waters run deep... still
Out of the Blue, directed by Robert Sarkies
The film shrewdly combines traditional cinematic
tropes with eyewitness accounts of the Aramoana massacre to emphasise
that this catastrophe is merely one in a long line of similar stories
the world over, being documented with frighteningly more frequency in
short to play Hamlet
Restul e tacere [The Rest Is Silence], directed by Nae Caranfil
Caranfil is nostalgic and frivolous simultaneously.
He is glad as a director that the pioneers fought for the independence
of cinema as an art-form. More than that, in The Rest Is Silence we
find a director who is truly comfortable with making cinema for the
sake of it, treating the art as an end in itself.
poster-nun for the West
Mother Teresa: In the Name of God's Poor, directed by Kevin
It is precisely this humanitarian culture of low
expectations, of ministering to a romanticised poor, coupled with her
reactionary social perspective, which endeared Mother Teresa to right-wing
politicians in the West.
cycle of agent-less violence
The Battle for Haditha, directed by Nick Broomfield
The film lurches way beyond any legitimate attempt
to avoid a simple morality tale by putting the killings into a comprehensible
context, instead positing a moral equivalence: insurgents and soldiers
alike were forced into this scenario by circumstance, not choice, and,
as fundamentally decent people, they all suffer.
the Romanian New Wave
4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile [4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days]
directed by Cristian Mungiu
Mungiu's point of view is similar to ours, stuck
in a corner of a room, or at the front of a dinner table, unable to
move, unable to do a close-up or emphasise certain elements that might
give us more clues about a character’s emotions, a character’s
interpretation of morality. This way of film-making does indeed feel
live or sacrifice?
The Counterfeiters, directed by Cristian Mungiu
Both individuals are heroes in their own way,
despite the fact that one is justified by social Darwinism and the other
by political idealism. The director is almost trying to say that in
the extreme horror created by the Nazi regime, the survival of a nation
depended equally on physique and on reason.
Four Minutes, directed by Chris Kraus
In the end, the film bears an unlikely resemblance
to the Eminem movie 8 Mile. Just as Eminem’s character
Rabbit invests himself completely in his ‘one shot’ –
the few minutes he has to express himself in a rap competition –
Jenny must live a whole life in the four minutes she has to perform
at the piano competition.
As the back story of the Kosovo war is only roughly
sketched out in this unfinished film, the two parties coming together
in the village are invested with freedom and personality, much as the
intensity of a game of chess is exacerbated by the contrast with the
quiet and gluey-rigid audience.
Sacha Baron Cohen is unimaginatively cast as a
comedy foreign hairdresser with a huge package. Timothy Spall’s
Beedle Bamford is all grease and no elbow – you feel he really
is going through the Dickensian motions - if Mike Leigh were dead he’d
be turning in his grave.
Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
After the tragic fall there’s a distinct
epilogue that extracts and examines the running themes of fame and myth-making.
Ford had idolised the Jesse James of dime novels and ‘bandit weeklies’;
he identified with a man he didn’t know but whose fame created
a false familiarity.
Between Will Smith’s performance, Lawrence’s
direction and production designer Naomi Shohan’s vision, the first
half of this film has the confidence to be detailed yet grand, emotional
but not sentimental and slow though tense – very, very tense –
despite the fact it’s essentially the narrative of one man and
Edge of Heaven
Fatih Akin draws on his Turkish and German heritage
to examine two aspects of the world: the clashes and conflicts within,
and its inherent beauty. The conflicts between the two cultures are
combined in each of the threads running through the film.
'Global womanism' in The Jammed, directed by Dee McLachlan
What is missing is a thorough investigation into
the racialised representations of women. The Jammed’s heroine
Ashley becomes exemplary of a global womanism, in which the white, heterosexual
Australian woman is duty bound to save non-Western women from the sex-trade
Brian de Palma
This is definitely a powerful anti-war movie,
but its power is diffused inwardly rather than outwardly focused onto
the centres of political power. The dead cannot see, but neither can
the living when the feeling is too strong to be understood.
