I’m missing all the great friends who I see on the international film festival ‘circuit’ – usually I’d be looking forward to talking to them in Cannes about what films they were loving. So I decided to ask remotely, and find out what they are watching on lockdown.
Here’s mine to start:
THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF, Benjamin Ree's amazing Norwegian doc. It premiered at Sundance but I watched it on CPH:DOX's industry platform on Cinando in March. Sensitive and patient filmmaking, and the kind of human connection story I am craving at the moment. The final artwork gave me goosebumps. You can read more about the film here.
And here’s some very eclectic recommendations from around the globe. Hope you enjoy learning about some of them, from classics and kids' faves to films that have had to postpone their world premieres at 2020 festivals.
Paul Ridd, Picturehouse Entertainment (UK)
I watched MA VIE SEXUELLE for the first time the other day, Arnaud Desplechin's epic 1996 romantic drama, the first adventure of his recurring hero Paul Dedalus (Mathieu Amalric). I am jealous of everyone who got to see it in Cannes back in the day! What a wonderfully funny, energetic and free film. It shifts tones effortlessly and elegantly between scenes; riotously funny one moment, devastatingly sad the next. It has such patience and empathy for its cast of fuck-ups, wannabes and pretentious intellectuals, played wonderfully by some of the most beautiful actors who have walked the earth. It is so enraptured by the idea of human connection - intellectual, emotional, sexual - a perfect tonic for these isolated times.
Frederic Boyer, Tribeca and Les Arcs (France/US)
I would mention two films:
IN A LONELY PLACE (1950) A Nicholas Ray masterpiece with Gloria Grahame and Humphrey Bogart both intense in this pure mix of melodrama and film noir. Just added on Criterion Channel.
BOOKSMART (2019) by Olivia Wilde. A recent film i missed, and now I have already watched it twice. A feminist buddy movie with Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever both amazing I did not see a party so well filmed since a long time. It’s also very funny.
Anna Smith, critic and host of Girls On Film podcast (UK)
BOOKSMART. One of the funniest, freshest mood-lifters out there and a big favourite with the Girls On Film listeners and guests.
Roberto Olla, Eurimages (France)
I saw again PARIS, TEXAS by Wim Wenders on ARTE the other day. I had forgotten what an incredible aesthetic journey that film is. It blew my mind, just like the first time.
Charles McDonald, publicist (UK)
For me the highlight has been PT Anderson’s MAGNOLIA. Saw it a long long time ago. Wow. Dark, dazzling filmmaking that never lets you rest. Enthralling but bitter look at regret/s I guess. So may be not immediately appropriate for Covid times but meaty and thought-provoking.
Elad Samorzik, Jerusalem Film Festival (Israel)
During lockdown I watched many interesting films but the one that really stood out was DAU DEGENERATION by Ilya Khrzhanovskiy and Ilya Permyakovand. I thought it was masterful and it’s the perfect film for lockdown as its running time is just below six hours. Fascinating from the first minute to the last (and not for the faint of heart) one.
Thorsten Ritter, Beta Cinema (Germany)
Jim Jarmusch’s DOWN BY LAW was aired on ARTE one of these days. I stumbled upon it and found myself glued to my TV screen. Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni talking about the “black 8” in the prison cell – one of the most memorable and funny scenes in my cinematic (not home) schooling in 1986 when I had just started university. What a great signature slow pace the movie has, beautifully shot compositions and the overall sense of the cool, but never for just the sake of it. Love the film.
Gráinne Humphreys, Dublin International Film Festival (Ireland)
My recommendation is the wonderful discovery - thanks to Mark Cousin's documentary WOMEN MAKE FILM - its the wondrous LOVE LETTER - a 1953 black and white melodrama from Japan directed by former actress Kinuyo Tanaka. At the end of World War Two, a troubled man gets a job in Tokyo writing love letters for the woman whose GI boyfriends have returned to the US. Its incredibly moving and the love story is heartbreaking and the final scene ... well...
Louisa Dent, Curzon Artificial Eye (UK)
So the film that I really enjoyed as it was a total antidote to everything going on and all the miserable news is Gianni Di Gregorio's CITIZENS OF THE WORLD - totally delightful, restored my faith in humanity and made me want to have a large glass or two of white wine. Hopefully, you will be able to see it soon on Curzon Home Cinema!
