Film

“Although for some people cinema means something superficial and glamorous,
it is something else. I think it is the mirror of the world.” – Jeanne Moureau

Scroll down for the latest film reviews of world cinema to inspire adventures of your own.

Review: Sin Nombre

Amidst a very real migration crisis on the Mexican/US border, this Mexican/US collaboration has produced an insightful, deeply human tale of the true cost of crossing borders and hoping for a better life. With glorious cinematography and a versatile, exciting director at the helm, Sin Nombre is a revelation.  Language: Spanish Running Time: 96 mins Director: Cary Fukunaga Starring: Paulina Gaitan, Edgar Flores Genre: Adventure/Crime Drama Rating: 4 stars The Film Risking violence, robbery and death on a monumental journey atop a freight train, Honduran teenager Sayra is travelling through the entirety of Mexico with her father and uncle, hoping to build a better life in the USA. Her world collides with that of Casper, a young, troubled soul who has got on the wrong side of his violent gang, the notorious MS-13. How much is Sayra prepared to risk for Casper, and for how long can he outrun the gangsters who want him dead? The Review Though this film pulls no punches in terms of bloody violence, it in no way over-dramatises the situation. In fact, it’s a restrained portrayal which never spills into the gratuitous, and Fukunaga is a director with a feather-light touch. He pulls you into the story with long silences atmospheric shots, contrasting the lush beauty of Mexico’s changing landscapes with the gritty ganglands and the piles of people sheltering under thin sheets of plastic on top of the train. The viewer is left to draw their own conclusions about the characters’ motives and thoughts. It’s hard not to be swept up in the story, journeying each step with Sayra and Casper. Find out a... read more

Review: Les Intouchables

French cinema is having something of a renaissance, with films sweeping across the channel attracting a global audience. Les Intouchables raises the bar even higher, breaking box-office records set by previous smashes such as ‘Amelie’ and ‘The Chorus’. A laugh-out-loud comedy, and a touching, original story, watch it before Hollywood gets their hands on the rights. Language: French Running Time: 112 minutes Director: Olivier Nakache, Eric Toledano Starring: François Cluzet, Omar Sy Genre: Comedy Drama Rating: 4 stars The Film Philippe (Cluzet), is a multi-millionaire Parisian with a short temper and a love of classical music and pretentious art. He is also a quadriplegic, confined to a state-of-the-art wheelchair. Driss (Sy), is a French-African born into the slums of Paris, where drugs and violence are a way of life. They form an unlikely partnership when Driss turns up at a job interview with Philippe just so he can get his social security benefit, and ends up with a job as Philippe’s carer. Philippe’s dull, clinical world is flung into disarray as Driss delights in driving his supercars, flirting with Philippe’s assistant and disbelievingly pouring hot water onto his boss’ unfeeling legs. Life without Driss is soon unthinkable, but are their worlds simply too different for the fun to last? The Review: I knew this film was something special when it had my mum and brother gripped – I can’t usually get them to sit through an entire foreign-language film! From the first flash-forward scence, which sets up an extraordinary scenario that takes the rest of the film to unpick, to the moments of laugh-out-loud humour, this is a compassionate, fresh and funny film. While there... read more

An Amelie Tour of Paris

Thirteen years ago, an off-beat French film captured the hearts and imaginations of people all over the world and propelled Audrey Tatou to stardom. Le Fableux Destin d’Amelie Poulain remains an iconic Parisian film, with such a sweet story at its heart that you just can’t help but fall in love with Amélie and her city, and there’s no better way to relive the film than with an Amelie tour of Paris.  If you’d like to know more about the film, read the review here. These days, though the Amélie obsession there once was in Paris has quietened, the film is still deeply intertwined into Paris life. Stand long enough in the Gare du Nord, which was one of the locations used in the film, and the tinkling, melodic music of Yann Tiersen’s soundtrack will fill the air, courtesy of an amateur pianist at one of the public pianos. But it is in Montmartre that the film really comes to life. Walking up Rue Lepic, close to the Moulin Rouge, the Café des 2 Moulins is an unprepossessing sight at first; one street café among many along this stretch. Patrons sit in the wicker chairs beneath the scarlet awning, sipping coffee and flicking through the morning paper, keeping one eye on the hustle and bustle of life around them. But it is unmistakably Amélie’s café. Inside, the long bar, and even the layout of the chairs and tables, is exactly as it looks in the film. The only thing that is missing is the hypochondriac waitress, and you can’t help but watch the glasses on the shelves behind the bar,... read more

