The Souvenir Part II (2021)
Where’s it on? Cinemas nationwide
After a long, three-year wait, the dazzling conclusion to British filmmaker Joanna Hogg’s autobiographical epic is finally here. It’s worth getting up to speed with part one (currently streaming on BFI Player) before diving into a sequel that serves to deepen and enrich everything that went before. The film picks up with Honor Swinton Byrne’s Julie in the aftermath of the first instalment’s tragedy, following her through film school as she attempts to exorcise her demons through her art. It’s a reflexive, meta-textual meeting of memoir and fantasy, a lyrical self-portrait of Hogg’s own formative years. It’s also destined to join the select canon of sequels that equal or even surpass their preceding instalments. Tilda Swinton and Richard Ayoade both return, the latter on shamelessly scene-stealing form in an enigmatic tour de force that feels like it’ll be drip-feeding its mysteries and secrets for years to come.
Raging Fire (2021)
Where’s it on? DVD, Blu-ray and 4K UHD
A stalwart of the Hong Kong genre scene for some three decades, Benny Chan died in 2020, not long after finishing this final film. It’s a welcome tribute not just to a dependable action practitioner, but to the glory days of the HK cop thriller, one buoyed by dynamic vehicular stunt work and pulpy melodrama. Donnie Yen, also on fight director duties, is the archetypal cop-who-won’t-play-nice. He’s after Nicholas Tse’s villain, a vexed former colleague who does bad things while sporting an MF Doom mask. In the kind of movie that lives or dies by its set-pieces, Benny and Donnie make for a formidable tag-team. Chan swoops and swoons around his star’s high-kicking antics, while Yen’s choreography makes creative and coherent use of the action stage. The end credits show the late director at work, but not before the climactic trifecta of a killer car chase, gun battle and one-on-one dust-up that demonstrates exactly why he’ll be so missed.
Independence Day (1996)
Where’s it on? Channel 4, Saturday, 5.45pm
If producer-director Irwin Allen (The Poseidon Adventure) was the most committed catastrophist of the 1970s, Roland Emmerich is the cinematic Cassandra most determined to inherit his crown. With Moonfall, his latest demolition derby, testing the low-end frequencies of cinema sound systems this weekend, Channel 4 are screening his cataclysmic classic Independence Day, one of the defining blockbusters of the mid-90s. Desecrating the White House 20 years before the Trump administration, this goofily gung-ho alien invasion yarn combined the apocalyptic agenda of the disaster movie’s heyday with the latest in digital technology. That it remains so shamelessly enjoyable is down to the charismatic casting – including a star-making turn from Will Smith – and Emmerich’s gleeful ownership of the knowingly ridiculous. It offers a sharp reminder of the days when FX-driven spectaculars were still underpinned by some good ol’ fashioned craftsmanship.
The Party and the Guests (1966)
Where’s it on? Blu-ray
Disquieting ambiguity and nightmarish clarity co-exist in every frame of Jan Němec’s Buñuellian fable, a film in which smiling invitations mask insidious intent. Even the title comes loaded with treacherous ironies. Immediately banned in the director’s native Czechoslovakia (and again after the Prague Spring), this nakedly political allegory sees a pastoral picnic interrupted by a group of men and their creepily enigmatic leader. Coerced into joining a strange birthday banquet, the picnickers find their personal freedoms stealthily and systematically eroded. Němec shoots with precision and persuasion, mirroring the film’s metaphorical thrust: that a little social engineering can engender complicity in even the most surreal circumstances. It’s a deeply unsettling interrogation of how authoritarian regimes take hold, and a ruthless unmasking of their performative fallacies. Don’t overlook the extras on this exceptional release from Second Run, where you’ll find one of the greatest animated films of all time in Jiří Trnka’s 18-minute wonder, The Hand (1965).
Taming the Garden (2021)
Where’s it on? BFI Player
Over the last decade, a new wave has been building in the east. Following years of civil war and economic uncertainty, a new generation of Georgian filmmakers have been steadily infiltrating the international stage, with filmmakers like Alexandre Koberidze (What Do We See When We Look at the Sky?, 2021) and Dea Kulumbegashvili (Beginning, 2020) nabbing awards at major film festivals in the process. This hypnotic documentary from Salomé Jashi is a folkloric allegory told in startling images, with a surreal, Herzogian eye for man’s claims over nature. It charts the whims of a billionaire former prime minister, who pays for ancient trees to be uprooted and transported to his personal folly, a vast arboretum in his backyard. Jashi imbues her poetic wonder with the force of myth, powerfully elucidating the environmental impact on the communities employed in service of one man’s monument to vanity.