Michael Favelle, Odin’s Eye (Australia)
I’ve watched TO CATCH A THIEF which aside from being a great film it is of course set in Cannes. With most of Cannes unchanged since the ‘60s its a lovely nostalgic 100 minutes or so. Grace Kelly constantly takes my breath away and a bronzed Carey Grant isn’t so shabby either.
Mike Goodridge, International Film Festival and Awards Macao and producer (UK)
I just watched DODSWORTH. It’s a William Wyler film from 1936 that I had never seen. For a Hollywood classic, it’s quite tough to find - neither on iTunes or Amazon - so I ordered a Korean DVD. It’s a brilliant adaptation of a Sinclair Lewis novel about an affluent American married couple on a tour of Europe whose relationship comes undone when they realise that neither of them know each other or themselves. Very daring for its time, and resonates today. Lots to love including wonderful Walter Huston, Ruth Chatterton as the nasty wife who has affairs with David Niven, Paul Lukas, etc.
Jakob Abrahamsson, NonStop Entertainment (Sweden)
I’ve been falling in love with MUBI tight and focused Scandi programming lately, seems like their programmer actually has read my tastes like a book (beat this, you algorithms!) and I’ve seen a bunch of great Joseph Losey films (rewatched THE SERVANT, saw THE ACCIDENT and EVA for the first time, was absolutely knocked out by MR KLEIN), saw the grim little noir GUILTY BYSTANDER, gonna watch two rare Melvilles I’ve never seen (WHEN YOU READ THIS LETTER and TWO MEN IN MANHATTAN) and a now they’re doing Dziga Vertov group and Dovzhenko. Also what I wanted to put forth is Powell & Pressburger’s THE SMALL BACK ROOM. Didn’t even know it existed but what an exquisite little WW2 drama thriller about tough times, not being sure if you’re up to measure, but finally duty (and love) prevails. No big gestures (apart from some amazing booze paranoia shoots) and beautiful storytelling in images (the empty photo frame at one point, OMG) and yeah, just perfect. Loved it. Seek it out!
Wendy Ide, critic (UK)
In an attempt to preserve a semblance of normality, we have carried on our tradition of a weekly family film night in which we introduce our 9-year-old to something new. After a tearful first week of lockdown, we decided on Stephen Chow's KUNG FU HUSTLE (2004). Yes, I know its a 15, but with an excess of rules outside the house, we have relaxed some of those at home. And it turns out that inventively choreographed cartoon violence and over-caffeinated silliness is EXACTLY the kind of thing that lifts the spirits during lock down. And watching your kid laughing uncontrollably when someone gets bitten on the face by snakes is an utter joy which, for a moment at least, makes everything else okay.
Gaia Furrer, Venice Days (Italy)
During this lockdown I'm actually on a sort of honeymoon with my beloved Derek Jules Gaspard Ulric Niven van den Bogaerde (Dirk Bogarde). I am rewatching many great films with him such as ACCIDENT and THE SERVANT by Joseph Losey, LA CADUTA DEGLI DEI (THE DAMNED) and MORTE A VENEZIA (DEATH IN VENICE) by Visconti, DARLING by John Schlesinger, DESPAIR by Fassbinder. Yesterday evening I cheated on him with Warren Beatty in SPLENDOR IN THE GRASS (I could watch this film over and over again).
Manlin Sterner, publicist (Sweden)
Ironically, I don’t have that much time to watch films as my 8-year-old is off school and I’m juggling the little work that’s left to do - eek! - and home schooling, cooking lunch etc. But some to revisit are THE TRIP, THE TRIP TO ITALY and THE TRIP TO SPAIN. Although I’ve already seen these, I find they’re perfect in the sense that they pack a - for me - perfect Corona quasi confinement – a combination of comedy, wine, food, make-believe company with a dash of melancholy.
Sten-Kristian Saluveer, Storytek and Cannes Marche (Estonia/Japan)
The quarantine has been a good time to revisit some classics. For me its been Kieslowski’s THREE COLOURS - I can’t think of a more relevant time where the message and questions raised in these films would have more resonance. Loss, Hope, Trust, Sense of Community, Love and Europe - these films talked to me so powerfully 30 years ago as they do now.And on weekends its all about the genre oeuvre - Croneberg (CRASH most recently and the comments it makes on technology obsession are so relevant), and then John Carpenter from the beginning.
