Read the following film reviews and then decide which ones (A – E) correspond to questions 1 – 7. Some of the reviews may be required more than once.
The epic scale of this martial arts extravaganza has the contrary effect of dwarfing its actors, making miniatures of them in the opulence of its vast sets. The juiciest bits og Hamlet – poisoned blades and double-crossings – have been transferred to the ruthless king-making of 10th-century China. Drums beat and soldiers march as prince Daniel Wu returns to avenge the murder of his father.
Hamlet’s Freudian crush on his mother is out in the open: here she’s his stepmother and childhood friend (Zhang Ziyi), who was married off to his father and now his uncle. Chinese superstar Zhang is perhaps alone among the actors in making her presence felt, as an empress in possession of youth, beauty and icy ambition. But in spite of the ample resources in offer here, the combat scenes rarely dazzle. Where Zhang Yimou and Ang Lee revelled so gleefully in the genre’s gravity-defying antics, you get the impression that the director Feng Xiaogang would like it to be known that his film is more serious than all that.
Shutter, a debut by youthful co-directors Banjong Pisanthanakun and Parkpoom Mongpoom, – part mystry, part horror – features naturalistic acting from its lead duo, who are involved in a hit-and-run accident in the film’s early stages. Impressive lead actor Ananda Everingham plays a photographer – cue plenty of creepy scenes in darkrooms and strange occurrences inside the frame.
Shutter doesn’t entirely avoid the cliches of the genre – a lank-haired, scrawny girl seems to be a contractual obligation since Ring’s Sadako, just as you have to have a magic sword in wuxia. But it largely avoids hysteria, while achieving some seriously creepy scenes amid an unpredictable plot.
McQueen is renowned as an artist and winner of the Turner prize, and this is his first feature film. I came to it sceptically, having been alienated by his video-art work Deadpan (1997). But Hunger shows that McQueen is a real film-maker and his background in art has meant a fierce concentration on image, an unflinching attention to what things looked like, moment by moment. There is an avoidance of affect and a repudiation of the traditional gestures of dialogue, dramatic consensus and narrative resolution. This is a powerful, provocative piece of worl, which leaves a zero-degree burn on the retina.
Terence Davies’ new film, his first for eight years, is a heartfelt and even ecstatic study of Liverpool, the home town of his 1950s boyhood. The movie is brashly emotional and sentimental – sometimes angry, more often hilarious. Nothing has given me more sweetness of its temper, the unfashionable seriousness of its design and its mixture of worldliness and innocence make for something sublime.
Of Time and the City was made possible by a modest grant from a number of public bodies, including Liverpool’s Digital Departures project. The result is miraculous. It has ended the director’s unhappy professional drought, returned him to the wellspring of his early autobiographical inspiration, and done so in such a way as to create new perspectives on the unholy trinity of class, sexuality and Catholicism. The movie might even inaugurate a new “late” period for this director: one showing him making peace with himself and with his past, but still laying painfully bare the cost of this process.
The old Roger Corman exploitation romp undergoes a go-faster upgrade in this bone-headed yarn about convicts forced to race for their lives in a World Gone Insane. Once out of the starting grid, the films proceeds to edit the action so dementedly that one struggles to work out whose car just exploded, who flipped over and who’s driving the one with the missile-launcher on the roof. But that’s OK, because by this point we’re past caring anyway. When the people in this film talk to each other, they might as well be revving their engines or honking their horns. Watching Death Race is like entering a dance marathon with a pneumatic drill as your partner.