Eiffel

Adrienne and Gustave dance on the tower

“Librement inspiré de faits réels,” it says at the beginning of Eiffel. Not a mere “inspired by real events”, often used as an apology for serving up historical fact laced with made-up stuff, but “freely inspired”. Turn to Wikipedia if what you want is the actual factual, in other words. That’s what I did, and can tell you that the background to this story is pretty much all true, depending on what you call the background, which Eiffel isn’t entirely sure about either. In opening scenes Gustave Eiffel, engineer extraordinaire, stares out at Paris from the tower he gave his name to – handy if you’ve no idea who he was – before Eiffel cycles … Read more

Suspiria

Jessica Harper as Suzy

Suspiria, the original 1977 one not the 2018 remake (a treat for another day), pulls a version of the same trick on its audience that Orson Welles pulled on his crew while making Citizen Kane. “It’s a dream sequence,” Welles would sometimes shout, when he ran into resistance against whatever novelty he was trying out on any given day. Park your timeserved-craftsman’s logical objections, in other words, and give it a try. Armed with a “dream sequence” Welles could experiment away to his heart’s content. If Welles had a dream, Dario Argento has a nightmare to deliver and everything in his film is shaped by it. Park expectations about “good” acting and “professional” … Read more

The Rabbi’s Cat

The rabbi and his cat

It’s a bit all over the place, The Rabbi’s Cat. That’s part of its charm and is potentially also a bit of a problem for people who like their stories topped and tailed, neat and tidy, starting off in with a destination in mind and then eventually arriving there. The piecemeal nature reflects its origins as a series of comics by Joann Sfar, who, with co-director Antoine Delesvaux and writer Sandrina Jardel, has opted to take a bit from here, a bit from there in an attempt at a greatest-hits compilation of the good stuff. But what if you don’t know the hits? Things you need to know are that it’s in French, … Read more

Tokyo Story

Shukichi and Tomi at the spa

1953’s Tokyo Story is based on a film its director, Yasujirô Ozu, hadn’t actually seen. But his writer, Kôgo Noda, had. And so the 1937 movie Make Way for Tomorrow was adapted into what is regularly described as one of the best movies ever made – 2012’s Directors Poll by Sight and Sound magazine put Tokyo Story in the number one slot. Both are punishing weepies, both “could make a stone cry” (as Orson Welles said about Make Way for Tomorrow), but Ozu’s film is also an exercise in an equally punishing minimalism. There are no movements from Ozu’s static camera. Actually, there is one, and that’s quite telling. On top of that … Read more

Compartment Number 6

Ljoha and Laura

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

Un Flic

One of the gang with Coleman

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

You Won’t Be Alone

Noomi Rapace plays Nevena for a while

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

11 Harrowhouse

Candice Bergen and Charles Grodin

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

The Driver

Father and daughter fleeing the zombies

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

Danger Man aka Secret Agent

Still from Season 1 episode 1

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