Film Review: ‘Sixteen’

★★★★☆ Rob Brown’s Sixteen (2013) is a beautifully realised debut that breathes new life into British cinema’s obsession with urban thrillers, fashioning a refreshingly gentle tale of redemption in a city frequently painted as the last refuge of the lost and the destitute. Tribal drums punctuate the film’s inner-city veneer like an echo of Jumah’s…

Film Review: ‘Pelo Malo’

★★★☆☆ Winner of multiple awards on the 2013 festival circuit including the Golden Seashell in San Sebastian, Mariana Rondón’s Pelo Malo (2013) distorts your typical coming-of-ager about gender confusion into a well-observed Polaroid snapshot of contemporary anxieties in Venezuela, as well as the country’s deep social fissures economic and political disquiet. Set within the overpopulated…

LFF 2013: ‘Taşkafa, Stories of the Street’ review

★★★☆☆ Our four-legged companion the dog is commonly seen as “Man’s best friend”. Yet in Turkey, canines are elevated far higher, seen as loyal protectors, valued confidants and more recently as public contemporaries. Andrea Luka Zimmerman’s Taşkafa, Stories of the Street (2013), a loose documentary about the street dogs of Istanbul, furthers her own work…

LFF 2013: ‘Late at Night: Voices of Ordinary Madness’ review

★★☆☆☆ Writer-director Xiaolu Guo rose to prominence in the West after her sophomore feature She, a Chinese (2009) won the Golden Leopard prize at the Locarno Film Festival. Guo now arrives at the London Film Festival with Late at Night: Voices of Ordinary Madness (2013), the second in a proposed trilogy of documentaries giving a…

LFF 2013: ‘The Witches’ review

★★★☆☆ Cyril Frankel’s The Witches (1966) has long been one of the overlooked works in Hammer’s horror stable. Though attention may be drawn by the presence of writer Nigel Kneale in adapting Norah Lofts’ novel The Devil’s Own for the big screen, the lack of the studio’s regular star talent (Cushing, Lee et al.) made…

LFF 2013: ‘Trap Street’ review

★★★☆☆ Much like Ai Wei Wei’s recent Surveillance Camera sculpture, Vivian Qu takes on China’s aggressive panoptical policing in Trap Street (2013) with a sense of doomed inquiry. Nominated for the First Feature prize at this year’s London Film Festival, the film explores how information technology is both the target and perpetrator of State meddling…

LFF 2013: ‘The Past’ review

★★★★☆ Master dramatist Asghar Farhadi this year returns with The Past (2013), a film that’s both identifiably Iranian yet delicately contorted thanks to its foreign environs. Whilst the setting of Farhadi’s latest morality tale has been transferred from Tehran to Paris, this remains very much an Iranian film played out within a more liberal European…

LFF 2013: ‘Luton’ review

★★★☆☆ Michalis Konstantatos’ debut feature and LFF contender Luton (2013) paints a disturbing portrait of contemporary Greece, whilst lacking little of the recent Weird Wave’s deadpan satire. The film begins with a sultry and incredibly uncomfortable close-up of a woman running on a treadmill. Her heavy breath is amplified by the camera’s perturbing proximity, evoking…

LFF 2013: ‘Exhibition’ review

★★★★☆ Distinctive British filmmaker Joanna Hogg returns to London after holidaying in Tuscany (2007’s Unrelated) and the Isle of Sicily (2010’s Archipelago) with Exhibition (2013), a methodically constructed portrait of bourgeois self-loathing and middle-class paranoia told through an artistic couple whose lives have slowly begun to emulate their art. Hogg takes an intimate and supercilious…

LFF 2013: ‘The Invisible Woman’ review

★★☆☆☆ Revered British actor and director Ralph Fiennes returns to the London Film Festival this year with his second feature, The Invisible Woman (2013). Telling the story of the ‘other woman’ in Charles Dickens’ life, Nelly Ternan, Fiennes appears to have improved his directing abilities little since Coriolanus (2011), offering up a tawdry biopic that’s…

LFF 2013: ‘The Epic of Everest’ review

★★★★☆ The flagship restoration of this year’s London Film Festival Archive strand, Captain John Noel’s The Epic of Everest (1924) is both a spirited log of grand adventure and a sombre testament to the lives lost during a treacherous third attempt to scale the great Himalayan peak. Featuring a new score from Simon Fisher Turner…

LFF 2013: ‘Captain Phillips’ review

★★★★☆ The first British director to open the London Film Festival since Kevin Macdonald back in 2006, Paul Greengrass shakes off the memories of Jason Bourne with new nail-biter Captain Phillips (2013), a true story of piracy and stoic heroism on the high seas off the African mainland. Starring Tom Hanks as the captain in…