Pirates (2021)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide

Actor and TV presenter Reggie Yates now turns film director with this exuberant teen movie about three mates on a mission to have the night of their lives on New Year’s Eve, 1999. Yates has cited La Haine (1995) as a major inspiration, though Pirates is perhaps closer to late-90s clubbing movies like Human Traffic (1999) and Go (1999). With their own pirate radio station, the friends have their sights set on breaking into the UK garage scene, and the soundtrack is bumper to bumper with big tunes of the time. It’s affectionate, nostalgic stuff, sold by the easygoing chemistry of its young actors and some priceless comic moments, including a debate over how to pronounce ‘plantain’ and the misappropriation of some Backstreet Boys lyrics.

Rebel Dykes (2021)

Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide and online on BFI Player and Bohemia Euphoria

From one UK subculture to another… Rebel Dykes tells an oral history of the post-punk lesbian scene in London in the 1980s. We’re taken back to a time of protests and parties, squats and sex-positive nightclubs, when the queer community in the capital lived in punkish opposition to prevailing conservatism. This was the era of section 28, when Thatcher’s government banned the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools, and homophobic abuse was still common on the streets. Working with producer and scene survivor Siobhan Fahey, filmmakers Harri Shanahan and Siân A. Williams serve up an appealingly handmade collision of archive video footage and rough-and-ready animation, evoking the zine culture of the time. It’s an inspiring testament to the rebellious spirit and embrace-all inclusivity that blew the doors open for subsequent generations.

Devi (1960)

Where’s it on? Blu-ray

Devi (1960)
© Criterion

After a vision of Kali appears to him in his dreams, the patriarch in an upper-class family in 19th-century Bengal comes to believe his daughter-in-law is the goddess’s reincarnation in this damning indictment of dogmatic faith from Satyajit Ray. His first feature after completing his classic Apu trilogy, Devi’s focus is much more telescoped than that autobiographical epic. We barely leave the house where locals flock to worship at the feet of Doyamoyee (Sharmila Tagore), seeking Kali’s powers of healing. Subrata Mitra’s poetic black-and-white photography traces a cloistered world where a woman’s life and wellbeing is slowly destroyed as the result of one man’s folly. This powerful fable sees Ray at the peak of his powers, so it’s great to now have it available on Blu-ray in the year of his centenary.

Little Women (2019)

Where’s it on? Netflix

If each generation gets the film version of Little Women that we deserve, then we should all feel pretty smug. Released as an end-of-decade Christmas present as 2019 drew to a close, Greta Gerwig’s lovingly realised adaptation found room to improve over even Gillian Armstrong’s very fine 1994 version. By tradition, each iteration assembles some of the brightest female stars of its era, and Gerwig’s March sisters include Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson and Florence Pugh, with Meryl Streep and Laura Dern playing their elders, and Timothée Chalamet as boy-next-door Laurie. Their life in Massachusetts in the mid-19th century is brought to the screen with considerable charm and passion, with Gerwig accentuating some of the story’s more modern edge with its emphasis on Jo’s (Ronan) creative blooming as a budding novelist. It’s now added to Netflix.

Marketa Lazarová (1967)

Where’s it on? BFI Player

Marketa Lazarová (1967)

One of a trio of Czech films added to BFI Player this week, Marketa Lazarová is the big one: the greatest Czech film of all if critics over there are to be believed. It’s a moody and majestic medieval epic that ranks with the likes of Ingmar Bergman’s The Virgin Spring (1960) and Andrei Tarkovsky’s Andrei Rublev (1966) as among the starkest, most unforgiving depictions of the middle ages on film. Unfurling like a Bruegel canvas in motion, the film’s widescreen images put us among desolate wintry landscapes and forbidding castles as it tells the violent tale of a young woman’s kidnapping by wandering thieves. Beauty and ugliness jostle for space on the screen in a film that emits a dark-ages chill into your living room.

Originally published: 26 November 2021