Reta Guetg, Zurich Film Festival (Switzerland) CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. I had to rewatch it in desperate need for Italianità, summer breeze and innocence... and I indulged in this feeling for days :)
Jacob Neiiendam, Danish Film Academy (Denmark)
Much of my time has been with homeschooling my sons, but we have also had a great time watching films and series together. Initially it seemed natural to watch zombie films and series (they loved THE KINGDOM on Netflix) and since Buster is just 10 we haven't watched many of them before, but he loves them. We saw films like WORLD WAR Z and TRAIN TO BUSAN but the highlight was rewatching SHAUN OF THE DEAD it is still as hilarious and by far the best of their collaborations. The way the gamer (Nick Frost) ends his 'life' nailed it for them!
Kaleem Aftab, journalist, critic and programmer (UK) My film recommendation is WOMEN MAKE FILM. Lockdown was designed to watch 15 hour documentaries. I was skeptical about how Mark Cousins would do another epic journey about film after his THE STORY OF FILM, but was more than surprised by the excellent structure, which is like a mini lesson in how to read a film, split up into 40 accessible chapters narrated by some of our faves, including Tilda Swinton. At home you can watch one lesson at a time, or take in a three hour slot over five days as it was screened in Toronto. I did a mix of both. Then the insights are perfect. And I don't often see something about the history of film where I'm embarrassed (not by seeing so few of the films) but how many of the directors have passed me by.
Laurin Dietrich, publicist, Wolf (Germany)
VARIETY by Bette Gordon from 1983, which was recently available to screen at Arsenal3 - the online screening room of the Berlin cinematheque Arsenal, home of Berlinale Forum as well. They made their online programme available for all, not only members.
Stephen Kelliher, Bankside Films (UK)
We re-watched SILENCE OF THE LAMBS recently. It was fun and great to see Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins in great form and I do love an ‘90s throwback thriller which stands the test of time. MISBEHAVIOUR by Philippa Lowthorpe is pitch perfect. Absolutely loved it. Highly recommend.
Lizette Gram Mygind, Danish Film Institute (Denmark)
I have to recommend the doc SONGS OF REPRESSION by Estephan Wagner and Marianne Hougen-Moraga, which also took home the top award at CPH:DOX. It’s both fascinating and disturbing at the same time. Set in the most beautiful Chilean nature by the Andes mountains it tells the most horrific true story ever imaginable in a very slow paced and unsensational way, told from various inhabitants of the small village called “Villa Bavaria,” which has now become a rather popular tourist attraction, sort of a small scale German style amusement park. So absurd yet fascinating and extremely captivating at the same time. Definitely a “must watch”!
Bridget Pedgrift, BFI (UK)
Watched CABARET for the first time in many years – I was entranced from beginning to end. Bob Fosse’s choreography is mesmerising.
Christina Birro, Pop Culture Confidential (Sweden)
I’ve watched two documentaries that have been real highlights: Crip Camp (Netflix) exec produced by the Obamas. It's a completely engaging and emotional film about a 1970s summer camp for disabled kids and the groundbreaking disability rights movement. The Beastie Boys Story (Apple) is a nostalgic, fun and moving doc built out of a stage show. And the kids and I are doing a marvelous Studio Ghibli home film festival, watching as many as we can and enjoying every minute
Helena Mackenzie, Film London (UK)
I tend to find myself watching films on MUBI more than any other platform and have made a note to watch PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE and BLUE VALENTINE in the next week or so.
Stevie Wong, film journalist (US)
The only movie that I've seen that I love is the Sundance film NEVER RARELY SOMETIMES ALWAYS by Eliza Hittman.
Clare Crean, Inside Pictures (UK)
MISBEHAVIOUR is a great watch. Smart, funny, informative and beautifully portrayed. I’m actually not a fan of Kiera Knightley but I managed to forgive her for this one and I just adore Jessie Buckley in everything she’s ever done. I definitely didn’t expect to find it quite so moving but by the end my 16-year-old daughter and I were a couple of blubbing wrecks!
Kathleen McInnis, publicist, producer, programmer (US)
I’ve ended up (re)watching docs that were headed to the festival circuit before the shut down — SINCE I BEEN DOWN from Gilda Sheppard was to be a world premiere at CIFF (Cleveland) but now will play online for Ohio residents; A LOSS OF SOMETHING EVER FELT from Carlos Lesmes will world premiere at Hot Docs (when they come back to the cinemas) but for now is playing online for Hot Docs registrants; BIG vs SMALL from Minna Dufton who was just at MIPDoc (one of the Producers to Watch). I’m finding so much more to feed my emotional needs in the non-fiction just now — I guess when real life is already playing like a poorly cast summer blockbuster, I don’t need to see it mirrored up on screen! These docs about loss, fear and a rising human spirit hit the spot just right.
