Film Review: ‘Black Souls’

★★★☆☆ Francesco Munzi’s Black Souls (2014) is a grimly serious family tragedy centred around the feuds within the Calabrian equivalent of the mafia, the ‘Ndrangheta. The drama begins in Amsterdam where a business deal is going down between mob boss Luigi (Marco Leonardi) and some Spanish, or South American partners. It doesn’t really matter which…

DVD Review: ‘The Look of Silence’

★★★★★ “You ask deeper questions than Joshua” states one of the killers in Joshua Oppenheimer and his anonymous collaborators’ documentary The Look of Silence (2014). The film is a companion piece to Oppenheimer’s The Act of Killing (2013), which revealed not only the mass murder of over one million suspected communists in a wave of…

DVD Review: ‘The Cut’

★★★☆☆ Medz Yeghern is the synonym Armenians gave to the brutal extermination of their people by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to the end of First World War, which also gave a new word to the English language – ‘genocide’, coined by Raphael Lemkin. Also known as the Armenian Holocaust, the state-sponsored murders were widely…

DVD Review: ‘Anarchy’

★★☆☆☆ Belonging to that wonky sub-genre of William Shakespeare’s commonly works known as the ‘problem plays’, Michael Almereyda’s Anarchy (2014) is an intriguingly off-the-wall production which ultimately doesn’t quite gel. Cymbeline (Ed Harris) of the Briton Motorcycle Club goes to war with the Roman police department headed by Caius Lucius (Vondie Curtis-Hall). Meanwhile, his second…

Film Review: ‘The President’

★★★★☆ Iranian Mohsen Makhmalbaf opened last year’s Venice Orizzonti sidebar with The President (2014), which attains the open force of a parable while at the same time maintaining the excitement and tension of a political thriller. Georgian actor Misha Gomiashvili plays the President of the title, who reigns over an unnamed country. His grandson (Dachi…

DVD Review: ‘Good Kill’

★★☆☆☆ In 2002 the CIA employed an armed drone in a targeted killing in Afghanistan and since then they have been used thousands of times. To their advocates they are a way of defeating a dangerous enemy without risking the lives of troops; to their critics they are a cowardly form of remote control killing…

DVD Review: ‘The Last Act’

★★★★☆ The shrouded world of the stage proved very much the theme of last year’s Venice Film Festival. Director Barry Levinson’s Philip Roth adaptation The Last Act (2014) is a bird of an entirely different feather to the screwball antics of She’s Funny That Way (2014) or the anarchic brio of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Birdman…

Film Review: ‘Bypass’

★★☆☆☆ Better Things director Duane Hopkins’ second feature, Bypass (2014), is a stylistically overblown tale from the lower echelons of crime and economic hardship. The first ten minutes or so follow Greg (Benjamin Dilloway), a young man whose football career was terminated by a brutal injury. All he has left are the memories and a…

Glasgow 2015: ‘A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence’

★★★★☆ Tragedy says “We all die”, whilst comedy says “Ah, but life goes on”. The winner of last year’s Golden Lion, Roy Andersson’s first feature film in seven years – the brilliantly titled existential comedy A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014) – is essentially a tragi-comedy which says “We all die and…

Venice 2014: Andersson’s ‘Pigeon’ is a Golden Lion

Surprisingly given the encroachment of the Toronto International Film Festival and the ongoing rivalry with Cannes, the Venice Film Festival still manages to provide a top quality programme. Although there were definitely some notable absences this year – Paul Thomas Anderson for one – the dearth of blockbuster fare allowed room for a much more…

Venice 2014: ‘The Postman’s White Nights’

★★★★☆ If Anton Chekhov had been a reality show creator, Andrei Konchalovsky’s The Postman’s White Nights (2014) might well have been the result. Playing in competition at the 71st Venice Film Festival, this beautifully realised picture tells the story of a small, marginalised village in Northern Russia on the banks of Lake Kenozero. Using for…

Venice 2014: ‘La Trattativa’ review

★★☆☆☆ During the early nineties a series of bombings rocked the cities of Italy. The violence was a response by the Mafia to a political class of socialists and Christian democrats who had come to power via their influence but who were now doing nothing to halt a publicly supported crusade against organised crime. This…