DVD Review: ‘Still the Water’

★★★★☆ A contender for last year’s Palme d’Or – if not the most deserving, according to its modest director – Naomi Kawase’s Still the Water (2014) is a fluid, dreamlike tone poem of mothers and fathers, death and continuance. Violent waves crash on the shore of the film’s Japanese island, sweeping to land the tattooed…

DVD Review: Les Combattants

★★★★☆ Winner of three prizes in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight sidebar last year, Thomas Cailley’s debut feature Les Combattants is an expertly handled and brilliantly performed feel-good comedy with an original twist. Arnaud (Kévin Azaïs) is a mild-mannered, angst-free young man who’s looking forward to a summer hanging out with his friends and working with his…

Film Review: ‘Timbuktu’

★★★★☆ “Tire it, don’t kill it,” shouts a hunter to his party as they pursue a gazelle across the desert plain in a jeep. The men let off sporadic shots with the assault rifles they will later use to rip apart the sculptures and effigies that represent a culture their new Islamic regime is trying…

DVD Review: ‘National Gallery’

★★★★☆ Painting has only “the speed of light to tell its story,” explains one tour guide in pro documentarian Frederick Wiseman’s National Gallery (2014), a study of the Trafalgar Square institution. Wiseman’s film is nearly three hours in length (still an hour shorter than his previous effort, 2013’s At Berkeley), but every frame seems to…

Film Review: ‘Lost River’

★★★☆☆ Ryan Gosling makes a return to cinema screens – this time in the director’s chair – with his first feature film Lost River (2014), a dark fantasy of a family living in a ghost town to be. The film was largely dismissed by critics upon its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival, yet there’s…

Film Review: ‘Mommy’

★★★★★ Prodigious Canadian director Xavier Dolan returned to Cannes last year with his most accomplished film to date, the marvellously cinematic spectacle Mommy (2014), which now arrives on British screens. Set in Canada in 2015, where laws have been changed to make it easier for parents to institutionalise their problem children, Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) is…

Glasgow 2015: ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’ review

★★★☆☆ Meditations on art, mortality and performance are the lofty thematics explored in Clouds of Sils Maria (2014), a discursive drama from French director Olivier Assayas which features two exceptional performances from Juliette Binoche and Kristen Stewart. Binoche plays Maria Enders, an established and world famous actress who, twenty years prior, was made famous by…

Glasgow 2015: ‘Wild Tales’ review

★★★☆☆ One of this year’s Best Foreign Language Film Academy Award hopefuls, Argentinian director Damián Szifron’s Wild Tales (2014) is an exuberant, obsidian-black comedy of violence and vengeance. Divided into a series of isolated sketches, each one tells a short story about how quickly madness can rip through the vestiges of civilisation with the appropriate…

Glasgow 2015: ‘Red Army’ review

★★★★☆ If you thought ice hockey was just Canadians and punch-ups, then Gabe Polsky’s documentary Red Army (2014) may come as a cool eye-opener. Featuring candid interviews with the surviving members of the Soviet Union team, as well as chunky 1970s-80s footage with some slick graphics thrown in, Polsky paints a vivid picture not only…

Glasgow 2015: ‘Catch Me Daddy’ review

★★★☆☆ If Clio Barnard’s The Selfish Giant (2013) was a fairytale set in ‘It’s grim up north’ territory, this year’s Glasgow Film Festival offers up a Yorkshire western in Daniel Wolfe’s bleak, windswept thriller Catch Me Daddy (2014), which unexpectedly broods over the multicultural integration of northern Britain. British-Pakistani Laila, played with conviction by non-professional…

Film Review: ‘Amour Fou’

★★★★☆ Jessica Hausner’s Amour Fou (2014) has enjoyed considerable praise since it premiered in the Un Certain Regard section back at the Cannes Film Festival last May and is a quietly effective denunciation of the idea of dying for love. It’s a reserved period piece, but as with her brilliant Lourdes (2009) it’s Hausner’s restraint that ends up…

Film Review: ‘Foxcatcher’

★★★★★ When Barton Fink was asked to write a wrestling picture, it struck him as the most demeaning use of his talents. He wished to commit to his political principles, and to the people. With Bennett Miller’s Foxcatcher (2014), we have a film which, despite devoting significant screentime to the sport of large men in tights,…