Can Paddy Considine’s Journeyman land a knockout blow for British boxing movies?

As UK cinemas prepare for the release of Paddy Considine’s new feature Journeyman, it’s a good time to think about the genre that Considine is working in: the boxing film. Asked to list some of the genre’s characteristics, the average movie-goer might say: a working-class setting, predictable rise and fall, lots of triumphalism, and something else … Americans. In spite of the sport’s Anglo-American genesis and its still immense popularity in the UK, few British films about the fight game – compared with the heft of Rocky or Raging Bull or Creed or Million Dollar Baby – have ever made a big dent, either at the box office or in the public consciousness.

Considine’s second film as director in fact turns away from the expectations of genre. His is a humane and realistic depiction of a fighter battling a brain injury. It eschews rags-to-riches tales, heroic comebacks or greedy mob fixers, and focuses simply on a wealthy professional athlete facing a heartbreaking situation. And beyond the film’s unexpected treatment of familiar sports terrain, there’s something else about Journeyman that’s nice: it’s homegrown.

There is a small sub-section of British film-makers who have shown a fascination with the sport, particularly vis-a-vis its connections to class, poverty and social realism. Among those ranks are Considine’s friend and collaborator Shane Meadows, whose debut 1997 feature about an amateur boxing gym, TwentyFour Seven, was nominated for best British film at the Baftas the following year, and actor-screenwriter Johnny Harris, who worked with Meadows on the TV series This Is England ’86 and its follow-ups.


Terse realism … Jawbone. Photograph: BBC Films

Speaking to the Guardian about his film Jawbone last year, Harris said: “I just wanted to make a really good British boxing movie.” Harris managed to do precisely that; it balances a terse realism with saleable performances from tough-guy stars such as Ray Winstone and Ian McShane. Jawbone was released to critical fanfare, but sadly little box office success.

Jezz Vernon, distributor of several hit direct-to-DVD films such as The Guvnors (2014), and executive producer of forthcoming boxing films of the same kind (Ten Count, Requiem for a Fighter), points out that Jawbone’s lack of takings did not bode well for the future of the Brit boxing flick. “There was a lot of pressure on Jawbone to prove that a well-acted, well-executed film could cut through. But it struggled to get screens and delivered pretty minimal commercial results. Exhibitors, platforms and retailers struggle to find a reason to break new ground or revisit a genre where previous efforts have failed or been few and far between. Margins and audiences are just too slender and fragmented, so there isn’t the financial cushion to allow experimentation without big names.”

Given Journeyman’s quality, considering the British boxing film’s legacy – or lack thereof – is baffling. In the 1930s, a handful of crime films delved into the world of prizefighting. Few, if any, live on in the public memory, but 1939 Ealing Studios production There Ain’t No Justice – adapted from a James Curtis novel – is a rare gem. Fresh-faced star Jimmy Hanley, whose career had been cultivated by Rank Studios since childhood, plays an up and coming fighter who doesn’t realise he’s caught up in a syndicate’s gambling racket. Boxing remained an incidental – if frequent – ingredient of the low-budget underworld films in the postwar period and up to the early 60s, featuring spivs, gangsters and fight-fixers. Ealing Studios producer Michael Balcon, who had produced There Ain’t No Justice, tried again with the The Square Ring (1955), but the reviews were not encouraging.

More recent films such as The Boxer (1997) and Guy Ritchie’s Snatch (2000) have seen commercial and critical success, with audiences primed to appreciate performances from bigger stars. Daniel Day-Lewis and Brad Pitt both committed deeply to their roles as born fighters in each film, different though they are in tone and background. In fact, Snatch focuses only peripherally on bare-knuckle boxing among Traveller communities, making it a boxing film in only the loosest sense. Still, Pitt’s dedication to depicting a bare-knuckle fighter saw him spending months with Irish Traveller families. Day-Lewis, for his part, took lessons from former champ Barry McGuigan until he was good enough to fight professionally. Veracity continues to be an important element of many boxing films, and Considine follows this through line – Journeyman features a host of real-life British boxing commentators, cornermen, and hangers-on.

