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There is a temptation to write Room off before even reaching for the door handle. It’s easy to dismiss a lot of modern literature, particularly the ‘literary sensations’, as high concept but ultimately quite shallow, lacking the richness and complexity of their predecessors. However, we have to put our prejudices to one side for now and admit that Room is perhaps one sensation that really deserves the hype.

Author Emma Donoghue adapts her own bestseller while Lenny Abrahamson, most recently known for the film Frank, takes on directing duties. Room is one those films where it’s best to know as little as possible, which is how I went in. We are immediately introduced into the ‘room’, a tiny, cramped space with only one skylight and a heavily secured, code protected door. The inhabitants of the room are Ma (Brie Larson) and Jack (Jacob Tremblay), a mother and son combo locked in limbo with no way out.

The enforced isolation has clearly taken its toll on Ma, her eyes orbited by heavy rings and her tatty sportswear ghosting about her. She makes pains to see that Jack is still educated into the ways of the world; motherly lessons of cake baking and stories. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the way in which Jack has become institutionalised into the ‘room’. It is his only home, his only way of life. The film has a wider point to say about how much place and environment affects us as human beings.

As the story takes a few (un-revealable) turns, it turns into something much more profound than the struggle to survive in the room. There is a startling scene around the midpoint, where the film changes completely. It will undoubtedly go down as one of the scenes of the year, a breathtaking, cathartic, edge-of-your-seat tour de force. But then we are left with the aftermath, after all the excitement.

This is supposedly the boring part, which Hollywood doesn’t like. There must be always be an active goal to chase heroically; a dastardly villain, a damsel in distress, a dog stuck up a tree. Instead, Donoghue and Abrahamson leave us with something much more interesting and indelible: reflection. I am reminded of some of the films of Claude Chabrol, ostensibly suspense thrillers, but when the excitement fades we are left with this strange, eerie aftermath. The villain has been caught but the consequences of the event are left to catch fire.

The film would crumble without the two superlative performances by Brie Larson and Jacob Tremblay. Ma is lucid, sharp, compassionate but drained, trying to make the best of a torturous situation in order to save her son. Tremblay, meanwhile, gives one of the best performances by a child actor you will ever see. The emotional complexities of a boy torn between the only world he knows and the world that his mother tells him is out there for him, is perfectly embodied by young Tremblay.

Donoghue succeeds in turning her own work into a piece of cinema, which is no mean feat. Her initial idea had the potential to be quite gimmicky, but Donoghue transforms it into something much more universal and pertinent. Lenny Abrahamson’s direction is delicate and unshowy, honing on the little details of the world that Jack sees and letting the audience see through the imaginative, hopeful eyes of a little boy.

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 19.57.11Here’s a documentary well and truly deserving of digital restoration. The BBC made Cracked Actor, directed by Alan Yentob, for their Omnibus strand in 1974.

The film captures David Bowie very much in The Man Who Fell to Earth mode, following his move to the States (and killing off of Ziggy Stardust) and features some great interviews and incredible performances – particularly Moonage Daydream – from an often drugged and frighteningly skeletal Bowie. Still, it captures the artist at his height.

I’m glad he made it through this period (and apparently so was he):

1) CAROL (DIR. TODD HAYNES, USA)

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By far the best film that I’ve seen this year, Haynes serves up another sumptuous melodrama focusing on societal prejudices. Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara play the two lesbian lovers torn apart by 50’s conservatism.

2) THE LOBSTER (DIR. YORGOS LANTHIMOS, GREECE)

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Funnier than most comedies and darker than most dramas, Lanthimos’ weird sci fi was one of 2015’s strangest offerings. Colin Farrell plays a heartbroken single man sent to a eccentric rural match making hotel- if he doesn’t find a true companion there he will be ‘terminated’.

