Wonderfully special: La chimera reviewed

La chimera, which, as in English, means something like ‘the unrealisable dream’, is the latest film from Italian writer/director Alice Rohrwacher (The Wonders, Happy as Lazzaro). Her films are arthouse, in the sense that if you’re in the mood for someone blowing stuff up and escaping by speedboat while enjoying flirtatious repartee with a sexy lady, this probably won’t cut it. But if you’re in the mood for something original and woozy and riotous and wonderfully special, you will be able to fill your boots. Arthur has a kind of superpower that enables him to locate buried loot just by coming over funny It is set in Italy in the

A true popcorn movie: The Fall Guy reviewed

The Fall Guy, starring Emily Blunt and Ryan Gosling, is a gloriously fun, screwball action film that pokes fun at action films and this, I now know, is my favourite kind of action film. I would even venture that it’s the sort of film that’s crying out to be enjoyed with a big old bucket of popcorn. Go wild with the stuff. I promise I won’t hiss or look daggers at you. This is a popcorn movie. It has that spirit – in spades. Does anyone crash backwards through a plate glass window? Of course they do! As a comedy set in the stunt world, it’s one of those Hollywood

Tennis romance that doesn’t contain much tennis: Challengers reviewed

It sounds straightforward enough: a tennis romance starring Zendaya, idol of the mid-teen demographic and last seen riding a sandworm in Dune: Part Two. She plays Tashi Duncan, a junior player tipped for greatness, who finds herself in a love triangle with two other juniors: spoilt-but-roguish Patrick (Josh O’Connor) and nice-but-needy Art (Mike Faist). You might anticipate a girl-power version of Richard Loncraine’s Wimbledon (2004), with white skirts fluttering in summer breezes, coy glances at a face in the crowd, and a dramatic climax featuring a net rally in a final-set tie-break. Despite the lengthy game sequences, it’s not a film about tennis But Challengers is a very different kettle

Should beautiful actors be allowed to play those with plain faces?

Sometimes I Think About Dying is one of those titles you want to shout back at – what? Only sometimes? It is co-produced by, and stars, Daisy Ridley from the Star Wars franchise who, in going from a blockbuster to an interesting independent film, is taking the opposite of the usual career trajectory. Perhaps you can only fight the Dark Lords of the Sith for so long? But it has paid off, as this is an understated little gem. It is directed by Rachel Lambert and written by Stefanie Abel Horowitz, Katy Wright-Mead and Kevin Armento. It’s hard to say what it is exactly. A dour, deadpan romantic comedy probably

You’ll want to claw your face off: Scoop reviewed

Scoop is a dramatised account of the events leading up to the BBC’s 2019 Newsnight interview with Prince Andrew. The one he imagined would allow him to put Jeffrey Epstein behind him, but instead put Pizza Express (Woking) on the map, made us want to claw our own faces off with the horror of it, and led to the Queen stripping him of all his royal and military titles. (I think you know you are in trouble with Mummy when this happens.) Although billed as a ‘film’, this isn’t especially cinematic. It’s more like a bonus episode of The Crown but it is phenomenally cast (Rufus Sewell is a revelation)

Why do movies always have to bash the ‘burbs?

Mothers’ Instinct is a psychological thriller starring Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain and it is one of those over-ripe, camp melodramas that, back in the day, would have almost certainly starred Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Or Tippi Hedren and Kim Novak, if we are going to be Hitchcockian about it. Either way, it’s a face-off between two world-class actresses and while it throws plausibility to the winds at the end, it is a delicious ride. And I’ve saved the best news for last: it’s all done and dusted in 95 minutes. Not an ounce of fat here. It is directed by Benoît Delhomme and is a remake of Olivier

Readers, I welled up! At a cartoon! Robot Dreams reviewed

Robot Dreams is an animated film from the Spanish writer-director Pablo Berger and while it doesn’t have the production values of something by Pixar or Disney or DreamWorks, it will capture your heart. Sweet, charming, deeply moving…. Readers, I welled up! At a cartoon! This is something we need never speak of again. It is based on the graphic novel by Sara Varon and stars absolutely no one, as there are no voices to voice. There is sound but no dialogue, like Mr Bean, although the similarity ends there. It is set in the 1980s in a New York populated by anthropomorphic animals. Hail a taxi and your driver may

