Elizabeth Taylor applying the war paint

Now this is a weird one. 1974’s Identikit, also known as The Driver’s Seat, and even occasionally as Psychotic, stars Elizabeth Taylor as what looks like a screen representation of her public persona – a batshit, flamboyant grande dame who we first meet in a German department store, where she is buying something garish and roundly insulting the sales assistant while doing so. Lise, it turns out, is a wanted woman. An identikit picture of her has been posted at all airports. The police are on her tail, for what we don’t know. And as she flies from Hamburg to Rome, they follow behind, questioning everyone Lise comes into contact with. Lise, for … Read more


Demir and Andrew take drugs

Playdurizm starts with what looks like a moment from a feverish dream. A man and a woman having sex. She’s in a sling and he’s standing up. Ecstasy on both sides. Meanwhile, in a separate reality, another man appears to be hurtling through space and/or time in a lo-fi mock-up of 2001: A Space Odyssey’s “stargate sequence”, while in voiceover a quotation from Francis Bacon (the painter not the philosopher) informs us that humans are all “meat”. Dream over, that man, Demir (Gem Deger, who also directs and co-wrote with Morris Stuttard), wakes up in a strange place, not sure who or where he is. In the kitchen of the kitschy, Pop Art-y … Read more

Au Pair Girls

Gabrielle Drake and Richard O'Sullivan

Known in the US as The Young Playmates, Au Pair Girls is a ripe chunk of British cheese from 1972 and a prime example of the sort of film the UK was making at the time. A simple story of four girls arriving in the UK and then having various adventures, most of which involve them losing their clothes, Au Pair Girls really benefits from its feisty female leads, Astrid Frank, Gabrielle Drake, Me Me Lai and Nancie Wait. They’re an interesting bunch. Astrid Frank appeared in French, German and English language movies, switching from a French movie with Jean Gabin (1970’s Horse) to sexploitationers such as Swinging Wives or Swedish Love Games. … Read more


A bowler-hatted Mr Williams checks his watch

Everyone loves Bill Nighy but he’d never really looked like Oscar material – unjustly – until Living came along. Too diffident. Too stylised. Too often wearing that same blue suit. What Nighy did was so effortless that it hardly seemed like acting at all, or at least the sort of acting that Oscar likes (snot and disability, with a heartwarming character arc and a chastening moral). Living was his big shot. It ended in valiant defeat, as we now know, with Brendan Fraser winning out against a tough shortlist that also included Austin Butler for Elvis, Colin Farrell for The Banshees of Inisherin and Paul Mescal for Aftersun. It was a case of … Read more

Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly

Vanessa Howard as Girly

Having shot everything from 1960’s Saturday Night and Sunday Morning to David Lynch’s A Straight Story, it’s no surprise that Freddie Francis is best known as a cinematographer, one of the greats. But he also has more than 30 director credits to his name. Much of it was gun for hire work but in 1970, after eight years of doing others’ directorial bidding, he was finally given his head. Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly (aka Girly) is his picture, done his way, co-conceived with writer Brian Comport, and shot at Oakley Court, a location he’d worked at many times on various Hammer horror productions when it was mostly used for its imposing exterior. … Read more

Magic Mike’s Last Dance

Magic Mike and his shirtless crew

And so the franchise built around Channing Tatum’s early career as a male stripper comes to an end, with one bang and, doubtless, several whimpers. Magic Mike’s Last Dance sees Steven Soderbergh return as director, director of photography and editor, writing credit goes again to Reid Carolin and Tatum makes it three in a row as he dry-humps a role that’s been good to him. The “bang” refers to Salma Hayek’s character, the immensely rich Maxandra Mendoza, who hooks up with down-on-his-luck Mike Lane (Tatum) early on, then whisks him away to the UK after he demonstrates his Magic in a raunchy private routine that leads to the “happy finish” Mendoza expressly said … Read more

Before the Rain

Rade Šerbedžija as Aleksander

One of the great feature debuts, Milcho Manchevski’s 1994 drama Before the Rain announced the arrival of new talent and went straight onto the New York Times Best 1,000 Movies list. Manchevski has been busy ever since, making rap videos, directing episodes of TV shows like The Wire and cranking out films set in the Old West and modern New York. But in between all that he’s regularly returned to Macedonia to make highly distinctive dramas, often with an episodic structure, as here, and often drawing parallels between one story and another. In Before the Rain’s first story a monk (Grégoire Colin) who has taken a vow of silence one day finds a … Read more


Diane Kruger and Liam Neeson

Warmed-over Raymond Chandler isn’t quite the same as hard-boiled Raymond Chandler, but that’s what’s on offer in Marlowe, a strange misfire that looks like it wanted to make a high-concept colourised simulacrum of a darkly noirish 1940s-style thriller and then settled instead for bloodless pastiche. It’s second order stuff all the way, from Xavi Gimenéz’s deliberately un-cinematic, almost Hallmark TV cinematography, to screenplay writer William Monahan’s flat adaptation of John Banville’s novel, itself a simulacrum of Raymond Chandler’s style. David Holmes’s non-committal (bewildered?) soundtrack kind of says it all. It’s all set in 1939, where ex-cop-now-gumshoe Marlowe (Liam Neeson) is visited by a rich, breathy, libidinous blonde (Diane Kruger) who wants him to … Read more

Aguirre, Wrath of God

Klaus Kinski as Aguirre

As madly vainglorious as the expedition it tracks, Aguirre, Wrath of God follows a raggle-taggle band of 16th-century conquistadors into uncharted South America, where they hope to find incalculable riches in the fabled city of El Dorado. It was the first of five uneasy collaborations director Werner Herzog and Klaus Kinski made together. Herzog opens on a richly extravagant shot of the conquistadors, the accompanying nobles, plus native bearers and a priest in single file descending through the jungle down towards the Amazon. Money has been spent, the shot shouts. This is a magician’s deflection. Most of the “action” in this movie takes place either on a riverbank or on board a raft … Read more


Donka out in the fields

Three stories, two periods, one issue – children – in Willow, a spiky North Macedonian drama which first shows us “the old ways”, then reminds us that they exert a pull even on modern-day lives. The first story gives it to us neat. We’re in pre-modern, possibly medieval times, where childless Donka and her husband have been trying and failing to conceive for five years. They visit a crone and tell her of their predicament. They have tried all the old wives’ methods, they say, and now they have come to a proper old wife as a last ditch. She, cackling and stirring a pot like something from the Grimm brothers, tells them she … Read more