3) BITTER LAKE (DIR. ADAM CURTIS, UK)

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Veteran essayist Curtis turns his focus on the ‘simplification’ of modern politics in order to mask truths, exploring the West’s involvement in the Middle East in particular. Distilling hundreds of hours of fascinating footage and ethereal ambient/pop music, Curtis has created a film that is dreamy, poetic and ultimately unsettling.

4) THE TRIBE (DIR. MIROSLAV SLABOSHPITSKY, UKRAINE)

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An unusual take on the mobster drama, this peculiar Ukrainian film sees a young deaf mute enrol in a boarding school for the deaf and dumb, only find to himself embroiled in ‘The Tribe’, a group of young thugs. The cliches of the gangster film are all here, but the film gains a strange power in its use of silence.

5) TANGERINE (DIR. SEAN BAKER, USA)

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This effervescent LA comedy drama sees Sin-Dee, a trans working girl just out of prison and on the lookout for her cheating pimp boyfriend. Shot just on iPhones and using real locations, Tangerine has a chaotic buzz and naturalism to it that is reminiscent of John Cassavetes’ work.

6) FORCE MAJEURE (DIR. RUBEN ÖSTLUND, SWEDEN)

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An icy oddity that left viewers debating whether it was best to laugh or cry, this had echoes of Ulrich Seidl’s films. Set on a ski holiday in the French Alps, a near fatal avalanche leaves a Swedish family in a world of confusion and reproach.

7) TOKYO TRIBE (DIR. SION SONO, JAPAN)

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Madcap hip hop gangster musical from the deranged mind of Sion Sono. Warring gangster clans vie for power in a neon lit, rain drenched Tokyo, as vicious hip hop beats flow over the soundtrack and gore splashes across the screen.

8) A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (DIR. ANA LILY AMIRPOUR, USA)

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Like Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive, this US-Iranian effort seductively subverted the vampire film genre. A young woman stalks the Iranian Bad City, looking for male prey. The story is thin but the film is atmospheric and eerie, gleefully turning the male predator cliche on its head.

9) STRAY DOGS (DIR. TSAI MING LIANG, TAIWAN)

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It takes a while to settle in to the pacing and tone of Tsai Ming Liang’s languorous films, but once you are in, you are in. A father desperately tries to provide for his young family on the drizzly streets of Taipei, as they find shelter in an array of abandoned and decrepit buildings. Moments of real poetry amidst the decay.

10) WILD TALES (DIR. DAMIÁN SZIFRÓN, ARGENTINA/SPAIN)

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A Tarantino film for people who don’t like Tarantino, this collection of mini films thrills and chills in equal measure. Loosely based around a theme of retribution, we see an often mundane beginning quickly escalate into something ludicrous and often bloody. It’s testament to director Szifron that the films remain both silly and gripping.

 

Screen Shot 2016-02-03 at 10.47.53Considering his previous filmography – and upcoming projects (with Fast 8 doubtless to propel him back into the blockbuster sphere)– F. Gary Gray could have easily botched the biopic of N.W.A, throwing in mindless car chases and shoot-outs, and focusing far less on the politics and brotherhood of the band’s evolution. However, having had a six-year break since his last film, Law Abiding Citizen, it seems he has matured, and Straight Outta Compton is an extremely confident, compelling and often moving drama. Taking in $60 million in its U.S opening, it may still be a blockbuster, technically, yet it’s crafted with finesse, eschewing melodrama and action.

There’s a very artful quality to the film, not seen for a while in a biopic since The Social Network’s stylish profile of Facebook’s beginnings. This is largely down to Matthew Libatique, director of photographer on previous “pretty” films such as Black Swan, The Fountain and Requiem For A Dream (yes, all Darren Aronofsky). He’s no stranger to music and hip-hop, specifically, either, having worked on Tupac’s Live At The House Of Blues and Xzibit: Restless Xposed. He brings an extremely crisp and beautifully-lit essence to the film, as well as the kinetic vibe that pulses through this story. Despite an Oscar-nominated script, it is the cinematography that shines out in production terms.