(DVD) Bruce A Evans
This isn’t the film to rage at the dying
of the light or to offer simple moral paradigms. Dunne may be a teacher,
he may even be inspirational, but he’s also a soiled anti-hero,
part Coupland part Dostoyevsky – sleazy, violent and alone. Dunne
is in a hinterland, submerged in a haze of drugs and failed hope - caught
in a headlock.
Bruce A Evans
The film is a parable of the modern animus that
moves in darkly postmodern ironic/comic turns, welding the problems
of violence, morality, and identity to the fleeting notion of self.
Underlying Evans' anxious tale is the disquieting notion that the force
that guides and sustains modern life may be violence and murder.
Daft Punk’s fictional robots strongly resemble
real human beings in many ways - they wear human clothing, represent
alternating genders and vary in age. But mostly the similarity is in
the human-like emotions in the speechless interactions between the two
main characters of the film.
The problem is that none of the leads are interesting
– they are devoid not only of psychological depth, but also of
any broader social resonance. They exist in a vacuum, offering no wider
comment on humanity, as if the world is merely a bland reflection of
their own ill-drawn strife.
Goodall's 20th Century Greats: Lennon and McCartney
Screened at the Barbican, London, 6 September 2007
Is the mere combination of unexpected chords that
make 'I Am the Walrus' an incredible song? Any musical analyst can explain
the technical tricks behind a musical composition. And Goodall is surely
one of the more talented ones. But merely describing the pillars of
a house does not account for the beauty of the whole house.
Irrespective of how subtle Redgrave is in her
delivery, she is buried in the density of colour and mood driven not
by her acting, but by the music. The dogma that less is more is so closely
adhered to in the performances, it is ironic that Koltai ignored it
when judging the effect of other elements.
You Like It
However you look at it, this really is a terrible
film: bad cinema, bad Shakespeare, bad everything. Branagh has a made
a selection of accessible, popular, well-made and generally enjoyable
adaptations of Shakespeare for cinema. It is hard to guess what went
so dreadfully wrong this time.
The tap-tap of a blind man’s cane and the
crunch of footsteps in the desert sand as the opening credits roll introduce
us to a film that is as hypnotic in sound as it is in vision. The dryness
of the Chadian desert juxtaposed with clean bright colours makes for
a stunning film with fable-like quality.
There are no tears in this film. It’s probably
the most passionless romantic movie I’ve ever seen. If David’s
sapped emotional life and frankly stagnant approach to life was the
point of the movie, then these were qualities well represented in the
overall tone: boring, boring, boring.
The portrayal of a man in distress has never been
so raw and never so moving as in the scene when Santi breaks down during
a hunting session with Robert - Guillermo Pfering’s acting is
magnificent throughout the film, but especially here.
East of Bucharest
Mircea Andreescu’s final monologue, detailing
Piscoci’s story on the morning of 22 December 1989, is menacing
in its power to affect us. We, just like him, value the love of our
partner more than of our country. Being a hero in the eyes of one’s
beloved is arguably the best gift one can receive.
You come to expect that whether in the frozen
streets of Moscow or the blistering heat of Africa, whether in a crowd
of London commuters or souk shoppers, Bourne will find a way out of
any situation, but he does so with enough ingenuity (and yes punch)
to sustain your interest.
What Gatlif is exploring is what makes the gypsy
life so appealing on a cultural level, yet so marginalised on a social
one. By using actors of different backgrounds, he immediately erases
any possible caricature, thus allowing the discourse to flow unhindered
by preconceived attitudes.
American studios’ productions always have
included an element of moral education, promoting traditional values.
Evan Almighty is in this tradition, and its weaknesses are not so the
result of secularisation, as the increasing isolationism of American
The film opens with a clip in which a man explains,
for the sake of newcomers to this island and apparently to civilisation,
how to switch on a light. Yes, it’s very disturbing to watch this.
But it’s also darkly humorous.
Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady
Evangelicals care more passionately about politics,
and in greater numbers than their liberal counterparts. Their enormous
fundraising power makes them a force to be reckoned with. Are they wrong
to subject their children to brainwashing? Most certainly – but
what alternative are kids being offered?
