A I N F E A T U R E S
• Friday 2 February for 1 week
THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND (15)
(UK 2006) dir. Kevin Macdonald 123m.
Forest Whitaker, James McAvoy, Kerry Washington, Gillian Anderson, Simon McBurney.
Forest Whitaker gives a towering performance as the Ugandan tyrant who becomes an unlikely father figure to an impressionable young doctor.
1971, and young Scottish doctor Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) sticks a pin in a globe. He ends up in Uganda, working in a small village practice – until he meets Idi Amin, who has recently come to power. Through Nicholas’ eyes we watch as the fuse is lit on a powder keg, Amin revealing the bloodstains beneath the clown veneer in this fictionalised story of the very real dictator who killed 300,000 Ugandans. This is a thoroughly enjoyable, confident, dramatically satisfying movie from Kevin Macdonald. His skills as a documentary maker ensure a sense of urgency, and scenes of intimate dialogue are handled as expertly as those of parties and rallies. McAvoy gives his most confident and screen-filling perfomance yet as the wide-eyed, cocksure doctor. Whitaker endows Amin with quicksilver mood changes, turning on a sixpence from terrifying bluster to grinning seduction and wheedling charm, and then to childlike paranoia and fear. THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND is a riveting satire of white Europe's horrified fascination with Africa as a heart of darkness, which is nevertheless ripe for plunder for a sufficiently cocksure adventurer.
• Friday 2 February for 1 week
(US/Mexico 2006) Dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu 143m.
Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael García Bernal, Kôji Yakusho Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi.
Three powerful and moving stories interweave in new feature from the director of Amores Perros and 21 GRAMS.
Linking personal stories and global politics, Alejandro González Iñárritu's third and most ambitious feature uses taut storytelling to shocking emotional effect.
On a dusty Moroccan hillside two boys are trying out a rifle they've been given to protect the family's goats. Testing its range, they fire it at a tourist bus in the distance, and in that instant the lives of four separate groups of strangers, spread across three continents, collide. Iñárritu and regular screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga brilliantly interweave these parallel stories, exploring characters and relationships in depth, whilst cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto gives each of the strands its own distinctive look and feel. Combining intimate stories with epic scale, Babel is a bold, confident and gloriously cinematic assertion that assumptions and prejudices are more divisive than language barriers or borders.
• Friday 9 February for 1 week
CLIMATES (Iklimler) (15)
(Turkey/France 2006) dir. Nuri Bilge Ceylan 102m. Subtitles
Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Ebru Ceylan, Nazan Kirilmis, Mehmet Eryilmaz, Arif Asçi.
Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan (UZAK) stars along with his wife in this austere, haunting portrait of a break-up.
During a sweltering summer vacation on the Aegean coast, the relationship between university professor Isa and his younger, television producer girlfriend, Bahar, brutally implodes. Back in Istanbul that Autumn, Isa rekindles a torrid affair with a previous lover. But, when he learns that Bahar has left the city for a job in the snowy East, he follows her there to win her back. Ceylan's previous feature, UZAK (Distant), won the Grand Prix at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival and his growing reputation as a contemporary master is confirmed by the immensely satisfying CLIMATES. This may be his most personal film to date – in addition to directing and starring alongside his own wife, he also wrote and edited. Taking us to stunning locations across Turkey and using the seasons of the year to reveal the characters' often unstated emotions, this achingly poignant film subtly captures the emotional tremors that ripple through a relationship. Seemingly simple, the film's stunning visuals and unusually expressive sound design reveal a far more complex, thoughtful work lurking beneath the surface. With precise, beautiful compositions, it is a highly subdued, deliberately-paced work that conveys more through silence than the script. In his thoughtful, undemonstrative way, Ceylan is making films as rewarding, and as adult, as any director alive. Unmissable.
• Friday 16 February for 2 weeks
THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP (15)
(France/Italy 2006) dir. Michel Gondry 106m. Subtitles
Gael García Bernal, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Alain Chabat, Miou-Miou, Pierre Vaneck, Emma De Caunes.
Surreal, magical love story from director of ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND.
Stéphane (Gael García Bernal) has always had trouble separating real life from dreams. After his father dies in Mexico, he moves in with his mother in Paris and takes a dull job in an office populated by bored but colourful characters. He also starts falling for Stéphanie (Charlotte Gainsbourg), the charming young woman who lives across the hall. But they find it hard to connect, especially when she discovers that he fancies her friend Zoe. Maybe Stephane's dreamland holds the answers? Michel Gondry’s boundless imagination turns this simple story of a young artist trying to woo his soulmate into a raucous visual feast with on-set effects, stop-motion animation and general outrageousness as the action flicks between Stephane’s waking life and his dreams. Those who are familiar with Gondry’s music videos will recognise his amazing visual style as the film plays with textures, colours and periods: Stephane's dream world is made mostly of cardboard and cellophane, with hilarious variations on places and situations both real and imagined. Bernal is at his most relaxed and charming, and he and Gainsbourg share a wonderfully scruffy creativity with a zing of chemistry. A kaleidoscopic concoction, it's busy, charming, and packed with heart and soul – and a lot of fun.
|• Friday 2 March for 1 week
THE ILLUSIONIST (PG)
(US 2006) dir. Neil Burger 109m.
Edward Norton, Paul Giamatti, Rufus Sewell, Jessica Biel.
Edward Norton stars in this elegant fable of art, love and politics set in 19th century Vienna.
