Review: Jimmy’s Hall

Jimmy’s Hall (dir. Ken Loach, 2014) 

Jimmys Hall

Nuance might be a feature of Ken Loach’s work that has long since left the building, but that’s not to say his latest work doesn’t fail to charm. The story of James “Jimmy” Gralton, the only Irishman to be deported from his own country, has Loach on tempestuous, didactic form, parleyed by sensitive performances from its cast that give more depth than Paul Laverty’s agitprop script seems to give. Jimmy’s Hall, like the second half of its closest Loach relative, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, pits itself in the aftermath of the Irish war of independence and the awkward political situation of Ireland in the early 1920s, where the progressive branches of republicanism were just as buried as they were under the British.

Read the rest of the review at CineVue

Review: A Walk Among the Tombstones

A Walk Among the Tombstones (dir. Scott Frank, 2014) 

A Walk Among the Tombstones

There’s an endearing nature to Liam Neeson’s action-hero exploits – what CineVue’s Chris Fennell dubbed “Neesploitation” – over the years. The man who won an Oscar nomination twenty years past for Schindler’s List (1993) is now a more bankable hardman than Schwarzenegger and Stallone, and yet little before 2008′s Taken suggested such a second career for someone of Neeson’s gruff appearance. Perhaps the tragic death of his then-wife Natasha Richardson was the catalyst. There’s a gravitas and indeed a tragedy that makes him effortlessly identifiable in these madcap parts. Just look at how many ‘former’ roles he plays – an ex-CIA man in the Taken films, a reformed convict in The Next Three Days.

The review continues at CineVue

Venice review: Red Amnesia

Red Amnesia (Chuangru zhe) (dir. Wang Xiaoshuai, 2014) 

Red Amnesia

China’s past weighs heavily on the characters of Red Amnesia, Wang Xiaoshuai’s slow burning family drama that carries a quiet, subtle, but combative denouncement of the country’s treatment of recent history. This is a ghost story that unearths pains of the past that leading to tragic consequences, a thoughtful allegory of China’s contemporary relationship with its cultural revolution and, unquestionably, Tiananmen Square protests and beyond.

For the full review head to Filmuforia

Venice review: A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (En duva satt på en gren och funderade på tillvaron)
(dir. Roy Andersson, 2014) 

Pigeon

To paraphrase Chaplin, life is a tragedy in close-up, but a comedy in long-shot. That’s the spirit of Roy Andersson’s latest, dizzy, brilliant film. The film’s first three scenes offer slices of death: a man suffers a heart attack opening a wine bottle; a dying, wailing mother prizes her handbag of jewellery from her money-grabbing kids; a dinnerlady offers up the abandoned beer of a gentleman who has just collapsed and died in front of her. They’re all ferociously funny scenes. Why? Because we’re only human.

Read on at Filmuforia

Berlinale: Halfway half-hearted blog

Wilkommen, bienvenue and… well you know the rest.

We’re half way through Berlin’s gigantic behemoth, with posters on just about every billboard in town. It’s rather like the Edinburgh fringe, utterly sprawling, with countless films in dozens of screening rooms across the city at any one time, and most of what you see is a complete punt as to whether it’s any good or not.

As a newcomer to film journalism, I’ve basically no idea what I’m doing – pitching seems to be a bit of dead end, and interviews with anyone well-known were booked up weeks ago, so I’m just racking up films that I might be able to tackle in reviews later. I’ve got some up at CineVue – check out their awesome site at cine-vue.com – and I hope I’ll have more here as the festival goes on. Largely because I’m lazy, I’ll leave you with the star ratings below:

The Grand Budapest Hotel (review)
Nuoc (2030)
Los Angeles

God Help the Girl (review)
’71
Love is strange (review)
Jack (review)
Another World (review)
Nymphomaniac Volume I (long version) (review)
History of Fear (Historia del Miedo)
Stations of the Cross (Kreuzweg)
23 August 2008 (short)
Blind

Bis zum nächsten Mal…

- Update 11/2

In the Courtyard (Dans la Cour) (review)
The Better Angels (fell asleep – less a fault of the film than my sleep deprivation)
Praia do Futuro
Calvary
The Guests
(installation)
In Order of Disappearance (Kraftidioten)

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