TIFF FILM REVIEW: Mike Leigh’s ‘Peterloo’

By Ray Bennett

TORONTO – British director Mike Leigh’s latest, ‘Peterloo’, is a handsome period piece about a terrible incident in British history following victory over Napoleon at Waterloo when working class protestors in a 19th century English town were cut down by armed soldiers with many killed and more wounded.

The film’s attention to historical detail is to be admired greatly but the storytelling is so laboured that it will serve better as a tool for history teachers than entertainment for movie audiences. Cinematographer Dick Pope’s images are like paintings with first-class production design, sets and costumes. The performers, including Rory Kinnear and Maxine Peake, deliver with relish Leigh’s dialogue, which is heavy with regional accents.

The divide between the haves and have-nots in British society, however, is made obvious from the start as parliament rewards the Duke of Wellington with £750,000 while in the slums of Manchester a woman spends all day, every day, making pies that she lugs on a tray to market for one penny a pie.

There’s a lot of speechifying on both sides.The poor are mostly honest, industrious and accepting of their fate. The dishonest ones, who steal a bite to eat or a coat against the cold, are dispatched to prison, Australia or the gallows. The wealthy are all Southern nobs and the local big-wigs, keen to keep their nests feathered, smirk and sneer and impose the law with an iron rod. As organisers work towards a peaceful demonstration in support of democracy, the outcome appears inevitable and the film remains pedestrian.

‘Peterloo’ screened at the Venice International Film Festival and it will be shown at the London Film Festival on Oct. 17. It is due for release in the U.K. on Nov. 2.

 

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TIFF FILM REVIEW: Bardem, Cruz in ‘Everybody Knows’

By Ray Bennett

TORONTO – Married Spanish Oscar-winners Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem have become a reliable partnership onscreen and their latest feature together, ‘Everybody Knows’, is a bright addition to their canon.

Written and directed by Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (‘The Salesman’, ‘The Past’), it’s a handsome, almost old-fashioned romantic drama that turns into a mystery with the kidnaping of a young woman from a large and colourful wedding reception.

Cruz and Bardem play former lovers now married to other people and their relationship is central to the plot, which changes the mood of the film from joyous celebration to sobering fear and consequential examination of family secrets and resentments.

The two stars are matched by a fine cast and the film is shot beautifully by José Luis Alcaine (‘Volver’) with an evocative score by Javier Limón.

Screened at Cannes and Karlovy Vary, the film will open in the United Kingdom on March 8, 2019.

Full review to come.

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FILM REVIEW: Spike Lee’s ‘BlacKkKlansman’

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – Passionate and provocative but also at times great fun, Spike Lee’s new film ‘BlacKkKlansman’, which opens today in the United Kingdom, tells an only slightly exaggerated true story about a black cop who infiltrated the white supremacist group in the 1970s. Continue reading

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Make stars accept awards for action-film crafts winners

By Ray Bennett

LONDON – The American Motion Picture Academy has made a foolish error by introducing a condescending award for popular films. The thinking appears to be that fans of blockbuster action, super-hero and animated films will flock to watch if their favourites get a mention. It’s the wrong move. Continue reading

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TIFF 2018: Toronto film fest sets first 2018 galas

By Ray Bennett

The Toronto International Film Festival today announced a list of 17 galas and 30 special presentations for the 2018 event in September. They include 21 world premieres and seven international bows with films from around the world. Continue reading

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KFMF18: From video games to James Bond

By Ray Bennett

KRAKÓW – David Arnold and his music for the James Bond film “Casino Royale” made sure the 11th Kraków Film Music Festival ended on a high note Sunday night as he played the iconic 007 guitar theme over the end credits at a screening of the film with live orchestra. Continue reading

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KFMF18: Celtic, Nordic and Hispanic funk and folk fill the night

By Ray Bennett

KRAKÓW – Music and songs from Icelandic film and television composer Atli Örvarsson’s band Torrek and the movies of Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar enlivened the night on June 1 in a funk and funk concert called Dance2Cinema: All About Almodóvar | Funk & Folk at Kraków’s Museum of Municipal Engineering. Continue reading

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KFMF18: The sound of music, Polish style

By Ray Bennett

KRAKÓW – Often in minor chords and melancholy but then again rousing, lush and hopeful, the music of Polish cinema filled the newly named Krzysztof Penderecki Hall at ICE Kraków Thursday night as the Film Music Festival presented scores from films by homegrown filmmakers, especially internationally acclaimed director Agnieszka Holland. Continue reading

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KFMF18: Penderecki, Goldenthal make spines tingle

By Ray Bennett

KRAKÓW – Krzysztof Penderecki does not make music for movies, directors make films for his music. That, at least, is how it appeared at the Kraków Film Music Festival’s Penderecki2Cinema concert Wednesday evening.

The legendary Polish composer (above), celebrating his 85th birthday, was on hand to accept several standing ovations after conductor Dirk Brossé led the National Polish Radio Orchestra through four of his most acclaimed works that were written for the concert hall but have featured in iconic movies by directors such as Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorses and Andrzej Wajda. Continue reading

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KFMF18: Elliot Goldenthal on the ability to inspire

By Ray Bennett

KRAKÓW – American composer Elliot Goldenthal paid tribute to two Polish heroes at a media conference to open the 11th annual Krakow Film Music Festival today. Oscar-winner for “Frida” and recipient of the festival’s first Wojciech Kilar Award in 2015, he said that the first time he saw the sheet music for Krzysztof Penderecki’s “Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima for 52 Strings” when he was 17, he turned pale and started to tremble. Continue reading

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