Saturday 25 September 2021

For what it's worth...

Top 10 films at the UK box office (for the weekend of September 17-19, 2021):

2 (2Free Guy (15)
3 (3) Respect (12A)
4 (4) Candyman (15)
5 (6) Paw Patrol: The Movie (U)
6 (5) Malignant (18)
7 (8) Jungle Cruise (12A)
8 (9) The Croods 2: A New Age (U)
9 (10) Space Jam: A New Legacy (U)
10 (new) Small World (18) *

(source: BFI)

My top five:
1. The Maltese Falcon
3. A Clockwork Orange

DVD/Blu-Ray/Download top ten: 

1 (new) Black Widow (12) ***
2 (5) Nobody (15) ***
3 (1) The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard (15)
4 (3) Monster Hunter (12)
5 (2) The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (15)
6 (4A Quiet Place: Part II (15)
7 (26) Dream Horse (PG)
8 (6) Peter Rabbit 2 (U)
9 (10) Zack Snyder's Justice League (15)
10 (7) Cruella (12) ***

My top five: 
1. Supernova

Top five films on terrestrial TV this week:
1. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Saturday, BBC2, 9.10am)
2. The Gift (Wednesday, C4, 2am)
3. Knocked Up (Saturday, ITV, 10.35pm)
4. The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (Saturday, five, 9.20pm)
5. Two Mules for Sister Sara [above] (Saturday, five, 5.50pm)

Friday 24 September 2021

The damned: "The Many Saints of Newark"

One of the defining characteristics of HBO's landmark gangster saga The Sopranos was its stubborn refusal to give its audience what they may have thought they wanted from a TV show. The difficult men in the title of Brett Martin's 2013 study of modern televisual breakthroughs didn't solely refer to the problematic characters these series put on screen, but also those recalcitrant folk behind the camera, determined to shake the schedules of their usual pat certainties. You want clear-cut character arcs, a hint of redemption? No dice. A tidy ten-episode run year in year out? Forget about it. A neat ending tying everything in a bow? Vaffanculo. By going so decisively his own way, showrunner David Chase forged a path for the two decades of TV that followed: uncompromising success stories, shows that interrogated those audience desires (as Breaking Bad did, in frenetic passing), shows that drifted so far from what we want to watch that they barely survived a season. In the years since the show's open-ended finale, talk has persisted that there might someday be a final, conclusive Sopranos movie, perhaps along the lines of the recent, semi-miraculous Deadwood wrap-up, brought in by another Difficult David (Milch) at astronomical long odds. The death of James Gandolfini in 2013 rendered that all but an impossibility - who could ever replace him? - but there now emerges a prequel, The Many Saints of Newark, which is as close as Chase (who writes and produces, with Alan Taylor directing) has got to the newly all-pervasive idea of fan service, for better and worse.

Even here, some of the old perversity remains. For starters, Saints is only tangentially about Tony, a mere pup (played by William Ludwig) in the film's 1967 setting, fleetingly glimpsed initiating an innocent-seeming junior-high numbers racket, but more generally regarded as a future held in the balance for two hours. The focus instead switches to the titular saints, the Moltisantis, at this time a more prominent clan within the New Jersey mob than Tony's own Sopranos. As introduced to us by the series' own Christopher M. (Michael Imperioli), narrating from beyond the grave with an understandable hint of grievance, the main players here are the tyrannical patriarch Aldo (Ray Liotta, an immediate point of connection to other mobs, other movies), his newly imported, considerably younger Italian beauty-queen wife Giuseppina (Michela de Rossi), and Aldo's conflicted, slightly cowering son Dickie (Alessandro Nivola), Christopher's dad, if you've been keeping up. The Oedipal struggle that shapes up over the first hour, which comes to a grisly head in a garage, mirrors certain aspects of the show; Chase's key theme is how, in organised crime as in the entertainment business, history has a nasty habit of repeating itself. Another would be that America has always had its divisions and faultlines. Beyond the Moltisantis, typical HBO-level craft is evident in the movie's richly detailed recreation of the Newark riots, via which the movie promises to extend the show's predominantly Italian-American universe. 

Many of the old names and faces are present, renewed and rejuvenated: Paulie Walnuts (a preening Billy Magnussen), Big Pussy (Samson Moeakiola), Silvio (John Magaro and hairpiece), plus an already ailing Junior (Corey Stoll) and his prototypically monstrous wife Livia (Vera Farmiga, bringing a resemblance to Edie Falco's Carmela that's fascinating in the context of Sopranos lore). Yet they're joined - sometimes pitched against - representatives of Newark's Black community, principally Harold McBrayer (Leslie Odom Jr.), around whom Dickie proves far more comfortable than his irascible peers. The series took domestic stability as its backdrop: it wondered how on earth a powerful man who seemed to have it all could be so fundamentally unhappy, thus identifying an emergent theme in American life (and its TV drama). The movie's backdrop, by contrast, is a city on fire, the kind of turbulence that often covers all manner of crimes (what's another broken window or burning building?) and which can't help but shape character. If Chase is interested in revisiting the myth of Tony Soprano here, it's with an eye to the role models this kid was presented with at a formative moment: not the greatest selection, all told, and it gets more ominous still in the 1970s-set second half, when Dickie - who's been established beyond any doubt as a killer - takes the teenage Tony (now played by Michael Gandolfini, son of James) under his wing. So the film adds to our knowledge, albeit indirectly; it's a TV-derived movie that demands its viewers remain switched on, in a way multiplex movies generally don't. And yet it pains me to report that The Many Saints of Newark doesn't quite grip as drama, in part because it doesn't quite work as a movie.

