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The Unsettled Interview The Unsettled Interview

It’d been at least sixteen or seventeen years since I last watched 1994's Interview with the Vampire. I used to watch it over and over again in high school, in the late 90s. Nowadays if I feel like watching a Neil Jordan movie I’m more likely to watch The Butcher Boy, the movie he made three years after Interview with…

A Riot of Almost Nothing A Riot of Almost Nothing

It’s hard to imagine anything like normal life carrying on in the kaleidoscope of rubbish, signs, people, and homes of Taipei’s slums as they’re shown in 1997's Rainy Dog (極道黒社会>. And it’s not the story of a normal life director Takashi Miike gives us, showing without sentiment a very unsentimental man and the loose…

Autumnal Ambiguity   Autumnal Ambiguity  

One of the points where I knew 2017's Super Dark Times was working excellently was when I realised I was hoping to find out one of the teenage boys really was a murderer. That it would, in a strange way, be relief to find out. I knew the movie was good before this, though, because of how sharply it built its sense of…

A Temperature as a Fraction A Temperature as a Fraction

Michael Moore begins his 2018 film, Fahrenheit 11/9, with a very clear question; “How the fuck did this happen?” meaning Trump’s election. It’s a very good question particularly since he poses it after a chilling and depressing compilation of commentators and voters showing absolute certainty in Clinton’s victory. But…

Passing the Time and the Marriage Passing the Time and the Marriage

September’s almost over but there’s still time for a mildly diverting tryst with Brigitte Bardot in 1967's Two Weeks in September (À coeur joie). Never quite finding much to say beyond its basic premise and lacking chemistry between its stars, there’s nonetheless a pleasant vibe to the meandering film with its cool,…

The Gods Over the City The Gods Over the City

Charles George Gordon was a British officer whose list of seemingly impossible exploits occurred all over the world. He earned the commendation of the Emperor of China for putting down a rebellion and the love of the people in the Sudan for disrupting the slave trade. It all makes the events of 1966's Khartoum seem…

To Film a Predator To Film a Predator

For all its problems, 2018's The Predator actually has some ideas to chew on, ideas that are surprisingly against the grain. Badly put together action sequences nerfed by poor cgi aren’t improved by a completely forgettable performance from Boyd Holbrook. But the supporting cast, particularly Thomas Jane,…

Caesar in Dreams Caesar in Dreams

All arguments between advocates for republics and enforcers of tyranny may be moot if all is controlled by capricious supernatural elements. The best part of Stuart Burge’s 1970 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is its sense of the dreamlike and the fantastic, the very palpable influence the stars really do…

Don't Cross the Lumberjack Don't Cross the Lumberjack

When it comes to revenge fantasies, it pays to go big. 2018's Mandy casts Nicolas Cage as its bloody avenger, putting him in a handsomely realised fantasy version of north American wilderness populated by psychotic biker orcs on LSD, vigilante lumberjacks, a dangerous Christian cult, and at least one tiger. The…

God in the Senseless God in the Senseless

What could a Catholic priest have to say to a Communist woman in a Nazi occupied French town? What kind of answers can he give her in light of that kind of trouble? 1961's Leon Morin, Priest (Léon Morin, prêtre) avoids nearly all the answers you might expect and yet feels remarkably natural. With a gorgeously textured…

Be Kind to the Bears, Doves, and Fish Be Kind to the Bears, Doves, and Fish

Few trees can sing, fewer still can ring, so you can appreciate 1957's The Singing Ringing Tree (Das singende, klingende Bäumchen) is pretty extraordinary. It’s a lovely, strange, not entirely well written fantasy film.

The Unofficial Scramble The Unofficial Scramble

Are we laughing at the people in 2018's Death of Stalin or with them? It feels at first like an irrelevant question; hardly anyone laughs in the movie. And when they do, it’s provoked by a commonplace sadism or arrogance. But do we see them as our fellow humans or as grotesque exaggerations? Despite the film being…

Kinds of Desperation Kinds of Desperation

The lost causes of youthful passion are replaced by cynical pursuits of wealth in 1971's Shoot the Living and Pray for the Dead (Prega il Morto e Ammazza il Vivo). But the old scores are just waiting to resurface, the characters in this nice, sweaty Spaghetti Western quietly boiling in waters far deeper than the…

The Bandit Escapes The Bandit Escapes

A comedy and action blend works so very well in 1977's Smokey and the Bandit because of its breezy pace and natural charisma of its stars. Of the latter, Burt Reynolds, who passed away yesterday at the age of 82, is obviously the film’s chief virtue.

The Cornea of Another The Cornea of Another

Adjusting to a whole different way of perceiving and interacting with the world seems like it would be hard enough without it entailing things no-one believes or understands. A woman blind since childhood has her eyesight restored in 2002's The Eye (見鬼) with the unexpected added ability to see dead people. Some…

Houses of Sex and Love Houses of Sex and Love

There are many ways to frame culture wars; liberal versus conservative, change versus stability, innovation versus tradition. Partisans have trouble admitting that generally we need some compromise between the two so maybe that’s where the Romantic Comedy can help. 1962's Love on a Pillow (Le repos du guerrier) uses…

Ray's the Standard! Ray's the Standard!

As I mentioned a few days ago when writing about Delta and the Bannermen, variations of the name “Ray” are pretty common in Sci-Fi/Fantasy. Is it an ode to the ubiquitous Death Rays, Shrink Rays, and Freeze Rays that once populated the genres? Who knows. Anyway, I put together a list of who I consider to be the top…

The Place of the Gambler The Place of the Gambler

One of the coolest movies I’ve ever seen is 1956's Bob le flambeur (“Bob the Gambler”), a gangster film directed by Jean-Pierre Melville. The story of an “old young man”, it’s a slice from the life of a man who casually gets by on things most people would consider reckless but he also conveys the depth and experience…

The Vague Sketch of an Education The Vague Sketch of an Education

Why do revolutions so rarely stay simple, why do complications always seem to arise around a perfectly pure vision? 2004's The Edukators (Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei) tries very hard to whittle things down to a cast of characters with pure lives and goals so it can tell a story about how they’re suddenly challenged…

Dancing to Save the World Dancing to Save the World

Oh, to be young and right about everything. 1987's Dirty Dancing is supposedly based heavily on screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein’s childhood, though one suspects some facts were altered in the interest of fantasy, to say nothing of distinctly 80s pop music turning up in 1963. But as a sweet indulgence it certainly works…

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