French Film Festival 2015

March 7, 2015
Gemma Arterton in 'Gemma Bovery' (2014)

Three years ago the ever-popular Alliance Francaise French Film Festival opened with Valérie Donzelli’s A Declaration of War. The film had been a hit in France but it provoked a good deal of muttering and eyebrow-raising among the first-night crowd at the Palace Verona who didn’t know what to make of a movie about a … More

Fifty Shades of Grey

February 28, 2015
Dakota Johnson in 'Fifty Shades of Grey' (2015)

Fifty Shades of Grey must be a deeply reassuring experience for anyone who believes western society is hopelessly mired in depravity. That such a confection might be seen as ‘erotic’ suggests we are more wholesome, more innocent, than might ever have been suspected. That it should be examined for underlying messages by psychologists and sociologists … More

The Theory of Everything

January 31, 2015
Eddie Redmayne in 'The Theory of Everything' (2014)

Stephen Hawking must be the most unlikely romantic lead ever featured in a mainstream movie. It’s hard enough to imagine a gripping film about a mathematics boffin whose greatest thrill is to solve another equation. When that boffin is struck down by a degenerative motor neurone disease that leaves him paralysed, the required level of … More

Magic in the Moonlight

August 30, 2014
Colin Firth in 'Magic in the Moonlight' (2014)

Either the films are getting better or I’m becoming one of those critics who find redeeming features in unlikely places. Most reviewers seem to lose it after about 300 superhero flicks, when they finally begin to believe that someone in coloured leotards may have a rich inner life. My particular Waterloo might be Woody Allen. … More

Reaching for the Moon

July 26, 2014
Miranda Otto in 'Reaching for the Moon' (2014)

“The art of losing isn’t hard to master;” wrote Elizabeth Bishop, in One Art, the poem that gets most traction in Bruno Barreto’s bio pic, Reaching for the Moon. “so many things seem filled with the intent to be lost that their loss is no disaster.” It’s an obvious choice for a feature poem, as … More

The Lunchbox

July 12, 2014
Irrfan Khan in 'The Lunchbox' (2013)

India is by far the world’s largest producer of feature films, but very few of them make their way into our cinemas. For westerners it seems surreal when a Bollywood drama suddenly erupts into an elaborate song and dance routine that would leave Busby Berkeley gasping. For Indian audiences the opposite applies. Without the songs … More

Grace of Monaco

June 7, 2014
Nicole Kidman in 'Grace of Monaco' (2014)

In every photograph, French director, Olivier Dahan, is shown wearing a hat. Sometimes it’s a beret, but more often a baggy, brimmed affair that makes him look like a fashion-conscious engine driver. Although I’m no style guru, it seems a rather silly affectation. In theory a director’s dress sense shouldn’t have any relevance to the … More

The Broken Circle Breakdown

May 17, 2014
Veerle Baetens & Johan Heldenbergh in 'The Broken Circle Breakdown' (2012)

Belgians have a reputation for pursuing individualism to the point of eccentricity. The Broken Circle Breakdown will confirm that reputation, but the film has a lot more to offer than mere quirkiness. Viewers who enter the cinema in one piece may emerge trying to reassemble the fragments, having experienced alternating extremes of exhilaration and tragedy, … More

Only Lovers Left Alive

April 26, 2014
Tilda Swinton in 'Only Lovers Left Alive' (2013)

Last time we saw Tilda Swinton on screen, in The Grand Budapest Hotel, she was playing a corpse. In Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, she is a vampire. This may be considered a form of progress. Since the days of Murnau’s Nosferatu (1922) and Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932) there have been thousands of vampire films … More

The Invisible Woman

April 19, 2014
Ralph Fiennes in The Invisible Woman (2013)

Charles Dickens (1812-70) was not only a literary giant, he was a celebrity whose every move was chronicled in the press. As a practising Christian and tenchant social critic Dickens had a reputation to uphold, but his temperament and energy lured him away from the path of convention. The Victorians were no more flawed than … More