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The Red Penguins

Red Penguins

Using ice hockey as the prism through which to view Russia in the immediate post-Soviet era, that’s the USP of Red Penguins, a documentary made by Gabe Polsky, the son of Russian emigrés and a former hockey player himself, so he knows whereof he speaks. Polsky takes us back to the 1990s, after the fall … Read more
Maya and Dini arrive in the village

Impetigore

Impetigore? It’s the English title of a horror movie whose original Indonesian name is Perempuan Tanah Jahanam, so if you’re aiming for authenticity, pile right in. The Trivia section on its IMDb entry helpfully tells us that the word is a conflation of “Impetigo (bacterial infection of the skin that is more common in young … Read more
Maria, Ana and Paula at school

Prayers for the Stolen

Writer/director Tatiana Huezo drops us straight in to Prayers for the Stolen (Noche de Fuego). As a dark screen accompanied by rapid breathing yields to a daytime scene of two females digging what looks like a shallow grave, the internal interrogation starts – Who are these people? Where are they? Is it a grave? Why … Read more
The miners marching in a line

The War Below

War movies cost money, but the team behind The War Below have somehow managed to produce one on the sort of budget that Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk or Peter Jackson’s 1917 probably spent on catering. And they’ve made a decent fist of it. The fascinating and true story it tells is of the British miners recruited … Read more
Ivan in a dark room with two heavies

Azor

A Swiss banker arrives in Argentina in 1980 looking for his partner, who’s mysteriously disappeared. Writer/director Andreas Fontana’s debut feature Azor tracks the progress of Ivan de Wiel, which is anything but straightforward, in an oblique, tangential, mood-soaked almost-thriller that’s more about the journey than the destination. Being Argentina in 1980, with a military junta … Read more
Valene Kane as Melody

Profile

Profile is a 2018 drama about a journalist who poses online as a teenage Muslim convert from London to strike up a relationship with an Islamist jihadi fighting out in Syria. The immediate suprise of it is that this simple, high concept film rooted in political reality is directed by Timur Bekmambetov, the Russian/Kazakh director … Read more
Ivan Massagué stars as Goreng

The Platform

In The Platform (El Hoyo, in the original Spanish) a man wakes up in a place that isn’t familiar, a place full of dread and fear located in a world that seems to operate by different rules. He may not know where he is, but we know where we are: in one of those high … Read more
Juliette Binoche as Claire

Who You Think I Am

One person stalks another person online in Who You Think I Am (Celle Que Vous Croyez). If it’s not quite as creepy as you might expect, it’s not quite as emotionally engaging as it might be either, which is deliberate. We’re held at arm’s length, while co-writer/director Safy Nebbou gets busy with the mechanics of … Read more
Virgine and Bill walking

Stillwater

There are two stories being told in Stillwater, one well, the other other not so well. Unfortunately for all concerned, it’s the one that’s told not so well that the film insists it’s all about, from its title all the way through to its concluding scenes. At 2 hours 19 minutes you’d have thought that … Read more
Jean-Louis Trintignant as Silence

The Great Silence

One of the great puzzles about Sergio Corbucci’s 1968 spaghetti western The Great Silence (Il Grande Silenzio) is how shakily it starts. In one gruesomely unsteady shot after another, using lenses that are way too long, cinematographer Silvano Ippoliti appears to be putting on a demonstration of the genre’s technical shortcomings. Distant figures swing wildly … Read more
Aileen and W Eugene Smith

Minamata

From its title right through to its last gasp, Minamata, a drama based on real events, insists that it isn’t about the photographer W Eugene Smith. But it is. Smith was a photographer who’d distinguished himself in the Second World War and then returned to lay down many of the ground rules of photojournalism at … Read more
Jeon Do-yeon

Beasts Clawing at Straws

Beasts Clawing at Straws also goes by the English-language title of Beasts That Cling to the Straw but Rats in a Sack would also be a useful way of translating its original Korean title. It’s a story about different sets of people, all connected by a Louis Vuitton holdall full of cash, which we first … Read more

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