The story, for those unaware, is finely knitted together, tightly observing the humble start of N.W.A, to the global notoriety, and the division of projects and partnerships. There are very few moments where you feel bored, and the honesty portrayed in terms of the backstabbing and turf wars is extremely refreshing to a film with producers so closely linked to the film*. Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff have penned a very intimate portrait of the five members. Imaginably, the surviving members have had quite a say on what can and cannot go into this film, yet that does not show – we see the twisted, aggressive and soft sides to these urban icons.

Focus is not completely shared, and this is mostly Eazy-E’s, Dr. Dre’s and Ice Cube’s rags to riches tale. MC Ren and DJ Yella are often just present. Still, you feel their camaraderie from the get-go, and as casting goes, this is sublime. Notably, Ice Cube is played by his son O’Shea Jackson Jr (in his first acting performance), somewhat distracting in terms of how eerily similar he is to his father. Nevertheless, his acting ability exceeds that of Cube, and Jackson Jr brings that stern charisma to the role. Dre’s embodiment is made by Corey Hawkins, playing the part as a quiet yet influential figure in the band’s upstart. Hawkins has a maturity deep within him that shines through for the almost-paternal Dre character (fatherly and brotherly, he is the one who softly guides them through). Despite Dre and Cube being far bigger names now, the spotlight is nearly entirely soaked up by Jason Mitchell as Eazy-E. Bringing rage, innocence, comedy and tragedy to the late figure requires  an awful amount of tact – Mitchell is an excellent actor in this regard.

As an ensemble piece, very few plotlines branch out too clumsily. Famous faces are shoehorned in at times (Tupac, and Snoop Dogg, to a degree), although you never forget their place in regard to the star players. The occasional peppering of cultural signifiers, such as the Rodney King trial, also work hand-in-hand with the band’s growth, and the political undertones are always poignant.

For those less interested in rap, it’s hard not to admire the power of their words, or the rhythm of their music. Certainly, for  a regular viewer who has never listened to N.W.A before, it’ll be a delightful education, and for fans, it’s a beautiful tribute to that band. With its raw depiction, and magnetic performances, Straight Outta Compton is a 2015 cinematic gem.

 

*Ice Cube and Dr. Dre are producers; Get On Up, the James Brown biopic had Mick Jagger – who closely knew Brown – felt too tame, probably at the request of Jagger who didn’t want to damage Brown’s image.

1) TIMBUKTU (DIR. ABDERRAHMANE SISSAKO, FRANCE/MAURITANIA)
TimbuktuA tremendously moving modern tragedy set in contemporary Mali, but filmed in director Sissako’s native Mauritania. Timbuktu tells a story of a community fractured by a group of power-hungry Islamist militants intent on controlling the population by undermining the people’s existing cultural and religious practices. In spite of its bleak outlook, the film also captures the incredible music of the region and possesses a sense of spirited defiance in the face of tyranny.

2) MAD MAX: FURY ROAD (DIR. GEORGE MILLER, AUSTRALIA/USA)
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In the hands of another director Mad Max: Fury Road would likely have been an unnecessary and unwelcome reboot, but in the hands of Mad Max originator George Miller it was a triumph. The film is a relentless post-apocalyptic dash from A to B (then B to A), in which Tom Hardy’s petrol head grunt overcomes his misogyny in the service of fighting totalitarianism. It felt surprisingly prescient.

3) SELMA (DIR. AVA DUVERNAY, USA)
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With Selma Ava DuVernay declared herself a directorial force to be reckoned with in 2015. Telling the story of the civil rights marches led by Martin Luther King in Selma, Alabama in 1965, DuVernay marshals a remarkable ensemble of actors with a superb David Oyelowo as Dr King. The film is most exhilarating thanks to DuVernay’s focus on King’s tactics, making for a timely film that reveals both the tough decision making, as well as the sacrifice behind the cause.

