Fresh (Mimi Cave, 2022)

The feature directorial debut of Mimi Cave, a veteran of shorts and music videos, Fresh presents certain challenges when it comes to discussing it in the form of a traditional review. The Searchlight Pictures pickup from Sundance 2022 starts off in one lane before veering down a road certain viewers may not be comfortable engaging with or be expecting…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Hellbender (John Adams/Zelda Adams/Toby Poser, 2021)

Based in a secluded, privately-owned mountainous area, American teen Izzy (Zelda Adams) lives with her mother (Toby Poser), but has no contact with the outside world. Having left civilisation when she was five, Izzy is told she has a serious health condition that means human interaction is a massive risk. Only Mother can venture out for supplies. Secretive Mother is Izzy’s only confidante, with whom she has a rock band called Hellbender, whose music no one else will hear. But Izzy is 16 now and craves friends. What Izzy doesn’t realise is that a disease isn’t necessarily the reason she needs to be kept away from others…

Full review for SciFiNow

10 films to watch out for at Glasgow Film Festival 2022

New Claire Denis, new Terence Davies and a spotlight on the first woman to direct a film noir. This year’s Glasgow Film Festival offers plenty to get your teeth into…

Full feature for the BFI

Fred Baillif on La Mif: “Social work is the best film school for storytelling”

Ensemble drama La Mif is a riveting look at the inner workings of a Swiss residential care home for at-risk young people, which is undergoing a shift back to being an all-girls facility, following an incident where one 16-year-old initiates sex with an underage teenage boy also living there.

Written and directed by Fred Baillif, who is a former social worker himself, the film stars an entirely non-professional cast of people with direct experience of social care. Aside from the seven main teenage girls, this also includes the mesmerising Claudia Grob as their main social worker.

Ahead of an event with Baillif at the BFI Future Film Festival and the film’s UK release on 25 February, Baillif spoke to us about how it all came into being…

Full interview for the BFI

Munich: The Edge of War (Christian Schwochow, 2021)

A tricky aspect of films based on real-life historical events with globally-impactful consequences is maintaining any tension when the viewer already knows the outcome. In some cases, the protagonists we’re following are those thwarted, such as in Valkyrie, a dramatisation of the failed 20 July 1944 plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

Adapted by playwright Ben Power from a Robert Harris novel, Munich: The Edge of War faces a similar challenge with tension. Similarly to Valkyrie, it depicts an attempted termination of Hitler’s power, though here before World War Two started. In 1938, British PM Neville Chamberlain (Jeremy Irons) is eager to find a peaceful resolution to Hitler’s proposed invasion of Czechoslovakia…

Full review for Little White Lies

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

25 years on, Mars Attacks! is the ultimate Main Character Syndrome comedy

When re-evaluating critical or commercial disappointments, it can happen that artists’ work goes underappreciated because of trends and tastes at the time of its original release, only for the film, album, or artwork to age like fine wine as the world changes its sensibilities. Case in point: Tim Burton’s gleefully chaotic Mars Attacks!, in which humanity at large is incredibly stupid and short-sighted in the face of a potential extinction-level event. Sound familiar?

Mars Attacks! opened to largely middling reviews in December 1996 and commercially bombing domestically. It was unfairly and unfavourably compared by many to Independence Day. The two projects have little in common beyond alien invasion plots, big ensembles, and the same year of release. Independence Day had opened five months earlier, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of all time. It was a no-win situation for Mars Attacks! opening that Christmas season, coming across like a rushed, snarky response to its supposed counterpart film, despite the established (and then still fresh) brand of Burton and a much more star-studded cast…

Full feature for Dazed

An Introduction to Indie Film Darling Adrienne Shelly

“I was going for a tone where you can find what’s funny in what’s painful, which has always been my kind of strategy anyway in life,” says Adrienne Shelly through archive footage in a new HBO documentary, Adrienne (2021).

An actor, screenwriter and director, Shelly broke through in the early 90s as the luminous lead of indie maverick Hal Hartley’s first two features: The Unbelievable Truth (1989) and Trust (1990), which were key early texts in a wave of independent films that helped define the stylistic directions of a considerable number of American movies that decade…

Full feature for AnOther

Dénes Nagy on Natural Light

When it comes to film adaptations, directors and screenwriters sometimes opt to take only the barebones of a source material’s premise in order to explore their own thematic or narrative interests; Jonathan Glazer’s 2013 adaptation of Michel Faber’s 2000 sci-fi novel Under the Skin is one recent notable example. But it’s likely few adaptations could be called as loose as that of Natural Light from Hungarian writer-director Dénes Nagy, based on Pál Závada’s 2014 novel of the same name. The reason: it’s based on roughly one per cent of the book…

Full interview for Curzon Journal

Army of Thieves (Matthias Schweighöfer, 2021)

A non-horror prequel to a horror movie, where zombies are relegated to news reports and dreams, Army of Thieves is a film where the logic behind its existence is ultimately more interesting to think about than anything presented on screen. That said, this spinoff of Army of the Dead is somewhat fascinating as an example of playing in the Zack Snyder sandbox without the same stylistic imprint…

Full review for SciFiNow

Writing by Josh Slater-Williams