My favourite films during Covid in 2021

Cinema going in a pandemic is not easy, writes Tony Richardson.


Boris Johnson, with no scientific justification, except the number of cases has gone down, has decided to end all legal restrictions on activities. So no mask-wearing in shops, cinemas and theatres.

He says the UK must learn to live with the virus, Sajid Javid, the health minister, says it is the same as flu. On the very same day, I heard French government ministers saying it is not like the flu.

This is completely different from all other European governments, which are loosening slightly but continuing with most restrictions.

This means real problems for the disabled and most of us older people if you want to go and see a film.

I have been really careful going, picking the time of day and movies that I thought would not have many people.  It helps if you check ticket availability which shows if it will be crowded. All the films I have been to have had only 10-20 people in, and almost all those have worn masks. Now with a free for all you could be next to somebody coughing all over you. Anybody with health problems cannot go – so much for ‘back to normal’.

No doubt there will be people who make a point of non-mask wearing. I remember when a supposedly left-wing group in America, the Spartacists, demanded the right to smoke in Californian cinemas.

From a very limited moviegoing, I would like to give some recommendations. I only went to number 6 of Sight and Sound top 50, and I have already written about a couple on this site.

The standout film for me was Petite Maman directed by Celine Sciamma. BBC Critic, Mark Kermode, said of this that if one film as good as this was made each year the film industry was in good shape. He made it his number one film of the year, Sight and sound made it second and the Guardian made it third.

It is wonderfully filmed with a real feel of the French countryside, a strong sense of time shift and mysticism. The two main 8-year-old actresses are twins. Sciamma’s recent, also wonderful movie Portrait of a Woman on Fire’ is on BBC iPlayer at the moment.

Second, for me was The Power of The Dog. Set in 1926 Montana, it is by Jane Campion. It captures the expanses of the West and the filming is magnificent. The acting is stunning, especially Benedict Cumberbatch, as the most macho of two herder brothers, and by Kodie Smit-McPhee, as the son of the woman running the restaurant. He is training to be a surgeon and is pilloried by Cumberbatch.

The Cumberbatch character is homophobic and racist. He refuses to sell hides to Native Americans and loses his temper when the wife of his brother sells them when he is away. His sister-in-law knows he was going to throw them away.

The denouement is startling.

Summer of Soul is an amazing music documentary, with so many legendary performances.  It puts all others I have seen in the shade, and it captures the racial politics of 1968 in the USA really well.  The film is about the legendary 1968 Harlem festival which celebrated African American music and culture.

Wes Anderson’s film, The French Dispatch, is a typical very funny film, which if you like his films you will love.

Judas and The Black Messiah, on the FBI’s infiltration of the Black Panthers and the murder of up and coming leader Fred Hampton, is important to see if you know nothing about the actions of the US state at that time. It shows the coming together of the Latino movement with the Panthers at that time.

Limbo is a film I have already reviewed in these columns and is an important refugee film.

Recently I have seen Joel Coens The Tragedy of Macbeth, which has Denzel Washington, and Francis McDormand, giving wonderful performances in the leads.  There are a high proportion of black actors in the other main parts. If you like Shakespeare it might appeal, I found it engrossing.

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