Sensuous, languorous, soothing and rich: The Taste of Things reviewed

The Taste of Things, which is this year’s French entry for best international film at the Oscars, is a gastro-film but it is not of the ‘Angry Male Chef’ genre. It’s not Boiling Point or The Menu or The Bear. It is not stressful or adrenaline-filled. No one swears or screams ‘Yes, chef!’ Instead, it is sensuous, languorous, soothing and as rich and deep as (I now know) a consommé should be. It will also force you to reappraise vol-au-vents which, in the right, tenderly loving hands, need not be the mean little bullety things that were served here in the seventies. (My mother, I remember, bought them frozen from

An endurance test that I constantly failed: Occupied City reviewed

Occupied City is Steve McQueen’s meditative essay on Amsterdam during Nazi occupation, with a running time of four hours and 22 minutes. There is no archive footage. There are no witness testimonies. It’s not The Sorrow and the Pity. It is not half-a-Shoah. Instead, this visits 130 addresses and details what happened there between 1940 and 1945 while showing the building or space as it is today. It should have its own power – what ghosts reside here? What was life like for the Jews who were deported from this square and perished at Auschwitz? – but I watched it from home via a link, as I had Covid, and

It’ll make you cry despite being very ordinary: One Life reviewed

One Life is the story of Nicholas Winton (Anthony Hopkins), the British stockbroker who arranged the Kindertransport that saved hundreds of children from almost certain death in the Holocaust and be warned: you will need one tissue, if not two – maybe 12. Which isn’t to say it’s a great film. It’s fine, in its workmanlike way. But the story is so inherently powerful and moving and there is so much goodness and decency at work it will set you off. Take a whole box of tissues if you want to play it safe and would rather not deploy your sleeve. Hopkins’s performance is quiet, patient, masterly and as understated

‘You cannot begin by calling me France’s most famous living artist!’: Sophie Calle interviewed

‘You cannot begin by calling me France’s most famous living artist!’ Thus Sophie Calle objected to the first line of the obituary I wrote for her, commissioned for the enormous exhibition, À toi de faire, ma mignonne (‘Over to you, sweetie’), that currently occupies the whole Musée National Picasso-Paris. But modesty aside, it is a fact that no other French artist alive today is so celebrated, loved, debated, denounced and, indeed, imitated, around the world as Calle. Having long mined her own life for her work, Calle now happily mines her death This year is the 50th anniversary of Picasso’s death and that his most important museum should officially mark

Outstanding and eye-opening doc about North Korea: Beyond Utopia review

The documentary Beyond Utopia follows various families as they attempt to flee North Korea. It is eye-opening and outstanding. In essence, it is a life-or-death thriller told in real time where the stakes could not be higher. I watched at home, via a screening link, with a twenty-something who did not look at her phone once. Could there be a higher recommendation? The film has been assembled by the American director Madeleine Gavin who employed  a camera crew when it was safe to do so but otherwise made use of secret smuggled footage. Her way in is via Kim Seungeun, a South Korean minister who has bravely devoted himself –

Basic, plodding and lacking any actual horror: Doctor Jekyll reviewed

Tis the season of horror, as it’s Halloween, which we celebrate in this house by turning off all the lights and pretending not to be in. (We look forward to it every year. It’s nice occasionally to go bed at around 5 p.m. and pretend not to be in.) But I thought I’d show willing by at least reviewing a horror film so it’s Doctor Jekyll, starring Eddie Izzard. It’s the latest from Hammer, which you didn’t know was still around, but is. I have a fondness for these films as they were always on TV during my teenage years, with Peter Cushing creeping around some crypt, hammy and campy

Epic, immersive and tiresomely long: Killers of the Flower Moon reviewed

Martin Scorsese’s Killers of the Flower Moon is a Western crime drama that runs to three-and-a-half hours. (Sit on that, Oppenheimer!) But which is it: an epic masterpiece? Or just very, very tiresomely long? There are certainly pacing issues, and things that needed further explanation – there is no hand-holding. That said, the running time does allow for world-building, and it builds a world so engrossing that when I came out of the cinema onto the high street it was weird to see a Superdrug and Costa Coffee rather than dusty tracks and horses and vast landscapes beset by oil derricks. So I guess it’s epic and also tiresomely long.