For some reason director
and co-writer Milos Forman decided it would be a good idea for everyone
to speak English with a vaguely Spanish accent; now this is all well
and good for Javier Bardem (Brother Lorenzo) who is, in fact, Spanish,
but everyone else, particularly Natalie Portman, just sounds silly.
Man v Mountain
Bravo TV, various directors
When the army team
makes it to the very highest slopes of Everest, their bodies are beginning
to shut down: the lack of oxygen causes their stomachs to stop digesting,
their lungs begin to fill with fluid and their brains to go into meltdown
(as the bravura male voiceover announces repeatedly).
The plan is both a metaphoric and a very literal
shake down of The Bank - Willie’s neatly, if egotistically, named
gambling skyscraper – involving a giant drill and a fake earthquake.
Yep, a giant drill and a fake earthquake - you can practically feel
Dr No and Dr Evil seething with jealousy.
For Dumont the film belongs firmly to him, not
the performers – he is the auteur. He has a purposefully difficult
relationship with his actors – ‘I’m not looking to
make friends’. And he expressly states he does not have affairs
Kitty could so easily come across merely as the
spoilt child of Empire, annoying and vacuous, but Naomi Watts and her
director John Curran bring out far more complexity in her. And importantly
the story doesn’t judge her for not being as serious as her husband.
a Woman Ascends the Stairs
Naruse's whole body
of work, like those of many of his 1960s European fellow directors,
finds in the life of woman a undying source of inspiration. The love
the director has for his heroine is heartbreaking in its purity, making
her appear like a goddess demanding respect simply by being.
Walker: 30th Century Man
The scenes in the recording studio are alive, and
fascinating for the obsessive quality that surrounds the bringing together
of each recorded piece. Only Walker has the whole song in his head.
The musicians come in and serve each small piece of a picture that only
becomes whole in the mixing process.
Vie en Rose
Marion Cotillard's transformation is astounding.
Her interpretation of Piaf makes you feel you've met the singer personally
by the time you leave the cinema. It isn't simply the admirable make-up
job of Didier Lavergne, or Cotillard's mimetism of Piaf's every tic
and attitude, but her voice.
John Waters Trash Trilogy
Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble, Desperate Living
In his 'mondo trasho', replete with bodily fluids,
drag queens, incest and bestiality, low replaces high and the trashoisie
replaces the bourgeoisie. And over the mess and the noise and the reek
and the wrong, Waters reigns supreme.
This self-proclaimed ‘phantasmagoria’
of Ruiz’s cinema does not work as a literary narrative, but rather
as an intrinsically visual one. Malkovich, as Klimt, is always in focus.
The cinematography almost always sets him in the best light, continuously
eclipsing his background or foreground.
Cassavetes shows that in order to be someone fully,
we need to recognise, through pain, loss and grief, what we are not
or can be no longer. Paradoxically, struggling with these questions
and limitations provides a way to personal growth: recognising the boundary
of the self is the first step to pushing it back.
Theater: A Love Story
As the title suggests, the film is indeed an ode
to Yiddish theatre as well as a prayer for its continuance. Coming out
of the film, however, is also an important arts policy question about
what types of minority arts and culture should be funded by the state,
This is an entertaining
film that highlights a number of important issues and worthy campaigns,
but it does not get under the skin of New Labour-style authoritarianism
in the way that authoritarianism is getting under the skin of British
For me the film was all about Combo. Shaun served
as a device that allowed the audience to empathise with this man, who
brings out all that is attractive in a marginalised, unhappy skinhead.
Shaun finds in Combo a replacement father, Combo finds in Shaun a glimpse
of himself at 12 years old.
Battle of Algiers
Although it portrays a different era, the film
has a timeless and universal quality: not in its depiction of the brutalities
of war in some distant Eastern country, but in its portrayal of what
is entailed in a genuine struggle for freedom.
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo
Like its predecessor,
this film has more to do with humanity than Hades. There’s a distinct
sense of a post-God world in both films. The Rage Virus has been created
in a laboratory – so what we have to fear is man-made, not supernatural.
