Directed by: Stephen DaldryStaring: Kate Winslet, Ralph Fiennes, David Kross and Bruno Ganzy
A Holocaust film with a difference as it focuses on a perpetrator. Hanna (Kate Winslet, who won the Oscar for best actress for this role) has an affair with an adolescent Michael ( David Kross) in 1950’s Germany. The affair abruptly ends and it is a decade later when Michael sees Hanna unexpectedly again when she is on trial. He knows of a secret that if revealed may save Hanna but will he and should he reveal it? The film is based on the novel by Bernard Schlink and is a morally complex story, a bold challenging and emotionally engaging work.
Directed by: Laurent CantetStaring: Esmeralda Ouertani, Franck Keita, Francois Begaudeau and Laura Baquela
Winner of the Palme d’Or at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival, the film is an absorbing journey into a multicultural high school in Paris over the course of a school year. It’s based on the autobiographical novel by former teacher François Bégaudeau, who plays a fictional version of himself in the film.
It’s the usual story of an idealistic teacher reaching out to troubled students, but the mix of non-professional teenagers, actual teachers and parents and superb directing by Laurent Cantet lift the film far from expectations. It doesn’t take sides, and it doesn’t have a hidden agenda, resulting in a fictional drama that has the spirit and energy of a documentary. The Class shows us a microcosm of society, but never tries to fob us off with easy answers.
Directed by: Ron HowardStaring: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen
This film brings to the screen the electrifying battle between disgraced president Richard Nixon and interviewer David Frost. It shows the weeks of manoeuvring between the men and their camps as negotiations were struck, deals made and secrets revealed, culminating in the face-to-face interview.
Three years after being forced from office, Nixon agreed to one interview to confront the questions of his time in office and the Watergate scandal that ended his presidency. He surprised everyone in selecting Frost as his televised confessor, intending to easily outfox the British showman. Even Frost’s team harboured doubts about his ability to hold his own, but as cameras rolled, a charged battle of wits resulted.
Directed by: Carol ReedStaring: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotton, Trevor Howard, Alida Valli
This atmospheric thriller is one of the undisputed masterpieces of cinema with iconic performances from Orson Welles and Joseph Cotton. Holly Martins (Cotton) is a hack writer arriving in Vienna shortly after WW11. He plans to meet an old friend Harry Lime, but discovers he has been killed in a road accident. He is told a few home truths about his old chum by a British Army officer (Howard) and Lime’s girlfriend (Valli) and he focuses his energies on trying to discover the identity of the third man who carried Lime’s body from the street. Superb photography by Robert Krasker and the haunting zither score by Anton Karas makes this one of British cinema’s most enduring and atmospheric thrillers. A genuine and endlessly rewatchable classic not to be missed.
Directed by: Sven TaddickenStaring: Jördis Triebel, Jürgen Vogel, Maik Solbach & Martin Feifel
A wry comedy which was well received at the Bath and Bradford Film Festivals and the highest scoring film in local screenings by the British Federation of Film Societies. The eponymous Emma is a frustrated pig farmer. One night a car crashes onto her farm driven by a terminally ill car salesman who has stolen money from his employers. Emma takes the money to pay her debts. The car salesman soon realises what has happened but by then he is falling for Emma. Excellent performances from the two leads make this a film not to be missed.
Directed by: Tom McCarthyStaring: Richard Jenkins, Hiam Abbass, Haaz Sleiman & Danai Gurira
Another superb film from director Thomas Mc Carthy who made the Station Agent which was so well received in our 2005/6 season.
A university professor is grieving over his wife’s death and is bored by his academic career. He returns to his New York apartment to find a young immigrant couple have occupied it. His first instinct is to throw them out, but he lets them stay and slowly builds a friendship built on a mutual liking for music. An understated and quietly passionate film.
Directed by: Clint EastwoodStaring: Ken Watanabe, Shido Nakamura
This film covers a significant event during the second World War. The island of Iwo Jima, lies in the western Pacific Ocean, and its strategic position was considered vital for the Americans in their final push to defeat Japan.
After five weeks of combat, in 1945, the Americans capture the island, but at a very high human cost. The film is unusual in that the unfolding story is presented from a Japanese viewpoint and is based on several hundred letters unearthed on Iwo Jima, decades after the war ended. Director, Clint Eastwood, uses the contents of the letters to explore some facets of war i.e. honour, courage, horrors beyond imagination, and how the rigid Japanese culture led to the unnecessary loss of thousands of lives.
Directed by: John CurranStaring: Naomi Watts, Edward Norton, Live Schreiber, Diana Rigg and Toby Jones
Set in 1920’s China this adaptation of a Somerset Maugham story is a beautifully shot tale of infidelity, revenge and redemption. Kitty (Naomi Watts) is the errant wife of Walter ( Edward Norton) a straight-laced English doctor in China who takes her to a remote, cholera-stricken province. Diana Rigg plays the mother superior of an orphanage for Chinese children. Stuart Dryburgh’s cinematography is highly commended and the wonderful scenery – it was actually shot in China – great performances and a superb story make for a rich experience.
Directed by: James MarshStaring: Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau & Annie Allix
On August 7th 1974, Philippe Petit, a 24 year old Frenchman, stepped out on to a 200 ft-high wire connecting New York’s twin towers where he danced for almost an hour before he was arrested. This is his story. Following six and a half years of dreaming, Petit spent eight months in NYC planning the execution of the coup. A mixture of interviews, archive footage and dramatised reconstructions, James Marsh’s film recalls the events. Man on Wire must surely count as one of the most beautiful and thrilling documentaries ever made, a unique and magnificent spectacle that became known as “the artistic crime of the century”.
Directed by: Oliver DahanStaring: Marion Cotillard, Gerard Depardieu, Sylvie Testud & Pascal Greggory
The portrayal of the legendary singer Edith Piaf, La Vie en Rose pays tribute to her life and music in a provocative and loving biopic. Her journey from reluctant street singer to international star is littered with personal problems that make her most famous song, “Non, je ne regrette rien” (“No Regrets”), ring out as a cry of defiance in the face of adversity.
Piaf became internationally famous but constantly battled alcoholism and a morphine addiction before her death in 1963, aged 47. Director Olivier Dahan eschews a straight narrative in favour of dipping in and out of different periods of Piaf’s life. He depicts Piaf as a colourful and almost childlike character who was immensely talented but prone to a destructive side.