88 minutes/4.5 stars

This is a rare film in which everything gels so perfectly, the whole would collapse if one element were missing.

In Poland, just after World War II, Zula (Joanna Kulig), a young singer with a troubled past, comes under the guidance of Wiktor (Tomasz Kot), a composer and arranger with the job of making Polish folk music great again.

Polish director Pawel Pawlikowski tells the story of a doomed love affair with a deep understanding of theme, variation and repetition.

Like the central song – sung in rustic style in the first act then reborn as an aching torch song which might have flowed from the pen of Elvis Costello or the horn of Chet Baker – episodes in the lives of Zula and Wiktor play out, each marked by the same haunting motif, musically and emotionally. Nominated in three categories (Best Foreign Language, Best Director, Best Cinematography) at the Academy Awards.


Actress Emma Stone (pictured) plays a woman from a decayed branch of the English aristocracy who is taken in as a scullery maid. PHOTO: TWENTIETH CENTURY FOX

120 minutes/5 stars

In this bawdy, smart and fast-paced period drama, director Yorgos Lanthimos throws away the grand halls, costumes and soldiers so common in films of the genre. Here, two women fight to manipulate a third for power. That there is a lesbian triangle at its centre is a secondary but important element in the mix.

It is the early 18th century, and Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) is, as usual, crippled by illness and grieving over 17 children, all stillborn, miscarried or dead in infancy. Her lover and advisor is Lady Sarah Churchill (Rachel Weisz), from whom she derives both confidence and guidance about Britain’s expensive war with other European nations. Into the household comes Abigail Hill (Emma Stone), a woman from a decayed branch of the English aristocracy, who is taken in as a scullery maid. Nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress for Colman and Best Supporting Actress for Stone and Weisz.


Actor Colin Farrell (left) plays a heart surgeon with a fatherly interest in teenage Martin, played by Barry Keoghan. PHOTO: ANTICIPATE PICTURES

121 minutes/4 stars

Brought back to mark the mark the 10 nominations earned by director Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite, this is his previous work, a creepy tale of supernatural retribution.

Heart surgeon Steven Murphy (Colin Farrell) seems to have taken a fatherly interest in teenager Martin (Barry Keoghan). The young man is fixated on Steven, his wife Anna (Nicole Kidman), teenage daughter Kim (Raffey Cassidy) and young son Bob (Sunny Suljic). As Martin’s behaviour grows more odd, Steven breaks off the relationship, but his decision carries an otherworldly penalty.

That juxtaposition of the mundane and the nightmarishly mythic is constantly at play in this movie, winner of the Best Screenplay award at the Cannes Film Festival, and nominee for the top prize of the Palme d’Or for director and co-screenwriter Lanthimos.

Sunday (Feb 17), 7.50 pm

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