Category Archives: BFI

Where to begin with Shinji Somai

Critic Shigehiko Hasumi once suggested that Japanese filmmaker Shinji Somai – who died young aged 53 in 2001, after directing 13 features – “is the missing link between the end of the studio system of Japan and the rise of independent filmmaking”. In their compassionate depictions of loneliness and alienation, you can certainly see the influence of Somai’s films in the works of several younger directors who followed, including Shunji Iwai (All About Lily Chou-Chou) and Kiyoshi Kurosawa (Pulse).

So why is Somai relatively unknown in the west? It’s all down to the mysteries of international distribution. For whatever reason, none of Somai’s films got released in the UK, with opportunities to see them relegated to festival appearances or one-off repertory screenings. Even a particularly high interest in contemporary Japanese cinema in Britain in the early 2000s – the time of the J-horror boom – didn’t result in distribution for Somai’s final features, Wait and See (1998) and Kaza-hana (2000).

In recent years, the Edinburgh International Film Festival showcased a full retrospective of his work in 2012, while Moving (1993) was part of the touring programme in support of Mark Cousins’ A Story of Children and Film (2013). At the time of writing, we’ve just seen the first ever home-video outing for any of Somai’s features in the west: Arrow Video’s Blu-ray of Sailor Suit and Machine Gun (1981). It’s hopefully a sign of good things to come, as Somai’s CV includes some of the finest Japanese films of the 1980s and 90s…

Full feature for the BFI

Martyrs Lane (Ruth Platt, 2021)

The spectre of unprocessed grief looms large in writer-director Ruth Platt’s Martyrs Lane, an effective British ghost story with religious undertones. Told almost entirely from a child’s point-of-view, it sees a devout minister’s daughter invite a believed angelic presence into her family’s home, only for the guest’s intentions to gradually turn sinister…

Full review for Sight & Sound

Wildfire: Cathy Brady and Nora-Jane Noone on their Irish border drama

The title of Cathy Brady’s debut feature, Wildfire, references how rumours and malice spread, but also the intensity of potential damage once a dangerous spark is lit.

Inseparable sisters raised in a small town on the Irish border, Lauren and Kelly faced a devastating loss as children with the mysterious death of their mother, their father having also previously perished in a fatal bombing. Now adults, their bond is about to intensify further as the spectre of mental illness that surrounded their late mother remains thick in the air, thanks to town gossip that’s never really faded. 

After a year of being missing, presumed dead, Kelly (Nika McGuigan, who sadly died at 33 from cancer during post-production) returns to Northern Ireland amid Brexit border uncertainties on the news. Her own erratic and distressing behaviour chips away at the façade of normality that Lauren (Nora-Jane Noone) is barely maintaining.

Talking to us ahead of the film’s UK and Irish release, writer-director Brady and star Noone discuss the unique way in which their drama came together…

Full interview for the BFI

10 to see at the Edinburgh Film Festival 2021

Moving, for the time being, from June to late August, this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival is also a shorter edition than in pre-pandemic times – a week-long affair running from 18 to 25 August.

As with last autumn’s BFI London Film Festival, EIFF will also be a locally physical and nationally digital hybrid. Unlike that first coronavirus-era edition of LFF, though, every feature programmed is scheduled for at least one theatrical screening at Edinburgh’s Filmhouse or Festival Theatre, with some getting two to three. For those outside of the Scottish capital, most – though not all – of the line-up will also be available to rent digitally through Filmhouse at Home…

Full feature for the BFI

10 great horror sequels

One is the loneliest number in the world of horror movies. As cinemas welcome A Quiet Place Part II, we celebrate some of the best first sequels…

Full feature for the BFI

10 great debut films by music video directors

From David Fincher to Jonathan Glazer, some of the most acclaimed modern directors began their careers making music videos. Here’s what their first films looked like…

Full feature for the BFI

What to watch at the Glasgow Film Festival 2021

Last year’s Glasgow Film Festival was one of the final film festivals in the world to proceed as planned as an in-person event, concluding just 3 days before the World Health Organization declared the outbreak of COVID-19 a pandemic. In the 11 months since, British film festivals have shifted to largely online models, with some physical cinema arrangements depending on their timing in relation to eased restrictions. 

GFF 2021 – taking place from 24 February to 7 March – was planned to be a locally physical and nationally digital hybrid in the spirit of last October’s London Film Festival. In light of current lockdown measures that hasn’t been possible, yet Glasgow’s now fully online programme remains an exciting prospect. The selection may be much smaller in quantity compared with a traditional edition, but the quality in the curation is still there in spades…

Full feature for the BFI

Where to stream the best Scottish films

From homegrown filmmakers who’ve gone on to international acclaim to features that make evocative use of its towns, cities, communities and landscapes, Scotland’s cinematic output has always been particularly rich. Excluding movies that you can currently only watch digitally by renting or buying them (sorry to The Wicker Man, Whisky Galore! and most of Bill Forsyth’s efforts), here are some of the best Scottish films you can stream right now…

Full feature for the BFI

I can remember it for you wholesale: The making of ‘Total Recall’, 30 years on

Total Recall was one of my favourite experiences. When was it released? 30 goddamn years, my god.”

Michael Ironside may not immediately remember just how long ago it was that Total Recall was released, but few have been able to forget Paul Verhoeven’s slippery sci-fi action blockbuster since it came out in 1990, nor his memorably intense performance as Richter. The primary heavy in this adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s short story ‘We Can Remember It for You Wholesale’, Richter is in constant pursuit of amnesiac protagonist Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) across both Earth and Mars, leaving a trail of devastation in his wake.

One of Canada’s most prolific actors, with more than 260 screen credits to his name, Ironside is perhaps best known to a certain generation for various antagonist and authority figure roles in fondly remembered films from the 1980s and 90s, including Verhoeven reunion Starship Troopers (1997), Tony Scott’s Top Gun (1986), David Cronenberg’s Scanners (1981) and Charles Burnett’s The Glass Shield (1994). 

Ahead of the release of a new 4K restoration of Total Recall, Ironside spoke to us via Zoom about both Verhoeven collaborations; his own lifelong affinity for science fiction; the on-set experience of making one of the last massive-budget movies based around mostly practical special effects; and how he thinks Cronenberg’s scrapped adaptation of the story might have turned out…

Full interview for the BFI