Through a symbiosis of sound, image and storytelling, a film’s ability to transport a viewer to a time and place far removed from the comfort of a darkened theatre in just a matter of seconds is where the real magic of cinema lies. From it’s very opening frames, and the crash of a giant cymbal, Otto Bell’s The Eagle Huntress is a wondrously beautiful and beguiling journey into the unknown and a documentary of simultaneously mythic and very modern proportions.
Blood runs deep in The Ardennes. Here we have a fraternal tale of resentment and revenge which shifts gears from brutalist kitchen sink drama in Antwerp’s bleak, unforgiving suburbs to something of wholly demonic, biblical proportions in latter stages that take place under wintry skies, isolated in the film’s titular forest.
15 January 2009. Disbelieving eyes look skyward from apartments and offices in horror as US Airways flight 1549 careens dangerously close to Manhattan rooftops before pitching into the Hudson River. The key to Sully‘s edge-of-your-seat success – and successful it is – is veteran director Clint Eastwood’s ability to render the well-documented event and astonishing outcome as tense and immediate. He does so masterfully.
From the early era of School Daze, Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X onwards, fans of Spike Lee joints have come to expect a certain well-articulated intelligence and socio-political engagement to the Atlanta-born director’s bold and unflinching brand of cinema. The last decade or so has seen a number of near misses, but with Chi-Raq, Lee once again lands resounding punches left, right and centre, deftly swinging a wrecking ball at the societal ills of contemporary America to devastating effect.
How many times has the line “Give me another shot” been uttered in a boxing movie? What is it about these fiercely stubborn, bloodied and bruised fighters that means they just don’t know when to throw in the towel? Of all the human punching bags witnessed on film over the years, and of the many, many stories of triumph inside the ring in the battered face of adversity outside it, perhaps none are as deserving of cinematic treatment as Vinny Pazienza.
Iranian actress Golshifteh Farahani rose to international fame alongside Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe in Ridley Scott’s 2008 film, Body of Lies. She’s been busy, and constantly on the move, since then though her most memorable role for many cinephiles was the last one in her home country, as Sepideh in Asghar Farhadi’s acclaimed drama, About Elly. This year she stars with Adam Driver in Paterson, the latest triumph from Jim Jarmusch.
“The Mozart of chess” isn’t the most hip of nicknames but it goes some way to expressing the inexplicable, impossible genius of Magnus Carlsen. The 25-year-old Norwegian Grandmaster is the focus of Benjamin Ree’s Magnus, an intimate documentary that charts his rise to fame and an all-important 2013 World Championship event in Chennai. It does so with a humility that mirrors the self-effacing nature and bashful smile of its timid, attention-averse subject. “It’s hard to be cool when I play chess,” says Magnus in home video footage as an adolescent, struggling through his formative years at school.
November 2016. A member of the Royal family is forced to defend his chosen partner in the face of an unscrupulous right-wing press, with the suggestion in some commentaries of negative racial undertones. It’s hard to fathom, and deeply galling, that this may still be the case but the theatrical release of Amma Asante’s A United Kingdom remains a sadly timely one in spite of this true story originating nearly seventy years ago.
Paterson teaches us that there is beauty to be found in all things. Poetry, meaning and further dimensions to even the most mundane trivialities of everyday existence. In Jim Jarmusch’s latest, which takes place in contemporary New Jersey, Adam Driver plays a bus driver and amateur wordsmith named Paterson. Cyclical, overlapping layers, in narrative, naming and construction, make this week-in-the-life of a lumbering, ironically monosyllabic dreamer and his wonderfully wacky and supportive other half, Laura (played exquisitely by beautiful Iranian actress tress Golshifteh Farahani), a softly spoken, spellbinding and kooky triumph.
In a city of millions, it isn’t right but it’s easy to turn a blind eye to the suffering of others. Lost in an ocean of lives lived from 9 to 5, spent peering into mobile phone screens, behind closed doors or simply through a blinkered field of vision, a lot goes unseen, unnoticed and unresolved. It’s in this world – and more specifically a Tottenham housing estate – that writer-director Sean Spencer sets Panic, his impressive debut feature.