• Time

    Time

    ★★★½

    Undergoing plastic surgery in order to obtain physical beauty doesn't always beget happiness, and can even cause more misery by failing to meet impossible expectations. 'Time' is Kim Ki-duk's surprisingly principled look at the enervating effects of toxic perfectionism. It's overflowing with typology, ( giant hands representing ' divine acceptance') and sometimes ties itself in knots with too many ideas vying for attention, but it ultimately succeeds in being a ruminative study of the consequences of going under the knife…

  • The Isle

    The Isle

    ★★★★

    Corrupted by civilisation, poisoned by self-hatred or just unbearable boredom could be some of the reasons why a man and a woman part of a hostile community adrift in pastel coloured floating huts spend time indulging in extreme sadomasochism. Unbridled savagery abounds in the frequently shocking ' The Isle,' a film likely to disturb even those with a super high tolerance for screen violence. Fish hooks are swallowed, regurgitated and inserted into genitalia. Pliers are used to extract teeth. Blood…

  • 3-Iron

    3-Iron

    ★★★★

    This strangely touching love story channels a dreamlike state of consciousness where the limitations of reality are surpassed by boundless imagination. A world is turned upside down. The observed becomes the observer. What is opaque becomes transparent. The normal rules of time and space are eclipsed. The only certainty is that everything eventually evanesces. Time is precious.
    Kim Ki-duk uses artfully constructed symbolism to tell his story. A burgeoning romance between two pariahs is charged by an unspoken connection. It's…

  • The Conformist

    The Conformist

    ★★★★★

    ( Minor Spoilers)

    Most people want to be different but Marcello Clerici wants to be like everyone else. Trapped inside an ideological echo chamber, Marcello mistakes the shadows of reality for reality itself. The path to enlightenment is blocked by a construction of a worldview sullied by prejudice. Normality and uniformity are synonymous. The individual is the enemy. The conformist is a fascist.
    Bernardo Bertolucci's dazzling existential thriller miraculously seems to reconfigure itself every time I watch it. New shapes…

  • Before the Revolution

    Before the Revolution

    ★★★★

    During the 1960s, Italy underwent a period of momentous political and economic transition. ' Before the Revolution' is set in Parma, 1962, just before the Italian Socialist Party entered government, the Church is democratised and as the nation becomes a global industrial power. It's also when the children of the bourgeoisie were challenging traditional values. Bernardo Bertolucci was a middle class rebel, but disdainful of pretend Leninists lacking the gumption to develop their vague ideas about freedom into an effective…

  • Pain and Glory

    Pain and Glory

    ★★★★

    Pedro Almodovar's gracefully understated drama contains a brilliantly nuanced performance from Antonio Banderas as Salvador, a jaded film director whose ability to create is vitiated by intense physical pain. ' Pain and Glory' seems to veer close to being autofictional but doesn't necessarily claim to be confessional. A meticulously orchestrated intertextual narrative has Salvador trying to nullify his physical and abstract hardships, drifting into memories of a bouyant childhood, and ultimately drawing on past experiences for the purpose of creative…

  • Japón

    Japón

    ★★★★

    Arriving fully formed, the Mexican director Carlos Reygadas quickly established himself as a master of cinematic poetry. In his excellent debut ' Japon,' Reygadas takes inspiration from Andrei Tarkovsky, both in his ' Stalker' like washed out colour palette and in the way he utilises an anamorphic lens - enhancing vertical resolution and without distorting faces, unlike the more common spherical lens. I detected shades of Abbas Kiarostami, Theo Angelopoulos and Nuri Bilge Ceylan, but it's necessary to highlight that…

  • In the Earth

    In the Earth

    ★★

    For a brief moment, Ben Wheatley looked like becoming one of Britain's most exciting modern filmmakers. The thrillingly mercurial ' Kill List,' and the entrancing, phantasmagorical ' A Field in England' consummately coalesced Mike Leigh influenced social realism with the 1970s occult horror of Ken Russell's ' The Devils,' and Robin Hardy's ' The Wicker Man,' tinged with the sinister pastoralism of Peter Greenaway. Fast forward a few years and Wheatley had moved away from this heady concoction of diverse…

  • They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

    They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

    ★★★★★

    The exploitative and gruelling dance marathons of the 1930s were contested by those hit hardest by the Great Depression. Sydney Pollack's astonishing ' They Shoot Horses, Don't They?' takes the viewer inside a shabby and sweaty Santa Monica dancehall where the poor spend thousands of hours in agonising continuous motion, with the objective of winning a large cash prize. Some die of pneumonia or exhaustion, but it's all part of the entertainment for a voyeuristic audience seeking a ' little…

  • The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

    The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

    ★★★★½

    The entire film is shot in one location. Rainer Fassbinder's deep focus compositions reveal an opulent boudoir containing a plush white shag rug, a gilt frame bed and a reproduction of Poussin's ' Midas and Bacchus.' It's a decadent prison inhabited by Petra Von Kant, ( Margit Carstensen) a slender, thirty-something, Baroque loving fashion designer who gradually plummets into a state of degradation. Fassbinder mixes Douglas Sirk's candy coloured visuals with the tempestuous energy of Joseph Mankiewicz's 'All About Eve,'…

  • The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

    The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

    ★★★★½

    Winston Churchill was outraged by this contentious wartime epic and tried to have it banned. During a year which saw British cinema overflowing with tales of posh, gentlemanly serviceman risking their lives for ' King and country,' here was a two and a half hour film about war not only devoid of action packed entertainment, but one which dared to challenge nationalistic values. A film less concerned with guns and explosions and more with a touching central relationship between an…

  • Black Narcissus

    Black Narcissus

    ★★★★★

    Infused with gorgeous iridescent colours, and bathed in rays of celestial chiaroscuro lighting, ' Black Narcissus' is spellbindingly beautiful. Almost every frame is an entrancing Vermeer-esque multihued delight. It's a minor miracle that rather than adhering to their common practice of filming on location, Powell and Pressburger managed to construct this elaborate world within the confines of Pinewood Studios. Enabling a panoramic viewpoint by using strategically placed cycloramas, Alfred Junge's remarkable set designs show a rickety, angular Indian palace perched…