Reviews round-up

The critics' verdicts on Eric Hobsbawm, Jay Parini and Tessa Hadley.

How to change the world: Tales of Marx and Marxism by Eric Hobsbawm

Reviewing Eric Hobsbawm's 16th book in the Guardian, Stefan Collini concludes that it demonstrates "that Marxism has, despite its founder's famous proclamation, always contributed more to understanding the world than to changing it", whilst saluting the essay's "sheer intellectual quality."

From the Financial Times, Francis Wheen finds that though "this collection of essays ... about Marxism after Marx is slightly disfigured by the author's enduring party line coyness", Hobsbawm still manages to remind us of the "many reasons for still reading Marx in our turbulent times."

In the New Statesman John Gray accused Hobsbawm of being "highly evasive" in relation to his treatment of the bloody legacy of 20th century political Marxism, and, writing in a "drearily familiar" manner.

The Passengers of Herman Melville by Jay Parini

Writing in the Financial Times, John Sutherland thinks that Parini's "eminently readable narrative convincingly fills in hitherto dark places" in Melville's life, and praises his fictional recreation of Mrs Melville's life.

Philip Hoare, from the Guardian, questions whether Parini's fictional version of Melville's life has been constructed with a touch of authorial "naivety", but admires his "touching evocations of Melville's interior struggles with faith, art and mortality."

In this week's New Statesman, Sarah Churchwell finds that Parini's narrative overtone of "frivolity sits oddly with a writer who was nothing if not serious" and denounces the "literal-mindedness" of this piece of biographical fiction.

The London Train by Tessa Hadley

Tessa Hadley's fourth novel offers "first-class views on the psychological scenery of 21st-century Britain", according to Helen Brown in the Telegraph.

Writing in the Independent, TI Sperlinger concurs that Hadley's novel is "impressive", even if it does contain a few "false notes", such as its "self-consciously literary" tone.

Ophelia Field, from the Guardian, decrees Hadley's latest to be "a good read, with ideas as mature as its characters.

Still from Being 17
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A guide to the top ten London Film Festival screenings you should go and see

Some of the most-celebrated films on at the 60th year of the BFI London Film Festival are sold out. Here are the ones that are still available – and worth seeing.

Feeling panicked because you haven’t booked any tickets yet for the 60th BFI London Film Festival, which is now less than two weeks away? Confused because you don’t know your Chi-Raq from your Paterson? Fed up that the movies you have heard good things about (La La Land, Toni Erdmann) are all sold out? Sick to the back teeth of being asked rhetorical questions which presume to know your state of mind?

Fear not. Below is a handy, whistle-stop guide to ten promising festival screenings for which, at the time of writing, there are still plentiful tickets to be had.

Being 17

Veteran director André Téchiné delivers what is rumoured to be one of his best films: a tantalising and exuberant tale of two teenage boys engaged in a mysterious mutual antagonism.

Elle

All hail the return of master provocateur Paul Verhoeven with this highly-regarded psychological thriller starring Isabelle Huppert as a woman whose response to being attacked is unorthodox and full-blooded.

Frantz

The mischievous writer-director Francois Ozon is always a good bet. I’ve heard two things from friends and colleagues about his new film, a wartime drama. First, that it’s brilliant. And second, that it is best watched without knowing anything about it beforehand—not even the name of the play on which it is loosely based. So I’m passing on those tidbits to you.

Heal the Living

Love Like Poison was a subtle and deeply affecting coming-of-age story set in rural France. Now that film’s director, Katell Quillévéré, returns with a drama about the emotional complications arising from organ donation.

King Cobra

A real-life murder case was the inspiration for this seamy but sensitive journey into the world of gay porn, in which a deadly tug-of-war ensues over a hot new teenage star. The cast includes James Franco, Christian Slater and Alicia Silverstone.

Mindhorn

Anyone who saw Mighty Boosh star Julian Barratt in Will Sharpe’s brilliant Channel 4 show Flowers earlier this year will know that he has developed new muscles as an actor. That bodes well for this comedy, which he also co-wrote, and in which he plays a washed-up actor recreating his best role – a detective with a robotic eye.

Moonlight

The acclaim from the Toronto Film Festival for this story of an African-American boy growing up gay in 1980s Miami has been deafening.

Personal Shopper

Kristen Stewart gave a revelatory performance as personal assistant to a lofty actor (Juliette Binoche) in Olivier Assayas’s Clouds of Sils Maria. Now she’s sticking with Assayas and keeping it personal by playing a shopper to the stars, with a supernatural element thrown in – she’s a medium hoping to make contact with her dead twin brother.

Raw

Universal Pictures has snapped up this bizarre-sounding French-Belgian drama about a teenage veterinary student turned cannibal.

The Reunion

I’ve heard only good things about this tender love story set in Madrid, with one colleague even describing it as a Spanish Before Sunrise. Praise doesn’t come much higher.

The BFI London Film Festival runs from 5-16 October.

Ryan Gilbey is the New Statesman's film critic. He is also the author of It Don't Worry Me (Faber), about 1970s US cinema, and a study of Groundhog Day in the "Modern Classics" series (BFI Publishing). He was named reviewer of the year in the 2007 Press Gazette awards.