Taylor, a series regular, ensures the action would tessellate seamlessly with any flashback within the show: Satriale's is much as we left it, and Douglas Aibel's superlative casting ensures everybody looks and sounds the part, from Young Gandolfini (who has his father's adenoidal burr) to the doddery waiter with one line at Dickie's club. Yet I spent much of Saints weighing up whether it was riffing playfully on the idea of conservatism, or simply struggling within the limitations of a studio system that's been gamed specifically to give the audience more of the same. There's no doubt that, as in the series, Chase sees and abhors his made men's conservatism, horrified as they are by their daughters' hiphuggers and the Black folks moving in next door. Organised crime here equals white power, a means of keeping an iron grip on the status quo. Yet the film keeps succumbing to a creative conservatism: it observes the old ways, senses how damaging they can be, and falls right back into them all the same. (Maybe we needed Jennifer Melfi on board as script doctor.) Retracing this lineage to the moment of the Panthers means the movie has to be more engaged with race than the series ever felt obliged to be - but despite Odom Jr.'s typically solid work, that engagement never really rises above the cursory and superficial. For one thing, it's hard to see how McBrayer rises to power on the New Jersey scene, given how comprehensively outnumbered he is. Chase shows scant interest in telling that story; the stubbornness that made the series so unique is this time round set to holding onto the old characters and traditions, rather than pursuing new paths and avenues. 
The thinness of the McBrayer strand is part of a wider structural awkwardness that gives the whole the look and feel of a drastically compressed miniseries: my primary takehome at the end of two hours was that this must have been a bastard of a film to edit. Too many scenes and plotlines in that second half don't get a chance to breathe as they would have done at length on TV; you see it most clearly in the death of a key character late on, gabbled through and slapped with a big soundtrack cue, where the series would almost certainly have fashioned a properly desolate tragedy from it. (Like Fredo on the lake, they had the weather for it.) Because it can't bring itself to make the same radical, decisive break from the past that, say, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me did from its predecessor, Saints is not as essential a movie as The Sopranos was a show: at best, it plays like a reasonably chewy footnote to a series that was always, even in its more wilful and wayward stretches, a main event. Perhaps it's only right that a Sopranos movie should leave us with complicated feelings to process - that's what the series did, week in week out - but these are less a result of any dramatic achievement than industrial scale, and how American TV is now routinely more accommodating than American movies. The show remains lightning: violent, electrifying and unpredictable, unlikely ever to strike twice in the same place. It's a slightly sad indictment of the failures of imagination now governing mainstream cinema that a creative as bold as Chase should have been handed the exhausting if not impossible task of recapturing it in a small, muffling, frankly too neat bottle.

The Many Saints of Newark is now playing in cinemas nationwide.

The eyes have it: "The Story of Looking"

We rejoin Mark Cousins in bed. For fully seven minutes at the start of The Story of Looking, we're propped up on a pillow in Cousins' Edinburgh flat, listening to the critic-turned-theorist-and-filmmaker outline the parameters of his latest essay film, on the act and art of looking. TSOL began life as a (smartly written, gorgeously illustrated) book, but Cousins' return to this line of thought has been precipitated by a personal crisis: a diagnosis of macular degeneration in his left eye, for which he is scheduled to undergo surgery as the film begins. The bulk of the film takes place pre-op, with Cousins reconsidering many of the topics he contemplated on the page: what he can see and what he has seen, how we see, what the look means and the problems looking brings. Yet there's also a sequence on the op itself, complete with extreme surgical close-ups of pointy objects disrupting cataracts that actively dare the viewer not to look; and a moving post-op coda that considers seeing the world through old (rather than new) eyes, and concludes with a stretch of slow cinema during which one feels one's own eyes being very deliberately recalibrated. (You've heard out the theory, Cousins seems to be saying, now here's some practice.) Repeatedly, though, and as befits an essay film made by someone in a temporary state of physical enfeeblement, The Story of Looking returns us to the sight of its prime mover lying in bed: eating toast, snapping selfies, checking Tweets, getting mildly sloshed. Like the protagonist of JK Huysmans' novel À rebours, shutting himself away in order to catalogue everything outside his door, Cousins conjures up an entire world of wonders without really getting out from under his duvet. You can do that, if you've looked well enough.

This is a film about looking, then, but it's also a work of careful, sustained, considered looking in itself. The cutaways are to clips from those movies that number among the most amazing to look at (Persona, Vertigo, Zhang Yimou's Hero); in this respect, this Story tessellates with The Story of Film, but we also see artworks and architectural marvels that broaden the frame of reference, and highlights from Cousins' own magpie-like image gathering, many of them equally spectacular. A power station's cooling tower is blown to smithereens, leaving a silhouette of coal dust in its place. A black-clad fellow perches precariously alongside the chimneypots of a property adjacent to Cousins' flat, recalling the angels who watch over Berlin in Wings of Desire. Cousins' landscapes speak to many hours studying Kiarostami: motorcyclists carving lines into hillsides, sheep moving over the face of a mountain. Yet equally he's compelled by the microscopic (a feather borne along on the breeze), knowing full well that the human eye has been equipped to locate astonishment in both. The soundtrack is rife with stimulation - prompts set out in that uniquely jabbing, probing syntax, where even the definitive statements sound like the kind of question a critic is prone to asking themselves while at work. Even those bedroom scenes serve a purpose, clearing some space for the viewer to envision and work through their thoughts: Cousins knows a film can suggest something without having to show it. (Which is why he shows us the build-up to an alleged beheading in Saudi Arabia, but not the fateful blow.)

This kind of work has precedents. I was set to thinking not just of the book - which may be more comprehensive in setting out Cousins' thoughts on this subject, but less personal, somehow - but also Godard's Histoire(s) du cinéma, with its encyclopaedic squirrelling of cherished images. Yet where Godard hides behind those images - obfuscating, like the Wizard of Oz behind his curtain - Cousins inserts himself front and centre, as somebody to be looked at. He digs out his childhood photographs, compares his chest to that of Robert de Niro in Taxi Driver, and stages his own homage to Jenny Agutter's naked swim in Walkabout. "Am I an exhibitionist?," he asks, as his penis bobs before us. The answer to that will lie solely in the eye of the beholder, but there's certainly a different philosophy in play here: Cousins is a far more enthusiastic, all-in exponent of the pleasures and joys tied up with looking than the guarded Godard has been. (I can't see the latter reaching for the "You're the One That I Want" number from Grease, somehow.) One of this story's subtexts concerns how looking has changed in recent years - how critical study is now less detached and more democratic. Cousins doesn't strike us as one proclaiming from on high - we're right next to him on that pillow - rather someone seeking further engagement; he doesn't want the last word, but to open up a space for further reflection and conversation. If Agnès Varda had popped round to see this theorist-and-filmmaker at the end of Faces Places, she would have received the warmest of welcomes.