Lizzie Francke, BFI (UK)
My recommendation is A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (1946). Powell and Pressburger’s magnificent film was born out the deep pain of WW2. It’s a love song to the human spirit - absurd, fantastical but anchored in the truth of love and reminds that we live in the most gloriously vivid Technicolor world and we need the poets to help us see that in the dark and dire moments of history.
Brigitta Portier, Alibi Communications (Belgium)
So I saw MOONLIGHT on Netflix (finally) and I was really moved by it. Excellent performances, strong story.
Pierre-Alexis Chevit, Cannes Marche/Docs (France)
The film I watched during the lockdown (one out of many) which I'd recommend would be French-Canadian classic LA BÊTE LUMINEUSE (THE SHIMMERING BEAST), by Pierre Perault (1983). Quite a disturbing exploration of the mediocrity and puerility of (some / most ?) males (even if you might come upon one with some sort of sensitivity from time to time), especially when in a group -- in this specific case hunting the moose out in the Canadian wild.
Alissa Simon, critic and programmer (US)
I loved the gorgeous Icelandic documentary JUST LIKE A PAINTING BY EGGERT PÉTURSSON directed by Gunnlaugur Thor Palsson. It’s about the painter, a conceptual artist who is best known for his paintings of Icelandic flora. It traces his career and takes a trip with him and an Icelandic botanist so that viewers get a new appreciation of his work. It had its world premiere at the Stockfish Film Festival in Reykjavik, the last festival that I didn’t go to.
Rowan Woods, British Council (UK)
I watched Frank and Eleanor Perry’s THE SWIMMER which was playing on Sony Movie Classics over the Easter weekend. I never would have found my way all the way down to freeview channel #50, but Lizzie Francke alerted me to it Facebook. I also finally caught up on A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.
Sigurrós Hilmarsdóttir, Icelandic Film Centre (Iceland)
I’ve been watching and reading a lot - finally finished Anna Karenina, what a remarkable book that is. But regarding the films I've been watching a lot of Netflix. I've also watched some of the CPH:DOX films and I actually agree with you THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF is the best one so far - the characters really got to me, especially the thief. I also liked BITTER LOVE and the winning film SONG OF REPRESSION. I think what those three have in common are some great characters with various look on life - that's probably what I need during this odd times, seeing all kinds of people on creen, since I don't actually meet that many! I also watched THE FIRM - I read the book two or three times some years ago and had also seen the film a couple of times, and to my surprise it's aging pretty well!
Mark Adams, consultant, writer and programmer (UK)
THE LAST OF SHEILA….Watched on a region one DVD, as there is no UK DVD/BluRay. It’s a wonderful 1973 film from the great Herbert Ross, written by - of all people - Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins (based on scavenger hunt/mystery games they used to stage in NY). A year after Sheila is killed in a hit-and-run, her wealthy husband and a group of friends spend a week in his yacht playing a scavenger hunt mystery game…which soon gets real and deadly. Stunning cast includes Richard Benjamin, James Coburn, James Mason, Dyan Cannon, Raquel Welch, Ian McShane and Joan Hackett. I got into it after conversation I had with Jonathan Dana about KNIVES OUT and murder-mystery films.
Anna Serner, Swedish Film Institute (Sweden)
I have chosen BELLEVILLE BABY, by Mia Engberg. It was released in 2013 and I have seen it more times than my old record on DIRTY DANCING (five times). This poetic film about passion, life difficulties and disappointments Is told with old and new super-8 footage, mixed with new material from both Sweden and France. Mia is guiding us thorough her story with her own voice in voice over. The combination of narrative and un-narrative, clear and mysterious, leaves us left to remember our own adolescence, passions and wake ups. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful film worth to see any time.
Nick Cunningham, journalist (UK)
Am massively into the the 1970s US vibe at moment. So watched THE DEER HUNTER with my boy at the weekend. The wedding sequence towards the beginning - masterly. Watched THE GODFATHER 1 and 2 (I have to brace myself for the third as it just isn't as good, but still feel compelled to watch it). And from 1960, THE APARTMENT by Billy Wilder. The godfather/mother of romcom.