The Boxer

Deeply committed … The Boxer. Photograph: Allstar/UNIVERSAL/Sportsphoto

On the face of it, the rising stardom of real homegrown heavyweight champs such as Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua – the latter’s fight with Wladimir Klitschko smashed Sky Box Office records – doesn’t seem to have helped. It may be too soon to hope that the recent surge in British talent will encourage film-makers to find uniquely British stories set in the boxing world. Vernon points out: “There have been some successful larger-scale releases for US boxing films. These tend to feature either a larger than life character (Ali, Raging Bull, The Fighter) or a star-led vehicle (Rocky, Creed). We haven’t had a recent breakthrough British boxing film – maybe ever.”

While a handful of modest releases can hardly be called a comeback, it’s in keeping with the spirit of the boxing film to remain hopeful of some sort of redemption. In the meantime, boxing fans should be keeping a close eye on how Journeyman fares at the UK box office. That should give some indication of where this dogged little national sub-genre is going.

Journeyman is released on 30 March.

Pedro Almodóvar’s Madrid: top 10 film locations to visit

The city of Madrid is no less essential to the films of Pedro Almodóvar than kinky sex, crimes of passion and gasp-inducing plot twists. Though born out in Castilla-La Mancha – Don Quixote country – Almodóvar made his punkish early movies here in the capital, where the death of General Franco gave rise to a buckwild creative scene.

Later, soberer melodramas like the recent Julieta (2016) have shown his adoptive hometown in a more nostalgic, melancholy light. Now one of the most widely admired auteurs in world cinema, the director has become a Spanish brand, says Sacha Azcona, while his Madrid stands as the centre of the “Almodóvarian universe”.

Azcona is the author of a new travel guide, El Madrid de Almodóvar, that maps out walking routes around locations used in the director’s films. “But I wanted to go a step further,” he says. “Once you see where a scene was shot, where do you go next?”

So, Azconaalso flags up surrounding landmarks, adds notes on local history, and recommends spots to eat and drink nearby. For now, the book is only available in Spanish, though he hopes an English translation will follow soon. In the meantime, we used his guide to visit 10 vital locations in Almodóvar’s Madrid.

Cuartel de Conde-Duque

Carmen Maura in Law of Desire.

Carmen Maura in Law of Desire. Photograph: Alamy

Carmen Maura – first among the muses known in Spain as “Almodóvar’s women” – plays a transexual actress who stops in the street on a hot summer night and demands of a sanitation worker: “Hose me down! Don’t be shy!” That scene from Law Of Desire (1987) was shot against the grand portico of Conde-Duque Cultural Centre, a hub of galleries and performance spaces in the former barracks of the Royal Guard. Azcona particularly recommends the autumn jazz festival (2018 dates to be confirmed).
Calle Conde Duque 11,

Plaza de Chueca

Plaza Chueca.

Plaza de Chueca features in Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! Photograph: Getty Images

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1990) – Almodóvar’s first domestic megahit – captured the grubbiness of the Chueca district in that era. A young Antonio Banderas – playing the lovesick kidnapper of a former porn star – struts across the main square wearing a goofy false moustache, and robs pills from a local drug dealer. There is no such shady behaviour these days – the plaza has been thoroughly scrubbed up to form the core of Madrid’s hyper-stylish gay quarter. One dusty holdover from the past is Taberna de Ángel Sierra (C/Gravina 11), the 100-year-old bodega where Almodóvar regulars Marisa Paredes and Kiti Mánver chat over a beer in his mid-period movie The Flower of My Secret (1995). Azcona also notes that the nearby Panta Rhei (C/Hernán Cortés 7) is “by far Madrid’s best art and design bookstore”.

Restaurante Viridiana

Viridiana is Almodóvar’s favourite Madrid restaurant.

Viridiana is Almodóvar’s favourite Madrid restaurant.

