The Postman Always Rings Twice

Frank and Cora

Talking of twice, there are two good reasons why reviews of the movie The Postman Always Rings Twice almost invariably mention the book’s author, James M Cain. Cain’s name has no real resonance today, but in 1934 his book was a Fifty Shades of Grey shade of famous and had made a celebrity of the author. As a grown-up, sentient member of the public you had to take a position on the book – you’d read it, you’d read a review of it, or you’d taken ostentatiously decided not to read it. Love it or loathe it, you couldn’t ignore it. The second was the opening credits to this 1946 screen version, which go … Read more

Percy Vs Goliath

Percy in his field

There’s much aggro with agri-business in Percy Vs Goliath, the – surely no surprise – David and Goliath tale of a Sesketchewan farmer taking on the agri-biotech conglomerate Monsanto after the company accused him of patent infringement. It’s a true story. In 1997 a pious, frugal, hard-working 70-ish farmer was suddenly landed with a lawsuit from Monsanto, who accused him of using their Roundup-tolerant genetically modified strain of canola seed (aka rapeseed) without paying for it. The thing is: Percy Schmeiser had never bought seed in his life. Instead he was a “saver”. He’d learnt from his father the practice of keeping seed from the season’s best plants, and he from his father … Read more

The Hard Way

John Connor with rifle

1980’s The Hard Way sounds like the answer to several questions in a quiz with a special round on esoteric movie trivia. What’s the only film that Patrick McGoohan and Lee Van Cleef starred in together? What’s the only screen acting performance of the novelist Edna O’Brien? Michael Dryhurst has directed only one film – what is it called? Other interesting factoids for collectors of arcana include that the director John Boorman is The Hard Way‘s executive producer and that much of it is filmed in Wicklow, Ireland, where Boorman lived at the time. And that Henri Decaë is the cinematographer, the monster talent who did so much work with Jean-Pierre Melville. The … Read more

Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams

Salvatore Ferragamo and wooden shoe moulds of the famous

As solidly made as the shoes of its subject, though not as imaginative, Salvatore: Shoemaker of Dreams does exactly what it sets out to do – tell the life story of Salvatore Ferragamo, the man who puts shoes on Dietrich, Garbo, the Duchess of Windsor and Ava Gardner and built an empire based on high-end footwear. He was clearly a remarkable man. Born in a small village 90km east of Naples in 1898, Salvatore was the 11th of 14 children and the second of his parents’ children to have that name – an older brother had died. He wanted to make shoes from almost as soon as he could remember but his parents … Read more

El Cochecito

Lucas, the wheelchair and Anselmo

There aren’t many films called El Cochecito. That’s the Spanish title. In English it goes by the title The Wheelchair. There aren’t many films with that title either. A wheelchair is not aspirational, it’s not something people covet. (As for The Little Coach, which the film sometimes flies by, no one even knows what that is.) But the main character in El Cochecito really does aspire to own one, which makes him an unusual character. But then this is a very unusual film. Rather than confinement, the wheelchair seems to Anselmo Proharán to offer freedom, escape. He’s a retired man, a somebody back in the day, a widower who now lives with his … Read more

The Girl and the Spider

Lisa and Mara

Not much happens in The Girl and the Spider (Das Mädchen und die Spinne) but that doesn’t mean nothing’s going on. Superficially the story of one young woman moving out of the apartment she’s been sharing with another, beneath the surface it’s a roiling stew of emotion, lust, jealousy, neediness and isolation. There’s are Bergmanesque developments, things said and unsaid, as we track Mara (Henriette Confurius) and Lisa (Liliane Amuat) through one day, a night and into the next day while around them wheel Lisa’s mother, a handyman and his helper, a neighbour or two, other young women from downstairs and next door, first in the apartment Lisa is moving into, and then … Read more


Dóra Szinetár as Laurin

Robert Sigl was about 25 when he started making Laurin (aka Laurin: A Journey into Death), his remarkably atmospheric feature debut. It did well at the festivals when it came out in 1989, and Sigl picked up a rake of awards. More personal movies should have followed. But since the distinctive 1994 TV mini-series Stella Stellaris, Sigl seems to have been content to scratch the idiosyncratic itch with a series of occasional shorts; to keep the wolves at bay he’s done gun-for-hire work on German TV. Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere is what Laurin is about, a Hammer horror meets Mario Bava/Dario Argento affair full of red-haired women, crimson lipstick, creepy churchyards, rolling mists, an … Read more


Grey Trace

Leigh Whannell started as an actor, became a writer – of the horror franchise Saw and its sequels most notably – became a producer, then eventually a director. Upgrade is his second film behind the camera, having familiarised himself with the controls on Insidious: Chapter 3. Here he wears all the hats apart from the actor’s, in a film that’s attempting a genre blend – superhero origin meets detective thriller meets social commentary – in a techy story about a paraplegic guy who has his functions restored, upgraded even, after being implanted with a computer chip designed by a squillionaire tech mogul called Eron. Ahem. Upgrade was released in 2018, which was the … Read more

100 Years of… The Ten Commandments

Moses with the tablets of stone

Cecil B DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, so good he made it twice. This is the original 1923 version, which came about after DeMille held a public competition asking for suggestions as to what he should make next, maximum shock and awe being the big idea. The winning entry started with the line “You cannot break the Ten Commandments – they will break you,” and that was that as far as De Mille was concerned, a theme and a challenge all in one. He shot some of it in two-strip Technicolor, while the rest of it was tinted, as was common at the time. That’s all gone now; restorations come in a standard black and white. … Read more

Looking for Venera

Kosovare Krasniqi as Venera

Men are mostly lurking presences rather than characters in Looking for Venera, Norika Sefa’s film which she says is about showing the world that life in Kosovo isn’t all about poverty and exotica. Sitting in London, it looks pretty poor and exotic to me. Sefa opens with a shot of a teenage female having pounding sex with a man in the woods, observed sight unseen by another teenage female. Later we learn that the young woman having sex is Dorina (Rozafa Celaj) and the one watching is Venera (Kosovare Krasniqi). They are not friends, but after Venera pulls Dorina aside to quiz her about what she was up to on her back among … Read more