The emotion inherent in that is another part of this story, and another point at which Godard and Cousins part ways: the latter allows his voice to crack, and his eyes to water. And a big part of this Story's poignancy derives from the fact there's nobody around to open the door to; the usual sources of conversation aren't there. The chronology's a little fuzzy - the hospital scenes, when we get to them, are noticeably mask-free - but some parts of the film were apparently completed during the first lockdown, and a kind of solitude is written into those bedroom scenes: it's as though the filmmaker is going through the film alone, with only the camera as a confidante, and only wifi to connect him to the outside world. What Cousins succeeds in evoking here is a period when we were all falling back on what we'd already seen and done, taking stock of our own visual imagebanks, and wondering what we might ever see and do again. This will go double in Cousins' case, given the physical concerns of the past few years, but one of the most moving aspects of the past few months has been seeing old faces, and reminding ourselves just how those faces move - how they sometimes light up like screens, and in ways the scratchily makeshift pixels of a FaceTime or Zoom call couldn't ever fully replicate. (If, as the saying goes, we're all light, then some of it was visibly dimmed by our laptops.) As the world has reopened, and our horizons have once more expanded - at least a little, for now at least - we've all had to learn to look anew and see again; Cousins' film, being a refresher course for the eyes, connects very closely and affectingly with that ongoing process of regeneration.

The Story of Looking is now playing in selected cinemas, and available to stream via Curzon Home Video, the BFI Player and the Modern Films website.

Mayflies: "Mandibles"

Fans of Quentin Dupieux's comic doodles have been spoilt this year. The summer reopening brought the delayed release of the marvellous
Deerskin; hot on its heels, we have Dupieux's latest Mandibles, a stoner comedy that presents as a prefabricated joke. Heard the one about the dudes who found a giant fly in the back of their car? Dupieux takes this set-up and runs around the houses with it. Mandibles starts in the realms of the crime movie, with itinerant Manu (Grégoire Ludig, who resembles one of Dan Skinner's longer-maned creations, or Bradley Cooper if he'd started living out of a camper van) and old pal Jean-Gab (David Marsaire, a bumfluffy Rob Schneider) instructed to make a briefcase swap around the backstreets of a depopulated coastal resort. A pitstop taken to investigate the loud fluttering sound coming from the boot of their stolen Merc waylays them, however - for there it is: a CG-animatronic hybrid the size of a multi-limbed E.T. Several elements prove funny here. Foremost among them is that the fly - Dominique, our heroes name it, or "Do-Do" - isn't at all movie-cute, rather mankily nondescript, a scuttling turd with basketballs for eyes that you wouldn't think twice about swatting. (With the full weight of a Sunday broadsheet, in this instance.) Furthermore: rather than reacting to it as the freak of nature it is, Manu and Jean-Gab respond with casual indifference. Their eyes remain firmly on the pitiful sum of money being held out to them as low-level criminal muscle; if these manchildren weren't so likable on some level, you'd swear Dupieux was writing a fable premised on the fly's eternal, eternally incomprehensible attraction to shit.

Instead, Mandibles establishes an oddly touching parallel between its mayfly characters and its insect-in-chief that suggests Dupieux was among those many millions of Frenchies who turned out en masse for 1995's Microcosmos. The first time we see Manu, he's cocooned in a sleeping bag on a beach, the tide lapping gently at his feet; both the fly and its keepers wind up eating mincemeat from cans; and our protagonists are soon observed zigzagging around without apparent rhyme or reason. The briefcase swap gets funnier the longer it isn't made; during the narrative's three-day lifecycle, Manu and Jean-Gab forcibly occupy a trailer, contrive to burn it down, find renewed sanctuary in the holiday home of a young woman who mistakes Manu for an old schoolfriend, and then have their cover blown by Adèle Exarchopoulos's Agnès, who has "a vocal problem" that means she shouts a lot. The latter is supposed to be brain-damaged in some way, and you may well need a moment to consider whether Dupieux is indulging in that familiarly French, PC-baiting approach to mental illness - the kind of unmuzzled razzing that helped the recent Bye Bye Morons stage its unlikely heist on this year's Cesars ceremony. Yet there's equally a measure of relief at seeing someone cast Exarchopoulos as something other than a Lolita-like sexbomb, and she has a priceless moment as one of her housemates accuses her of being unbearable. ("ME?," she bellows, at roughly 200 decibels. "UNBEARABLE?")

Deerskin would be the better entrypoint into this filmography, I think: even at his murderous worst, Jean Dujardin remains a more reassuring presence than the new film's ramshackle oddballs, and you just have to go along with some of Mandibles' in-baked randomness. (Its punchline - "Franchement, Jean-Gab, c'est une mouche" - is a good one, but not Deerskin good.) What's become increasingly apparent, however, is that Dupieux is one of the few directors of contemporary screen comedy who still thinks in terms of images; his time in the image-obsessed pop space (as Mr. Oizo) has served him well. Leaving behind Deerskin's beigey, cloistered world, Dupieux here arrives at an off-season hotspot where the absence of sunseekers only adds to the air of absurdity, and the remaining sunshine brings out the pleasing pastels in his protagonists' wardrobe. There's an end-of-summer mellowness at play that informs the laissez-faire characterisation and keeps the film on just the right side of arbitrary; it's relaxed, so we relax, too. Like Manu, eating stew and shrugging as he watches that trailer burn to the ground, I went along with most of it: Jean-Gab's efforts to train Do-Do up into a potential circus act, Ludig's secondary role as the schoolfriend for which Manu is mistaken, the size of the briefcase as we finally circle back to that once-pressing drop-off, proportionate as it is to the importance Dupieux affords it within this universe. I wouldn't go expecting big laughs from a film that's so clearly preoccupied with small things, but the underlying assertion we're all just specks on a windscreen is quietly profound - and perversely funny, too, non?

Mandibles is now playing in selected cinemas, and available to rent via 

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Dangerous liaisons: "Copilot"

They've gone with Copilot, but the makers of this German drama could equally have plumped for The Terrorist's Wife, much as the cinema has previously given us The Astronaut's Wife and The Zookeeper's Wife. Co-writer/director Anne Zohra Berrached here offers a speculation informed by the lives of those Antonia Bird's TV movie The Hamburg Cell kept offscreen: the women who crossed paths with the 9/11 hijackers before they passed into infamy. A very teasing lead-in plays mechanical whooshes and screaming over a black screen before opening onto a funfair, where suggestible med student Asli (Canan Kir) - daughter of Turkish immigrants, thrillseeker of an ordinary kind - first crosses paths with brooding Saeed (Roger Azar), a frustrated trainee dentist. (The frustration, he reveals, follows from his belief that German people never smile, rendering his work semi-pointless.) For the next hour or so, we could be watching any other summer romance blossoming: only a leavetaking note delivered in the closing minutes positions Copilot as Goodbye, First Love with a bodycount. Asli and Saeed progress from waltzers to beach to bedroom; there's some cute business in a phone booth as the couple break news of their engagement to his parents, and even some Romeo-and-Juliet-type tension around Asli's guardians, who prove far less enthused that their charge has taken up with an Arab. Yet the light gradually dims, and we know from history that a certain September is looming on the calendar: there is no future in this relationship, and there will be a whole lot of suffering besides.

