Film Reviews by TE

Welcome to TE's film reviews page. TE has written 300 reviews and rated 310 films.

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Intimate Enemies

Relevant to today's conflicts

(Edit) 24/10/2020

A very absorbing examination of the Algerian War of Independence, set in the daily experiences of a platoon of French soldiers.

The cinematography is convincing and the action sequences are disturbingly realistic.

Whilst the film is set within a specific context, it has implications that spread into our awareness of similar wars in Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. There is a tragic inevitability about the brutalisation of the main character, from a compassionate, honourable man to a half-insane killer.

This is a serious, honest entry in the catalogue of war movies.

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The Truth

Japanese director serves up French cinema at its best!

(Edit) 24/10/2020

As a big fan of Kore-eda's films I was intrigued to see how his subtle brilliance would travel to a European setting. In the event, 'Truth' is a triumph, a quietly engaging story lit up by stellar performances from all involved.

Catherine Deneuve is superb in her role as an ageing movie star who manages to be convincingly monstrous and lovable at the same time.

Juliette Binoche pitches her performance just right, no mean feat when she is so used to being the lead female character in her films.

And the rest of the cast provide magnificent support at every turn. Kore-eda is clearly a master at getting the best out of his actors, even when the subject is the potentially challenging one of acting itself.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Why Don't You Just Die!

Superb cartoonish entertainment

(Edit) 21/10/2020

Wow! Quite a startlingly good gore-comedy from young Russian director, Kirill Sokolov.

It owes plenty to Sergio Leone, to Korean revenge movies, to Itchy and Scratchy cartoons (the Simpsons) and to early Tarantino, when he still had some wit and originality.

But Sokolov also brings his own toys to the party, and I would recommend viewers to watch the lively and inventive short films that are included with the blu-ray disc. Luridly red gore is a common theme, but it's all done with a lightness of touch and a knack for excellent twists in the narrative.

2 out of 2 members found this review helpful.

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Curb Your Enthusiasm: Series 10

Keeps up the high standards!

(Edit) 21/10/2020

What a relief! This truly great comedy series had begun to run out of steam in season 9, so I wasn't sure what to expect from a somewhat belated season 10.

In the event this latest season is a triumph. The episodes are longer but Larry David and co more than meet this potential challenge. Indeed some episodes are at least as funny as the very best early work.

The fibre of the comedy sticks to its tried and tested formulae (and we wouldn't want anything less) but there is a sense of energy and fun that freshens up the whole enterprise.

Hopefully there will be a season 11 one day!

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Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Beautifully constructed love story

(Edit) 09/10/2020

A truly absorbing film. The story is carefully paced and builds to an intense final section.

The director, Celine Sciamma, is very interested in the concept of the 'gaze' and much of her work is devoted to giving space and weight to the female gaze. Using a woman portrait artist as a co-lead character is perfect for this purpose.

There is a real spark between the two female leads, and the main narrative is enhanced by the character of the housemaid.

The interior scenes are stark and unfussy, which foregrounds the physical presence of the women. The exterior scenes are often very beautiful and wild.

5 out of 6 members found this review helpful.

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Culloden / The War Game

Two classic documentary films

(Edit) 07/10/2020

'Culloden' has to be one of World Cinema's finest, most innovative documentaries. It has more than stood the test of time.

There is a stark, pared down quality to the film that demonstrates how a skilled director can turn the lack of big money backing into an advantage. Low budget can mean high quality.

The battle of Culloden was the last pitched battle on UK soil and Watkins shows the terrible consequences for the Highland Scots, giving us a lesson in the bitter legacy of the abuse of power that is relevant today across the globe.

'The War Game' was more notorious than 'Culloden' at the time, but it has not aged so well. Inevitably the technology of media, policing and warfare have moved on at too fast a pace for some aspects of the film to be seen as anything more than a quaint reminder of a different age.

However, it remains a fascinating document and a hard-hitting statement on the impact of nuclear threat and war-mongering reality on the lives of ordinary people.

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A Taste of Honey

A joy to see this again!

(Edit) 07/10/2020

The two previous reviewers have summed up the best aspects of this excellent Tony Richardson classic.

The blu-ray disc contains an enjoyable and informative Q & A with Rita Tushingham and Murray Melvin, plus other useful extras.

One of the most interesting aspects from the vantage point of 2020, nearly sixty years since the film was released, is the comparison between Shelagh Delaney's script and the work of the male writers of British films in the late 1950s and early 1960s. The gender issues, along with race and homophobia, are much more in the foreground than in any other UK films of the period. There's a case for saying that Delaney's original stage text was a little more daring than the film version.

Above all the film is carried along by a restless energy and a growing sense that this is a story that will not have a happy ending, and the film is all the better for that.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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A Gentle Creature

And now for something different, in a good way!

(Edit) 23/09/2020

A fascinating film that challenges the audience in brave and interesting ways. Very much a film for people who believe that one of the functions of art is to disturb us and make us think.

The story in itself is very absorbing and is enhanced by some excellent cinematography. It is hard to write about 'A Gentle Creature' without giving away key elements of the narrative, but suffice to say that much of the final 20-25 minutes is taken up with a dream sequence that has divided critics.