4) A PIGEON SAT ON A BRANCH REFLECTING ON EXISTENCE (DIR. ROY ANDERSSON, SWEDEN)
A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on ExistenceRoy Andersson’s latest work is a film of light amusement, deadpan wit and grandiose horror; as the final film in a trilogy about being human, it is an apt achievement. In Pigeon… Andersson’s view on humanity – as found in his advertising work – is one of stale compartmentalised existence, yet there are also moments of painful history, which intrude at uncomfortable intervals. It’s a telling take on modern Western life and a haunting look at our place in history.

5) A GIRL WALKS HOME ALONE AT NIGHT (DIR. ANA LILY AMIRPOUR, USA)
A Girl Walks Home Alone At NightUndoubtedly the coolest film of the year was the brilliant directorial debut of Ana Lily Amirpour, who transitioned from a prolific career in shorts. Though an American production, the film is an Iranian vampire flick in spirit with Amirpour’s Farsi script and excellent troupe of Iranian-American actors. The real success of the film is Amirpour’s perfect blending of the vampire genre with film noir and Fellini & Leone-esque cinematic stylistics. It’s a film buff’s dream.

6) WELCOME TO LEITH (DIR. MICHAEL BEACH NICHOLS & CHRISTOPHER K. WALKER, USA)
Welcome To LeithWelcome To Leith is a brilliant example of how documentaries are becoming increasingly suited to the cinema environment. Telling the story of the residents of Leith as they face off against notorious white nationalist Craig Cobb, filmmakers Nichols and Walker use Western genre tropes to tell both sides of the story and build unbearable tension. It’s a disturbing tale of intolerant ideology and vigilante action in modern America.

7) WILD TALES (DIR. DAMIÁN SZIFRÓN, ARGENTINA/SPAIN)
Wild TalesBrilliantly pulling off perhaps the most challenging film format, the anthology film, Damián Szifrón’s Wild Tales tells a number of disaster stories – from vehicular disasters to weddings gone awry – in an almost-continuously exhilarating two hours. Particular highlights include tales of a jaded demolition expert and a case of rural road rage.

8) IT FOLLOWS (DIR. DAVID ROBERT MITCHELL, USA)
It Follows 2The long held horror tradition of punishing the sexually promiscuous comes to its inspired conclusion in It Follows, in which a curse is passed on through the act of sex. Mitchell creates an atmosphere of dread seldom seen since Hideo Nakata’s Ring in 1998 and the direction recalls the artful horror tropes of John Carpenter, making this a rare American horror classic among recent genre entries.

9) PASOLINI (DIR. ABEL FERRARA, FRANCE/BELGIUM/ITALY)
PasoliniAbel Ferrara’s look at the life of Italian cinematic maestro and social critic Pier Paolo Pasolini is something of an oddity. It features a gravely Willem Dafoe and numerous fantastical sequences from an unrealised Pasolini project; yet it is also an atmospheric, passionate, even mysterious tribute from a student to a master. So evocative in style, it’s a film that begs to be revisited and Dafoe is captivating under Ferrara’s direction.

10) FORCE MAJEURE (DIR. RUBEN ÖSTLUND, SWEDEN)
Force MajeureNo film comes close to Force Majeure in the race for the most cringeworthy filmic effort of 2015. This story of a Swedish family on a skiing holiday in the French Alps becomes a hilariously excruciating watch, after the father fails to exhibit the expected alpha male traits in a crisis situation. Director Ruben Östlund amps up the tragicomedy with his use of glorious cinemascope, which makes every awkward line and humiliating detail seem embarrassingly colossal.

HONORABLE MENTION – JOHN WICK (DIR. CHAD STAHELSKI, USA)
JohnWickThe Matrix aside, Keanu Reeves has not exactly been a reliable source of cinematic greatness – but in Chad Stahelski’s John Wick he contributes so perfectly to the film’s understated wit and panache that we should probably think again. Based on a premise of such hilarious simplicity, this is the revenge flick that Nicolas Cage and Liam Neeson have been relentlessly competing to make for about a decade.