Named after the 1961 film by one of Almodóvar’s idols, Luis Buñuel, this Madrid institution has been his favourite place to eat for more than 40 years. Owner Abraham García is as famous in this city as the director himself, and Almodóvar gave him a cameo in The Flower Of My Secret as a waiter caught up in a student protest. García’s cooking tends toward classic Castilian offal dishes, but Azcona always goes for the creamy rice with boar shoulder, and the orange blossom flan. Azcona also flags up the Galician-style home cooking of Taberna Maceiras (C/Huertas 66, a few blocks away, where, for a fraction of Garcia’s prices (shared platters of rice €7pp), you can load up on brothy rice, tetilla cheese croquettes and clams in sweet white albariño wine.
Calle de Juan de Mena 14,

Museo Chicote bar

Museo Chicote, Gran Via, Madrid

The Chicote bar featured in Broken Embraces. Photograph: Alamy

This 1930s-vintage art deco lounge is famous for its past patrons – Frank Sinatra, Sophia Loren and Madrid bar-hopper Ernest Hemingway (who inspired the papa doble, a house cocktail of rum and grapefruit). Almodóvar fans will also know the bar from Broken Embraces (2009), and the scene where Blanca Portillo gulps down a large gin before revealing dark secrets to blind film-maker Lluís Homar and their love child Tamar Novas.
Cocktails €10–€14, Calle Gran Vía 12,

Tablao Villa Rosa

Villa Rosa, Madrid, Spain

Flamenco at Villa Rosa

Almodóvar shot a key scene from High Heels (1991) in this century-old wine bar: Panamanian pop idol Miguel Bosé plays a Madrid judge-turned-drag queen named Lethal, belting out the torch song Un año de amor. Today you’ll see flamenco on the stage, while sharing paella, garlic prawns and salted green peppers. It’s an elegant tablao with Andalucian flourishes all over the tiles, windows and woodwork.
Show and drink €35, show and set menu €65, Plaza de Santa Ana 15,

Circulo de Bellas Artes

The rooftop bar at Circulo de Bellas Artes.

The rooftop bar at Circulo de Bellas Artes. Photograph: Alamy

Almodóvar’s masterpiece All About My Mother (1999) was mostly filmed in Barcelona, but hinges on a tragedy shot around this emblematic Madrid building – the arts centre where Cecilia Roth’s teenage son is run over and killed after a performance of A Streetcar Named Desire. The interior has elegant rooms for plays, screenings and exhibitions but Azcona sends visitors straight up to the Azotea rooftop bar for sunset drinks and a “360 degree view of Madrid.”
Calle Alcalá 42,

Hall of Realms

Penelope Cruz in Live Flesh

Penelope Cruz in Live Flesh. Photograph: Alamy

In the early scenes of Live Flesh (1997), poor Penelope Cruz goes into labour on the chaotic night of 1970’s Francoist crackdown, and gives birth on a bus right outside the Salón de Reinos, or Hall of Realms. An ostentatious 17th-century banquet venue built for King Philip IV, it has lately been annexed to the neighbouring Prado Museum. Norman Foster is now restoring the salon to glory as part of that world-renowned art gallery, due to reopen next year.

Teatro Lara

Teatro Lara Malasana District

Teatro Lara was a location in Labyrinth of Passion. Photograph: Alamy

Almodovar’s second movie, Labyrinth of Passion (1982), was a loopy love story about a nymphomaniac pop star (Cecilia Roth) and the gay son of a Middle Eastern emperor (Imanol Arias). Filming in the Malasaña district at the height of La Movida – the localised eruption of sex, drugs and art that followed decades of Franconian repression – he shot a scene inside this velvety 19th-century performance space. Described by Azcona as “a chocolate box”, the venue now hosts intimate indie gigs and fringe theatre shows.
Calle Corredera Baja of San Pablo 15,

Our Lady of Almudena Cemetery

A sculpture angel in Our Lady of Almudena CemeteryMadrid city, Spain

Photograph: Alamy

Even the lightest Almodóvar comedies tend to sneak in a murder or suicide. The vitality of his films has something to do with mortality. No fewer than three of them – High Heels, Kika and Live Flesh – pay a visit to Cementerio de Nuestra Señora de la Almudena, the sprawling necropolis on the outskirts of Madrid, where more than five million corpses outnumber the living population of the city. It’s free to enter, and you can see why the director is so drawn to the gloomy beauty of the place.

