Vinyan, Fabrice du Welz, 97 mins (18)
The Beaches of Agnès, Agnès Varda, 110 mins (18)
Army of Crime, Robert Guédiguian, 139 mins (15)

There's a rumble in the jungle but it's blissful on the beaches

Shocking, captivating, disturbing, groundbreaking ... the opening credits of Vinyan are quite something. First you're thumped between the eyes by screen-filling white-on-black block capitals that are probably used in secret brainwashing experiments, and then there's a low rumble that builds to a dentist-drill screech. If you're disorientated by the nightmarish psychodrama that follows, you can't say you weren't warned.

Once you've recovered from this initial barrage, you meet Jeanne and Paul Behlmer (Emmanuelle Béart and Rufus Sewell), a couple who have stayed on in Thailand as aid workers after the loss of their son in the 2004 tsunami. At a fundraiser one evening, they're shown some footage of children in a Burmese jungle, and Jeanne is startled to see that one of them is wearing a familiar football top. It's a blurry rear-view image, but it's enough to convince Jeanne that her son is out there somewhere, alive and well. Paul is just as convinced that she's mistaken, but he agrees to accompany her into the jungle. Their first step is a hellish Phuket nightclub, where they pay a gangster to ferry them across the border to Burma. "We've just got to be careful," says Paul, which must count as one of the all-time great understatements.

There's a lot that's questionable about Vinyan if you take it too literally. Would anyone go on such a perilous trip with so little preparation? And isn't it a bit dodgy that all of the non-white foreigners are either gun-toting sleazebags or painted savages? But from those title credits onwards, the film boots you too far out of your comfort zone to let you do much questioning. Jeanne and Paul's misadventures become more and more hallucinatory; the soundtrack throbs and buzzes, and the picture shudders madly. Vinyan has the same cinematographer as Irréversible, Benoît Debie, which is a sure sign that you should gulp a handful of seasickness pills before buying your ticket.

Despite all this, one of the distinctions of Vinyan is that it's not an ordeal. To the chagrin of horror fans, no doubt, the film never takes away its protagonists' options, instead allowing them to continue on an odyssey that's weirdly beautiful, even if it isn't what you'd call a relaxing holiday. Directed by Fabrice du Welz, the Belgian director of 2004's Calvaire, the film is where Don't Look Now meets Apocalypse Now. It's both a devastating drama about a loving couple's grief, and a demonstration of how intense cinema can be.

Fabrice du Welz's fellow Belgian, Agnès Varda, is the New Wave grande dame best known for 1962's Cléo from Five to Seven. Now in her eighties, and bearing a marked resemblance to Ann Widdecombe, Varda has made a sprightly memoir, The Beaches of Agnès, which takes us through her quayside childhood, her photography in China and Cuba, her directing career in France and in Hollywood, her marriage to the late Jacques Demy, and her recent rebirth as an installation artist.

Varda tells her life story in delightfully offbeat, inventive fashion, bustling between chats with friends and relatives, clips of old feature films and documentaries, and scenes from her past re-created as surreal tableaux. Her energy and creativity would be remarkable in someone of any age, let alone someone who collected her bus pass in the 1980s, but Varda is modest enough to give her own achievements less attention than the beaches where she's always felt at home (hence the title), and the many friends she remembers with heart-warming affection. It's also impressive that a film permeated with such a sense of loss and longing can still be so lively and frothy: imagine Terence Davies's Of Time and the City remade by Michel Gondry. And it doesn't matter whether or not you've seen any of Varda's films. The Beaches of Agnès is definitely one of her best.

After Lust/Caution, Defiance, Black Book and several others – even Inglourious Basterds counts – the latest in the current spate of wartime resistance thrillers is Army of Crime. It's set in Paris, but not many of its heroes are French. They're a group of Armenians, Italians, Spaniards and other immigrants who fled from persecution in their own countries to the land of liberty, equality and fraternity, only to see their families hauled off to Gestapo headquarters by French policemen. It's a well-made saga of heroism and camaraderie, although its heritage costumes and episodic structure are more suited to a TV mini-series than a film.

Also Showing: 04/10/2009

Driving Aphrodite (95 mins, (12A)

Nia Vardalos became an overnight sensation when she wrote and starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, but she was an overnight nobody shortly after. This feeble comedy won't change that. Vardalos plays a history professor who works as a reluctant guide on coach tours of Greece. She gripes about how she hates her job, which is quite annoying, then she realises that she loves it, which is worse. The jokes are woeful, the characters thin, and the life lessons sicklier than a ton of baklava. And most of it was shot in Spain.

Pandorum (107 mins, 15)

Spaceship-bound thriller that tries to take the claustrophobic horror of Alien and the existential angst of Solaris, and spice them up with mutant cannibals and a kick-boxing supermodel. It might have been fun if it weren't so humourless, or if it hadn't been shot in half-light. You'd think they'd have more powerful torches in the 22nd century.

District 13: Ultimatum (97 mins, 15)

Slick action movie set in and around a dystopian Paris ghetto a few years from now. Luc Besson writes and produces, which would have been a recommendation a decade ago. Now it means that there's not much to think about, but there is some entertaining martial artistry.

Arts and Entertainment
Novelist Martin Amis at The Times Cheltenham Literature Festival

books
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'

After giving gay film R-rating despite no sex or violence

film
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Williams will be given a 'meaningful remembrance' at the Emmy Awards

film
Arts and Entertainment

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Arctic Monkeys headline this year's Reading and Leeds festivals, but there's a whole host of other bands to check out too
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Cliff Richard performs at the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam on 17 May 2014

music
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Educating the East End returns to Channel 4 this autumn

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch will voice Shere Khan in Andy Serkis' movie take on The Jungle Book

film
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

music
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

music
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Edinburgh
Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
music
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
film
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
film
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Theatre
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home