The Levelling (Hope Dickson Leach, 2016)

The phrase “quietly devastating” can be a tad overused in the realm of film criticism, but it’s all too appropriate when a modestly scaled film, one largely dealing with a tragedy with unsentimental honesty, manages to hit you like a ton of bricks with even the smallest moment of uplift. Such is the case with The Levelling, the impressive, assured feature debut of writer-director Hope Dickson Leach…

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Colossal (Nacho Vigalondo, 2016)

Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigalondo (Timecrimes) makes a bid for the American mainstream with Colossal, a high-concept indie that’s part character study, part blockbuster audition…

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Tramps (Adam Leon, 2016)

Back in 2012, American director Adam Leon made his feature debut with Gimme the Loot, which concerned two graffiti artists looking to tag an iconic landmark as revenge against a rival gang, but needing to raise $500 prior to pulling off their grand scheme. A shaggy two-hander caper that was short and sweet, Gimme the Loot was a film that thrived on the chemistry of its two young leads and an evocation of a side of New York City rarely given much attention in contemporary cinema. It recalled much of the spirit of early Richard Linklater and lighter Jean-Luc Godard fare, as well as the humanist, music-heavy films of the late Jonathan Demme, the latter of whom lent the US release of Gimme the Loot a “Jonathan Demme Presents” credit to help it out.

A few years on, Leon is back with Tramps, under the Netflix Originals banner, which concerns a very different pair of young protagonists, but is a film of a similar mould – a romp through upstate and city-based New York that’s thin on narrative, but high on energy. The caper plot this time around involves a briefcase swap deal that goes wrong, the full specifics of which are so vague as to be inconsequential; Tramps is more about the mischief of the matter than the danger. One’s mileage may vary as to how important that lack of, uh, importance is, but details such as what’s actually in the briefcase, or where it’s from, are besides the point for the tone Leon (who co-wrote the film) is going for…

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American Gods – Episodes 1 & 2

Following a slew of production attempts over the years, including an HBO incarnation and at least one stab at a feature film, Neil Gaiman’s 2001 novel American Gods, a phantasmagorical journey through the immigrant experience and soul of America, finally receives the television treatment – and it gets off to an intense, haunting start…

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Raoul Peck on ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ & James Baldwin

In such troubled times as our current moment, where Western society seems doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past by stalling or demolishing progress in various forms, it is important to take heed of the words of those whose commentary has only become more relevant with time.

The late James Baldwin was an American novelist, playwright, essayist, political activist and social critic, best known for his articulations of the unspoken intricacies of racial, sexual and class tensions in Western societies. Being both black and gay gave Baldwin an insight into very specific experiences, but Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck, himself a political activist, believes that Baldwin’s words resonate beyond race and sexuality…

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A Quiet Passion (Terence Davies, 2016)

After a decade of difficulties with projects stuck in development hell, that British director Terence Davies now brings us his third feature in six years is a blessing not to be taken lightly. Arriving swiftly after his 2015 adaptation of Sunset SongA Quiet Passion sees him back in literary mode, albeit with a biopic of a writer icon, rather than an adaptation. This also marks the filmmaker’s first foray to narrative territory across the pond since 2000’s The House of Mirth, as this long-gestating, uh, passion project concerns American poet Emily Dickinson…

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Pablo Larraín rethinks the biopic with ‘Neruda’

When it comes to productivity, there aren’t many high-profile directors who come close to Japan’s Takashi Miike (who has made approximately five features since you started reading this sentence), but there are a select few who can be relied upon to give us at least one feature film a year, sometimes even two. Michael Winterbottom is good for this, while Steven Soderbergh was very good for it before his self-imposed (and now broken) retirement from film directing.

With three films in the last two years, Chilean director Pablo Larraín is making a case to join that select group. It’s also worked out that his two most recent films serve to complement each other very well (the odd duck is Catholic Church drama The Club). Larraín has just been through the awards season madness with his English-language debut, Jackie Kennedy biopic Jackie (which picked up three Oscar nominations), and his third film of the trio, Neruda (which hit festivals before Jackie), is a similarly slippery portrait of a political figure, in this case revolutionary Chilean poet-diplomat and politician Pablo Neruda…

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Writing by Josh Slater-Williams