Earlier this year in the excellent Downfall, we saw Hitler in the last days of his life, prowling around his Berlin. Now Aleksandr Sokurov, who has himself made a film about Hitler (Molokh), turns his attention to another Second World War loser: Japan's Emperor Hirohito, who oversaw his country's terrible destruction before waving the white flag and relinquishing his right to "divine" status.
Hirohito (Issey Ogata) is portrayed as an isolated, lonely, peaceful man, who has from the sidelines had to watch a war conducted in his name, but in which he probably did not believe. We first encounter him in his own bunker, a slave to stifling decorum and others' servility, before rising into bright sunshine to meet with the conquering General MacArthur; Ogata's facial tics suggest nothing less than a fish washed up on the shore, struggling for breath.
Sokurov's camerawork mirrors the psychological traumas of its protagonist, dimly shot in the bunker, bleached out above ground. As with all of the Russian's films, this demands patience and intense concentration; the effort is worthwhile, since the portrait that emerges - of a man brought back down to earth, in every sense - is fascinating and hugely compassionate.
The Business (18)
From the opening voice-over of this geezer gangster flick - something to do with "crime, drugs and women" - I had a sinking feeling, of déjà vu in concrete boots. Once again we're in the ghastly world of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, where the biggest crime is against the English language, run a close second by various fashion misdemeanours.
This one is set on the Costa del Sol, to which our cheeky Peckham monkeys have relocated to lead a merry old life on their ill-gotten gains, until cocaine and greed get the better of them. Nick Love's previous film, The Football Factory, trod a similarly nefarious path between token vilification of its characters and a seemingly more heartfelt romanticising. I hated that too.
On a Clear Day (12A)
Peter Mullan is the selling point for this latest spin on the Full Monty formula, of working-class Brits concocting a preposterous challenge as a way of hauling themselves out of despair.
Mullan plays Frank, a Glasgow dockworker whose redundancy at the age of 55 leaves him aimless, agitated and unbearable, until a new project - he decides to swim the Channel - gives him a renewed sense of purpose, as well as a chance to address some family demons. Director Gaby Dellal and writer Alex Rose avoid most of the class clichés and pop-soundtrack disasters to present a measured, touching, almost believable story. Mullan, meanwhile, eschews every tear on offer for the incredibly moving father-son sub-plot.
The 40-year-old Virgin (15)
Ignore the unfortunate title, which reeks of some awful frat party movie. This is both an hilarious film, and a sly one, concealing as it does an affecting romantic comedy beneath the layers of bad taste.
Steve Carrell plays the eponymous, sexually-challenged nerd whose idea of fun is to watch Survivor with his elderly neighbours or play with his collectable action figures. Then he makes the mistake of revealing his sexual CV to his workmates and is launched on a misguided, calamitous crash course in seduction. The inestimable Catherine Keener plays his one, albeit kooky hope of salvation.
Red Eye (12A)
If the Channel 4 series Lost hasn't put you off air travel, Wes Craven's short, sharp shock of a thriller just might tip you towards the train. Rising American actress Rachel McAdams plays a woman on a "red eye" to Miami, whose fellow passenger (Cillian Murphy) has an heinous, life or death proposition. The terrorist theme, on a plane no less, is refreshingly brave, the drama direct, the tension interesting - this damsel in distress has nowhere to run but the loo...
Born into Brothels (NC)
When New York photographer Zana Briski met the children of Calcutta's red light district - kids living in abject poverty, abused, the girls likely to follow their mothers into prostitution - she gave each child a camera and for seven years schooled them in photography, her charges' skills and enthusiasm suggesting a way out of the ghetto.
I'm not sure this deserved its documentary Oscar - it is rarely more than a record of good deeds. The kids, though, are inspirational.Reuse content