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Bombay Rose review – overstuffed but luminous valentine to the city

3 March, by Xan Brooks in Venice[ —]

Gitanjali Rao’s handcrafted animation is both social-realist drama and sentimental fairytale, with odd flights of fancy

The mean streets of Mumbai have rarely looked so vibrant, so lavish, so positively otherworldly as they do in Bombay Rose, a meticulous, handcrafted animation which plays in the critics’ selection here at Venice. Gitanjali Rao’s film paints a luminous valentine to the city in all of its squalor and beauty and audaciously frames social-realist drama as a sentimental folk tale. The disparate ingredients do not always gel. But in fits and starts Bombay Rose casts quite a spell.

I’m even tempted to regard the overstuffed plot as something of a necessity, given that the film is essentially about the crisscross of lives in a densely packed community, showing how this surging human traffic is really all connected and how the actions of one party have a domino effect on others. This introduces us to Kamala (voiced by Cyli Khare), who works as a dancer at an illegal nightclub while planning to sell herself into marriage in Dubai, before informing us that wait, she’s only doing this to provide for her younger sister Tara and her disabled grandfather, who works as a watchmaker but isn’t getting much trade. From here it ranges further afield, via child labourers on the run from the cops, to meet Salim (Amit Deondi), a Kashmiri youth orphaned by the military, who earns a crust selling the flowers he steals from graves. Salim, it turns out, is the one Kamala privately wants to marry.

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Eye of the Storm review – moving film about Scottish painter in love with nature

2 March, by Andrew Pulver[ —]

James Morrison’s work was full of awe for the natural world, and this documentary does his landscape painting full justice

Scottish painter James Morrison died shortly before the completion of this affectionate documentary about his life and work, and it’s a fitting tribute to an articulate and self-effacing artist with an extraordinary affinity for Scotland’s everchanging land- and seascapes. It’s directed by Anthony Baxter, best known for highlighting the stubborn local resistance resistance to Donald Trump’s golf course in Aberdeenshire with his You’ve Been Trumped films; this is something of a change of pace, while offering a not-dissimilar celebration of a very Scottish style of quiet, unfussy determination.

Morrison’s story is interesting enough – born and raised in Glasgow, the son of ship’s fitter, who settled on the east coast and made epic trips to paint abroad, most notably to the Arctic – but it’s added to here by a plangent late-life twist: he is losing his sight, to the extent he can barely see what he is painting. True to form, Morrison accepted this as uncomplainingly as anything else – “irritating” is the strongest imprecation I can recall – and there’s something inexpressibly moving about the way he strokes a blank sheet of paper taped to his easel as if he can’t wait to get started.

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Introduction review – tangled web of relationships from Korea to Berlin

https://www.theguardian.com/film/dramaplay episode download
2 March, by Peter Bradshaw[ —]

Delicate vignette charts young lovers and their families in Hong Sang-soo’s lightweight but charming drama

Long after Lars von Trier’s Dogme 95 movement has been forgotten, with its tongue-in-cheek commitment to radically low-budget realist cinema, one director is still succeeding in releasing features that are cheaper than student films, composed of people simply talking to each other: in apartments, in restaurants over a lot of alcohol and in the streets with non-actors heedlessly walking past in the background. That director is the South Korean director Hong Sang-soo, who opens this online Berlin film festival with another intriguing and sympathetic vignette: enigmatically entitled Introduction, running at just 66 minutes, despite containing enough backstory detail for a two-hour drama. I’m not sure it is entirely successful, but it demonstrates Hong’s delicate touch in creating films that, like a certain type of short story or poem, suggest more depth and detail than is apparent on the surface.

So why is it called Introduction? Some characters are introduced to each other, in different scenes – from different generations, with the polite unease and formality that this entails – and in other scenes, characters are introduced to new ideas and emotions. There is a strange scene in which the lead character appears to introduce himself to his girlfriend for the first time, on a chilly beach, despite their intimacy having been already established in previous scenes, leaving us to wonder, if only for a moment, if it is a flashback or a dream he is having, or if both are a dream someone else is having. The film flits with a dreamlike lightness from country to country, from South Korea to Germany, and back again.

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Backtrace review – Sylvester Stallone memory-loss heist caper is one to forget

2 March, by Leslie Felperin[ —]

Matthew Modine is a gangster with amnesia, Stallone the cop trying to piece his story together … and you can join the dots too

This plodding crime thriller came out in the US in 2018 but now is its chance to dazzle the UK with its dullness, straight-to-digital lost heist-money shenanigans and easy-to-see-coming plot twists. The whole thing is really waxy and sad, like the immobile face of co-star Sylvester Stallone; although the chance to enjoy the always interesting, never-as-big-as-he-should-have-been Matthew Modine, still looking pretty fly with a shock of white-and-gold hair, is very welcome.

An opening blam-blam shootout establishes the stakes and premise: a gang of criminals and inside men plotted and pulled off a bank heist, only to get ambushed in the woods. The multimillion-dollar haul was never found, and the only survivor was Donovan MacDonald (Modine). Unfortunately, a head wound left him with profound retrograde amnesia, and he spends another seven years in a medical penitentiary not even able to remember the crime he’s accused of or, more importantly, where the money is.

