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becoming jane

Review: Young @ Heart, Max Payne, Rise of the Footsoldier, A Journey of Dmitri Shostakovich, Brideshead Revisited and Irina Palm

By Cinema, Conflict of Interest, Reviews

Young at Heart posterThe most purely emo­tion­al exper­i­ence I have had in a cinema this year was watch­ing the delight­ful doc­u­ment­ary Young @ Heart dur­ing the Film Festival. It’s a life-affirming (and by its very nature death-affirming too) por­trait of a group of Massachusetts seni­or cit­izen chor­is­ters who tour the world with a pro­gramme of (often con­sciously iron­ic) rock and pop clas­sics and it starts out like the quirky British tv pro­gramme it was ori­gin­ally inten­ded to be. But then these remark­able, love­able, buoy­ant char­ac­ters take con­trol and by the time they get to Dylan’s Forever Young, I may as well have been a puddle on the floor of the cinema. Young at Heart is so suc­cess­ful I even fell in love with Coldplay for about five minutes. It’s that good.

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Review: The Lives of Others and three more...

By Cinema, Reviews

In the amus­ingly mis-named German Democratic Republic, dur­ing the last years before the Berlin Wall fell and Germany was re-unified, the people were mon­itored for idea­lo­gic­al and polit­ic­al pur­ity by the Stasi, or Secret Police. Astonishingly, there were 90,000 officers in the Stasi and hun­dreds of thou­sands more were paid inform­ants, keep­ing them­selves out of jail or set­tling old scores. A deeply para­noid polit­ic­al élite learnt its philo­sophies and its prac­tice from the Nazis they had over­thrown and an ill-timed joke could see the end of a career or the start of a spell in sol­it­ary confinement.

The awful­ness and absurdity of the situ­ation is bril­liantly painted in Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s thrill­er The Lives of Others, the best Foreign Film Oscar-winner in years. Set in the late 1980s, as even the most loy­al of state ser­vants and pat­ri­ots are los­ing their faith, state-sanctioned play­wright Dreyman, played by Sebastian Koch, is shaken by the sui­cide of his black-listed dir­ect­or, Jerska. He writes an art­icle on sui­cide stat­ist­ics in the GDR to be smuggled out to the West, not real­ising that his flat is being mon­itored 24/7 by the Stasi. Luckily, his main voyeur (Wiesler, a lovely per­form­ance by Ulrich Mühe) is hav­ing com­plex second thoughts of his own.

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