Stephen Philip

Black experience in focus

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The runaway success of the searing artistic triumph that is 12 Years A Slave has illuminated a wider shifting landscape of black cinema. We are at a pivotal moment for black experience stories driven by black talent or led by a black majority cast.

Recent headlines about these films aptly encapsulate this period. In Bloomberg Businessweek, for instance, there's: "In Hollywood, Black is the New Black"; Vanity Fair, "Emancipating Hollywood"; New York Times, "A Breakout for Black Filmmakers", and from Hollywood Reporter, "Whites Suddenly Gripped By Black Dramas".

Red-Tinted Pictures

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The revival of radicalism in today's cinema has precedents. Stephen Philip looks at the influence of Communists on radical cinema.

It is the tale of the "steadily moving left show". From Britain, France, Belgium and Denmark, to Latin America and Hollywood (or "Indiewood" - the collaboration of independents and studio resources) we have seen a quantitative growth in politically or socially committed cinema. In addition there is a plethora of underground activist videos.

Mourning Story

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Review of 'Time to Leave', director: François Ozon

First the denial, second the anguish and self loathing, and finally the bid for redemption. These are the stages that a young bisexual man, Romain (played by Melvin Poupaud), endures after he learns that he's been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

It's potentially grim subject matter. Could it be prey to Hollywood mawkishness or so unflinchingly tough that it turns out too bleak to watch? Thankfully this pared-down melodrama has enough moments of keen observation and emotional truth to keep us rooted for all its skilfully constructed 85 minutes.

Return of the Real

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Why has there been a revival of realist conventions in modern film?

How can we understand the renewed attraction of documentary realism for audiences and filmmakers? In certain cases documentaries have become hugely popular beyond activist circles. Cultural commentators Denis Duclos and Valerie Jacq, writing in Le Monde Diplomatique about the Cannes 2005 film festival, noted the renewed interest in documentary style in a range of films - including fiction. Have audiences had enough of self-referring cinema? They probably want to rip apart the shiny cellophane of modern life and see the world as it really is or ought to be.

Movienews

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Mainstream films continue to address political issues.

It seems that the mainstream press is finally catching up to the idea of the growing radicalisation of Hollywood movies. An excellent article in the Observer by Jason Solomon confirms a trend we identified a while ago ('Hollywood: Rewriting the Script', April SR, 2003). Solomon encapsulates the situation well when he writes that there's a 'new breed of global cynicism in the cinema.

Movienews

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Progressive Hollywood - Lords of War - Sophie Scholl

A useful if very mixed bag of a book is Progressive Hollywood, A People's Film History of the United States by journalist Ed Rampell. If you can get past the breathless fawning celebrity prose, and that's not easy, you'll find some interesting documentation on the historical impact of the left on Hollywood.

The Trend Setters

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Edinburgh Film Festival

Where do you go to find out what the current trends in British cinema are? How is British cinema reflecting current social and political concerns? What are its constraints and limitations? Well, the Edinburgh Film Festival now markets itself as the cutting edge showcase for the best of British films - in particular, the films shortlisted for the Michael Powell award for best new British feature film.

Movienews

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Blockbusters stall - Film funding in France and Italy - Two new British movies

There's panic in the film industry over the worldwide falling revenues for this summer's blockbusters. This period has seen the lowest box office sales since the mid-1980s. A summer of the usual diet of star-laden special effects packages, sequels and prequels, has failed to ignite at the box office.

Movienews

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Dark Water' gets US remake - Frothing US right prompts a competition - Film history book for summer

Walter Salles seems to have taken an abrupt career turn with his new movie, a commendable remake of horror pic Dark Water. It tells the tale of a working class mother, Jennifer Connelly, who is undergoing a fierce custody battle for her five year old daughter, and decides to live on a godforsaken rain sodden estate, in a dilapidated, cramped new apartment. As she settles in she becomes anxious about the noises upstairs and the damp patch spreading on her ceiling. Neither can she understand her daughter's attachment to a kiddie rucksack and her new found invisible friend.

Movienews

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Sin City - We Don't Live Here Anymore - piracy - new Von Trier - The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael

A lot of PR fizz accompanies Sin City to these shores. Frank Miller, author of the hip noir graphic novels on which it is based, has written the screenplay and co directed the movie with Robert Rodriguez. It's the kind of slavish adaptation that gets geek kids excited but will leave the rest of us cold. Visually and technically it's a tour de force - shot in silvery greys, rich blacks and hot white that positively shimmers, with the occasional splash of colour. But where's the heart of the story?

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