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THIS IS ENGLAND
Unrated, 98 minutes
Don’t be put off by the tired agitprop, achingly self-conscious blue-collar grit, and accents that may mystify some on this side of the Atlantic: “This Is England,” – the latest offering from the up-and-coming British director Shane Meadows, is a sometimes exhilarating sometimes wrenching and, at its best, profoundly moving coming-of-age tale that also manages to find room to ponder questions of friendship, fatherhood, group loyalty, masculinity, and national identity.
What’s more, this is a film with a brilliantly evocative sense of time and place. “This Is England” offers the England of 1983, an era of great transition. As the origins of the movie’s title (borrowed both from a classic World War II documentary and an even more melodramatic than usual offering from the Clash) suggest, it was a country on edge, and at the edge.
Andrew Stuttaford (July 25)
R, 113 minutes
Even near the end of almost 300 years of terror, the legitimacy of the Spanish Inquisition in the courts and its hold over the Spanish people was still considerable at the end of the 18th century. So much so that, as Milos Forman’s new film “Goya’s Ghosts” begins, Ines Bilbatua (Natalie Portman), the beautiful young daughter of a prosperous Madrid merchant, is fingered by the Inquisition’s eyes and ears, the Familiars, as a possible Jewish sympathizer simply for turning down a dish of pork in a tavern.
The sequence of betrayals, blackmail, and banishments, and the bitingly cynical and satirical changes of allegiance that ensue as “Goya’s Ghosts” sharply and briskly marches through the last bloody quarter of Spain’s 18th-century history, is far too convoluted and intricate to summarize here. Suffice it to say that Ines and Lorenzo’s braided fates and Spain’s suffering under Napoleonic rule provide more than adequate material for both Goya’s and Mr. Forman’sunique abilities to memorably chronicle human misery and survival through the application of their respective arts.
Bruce Bennett (July 20)
R, 83 minutes
The ghost of Theo Van Gogh hovers through the remake of his 2003 film “Interview.” From his crew to his camera work and the tiny homages to his memory in the film, Van Gogh’s presence is constantly felt. A lesser film would buckle beneath the weight of a martyr’s memory, but it is a tribute to Steve Buscemi and Van Gogh’s original work that “Interview” surpasses its weighty premise.
Van Gogh’s films often focused on the battle of the sexes by spotlighting only two main characters and pitting them against each other; in “Interview,” the face-off is between a celebrity sex symbol (Sienna Miller) and a reporter assigned to profile her (Mr. Buscemi, who also directs). After a typically cinematic event leads the pair to spend the evening in her loft, they alternately spar and connect. Hints of sadism, selfishness, and incest inform the plot. But the intelligence of “Interview” is in its restraint. Unlike so many opposites-attract films, the film ends with the same characters it begins with. Though the pair connect and share various intimacies, the film doesn’t scramble to resolve the conflicts established at the outset.
Meghan Keane (July 13)