But Weeks is bleaker than Days.
Strummer: The Future is Unwritten
The soundtrack alone is enough to get most Clash
fans into the cinema. But Temple adds value to an already precious pop
cultural commodity. Highlighting the private life of Strummer, Temple
shows how his public political project was tied to a personal ethics
This is a bizarre film. It’s quite hard to
work out what its point is. Hazarding a guess it seems to be that Southern
girls who are sexually abused turn into nymphomaniacs who are cured
by chastity belts. It’s ambiguous as to whether this is a) comic
b) badly conceived c) misogynistic.
Häxan couldn’t have been made without
Freud. A short introduction to psychoanalysis later and the feeling
becomes justified. First released in 1922, it is one of the first –
and perhaps only – films of its kind. The unfortunate problem
with this is that it makes Häxan difficult to judge.
Classic All Nighter
These films demonstrate a process of internalisation
of danger, and thus of problem-solving. A series of mutations, which
took over sixty years for Hollywood and American B movies to accomplish
took place in just over six years at Hammer in the 1950s.
Despite the title and plot, Rescue Dawn is not really a Vietnam war
movie, and certainly not an Iraq movie in jungle drag – and much
the better for it. For all the accoutrements of war and moments of almost
unbearable tension, the film is not a thriller either.
Despite the film’s
didacticism, it isn’t a left-wing polemic. It’s a riff on
the book - not a celluloid equivalent of it. It’s not an expose,
jumping up and down and shouting. In fact it’s a film whose argument
has more in common with Fritz Lang’s Metropolis than with the
work of Michael Moore.
First and foremost, this is a 105 minute close-up
of Catherine Deneuve. In one of her earliest big roles, her first in
English, Deneuve makes a fascinating subject. The pace of the film is
slow, sometimes desperately so, aptly impressing on the viewer the sense
of what her lonely world must be like.
William Cameron Menzies
The film is heavy on ideas and obviously didactic.
I feel it gets away with it, mainly because its ideas are interesting.
They are clearly the issues that concerned HG Wells and the novel on
which the film is based was his means of dramatising them.
This adaptation comes either from a cursory reading
and understanding of Dostoevsky's novel, or, more likely, an impulse
to bring it to a wider audience that chooses to ignore the fact that
the only way one can truly interact with Dostoevsky is through his writing.
What made El Topo subversive enough to be deemed
illegal in several countries was precisely the confusion between genres
and modes of thinking, the incomplete allusions to allegory and myth,
the heteroglot centres, the inclusion of the marginalised.
Way I Spent the End of the World
It has become such a cliché to see young
children as the answer to a history’s truth that it is rather
refreshing to see a child portrayed as nothing more than what they should
be: adventurous, free players, whose opinion never counts, and for whom
everything is thus permitted.
Lives of Others
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
This is at the core a tragedy which could have
suffered from one-dimensional characters, but on the contrary they develop
fully: they cry but also laugh, they feel disgust and desire, they gather
and are merry but are also alone and miserable, they grieve and rebel,
die and live on.
Tulse Luper Suitcases: a personal history of Uranium
Isn’t the creative capacity of the human
being exemplified by its ability to step outside of actual experience
and invent possibilities and alternative ways of thinking and doing?
Greenaway may present the extended possibilities of the way cinema could
be, but his vision of humanity is resolutely stuck on the way we are.
Curse of the Golden Flower
Golden Flower, wittingly or otherwise, conveys
an essential truth about modern Chinese politics. Despite growing dissatisfaction
with the regime, expressed in the rising numbers of protests and demonstrations
each year, the masses remain broadly politically quiescent, a testament
to their depoliticisation under Deng Xiaoping.
East End on Film
Various directors, East End Film Festival, London
No doubt I am just not suited to such difficult
and challenging work. Such ‘artist filmmakers’ perhaps don’t
take kindly to bourgeois constraints on their creativity. But surely
an attempt to ‘visualise the experience of living and working
in the East End of London’ wasn’t a big ask. And yet only
a couple managed to do this.