Like the recent New Order, Copilot is headed in one direction, and it can't really surprise us once its coordinates are set. (You nod gravely as Saeed abandons dentistry in favour of taking flying lessons.) Yet Berrached does at least trouble to engage us, in part through canny casting: her leads are photogenic but capable, and worthy of extended study. Azar's Saeed is a shapeshifter: long-haired in some scenes, clipped in others, sometimes bearded, sometimes boyish, sporadically attentive, but often distracted or distant, his eyes on another horizon altogether. Here is a mystery our heroine fails to figure out until it's too late. Kir, for her part, lends Asli a credible softness, snuggling up to that boundary where pliability meets liability - until she, too, begins to shift shape amid the film's deft coda, where she finally realises the situation she finds herself in, and what this means going forward. Berrached is strong on this tale's interpersonal aspects: a trip to Lebanon articulates just how much Saeed has withheld from his own family (and how much that family hopes Asli might be the one to reveal more), while isolated scenes allow associates to spot what Asli's getting into - at the very least, a liaison with an emotionally unavailable man. Sometimes Copilot lapses into crassness. As with a cut from the lovers in bed to a corpse being dissected, Saeed's anti-Semitic rant in a maternity ward (complete with background baby wailing) suggests Berrached doesn't quite trust her own better instincts; she's caught forcing the drama, where subtext would suffice. (I flashed back to the Dardennes' Young Ahmed, which entered similar territory with a steadier hand.) And I'm not sure what a film like this can ultimately say, beyond "terrorists keep secrets" and "mistakes were made". But in her stronger sequences, Berrached does succeed in putting us in the shoes of those who were left behind in the first days of September 2001, and setting us to wondering and worrying alongside Asli. Just how much could these terrorists' loved ones know? And how far would we be prepared to travel with the Saeeds of this world, were we to find ourselves in a comparable situation?

Copilot is now playing in selected cinemas, and available to stream via Curzon Home Cinema, the BFI Player and the Modern Films website.

Tuesday 21 September 2021

On demand: "The Ballad of Narayama"

Possibly a bit of a generalisation, but the Japanese cinema appears to have a better handle on death than any other. Recent, revered elegies such as 1998's
After Life and 2008's Departures follow in the tradition of The Ballad of Narayama, a groundbreaking pageant that won the Palme d'Or at Cannes in 1983. The second adaptation of the 20th century author Shichirō Fukazawa's Narayama stories (after a tamer 1958 predecessor), Shōhei Imamura's film surveys a primitive mountain community where death is but one component of life, to be set alongside birth, marriage, work, the changing of the seasons, family life, shitting in the fields, dead children, torn-up toenails, alleged and actual dog fucking, and songs about pubic hair. Travelling this far beyond the bounds of civilisation permitted Imamura to rub sometimes lubriciously up against all manner of taboo subjects; it's clear that in the wake of Ōshima's In the Realm of the Senses and Empire of Passion - as much revolutionary manifestos as conventional cinematic works - the Japanese cinema was in the process of abandoning some of its customary restraint. Imamura establishes as much early on by cutting between two village youngsters copulating ("oh, my herbs!") and a pair of snakes intertwining. Six feet beneath them, you can sense Yasujiro Ozu - for whom Imamura once served as an assistant - spinning frenetically in his grave.

The net result, however, is defiantly alive: a cinema that is lusty, sweaty and smelly, determined at all costs to gather its rosebuds and sow its wild oats while and where'er it can, broadminded of outlook, all-embracing in its sympathy. The thrusting throws into stark contrast the plight of the village elders, whom tradition states must be hauled up the mountain once they turn 70, so as to be closer to the gods, and spare their loved ones the sight of any degeneration. That's where this Ballad gets serious - in the wordless, autumnal ascent that makes up the film's back end, and which carries us towards an immensely affecting scene as we approach the summit and a final leavetaking. Mostly, the film assumes a kaleidoscopic form, circling around these huts to check in on a set of eccentric, memorable characters; it's filthy soap, one that flaunts the dirt under its fingernails as an index of authenticity. That Palme d'Or now seems representative of one of Cannes' more eccentric years: Monty Python's The Meaning of Life took home the Grand Prix gong, leaving Messrs. Bresson and Tarkovsky to split a Best Direction prize. Yet it's undeniably distinctive, pointing the way both to Imamura's later, similarly boundary-pushing comminglings of sex and death (which honed in on isolated elements of the whole picture here) and a run of midnight movies - films by Takeshi Kitano, Takashi Miike et al. - in which the extremes of sex and death were shown, seen and impressed upon us in no uncertain terms.

The Ballad of Narayama is available to stream via the Arrow Player.

Sunday 19 September 2021

On demand: "Siberia"

To put it bluntly, Siberia is writer-director Abel Ferrara and star Willem Dafoe getting into some shit. Billed as "an exploration into the language of dreams" - and as Scooby-Doo would say, ruh-roh - it opens with Dafoe recounting a memory (Ferrara's own?) of his father taking his six-year-old self on a fishing expedition in the icy Canadian wilderness, during which the husky dogs started nipping at his toes. Dogs keep cropping up in these 90 minutes, both as motif and recurring nightmare. Sometimes they're seen fulfilling a purpose as sled-pullers. Sometimes they're heard but not seen, howling offscreen. Every so often, one slips its leash and goes for somebody's throat. The film itself is very much a stray, an extended fugue that follows Dafoe's manfully named Clint, a bartender who's exiled himself in a snow-covered valley, as he saddles up his own huskies and sets out into the darker corners of a world that encompasses murder, genocide, castration, ugly bouts of death metal and multiple selves. We are, in short, being led by a gnarled hand into the least compromising of modern American filmmakers' fantasies, with no map or compass to reassure us. I'd advise you to bring waterproofed clothing, stout walking shoes, and perhaps some Kendal Mint Cake to sustain you during Siberia's rockier stretches. 