Personally, I did find this sequence too much of a jarring change from the highly realistic body of the film. However, it is just an exaggerated version of the critique of modern Russia that is the theme of the whole movie, so it is at least consistent.

There are many haunting sequences in 'A Gentle Creature', and Loznitsa is definitely "one to watch" in terms of groundbreaking World Cinema.

The disc contains an interview with him, and a very useful talk by a UK film writer.

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Aniara

How to go nowhere in space

(Edit) 19/09/2020

The weakness of this film lies in its sheer implausibility. A civilisation that can travel regularly to Mars and set up colonies there is likely to be able to rescue one of its ships, or at least communicate with it. And life seems to continue pretty much as normal for rather a long time after the ship has lost all its power. Everybody looks suspiciously buff and well fed on a diet of algae.

The strengths lie in its message about the dystopia that the human race seems bent on creating. The ship is, of course, a microcosm of our existing society and the film makers take us through the various stages of our decay.

There are, however, additional disappointments. It's a pity that the one prominent non-white character is the one who becomes a murdering tyrant. And the weird cult orgy scene is hilarious rather than sinister or erotic.

Maybe the book that Aniara is based on is better...the film doesn't make me want to find out.

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A Brighter Summer Day

Up there with the very best!

(Edit) 19/09/2020

This is one of the great films of world cinema. It appears regularly in the various top 100 films of all time lists, though the same director's other major masterpiece, 'Yi Yi: a One and a Two' appears higher up those lists. And these accolades are thoroughly deserved.

If I could I would give it more than 5 stars (partly to balance out the crass review by RD already on here!).

Don't be put off by the epic length, this is an absorbing story that takes in complex family dynamics, teenage psychosis, political displacement and many subtle shades of power abuse.

The extra dimension that Edward Yang brings to these subjects is empathy and a humane warmth. I recommend 'A One and a Two' as a better starting point for an acquaintance with Yang's work, but 'A Brighter Summer Day' (the title is a quotation from an Elvis Presley song) is also a timeless classic.

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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The Emigrants / The New Land

Absorbing saga, but not the full story

(Edit) 14/09/2020

The early section of this epic portrayal of Swedish emigration to America in the mid-19th century gets a little bogged down in its depiction of life in a rural Swedish community. However, the film hits its stride once the central family hit the road and cross the Atlantic.

The second disc offers an excellent portrayal of the hardships, dangers and drudgery that these early settlers faced.

The film is propelled by reliable performances from Max Von Sydow as the patriarch, and from Liv Ullman as the baby-machine mother. However, it is Eddie Axberg who really stands out as the restless, troubled brother.

The film does give a rather one-sided view of the clashes with the native Americans that erupted in the Minnesota area in 1862. There is no real questioning of the way that the Swedish families seize land for themselves. The film was made 50 years ago and I suspect that a contemporary director would adopt a much more nuanced approach to this issue.

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24 Frames

A quietly contemplative triumph

(Edit) 14/09/2020

This is a brilliant 'signing off' by the great Abbas Kiarostami. It includes a short but revealing interview with his son, who makes the point that this is not an entry point for the director's work, but is a magnificant coda.

The use of sound and music is vital to the project, and the result is a stunning all round artistic achievement.

The first of the 24 Frames is a charming adaptation of the well known winter scene by Brueghel. This segues into a series of 23 meditative shorts that sometimes pick up on aspects of the painting.

Kiarostami knew he was dying and this is a rare opportunity to accompany an artist in his final visions.

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Wyatt Earp

Just a bad home movie

(Edit) 10/09/2020

This is an amateur home movie. Not even unintentionally funny enough to be worth watching. Even the sound recording is dreadful. Avoid!

1 out of 1 members found this review helpful.

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Bill Morrison: Selected Films 1996-2014

Uniquely brilliant artistry

(Edit) 27/08/2020

This gets 5 stars for 'Decasia' alone!

The first disc traces Morrison's development and the origins of his trademark use of distressed found footage and avant garde music.

This is film-poetry that fits in a gallery as much as in a cinematic setting. Full screen showings of Morrison's work must be very rare, which is a shame as that would make for a more immersive experience.

'Outerborough' is the best of the other short films on Disc 1, a mesmerising split-screen ride on an urban monorail.

However, it is 'Decasia' that is the most fully realised work here. It is a treasure trove of memorable images and effects.

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For Sama

Extraordinary window into the horrors of civil war

(Edit) 22/08/2020

The first review on here, by "PV" is simply ignorant.

At no point in 'For Sama' is there any endorsement of Islamic fundamentalism in general or of ISIL in particular. We see the beginnings of the opposition to the Assad regime during the Arab Spring. ISIL did not hi-jack the freedom movement in Aleppo: they were present as one of many anti-Assad groups but chose to leave early on in order to help set up their disastrous caliphate.

It's a shame that such an excellent documentary should be the subject of such an ignorant attack by PV.

This is above all else a timeless document of humane values fighting to survive in the most extreme conditions of inhumanity. It puts the focus where it should be, on the children irreparably damaged by war and sectarian violence.

The honest self-questioning by Waad al-Kateab gives the film an ongoing resonance.

4 out of 4 members found this review helpful.
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