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What’s coming to Cambridge Arts Picturehouse? Ali & Ava, The Godfather’s 50th Anniversary and more

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Our film critic Mark Walsh looks ahead to what’s coming to the big screen in this feature, sponsored by the Arts Picturehouse.

Ali & Ava

Ali & Ava
Ali & Ava

Do you ever think romantic comedies are a little unrealistic? Sure, it can be heart-warming to watch a couple fall head over heels in love and head off into the sunset towards their happy ending, but real life isn’t like that. On the other hand, the mundanity of everyday existence doesn’t necessarily make for a compelling cinematic experience, unless it’s the one delivered here in this fantastic new film from British director Clio Barnard.

She’s written and directed a touching love story between two very genuine characters, set in working class Bradford and exploring the relationship forming between two people who are both emerging from previously broken relationships.

Budding middle-aged DJ Ali (Adeel Akhtar) leads his family to believe he’s still living with his wife, but their relationship has broken down irretrievably; this causes potential complications when he meets teaching assistant Ava (Claire Rushbrook), herself still dealing with the aftermath of her marriage to her abusive ex.

Despite their past and present traumas, Akhtar and Rushbrook manage to give their characters an easy chemistry and Barnard perfectly balances the complications of the daily grind and their difficult pasts with a beautiful, charismatic love story that feels plausible and persuasive. The two leads have carved out careers as brilliant character actors but it’s wonderful seeing both given the chance to shine centre stage, and with a soundtrack that features a wide range of music including Buzzcocks, bhangra and Bob Dylan, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Ali & Ava previews on March 1st and opens on March 4.

The Godfather 50h anniversary

The Godfather
The Godfather

There’s a danger that a film as iconic as The Godfather could end up reduced to a set of clichés: from Marlon Brando’s cheek-stuffed patriarch to unwanted discoveries of dismembered stallion parts in bed. But its return to the big screen for its golden anniversary is an ideal chance to once again soak in the timeless quality of Francis Ford Coppola’s epic adaptation of Mario Puzo’s novel and to remind yourself just why it’s considered to be one of the greatest films ever made.

Spanning a ten year period from the end of the Second World War, the original part of this Sicilian crime saga details the transition of power from father Vito Corleone (Brando) to the next generation of his family. After an attempt on Vito’s life, his eldest son Sonny (James Caan) attempts to steer the family business, but antagonism between the Five Families, New York’s mafia powerhouses, also draws in his other sons Fredo (John Cazale) and the disaffected Michael (Al Pacino), all advised by family lawyer and unofficial son Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall).

Originally Paramount, the studio behind the film, sought Sergio Leone to direct to bring authenticity to the tale but he had his own sprawling gangster epic in mind. Instead, they took a chance on Coppola and the rest is history. The film has undergone over 5,000 hours of restoration ahead of its re-release, and from Gordon Willis’ mellow cinematography to Nina Rota’s tremendous score, crime may never have looked or sounded as good.

The Godfather 50th Anniversary opens on February 25.

Studio Ghibli Season

Ghiblie Season
Ghiblie Season

The Japanese animation studio are responsible for some of the very best animated films of the past few decades, and it’s always welcome to see another chance to catch the works of director Hayao Miyazaki and his contemporaries on the big screen. Brilliantly, the reDiscover season is offering the chance to catch two different films every Sunday.

I could just list out the fourteen films you can still catch between now and the end of March every Sunday afternoon, because there isn’t a dud among them, but if I were to pick out some particular favourites, I’d be suggesting you shouldn’t miss My Neighbour Totoro (20th February), where two young sisters discover a forest full of fantastical creatures; Isao Takahata’s heart-breaking war story Grave Of The Fireflies (27th February), following two siblings through the final months of the Second World War; and Princess Mononoke (13th March), where a young warrior must undertake a quest to save his own life.

If I can tempt you into a double bill, then the last Sunday of the season (27th March) offers two of the studio’s very best. Spirited Away sees a girl working in a bathhouse to free her parents from a curse of being transformed into pigs, and How’s Moving Castle is based on a novel by British author Diana Wynne Jones, and was inspired by Miyazaki’s frustrations over the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Take the chance to grab a slice or 14 of some of the best animations ever made.

The Duke

The Duke
The Duke

Director Roger Michell had strong connections with Cambridge University, having been an English student at Queen’s and a fellow of Trinity College. He sadly died last September aged just 65, but a prolific career included films as varied as Notting Hill, Changing Lanes, Enduring Love, Venus, Hyde Park On Hudson and My Cousin Rachel, as well as TV series from The Buddha Of Suburbia to an acclaimed adaptation of Jane Austin’s Persuasion.

His final film may also come to be regarded as one of his best, telling the playful true story of the theft of a portrait of the Duke Of Wellington from the National Gallery by bus driver Kempton Bunton (Jim Broadbent), who sees injustice in society and plans to hold the government to ransom for the painting’s return, hoping to get more benefits for the elderly, including TV licence exemptions. However, he’s doesn’t immediately bring his wife Dorothy (Helen Mirren) in on the plans…

Bond fans might recognise the painting from the lair of Dr No, with the suggestion that the superspy’s original nemesis might have been responsible for taking it. The reality is both more grounded and far more remarkable, and Michell’s story of the painting’s removal and the subsequent trial opened the Venice Film Festival to rave reviews and provides a wonderful conclusion to the sadly curtailed career of one of Britain’s most varied directors.

The Duke opens on February 25.

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