Films, Chapter Sixteen: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Charles Kent and J Stuart Blackton
Kent and Blackton managed to construct a narrative
that was solely cinematic: establishing a tradition of celebrity, magic
and action-based scenarios, but most importantly the construction of
a chimerical world, functioning by its own rules, which are easily understood
by the film-going public.
The Story of the Kelly Gang, Charles Tait; The Life Story
of John Lee: The Man They Could Not Hang, Arthur W Sterry
Australian cinema shifts between two contrasting
styles, that of a commercial Hollywood photocopy and that of a Third
World national cinema, and this dialectic is rooted in the country’s
The meat of Lars von Trier-related productions
is relationships between characters, between actors, between actors
and their director. When Jackie's obsession with Clyde leads to her
failing in her duty, it is the realisation that she has fallen to directing
her own film that snaps her back to reality, if only for a short time.
The way the sun is presented on screen is crucial
to the success of the film. On the spaceship is an observation room
that allows its crew to look at the sun through a screen. This is exactly
what we are doing in the audience. The film shows us what they see and
tries to give us a sense of what they feel.
Dalia Hager and Vidi Bilu
clothes and boys are at the forefront of the girls’ thoughts,
the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is always present in the minds of the
characters - and of the audience. In fact, it is the effects of the
conflict that bring the two very different protagonists closer together.
The Railroad All-Stars, Chema Rodriguez, Hot House, Shimon
'Human rights' are now the foremost platform for
the expression of political and social ills. But there is nothing universal
about the predicaments faced by the two very different groups in these
films, both of which convey the individual misfortunes of the protagonists,
in contrasting and highly gendered settings.
Ortega Breton and Caroline Bainbridge
The serene setting and dreamy landscapes contrast
with the horror of the ordeal these women have to bear. Mehta sensitively
exposes the treatment of widows under Hindu law as a patriarchal custom
that has been veiled as a sancrosanct belief.
of Abu Ghraib
This is far from a polemic. In fact, in TV-trend
terms, it's not particularly 'now' - it's not 'counter intuitive' or
'authored'. There's no journo or filmmaker in front of the camera screeching
out a sensationalist, skewed angle or seeking the limelight. What it
is is an utterly compelling, serious film about a big issue.
Films, Chapter Fifteen: A Day in the Life of a Coal Miner
The film is thus not about capturing reality directly
on film, but presenting us with an a priori view of reality. Each chapter
is a staged sequence which does nothing but act out the activity promised
to us in the intertitle. Whether the process is shown to us by an actual
worker or an actor is secondary.
on a Scandal
not Fatal Attraction, but it is a dark little tale. Claustrophobic and
airless, it skirts the edges of being a thriller without immersing itself
in those waters. Barbara is pitiable as well as frightening. In this
sense, it's a very English drama - far from the grandiose, it has a
lot of realism about it.
Last King of Scotland
on one level it takes the form of a 'coming of age' movie, this is rather
more besides; Garrigan isn't someone who loses his childhood sweetheart.
What he is confronted with when he finally delves deep into the heart
of Uganda is more reminiscent of Conrad's novel than a mere rite of
the wealth of thematic accents, the film is absolutely character-driven.
The performances are extraordinary. At times it feels like the sophisticated
script is simply there to confirm what the actors have already conveyed
to the audience - through stolen looks, almost imperceptible movements.
Alejandro González Iñárritu
is a film with beautiful, even profound parts. It looks great, its performances
are great and it will hold your attention - even catch you up in its
primal scream of emotion. But its whole is malformed and peculiarly
vapid. It shrinks in the memory.
Films, Chapter Fourteen: A Trip to the Moon
A Trip to the Moon is canonised for becoming and
holding its place as a blockbuster, and its age is often seen as a sign
of quality. While it may be an important film, however, it is by no
means a standard-setter in terms of artistic achievements.
The Pursuit of Happyness
Capra's movies were born out of the Roosevelt era and gave us the message
that truth, justice, family, community and other such old-fashioned
values have worth, by contrast the story of Chris Gardner is forged
in the crucible of Reaganite economics. Welcome to 1981.