– by David Morgan-Brown
The Emirates British Film Festival hit the Luna screens not too long ago and it was a terrific opportunity to get to view a bunch of British films on the big screen. Along with more than a dozen new British films (set for national release this year or next), it also featured ‘Six from the 60s’ which included The Italian Job, A Hard Day’s Night, Zulu, if…., Darling, and Billy Liar (all of which are in the British Film Institute’s Top 100 British Films). Here’s a recap of the films that I got to check out at the festival.
Zulu– This war film from the ‘60s feels a little outdated at this point, with the amount of war films that have come out that are far less procedural and more thematically complex, but Zulu sets itself out to put its viewers in the experience of the British soldiers fighting against the Zulu warriors, with inevitably grave consequences, and does so with an uncompromised brutality that is harrowing, yet thrilling to watch. The preparation for the fights are long, paced-out stretches of tension that transition into the battles that are realistically crafted scenes presented almost in real-time.
if….– This anarchic masterpiece set a counterculture bomb underneath Britain’s restrictive society and showed Stanley Kubrick who was fit to play Alex deLarge in A Clockwork Orange. Malcolm MacDowell gives a dynamite performance as one of the teenage boys at a boarding school who retaliate against their nasty teachers, principals, prefects, and priests. Hyperbolic, sometimes surreal, and often vilely mean-spirited, this is an odd film split up into chapters that show the escalation of the students’ revolution. Long live if….!
Mr Turner– A biopic of the famed British painter portrayed with great depth and gusto by Timothy Spall, who absolutely engulfs his role. By the looks of things, Turner’s paintings did look impressive, but Dick Pope’s cinematography in this film gives him a run for his money – the appearance of the film itself is often majestically picturesque. The film doesn’t quite dedicate itself to one aspect of Turner’s life or the country he lived in, instead giving us a broad impression of his later years as he began to grow old and how it affected his artistry. This is a British film that’s sure to excel in the awards season, an excellent and wonderfully crafted biopic that (unlike many televisual British films on famous people) deserves to be seen on a big cinema screen.
The Italian Job– If you love seeing very expensive cars get smashed and fall off tall cliffs in Italy, you’re gonna love this. Sleek, slick, and snappily dressed, Michael Caine swaggers through this film as the leader of a staged heist in Italy, which we see carefully planned and executed in all its minute detail. All the build-up is great to watch, with surprising humour laced through it, but the real star of the show is the car chase that completes the last thirty minutes of the film, where Mini Coopers zoom along sidewalks, through tunnels, up and down staircases, and across rooftops – once the action starts, it doesn’t stop until the cliffhanger of an ending.