Paolo Sorrentino's sumptuous, dazzling Felliniesque Dolce Vita 2014 Bafta-nominated satire on Berlusconi's Italy, Kieron Evans impressive Liverpool based debut feature of a destructive violently obsessive love affair, Ibrahim El Batout's fascinating, powerful and dramatically composed tribute to the Arab Spring - 'the impossible happened and the unthinkable become real' and Vince Edward's one-man gung-ho,clean-up-the-streets of a small northern town in 1974.
THE GREAT BEAUTY
Director: Paolo Sorrentino Cast: Toni Servillo, Carlo Verdone, Sabrina Ferilli Genre: Drama/comedy Country of Origin: Italy, France 2013 Language: Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Chinese with English subtitles Winner European Film Awards Best Film, Best Director (Paolo Sorrentino), Best Actor (Toni Servillo), Best Editor (Cristiano Travaglioli) 142 mins. Rating:*****
Bafta 2014 nominated in the film not in the English language category.
"Stunning, mesmerising, contemporary opulent Rome on a canvas of Felliniesque Dolce Vita images with Toni Servillo centre stage. One of the best films of 2013".
Jep Gambardella (Toni Servillo), a once-acclaimed novelist-turned-columnist knows every one who matters in Rome's elite literary and social circles. It's an easy life of late night soirees, night clubs, roof-top parties, the exclusive preserve of Rome's high society.
On Jep's 65th birthday he learns of the death of a friend's wife who he once loved in his youth which leads him to take stock of his life and cast his world weary eyes over the decadence of a bankrupt culture consuming itself - a hypocritical, corrupt, amusingly absurd, shallow and decadent scenario clamouring for social success and the latest fashion -a merry-go-round choreographed by Hieronymus Bosch - Berlusconi's Italy.
The Great Beauty is a stunning, bittersweet tragicomedy that brilliantly presents contemporary Rome on a canvas of Felliniesque Dolce Vita images with the mesmerising Toni Servillo centre stage. Choreographed to perfection and with Luca Bigazzi's exquisite cinematography, Lele Marchitelli's spot on musical score and Toni Servillo's tour-de-force performance it all adds up to a one of the truly memorable films of 2013. A visual experience to behold. Can I say more?
The Great Beauty is released on DVD by Curzon Films 13 January 2014
KELLY + VICTOR
Director: Kieron Evans Cast: Antonia Campbell-Hughes, Julian Morris, William Ruane Genre: Drama Country of Origin: UK, Ireland 2012 Language: English 95 mins. Rating:***
"An impressive debut feature of obsessive and destructive love."
Shop girl, Kelly (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) meets scrapyard worker, Victor (Julian Morris) on the dance floor of a Liverpool nightclub and it's instant attraction but this isn't a conventional boy meets girl love affair. It's a pain and pleasure violently obsessive love affair of two people struggling to get by as best they can and when they make love their darker instincts take over in a departure from their dysfunctional family life. It's a hit-and-miss life, Kelly's escaping a brutish former lover and Victor, whose mates are small time drug dealers is being dragged into that world.
Adapted from the 2002 novel by Liverpool author Nialls Griffiths, Kelly + Victor confronts realities head-on in an unsentimental love story of two lost souls in a destructive sadomasochistic relationship. The sub plots detract somewhat but it's an impressive debut feature from writer-director Kieron Evans who elicits strong and memorable performances from Antonia Campbell-Hughes whose waif-like frame hides a dominant obsessive sexual psycho and Julian Morris, submissive but heightened by these darker instincts.
The backdrop of Liverpool's decaying post-industrial landscape and the pubs, clubs and streets are vividly caught by Piers McGrail's camera and there's a searing soundtrack from a host of acclaimed artists.
A UK partial nod to Nagisa Oshima's In the Realm of the Senses?
Kelly + Victor is released on DVD by New Wave Films 13 January 2014
WINTER OF DISCONTENT
Director: Ibrahim El Batout Cast: Tamer Abdul-Hamid, Salah Alhanafy, Salah Hanafy Country of Origin: Egypt 2012 Language: Arabic with English subtitles 96 mins. Rating:***
"A fascinating, powerful and dramatically composed tribute to the Egyptian revolution".
Set against the backdrop of the Arab Spring and the tumultuous events of Cairo's Tahrir Square January to February 2011, Winter of Discontent explores the lives of three people, computer programmer, opposition activist and campaigner Amr (Amr Waked), already a victim of state torture in 2009 a man in constant fear living a solitary and claustrophobic existence in his Cairo flat, journalist Farah (Farah Youssef), a newscaster on state owned Egyptian television who begins to crack under the pressure of broadcasting state-sanctioned lies aimed at minimising the protests, and state security officer Adel (Salah Al Hanafy) who tortures dissidents during the day and returns to the comfort of his middle class family life each evening.
It's a powerful and dramatically composed tribute, almost meditative in its depiction of the chaos and uncertainty that characterised the last days of Hosni Mubarak's regime as Egypt was propelled headlong into the heady atmosphere and mass euphoria that changed the country forever. A fascinating account of this time but I'd hoped that the camera would get into the streets and amongst the crowds that propelled the revolution which would have added a greater dimension.
The optimism of that time has faded. President Mohammed Morsi was deposed by the army in July 2013, the assets of more than 500 members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the former President have been seized and the Islamist Brotherhood was banned from all activities in September and declared a terrorist group in December after the suicide bombing of a police HQ in the Nile Delta. An interim government is in place and the army is in control and has declared that they'll 'fight the forces of terrorism and darkness.' Uncertainty and chaos translates into a vicious Sunni-Shi'ite divide and the probability of a resurgent Al-Qaeda is an everyday threat.
Winter of Discontent is released on DVD by New Wave Films 13 January 2014
Director: Vince Edwards Cast: Stephen Tompkinson, Ian Whyte, Amy Manson Genre: Crime Drama Country of Origin: UK 2013 Language: English 97 mins. Rating:**
The three day working week, power cuts, miners strikes and an air of depression - it's 1974 in a small northern town where law and order has broken down and the community seems to be falling apart. Enter DS Barry Harrigan (Stephen Tompkinson), just returned from duty in Hong Kong and rejoining the local police force. With crime rampant, gangs terrorising the local community and the brutal murder of his friend, Harrigan's battle for justice becomes personal.
It was filmed in Tyneside but this cinematographers dream backdrop isn't made use of and you sense the limitations imposed by a small budget production. Nevertheless, it's a full in your face 97 minutes action cops 'n yobs battle with Stephen Tompkinson's hard man cop leading from the front. Overall it seems disjointed and a somewhat contrived script doesn't help. Probably 'Harrigan' would have been better suited as a TV one-off rather than a feature film.
I can't but compare it to a 1971 classic and Get Carter it ain't - it's cops 'n yobs.
Harrigan is released on DVD by High Fliers Films 13 January 2014