For a while, those fantasies seem perilously banal and familiar: in the opening moments, Clint has it away with a pregnant woman who walks into his bar, handily if improbably naked under her coat. (She is literally all fur coat and no knickers.) As our protagonist sets out on his long dark night of the soul, it's evident Ferrara subscribes to an idea of the creative as a solitary male figure, passing into a coldly indifferent landscape in search of answers, inspiration, anything. I had two immediate issues with this: one, Dafoe on a dogsled bears an unintended resemblance to Jean-Claude van Damme in those Coors ads; and two, Ferrara has been more prolific this past decade than he ever was at the start of his career. The landscape really can't be that indifferent if he's getting the money and greenlight to make a movie as personal, difficult and non-commercial as this. Still, we plough on, and soon enter properly captivating territory. Shot by Stefano Falivene on location in Germany, Mexico and Italy, Siberia boasts some of the most compelling landscapes - and most accomplished mixing-and-matching of landscapes (mountains, deserts, forests) - as the cinema has showcased in some while. (It's a pity that after taking a bow at last year's London Film Festival, the film has bypassed UK cinemas to debut on subscription streaming.)

What Siberia resembles above all else is a latter-day Malick movie that's had its airy spirituality excised with a flick knife; left behind is a world as craggy and shadowy as the leading man's face, a universe that seems forever on the verge of apocalypse, either too cold or burning up. (Do artists have other temperatures?) It extends to a Brueghelian vision of men young and old being stripped and shot in the head, but also the sight of Dafoe dancing around a maypole in a pair of Ugg boots, an oddly funny idea of a happy place. (Funny because you can't ever imagine Ferrara going there, even in sensible footwear.) The material remains almost wilfully problematic: there's next to no filter between what's on the director's mind and what's been put on the screen. (The script has the ring of a first draft, and it's indicative of Dafoe's humanising skill that Siberia clears that hurdle.) The women who flit across these frames are either crones or shapeshifting, oft-naked temptresses; a nude performer with dwarfism is rolled on in a wheelchair as a character billed as The Demon. There may be a reason Ferrara has been working out of Italy, politically incorrect sanctuary of the guilt-ridden auteur: one suspects you'd have a hard time signing him up for a sensitivity-training seminar. His new film is very male, at the last: the work of a son trying to process the loss of his parents, bound up in the kind of trauma and grief that tends to be more successfully worked through on the psychiatrist's couch than it does on the cinema screen. Still, few filmmakers have confronted that loss so frontally, with such little apparent hesitancy about seeming obtuse, incoherent, perverse or dickish. Towards the end of his long day's journey into night, our protagonist encounters a Christ-like figure who counsels him to "be human: fuck up, shake your ass". Clutching that particular maxim firmly to its dark heart, Siberia emerges - believe it or not - as Ferrara's very own Field of Dreams: grubbier, grimier, more lived-in and fucked-up, naturally - but just about as riskily human as anything else in this singular filmography.

Siberia is now available for BFI Player subscribers to stream.

Saturday 18 September 2021

For what it's worth...

Top 10 films at the UK box office
 (for the weekend of September 10-12, 2021):

2 (2Free Guy (15)
3 (new) Respect (12A)
4 (3) Candyman (15)
5 (new) Malignant (18)
6 (4Paw Patrol: The Movie (U)
7 (new) Copshop (15)
8 (5) Jungle Cruise (12A)
9 (7) The Croods 2: A New Age (U)
10 (8) Space Jam: A New Legacy (U)

(source: BFI)

My top five:
1. The Maltese Falcon [above]
3. A Clockwork Orange

DVD/Blu-Ray/Download top ten: 

1 (new) The Hitman's Wife's Bodyguard (15)
2 (2) The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (15)
3 (new) Monster Hunter (12)
4 (1) A Quiet Place: Part II (15)
5 (4) Nobody (15) ***
6 (5) Peter Rabbit 2 (U)
7 (7) Cruella (12) ***
8 (3) The Father (12) ***
9 (new) The Hitman's Double Pack (15)
10 (13) Zack Snyder's Justice League (15)

My top five: 
1. The Reason I Jump

Top five films on terrestrial TV this week:
1. Dances with Wolves (Saturday, five, 12.50pm)
2. Boyz N The Hood (Sunday, BBC2, 10.45pm)
3. Whiplash (Wednesday, BBC2, 11.15pm)
4. The Day After Tomorrow (Sunday, C4, 5.20pm)
5. 22 Jump Street (Saturday, ITV, 10.35pm)

"The Grand Duke of Corsica" (Guardian 17/09/21)

The Grand Duke of Corsica

Dir: Daniel Graham. With: Timothy Spall, Peter Stormare, Matt Hookings, Alicia Agneson. 93 mins. Cert: 15

Having apprenticed in arthouse distribution, writer-director Daniel Graham has nobly devoted himself to reviving the aesthetics of once-prominent auteurs deemed unfashionable, uncommercial or both simultaneously. Graham’s 2017 film Opus Zero followed in the thematically dense, landscape-attentive footsteps of Theo Angelopoulos; now this deeply eccentric follow-up tips a plumed hat towards Peter Greenaway, casting Timothy Spall in what instantly resembles a post-Brexit update of the Brian Dennehy role in 1987’s The Belly of an Architect. There’s a lot of vomit, and the film is something of a splurge itself, pebble-dashing the screen with ideas. Yet its better ones stick: whether new or regurgitated, the constituent elements are forever intriguing, even if Graham only partially pulls them together at the last.

Spall is at his most Hogarthian, making a full three-course meal out of the contradictions of Alfred Rott, a sharp-suited vulgarian (and self-described “intractable arsehole”) dispatched to sunkissed Malta to oversee the construction of a new concert hall. Fired after his employers clock the building’s resemblance to female genitalia, the architect’s certainties are further tested upon encountering the eponymous figure, an ailing dandy (Peter Stormare, at his most Stormarean) who wants Rott to design his final resting place. Graham, likewise, has much on his mind. This central narrative is interwoven with cutaways to 13th century monks and lepers, while a subplot concerning the Maltese authorities’ efforts to control a malaria outbreak suggests the script was being rewritten as the pandemic took hold.

There are differences of sensibility. Graham is vastly more restrained around matters of the flesh than his predecessor, replacing Greenaway’s visual opulence with a pared-back, still-striking elegance. What remains is a comparable playfulness: as in Opus Zero, a droll humour safeguards against accusations of pretension. A Pasolini-via-Python prologue sees an overhydrated monk tell St. Francis “I need to visit the shrub”; practically the final line is “Your money’s over there, underneath the dildo”. Most disarmingly, Rott becomes actively sympathetic, an index of Spall’s enduring ability to humanise cantankerous cranks. As with Greenaway, the inbuilt ripeness may repel some viewers, and certain themes go under-metabolised, but it’s reassuring to see someone still tossing out curveballs like this. 

