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When Marnie Was There: an exquisite production from Studio Ghibli

By on June 29, 2016

Timeless, haunting and enchanting, When Marnie Was There is “unforgettable”, writes Ruth Allen.  The magic continues in Tale of Tales, although these adult fairytales are an anthology of gore, duplicity and obsessive love. Back to reality – yes, really  – in Elvis & Nixon, with great performances from Michael Shannon and Kevin Spacey


(Run time: 103mins; Director: Hiromasa Yonebayashi; Voice cast: Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura)

Synopsis: When shy, artistic Anna moves to the seaside to live with her aunt and uncle, she stumbles upon an old mansion surrounded by marshes, and the mysterious young girl, Marnie, who lives there. The two girls form a unique connection and friendship that blurs the lines between fantasy and reality. As the days go by, a nearly magnetic pull draws Anna back to the Marsh House again and again, and she begins to piece together the truth surrounding her strange new friend.

This exquisitely animated, Oscar-nominated tale of magical friendship is from Hiromasa Yonebayashi, the director of Arrietty (2010) – his adaption of The Borrowers.

Rumoured to be the last ever production from Studio Ghibli, the Japanese animators behind some of the most magical cartoon movies ever drawn by hand.

An appropriately elegiac, melancholic story adapted from a 1967 novel by UK children’s author and illustrator, Joan G Robinson, When Marnie Was There is a haunting and engaging tale that will appeal to young and old alike.

Recuperating from an illness, introverted, artistic Anna (Kasumi Arimura) is sent to live in a picturesque seaside town with her aunt and uncle. She soon becomes drawn to a dilapidated manor house surrounded by marshes. Here she meets a young blonde girl named Marnie (Sara Takatsuki) with whom she has much in common.

Each time Anna returns, the apparently deserted house magically fills with life, blurring the line between fantasy and reality. Slowly, she begins to understand the truth about her mysterious new friend.

Haunting and memorable, this enchanting fable of loneliness and magical friendship is wonderfully engaging and sensitive. Superbly hand crafted in striking shades of greens and blues, When Marnie Was There is a timeless, enchanting and unforgettable film.


(Run time: 134mins; Director: Matteo Garrone; Cast: Salma Hayek, Vincent Cassel, Toby Jones, John C. Reilly, Shirley Henderson, Hayley Carmichael)

Synopsis:From the bitter quest of the Queen of Longtrellis, who forfeits the life of her husband, to two mysterious sisters who provoke the passion of the King of Strongcliff, to the King of Highhills obsessed with a giant flea leading to heartbreak for his young daughter, these stories weave the beautiful with the grotesque, creating a stunning and unique work of Gothic imagination.

Celebrated Italian director, Matteo Garrone [Gomorrah (2008), Reality (2012)] has adapted three stories from the 17th century fairy tales of Giambattista Basile for his first English-language film, starring a top-notch international cast.

These Baroque fairy tales, with a sinister and surreal quality, are a feast of colours, with extreme characters and themes of love and dark obsession.  Neapolitan poet Basile’s stories inspired the likes of the Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Anderson but these sumptuous blood-soaked very loosely intertwined tales are adult and much more disturbing than Sleeping Beauty, The Snow Queen or Cinderella.

Visually breath-taking cinematography by Peter Suschitzky in authentic Italian locations in Apulia, Abruzzo, Tuscany and Ragusa, Sicily serve as the settings for the tales of the three possessed monarchs in neighbouring kingdoms whose dark desires result in twisted, bleak, almost horror stories.

In one a jealous Queen (Salma Hayek) forfeits her husband’s life in her frantic desire to have a child.  In the second, the king (Vincent Cassel) is a fornicating libertine whose passions are stoked by two mysterious sisters. In the third, the king (Toby Jones) becomes totally captivated by a giant flea, at the expense of his daughter’s happiness.

The film’s loose narrative structure is evocative of oral story-telling – gloriously rich with sorcerers, fairies, frightening monsters, ogres, acrobats and old crones (including the wonderful Shirley Henderson buried under hours of prosthetics). An atmospheric score from Alexandre Desplat helps make Tale of Tales  an unforgettable anthology of gore, duplicity and obsessive love.


(Director: Liza Johnson; Cast: Michael Shannon, Kevin Spacey)

Synopsis: On a December morning in 1970, the King of Rock ’n’ Roll showed up on the lawn of the White House to request a meeting with the most powerful man in the world, President Richard Nixon. Elvis & Nixon tells the untold story behind the most requested photograph in the USA’s national archives.

With the tagline “On December 21st 1970, two of America’s greatest recording artists met for the first time”, director Liza Johnson (Return, 2011), brings this quirky and amusing true incident when two of America’s most iconic citizens met in the 1970s.

The King of Rock ‘n Roll showed up on the lawn of the White House to request a meeting with the most powerful man in the world, President Richard M. Nixon.

An eerily authentic recreation of Presley by Michael Shannon is ably matched by distinguished stage and screen actor Kevin Spacey as Nixon in this previously untold true story. At its centre is a revealing, yet humorous moment in the Oval Office that will be forever immortalised in the most requested photograph in America’s national archives.

Spacey, who is no stranger to playing an American President (House of Cards (2013 – ), follows Anthony Hopkins (Nixon, 1995) and Frank Langella (Frost/Nixon, 2008) in portraying the complex Richard M Nixon.

Spacey is always a joy to watch, while Michael Shannon has crafted perfectly all the mannerisms, body language and speech of Elvis, who is on a mission to save the nation’s youth by becoming an honorary DEA agent.

Great performances carry this amusing account of a real life incident.




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