When the much-hyped Netflix series Sex Education debuted last year, I sat down to watch the first episode one evening. Four episodes and three-and-a-half hours later, I had to force myself to stop in. Continue reading
With four-letter words and violence by the bucketload, Guy Ritchie’s gangster flick had everything a 12-year-old boy could want – and it still does
When I was 12, all that mattered was the certificate. That little coloured shape in the bottom corner of the video box was the be-all and end-all, and there was a rigid hierarchy: U-rated films were to be avoided at all costs, PG piqued little interest, 12 suggested there might be something in there worthy of attention: a bit of swearing, the odd moment of violence, maybe even a glimpse of flesh. The 15-rated films were where things got interesting. From my limited experience, that was a broad bracket that took in a whole new world of invective, some unnervingly moderate sex scenes and a decent amount of blood and gore.
But it was the 18-rated films that were the holy grail. That was where the really foul language flowed, where the sex got terrifyingly explicit and, crucially, where the real bloodletting went down. Even the certificate itself – white numbering against a background of deep, carnal red – carried its own exhilaratingly adult connotations. Human beings tend to want what they can’t have, and 12-year-old boys are no different: any film classified 18 was by definition a film I was desperate to see.
It goes without saying that I almost never got to. My parents being joyless authoritarians, catching an 18 film during my early teens required either treacherous fieldwork (buying a cinema ticket for one film, sneaking into another), meticulous domestic strategising (recording the 9pm film on Channel 5 in the knowledge that something slightly riper would be on straight after: a tactic that, due to the three-hour runtime of VHS tapes, resulted in a lot of half-recorded Shannon Tweed movies) or, most often, by engineering invitations to households with a more flexible view of BBFC guidelines than mine.
It was the latter tactic that got me to see my first 18-rated film in full, thanks to a new DVD player, bought by a mate’s dad, that had come with a stack of recently released films. Two of them carried the desired certificate: Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels – a British gangster flick starring Jason Statham and Vinnie Jones – and Crash, a slow-burn psychosexual drama about people who get erotic thrills from car accidents. We went for the gangster film.
Whenever people tell me that Mike Leigh is one of their favourite filmmakers, I’m always surprised to hear it. Even though he’s also one of mine, I forget to think of him as an actual filmmaker.
His brilliant work is derived from his achievements in theatre and it bears those origins on screen, though I don’t mean that as criticism. He returns to some character archetypes frequently (the soulful homeless man, the hopelessly chirpy working-class woman) and the conflicts he puts his characters through feel like the stuff of stage drama. He makes them relevant in cinema from the beginning, then as he goes along, directing more films and making his multi-levelled narratives feel more cinematic. (Meantime just feels like watching people, while Another Year plays almost like a thriller.)
A common mistake people make about Leigh’s work is saying that it is improvised. It’s absolutely not, but is rather a script created from work that he does with his actors, creating characters from birth to death and putting them in situations together in which their improvised interactions eventually result in a finished work. In the eighties, he revolutionized the kitchen-sink melodrama. These films were celebrated for nailing the anxieties of the less fortunate under Thatcher’s conservative reign. In the nineties, he applied his observations of simple lives in the less glamorous parts of London to high concept dramas (and in the case of his Palme d’Or-winning Secrets & Lies, created his masterpiece). Continue reading
Jodie Comer stars as Lesley in Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads episode “Her Big Chance”
theartsdesk recommends the movies to see
There are films to meet every taste in theartsdesk’s guide to the best movies currently on release. In our considered opinion, any of the titles below is well worth your attention.
7500 ★★★★ Debut thriller will have you avoiding airports for good
A White, White Day ★★★★ Gripping Icelandic portrait of grief, love and vengeance
Days of the Bagnold Summer ★★★★ A wry suburban drama from debut director Simon Bird
Fanny Lye Deliver’d ★★★★ Blistering English civil war western starring Maxine Peake
Joan of Arc ★★★★ Part two of Bruno Dumont’s musical biopic ranges from scathing to compassionate
Krabi, 2562 ★★★★ Documentary and fiction combine in an unusual guided tour
On the Record ★★★★ #MeToo turns its lens to the music industry, gives the mic to women of colour
The Dead and the Others ★★★★ Dreamlike journey set in indigenous Brazilian community
The King of Staten Island ★★★★ Judd Apatow’s best work in a decade
The Vast of Night ★★★★★ Teenage sleuths track visitors from afar in an impeccable low-budget indie