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Titta putting his hand on Gradisca's leg in the cinema


Zig-zagging between fantasy, comedy and tender reminiscence, Federico Fellini’s Amarcord sets out to be autobiographical, from its title (Amarcord is “I Remember” in his native dialect), though Fellini always denied it was directly, explicitly the story of his life. But it is the story of a year in the life of someone who was born on the coast near Rimini in the 1920s, as Fellini was, and came of age as Mussolini’s fascists were flexing their muscles. Fellini kicks things off, and eventually brings them to a close, with the annual blizzard of a particular sort of pollen drifting through the town – it announces spring, the locals say – and then piles event … Read more
Diana and Julián hug

Manticore aka Mantícora

Manticore takes its name from the mythical beast with the head of a man, the body of a lion and the tail of a scorpion. But writer/director Carlos Vermut has another beast in mind – two, in fact – in this Spanish film giving us a flash of what it’s about before lulling us into a state of forgetfulness until coming back hard and horrible in its final moments. Nacho Sánchez plays Julián, a Madrid “monster modeller” who does all the mythical beasts for the video game company he works for. At home one day applying a horn, or some scales, to his latest 3D image, he hears cries from a neighbouring apartment, … Read more
Sisters Valerie and Harriet

The River

Is 1951’s The River a look in search of a story? It’s regularly described – often by people who haven’t seen it – as one of the greatest films ever made. Dig one layer deeper and the praise heaped on Jean Renoir’s “masterpiece” starts to look a touch more one-note. Martin Scorsese reckons this and The Red Shoes are “the two most beautiful colour films ever made.” Eric Rohmer, also no slouch as a director, called it “the most beautiful colour we have ever seen on the screen.” The New York Times in 1951 said “beautiful”. Time Out – “beautiful”. Sight and Sound‘s 2022 Best Films of all time poll rang the changes a … Read more
Jamie and Marian realise they're couriers of the wrong sort of merchandise

Drive-Away Dolls

Drive-Away Dolls is the first feature film that Ethan Coen has directed without brother Joel’s involvement at some stage. Playing it safe, he’s decided to go for a homage to the films he first made with Joel back in those Blood Simple/Raising Arizona years. While this isn’t a bad thing in itself, it does mean what’s on offer is familiar – fruits, nuts and flakes, pantomime death, cartoonish visuals, a lot of the verbals, low shots down corridors, villains falling out with each other and what have you. It’s, you know, OK, though neither Blood Simple nor Raising Arizona need worry and it raises again a question that’s always hovered in my mind, as … Read more
Dr Russell Oakes (Jason Robards) on the devastated streets

The Day After

So this is what “the most watched TV movie in US history” looks like – The Day After, a disaster-movie-style treatment of nuclear apocalypse from 1983. “Most watched” is one of those tags up for debate, obviously – watched on the day of transmission versus watched again and again, for example. Or watched in the olden time of big broadcasters and mass viewing versus the Netflix era, where everything is a TV movie one way or another. Less up for debate is how effective Nicholas Meyer’s film still is. And it’s become increasingly relevant all over again as Russia pushes its armies into eastern Europe, while in America a debate rages over whether the … Read more
Émile out in the forest

The Animal Kingdom

The original title of The Animal Kingdom is Le Règne Animal, because it’s a French movie. That’s why you most likely haven’t heard of it and also probably why it isn’t the global phenomenon it should be. First, let’s be clear that it’s nothing to do with Animal Kingdom, David Michôd’s superbly gnarly Australian crime drama from 2010, or its US TV spin-off, or the metaphysical experimental Irish movie of the same name. The Animal Kingdom is a beast of an entirely different colour, one that’s watched an awful lot of Steven Spielberg movies. Director Thomas Cailley borrows the mood, structures and tropes of Spielberg in playful, corny ET mode to tell the … Read more
Nona (Betty Field) and Sam (Zachary Scott)

The Southerner

Fleeing France as the Nazis advanced, French director Jean Renoir went to Hollywood, where he tried to make more of the lyrical, socially engaged films that had made his name back home. 1945’s The Southerner was about as close as he got, but to make his third US feature he had to exit the studio system and do it as an independent. What do you know, it was his best received film, three-times Oscar-nominated, including one for Renoir himself as director. It was as near as he’d ever get to an Academy Award. Being a second-string production made outside the system meant not having access to big-name talent, but Zachary Scott and Betty … Read more
Kevin flies through the air towards an opponent in the ring

The Iron Claw

The family is a cult and the cult a family in the films of Sean Durkin. After Martha Marcy May Marlene and The Nest, The Iron Claw continues Durkin’s excavations with a biopic of the Von Erichs, a famous wrestling clan whittled away by a tragic curse. After a quick black-and-white preamble sketching paterfamilias Fritz’s own career as a fighter who failed to win the big prizes, Durkin goes curtain-up on the era of the retired fighter’s sons, the sun-kissed 1970s and beyond. Fritz, now a ballsy uncompromising martinet of the old school, is in charge of training his boys and of the wrestling franchise they fight in. By this point the family … Read more
Ingrid Bergman in dark coat

Europa ’51

Often described as a neorealist film, Roberto Rossellini’s second collaboration with Ingrid Bergman, Europa ’51, is actually more a Hollywood melodrama with one breakaway neorealist moment. But more than that it’s a vehicle designed to rehabilitate Bergman by getting her to do what she was best at on screen – suffer. It’s the story of a high society woman who’s too busy drinking cocktails and exchanging chintzy chit-chat with her friends to notice that her son is in need of some love and affection. At a drinks party one night, son Michele attempts suicide by throwing himself down the stairs. He survives, only to die later of a complication. Irene (Bergman) is thrown … Read more
Andrea Mohylová as cop Trochinowska

Restore Point

A decent sci-fi movie almost drowns in police procedural cliché in Restore Point (Bod Obnovy), a Czech movie owing something to Blade Runner – but then so much sci-fi does. The year is 2041 and in a world of driverless cars, dizzy buildings and swooshy screen tech, cop Emma Trochinowska (Andrea Mohylová) is assigned to investigate the death of the head of research at the Restore Institute, a creepy megacorps whose USP is selling people another crack at life if theirs ends “unnaturally”. As long – and much of the plot hangs on this detail – as they have a recent back-up from which to restore. The backup on standby is the way everyone … Read more
Hélène is strangled by Dr Devilers

Shock Treatment aka Traitement de Choc

The weird thing about Traitement de Choc, usually shown in English-speaking areas as Shock Treatment, is that it went by the title Doctor in the Nude in the UK when it was released in the early 1970s. Nothing to do with the comic novel Doctor in the Nude by Richard Gordon, the latest in his larky series about young doctors, and more to do with the fact that for one very brief moment you got to see star Alain Delon’s penis. So that’s how it got sold to British audiences, with the vaguely saucy title as some sort of come-on, because selling it any other way would have been, in the distributors’ eyes … Read more
Mia is possessed

Talk to Me

Talk to Me announces Danny and Michael Philippou as gifted new arrivals on the Australian indie scene. With a feature debut this strong, how long the twins remain indie and in Australia is anyone’s guess. Apparently they turned down a directing gig on one of the DC Extended Universe movies to do this, so they clearly felt they had something special to offer. And it’s horror, too. With the horror market particularly crowded right now, this makes their determination to go it alone (if two people can be said to go it alone) all the more admirable. So what’s it about? A séance that goes wrong, in short, leading to demonic possession and … Read more

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