynag Lao and Lixun Lie. Subtitled. Now streaming on Amazon Prime. 113 mins
He may have only just Bi Gan, barely thirty years old with two movies made, but the young Chinese director has already established that time and experiments with its passing are going to be recurring themes in his work. Viewers seeking this out after gliding transfixed through the magical 138 minutes of his Long Day's Journey Into Night may find getting through the 113 minutes of his debut a bit of a slog. Again set in his native city Kaili, in the south-east of China, its narrative jumps around the character of Chen, a doctor and a former gangster, who spent nine years in prison and is worried about the wellbing of his nephew Weiwei (Lixun Lie.) More than that I couldn't say; the shuffles back and forth along the chronology are hard to follow and the film seems full of details that non-Chinese viewers won't grasp.
The Truth. (PG.)
Directed by Hirokazu Koreeda
Starring Catherine Deneuve, Juliette Binoche, Ethan Hawke, Clémentine Grenier, Manon Clavel, Christian Crahay. Mostly subtitled. Streaming on Curzon Home Cinema. 107 mins.
The winning of a major award – preferably an Oscar, but Cannes if that's all you can manage – kicks open a window of opportunity for the recipient, a one time chance to do that project you've always dreamed of. After picking up the Barn Door at the 2018 Cannes festival for Shoplifters, Japanese director Koreeda has chosen to trade that in to make a French film. It isn't much of a film, but it is very French. I suspect Hawke appearance in the film is simply to be a yard stick to measure just how authentically French everything else is.
Military Wives. (12A.)
Directed by Peter Cattaneo.
Starring Kristin Scott Thomas, Sharon Horgan, Teresa Mahoney, Lara Rossi, Amy James-Kelly and Jason Flemyng. 113 mins.
Every war produces some unexpected benefits. According to this film, we have the war in Afghanistan (early part) to thank for the craze for people forming choirs - but not the rise of Gareth Malone, who has been entirely redacted from the narrative. This film - “inspired by true events”/ almost entirely made up – is about the women at the Flitcroft camp who come up with the idea of having a singing club to help fill the time while their men (or women) are away in the conflict zone. The project takes off to such a degree they end up being invited to sing at the Albert Hall for the Festival of Remembrance.
Colour Out Of Space. (15.)
Directed by Richard Stanley.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Joely Richardson, Madeleine Arthur, Julian Hilliard, Elliot Knight and Tommy Chong. 108 mins
For a comedian like Tommy Cooper or Charlie Chuck, the ability to make (some) people laugh without even doing anything, is/ was a gift/ curse that they were born with. For Nicolas Cage, it is the accumulation of decades spent throwing himself into wild experiments in expressionistic (his definition)/ wildly hammy (detractors' definition) acting. When it worked it was spectacular, a blaze that lit up the screen like few others. But what was once a liberation, a bold strike against normality now looks like a trap he's gotten himself stuck in. He's a man hemmed in, constrained by the fans who roar at his every move; it's like watching Vic'n'Bob moving through the old repertoire on the new Big Night Outs, trying to rediscover what it was that once gave these rituals meaning.
Fire Will Come. (12A.)
Directed by Oliver Laxe.
Starring Benedicta Sánchez, Amador Arias, Luis Manuel Guerrero Sánchez, Inazio Abrao, Elena Mar Fernández, Nuria Sotelo. Subtitled. 86 mins.
At the last London Film Festival, this was one of only two films that were deemed suitable to be allotted a screening at the Imax Southbank. So the obvious expectation would be that this was going to be quite the thing to see, a visual extravaganza. And the opening scene is really something: a camera moving through a forest after dark and all the tree are falling in front of it. The sequence is beautifully lit, like the nighttime forest scenes in Twin Peaks