The Outfit

Leonard slumped over his cutting table

Why didn’t someone think of it sooner? The Outfit – could be a criminal organisation, could be something you’d wear. How about writing a drama that conflates and confuses the two, and make it about… er… a tailor who somehow gets caught up in the work of a criminal establishment. The conceit is worn transparent in Graham Moore’s debut as a feature director. Like a bespoke suit this is a handsomely assembled item, made from fine materials and put together with care and a conservative eye. It’s also more than slightly theatrical, and it would be easy to imagine events playing out in a darkened small theatre. Events? A bit of plot. We meet … Read more

100 Years of… Grandma’s Boy

Sonny in shrunken suit being laughed at

A prime slice of Harold Lloyd, Grandma’s Boy isn’t as famous as Safety Last! (the one where he dangles from a clock), but it is just as good as an example of his skills. Like the other two members of the Big Three of silent funnymen, Lloyd, like Chaplin and Keaton, often found himself tangling with men much manlier than himself. But whereas Chaplin’s Tramp and Keaton’s Stoneface had a steely puckishness and an aggressive intelligence, Lloyd’s “Glasses” character (as he called the guy in the specs) did not. He was generally speaking more the have-a-go Ordinary Joe. In Grandma’s Boy, “Glasses” is also a weakling and a coward, a Mummy’s Boy squared, … Read more

BAC Nord

Greg Cerva draws his gun

BAC Nord (released by Netflix as The Stronghold) tells the story of a case that’s notorious in the annals of French policing, when a unit of Marseille cops was hauled in and accused of drug trafficking and dealing. Their defence? They were part of an undercover and slightly off-limits operation ordered from higher up and now being officially denied. Whether that was or wasn’t the case is what the film is about, though it makes it clear from the beginning that it clearly was. And in the characters of the three main characters – granite-tough middle-aged leader Grégory Cerva (Gilles Lellouche), new family man Yass (Karim Leklou) and charming playa Antoine (François Civil) … Read more

The Souvenir: Part II

Honor Swinton Byrne as Julie

The Souvenir: Part II makes sense of Part I, which seems like an obvious thing to say. But some sequels genuinely are sequels (The Godfather: Part II), fleshing out and adding to the original. Others are merely retellings of a story that’s already been told (The Matrix Reloaded). Joanna Hogg’s film fits into a third camp, of sequels whose purpose can only be understood as a part of a whole. Which is a long-winded way of saying that if you didn’t quite go the massive appreciative bundle on Part I, as many in the commentariat did, Part II might finally convince you. A refresher: the story is essentially Hogg’s own, of going to … Read more

Paul Is Dead


Paul Is Dead. Depending on your age, most likely, the title of Henk Handloegten’s debut feature might suggest an entire landscape, maybe tickle a vague memory somewhere or pull up a complete blank. The Paul in question is Paul McCartney and the phrase refers to the bizarre conspiracy theory suggesting that at some point in the Beatles’ career, McCartney died, forcing the Beatles to get in a lookalike McCartney in order to keep the band going. The fact that the doppelganger also had the original McCartney’s ability to knock out million-selling tunes is not something the conspiracy theorists ever explain, but then, in the way of these things, who needs facts when you’ve … Read more

Brother 2

Danila with a gun

The gang’s all back together for the sequel to Brother – Brother 2, unsurprisingly. That includes the writer/director Aleksey Balabanov, star Sergey Bodrov, key members of the support cast, notably Viktor Sukhorukov as the titular brother, plus cinematographer Sergey Astakhov, editor Marina Lipartiya, composer Vyacheslav Butusov and even the chunky knit sweater that Bodrov wore through most of the first film. Amusingly, Balabanov starts off his sequel with a direct callback to the first film – a scene in which Bodrov’s Danila, an ex-soldier and hitman of the cool, unassuming sort, wanders on to a film set, just as he did first time out. This time, though, Danila is in Moscow rather than … Read more


Nitram and a burning car

Nitram is a tough sell: a film about the Port Arthur shooting in 1996 – 35 dead, 23 wounded at the hand of a lone gunman called Martin Bryant – it was controversial in Australia, where the shooting occurred, and unsurprisingly several politicians were particularly vocal in campaigning against it. The fact that Australian’s gun laws were changed in the aftermath of the shooting might suggest culpable hostility on the part of politicians who had clearly been asleep on the job if a man with restricted intelligence, with a history of reckless behaviour and with no firearms licence could easily buy enough weapons to supply a small army. It’s a tough sell, though, … Read more


Elinore and Avatar

A 1977 movie featuring Mark Hamill about the cosmic struggle between the forces of good and evil? Wizards is of course the answer, maverick animator Ralph Bakshi’s freak-flavoured adventure, which only incidentally features Hamill, though he makes for a useful gobbet of trivia if you’re a quiz compiler. Actually, the parallels with Star Wars are more than incidental in this one, since it really is a good v evil, tech v magic (and what was the Force, if not magic?) showdown waged between family rivals in a world far, far away – in time at least. Wizards is set on a post-apocalyptic Earth that’s still, millions of years in the future, recovering from … Read more


Sergey Bodrov

Brother (Brat, in the original) is unusual because it’s not only a film made in the teeth of Russia’s economic collapse in the 1990s following the “shock treatment” prescribed by neoliberal economists from other countries, but it reflects the day-to-day reality of that treatment. Without anyone actually sharpening a political axe for the whole of its 96 minute running time, Aleksey Balabanov’s film nevertheless has a very clear point to make. There’s a clear generational aspect, too, with the focus firmly on the younger inheritors of a broken Soviet system that’s now been broken even further by western intervention. In particular it’s on Danila (Sergey Bodrov), a drifter who’s just finished his conscripted … Read more

Double Lover

Chloé with Paul, or possibly Louis

Made in 2017 but with its heart firmly in 1947, François Ozon’s Double Lover (L’amant double in the original French) takes a pretty young woman, Chloé (Marine Vacth), and subjects her to a brutal gaslighting at the hands of a male psychiatrist. Two male psychiatrists, in fact, twin brothers (both played by Jérémie Renier) so alike that they can pass for each other. Except one is kind of nice and cuddly, the other is tough and sexy. Maybe Rosemary’s Baby (another film with its heart in the late 1940s) was also in the mind of Ozon when he set about adapting Joyce Carol Oates’s Lives of the Twins, since gynaecology is at the … Read more