Bar Cock

A scene from Broken Embraces, in Bar Cock

A scene from Broken Embraces shot in Bar Cock. Photograph: Alamy

Also seen in Broken Embraces, this splendidly named pub-club is where Tamar Novas works as a DJ in that movie. Just around the corner from its sister bar, Chicote, it’s a stately panelled drawing room that gets pretty rowdy after midnight, when even the sharp, classy veteran bartenders can be seen dancing to OMD. Azcona says he prefers to drink at Toni2 (C/del Almte 9)after hours, a wonderful nearby piano bar where trendies and oldies crowd around for pre-dawn singalongs.
Calle Reina 16, on Facebook

Where to stay

Hotel Indigo

Hotel Indigo

Hotel Indigo Madrid (doubles from €165) is very Almodóvar in its colour schemes, with super-bright decor, murals and photography. It’s on the Gran Via close to the bars mentioned, and to Almodóvar’s former stomping ground of Malasana and Chueca.

Axel Hotel

Axel Hotel, Madrid, Spain

The very funky Axel Hotel (doubles from €89) is a gay-friendly, hyper-colourful four-star with neon signage in the rooms and a rooftop pool and bar. It’s easy to imagine one of Almodóvar’s characters staying or drinking here.

Arthouse cinema and avenue of stars

Cine Dore (Filmoteca Espana) is a classic art nouveau arthouse cinema that often shows Almodovar movies in rep. It features in a few of his movies too – notably Talk To Her. Almodóvar actor Javier Cámera used to work here as an usher.

Madrid has its own Hollywood-style “avenue of stars”, along Calle de Martín de los Heros, between the Renoir arthouse cinema and the Ocho Y Media film bookshop and cafe. Almodóvar and most of his regular players have stars on the street.

Getting there

Many airlines fly from the UK. Among them are Ryanair (Birmingham, Newcastle, Stansted, Manchester, Glasgow); easyJet (Bristol, Luton, Gatwick, Liverpool, Edinburgh); and Norwegian (Gatwick).

Romanian film about fear of sexual intimacy wins Golden Bear at Berlin film festival

Touch Me Not, a Romanian film about fear of intimacy and achieving sexual liberation was the unexpected winner of the Golden Bear, the Berlin film festival’s top award at the festival’s concluding ceremony on Saturday.

Directed by Adina Pintilie, Touch Me Not was picked ahead of 18 other films, including Wes Anderson’s Isle of Dogs and Utoya July 22, by a jury headed by German director Tom Tykwer, best known for Run Lola Run. Based around an English woman’s attempt to overcome her intimacy issues, and ranging across everything from disability to sex clubs, Touch Me Not blends fiction and documentary and is Pintilie’s first feature film.

Touch Me Not director Adina Pintilie with the Golden Bear.

Touch Me Not director Adina Pintilie with the Golden Bear. Photograph: Thomas Niedermueller/Getty Images

The runner-up grand jury prize went to Mug (AKA Twarz), from Polish director Małgorzata Szumowska, about a building worker who needs a face transplant after a gruesome accident. Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw described it as “a strange, engaging film – well and potently acted and directed”, delving as it does in questions of national identity that are currently convulsing Poland.

Isle of Dogs was not completely ignored by the jury however: Anderson was given a Silver Bear for best director for his stop-motion animation about a pack of dogs living in a dystopian near-future Japan, which the Guardian’s Jonathan Romney said “shows an indefatigably fertile imagination letting rip in inimitable style” in a four-star review. Bill Murray, who voices one of the dogs, accepted the award on Anderson’s behalf.