The BFI will re-release Jean-Luc Godard’s stunning post-modern classic Le Mépris in selected cinemas UK-wide on 1 January 2016. It will be the centrepiece of BFI Southbank’s Jean-Luc Godard season running 1 Jan – 16 March.

Brigitte Bardot, Michel Piccoli, Jack Palance and Fritz Lang star in this visually stunning, emotionally charged New Wave masterpiece, which epitomises 1960s style, modernity and glamour. The trailer strongly features the film’s evocative score by Georges Delerue.

Screen Shot 2015-12-12 at 14.45.15As winter comes upon us and the nights draw in, it seems natural to reflect on the fruits of the previous year. But considering 2015’s cinema releases, the quality seems as scarce as the leaves on the trees. So let’s give thanks that a genuinely good film has arrived to leave 2015 looking a little sprightlier.

Carol is the latest film by veteran US indie director Todd Haynes, a sensuous, nuanced romance between two women set in 50’s America. Rooney Mara plays Therese, an elfin, wide-eyed store clerk who catches the eye of Carol, played by Cate Blanchett. If Therese is shy and unsure of herself, then Carol is the opposite; confident, worldly, seductive. While Therese, betrothed to her beefy fiancee, struggles with her feelings of attraction, we learn that Carol already has enough experience of the same sex. In the midst of a messy divorce to her rich husband Harge, Carol’s dalliances with her friend Abby has left their marriage soured.

There is a brilliantly concise scene early on in the film where Therese and her journo friend discuss why people are attracted to a certain type of picture or subject. The message of the scene is clear; there is no real rhyme or reason to why one person is attracted to another, it just happens. As their attraction deepens, Carol and Therese lose sight of the world around them and embark on a roadtrip across the country, escaping their bewildered spouses. It is, for the most part, wonderfully idyllic. Soulful gazes out at wintery landscapes, hushed intimacy, and passionate lovemaking.

That it begins to fall apart is inevitable, this IS a melodrama after all. Haynes has ploughed this furrow in previous films, most notably Far From Heaven, which dealt with similar themes of repression and forbidden romance. It’s an unusual story however for the writer Patricia Highsmith. She was widely known for her razor sharp, twisty psychological thrillers, such as The Talented Mr. Ripley. Carol, on the other hand, while flawlessly plotted, is warmer and less cynical. It will go down as one of the finest Highsmith adaptations yet.

I don’t think there has been a better performance by Blanchett. She is at times dominant, prowling, other times vulnerable, beaten. When she is on screen there is a radiant glow that draws you towards her, and we can see why Therese is so intoxicated with her. Rooney Mara is very fine as well, perfecting the role of the otherworldly, glacial younger woman. The film is very interesting in how it subverts the traditional gender roles; while we have seen plenty of femme fatales on screen, it is rare to see a character like Carol seducing another woman in such a dominant manner. But it is tender too.

Haynes has always been a sensory film maker, if we think back to his claustrophobic thriller Safe and how he manipulated the banal sights and sounds of LA into a horror tale. Carol is of course quite different, but similarly immersive. The film is shot through with a warm, nostalgic glow and the camera sidles in closely to the characters; lingering, loving shots of fur coats, china white hands and blushed cheeks. It is not just that you observe the intoxication of love with these characters, it is that you actually begin to feel it. Carter Burwell’s delicate score echoes the ebb and flow of the scenes faultlessly.

Carol is one of those rare films that is intelligent and cerebral but also naked and sentimental. Every beat of the story is marked by an emotional authenticity; there is not a misstep or a stumble here. Haynes and his crew turn an incisive eye on the tribulations of 50’s repression and give us a moving portrayal of two human beings struggling against an unjust society. It is a testament to the film that we feel with them every step of the way.

