The Breaking Point

Leona and Harry on his boat

Released in 1950 two years before the death of its star, John Garfield, aged only 39, The Breaking Point played to all Garfield’s strengths – he’s the tough guy military veteran attempting to maintain masculine dignity in a world that doesn’t want him any more. It was his favourite role. Harry Morgan (Garfield) is scraping along in the business he set up after he returned from the Second World War, chartering boats out for fishing and whatever comes along. Times are hard and he owes everyone money, and so, in hock to his eyeballs, a disappointment to his loving wife (Phyllis Thaxter), bossed by an offstage father-in-law dangling a job with his successful company, … Read more

We Broke Up

Lori and Doug at the wedding

We Broke Up starts well, hits a rough patch, then a dead patch, then breaks up itself, before trying to get back together. Eventually it gives up entirely while wondering how far under 90 minutes it can come in and still be called a feature-length movie. It decides on ten minutes. It’s a great start though. Him and her. In love. Having fun just being together. Lori (Aya Cash) and Doug (William Jackson Harper) have been a couple for about ten years but the spark is evidently still there. And then out of the blue he asks her to marry him and she responds in a way he hadn’t expected – by immediately … Read more

Goodbye Gemini

Jacki, Julian and Clive in a pub

Sometimes known as Twinsanity – a title that promises way too much – Goodbye Gemini is a peculiar British film from 1970, and is perhaps best bracketed with Performance, which came out the same year. It’s a 1960s Swinging London film with a hangover, the day after the night before, and stars Judy Geeson and Martin Potter as a pair of blond fraternal twins who arrive wide-eyed in the big city and are then plunged into a maelstrom of metropolitan hipness, where they struggle to keep their heads while everyone around them parties like it’s the end of times. Of the two of them, Julian (Potter) struggles more. Jacki (Geeson) isn’t burdened with … Read more


Nefer and Thut

“It’s for kids, innit?” a guy muttered to me as we came out of the screening for Mummies. He didn’t say it like it was a good thing, summing up in a shrug the slightly throwaway nature of this Spanish animation redubbed into English. I have no idea how good the original voice cast were, but Joe Thomas (of the TV show Inbetweeners), Eleanor Tomlinson (Poldark) and Hugh Bonneville (everywhere all at once right now but best known for Downton Abbey) are excellent as the English-language replacements. Thomas voices Thut, the Ancient Egyptian charioteer who used to be a champion but now has post-chariot-stress-disorder, and Tomlinson is Princess Nefer, the daughter of Pharaoh … Read more


Leonora is consoled by Dr Quinada

Revenge would be a better title but Caught it is, director Max Ophüls’s broadside against Howard Hughes, who’d fired him from Vendetta only days into shooting a film that was meant to launch the career of Faith Domergue, a Hughes “discovery” (booty division). Vendetta ended up with five directors’ names attached to it so clearly the launch needed more grease on the slipway than anticipated. Hughes’s treatment of women, it turns out, is what Caught is all about, a reworking of the Libbie Block novel Wild Calendar also incorporating the stories Ophüls and screenwriter Arthur Laurents had heard about the infamously philandering studio boss. Naive and nice young thing Leonora (Barbara Bel Geddes) … Read more

Inherit the Viper

Josie and Kip

So near yet so far, Inherit the Viper could almost be a Paul Schrader-esque tale of pitiless redemption, à la Taxi Driver or First Reformed. We get both of those things – little pity and a lot of redemption – but who it’s meant to be directed at is never quite clear. There are two leads. Margarita Levieva as Josie Conley, who we meet selling a pill to a local woman in the out-of-the-way town where her family are the go-to people for drugs. Opioids like “Oxy” are their current hot seller. Next thing we or Josie knows is that the woman is dead in the toilet of the bar – she’s OD’d. … Read more

Leave Her to Heaven

An impeccably dressed Ellen in sunglasses rows a boat

Psycho wife alert, Leave Her to Heaven is melodrama of the first order, dressed to the hilt, played to the max and with Technicolor looks so lush that they border on the histrionic. If there’s an award for the best-looking film ever made, this has to be a contender. It’s a Darryl F Zanuck production and it looks like he’s taking aim at rival David O Selznick’s Gone with the Wind in terms of production values and storyline – an unhinged woman whose psychosis is so destructive it leaves a trail of broken people in its wake. Poor unwitting writer Richard Harland (Cornell Wilde) glimpses beautiful Ellen (Gene Tierney) on a train and is … Read more

The Death of Dick Long

Zeke and Earl

Subversive in a quiet way, The Death of Dick Long starts out conventionally enough, with three rock dudes practising in a garage and making a racket. Eventually the session comes to an end, various females peel off and go to bed and the guys decide to “get weird,” as Dick puts it. Director Daniel Scheinert (who also plays Dick) cuts to three old beer cans hastily being hacked into makeshift pipes. And cuts again to later that night when Dick’s friends, Zeke (Michael Abbott Jr) and Earl (Andre Hyland), are dumping a severely injured Dick outside the local hospital. They run away. A mystery – what the hell happened to Dick? This question is … Read more


Fitzcarraldo and his boat

The “conquistador of the useless” is how Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald – known by the Peruvian locals as Fitcarraldo – is described at one point in Werner Herzog’s fourth collaboration with actor Klaus Kinski. It helps, watching this mad epic conceived on the grandest of scales, to remember that Herzog often described himself that way too. The story is as big as the character of Fitzcarraldo, an obsessive opera-lover with a string of failures behind him, like the Trans-Andean railway that never went anywhere, or the ice-making business with not enough demand for ice locally to make success a possibility. As Herzog raises the curtain, Fitzcarraldo’s latest plan is to build an opera house … Read more

Tori and Lokita

Tori and Lokita

Simple and powerful, Tori and Lokita is the latest example of a film by the Dardenne brothers, a film-making duo who these days have to clear a high bar to get real praise, one raised by their own string of good-shading-to-great films. Two Days One Night, The Kid with a Bike, Lorna’s Silence, pick a Dardennes movie and they’re all in essence the same story – fragile people at a moment of crisis. Here it’s mostly African migrant Lokita who’s in the firing line. As the film opens in a simple lock shot, she’s being asked a series of questions by an immigration official in Belgium, who want to know more about her relationship … Read more