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Last Moment of Clarity review – neo-noir in double trouble

2 March, by Leslie Felperin[ —]

This identity thriller suffers from overreliance on coincidences and perplexing cameos from Brian Cox and Udo Kier

Brothers Colin and James Krisel and/or actor Zach Avery must be either very well financed or ridiculously persuasive because they’ve managed to pull together a supporting cast and budget for this debut thriller that far exceeds what the script seems to warrant. At heart, Last Moment of Clarity is a slight, imaginatively thin B-movie which doesn’t so much as allude to Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window and Vertigo as outright steal from them brazenly, ending up with a limp neo-noir that unfolds in the streets of Paris and classy apartments in Los Angeles. There are cameos from Brian Cox and Udo Kier, both great scene-stealing actors with many virtues other than accent mimicry, judging by the bizarre Scots-French mashup Cox tries out here that is only a hair’s breadth better than Kier’s eastern European-German gangster stylings.

In any case, each of them appears only fleetingly; the bulk of the running time features Avery as a schlubby guy from New York named Sam who is hiding out in Paris. Sam mooches about the streets and works for bar owner Cox, all the while mourning the loss of his girlfriend, Georgia (Samara Weaving), who died at the hands of some lesser gangsters who work for Kier’s character, for reasons only gradually revealed. When he sees an actor named Lauren in a movie who looks just like Georgia, he becomes convinced that the two women are one and the same, and flies to La La Land to find out.

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Golden Globes suffers catastrophic drop in TV ratings

2 March, by Andrew Pulver[ —]

Early Nielsen figures suggest 60% drop in viewers as coronavirus forces starry awards event into limp virtual format

To add to the difficulties besetting the Hollywood Foreign Press Association (HFPA), early TV ratings for its Sunday-night Golden Globes awards show have dropped catastrophically from previous levels. They are likely to become the lowest since the show returned to NBC in 1996.

Ratings agency Nielsen’s early “fast national” figures reveal that the show was 60% down on last year’s edition, drawing around 5.4 million viewers in the 18-49 age group, compared to 14.8 million for a similar estimate last year. The final total is likely to rise – the 2020 ratings ended at 18.5 million after all data was collected – but the 2021 total is set to fall well below the 14.7 million recorded in 2009.

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Justine review – tender queer romance with social angst

https://www.theguardian.com/film/dramaplay episode download
2 March, by Phuong Le[ —]

A meet-cute with an edge launches Tallulah Haddon’s self-destructive Brightonian into a sharply observed love affair

Remember all-consuming crushes and awkward first dates? For young people in this age of self-isolation, such tender encounters might well be from another century. Chronicling a young lesbian romance set in a wintry Brighton, Justine is the remedy to the lack of such human contact. But it’s not all coffee dates and beach cuddles: this film is also a window on the harrowing cycle of addiction among displaced young adults.

Justine (Tallulah Haddon), on probation and cut off from her family, is in a state of disarray. Awakened by loud bangs from the door – her landlord is asking for this month’s rent – Justine staggers dazedly, and fully clothed, out of the bath. Her lips bear a nasty cut, and her left arm is covered in swathes of white bandages. This dire scene opens to a more hopeful past, only three months earlier, when Justine first locks eyes with Rachel (Sophie Reid), a teacher-to-be, in a bookstore. Harsh financial realities immediately undercut the sweetness of this meet-cute. Rachel gasps as Justine slyly pockets a copy of Ovid’s Heroides.

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'Sexism stands at the door': 11 female film-makers written out of mainstream Hollywood history

2 March, by Helen O'Hara[ —]

Maya Angelou and Jean Seberg were just some of the women who faced everything from racism and sexism to transphobia, yet produced some of cinema’s most defining pictures

Everything we’re told about cinema is that it’s shaped by men. If women feature at all in many Hollywood histories, it’s to look gorgeous on screen and lead interesting personal lives off it.

But this narrative has been warped, consciously and not, by the men who have dominated film-making for almost a century, ignoring the women who made films, challenged the studio system – and helped bring it down.

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'I'd like to join Pixar one day': meet Afghanistan's first female animator

https://www.theguardian.com/world/south-and-central-asiaplay episode download
2 March, by Stefanie Glinski in Kabul[ —]

Born under Taliban rule, Sara Barackzay studied abroad and now hopes to start her own school

A woman in traditional dress breaks open the bars of a prison. A young child dances, oblivious to a backdrop of tanks and explosions. The drawings by Afghanistan’s first professional female animation artist, Sara Barackzay, reflect the struggles of her young life.

Barackzay, who lost her hearing as a child, left Afghanistan to study in Turkey, but has returned with the hope of starting a specialist school for animation arts.

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Coming to America's Arsenio Hall: 'In the 90s I was black Twitter'

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/tv-and-radioplay episode download
2 March, by Lanre Bakare[ —]

As late-night TV’s first black host, Hall introduced MC Hammer and RuPaul to the world. Now, he’s returning to the spotlight in the sequel to the hit Eddie Murphy comedy

“So I’m watching this guy and I’m like: ‘All he has is a glass of juice … and his braaaain,’” says Arsenio Hall, who is in the middle of a five-minute anecdote about a conversation he once had with a man called Hank. I didn’t ask about Hank, but here we are, talking about his marvellous bonce. I’m speaking to Hall because he’s back as Semmi, the supercilious man servant to Eddie Murphy’s King Akeem in Coming 2 America, the long-awaited sequel to the 1988 comedy. But more on that in a minute – we need to get back to Hank.

When he met Hank who, he enthusiastically recalls, was from Ypsilanti, Michigan (“These details you never forget when it changes your life!”), Hall was a young magician from Cleveland with a dove act, while Hank was a seasoned operator, who once managed to entertain a crowd of Al Green fans with his comedy chops and a glass of juice he used as a prop.

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