The Grand Duke of Corsica is now available to rent via Prime Video.

"Small World" (Guardian 17/09/21)

Small World *

Dir: Patryk Vega. With: Piotr Adamcyzk, Enrique Arce, Aleksey Serebryakov, Andris Keiss. 117 mins. Cert: 18

Patryk Vega is the Polish writer-director whose hard-boiled thrillers have found commercial favour both at home and with diaspora audiences: 2018’s The Plagues of Breslau was the kind of full-throttle, unapologetically 18-rated entertainment Western producers have backed away from recently. Regrettably, his latest is at once globetrotting and dashed-off, and so remorseless that it becomes actively punishing.

Violence is hardwired into Vega’s filmmaking: his unhinged protagonists can’t walk into a room without it seeming like a declaration of war. You gulp, then, when an ominous (and suspiciously unattributed) epigram – “What sort of species are we, if we cannot protect our children?” – makes clear this filmmaker has turned his brawn to addressing trafficking. What follows has two modes: lurid and sentimental. Either way, it’s a big wince.

Our hero Robert Goc (Piotr Adamcyzk) is a cop of a familiarly grizzled stripe, introduced chaperoning a desperate mother to the border after the latter’s daughter is snatched by the Russian mob. The case gets forcibly reopened several years on after a gas explosion in the Russian suburbs exposes a paedophilic treasure trove in the bathroom of weak-willed foster parent Oleg (Andris Keiss). Given that Oleg’s brother is played by an especially phlegmy Aleksey Serebryakov (from Leviathan and the recent Nobody), we sense things can only get grimmer. Sure enough: half an hour in, and a pregnant 11-year-old is throwing herself before a train at Rotherham station. Worse ensues in Bangkok, where Goc starts to wonder whether he himself might have certain… tendencies.

Flailing to out-taboo himself, Vega jabs at all manner of hot buttons, but his usually slick technique fails him utterly here. Rotten with substandard writing and performances, the UK shoot bottoms out with a pederasts’ masked ball, complete with dead-eyed camera and tinkling music-box soundtrack – a contender for the year’s most hamfisted setpiece. The most laughable may be Goc’s encounter with a Thai five-year-old on a water-park flume, requisitioned as an unlikely analogue for Nietzsche’s abyss. Goc’s weary “I have always wanted to see the sights of Rotherham” is funny, but more often than not the misanthropy palls: its paranoic Russophobia, for one, is matched only by certain American Cold War thrillers. A lousy night out and an international incident in the making.

Small World is now playing in cinemas nationwide. 

In retreat: "Wildfire"

I'd be surprised if there's a review of Cathy Brady's Wildfire that doesn't deploy the adjective "brooding". It's a film with several dark clouds hanging over it, and some of these are explained in the course of a nimbly edited prologue of news footage that offers a potted history of Northern Ireland up to and including Brexit. Brady's theme is division, and it becomes clear in the course of one of those unhappy homecomings that have become a feature of Film4-and-BFI-backed arthouse cinema in recent years. Kelly (the late Nika McGuigan, daughter of champion boxer Barry) heads back to her older sister Lauren (Nora-Jane Noone)'s house after a year on the mainland. Her immediate impact is to traipse mud into the carpet; yet gradually, she also stirs memories of the sisters' mother, who died while they were still children in the kind of mysterious circumstances first-time screenwriters must be being schooled to tease out. As witnessed by her hangout sessions with local pre-teens at a nearby lake, Kelly seems to regard this comeback as a second childhood, a chance to pick up where her mother left off, to rebuild and grow anew: she takes a crack at converting her hosts' garden into a makeshift vegetable patch. Lauren and her husband Sean (Martin McCann) are far less keen about digging things up, however, given that Kelly often appears borderline manic in her efforts to make up for lost time. Those efforts are also often met with violence. A white van man punches Kelly full in the face after she scurries to retrieve the rubbish bag he's dumped on the road; and the local watering hole is lorded over by ex-IRA veterans who've been released under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement. Good luck trying to unify and pacify all this, Wildlife seems to be saying.

So we're anticipating the worst, albeit in ferociously good company. All dirt and bruises, McGuigan - a newcomer to me, although she'd compiled a respectable list of credits before her death from colon cancer in 2019 - presents as a fully grown woman with something of the feral child about her; you can't help wondering how other directors would have deployed her fervent presence. Noone, meanwhile, gives the impression of a woman spooked by the intensity of the feelings this reunion has stirred up in her: it's as if her sister's reemergence brings out her inner Kelly, which is a tricky development when you're trying to hold down a steady job and keep your marriage together. Much of the evidence suggests Brady is a fine director of actors and emotion; as a screenwriter, though, she's not quite there yet. The withholding tactic she adopts with regard to the mother's death is an overly familiar one, and here feels like a means of circumnavigating a slight deficit of plot. Instead, individual scenes are left to build up and dissipate the film's underlying tensions; we're set circling around before the final confrontation with the truth. Some elements are effective: the sight of the girls wigging out to Van Morrison's "Gloria" in a red-lit taproom nudges an otherwise kitchen-sinky proposition further towards the properly cinematic. (It's the sort of thing Scorsese typically gets the boys to do in his crime movies.) Certain aspects feel underdeveloped, like Lauren's rotely antagonistic relationship with her other half. And I fear some viewers are bound to find the final moments anticlimactic - although even here Brady gestures towards something constructive: putting on a handbrake as a new way to negotiate the same old Troubles. What kept me interested was the film's vision of people being dragged backwards against their will: I sensed Brady trying to articulate the knot Irish citizens felt in their stomachs as Boris Johnson's disastrous idea of Brexit took hold. That side of the story really hasn't been reported anything like enough on the mainland. Brady has at least made a start here.

Wildfire is now playing in selected cinemas, and available to rent via Curzon Home Cinema and the BFI Player.