Review: Le Fableux Destin d’Amelie Poulain

Bursting onto our screens in a shimmer of light and joy way back in 2001, Le Fableux Destin d’Amelie Poulain had immediate – and lasting – success, winning a slew of awards and legions of fans. Whether you’re discovering this delightful film for the first time, or re-watching it for the twentieth, Amelie is a sweet, whimsical and touching story that it won’t fail to enchant you.  Language: French Running Time: 122 minutes Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet Starring: Audrey Tatou, Mathieu Kassovitz Genre: Romantic Comedy Rating: 5 stars The Film Amelie is a solitary young woman, deprived of affection and friendship throughout her childhood and she lives as an outsider, observing life. When she discovers a box hidden in the wall of her apartment, she begins an odyssey of kind deeds, never looking for recognition or thanks. She helps her reclusive and emotionally closed father to travel by sending his garden gnome off on an adventure, and brings experiences of the outside world to a painter with bones of glass, confined to his flat. But it is not until the painter reveals some truths to Amelie that she finally starts to truly live, and to find happiness for herself.   The Review: It is no surprise that this film has achieved cult status. With a strong, distinctive look and wide, doe eyes, Amelie captures hearts with her simple desire to help others and make them happy. The storytelling is akin to her fairytale, heightened by the use of muted colours and melodic, beguiling music. Yet Amelie never slips into the saccharine, always treading the fine line between pathos and light-heartedness, fantasy and realism. While the... read more

Review: The Square

Egypt is once again on the brink of an election and ex-president Morsi has just gone on trial, seven months after his one year term came to an explosive end. But has anything really changed, three years on from the first demonstrations in Tahrir Square, which sparked the Arab Spring and held the world’s attention? Filmmaker Jehane Noujaim tells the complete story of The Square and its revolutionaries, winning a clutch of awards in the process. Language: Arabic/English Running Time: 104 minutes Director: Jehane Noujaim Starring: Khalid Abdalla, Magdy Ashour, Ahmed Hassan, Ragia Omran, Ramy Essam, Aida Elkashef Genre: Documentary Studio: Noujaim Films Rating: 5 stars The Film The world was gripped in January 2011, when thousands of Egyptians filled Tahrir Square for days on end, demanding Mubarak’s resignation and the downfall of a regime which had seen secret police beating up citizens and a lack of any real freedom of speech. We were moved when Christians protected their Muslim brothers and sisters during Friday prayers. And we were jubliant when Mubarak finally said the words the crowd had been waiting to hear – that he was stepping down. Then came the army, swiftly replaced by the Muslim Brotherhood, with Morsi at its helm. Just as swiftly he was out, and once again, Egypt was under the control of the military, awaiting new elections once more. For outsiders looking in, we only got these snapshots, fragmented pieces of a story which are hard to make sense of. The Square is an attempt to draw all those pieces together. We follow a small group of Tahrir Square’s revolutionaries who were there at... read more

A Book and a Film for Chinese New Year

Happy Chinese New Year! Though I still have yet to set foot in China, I have long been fascinated by its art, culture and writing. I have chosen a Chinese book and film to share with you to celebrate the start of the Year of the Horse (though I can’t promise a great many horses are involved), both of which piqued my interest in world film and literature when I was at an impressionable age. I am very much fond of the idea of a new year at the end of January – after a long and dreary post-Christmas month, with dark mornings and darker evenings, it is a welcome relief to arrive at the start of February, knowing that Spring is not so very far away. Plus, if the best-laid resolutions of January went wrong in week one, this is another chance of renewal. 2014 is the year of the Horse, which apparently brings with it prosperity, good fortune and fiery energy – which sounds good to me! Until the first buds of Spring do appear, this seems like a very appropriate time to curl up with a Chinese book and film to get through these last winter nights. Book: Chinese Cinderella Whenever I went to stay with my Grandma as a child, she would take me to the local bookshop and let me choose a book. I built up quite a library this way, and on one occasion, when I was 11 or 12, I chose Chinese Cinderella from the shelves. I know they say to never judge a book by its cover, but I’m sure that... read more