Anthony Kaufman, writer and programmer for Chicago Intl Film Festival (US)
I have been watching movies to program for the Chicago International Film Festival and I’ve seen a number that I think are strong, but I won’t tell yet, because I’m still hoping we’ll have a festival in October and I want to showcase them, then. But I recently watched with my adolescent son, BABY DRIVER, which I hadn’t seen before and totally enjoyed--full of heart, action, and unexpected twists.
Isabel Davis, Creative Scotland (UK)
THE INVISIBLE MAN. I’m in lockdown with three generations of my boyfriend’s family, so let’s just say that it narrows the scope of viewing possibilities. Hard to say more without spoilers, but just the right level of silly, scary, not too thinky (but a little bit thinky) fun.
Petter Mattsson, Swedish Film Institute (Sweden)
For me it’s always PIERROT LE FOU by Godard! Sam Fuller gives an explanation in the film as to why this is the perfect film that has it all!
Jonathan Rutter, Premier PR (UK)
I’m torn between three favourites that I’ve recently re-watched:
Gus Van Sant’s TO DIE FOR, featuring the first stunning performance by Nicole Kidman, in a story that’s probably even more topical now than it was 20 years in its skewing of reality TV and the desire for instant celebrity
Sam Fuller’s WHITE DOG. Too much of a hot potato in its day, the film was misunderstood and dumped. Overlook some of the dodgy ‘80s fashion and hair as you’re thrown - before the first image even appears on screen - into one most powerful studies ever of racism and bigotry, all told in a spare 90 minutes.
But, in the current climate, the one I’d probably choose is Sidney Lumet’s RUNNING ON EMPTY, one of the most beautiful films about family that you’ll ever see. Featuring a young River Phoenix in his only Oscar-nominated performance, and the grossly under-rated Christine Lahti as his conflicted mother, you’ll be hugging your children and each other at the end of this as you wipe away the tears.
Lawrence Atkinson, DDA (UK)
INDIANA JONES AND THE TEMPLE OF DOOM was “on telly”. As in actually on linear TV at a time that I didn’t schedule, that I stumbled on when flicking through channels, and which was AMAZING as I haven’t seen it in years Cancelled everything for two hours. Watched start to finish. No guilt. Loved it. Theo Lindberg, Chimney (Sweden)
I have realized I've mostly watched series during the pandemic... But the last movie I saw in the theater was MIN PAPPA MARIANNE (MY FATHER MARIANNE) - a Swedish feel-good movie about a priest, who comes out as trans late in life. Loved it. Starring Rolf Lassgård. I wish it would get an international release so many more people can see it. From a trans perspective, it's not perfect as a cis-man has directed it, a cis-man is playing the lead and a cis-woman and a cis-man have written the script.... but it's mainstream - which can be a wonderful thing for the trans community, in that it might create more empathy for our cause... who knows?
Jan Goransson, Swedish Film Institute (Sweden) CITY GIRL (1929) by F W Murnau. I have rediscovered him. I have completely forgot how brilliant Murnau was as a director. It has been such a long times since I saw NOSFERATU and SUNRISE and so many things that have been said about them. But there is so much more! 91-year old CITY GIRL: it is a wonderful love story that I saw for the very first time the other day. Beautiful cinematography, handsome leading guy and a dazzling leading lady, sentimental in a very good way and also a pre-feministic pic.
Debbie Rowland, NFTS and We are the Tonic (UK)
My isolation film has been FROZEN – I’ve watched it with my 2-year-old niece, maybe 20 times since the start of lockdown. I wasn’t planning on enjoying it so much – it is beautifully animated, has heart, humour, and of course a cracking soundtrack (to which I now know all the words). It has been fascinating watching my young niece respond to, and recreate, such feisty female characters. Of course, I also love the refreshing ending for a Disney film, with the real meaning of true love. I recommend it for an easy and uplifting watch.
Cathy Dunkley, Freuds (UK) Well, hard to pick just one but I’d have to say THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION – because it feels like we’re in prison on a bad day and I just rewatched it! It’s about friendship, hope and life beyond – and I’m dreaming of a beach holiday to paint that boat….
The other one is THE SEVENTH SEAL – because Max von Sydow died recently and I rewatched it – and doesn’t whether you catch corona or not feel like you’re constantly playing chess with death every time you leave your house??!!!!