The miracle of The Miracle Club is that it does, I promise, end

The Miracle Club, which is about a group of Irish women who travel to Lourdes, has a magnificent cast – Maggie Smith, Kathy Bates, Laura Linney – and it inspired me to pray. ‘Dear God,’ I found myself praying mid-way through, ‘let this be over soon.’ The film’s stars make it just about watchable but it’s still a disappointingly trite and shopworn affair. It’s as if three thoroughbreds have been entered in the local donkey derby. It inspired me to pray. ‘Dear God,’ I found myself praying, ‘let this be over soon.’ It is written by Jimmy Smallhorne, Timothy Prager and Joshua D. Maurer, and directed by Thaddeus O’Sullivan. I’ve

Soapy and sentimental: Ken Loach’s The Old Oak reviewed

Ken Loach has said The Old Oak will be his last film – he’s 87; the golf course probably beckons. It’s not one of the ones he’ll be remembered for. At least, however, it is starkly different from the others as it’s a cheerful, sunny romcom set in Paris in the spring. I’m joshing you. It’s set in the deprived north-east where the skies are permanently grim and tensions rise due to the arrival of Syrian refugees. As you’d expect, it is a compassionate film that is respectful all round but it is also heavy-handed, soapy and sentimental, with a redemptive ending that is unearned. I wish him joy on

The best drama without any drama that you’ll see: Past Lives reviewed

Past Lives is an exquisite film made with great precision and care about what could have been, even if what could have been does not mean it should have been. Forgive me; it’s a hard film to pin down. That it’s exquisitely affecting and made with great precision and care is enough for now. No need to make a song and dance about it. Indeed, as Past Lives so deftly shows, you can have an excellent drama without any of the drama. I think that I may be in love with Greta Lee myself This is a first film from Celine Song, who is Canadian-Korean and otherwise a playwright. It

Depardieu’s Maigret is the best yet: Maigret reviewed

Georges Simenon’s lugubrious detective Maigret has appeared in umpteen screen adaptations and dozens of actors have played him. Now it’s Gérard Depardieu’s turn. Depardieu’s Maigret isn’t, in fact, quite how I imagined Maigret. He’s bulkier than the one in my head; moves more cumbersomely, like a sad circus bear. And I never saw him with that nose – but then who would? Yet he may be the best so far, despite the likes of Jean Gabin, Charles Laughton, Richard Harris and Michael Gambon having had a go. This is adapted from Maigret and the Dead Girl (1954) and is directed by Patrice Leconte. It is minimal and melancholic, beset by

Colourful, tender and sweet, grounded in magical rather than social realism: Scrapper reviewed

Scrapper is a film about a working-class kid who, after her mother dies, has to look after herself. I know what you’re expecting. It isn’t that. It’s not an earnestly grim wrist-slitter. It’s not an indictment of modern Britain with no shred of hope. It’s not Ken Loach. It’s not even desaturated and grimy. Instead, it’s colourful, tender and sweet with quirky moments that are grounded in magical rather than social realism. And it’s just 84 minutes long, which is a boon. (‘A boon,’ confirms bladders everywhere.) When child actors are rubbish I tend not to say anything as it’s like kicking puppies This is the first feature from writer-director

A brilliantly cruel Cosi and punkish Petrushka but the Brits disappoint: Festival d’Aix-en-Provence reviewed

Aix is an odd place. It should be charming, with its dishevelled squares, Busby Berkeley-esque fountains, pretty ochres and pinks. Yet none of it feels quite real. It’s as if an AI bot had been asked to design a Provençale city. Everything is suspiciously perfect. And then you notice all the Irish pubs and American student clones. It’s the prettiness of a Wes Anderson set – with the charm of an airport. In this uncanny valley, however, lies what continues to be one of the world’s classiest opera festivals. The major new commissions this year were two British chamber operas. George Benjamin and Martin Crimp were returning with Picture A