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  • My Brother the Devil 2012

    ★★★★ Added

    Review from my VOD column "This Week on Demand"

    If Mud emerges a triumphant analysis of men by way of their relationships with women, My Brother the Devil does the same by way of each other. The bond of fraternity is front-and-centre in this feature directorial debut from Sally El Hosaini, who could hardly have introduced herself to us any better. James Floyd and Fady Elsayed command our attention equally as the pair whose British Arab teen life offers an…

  • Mud 2013

    ★★★★½ Added

    Review from my VOD column "This Week on Demand"

    It was for the wrong film that the McConaissance earned Oscar recognition, but that’s no great surprise. Nor, either, is anything that happens in Mud, a Southern drama so classical in its construction it’s a wonder it doesn’t feel worn out. Most viewers will be by the end: this is a tale told terrifically well, structured and served with such consummate cinematic craft that its director is cemented as one of…

  • High School Record

    ★★ Watched 28 Mar, 2014

    Review from my VOD column "This Week on Demand"

    Goodness knows, sometimes, what motivates Netflix’s licensing wing: more people are likely to encounter High School Record entirely by accident than would ever actively seek out the film. Neither has much hope of walking away satisfied. It’s not for no reason that nobody’s heard of this near-decade-old movie, which stars a handful of non-actors in an equally innocuous and uninteresting mockumentary on high-school life. Writer/director Ben Wolfinsohn has made a few…

  • Girl on a Bicycle 2013

    ★★ Watched 28 Mar, 2014

    Review from my VOD column "This Week on Demand"

    Nuance, it seems, is not to be expected from The Notebook scribe Jeremy Leven: he directed as well as wrote Girl on a Bicycle, whose eponymous heroine is struck from her vehicle by a besotted bus driver who proceeds, naturally, to move into her apartment and nurse her to health. That neither “romantic” nor “comedy” are words that come at all to mind in the course of the film isn’t as…

  • Contracted 2013

    ★★ Watched 21 Mar, 2014

    Review from my VOD column "This Week on Demand"

    Potential oozes from Contracted like pus from its protagonist’s increasingly alarming array of weird wounds. Eric England’s film starts with a sexually transmitted disease and strives for much more, its muted macabre tone a nice transplantation of genre tropes to the very real concern of date rape culture. Would that it had the strength of its convictions and the resources to realise them: all the intention on Earth can’t overcome the…

  • Camille Claudel 1915 2013

    ★★★★ Added

    Review from my VOD column "This Week on Demand"

    The prominence of names on the poster is apt: between an actress revered for the fearless passion of her portrayals and a filmmaker known for the bleak disregard of his worlds emerges a compassionate portrait of an artist as a human. If it’s arguably the director’s most humane work to date, his ever-aloof camera doesn’t care to confess it; as in Outside Satan before it, the characters of Camille Claudel 1915

  • Monk by Blood

    ★★★ Watched 29 Mar, 2014

    Capsule from my piece on the Full Frame Documentary FIlm Festival's shorts, at Next Projection

    If he and his sound design for The Conversation inform Hacked Circuit above all, it’s the difficulty of honouring the past that binds this bunch of movies together. “I have high expectations, so please do your best,” the young hero of Ema Ryan Yamazaki’s Monk by Blood—a 21 year-old heir to an 800 year-old Japanese temple—is told in the touching film’s first moments. The same…

  • Hacked Circuit 2014

    ★★★½ Watched 29 Mar, 2014

    Capsule from my piece on the Full Frame Documentary FIlm Festival's shorts, at Next Projection

    From the slow arch round a suburban street corner that introduces Hacked Circuit to the cut that comes, finally, fifteen minutes later, this is a movie as impressive a piece of storytelling as it is a technical resume, peering behind the scenes of the foley process like a factual Berberian Sound Studio. Framed phenomenally within the logistical nightmare of this extravagant long take, consummately choreographed…

  • Buffalo Dreams

    ★★★ Watched 29 Mar, 2014

    Capsule from my piece on the Full Frame Documentary FIlm Festival's shorts, at Next Projection

    If Buffalo Dreams were a fairytale, t’would have to bear the name Grimm; Buffalo Nightmares seems a more apt appellation for the Scottish-set look at a farm whose function seems more based on idealism than practicality. However startlingly strange Scott Shand’s line of work might seem, though, Maurice O’Brien’s camera renders it beautifully: Americana is deceptively smuggled to the highland hills here, the whipping winds…

  • The Fairytale of the Three Bears

    ★★★ Watched 29 Mar, 2014

    Capsule from my piece on the Full Frame Documentary FIlm Festival's shorts, at Next Projection

    No moment speaks better to such a sensibility than that in Fairytale of the Three Bears where a toddler, taken aback by the sight of the camera, reaches out and prods the lens. “We used to be completely different people,” a middle-aged man wearily notes in Tristan Daws’ delicately paced survey of the Soviet shadow on modern rural Russia, as the child offers potent proof.…

  • Flowers from the Mount of Olives

    ★★★½ Watched 30 Mar, 2014

    “He wouldn’t even have minded becoming a tortoise himself if it meant Mrs Silver stroking his shell each morning and whispering endearments to him.” —Roald Dahl, Esio Trot

    You will need but a moment in the company of Heilika Pikkov’s film and its subject, the octogenarian Russian Orthodox nun Sister Ksenya, to know precisely what Mr Hoppy means. How set their lives seems, these tortoises she tends to selflessly, gently whispering their names as she takes them, one by one,…

  • Apollonian Story 2013

    ★★★★ Watched 31 Mar, 2014

    “Fuck you” make for fitting first words in a film as fundamentally angry—in subject, if not sensibility—as Apollonian Story. They’re directed at the rock hewn by sexagenarian Nissim Kahlon, who continues to carve the house he first cut in the cliffs along Israel’s northern coastline decades prior. It’s the kind of film to benefit from a blurb read in advance; the unwitting observer’s eyes will be slowly drawn to the ornate detail of every inch, the beautiful mosaics on which…