Downhill: "New Order"

If we've learnt one thing from the filmography of the Mexican writer-director Michel Franco, it's that his work rarely leads us to a happy ending. The ghastly gutpunch is to the Franco
oeuvre what the twist is to a M. Night Shyamalan thriller or a group hug is to a Chris Columbus joint; if I were planning a Franco retrospective - and, honestly, I've got far more edifying ways of spending my days - I'd probably call it something like Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter. New Order, which won Franco the Grand Jury Prize at last year's Venice festival, signals its status as ordeal cinema simply by reversing all the Es in its opening credits - you know, like that 3dg3lord Gaspar Noé - and then bombarding the viewer with glimpses of the carnage to come: a naked lady being hosed down, hospitals being ransacked, streets either voided or littered with corpses. After this salacious teaser, we're parachuted into a society wedding in an unnamed South American city, and introduced to the handsome, well-to-do couple at its centre - the Ivanka and Jared of a clan who've made their evidently considerable fortune screwing over the workers who show up at the gates in desperate need of financial assistance. You wouldn't have to be a genius to see where this one's going, and sure enough matters barrel downhill from here. Revolutionary upstarts sully the sanctity of this carefully curated event first by putting green dye in the water supply, which could be mistaken for a student prank. Yet absolutely nobody's laughing when this movement's representatives scale the walls of the estate, shoot its owners plain in the head, and begin looting the place and anybody unlucky enough to be found on site. This is just Act One, and what follows prompts a question: when a film is so obviously set up to go in one direction, does it even really need a director?

Let's give Franco this: he gives himself room to develop this vicious social tug-of-war. It's possible the Venice jury's heads were turned by the scope of this uprising. Franco fills entire city centres with bruised, battered or otherwise lifeless bodies, cheekily knocking the O off a flagship Louis Vuitton store in passing; and, having indulged his rebellious instincts, he stages a grim clampdown as the state reasserts itself. There's a lot of murderous movement and a rapidly accelerating bodycount, and yet at no point does Franco address ordeal cinema's chief liability: characters that are indistinguishable from crash test dummies, whom the filmmaker doesn't care about, and who exist solely so as to be bashed around at regular intervals. When a heavily pregnant guest shows up at the reception, you can bet Franco is going to have some diabolical fun with her down the line - and sure enough he does once the revolutionaries discover her cowering in the pantry. But then so would the Manson family, and I wouldn't really want to witness their handiwork, either. This heavyhandedness ensures New Order comes in way down on last year's sly MUBI import The Good Girls, another Mexican depiction of societal collapse, albeit one that had stealth on its side, and which troubled to ensure its characters weren't just straw men. Franco, by contrast, doesn't care about the rich, because they have fancy houses and treat those beneath them with disdain; he scoffs at the revolutionaries, because they go too far and generate the chaos a control-freak creative can only find distasteful; and he's not an especially big fan of the police, either, depicted here as fascists with guns. Which doesn't leave us with much to cling to amid the descent: it's just endless killshots and screams, corpses being torched in neat lines, and ironic use of a military anthem over the closing credits. Franco returned to Venice this year with his latest Sundown, only to be sent home with a near-universal set of one-star reviews. This is the downside of having the blessing and privilege of making a film a year for international exhibition: one-trick ponies get sussed out quicker than ever.

New Order is now streaming via MUBI.

Tuesday 14 September 2021

On demand: "Worth"

 arrives as a marker of just how badly the industry has been shaken with the onset of Covid and streaming services. In any year prior to 2020, Sara Colangelo's illustrious follow-up to The Kindergarten Teacher - one of the stronger features to have emerged in the year before the pandemic - would have enjoyed a substantial theatrical rollout and serious awards positioning. In our far nervier market, it's had a contractual-obligation release here and there before being semi-buried amid the weekly avalanche of new Netflix content. (There are Kissing Booth sequels that have had a greater promotional push.) It's a shame, because this is a smartly fashioned drama on a fascinating, genuinely one-of-a-kind subject: how the US authorities arrived at a dollar value to be paid out in compensation to the families of 9/11 survivors, so as to circumvent the lawsuits that might have brought the economy - positioned here as a sacred third Tower - crashing down in the atrocity's wake. Any synopsis would contain within it the hint (and threat) of emptily boxy, grandstanding Oscar bait. Yet the film that's been funnelled our way is self-contained and savvy about what it leaves in and out, forever steadied by its two strongest suits: a nimble, thoughtful screenplay by Max Borenstein that broadly does for 9/11's administrative aftermath what Moneyball did with the niche matter of baseball stats; and a central performance by Michael Keaton - as Ken Feinberg, the lawyer handed responsibility of this grave assignment - which suggests Colangelo is interested in sustaining the close-focus character study she enjoyed so much success with first time round. She keeps it human and nuanced, and doesn't get overwhelmed by either occasion or history.

While no Kindergarten Teacher, the film's Feinberg - a Democrat the Bush administration appointed, perhaps spotting a ready scapegoat - is at least a little inconsistent, and Keaton plays the inconsistency in such a way as for it to seem an interesting choice. The reputation that trails him around the Beltway is of a wily negotiator, and Borenstein and Colangelo join him schooling eager-beaver law students. Yet he's clearly more comfortable with theory than practice: a Washington insider and opera buff who travels with vast headphones to shut out the outside world (a scene-setting setpiece has him remaining seated and oblivious while his fellow commuters react to the attack on the Pentagon), he's also an unusually awkward public speaker for a lawyer. The first indication of the strength of this script comes when Feinberg says the wrong thing at an introductory meeting with the victims' families: it's exactly the wrong thing. Granted, this would be a morbidly surreal task for anyone to have to undertake. Only in America, where liability has been aggressively monetised by Saul Goodman-style ad after ad, would such a pre-emptive payout be necessary, and the nuts and bolts remain truly headscrambling. As one character points out, the World Trade Center housed CEOs and janitors alike, and Feinberg had to try and do restitutive justice to both groups. Dramatised verbatim testimony speaks to a healing process that remains ongoing, but the movie's best scenes are loaded with ironies and ambiguities that Colangelo picks up and socks over. Bereaved migrants sit in stunned shock as lawyers offer them $200,000 - more money than they've known in their entire lives - for the loss of their loved ones. And we marvel that a fellow who's so bad with people should have been chosen to make things right. He gets better, thankfully - and both Borenstein's writing and Keaton's performance have a sense of work being done, of a personality being finessed and refined by human contact.