The two Silver Bears for acting went to Ana Brun, star of The Heiresses, a Paraguayan film directed by Marcelo Martinessi about two apparently-prosperous women in a lesbian relationship who run into financial troubles, and Anthony Bajon as a junkie trying to beat his addiction in a priest-run retreat in the Cédric Kahn-directed drama The Prayer.

Octavia Spencer: ‘My first kiss was magical’

The actor, 45, reflects on why women of colour are underpaid in Hollywood, being crotchety in public and why she was able to savour finding fame later in life

Octavia Spencer

‘I don’t feel entitled to anything. Hard work is the common denominator’: Octavia Spencer.
Photograph: Randee St Nicholas

My face is still the same, my heart perhaps has changed. It’s more grown up than when I started acting and it doesn’t allow for being put in a box. With time comes experience and you learn that if you don’t break out of those boxes yourself, no one else will allow you to.

I don’t feel entitled to anything. Hard work is the common denominator in every bit of success I’ve had. Growing up, my family wasn’t wealthy, but we had each other and a mother who worked hard to give us the things we needed.

Women of colour have been underpaid in Hollywood for far too long. We are having all of these conversations and marches about equality, but if you’re truly egalitarian, you have to look at everyone. I shared my story about Jessica Chastain [who tied her pay to Spencer’s in an upcoming film] because I felt: “Look. I have all of these things – like awards or whatever – that people deem important, yet you people don’t want to pay me equally.” Jessica’s a friend, but she’d have done it for someone she doesn’t know.

I’m looking forward to the mid-term elections. I want to make it as difficult as possible for that person [Donald Trump] to create policy, so I don’t have to listen to it every day. My job is to be informed and I inform myself, but there’s only so much you can take.

My first kiss was magical. I was seven and at school and there was a boy who I thought was cute. One day the teacher left me in charge and everybody had to have their heads down to be quiet. I just went over and kissed him. He thought it was gross. I thought it was great.

I’m the same person in public and in private. If I’m not feeling well and feeling quite crotchety, I’m going to be that way wherever I am.

Making The Help and getting my first Oscar nomination was wonderful. It felt special to all of us women who worked on it. I was a bit of a film buff and to have Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek and Cicely Tyson in a movie with me was very special.

Finding fame in my 40s allowed me an adult perspective on my career. I truly understood that you have to enjoy it – and appreciate it.

I’m at my happiest when I’m out in nature. When the sun is shining and birds are nearby and I’m sleeping and can appreciate the things around me.

I march to my own drum. I imagine most people like the tune that everyone else is hearing, but for me it’s easier to tune out and change the radio station if I don’t like what’s playing. I guess that’s boring to some and outlandish to others.

From the first time I saw a television I knew I wouldn’t spend the rest of my life in Montgomery, Alabama. I was five or six and wanted to act as soon as I realised people were paid to live fantasy lives.

The Shape of Water is released in the UK on 14 February

A black superhero who’s no second prize – Black Panther is a Marvel | Eliza Anyangwe

About a minute into the official Black Panther trailer, I realise I’ve been holding my breath. Hunched over, nose close to the screen, it’s as if I’m subconsciously trying to fold my body into Marvel’s cinematic universe. If this is a baptism, I want full immersion.

And if its record-breaking advance ticket sales are anything to go by, it seems I’m not the only one breathlessly awaiting the feature-length adventures of Wakanda’s king, T’Challa.

Part of the excitement is because cinemagoers finally have a black superhero who doesn’t feel like a consolation prize. Director Ryan Coogler’s all-black cast far surpasses previous paltry offerings to the black and brown people whose dollars and pounds turn films into blockbusters, yet who rarely see themselves represented with any depth or diversity on the big screen.

Not since the Blade trilogy, starring Wesley Snipes, has a hero of colour held the limelight. We have to go back to 1998, when the first part was released to critical acclaim and commercial success. Let’s not dwell on the other two.

