Electric Dragon 80.000 V

Dragon Eye Morrison

Eisenstein, Frankenstein and Tetsuo walk into a bar… Not quite, but Electric Dragon 80.000 V gets most of the way towards a bizarre blend of effects and styles in Gakuryû Ishii’s superhero mash-up, 55 minutes of entirely wordless stark black-and-white imagery with all the action set to a relentless punk thrash. How’s this for an origin story, dealt with in the opening minutes – young boy climbs up a pylon and receives a massive electric shock, recovers but grows up as a problem kid being given repeated doses of electro-shock therapy. Eventually, Dragon Eye Morrison, as the IMDb tells us he’s called (there are no on-screen clues), throws off his shackles, gives himself a few … Read more

Don’t Worry Darling

Jack and Alice in bed

Talking about films that crashed on the rocks of high expectations, here’s Don’t Worry Darling, a Stepford Wives/Total Recall hybrid hotly anticipated because it was a) the directorial follow-up to Booksmart for Olivia Wilde, b) because it starred Florence Pugh, whose career since debuting in Carol Morley’s Falling in 2014 has been a series of triumphs and c) because it gave a meaty role to Harry Styles, he of swoonsome pop-starriness. It’s the film that crashed twice, in fact, the second calamity coming as stories started to circulate about bad blood on set – over Shia Labeouf (fired), between Wilde and Pugh (over Styles), and most notoriously over Chris Pine and Styles and … Read more

And Then There Were None

Barry Fitzgerald and cast

There have been many, many adaptations of Agatha Christie’s novel And Then There Were None, but for pure, straightforward storytelling at pace, it hard to beat this one, from 1945. It writes the book on the “elimination whodunit”, when one character after another is killed, with Christie keeping the speculation going as to who actually did it right up to the point when there are only two possible choices left. As so often with Christie, she withholds some vital piece of information from the audience, and then delivers it at the end with a ta-daa flourish. This is exactly the sort of plotting that drives some people into Christie’s arms and others out … Read more

France

France de Meurs behind the news desk

The film France is a lot of things but let’s start with what it’s not. The IMDb says “comedy drama” – but there’s not even a smile to be had out of writer/director Bruno Dumont’s latest. Other suggestions out there include that it’s a satire on the news profession. This is hard to credit even as an idea, unless you’re entirely unaware of the way TV news reports are put together. Assembling “packages” from various takes, cutaways, drop-ins, and so on is not the same as “fake” news, which sets out to deceive rather than enlighten. The other strange notion doing the rounds is that France is a state-of-the-French-nation drama. Blame the title … Read more

Yi Yi

Yang-Yang and dad NJ grab a McDonald's

Yi Yi was the last feature film Edward Yang made. He died in 2007, of cancer of the colon, seven years after this, his most popular, most successful, most widely praised film, which is itself, appropriately, all about transitions from one life phase to another. Yang was one of the key players in the Taiwanese New Wave, along with Hou Hsiao-hsien and Tsai Ming-liang, but made films very much for himself. Most of them barely got any exposure at home or abroad and Yi Yi wasn’t even released in Taiwan until 2017. Now it’s often touted as one of the major cinematic events of the 21st century. One Wedding and a Funeral, it … Read more

Anaïs in Love

Daniel and Anaïs

Anaïs is hot. A pretty young French woman who wears a succession of dresses that show off her long legs, her bare arms, her lovely skin. With her hair cascading down her back, she’s a gorgeous, flighty, scatty, slip of a thing who, silly her, gets herself into the most terrible situations and then, skipping elegantly with an impish grin, escapes out of them back into her consequence-free existence. Anaïs has a boyfriend, Raoul, but she doesn’t seem particularly interested in him. She has commitments to a university thesis but seems to be treating that in the same take-it-or-leave-it way. Early on she discovers she’s pregnant and so, alors, pops off to the … Read more

Long Live Freedom

Giovannie (left) and Enrico

There aren’t many films about passion in politics, the oeuvre of Leni Riefenstahl to one side. But that’s what you get in writer/director Roberto Andò’s Viva la libertà (Long Live Freedom), the tale of a political party re-energised by an injection of vigour at the top. For vigour read madness. The great Toni Servillo plays two roles. In one he’s the lacklustre leader of an Italian political party who, having been badly heckled at a meeting, does a bunk one night and winds up hiding out in Paris at the home of an old flame. While Enrico hunkers down – eventually finding a gig working incognito on a film set – the party … Read more

Barbarian

Georgina Campbell in Barbarian

A young woman in Detroit for a job interview turns up at the Airbnb she booked online only to find that there’s there’s a man already in there. A double booking. It’s dark, it’s late and it’s raining and there’s a convention in town, so finding another place to stay is going to be a stretch. After several minutes of her wringing her hands and him shifting his weight nervously from one leg to another, he does the gallant thing – no, he doesn’t vacate and leave it to her, but he does offer her the bed. He’ll sleep on the sofa, he says. The bedroom door has a lock on it and … Read more

Behind Closed Doors

London, including the "gherkin"

Michael Oswald’s latest lid-lifting documentary, Behind Closed Doors, tells the story of ruling elites siphoning wealth off from developing countries and using it to buy high-end property in London. It is a story of familiar elements – the super rich and the London “laundromat” where dirty money is washed clean, plus an acquiescent British government and its supine crime agencies. Thanks to assiduous digging, Oswald and collaborator/writer/producer Murtaza Mehdi reveal precisely how the laundromat works and point the finger at the guilty. Not all of them – that would be a life’s work. Instead, a select few cases stand for the whole. It is, in any case, pretty much the same story every … Read more

Topper

Cary Grant, Roland Young, Constance Bennett

Dying is a lot of fun in the Topper films, a trio of light-hearted comedies kicking off in 1937 with Topper, which starred Constance Bennett, Cary Grant and Roland Young, then continued in 1938 with Topper Takes a Trip and bowed out in 1941 with Topper Returns. From the star names you might expect Cary Grant to be playing Topper but in fact it’s Roland Young, a specialist at fuddy-duddy roles, as the banker whose painfully ordered domestic existence is skittled by the arrival in his life of two ghosts – played by Grant and Bennett. They play the Kerbys, a fun-loving, hard-partying, vair vair rich couple clearly inspired by The Thin Man’s … Read more