 

When Christopher Nolan‘s Dark Knight trilogy wrapped up in 2012 with the release of The Dark Knight Rises, the director had effectively eclipsed all prior Batman films. The trilogy got rave reviews both as an entire entity and for each of its separate films, and fans simply adored Nolan’s work.

But as DC, Warner Bros., and Zack Snyder quickly reminded us when they announced Batman v. Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Batman doesn’t belong to any one film or project, no matter how good Nolan’s work was. There will always be another Batman story, whether in comics, on TV, or on the silver screen. And in 2016, less than four years after the wrap-up of Nolan’s series, we’ll see the latest version of the Caped Crusader—this time being played by Ben Affleck.

It’s difficult to argue with the assertion that the Dark Knight Trilogy produced the best all-around Batman films to date, but the quickness with which we’re moving on to a new franchise calls to mind just how steadily the characters associated with the Batman comics have endured over the years. It makes you think about the older Batman films, and how some of them have become underrated and overlooked in the aftermath of the Nolan trilogy. And in particular, 1995’s Batman Forever now feels like a particularly under-appreciated film that’s worthy of (and in some crowds, receives) “cult classic” status. Here are a few reasons why:

Val Kilmer’s Casting Was The Stuff Of Legend:
It’s always a treat when we hear a cool story about how an actor secured a role, or who might have played a major role but never did. And the story about how Michael Keaton was replaced as Batman for Batman Forever is pretty cool. According to a rundown on all Batman actors, director Joel Schumacher first considered Kilmer after seeing his portrayal of Doc Holiday in Tombstone, a legendary performance by Kilmer for sure. This interest apparently jumped Kilmer ahead of Ralph Fiennes, Daniel Day-Lewis, William Baldwin, and even Johnny Depp. And Kilmer accepted the role without even reading a script. That pretty much sounds like destiny, and lends a neat background to the film production.

The Suit Was Almost Old Fashioned:
Modern Batman fans are pretty much used to the rugged, six pack-adorned, all-black suits for Batman interpretations, but one of the real classic Batman looks is lighter with a mix of grey, blue and black. It’s the suit Adam West wore in the ’60s, but it’s all but disappeared in modern entertainment, save a few animated adaptations and, oddly enough, an online game. Within this particular gaming collection, there’s a Batman title that focuses on a suit that blends past and present. Batman stands proudly on the game’s cover in black and blue, with a grey tinge as well. And this is basically the same blend that made Kilmer’s suit so cool. Even though it was pretty much all black, there was a chrome element to it that almost made it shine with grey and blue in a certain light. It may not be as popular as some other suits, but in a way it’s the most all-inclusive one we’ve seen, showing traits of various Bat Suits from over the years.

The Batmobile Was Terrific:
A lot of modern fans have become obsessed with Nolan’s interpretation of the Batmobile, which was essentially a black tank. That was a pretty great concept, but like the shiny suit, the Batmobile in Batman Forever spans all interpretations of the character, forward and backward. It’s got elements of the limo-like Batmobile from 1989’s Batman, as well as some of the Hot Wheels appeal of the car from Batman & Robin. But it’s also a little fiercer and more rugged than either of those, bridging the gap nicely toward Nolan’s version.

The Cast Was Largely Underrated:
Kilmer is sometimes viewed as the forgotten Batman, but watch this film again and you may find there’s a lot to like about his performance. He’s strong, noble, and in a subtle way, just the littlest bit amusing. Meanwhile, in an essay on why Batman Forever can be considered the best Batman film (in honour of the film’s 20th anniversary this past summer), it was correctly noted that Jim Carrey’s Riddler steals the film. Indeed, it’s arguable that no other actor has been better suited to a Batman role than Carrey to Riddler. Granted, Tommy Lee Jones pretty much whiffed as Two-Face, but overall the strength of Kilmer and Carrey was memorable.

The Title Might Have Been A Question:
If you think “why so serious?” is the most high-profile question in the Batman film canon, you may want to think again. The Batman Forever poster featured the Bat symbol worked into a massive question mark that was, of course, symbolic of the Riddler. Whether or not this was meant to imply that “Forever” might have been a question—meaning Riddler could put an end to him—is unknown. However, it’s definitely a cool touch that not too many people remember.