Petri Kemppinen, consultant (Finland)
One with the biggest impact was Pamela Green's BE NATURAL: THE UNTOLD STORY OF ALICE GUY-BLACHÉ. I had not seen it before and so much of all that neglecting was unknown to me! It should be mentioned that this was shown on our public broadcaster's platform YLE Areena, as an opening of their lineup of over 100 films, solely directed by women, called Women's Month! During March they had a new (or a classic) feature every day, in addition to documentaries (like Mark Cousins' new series) and short films. Including films like ORLANDO, THE PIANO and many new ones like MUSTANG, WHAT WILL PEOPLE SAY and so on, and of course the TV premiere of FORCE OF HABIT.
Nathan Fischer, Stray Dogs (France)
To be honest I recently have watched much more TV shows. But I rewatched DOWN BY LAW and it was a real treat. It was touching and beautiful to see something so simple and indie feeling so free, relevant, generous, in touch with people.
Briony Hanson and Tricia Tuttle, British Council and BFI London Film Festival (UK)
Is now the time to confess we are only just hitting the end of a marathon SUCCESSION watch? Other than that we have been doing a bit of movie education catch up with our 13-year-old twins - this week was SIXTH SENSE - followed by WHIP IT The Former holds its own well - and was super fun to wait for kids to catch on to the twist. And I forgot that Bruce had hair once. The latter was equally fun esp for our daughter who has skates and fancies her chances. And we all want to be Maggie Mayhem at the end. Obviously.
Mike Downey, producer, Chairman of the European Film Academy (UK/Croatia)
My film is a book. I spend all my time in real life watching movies endlessly back to back and living life in creative 90-100 minute bites. The opportunity of quarantine and lockdown is to jilt film one of my other loves. Literature. There are so many great books that I have missed. And it’s a chance to really commit some serious time to the act of reading. Recently I have been re-reading Anthony Burgess’ THE KINGDOM OF THE WICKED, his vernacular take on the Christian story with a bit of Suetonius thrown in. Excellent for Easter.
David Nugent, Hamptons Film Festival (US) With two small kids, I basically have no time to watch anything for fun. I’ve seen some good submissions for work which has been nice. But, what has happened, is that I’ve sat down with our 6-year-old daughter and basically watched the first films of her life all the way through. Much to my surprise, it was STAR WARS now she is OBSESSED. So, every night we watch about 45 minutes of one of them. We did the originals (4,5 and 6) and I suffered through PHANTOM MENACE and ATTACK OF THE CLONES and now things are looking up. I will say, EMPIRE STRIKES BACK has confirmed its status as one of my fave films ever
Damon Wise, critic and programmer (UK) My pick would be SHE DIES TOMORROW by Amy Seimetz, which was meant to premiere at SXSW. It's not for everyone but it's effective and weirdly affecting! Could even be the first lockdown horror.
Volia Chajkouskaya, producer and Northern Lights Nordic Baltic Film Festival (Belarus)
HEIMAT IS A SPACE IN TIME by Thomas Heise. Missed this film at all the festivals and had a luxury to catch up from home sofa. Amazing, slow more than 3 hours documentary - that tells the story of one family over the 20th century. I love epics, and this film is like a canvas from the Renaissance for me. A great discovery that explains what it means to be German. Rosie’s dairies are amazing pearls in the canvas and give some female perspective of that time.
Claudia Tomassini, publicist (Italy)
My film recommendation is MARADONA by Asif Kapadia. I missed it when it premiered in Cannes in 2019, I wasn’t handling it and didn’t have the time to see it.
So I watched it on Amazon. I grew up in Italy and when I was a teenager in the ‘80s, Maradona was a myth. Kapadia’s film is a very humane portrait of an outsize, quixotic personality that never veers into caricature, the archival footage is astonishing and beautifully edited, and the relationship between Maradona and the city of Naples and the Camorra is utterly fascinating. Kapadia manages to turn the story into a riveting documentary even if you don't have the slightest interest in football, and I really don't. That is no small feat.
Phil Cairns, Film4 (UK)
The standout lockdown film for me by a country mile, which I missed on release, has been ONLY YOU (which is now on Netflix). Totally gorgeous. Totally believable. (Jonathan Rutter said to me he felt the characters were real people who could have worked in his office). Full of resonance, so many moments in it that felt like they'd been lifted directly from relationship experiences I've had. Two very lived in performances from very easy to watch lead actors. It felt very lived in and really touched me. Can't wait to see what Harry Wootliff does next.
