3 new films, Arrival, Nocturnal Animals and a new Storyville.



Arrival divid­ed crit­ics when it reached cin­e­mas this autumn, with some hail­ing it as a strong con­tender for film of the year and oth­ers won­der­ing what all the fuss was about. It’s a sci­fi film from Cana­di­an film­mak­er Denis Vil­leneuve in which Amy Adams is giv­en the task of try­ing to decode the alien lan­guage of the vis­i­tors who arrive here from out­er space.

It is just about worth see­ing, but only because of the sub­tle twist it has in its tail and the less you know about that the more pleas­ant­ly sur­prised you’ll be by it. But it’s a very con­ven­tion­al film. One to put your feet up to with a calm­ing cup of cocoa on a rainy winter’s eve.

Amy Adams in Nocturnal Animals.

Amy Adams in Noc­tur­nal Ani­mals.

Noc­tur­nal Ani­mals is the sec­ond film from Tom Ford after his impres­sive debut with A Sin­gle Man in 2009. The lat­ter, as well as being as exquis­ite­ly craft­ed as every­one assumed it would be, it being a Tom Ford film, was also a qui­et­ly mov­ing film with sig­nif­i­cant­ly more in the way of emo­tion­al depth than many had expected.

His lat­est offer­ing how­ev­er is exact­ly the sort of vapid exer­cise in sur­face style that every­one had feared would be the result first time around. Amy Adams stars again, this time as a priv­i­leged gallery own­er in LA whom we’re clear­ly meant to sym­pa­thise with. She gets sent a nov­el writ­ten by an ex and the film morphs into a neo noir tale of south­ern revenge.

Colin Firth in A Single Man.

Col­in Firth in A Sin­gle Man.

It all looks impec­ca­ble of course, but all Sea­mus McGar­vey’s sump­tu­ous pho­tog­ra­phy does is to fur­ther empha­sise how lit­tle there is here beneath the sur­face. Whether Noc­tur­nal Ani­mals is an aber­ra­tion, and the real Tom Ford is the man who brought us A Sin­gle Man, or whether in fact that film’s suc­cess had more to do with Col­in Firth and the source mate­r­i­al pro­vid­ed by the Christo­pher Ish­er­wood nov­el, only time will tell.

James Foley.

James Foley.

I promised myself that I would force myself to watch all and any Sto­ryville docs that were screened on BBC4, but I real­ly wasn’t look­ing for­ward to what I pre­sumed would be a dull but wor­thy film on James Foley, the Amer­i­can pho­to-jour­nal­ist exe­cut­ed by Daesh. Once again, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

p01q1kmxJim – The James Foley sto­ry was a riv­et­ing win­dow into what life was like for the nine­teen oth­er jour­nal­ists who were impris­oned with him in Syr­ia, and an incred­i­bly mov­ing cel­e­bra­tion of a life cut short. In a dig­ni­fied and mea­sured way it was absolute­ly devastating.

If you’re not famil­iar with the Sto­ryville strand, I reviewed it and three or four of its remark­able films ear­li­er here. And if you can, watch the James Foley Sto­ry. You can see the trail­er for Arri­val here and the trail­er for Noc­tur­nal Ani­mals here.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed every month on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music!

The Gatekeepers” an Amazing Window on Israel.

Ami Ayalon, now in the Israeli Knesset.

Ami Ayalon, now in the Israeli Knesset.

In the week when the new Swedish gov­ern­ment announced its inten­tion to rec­og­nize the state of Pales­tine, and after the back bench British MPs made a sim­i­lar show of pub­lic sup­port, last weekend’s screen­ing of the BBC Sto­ryville doc­u­men­tary The Gate­keep­ers made for time­ly viewing.

This is one of those films that you feel you ought to watch, rather than one you actu­al­ly want to see. And like so many of those, it turns out to be absolute­ly riveting.

Direct­ed by the Israeli Dror Moreh, who was inspired by Errol Mor­ris’ extra­or­di­nar­i­ly reveal­ing inter­view of Robert S. McNa­ma­ra for The Fog Of War, The Gate­keep­ers is an extend­ed inter­view with the last six heads of the Israeli secret ser­vice, the Shin Bet. Remark­ably, it’s every bit as reveal­ing as the film that inspired it.

The remarkable Rodriguez.

The remark­able Rodriguez.

For the last 35 years, these six men have been in charge of Israel’s inter­nal secu­ri­ty. And watch­ing them grap­ple with their con­sciences whilst bemoan­ing the refusal of lead­ers on either side to seri­ous­ly engage with their oppo­site num­ber was fas­ci­nat­ing, depress­ing and ulti­mate­ly some­how hopeful.

If only, you couldn’t help but feel, it had been some of these men who’d been run­ning the coun­try instead of the ones who were actu­al­ly elect­ed. One of them has indeed now joined the Knes­set. We can only hope. The mes­sage from all six of them was unan­i­mous. We must engage. We need to talk. You can’t secure the state of Israel with­out acknowl­edg­ing the fate of the Palestinians.

Muscle Shoals.

Mus­cle Shoals.

This is yet anoth­er in an ever more impres­sive ros­tra of docs form the Sto­ryville team. If you haven’t already, watch Search­ing for Sug­ar Man (reviewed ear­li­er here), Mus­cle Shoals (here) or the amaz­ing and sober­ing The House I Live In (here). In fact you can pret­ty much watch any one of their films. It’s the most con­sis­tent­ly impres­sive strand of doc­u­men­tary film mak­ing any­where in the world. You can see the Gate­keep­ers trail­er here.

Sign up for a sub­scrip­tion right or below, and I shall keep you post­ed every week on All the Very Best and Worst in Film, Tele­vi­sion and Music!