These are all specific details about the film and its background, but really, it’s just a fun one to watch. Batman Forever manages to respect its source material without taking itself too seriously, and those are good ingredients for an enjoyable superhero project.

Screen Shot 2015-11-29 at 16.34.25Late in the day it may be, but one of the most visually sumptuous films to arrive in 2015 is surely Bajirao Mastani, by legendary Bollywood director Sanjay Leela Bhansali (Devdas, Goliyon Ki Raasleela Ram-Leela.)

The film features stunning visual work by Cinematographer Sudeep Chatterjee and three Production Designers: Saloni Dhatrak, Sriram Iyengar and Sujeet Sawant. It certainly looks like a herculean cinematic effort and is expected to break box office records this Christmas.

Set in Mughal India and based on the true story of Peshwa Baji Rao (Ranveer Singh), one of India’s greatest warriors, the film follows the fortunes of the ‘Warrior Prince’, his first wife Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra) and the love of his life, his second wife Mastani (Deepika Padukone).

For a look at the film, check out the trailer below:

And for more see the song Deewani Mastani:

If there’s something that football fans of clubs outside the world’s elite (so about 90%) know about modern football, it’s that success is fleeting. Elite teams, your Bayerns, Barcas, Reals etc. have always existed, but up until the 90’s the playing field was seemingly more level, with a greater number of teams finding successful periods. Then television companies like Sky and recently NBC poured money into the richest teams, through re-branded tournaments such as the British Premier League and European Champions League, and those on the outside have been frozen out, barring some huge outside financial investment.

I Believe in Miracles is therefore, a refreshing reminder of a time gone by where football was a more “honest”, community driven and less money-driven game. In 1975, the somewhat disgraced Brian Clough found himself unemployed after being fired by then footballing giants Leeds United after only 44 days. His disastrous spell and reputation (having walked out of Derby County and Brighton & Hove Albion previously) meant the only team who would take him were a struggling Nottingham Forest side, whom despite previous successes were languishing in the old second division.

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. Forest rose through the division within the months of Clough’s appointment to gain promotion to the top-level First Division and from their watched their success grow as they went on to win the division title, two league cups and most incredibly, two European cups back-to-back all while retaining the core spine of the team inherited by Clough five years prior.

It is a remarkable story of how a team could once be built for success due to football prowess rather than monetary value. I Believe in Miracles excellently re-tells this story, managing to get interviews with essentially the entire squad, featuring big names such as Peter Shilton, Viv Anderson, Archie Gemmill and Martin O’Neil each managing to bring an entertaining and erudite re-calling of the team spirit that bonded them together.

Perhaps most incredibly however is that the most charismatic person to feature in the documentary is, still, Brian Clough himself. Even for generations after his prime, all football fans have at least heard of Clough, who died in 2004, his legacy remaining due to his son Nigel’s current managerial work, and in popular culture due to the recent Martin Sheen starring biopic The Dammed United. Such is the presence of the enigmatic Clough, the interviews shown here from the late 70’s show what a character he was, deflecting unwanted attention from his players through his humour and perceived arrogance, while his squad cannot speak highly enough of his, and his assistant Peter Taylor’s, man-management and tactical skills. This is an excellent companion piece to The Dammed United, which the Clough family were reportedly unhappy with, faithfully telling the story from where that film leaves off.

While this film perhaps won’t transcend it’s initial sporting audience in the same way, Senna did, it is regardless an entertaining and faithful re-telling of this remarkable sporting achievement, felt by the entire city of Nottingham. Director Jonny Owen also knows exactly when to let his interviewees or indeed, the football, do the talking, while expertly editing pieces together accompanied by the era-defining late 70’s sound of Disco, Funk and Soul music. A must watch for football fans everywhere.

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