Marnix van Wijk, Eye Filmmuseum (Netherlands)
AN IMPOSSIBLE LOVE (UN AMOUR IMPOSSIBLE) by Catherine Corsini made quite an impression. I had missed it completely when it premiered and was released, but what a film! It proves that a strong film always starts with a powerful story, and this film is not an exception. It is a based on the best-selling 2015 novel of the same name by Christine Angot. As far as I remember there is only one clue halfway that leads to the still rather gut-wrenching end to this very well acted and beautifully shot film. I’m glad when I Googled the film just now to find that it got positive reviews in both the Guardian and Screen International. And I could not have phrased my feelings about the film better than the critics. The Guardian (Peter Bradshaw) gave it 5 out of 5 stars and the review headline reads: ‘brilliantly dark and tender family drama.’ Screen International (Jonathan Romney) considers the film ‘A superior yet highly successful melodrama’
and continues: 'This is the most accomplished and ambitious film to date from a director who has frequently explored female themes from a committed gender-politics perspective, but also employing an approachable mainstream art-house aesthetic.’
Tejinder Jouhal, HanWay Films (UK)
WHISKY GALORE! (1949) -- I loved the simple cheeky fun that ran through it all....high point being the genius whisky stashing scene when the army come to call.
Melanie Iredale, Sheffield Doc/Fest (UK)
Having spent most of lockdown so far watching screeners in consideration for Doc/Fest, I’ll share a recommendation from when I treated myself to a rare non-work related film – fiction, even! - at the weekend: AND THEN WE DANCED. It’s a wonderfully tender story of two dancers who fall in love. One of the things most interesting about the film was the exploration not just of sexuality but of masculinity in the context of a dance school: in Georgia, traditional dancing is a very masculine form of expression, and being gay is far from accepted. Apparently there are people who worked on the film who have had to remain anonymous for fear of the backlash against being involved. AND THEN WE DANCED can be found over on BFI Player as one of the selection that the BFI Flare film festival team speedily got online back when they had to cancel at a moment’s notice due to COVID – shout out to them for making this gorgeous and brave film available to us all.
Natalie Brenner, Metro International (UK)
Last week we decided it was time to revisit THE GODFATHER trilogy having not watched it for several years ...it was like watching for the first time...from the opening scene of THE GODFATHER you're watching perfection. It remains one of my favourite films - possibly the most perfectly executed film I’ve ever seen. THE GODFATHER PART II is masterful and tragic, THE GODFATHER PART III doesn’t compare and disappoints...but two out of three is not bad. This made me nostalgic for ONCE UPON A TIME IN AMERICA which I think is a brilliant piece of cinema and a completely underrated film - it remains in my top five films. My daughter had never seen CINEMA PARADISO and I realised I hadn’t seen it in about 15 years. I don’t remember it being so heavily dubbed in Italian ( particularly Philippe Noiret) and wonder if we were watching a different version to the original but perhaps I just didn’t notice before. That said this film still disarms and charms and the relationship between Alfredo and Tito swells the heart. By the end we were in bits, and my daughter Phoebe loved it. I realised that my love for these films is equalled by a love for their soundtracks...
Jim Kolmar, SXSW (US)
I’ve been all over the map. My current obsession is dance on film - I highly recommend the bizarro 1978 disco flick THANK GOD IT’S FRIDAY on the incredible Criterion Channel. Jeff Goldblum is at his most louche, a young Debra Winger is totally charming, and it has a killer soundtrack including The Commodores and Donna Summer. It did make me miss the dance floor, but I feel like yearning is part of this whole lockdown experience. Speaking of which… I missed Karim Aïnouz’s INVISIBLE LIFE at festivals, but finally caught up with it online. I’m glad I did - It’s an emotional powerhouse, and one of the best films I’ve seen in the last couple of years. I’d love to see it discussed alongside PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE as a rapturous portrait of loss and longing. It’s gorgeous.
And settle in for the final recommendations, a slew of tips from Giona Nazzaro, programmer, Venice Critics’ Week and Visions du Reel (Italy).
When I am not working, I really like to touch base with the classics. I love to go back to my DVD and Blu-ray "collection" and pick titles.
Here goes my not-list:
William Wyler. One of the all time greats, sadly forgotten today. He's not a cool name to drop anymore. One of the most accomplished artists ever to come out of Hollywood. A true renaissance man in whose life story reverberates the whole of the 20th century.
