Hitchcock |Truffaut is a well-made documentary that gets behind the scenes with two of cinema’s legendary directors: Alfred Hitchcock and François Truffaut. In 1962, after an exchange of letters declaring their mutual admiration for one another, François Truffaut invited ‘the master of suspense to take part in a filmed interview, via an interpreter, that resulted in a book that became a film bible for critics, filmmakers and cineastes alike.
Here Kent Jones excels himself with this epicurean delight for film-buffs everywhere, depicting the meeting of creative minds. Not only do we get to meet ‘Hitch’ and Truffaut but also David Fincher, Martin Scorsese, Peter Bogdanovich, Wes Anderson and other top-drawer directors opining on the subject of how Hitchcock influenced and formed them, cinematically-speaking. Hitchcock /Truffaut plays out like a masterclass in filmmaking – all in 80 glorious minutes – making you want to rush home and watch Hitch’s entire oeuvre in a darkened room.MT
FRANCOFONIA is the first Sukurov film which shines a positive light on the Soviet Union. Bruno Delbonnel’s breathtaking cinematography successfully recreates the wartime effort in Paris, and the extensive archive material offers so much information and philosophical debate that one viewing alone cannot do justice to this masterpiece. MT
Rosi’s spartan yet absorbing documentary offers an important and non-judgemental portrait of the immigration crisis facing Southern Italy, where both immigrants and islanders are given ample weight. But pictures can tell a thousand words and that’s the way Rosi leaves it: we must draw our own impressions and conclusions of the humanitarian tragedy. MT
Paolo Sorrentino, Piero Messina and Luca Guadagnino: the meridionali seem to be making the most interesting Italian films at the moment, using their native towns and villages as the cinematic backdrop to their dazzling narratives. A BIGGER SPLASH is set in the volcanic island of Pantelleria – nearer to Tunisia than to Sicily, it is a wild and savage place popular for its hots springs and therapeutic mud – a suitable place then for a re-make of Jacques Deray’s sixties psychodrama. Guadagnino’s muse and regular collaborator Tilda Swinton is an inspired choice as Marianne, a jaded rock star and a cross between Eve, her Only Lovers Left Alive character and a female David Bowie. Wise and witty, she is a statuesque and sexy heroine with an aristocratic swagger. The strong and silent Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts) keeps her satisfied in their deserted villa, while ex-lover Ralph Fiennes turns on the wit in a performance of pizzazz. MT
LOVE & FRIENDSHIP leaves you wanting more of its delightful wit and charm. From the main performances to the small cameos – particularly that of Tom Bennett as the hilarious Sir James Martin, in the jaunty style of a dumbed-down Robert Peston. Lady Susan is the ultimate ‘mistress of the put-down’ who cunningly moves between Xavier Samuel’s tousled toyboy DeCourcy and the subtle stability of Sir James with the consummate skill of Molière’s Célimène or Choderlos de Laclos’ Marquise de Merteuil – with lines like “Facts are horrid things” showing that she is woman who won’t ever countenance defeat in this tightly-plotted marvel and wittiest drama of the year – so far. Kate Beckinsale’s Lady Susan has her tipped for Best Actress at the London Critics’ Circle Awards 2017. MT
With handheld camera in high contrast 16mm and cinema verite style, Juho Kuosmanen captures the febrile intensity and gruelling pain of match preparation for a legendary episode in Finnish boxing history, conveying the euphoric national pride and excitement of a country on the crest of international sporting fame.
Kuosmanen’s debut is both a love story and a 1960s set sporting drama that captures the contrast between Helsinki’s elite and the wholesome country folk; the art nouveau splendour of the maritime capital and the open skies of the rural heartland where vast pine forests and lakes provide a lush setting for the romantic scenes and spartan training hours, in and out of wooden saunas and snowy woods. Winning this year’s Un Certain Regard award at Cannes, its grainy indie visuals and glowing fervour capture our imagination and convey the heart-pumping joy of first love. Peter von Bagh would be proud. MT
Dying very slowly in the 18th century was always going to be a painful affair. The lack of medical knowledge and the quackery of charlatan doctors, not to mention the absence of pain relief, clearly made the final hours of life unbearable even for the ultra privileged Roi de Soleil (1638-1715).
French New Wave veteran Jean-Pierre Leaud gives a performance of subtle dignity as Louis XIV in Catalan director Albert Serra’s painterly and well-paced portrait that captivates and mesmerises for just under two hours. MT
Art lovers and social voyeurs will be thrilled and inspired by this engrossing biopic that reveals Peggy Guggenheim as an enthusiastic and appealing maverick who used her meagre fortune to amass one of the most eclectic art collections ever – Peggy Guggenheim — Art Addict, follows the bumper crop of remarkable documentaries – along with The Best of Enemies, Listen to Me Marlon, Janis Little Girl Blue and Hitchcock/Truffaut making 2015 a standout year for American documentaries. MT
In his coruscating takedown of the fashion industry in contempo Los Angeles Nicolas Winding Refn’s Palme D’Or hopeful THE NEON DEMON epitomises the competitive resentment women feel for one another in this cat eat cat world.
Its subject matter clearly indicates that this is not a thriller about wallflowers or the faint-hearted. A phenomenal central performance from Elle Fanning leads a cast of international acting talent categorised by punchy female characters with two standout male roles for Alessandro Nivola and Keanu Reeves. Scripted by Winding Refn and co-writers Mary Laws and Polly Stenham, this mannered often bitchy exposé is driven forward by its blindingly magnetic visual style and a pounding electronic soundtrack from Cliff Martinez (Drive). MT
TROUBLEMAKERS: THE STORY OF LAND ART (2015) | Dir.: James Crump; Documentary; USA 2015, 74 min.
Best known for his 2007 documentary Black White & Gray, about the relationship between photographer Robert Maplethorpe and Sam Wagastaff, Robert Crump here turns his camera on a group of artists who create Land Art, a movement which grew out of the rejection of gallery culture in late 1960s Los Angeles.
It goes without saying that these artists were idiosyncratic. While Heizer is a throwback to the American pioneer, who conquered the West, de Maria was a much more gentle and poetic creature. Crump avoids a hagiographic approach, but he manages to convey the utter originality of the artists. TROUBLEMAKERS is a film to be savoured: the images of DOP’s Robert O’Haire and Alexandre Themistocleus, as well as the films by Heizer and Holt about their work process, are absolutely out of this world. Together with the documents from the late ’60s showing how the artists gradually left the bars of LA for the wide-open spaces of the deserts, TROUBLEMAKERS is a unique visual journey. AS
And one for 2017..
PERSONAL SHOPPER | Dir: Olivier Assayas | 105min | Fantasy Drama | France
Paris has always has sinister side, inspiring Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue to Balzac’s paean to the Pierre Lachaise Cemetery in his Comedie Humaine: French literature is redolent with the macabre. So it seems somehow feels fitting that Olivier Assayas should add other chilling chapter to this spectrally- charged capital with his fantasy ghost story PERSONAL SHOPPER. The film is creepy, charismatic and as quirkily inventive as its French director whose films constantly challenge as he dabbles for the first time in the supernatural. Its superstar Kristen Stewart shimmers in a sombrely subtle turn that is as dark as its subject matter. She plays dark horse Maureen Cartwright, a 27 year old American girl who is bored with life and living out a meaningingless few months as a personal shopper to bitchy German media figure Kyra (Nora vonWaltstätten), while she mourns the death of her twin brother Lewis. MT