In My Mind

Patrick McGoohan and Chris Rodley in 1984

In My Mind is a close relative of one of those Nick Broomfield documentaries where, instead of making a film about his original subject, Broomfield tells the story of how he tried, but failed, to get his man or woman (see Tracking Down Maggie, about failing to get an interview with Margaret Thatcher, or Kurt and Courtney, in which he chased Courtney Love, to her increasing irritation). The person in question here is Patrick McGoohan and the film-maker is Chris Rodley, who in 1983 was sent to LA by Britain’s Channel 4 to film some interviews with McGoohan for an upcoming documentary about the cult 1960s TV series The Prisoner, which Channel 4 … Read more

Jellyfish Eyes

Masashi and his F.R.I.E.N.D

Jellyfish Eyes starts out looking like a cute ET story and winds up being more a rampage-and-destrcution, Godzilla kind of thing. In between it gets most of the big things right. It’s Japanese, from 2013, and is the only feature film so far directed by Takashi Murakami, who is more a TV producer, though he has directed a number of shorts, among them promos for Billy Eilish and Kanye West, both obviously fans of Murakami’s style of animation. Jellyfish Eyes is not an animation. Not entirely, anyway. It’s a live-action story of a kid with no daddy (how often do kids stories feature absent dads?) who moves to a new school/town/life with his … Read more

The Lost Daughter

Peter Sarsgaard and Jessie Buckley

There’s a lot of misdirection in The Lost Daughter, starting with the title, but to go into exactly where the misdirection lies and what it consists of is to ruin the entire film. It’s an adaptation of an Elena Ferrante novel, which is a bit of an unusual departure in itself, because for all the massive popularity of Ferrante right now, there have been very few screen adaptations of her work – before this only two movies in 1995 and 2005, and a highly regarded Italian TV series (about to enter its fourth season, as I type). The success of The Lost Daughter – Oscar nominations for the two lead actors, plus another … Read more

100 Years of… Mud and Sand

Stan Laurel as Rhubarb Vaselino

Before Laurel and Hardy there was Laurel and Laurel, and in 1922’s Mud and Sand we get to see Stan Laurel’s original silent-movie partnership at work. The film is a longish short (40 mins) spoofing the Rudolph Valentino hit Blood and Sand, the story of a poor Spanish toreador who hits the big time and has his head turned by the wiles of a vampish older widow. Tragedy ensues. Turned out within three months of Valentino’s all-action spectacular – one of the biggest films of the year – Mud and Sand’s target is obvious, with Stan Laurel playing the slick-haired accidental toreador hero and irresistible love icon Rhubarb Vaselino. (The on-screen intertitles call him … Read more

Rogue Agent

Alice and Robert by the River Thames

As I write James Bond’s producers have a “we’re hiring” sign over Daniel Craig’s vacant seat. Is Rogue Agent James Norton’s audition? If it is, it’s a funny sort of one, though Norton is fairly remarkable as a man on a mission – to deceive almost everyone he comes into contact with. The thing to bear in mind through the length of this familiar and yet bizarre film is that it’s pretty much all true. As the film opens, it’s 1993, the IRA bombing campaign on Britain is at full spate and Norton’s Robert Freegard is working undercover as a barman, recruiting students at an agricultural college to infiltrate what he assures them … Read more

I Married a Witch

Veronica Lake

The 1942 comedy I Married a Witch had all the makings of a flop but it turned out to be OK – it’s a classic if looked at from the right angle. People kept coming and going for a start. Dalton Trumbo was hired to write but then left before he was finished. Preston Sturges was meant to produce it but never actually did. Joel McCrea had been signed up to star but bowed out when he realised he’d be working opposite Veronica Lake. He’d done a stint with her already on Sullivan’s Travels and, according to him, “Life’s too short for two films with Veronica Lake”. Then there was the pre-shooting falling-out … Read more


Dario Argento and Françoise Lebrun

Grimly powerful and powerfully grim, Vortex is the story of a longtime married French couple on the final lap of the track. Elle and Lui, Gaspar Noé’s film calls them, Her and Him, universalising the particularity of what happens to the characters played by Françoise Lebrun and Dario Argento, a first lead role in front of the camera for the 80-ish-year-old director. It’s appropriate that Argento is known for horror because in its own domestic downbeat beat way this is a horror film, the sort of one we’ll all one day get to take a leading role, if we’re “lucky” enough to get that far. As in the recent Lux Aeterna, Noë does … Read more

100 Years of… Blood and Sand

A wounded Juan next to a bull

1922’s Blood and Sand was Rudolph Valentino’s third big hit movie in two years and it deserved to be. A grand, well-appointed, beautiful-looking, subtly-acted adventure rippling with themes and sub-themes and with properly fleshed-out side characters, it’s got more going on under the hood than at first appears. Famous Players-Lasky (later to become Paramount) had been caught on the hop by Valentino’s success and insisted that he carry on with the schedule already mapped out for him – which is why you’ll find a number of B movies sprinkled along the way between The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, his breakthrough, and Blood and Sand. Though Valentino was hot stuff (and knew it), … Read more


Jessica at an art gallery

Jessica (Tilda Swinton) is woken in the night by a bang. Memoria, a bizarre film which gets odder the longer it goes on, begins. What is the noise? Outside, in the dawn light, in a parking lot full of cars, one of the car alarms goes off, then another, and another, until all the car alarms are parping away. Gradually, one after another, they all fall silent again. Jessica visits a sound engineer called Hernan (Juan Pablo Urrego) to try and replicate the sound she heard. She visits her sister who is ill in hospital. She has a meeting at a hostel with a man who wants her to sign some papers. She’s … Read more

The Lightship

Brandauer and Duvall

The Lightship should be a great film but isn’t. It goes wrong somewhere, particularly towards the end, when there’s a mad rush for the exit (or, the filmic equivalent, a mad rush to get everything said that needs saying before the big finish). It was released in 1985 and stars Robert Duvall and Klaus Maria Brandauer, two actors at the peak of their drawing power. At this point you could still smell the napalm on Duvall after Apocalypse Now, and his character here is a variation on Colonel Kilgore, the insane verbose genius. Opposite him the Austrian Klaus Maria Brandauer. In the wake of the success of 1981’s Mephisto (a Best Foreign Language … Read more