CARRIE (Sir Olivier's greatest performance and one of the most unflinching class studies coming out of Hollywood)
THE LIBERATION OF L.B. JONES (Wyler's unjustly much maligned last opus BUT he was so far ahead it is almost blinding. This is Black Lives Matter before its time and just a couple of years away from the heinous murders of Dr. King and Malcolm X. A brutal masterpiece.)
BEN-HUR (magnificent. a personal masterpiece. In Wyler's words "it took a jew to make a serious film about Jesus")
FUNNY GIRL (la Streisand supremo)
THE COLLECTOR (oh my...)
THE HEIRESS (James Ivory at his best; ops it's Wyler... a feminist masterpiece)
MEMPHIS BELLE (one of the all-time best war documentaries)
Sydney Pollack. Another sadly almost forgotten director, today. maybe because he was so successful in his days we tend to overlook his achievements. But he his a master, highly political and always deeply personal.
HAVANA (a late masterpiece, the Pollack-Redford alchemy is still there)
THE SLENDER THREAD (his debut film; an amazing film about loneliness and prejudices)
THE ELECTRIC HORSEMAN (just wonderful, could watch this all day long, all week long...)
CASTLE KEEP (his deeply personal take on WW2; Peckinpah and Fuller get always credited for having made the best war films, but this one is even better, in my book. Wildly creative, with nods to Resnais and the New Wave. it is time for a critical re-assessment)
Sidney Lumet’s THE ANDERSON TAPES (one crazy film if there ever was one with a promising youngster by the name of Christopher Walken; the heist movie as a Watergate satire; Lumet was on fire)
GIANT (the title says it all; how did he get away with this act of indictment of American capitalism is still amazing; his framing, his long takes, his feminist stance, his anti-segregation stance, everything is superb and he allowed James Dean to become an old man... and when I see him breaking down mumbling in the mic it always brings tears to my eyes)
A PLACE IN THE SUN (a dark, dark film about class struggle in the US. Again: how did he get away with this?)
-CHRISTOPHER STRONG (such a surprising film, and a bitter one as well... and there is some Cannes in it as well)
Josef Von Sternberg
-THE SCARLET EMPRESS (IMHO one of the greatest American films ever)
-THE DEVIL IS A WOMAN (a masterclass in psychoanalysis disguised as an exotic melodrama: desire and repression make the world go round, but the fascists are always close.
Guy Hamilton’s THE PARTY’S OVER (a weird take on swinging London, even the restored cut is not recognised by the director... Oliver Reed is still worth the time and so is some of the cast)
Marvin Chomsky’s GOOD LUCK, MISS WYCKOFF. Terrible film, pretentious and a failed one by the guy who directed Roots and Holocaust. All the racist and mysoginist common places in one just film. Poor Anne Heywood. A real WTF movie. But Vinegar's Syndrome Blu-ray edition is superb.
Robert Benton’s KRAMER VS. KRAMER. This used to be Hollywood "commercial" filmmaking. Almendros' lensing and framing is stunning. The film never tries to blackmail the viewer. A serious movie about a failed relationship.
Steven Spielberg’s THE EMPIRE OF THE SUN. Stunning.
Stanley Kramer’s JUDGMENT AT NUREMBERG. Kramer was not a "good" filmmaker but he had his heart in a good place and I deeply respect him. His memoir is also supremely entertaining.
Philip Kaufman’s THE WANDERERS. A great forgotten film with a wonderful soundtrack a magnificent Karen Allen and the "could have been another James Dean" Ken Wahl and the best Dylan homage ever.
Jerry Schatzberg’s STREET SMART. Schatzberg goes Cannon. Miles Davis score. The seedy underbelly of NY's 42nd Street. A ferocious Morgan Freeman. An urban noir about fake news.
Jacques Rivette’s DUELLE & NOIROT. The missing links (with MERRY GO ROUND) in his seventies canon. Sublime stuff.
Richard Attenborough’s MAGIC, still creepy.
Edward O. Bland’s THE CRY OF JAXX. Some of Sun Ra's earliest images of his Arkestra.
CJ Obasi’s OJUJU
Zombies in the ghetto of Lagos. From the director of HELLO, RAIN. Great film. Low budget at its best.
Abbott & Costello ...MEET THE MUMMY and ...MEET FRANKENSTEIN. These guys are pure happiness. I go to their boxset like Linus goes to his blanket.