Mr & Mrs Smith

Mr Smith has Mrs Smith in a headlock

Here’s a strange thing – a screwball comedy by master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock. Mr and Mrs Smith is the only one he made and, sad to report, it’s not very good. A “comedy of remarriage”, its plot isn’t a thousand miles away from the one that floated The Philadelphia Story to glory, about a husband and wife discovering that a legal technicality means their three-year marriage is void. If they want to be husband and wife for real, they’ll have to “remarry”. But, now that they have the chance to reconsider, will they (re)take the plunge? As a bit of a preamble to all this, some vital character furniture is put in place … Read more

Arsène Lupin

Sonia and the Duke

1932’s Arsène Lupin wasn’t the first movie about the gentleman thief by a long stretch but it is one of the best, thanks to canny casting and a pace that never slackens. The canny casting comes in the shape of the Barrymore brothers, Lionel and John, on screen together in starring roles for the first time – the publicity machine made much of it. Older sibling Lionel gets the best of it as the huffing, irascible cop Guerchard, while John (aka “The Great Profile”) does more matinee idol stuff as the Duke of Charmerace, womanising noble lord by day, thief by night, and a thief, what’s more, who likes to announce to the … Read more


Emilia Jones as Ruby

CODA is the acronym for Children of Deaf Adults and the name of a movie whose subject matter might make many people pause before watching. Too worthy maybe. Sign language all over the place. Triumph over adversity mawkishness. Though it won an Oscar for Best Picture, this can be not so much a gong, more a warning bell – see Crash, Driving Miss Daisy and Around the World in 80 Days. So it’s a surprise to find what a sweet, straightforward film it is. An underdog movie that piles it on with an earth mover, it stars Emilia Jones as Ruby Rossi, the teenage fully-hearing daughter of two deaf parents, sister to a … Read more

I Love You Again

Myrna Loy and William Powell

I Love You Again is a knockabout Hollywood farce, a cock-eyed “comedy of remarriage” – The Philadelphia Story is the king of the genre – done in rat-a-rat style by the crack team of director WS Van Dyke and his stars, William Powell and Myrna Loy. Van Dyke was known as One Take Woody, for reasons that don’t need explaining, and at this point had worked together with Powell and Loy on three Thin Man films, which had done all three of them a lot of favours. If you’re not familiar with the Thin Man films (there would eventually be six; the first three are the best), they all feature Powell and Loy as … Read more

Clara Sola

Clara lying down in the forest

Capsule plot summaries can be misleading. The one for Clara Sola might say – a woman around 40 in a Costa Rica village has a sexual awakening. It’s more or less what the one on the IMDb says. And it’s not wrong, that is what happens. But the story, that’s a different thing altogether. And in fact the whole point of this debut by Nathalie Álvarez Mesén is in what isn’t being said rather than what is. The plot is straightforward but story lies scattered between the cracks, just slightly out of reach. It’s ambiguous, entirely, in almost every respect. Clara is a pretty woman and might, at her age, expect to be … Read more

The Parallax View

Warren Beatty head shot

One of three 1970s thrillers Alan Pakula directed in quick succession, The Parallax View is sandwiched between two better films, Klute (1971) and All the President’s Men (1976), the second leg of what’s now known as his “paranoia trilogy”. Posterity is in the process of polishing The Parallax View’s reputation, with the focus usually on two aspects: the cinematography of Gordon Willis and the conspiracy at the centre of it, which is not, for once, all a big government put-on. Instead it’s a big bad company, the Parallax Corporation, that’s pulling the strings by seeking out unstable individuals and then grooming them for political assassinations. Don’t tell Ayn Rand. Loren Singer’s original novel … Read more

True Things

Kate and Blond

True Things is only the second feature from Harry Wootliff, a writer-director fascinated with relationships. And after the slow-burning torture of Only You, she follows up with another rocky road leading to who knows where. Again it’s a two-hander, again the performances are sensational. In Only You Laia Costa and Josh O’Connor were the couple negotiating parenthood (adulthood, actually). Here, it’s Ruth Wilson and Tom Burke at a much earlier stage of a relationship. That’s if this is a relationship at all, which is kind of what the film is about. Wilson plays Kate Perkin, a young woman with a shaky work situation, not much in the way of a social life, a … Read more

Broken Lullaby

Paul Renard in church

Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 drama Broken Lullaby was originally called The Man I Killed, like the Maurice Rostand play it was based on (L’homme que j’ai tué). It turned out to be a title too hard-hitting for the box office and so it was decided to change it. To The Fifth Commandment. Until some bright spark pointed out that “Thou shalt not kill” isn’t always in the number five position in the Commandments. If you’re Jewish or Orthodox, it’s number six, for example. And so, bizarrely, Broken Lullaby is what the movie ended up being called. Both the play and the film are the story of a French soldier who kills a German soldier … Read more

Thor: Love and Thunder

The Mighty Thor and Thor

Though the Asgardian deity has appeared in other Avengers movies in the interim,Thor: Love and Thunder is the first outing for Chris Hemsworth’s caped godhead since the last standalone Thor movie, 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. Time has moved on and we’re now in a different phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one determined to bolt a “meta” onto the usual stew of tall tales, quips, dressing up, special effects and heroics. Some things have changed, but some remain the same. In textbook Thor fashion, we first meet the villain. Christian Bale plays Gorr, a grieving father driven into a frenzy when he discovers that Rapu, his liege lord/godhead, doesn’t give a stuff about his … Read more

Son of the White Mare


Psychedelia came late to the Soviet Bloc. Marcell Jankovics’s Son of the White Mare (aka Fehérlófia) didn’t come out till 1981, at which point in the West long hair was out and short hair was in, weed had been traded for speed and nothing seemed quite as old hat as self-indulgent, soft-edged hippie-infused visuals. Way out east, however, the Communist regime remained steadfastly against anything that was soft, western, bourgeois, non-practical, non-utilitarian or non-propagandistic. With its decorative, non-logical looks, psychedelia’s message was in itself dissident and political and its counter-cultural impact was strong. On the other hand the regime did like folk art. Pop art bad, folk art good ran the mantra of … Read more