The show-stopping trickery of mysterious magician Eisenheim (Edward Norton) is capturing the imagination of the masses. When the Crown Prince Leopold (Rufus Sewell) is baffled by the show, he sets out to uncover the reality behind the magic with the help of Vienna’s Chief Inspector Uhl (Paul Giamatti). But the magician refuses to cooperate, leading to a battle of wits. Meanwhile the Prince’s fiancée Sophie (Jessica Biel) realises she knows Eisenheim from childhood…
THE ILLUSIONIST curls around you like a smoke ring. Writer-director Burger compels you to try to peek behind the curtain, but closes it just before you can get close enough to see what’s there. Shot in muted tones that are a throwback to an older era of Hollywood, the costumes and sets are wonderfully crafted. The Philip Glass score is achingly beautiful and special effects give the film a touch of other-worldliness. Edward Norton is at his best as the charismatic Eisenheim. Part love triangle, part police investigation and part magical showcase, THE ILLUSIONIST is an intriguing tale crafted with meticulous care.
• Friday 9 March for 2 weeks
INLAND EMPIRE (15)
(US/Poland/France 2006) dir. David Lynch 180m. Some subtitles
Laura Dern, Jeremy Irons, Justin Theroux, Harry Dean Stanton, Julia Ormond.
Mind-bending, fascinating epic from the godfather of surrealism David Lynch.
An attractive blonde actress falls down rabbit holes inside rabbit holes in this stunning new feature from the maker of BLUE VELVET, TWIN PEAKS and MULHOLLAND DRIVE (which this film resembles like an evil twin). Nikki Grace (Laura Dern) has just landed the role of Susan Blue in a new film called “On High in Blue Tomorrows”, a romantic melodrama alongside womanising co-star Devon Berk (Justin Theroux). At first delighted with her big role, shadows start to fall when it’s revealed the film is based on a Polish gypsy folktale, and it’s a remake – the first shoot collapsed when the two main actors were murdered. Soon the film-within-a-film casts an enveloping spell over Nikki, as her real life and that of her character begin to merge. So begins a mesmerising, perplexing journey through dark hallways, grand mansions, sleazy LA boulevards and the snowy streets of 1930s Poland, populated by a mysterious weeping woman, a troupe of young prostitutes and three giant rabbits who are starring in their own chilling ‘sitcom’. Despite a different visual quality to his previous films (this was made on consumer digicam), the content is pure Lynch. With shocking changes of pace, terrifying soundscapes and a host of bewildering characters, you are left trying to put the myriad pieces of this huge jigsaw together days later. Alternately beautiful and ugly, funny and horrifying, this may be Lynch’s most imcomprehensible film yet. But don’t let that put you off. Sit back and let the cracked Lynchian brilliance wash over you; in this multiplex world films like INLAND EMPIRE are golddust.
• Friday 23 March for 1 week
AMAZING GRACE (*)
(UK 2006) dir. Michael Apted 116m.
Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Youssou N’Dour, Romola Garai, Rufus Sewell.
Inspiring story of legendary politician William Wilberforce, detailing his long struggle to abolish the slave trade in the British Empire.
During late 18th century Britain, the political and economical motives for slavery are deeply entrenched: the entire Empire is built on the barbaric transport and sale of slaves. Young William Wilberforce, recently elected to parliament, meets a small group who are campaigning for an end to the slave trade. Joining them, he begins to gain momentum and support for his cause through brilliant oratory, a series of political manoeuvres and his appeal to his fellow man’s better nature. AMAZING GRACE charts his progress over twenty years until abolition on 25 March 1807. Ioan Gruffudd magnificently portrays the complexity and heroism of Wilberforce, with brilliant supporting performances from Albert Finney playing slave-trader turned hymn writer John Newton and Michael Gambon as fellow campaigner Lord Charles Fox. Michael Apted's socially conscious style continually reminds us of the brutality of the slave trade upon which the Empire was built, whilst brilliantly capturing the look and sound of a sumptuous age. A lovely, moving and intelligent film, released almost two hundred years to the day after Wilberforce’s humanitarian victory.
|• Friday 30 March for 2 weeks
DAYS OF GLORY (Indigènes) (*)
(France 2006) dir. Rashid Bouchareb 123m. Subtitles
Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri, Roschdy Zem, Sami Bouajila, Bernard Blancan, Mathieu Simonet, Benoît Giros.
Important, intelligent drama about North African soldiers fighting for France in World War II.
1943. Young North Africans Said, Abdelkader, Messaoud and Yassir have never stepped foot on French soil, but during World War Two they enlist in the French Army along with 130,000 other "indigenous soldiers," to liberate the “motherland” from the Nazi enemy. We follow them as they make their rookie mistakes, gain confidence and fight against considerable odds before facing the biggest challenge: defending an Alsace village alone against a German battalion. Alongside the expertly done dramatic action sequences, Bouchareb and screenwriter Olivier Lorelle ensure we see the personal lives of the protagonists, starting with their stories as individuals: their reasons for signing up, romances, friendships. But at the core of this film is something not tackled before – that of patriots fighting selflessly for a homeland they had never seen, that didn't treat them with égalité. The film ignited a debate about whether France had done right by these soldiers and the result, just a few months ago, was a change in government policy bringing foreign soldiers’ pensions into line with those of French veterans. The ensemble cast shared the best-actor award at the 2006 Cannes film festival – and rightly so. A taut, involving film that delivers all the things we look for in war movies and does so with intelligence and integrity.
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