But the fervour over this film is about so much more than mere representation: Black Panther is both a celebration of blackness and perfectly timed political commentary. “The movie plays to a romanticised version of Africa,” says David Roberts of Entertainlynx. “Magical kingdoms, ruled by emperors and untouched by the white man.”

In a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, 60 years since the Notting Hill race riots and 90 years since women aged over 21 got the vote in the UK, here is a movie set in an east African country, albeit a fictitious one, which is the most technologically advanced in the world.

Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan in the film Black Panther.

Chadwick Boseman and Michael B Jordan in the film Black Panther. Photograph: Allstar/Marvel Studios/Disney

Wakanda has never been colonised. As well as being a superhero, Black Panther, played by Chadwick Boseman, is a religious figurehead and a political leader whose strength comes from his intellect, the superior technology in his suit, a herb that only he can eat without being poisoned, and the knowledge of his ancestors. It’s Afrofuturistic gold.

His 16-year-old sister, Shuri (Letitia Wright), is the smartest person in the world, and he is guarded by an elite female force who, according to writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’s reboot of the story, are more equal than subservient: not just black and proud, but also feminist.

But the comic’s history hasn’t always been so political. In fact, having created the character in July 1966, just months before the revolutionary organisation of the same name was founded, Marvel’s Stan Lee and Jack Kirby went to some lengths to distance their superhero from the politics of the day. In 1972, the character explained in a Fantastic Four comic why he was now called Black Leopard, saying his old name “has … political connotations. I neither condemn nor condone those who have taken up the name, but T’Challa is a law unto himself.”

In the 70s, as new black heroes emerged from Blaxploitation films to grapple with the racial, social, economic and political issues of the day, Marvel’s writers once more attempted to make Black Panther more openly political. In one storyline, the Wakandan took on the Ku Klux Klan, but this braver political writing was apparently met with resistance or indifference.

No such indifference today. The Black Panther preview on YouTube has been watched more than 34m times in the countdown to the February release. The film’s stars are some of the most recognisable black actors, a combination of Africans from the continent and the diaspora: Angela Bassett plays T’Challa’s stepmother, Ramonda; Lupita Nyong’o is Nakia, a member of the Dora Milaje; Michael B Jordan is our villain, Erik Killmonger – tellingly, a Wakandan who grew up in exile; and, having already mesmerised audiences in 2017’s big black film Get Out, British-Ugandan actor Daniel Kaluuya joins the cast as W’Kabi, T’Challa’s best friend. (I’d like to imagine that the pictures of Kaluuya wearing traditional dress at Monday’s premiere broke the internet in Uganda.)

Kaluuya saw the event as an occasion to celebrate his heritage, and so too will I when I head to my local cinema. I’ve pulled the gele out of the closet. A Maasai necklace sits next to it. My scarab beetle bracelet and Xhosa blanket complete the pile. Each item might be from a different part of Africa, but accuracy isn’t the point here: Black Panther belongs to us all.

Eliza Anyangwe is a freelance writer and commissioning editor

Sofia Coppola on the film that launched her – The Start podcast

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At the 1999 Cannes film festival, attendees watched the work of a little-known 28 year old. That film was The Virgin Suicides, written, directed, and produced by Sofia Coppola. The novel by Jeffrey Eugenides about a doomed family of teenage sisters had resonated so much with the young Sofia she felt compelled to step behind the camera and make her own mark on movies.

In this first episode of The Start, Sofia Coppola reveals how personal tragedy – and her own not-too-distant adolescence – fed into the process of telling a story about youth and loss; and, 20 years on, explains the emotional significance the film holds for her today.

Hitchcock, Hepburn and Dirty Harry: vintage movie posters – in pictures

Original movie posters remain one of the most vibrant sectors of the cultural antiques trade. Produced for classic films including Psycho, Roman Holiday and The Italian Job, these original Hollywood posters from online marketplace AbeBooks are all priced in excess of £1,000 due to their age, scarcity, condition, and cultural and artistic significance