Review: Familia

The Swedish filmmaker Mikael Wistrom first met the Barrientos family over 30 years ago whilst working on another film in Peru. He remained in contact with them and so heard about the hardships and tough decisions that they were facing. Knowing that their situation represented that of many Peruvian families, he returned to tell their story. Language: Spanish Country of production: Sweden Running time: 82 mins Directors: Mikael Wistrom and Alberto Herskovits Starring: Naty Barrientos Genre: Documentary Studio: Manharen film and tv – Ventana Film AB Rating: 4 stars   The Film Naty is the heart of her family. She is a mother, grandmother and devoted spouse. As the film opens, she makes the difficult decision to leave them all and travel across the Atlantic to Spain. She is at an age where she should be reaping the rewards of years spent working hard, but instead she has found a job as a maid in a Spanish hotel in order to try and ease the financial burdens on her family. The narrative voice in this documentary is provided by Naty’s daughter, Judith. She is a gentle, artistic soul who keeps a diary to cope with all the pressures surrounding her mother’s departure. She feels shame that she has not gone instead of her mother, as well as the pressure of filling her shoes.   The Review Wistrom and Herskovits have given us a unique insight into family life with an intimacy very rarely achieved on a cinema screen. The film in no way tries to give an explicit social commentary, neither does it pass judgement on the actions of... read more

Review: Waste Land

Lucy Walker is an established director, with documentaries including Countdown to Zero already under her belt. This Brazilian project, Waste Land, has made waves around the world. It was nominated for an Oscar and has won several other awards, including the 2010 Sundance Audience Award for a world cinema documentary. Language: Portuguese, English Year of release: 2011 Running Time: 85 mins Director: Lucy Walker Starring: Vik Muniz Genre: Documentary Rating: 5 stars The Film Brazilian-born Vik Muniz is a successful artist in his adopted home of New York, who decides to return to his native country for a community art project. His initial idea is to use garbage in his art, so he seeks out the largest garbage dump in the world; the Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro. He is not at all sure what sort of people he will find working there – he is prepared for drug addicts and questionable people living on the edges of society. However, when he meets the pickers, or catadores, he is surprised to find a well-organised syndicate of 2,500 workers, who make an honest living and carry themselves with dignity, even whilst picking through the rubbish to find recyclable materials. Six of the catadores are chosen to have their portraits turned into art, each one representing a famous work. They include Tiao, the leader of the Association and fan of Machiavelli, Zumbi, the “librarian”, who set up a community library from the discarded books he collects, and Irma, the resident cook who conjures up stews, salads and pasta dishes for the workers. The experience changes everything for the catadores involved,... read more

Review: Little White Lies

Following the success of Tell No One (2006), writer-director Guillaume Canet and actor Francois Cluzet reunite for this close-up look at friendship. With a stellar ensemble cast that also includes Marion Cotillard, we are invited on a holiday where small deceptions and hard truths are revealed. Language: French Year of Release: 2011 Running time: 154 min Director: Guillaume Canet Starring: Marion Cotillard, François Cluzet, Benoit Magimel, Jean Dujardin Genre: Drama/Comedy Rating: 4 stars The Film                                                                                                               Max (Francois Cluzet) is a rich and successful Parisian restaurateur who owns an idyllic summer home by the sea. Every summer, he invites his close circle of friends to come and spend a month there, where they pass lazy days on his boat, at the beach and visiting the fatherly oyster-farmer Jean-Louis who is an old family friend. However, a few days before they are due to go, Ludo (Jean Dujardin) is seriously injured in a motorbike accident. While he remains in intensive care, the rest of the group make the decision that they should still go on holiday. But once they get there, it’s not the relaxed break they had hoped for. Max and Vincent (Benoit Magimel) are barely on speaking terms; Marie (Marion Cotillard) is preoccupied with thoughts of Ludo and everyone is having some kind of... read more

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