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First, Last, and Always a Jedi First, Last, and Always a Jedi

I might’ve enjoyed Star Wars: The Last Jedi more if I hadn’t been sick. I’ve had this flu for about a week and it feels like everything’s sort of at a distance. Maybe that’s the reason at the end of the movie I didn’t get that elation I associate with the end of a Star Wars film. I just thought, “That was fine.” There…

All the Sex on the Road to Freedom All the Sex on the Road to Freedom

In the 70s, in the face of oppression, a hero arose, a hero who showed there was no problem that couldn’t be solved with fantastic sex. 1971's Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song is also a testament to what one filmmaker can do with a shoestring budget—written by, produced by, directed by, scored by, and starring Melvin…

The Mongoose versus Kali The Mongoose versus Kali

Guy Rolfe is the only decent guy in India in 1960's The Stranglers of Bombay. Hammer’s take on Imperial Britain’s eradication of the Thuggee cult in the 19th century, the film’s populated otherwise by selfish and lazy British officers and by Indians who are either helpless children or pure evil. Though one can’t argue…

Death and the Overstimulated Death and the Overstimulated

What better way to die than during a marathon of sex and great food? You might not think so after watching 1973's La Grande Bouffe, a movie about four wealthy men who decide to do just that. It has some qualities of a comedy with its crude humour and absurd juxtapositions but by the halfway point the film settles into…

Couture Ectoplasm Couture Ectoplasm

What does communicating with the dead have to do with being a celebrity’s assistant? Well, Kristen Stewart does both in 2017's Personal Shopper, a movie that never quite gets on its feet, but is a nice enough excuse to watch Kristen Stewart try on clothes and star in some well constructed, tense sequences.

The Friendly Local Ganglord The Friendly Local Ganglord

The myth of the virtuous gangster tends to become popular in times of economic stress. People get to thinking maybe just the person to cut through all the useless rules of a system that failed them is a thief, a forceful, uncompromising man—and gangsters certainly do nothing to disabuse people of the idea. The highest…

The Illusion of the Obvious The Illusion of the Obvious

It’s amazing how interpretations that seem plainly incontrovertible can later turn out to have been so strange. I wouldn’t have thought there was any doubt that 1955's The Heart (こころ) was about two men whose lives were destroyed by their inability to express their love for each other but apparently this interpretation…

Naruse in Nihongo Naruse in Nihongo

To-day I’ve been working on a presentation on Mikio Naruse for my Japanese language class. I’m in the third semester but my command of the language is just barely adequate for discussing some of the more basic details about the great director—he made movies for about forty years, from the 1930s to the 1960s; he made …

Case Files Case Files

BFI’s Sight & Sound magazine’s annual list of the year’s best movies came out to-day, provoking some surprise with Twin Peaks: The Return in the number two spot. On the one hand, this is a new landmark for television, a medium that’s increasingly being seen as the successor to film. Sight & Sound’s list is considered…

The Martians Below The Martians Below

Now this is Quatermass at his best. Andre Morell as the spectacularly sidetracked rocket physicist in the 1958 serial Quatermass and the Pit, creator Nigel Kneale this time coming up with a beautifully eerie Sci-Fi account on the origins of human racism. The 1967 Hammer film version surpasses the serial really only in…

Interpreting the Smoke Interpreting the Smoke

Perspective is everything in 1953's Where Chimneys are Seen (煙突の見える場所), even when it comes to the chimneys. In some parts of town, you can see four of the great smokestacks at a nearby factory, from other places it looks like there are only two, or three, or one. They preside over a drama in the town about…

The World in a Tank The World in a Tank

A small group of soldiers from different nations and cultures work together to survive against Nazis in 1943's Sahara. Some of the soldiers have family or lovers back home but they’re led by Humphrey Bogart who says only about himself that he has no-one back home and he’s therefore less important. Of course that makes…

Lord of the Silhouettes Lord of the Silhouettes

If I had a nightmare after staying awake for two days spent drinking and reading Tolkien it might be something like Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 Lord of the Rings. I have a lot of respect for Bakshi and there are a lot of good ideas in this movie. It is often effectively frightening but it comes nowhere near being all the…

The House that's Always Building The House that's Always Building

I’m glad I spent a couple years at a university before reading Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, a remarkable and enjoyable work of fiction that doesn’t merely satirise academic analyses. Though they’re frequently filled with colourful and fascinating insights, the book uses these analyses as a setting, using…

Thunder, Muscle, and Ships Thunder, Muscle, and Ships

The end of the world is a really colourful, light hearted adventure in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok. Far from the layered family drama of the first film but a lot better than the weak sitcom tone of the second film, this third entry in the Thor series directed by Taika Waititi is about as far from grim as you can get for a…

A Forest of Abuse and Suffering A Forest of Abuse and Suffering

In the third and final portion of The Human Condition (人間の條件), released in 1961, two years after the first two, Kaji finds himself wandering China in the immediate aftermath of World War II. In many ways the best film of the series, it still has a very simple message but manages to evoke a real sense of the injustice…

Welcome to the Machine Welcome to the Machine

The story of Kaji, the humanist caught up in the Japanese war machine during World War II, continues in the second part of Masaki Kobayashi’s The Human Condition (人間の條件). The film critiques the nature of military structure from the point of view of one soldier. Still having a generally propagandistic feel, with Kaji…

Humanity and Wire Fences Humanity and Wire Fences

My favourite era in filmmaking is in the first decades after World War II in Japan. Some of the greatest filmmakers of all time approached the complex feelings and conditions in the wake of defeat in a variety of effective ways. One of the most direct would be Masaki Kobayashi’s nearly ten hour film The Human Condition (人間の條件)

Never Cheat Peter Cushing Never Cheat Peter Cushing

The final Amicus anthology horror film was 1974's From Beyond the Grave. Once again featuring a framing story starring Peter Cushing it has some of the best imagery of the series as well as some of the most moralistic subtext.

Not Such a Crazy Place Not Such a Crazy Place

By the mid-70s, Vincent Price was already known well enough for horror roles that he could star in a tongue in cheek murder mystery homage to them, 1974's Madhouse. The film’s awareness of its own camp never amounts to the joy of a Rocky Horror Picture Show or Little Shop of Horrors serving instead merely to undermine…

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