Film

The subversive movies of May ’68

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Fifty years ago this month the world was convulsed by the astonishing “evenements” that exploded on the streets of Paris in May 1968. What started as a student protest detonated the biggest general strike in history.

To commemorate the epic events there is a series of interesting screenings, exhibitions and talks planned throughout May organised by the Institut Francais and the British Film Institute. Inevitably these are mainly in London, but the BFI is touring to other cities with at least some of these movies.

New Town Utopia

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In 1948 the Central Office of Information produced a short animated film selling the idea of the New Town. It shows city-dwellers crammed into inadequate housing, facing the hellish daily commute on overcrowded public transport, choking on fumes from traffic and from factories at the end of every street.

Beast

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Film thrillers have stiff competition these days. When you can watch really great box sets with ten or 15 episodes on All 4 or Netflix, trying to cram a convincing story into an hour and a half is a tough commission.

It’s a bit like that advert on TV where a couple meet, get married, split up and divvy up their CD collection in 30 seconds flat. Not too much scope for nuance.

That said, Beast has much to recommend it. The central character Moll, played by Jessie Buckley, is completely engaging and you want to find out more about her.

Jean-Luc Godard + Jean Pierre Gorin: Five Films, 1968-1971

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In this age of multimedia saturation, the history of revolutionary cinema still has many secrets left to be unearthed. Among them are the series of films made by Jean-Luc Godard and Jean Pierre Gorin under the collective name Dziga-Vertov Group.

Greatly influenced by Maoist politics in the immediate aftermath of the May 1968 uprisings, Godard, Gorin and company sought not just to make “political films” but to make films politically.

And this collection of radical cinema spectacles still makes for startling and confrontational viewing half a century on.

A Fantastic Woman

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As the words “A Fantastic Woman” appear on the screen we are looking, somewhat jarringly, at a man’s body. For several minutes we follow middle aged Orlando as he goes about his business in Santiago, getting a massage, heading back to work, then out to meet his lover, Marina, who he is taking out for her birthday. Their relationship is easy and comfortable, but also passionate.

Bombshell: The Hedy Lamarr Story

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Bombshell tells the extraordinary story of the film actor and scientist Hedy Lamarr, Hollywood’s “most beautiful woman in the world”, who starred in films from the late 1930s to the 1950s opposite icons such as Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy.

Journalists have tended to focus on digging out details of her early nude appearance in an erotic arthouse film, her turbulent journey through six marriages, her plastic surgery, drug addiction and reclusive later years.

Why I won’t be joining in with Bergmania

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If you follow the world of the movies to any great degree you will know that 2018 is the centenary of the birth of Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman. You will also know that this is a Big Deal in the High Culture circles. The British Film Institute is holding a two-month festival showing all his movies. There are any number of commemorative books and at least two feature length documentaries to come.

Downsizing

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Just before I went into the screening of Alexander Payne’s new film, Downsizing, I was reading George Monbiot’s article in the Guardian, “Is this the end of civilisation? We could take a different path”.

That could be the subtitle to this odd and amusing film from the director of Nebraska and The Descendants.

Matt Damon plays Paul Safranek, an everyman who cares for his mum, then his wife, all while working as an occupational therapist in a meat factory.

Last Flag Flying

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The American humiliation in Iraq has caused Hollywood no end of trouble. There have now been close to 50 movies about the Iraq war and almost all of them have been critical failures with just one (the odiously Trump-ette American Sniper) a major box-office hit. In fact Variety has decided that Iraq movies are a “toxic genre”.

Menashe

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Deep in the heart of New York’s ultra-orthodox Hasidic Jewish community, we follow Menashe — a bumbling, gentle giant of a man who, after the death of his wife, is struggling to keep custody of his 11 year old son Rieven.

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