The breakthrough in this legislation came when Feinberg's office realised they had to consider each claim individually, rather than applying some universal formula; the small triumph being commemorated here - nothing when set against the scale of the tragedy, of course - is that of a system loosening up to better accommodate the individual. This is reflected, in turn, by one of those supporting casts American movies used to have before its wiser personnel, sensing a paradigm shift, eloped to cable television. Colangelo's sensitively cast day players suggest disparate personalities, shellshocked in their own way; as Feinberg's deputy Camille Biros, the quietly great Amy Ryan often seems better adjusted to running this case (and thereby allows Colangelo to pass sly comment on how the system is run); and then there's Stanley Tucci as Charles Wolf, an owlish blogger who lost his wife in the attacks and now presents as the one stickler eccentric enough to be Ken Feinberg's match. His scenes with Keaton are like watching a pair of flints being smashed together: the sparks would be exciting and warming enough, but then each party begins to divest the other of their sharper edges, and the film starts teaching us something about the practice of negotiation. Mostly, there is Keaton, still a joy as he transforms conversations into growling monologues by answering his own questions, and one of the few remaining screen actors capable of conveying the intelligent thought required for this role. The film is strictly New York secular - which is how it shakes off that post-9/11 hoopla over creed and colour - but its protagonist emerges as almost a Biblical figure, at the centre of a trial that required an uncommon wisdom. Far less idiosyncratic than The Kindergarten Teacher - a film that wound up at such a gripping extreme one forgot it was a remake - Worth sits close to what used to be the Hollywood centreground, yet it still provokes the odd question as you power down for the night, principally: well, how much would you or I be worth? Its indifferent treatment raises other issues besides. Given the apparent determination to toss a film like this - one that would have value beyond the ever-narrow awards corridor - how much is any film worth nowadays?

Worth is now available to stream via Netflix.

Monday 13 September 2021

On demand: "Nayattu/The Hunt"

The source of much discussion - and some consternation - among my Indian colleagues, the Malayalam director Martin Prakkat's police procedural Nayattu pitches us up in the company of characters who are, to a man, rotten in some way. We're already some distance from the norms of the Hindi mainstream, with its hero cops winkingly bending the rules for the delight of a complicit audience; Prakkat instead draws us into the ethically challenging territory previously occupied by those 1970s American films adapted from the work of author Joseph Wambaugh (The Choirboys, The New Centurions, The Onion Field). The risk Prakkat and screenwriter Shahi Kabir (a sometime cop himself) are taking is that their film will be dismissed as problematic or politically incorrect: it does depend on the viewer engaging with characters who'd be setting a very bad example even before the inciting incident that incites a riot, in this case. What's interesting from a dramatic perspective is that those characters have long conceded the high ground. The goons and thugs Prakkat's police haul into the station recognise that these officers have no greater moral authority than they do - they're just goons and thugs with a uniform, that's all. They cast their votes as expected in the local election that intensifies an already fraught backdrop, but their hypocrisy and corruptibility pose problems for those parties who claim to represent law and order. Prakkat's main offenders are a trio - a barrelling sergeant (Joju George), his driver (Kunchacko Boban) and a female underling (Nimisha Sajayan) - who round off a night of drunken revels by (accidentally) doing for a motorcyclist with ties to the local reformist party. The situation's quickly a mess, and for the ensuing two hours, we watch these lawmakers-turned-liabilities do their best to slither and scuttle out of it, knowing even those who get away will have to do so with mud and blood on their hands. Viewers expecting a comfortable night's viewing should heed the lyrics of the song playing at the wedding party that precedes the collision, with their polite intimation of carnage to come: "May I chop you into pieces?"

For a while, Nayattu is pretty choppy itself: there's a lot going on, and we're not initially briefed as to which acts of subterfuge are relevant to the plot. (Kabir and Prakkat are setting a scene, and the scene is a swamp.) Yet the movie straightens itself out once the cops flee in their own patrol vehicle, hoping to evade repercussions, yet sparking a manhunt of the kind they themselves once conducted. Thereafter, the question is the extent to which we want to see these characters getting away with it (or, alternatively, the extent to which we want to see them reeled in and prosecuted). Kabir throws in just one small dash of mitigating sentiment: the sergeant is a father whose flight ensures he misses his beloved daughter's dance competition. My gut feeling, however, is that Prakkat has been studying not just those Seventies law-and-order movies - films permitted to be notably more shaded than most 21st century cinema seems to be - but also those recent highpoints of cable TV, shows which have blurred the line separating hero from villain, and which hope sheer narrative momentum will yank us through. The director has capable character actors on his side: inherently ambivalent souls, informed by a recognition of the characters' culpability, and how far they've drifted from the basics of their job descriptions. Prakkat also works up a strain of visual poetry that held me. Much of the first half, up to and including the fateful accident, unfolds after dark, when it's even harder to tell good men from bad; but as our fugitives head for the hills, the screen begins to fill with that casually spectacular scenery for which the Malayalam cinema has become renowned, and we get our first real taste of fresh air. The high ground is regained, after a fashion. (Viewers of a certain vintage may be reminded of Bogey in High Sierra.) Maybe it's an easier watch at some distance - if you can look upon Nayattu's main players as merely characters or archetypes, rather than representative of the Indian police force. Yet even non-Asian viewers may emerge needing a long, hot, cleansing shower, and perhaps then to stick on an episode of Dragnet, the better to reset a spinning moral compass. No denying this, though: right through to its knotty finale, the film's switchbacks and cover-ups are supremely well-handled, and it's an admirably chancy project for someone to have undertaken, even within an industry as flourishing and confident as this. My fear is that Prakkat is fated to receive either ultra-attentive or distinctly indifferent policing whenever the time comes to embark on his next night shoot.

Nayattu is now streaming via Netflix.

Saturday 11 September 2021

For what it's worth...

Top 10 films at the UK box office (for the weekend of September 3-5, 2021):

2 (1) Free Guy (15)
3 (2) Candyman (15)
4 (3Paw Patrol: The Movie (U)
5 (5) Jungle Cruise (12A)
6 (6) The Suicide Squad (15) *
7 (9) The Croods 2: A New Age (U)
8 (8) Space Jam: A New Legacy (U)
9 (7) People Just Do Nothing: Big in Japan (15)
10 (new) Rise of the Footsoldier: Origins (18) 

(source: BFI)

My top five:
3. Shorta
5. Wildfire

DVD/Blu-Ray/Download top ten: 

1 (1) A Quiet Place: Part II (15)
2 (2) The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It (15)
3 (7) The Father (12) ***
4 (new) Nobody (15) ***
5 (4) Peter Rabbit 2 (U)
6 (new) Dune (12)
7 (5) Cruella (12) ***
8 (31) A Quiet Place: Double Pack (15)
9 (3) Luca (U)
10 (6) Godzilla vs. Kong (12)

My top five: 
1. The Reason I Jump

Top five films on terrestrial TV this week:
1. The Graduate [above] (Friday, BBC1, 11.35pm)
2. Dances with Wolves (Sunday, five, 3pm)
3. Gladiator (Saturday, ITV, 10.35pm)
4. Birds of Passage (Thursday, C4, 1.50am)
5. Sorry to Bother You (Sunday, BBC2, 11pm)