Everything Went Fine aka Tout S’est Bien Passé

Emmanuèle and father André

A film about a daughter helping her father to kill himself doesn’t sound like appointment viewing – unless you work at Dignitas (or some other physician-assisted-suicide organisation) – but in the hands of director François Ozon it is just that. There’s an “all human life is here” aspect to Everything Went Fine (Tout S’est Bien Passé originally) – it’s compassionate, dignified, funny at times, poignant and also triumphant. In a thumbnail, the film focuses on the relationship between a daughter (Sophie Marceau) and her father (André Dussollier) after he, in his mid 80s, has a stroke. He recovers a bit but he’s a shadow of his former self, paralysed down one side, mouth … Read more

The Fallen Idol

Phillipe and Baines

Of the three films that writer Graham Greene and director Carol Reed made together, The Fallen Idol is the one that languishes at the back of the stage while The Third Man and Our Man in Havana soak up the applause. That’s probably fair, all things considered, but that doesn’t mean this 1948 movie should be written off. It’s a highly intricate puzzle of interlocking parts with a plot about people trying to do the right thing, then failing, then trying to do the wrong thing, and then failing at that too. But the main driver is a young lad, Phillipe, the chatty and precocious diplomat’s son whose parents are so often absent … Read more

You Can Live Forever

Jaime and Marike kiss

A magnetic Anwen O’Driscoll re-purposes much of the Kristen Stewart style and look to play a grumpy teenage lesbian who becomes fixated on a devout Jehovah’s Witness in smalltown 1990s America. Who’s going to convert who? Or whom, if you’re feeling fancy, which You Can Live Forever never is, nor preachy or finger-waggy. It’s not even unfair to Jehovah’s Witnesses – well, not much – a sitting target for films like this, which are all about self-expression and freedom for young women where the Witnesses are all about the patriarchy and control. Specifics, though, specifics. Black-clad hoodie-wearing Jaime (O’Driscoll) has been sent by her mother to stay with her aunt and uncle in … Read more

Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future

Shurik and Ivan the Terrible in 1970s USSR

In science fact as well as science fiction the Soviet Union often got there first. First into space, first to the Moon, Mars and Venus, all mighty achievements by an empire whose successes have all subsequently been overshadowed by the regime’s ultimate failure. So how about Ivan Vasilievich: Back to the Future? Did it really boldly go in 1973 where Marty McFly and the Doc wouldn’t venture until 12 years later? No, is the short answer. The longer one is that this film had a different title originally – Ivan Vasilievich Changes Profession (or Ivan Vasilievich Menyaet Professiyu in the original Russian) – and it was its US distributors who renamed it, in an … Read more

One Fine Morning aka Un Beau Matin

Clément, daughter Linn and Sandra lean over a gate

The latest report on Mia Hansen-Løve’s mission to keep alive a style of intimate, undemonstrative French cinema, One Fine Morning (Un Beau Matin) stars a highly impressive Léa Seydoux in a role that’s a world away from 007 glamour. Hansen-Løve is the daughter of philosophy professors and so in Seydoux’s Sandra Kienzler there’s every temptation to read-across from reality to fiction, particularly if you know that a) Hansen-Løve often draws from her own life, and b) she wrote the screenplay while her father was dying from Benson’s syndrome, a degenerative disease, which is exactly what Sandra’s father, a philosophy professor, is suffering from here. The film opens with Sandra (a shorn, dressed-down Seydoux) … Read more

Blast of Silence

Frank points the gun at the camera

Allen Baron. You’ve probably never heard of him. But he willed into being 1961’s Blast of Silence, a remarkable late noir – or early neo-noir, depending on which end of the telescope you’re looking through – which he wrote, directed and also took the leading role in when his original star, buddy Peter Falk, bailed out on him. Understandably, Falk was being offered a paying gig in the movie Murder, Inc. and Baron’s no-budget film looked like it might never get finished. There isn’t much of a story but there’s enough. A hitman (Baron) arrrives in New York, is given the name of the target, then sources a gun to do the job. … Read more

The Mermaid

Lin Yun as mermaid Shan

So, Stephen Chow, the martial-arts practitioner/actor/writer/director/producer best known outside Asia for two brilliant films, 2001’s Shaolin Soccer and 2004’s Kung Fu Hustle, hasn’t troubled western waters too much ever since. Take The Mermaid, the all-time highest-grossing movie in Chinese history barely got seen when it was released in the UK (where I live) and it didn’t fare any better in the USA. What western distributors have against a proven moneyspinner I don’t know, but Chow’s previous film, Journey to the West, also the highest-grossing movie in Chinese history when it was released in 2013, suffered a similar fate. But back to The Mermaid, a fun, fast and familiar piece of Chow excess laced … Read more

Night of the Eagle

Janet Blair and Peter Wyngarde

Everyone is on their game in Night of the Eagle, an American-financed, British-made horror movie that gets it just about all right, even though the ingredients don’t look like they’re up to much. Peter Wyngarde stars, a cult actor here one year on from The Innocents – one of the best British horror films ever made – sinking his teeth into the role of the rationalist lecturer who has all his beliefs upended when he discovers his wife is a witch. Norman Taylor (Wyngarde) is doing OK at the college where he lectures and when not instructing his students on the real underpinnings of superstition (something vaguely to do with neurosis, it’s suggested) … Read more

The Whistlers

Gilda and Cristi

A stonefaced middle-aged Romanian cop arrives on the brutally beautiful island of La Gomera (the original title of The Whistlers) in the Canaries. A stunning woman is there to meet him. Forget what happened in Bucharest, she whispers into his ear as they embrace, it was just for the security cameras. We can guess what “Bucharest” was all about but writer/director Corneliu Poromboiu gives it to us anyway, in a vivid, cool, drily funny and sexy flashback to Cristi’s (Vlad Ivanov) first encounter with Gilda (Catrinel Marlon) – her film noir name absolutely no mistake. Hang on to those moments because that’s it as far as sex and jokes are concerned. Style, yes, plenty … Read more

Q Planes

Pilot Tony McVane in a plane talking to journalist Kay Hammond

Screw your eyes up a bit and don’t ask too many questions and you can just about see the outline of the James Bond franchise in 1939’s Q Planes, a breezy mix of spycraft, flirtatiousness, tech and eccentricity, all served up with the sort of crisp British diction you’d expect from a film made mostly in Denham Studios, home of Things to Come, Brief Encounter and Blithe Spirit. Another endpoint is the 1960s spytastic TV series The Avengers. Patrick Macnee admitted that he borrowed much of the character of mysterious brolly-carrying, hat-wearing spy Major John Steed from Ralph Richardson’s portrayal of mysterious brolly-carrying hat-wearing spy Major Charles Hammond. Hammond is introduced brilliantly in … Read more