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The best new movies and TV

War without violence

The best new films and television, including a French drama with an urgent pacifist message

The best new films and television, including a French drama with an urgent pacifist message

April/May 2017

Film 

French kissing
In Frantz, François Ozon’s loose remake of Ernst Lubitsch’s “Broken Lullaby” (1932), a delicate young Frenchman (Pierre Niney, above) is spotted in a German village in 1919, tending the grave of a local soldier named Frantz. The soldier’s bereaved fiancée (Paula Beer) is intrigued by the mysterious stranger, but the other villagers are furious. For them, the first world war was a barbarous outrage perpetrated by the French, and the stranger is nothing but a murderer. Shot mostly in black and white, with a few dream-like colour sequences, “Frantz” is an elegantly twisted romance with an urgent pacifist message. It’s a welcome antidote to those war films which purport to condemn violence while depicting it in gruesome detail.
Opens in America on Mar 15th and in Britain on May 12th

Rumble in the jungle
Charlie Hunnam (“Sons of Anarchy”) stars in The Lost City of Z, the true story of Percy Fawcett, a stiff-upper-lipped British officer sent on a map-making mission to the Amazon in 1906, who becomes convinced that somewhere in the jungle lie the remains of an ancient civilisation. As well as dodging poisonous snakes and arrows in South America, Fawcett has to contend with academics who scoff at the very idea that “savages” could have mastered architecture and agriculture. Written and directed by James Gray (“Two Lovers”, “The Immigrant”), “The Lost City of Z” is a lavishly appointed epic adventure. Its hero’s progressive convictions may mark the film out as contemporary, but its grand scale and gorgeous location shooting – in Colombia and Northern Ireland – hark back to an earlier era.
Opens in Britain and America on Mar 24th

Beating hearts
When a poor teenage beauty (Florence Pugh) is forced to marry a spiteful mining magnate (Paul Hilton) twice her age, it looks as if she is going to be trapped in a country house in a corset, and the viewer in a relentlessly depressing Victorian melodrama. But the girl’s pert defiance in Lady Macbeth turns the situation to daring black comedy and noirish tension. She soon twigs that with the help of a lusty groomsman (Cosmo Jarvis), and a handful of poisonous mushrooms, she can outmanoeuvre her captor. Inspired by Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel, “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District”, this sparse, elliptical tale strips the traditional costume drama back to the basics of sexual intrigue and class division. Its director, William Oldroyd, has made a confident jump from theatre to film, but it’s Pugh’s precocious self-possession that makes “Lady Macbeth” unmissable.
Opens in Britain on Apr 28th and in America on Jun 2nd
 

Television

The political is personal
When a totalitarian theocracy overthrows the American government, women’s rights are quickly eroded. In a return to “traditional values”, they are forbidden from reading or making eye contact with men, and punished severely for dissent. As well as insurgents, the Republic of Gilead must reckon with an infertility epidemic: it hangs gay men and abortionists, and farms young women out to military commanders to bear their children. Lesbians and infertile lower-class women are sent to die on toxic farms. In a ten-part adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed novel, The Handmaid’s Tale follows Offred (Elisabeth Moss, below) as she navigates this dystopian world and mourns the husband and child torn from her. Featuring Joseph Fiennes and Samira Wiley, it is a tense and poignant examination of the way female bodies are policed, and a chilling reminder of the importance of resistance: “there has to be an ‘us’, because there’s a ‘them’.”
Released on Hulu from April 26th

 

 

Brutal truths
The 1970s are remembered in Britain for festering race relations and picket lines as much as for bell bottoms and butterfly collars. Guerrilla, a six-part thriller, renders both elements in fine detail. Marcus (Babou Ceesay) and Jas (Freida Pinto) are struggling to make a living in London in 1971. Their brutal treatment at the hands of the police radicalises them. After freeing a political activist, they form an armed underground cell and declare war on the “black power desk”, a counter-intelligence unit committed to stamping out black militancy. Penned by Oscar-winner John Ridley (“12 Years A Slave”) and boasting a formidable supporting cast (Idris Elba and Rory Kinnear), the series dramatises the dark side of this neglected period with both style and substance.
Released in Britain on Sky Atlantic from Apr 13th and in America on Showtime from Apr 16th

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