Four new films to see this weekend

Saint Frances, Stage Mother on release, Last and First Men, The Traitor streaming

Kelly O’Sullivan and Ramona Edith Williams in Saint Frances

Kelly O’Sullivan and Ramona Edith Williams in Saint Frances

 

SAINT FRANCES ****
Directed by Alex Thompson. Starring Kelly O’Sullivan, Ramona Edith Williams, Charin Alvarez, Lily Mojekwu, Max Lipchitz. 15A cert, limited release, 100 min
Fascinating comedy concerning a young woman’s up-and-down adventures starting a new job while managing a ho-hum love life. The film is already famous (notorious?) for breaking certain taboos regarding menstruation and abortion. It was worth taking those risks. But Saint Frances is principally memorable for its charming depiction of ordinary people coping with ordinary problems in a confusing world: pregnancy, jealousy, guilt. O’Sullivan, writer and star, is unshowy in both areas, but no less captivating for that. DC

LAST AND FIRST MEN ****
Directed by Jóhann Jóhannsson. Narrated by Tilda Swinton. BFI Player, 71 min

Last and First Men
Last and First Men

Jóhannsson, the gifted film composer who died in 2018, made his feature debut as director with this singular treatment of Olaf Stapledon’s brilliant 1930 novel predicting millions of years of Earth history. Taking cues from Chris Marker’s still-photographed La Jetée, Last and First Men marries cinematographer’s Sturla Brandth Grøvlen carefully composed geometrical, 16mm monochrome compositions, Jóhannsson’s eerie electronica, and Tilda Swinton’s voiceover from 2,000,000,000 years in the future. It requires patience, but the experience is rewarding and moving. TB

STAGE MOTHER ***
Directed by Thom Fitzgerald. Starring Jacki Weaver, Lucy Liu, Adrian Grenier, Mya Taylor, Allister MacDonald, Oscar Moreno, Jackie Beat, Lenore Zann, Anthony Skordi. 15A cert, limited release, 94 min

Jacki Weaver in Stage Mother
Jacki Weaver in Stage Mother

A church choir director takes over a drag club in San Francisco.This movie from playwright and director Thom Fitzgerald might have been created to illustrate Christopher Isherwood’s argument that “You can’t camp about something you don’t take seriously.” There’s nothing particularly novel in the plot or characterisation, but there’s plenty that’s camp. A singalong funeral? Lucy Lui’s uber-trashy outfits? Jacki Weaver’s spidery rendition of Total Eclipse of the Heart? Isherwood can relax. TB

THE TRAITOR/IL TRADITORE ***
Directed by Marco Bellocchio. Starring Pierfrancesco Favino, Maria Fernanda Cândido, Fabrizio Ferracane, Fausto Russo Alesi, Luigi Lo Cascio. VOD, 132 min

Pierfrancesco Favino in The Traitor
Pierfrancesco Favino in The Traitor

Bellocchio, director of the kinetic Mussolini biopic Vincere, examined the story of Mafia informant Tommaso Buscetta. The Traitor has all the trappings of an indecently immoral entertainment. Yet it has turned out oddly flattened. Too much is taken up with uninteresting muttering in the shadows. Secondary characters are insufficiently developed. The lengthy courtroom scenes in the later stages ultimately become suffocating. But Favino keeps it alive with an enigmatic performance that hints at horrid depths. DC

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