A one-line spoiler-free review of everything I watched in the cinema in January 2023

I’ve never really been a movies person, they last too long and I always want the bar/toilet after 20 minutes like at a gig, which stresses me out. But I got myself a BFI membership and once a week I try to find the weirdest most ‘Martin’ thing to watch somewhere. But I’ve treated it like watching TV/gigs/football rather than a sacred art event. Boring? I’ll leave. Need a wee or a drink? Go do that. Occasionally you miss the vital two minutes of a movie but then so what? There’s another one next week. It’s been brilliant.

News From Nowhere (1978), Alister Hallum – I was born in, grew up in, moved away, and then came back to Walthamstow, so William Morris has always loomed large. This biopic/docudrama about him is very much a product of its time, as was Morris. I liked the bits where Timothy West was just doing Morris speeches about socialism, and enjoyed Kika Markham as his wife eye-rolling in the background as he went on and on. There was a short talk by Rowan Bain, principal curator at the William Morris Gallery beforehand, which was on point. Clive Swift (Keeping Up Appearances, Professor Jobel/Mr Copper in Doctor Who) was inexplicably cast as the business partner who was shagging Morris’ wife, which was properly disturbing on more than one level.

The Sparks Brothers (2021), Edgar Wright – They were playing the Sparks doco on the big(-ish) screen at Butlin’s in Bognor Regis at the end of the Rockaway Beach festival and it would have been simply churlish not to sit there and watch it with other people. May have cried again during several bits of it, couldn’t possibly comment. Honestly, even if you don’t know or like Sparks, it is a really great documentary with loads of great pop culture clips from the fifties up until 2021.

The Sparks Brothers on the big(-ish) screen at Rockaway Beach 2023

Enys Men (2022), Mark Jenkin – I was really looking forward to this and it had all the elements that should have made it exactly my cup of tea – bleak repetition, an ambient but intense soundtrack, a Cornish folk horror mystery – but alas it was not my cup of tea and I was left re-reading the glowing reviews and wondering what they had seen in it that I hadn’t.

The Spirit of the Beehive (El espíritu de la colmena) (1973), Victor Erice – Taciturn adults and inquisitve kids in this post-Spanish civil war drama, regarded as one of the best examples of Spanish cinema of all time, that riffs off Frankenstein and relies on the two central child actors who fortunately put in beguiling performances.

La Jetée (1962), Chris Marker – I must confess to being ignorant of this before, but what an incredible piece of work. I am fairly certain the team working on Doctor Who: The War Games (1969) had seen it, and in retrospect the still image montage format now looks uncannily like a “missing episode telesnap reconstruction” of 1960s Doctor Who. It was incredibly and bleakly ahead of its time, and was a credited influence plotwise on 12 Monkeys, and the best thing I saw this month.

A still from La Jetée showing one of the time travel experimenters.

The Gleaners and I (Les glaneurs et la glaneuse) (2000), Agnès Varda – This was on the same bill and I wondered if I would stay for it all but it had some fascinating glimpses of rural and urban life that made you angry about food waste but also was endearing for some odd vignettes of elderly couples talking about their relationships and also that Agnès Varda seemed so enamoured of her new digital camcorder that she kept doing meta-commentary about using it during the making of.

Tár (2022), Todd Field – I wasn’t sure what to take away from this as the text on the page seemed very strongly against cancel culture, social media, whispers and insinuations, and pondered what great art we would have lost if we held artists responsible for their actions … but also Cate Blanchett was phenomenal while clearly playing an absolute terrible monster of a person who needed to face consequences. I found it absolutely gripping.

Cate Blanchett is magnificent in Tár

The Banshees of Inisherin (2022), Martin McDonagh – This was a lot laugh-out-loud funnier than I was expecting and it had a wee donkey in it which stole every scene it was in. Great film. You can stream it on Disney+ and I recommend it.

It’s the wee donkey. And Colin Farrell.