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Ljoha and Laura

Compartment Number 6

Compartment Number 6 has been described as a Finnish Before Sunrise but in fact it’s closer to It Happened One Night minus the jokes, since it’s a story about two people who really don’t get along suddenly finding they do get along, sort of. At the risk of banging on about a different subject for too long, Before Sunrise was Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy – two gorgeous, similarly minded and largely footloose people – on a train together and it was less a case of will they/won’t they and more a nailed-on certainty that something was going to happen between them, if only they’d get a move on. Here, we’re more in Clark … Read more
One of the gang with Coleman

Un Flic

A Cop – the title is just as bald in French, Un Flic, and in opening scenes featuring a bank job carried out by clichéd robbers in trench coats and wearing hats, the writer/director Jean-Pierre Melville appears to be having a bit of a laugh, possibly at his own expense. Who, in 1972, was still wearing a hat? Why are three men who are trying to appear as if they don’t know each other all dressed the same way? Who, planning a bank job in a small town in Northern France, decides a big wallowy American car is the ideal getaway vehicle? The bank job goes wrong. A teller is killed. One of … Read more
Noomi Rapace plays Nevena for a while

You Won’t Be Alone

You Won’t Be Alone is a fairytale from Macedonia alive to the idea that darkness is a power in the world, one kept at bay by praying and, sometimes, by making unholy contracts with other forces. Its aim is to connect us with the mindset of the middle-European peasants who first told these stories, people who really believed in witches and changelings. Its lack of revisionism is unusual, refreshing and exotic. There’s no Angela Carter feminist re-imagining, à la Dances with Wolves. No Disney self-fulfilment. Marx and Freud are not to be found lurking in the subtext. The Grimm brothers would nod approvingly. When is it set? Focus Features, who distributed it, suggest … Read more
Candice Bergen and Charles Grodin

11 Harrowhouse

Misconceived but full of good things, 11 Harrowhouse (sometimes called Fast Fortune) is also a classic example of a film that didn’t do incredibly well at test screenings and then did even less well with real audiences after it was “improved”. It’s a paranoid screwball heist caper starring Charles Grodin as a smalltime diamond trader who decides to rob a big diamond house situated at 11 Harrowhouse Street in London. This racket run as if it were a venerable institution is headed by one Mr Meecham, or “Sir”, a man played with a curled lip and superciliousness at full blare by John Gielgud. Along for what looks like the sheer hell of it … Read more
Father and daughter fleeing the zombies

The Driver

There’s some confusion about The Driver. Starting with which film we’re actually talking about. Not Drive, the 2011 film by Nicolas Winding Refn in which Ryan Gosling plays a driver. Not 1978’s The Driver, by Walter Hill and starring Ryan O’Neal (and where Drive got a lot of its plot and cool style). Not another film from 2019 called The Driver (aka Acceleration), starring Natalie Burn and Dolph Lundgren. None of those, nor a slew of other films and TV series all called The Driver. No, this is The Driver starring Mark Dacascos and directed by Wych Kaosayananda. There leads to more confusion, since this The Driver is meant to be a sequel … Read more
Still from Season 1 episode 1

Danger Man aka Secret Agent

Is Danger Man one TV series or two? It has two entries on the IMDb. There’s this one, for the original series, which ran 1960-1962, and this one for its second coming, 1964-1967, when the show in some places (the USA for example) went by the name Secret Agent and had a snappier theme tune (High Wire, played on a muscular harpsichord). In its native UK it was always Danger Man. There is an argument for treating them as different entitities but in essence they are the same thing, united by the presence of Patrick McGoohan as John Drake, dry spy extraordinaire – no guns, no girls, no gadgets, initially at least. Along … Read more
Chie as a dead Juliet

When I Get Home, My Wife Always Pretends to Be Dead

Japanese screwball meets cute self-help in When I Get Home, My Wife Always Pretends to Be Dead, a film announcing what it’s about in its title. Every night, when salaryman Jun (Ken Yasuda) gets home from work, he finds his wife dead on the floor – killed by a knife, a bullet, an arrow, a stake through the heart. Chie (Nana Eikura) isn’t really dead, she’s pretending, and she absolutely expects her husband to play along and put on a fully convincing performance of finding her and falling to bits emotionally before he reaches for the phone to call the emergency services, at which point she will squeak open an eye, jump up, … Read more
Dr Robert fights the zombies

The Last Man on Earth

Four years before George Romero is supposed to have revived the genre, the zombies are already alive and kicking (well, shuffling) in 1964 in The Last Man on Earth, a lurid yet oddly static example of a genre movie with all the signs of something knocked out with little respect for its audience. Unsurprisingly it got little respect back in return. It does have a few things in its favour, though. Vincent Price as the titular last human, and a story by Richard Matheson which would be repurposed a number of times, most famously as The Omega Man, starring Charlton Heston, and I Am Legend, with Will Smith. There’s a legend surrounding the … Read more
Kris and Naomi

See You Then

See You Then pulls a neat “did not see that coming” switcheroo early on, though a glance at any of the blurbs about the film will reveal what it is. It doesn’t matter much – it comes scant minutes in, so won’t ruin the fun. Two women meet up. They were evidently once lovers. Both seem nervous. It’s been a long time, at least ten years, since they saw each other. Kris (Pooya Mohseni) seems keen, nervous, Naomi (Lynn Chen) less sure, wary. Having got the “look at you”, “it’s been so long” niceties out of the way, the two of them head for a friendly restaurant, where Kris reveals that her changed … Read more
Alain Delon and Monica Vitti

L’Eclisse

Existential girl Monica Vitti meets material boy Alain Delon in L’Eclisse (The Eclipse), the last of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “Incommunicability” trilogy and by a stretch the easiest to watch. Whether this, L’Avventura and La Notte actually are thematically a trilogy at all is an argument best left for another day, but Antonioni didn’t see them that way – it was critics who lumped them together. What does definitely link all three is Monica Vitti – as a peripheral character who becomes much more important in L’Avventura, as chunky co-lead in La Notte but absolutely the main event here, from first shot to last. Antonioni starts the film with a brilliant scene set in a … Read more
Alice Krige and Kota Eberhardt

She Will

She Will – think of it as a rhyme for Free Will rather than the beginning of an unfinished sentence – a declaration of independence by a woman on behalf of all women, with a payback moment late on that’s received by a character played by Malcolm McDowell, perhaps on behalf of all men. Stated baldly the plot sounds exactly like the sort of thing you’d expect horror film network Shudder to find interesting (they have indeed picked it up) – an ageing grand dame actress recovering from a mastectomy heads to Scotland for some R&R at what she thinks is a solitary retreat. When she and her private nurse get there, they … Read more
Sandro and Claudia

L’Avventura

When L’Avventura debuted at the Cannes film festival in 1960 the reception was so unfavourable that the director, Michelangelo Antonioni, and his star, Monica Vitti, ended up beating a hasty retreat from the cinema where it was being shown. Up to the point where they decided it wasn’t worth it any more they’d endured boos, jeers, laughs and shouts of “Cut!” in scenes which, the audience felt, just ran on too long. Everyone’s a critic. By the next day sentiment had started to shift. The film went on to win the Jury Prize – among those on the jury were the writers Henry Miller and Georges Simenon, so a tough crowd – and … Read more

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