Beau Is Afraid

Joaquin Phoenix as Beau

Three’s a trend, so they say, and with Beau Is Afraid writer/director Ari Aster does just what his previous two films, Hereditary and Midsommar, did – he gets everyone talking. Terrible, some said. Brilliant, said others. Maybe it can be both at the same time, you could conclude, sitting right on the fence. And, fence-sitting coming naturally to some people, that is what it is – a brilliant meta-movie that simply doesn’t know when to stop and so outstays its welcome. In one of many comedy moments which seem less well advised the longer Beau Is Afraid goes on – it’s three hours long – Aster starts the action at the moment Beau … Read more

Dementia 13

Luana Anders as interloper Louise

So, a Francis Ford Coppola movie with significant action taking place on a boat. That would be Dementia 13 (aka The Haunted and the Hunted), the director’s first mainstream movie (if we’re ignoring sexploitationers The Bellboy and the Playgirls and Tonight for Sure). Make me something that’s a bit Psycho-esque was producer Roger Corman’s instruction to Coppola, who had already been working with Corman in Ireland on 1963’s The Young Racers. There was money left over from that film, so Corman gave it to Coppola, and lent him the cast and crew from The Young Racers to make his film. The only significant other instruction was that the finished movie needed to have … Read more

Master Gardener

Narvel and Maya

The guy who wrote Taxi Driver is at it again. Master Gardener, as so often with Paul Schrader, is a film about human beings in need of redemption, a worthless humanity rather a wicked world. Schrader, it comes as no surprise to learn, was raised in the Calvinist Christian Reformed Church. Joel Edgerton’s Narvel Roth could almost be an older version of Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle. Roth is a guy with a complicated history – or so the alarming tattoos all over his back and chest suggest – who has put his past behind him and now leads a sedate and austere life as the head gardener on an estate owned by grande … Read more

Mauvais Sang

Juliette Binoche covered in shaving cream

French neo-noir at its most stylish, Mauvais Sang (confusingly it also goes by the titles The Night Is Young and the more literally translated Bad Blood) was Leos Carax’s second feature, the enfant terrible of French cinema still only a youthful 26 in 1986 when the film was made. The majority of his cast are pretty young too. We’re seeing early outings for Denis Lavant (25), Juliette Binoche (22) and a very young Julie Delpy (she’s about 15 here, having debuted the year before for Jean-Luc Godard in Detective). If you read any plot precis it’ll tell you that the action is set in some version of the future, where a virus is … Read more

A Thousand and One

Inez out on the streets

Films that watch poor people having a bad time aren’t everyone’s idea of fun and while A Thousand and One walks a familiar path, it does so with a keen knowledge that misery is a turn-off, and even throws in some firecracker performances to help sweeten the pill. Chief among those is Teyana Taylor, in a star-is-born role as Inez, a street skank fresh out of Rikers Island who “kidnaps” her own child, Terry, aged six and in care, and sets out to bring him up while ducking the authorities. Will Inez make it? Will Terry? Starting out in 1994, the story of Inez and Terry is also, to an extent the story … Read more

Danger: Diabolik

Diabolik and Eva in front of a white E type Jaguar

Arsène Lupin, Fantomas and James Bond all come together in Danger: Diabolik, the first screen appearance of the Italian masked master criminal. A flop on its initial release in 1968, it’s now regarded as something of a cult classic. The reasons for that are hard to ignore. This is prime mid-1960s kitsch, a psychedelic, phantasmagoric, frequently silly, almost always entertaining dollop of schlock elevated by the superb eye of director Mario Bava and a soundtrack by Ennio Morricone at his most poptastic – twangy guitars, wordless choirs, drums thrashing, a harpsichord, the sonic equivalent of Bava’s colour-soaked, bright, stylish and slightly demented visuals. Italian audiences were familiar with Diabolik (also the film’s original … Read more

The Blackening

Group shot of the cast of The Blackening

The Blackening is an amiable throwback to who-dies-next? horror movies of yore, with a take on race trying to ignore the fact we live in the post-Get Out era. There is what you would expect from a cabin-in-the-woods horror, including a pre-credits death or two, followed by the traditional re-establishing shot of a new batch of people winding their way towards the same destination in one of those aerial shots of a car from way overhead, the isolated vehicle moving through the vastness of the encircling forest. Is someone watching? But these are not booze-chugging, drug-popping white people – long-legged girls, chunky jocks, a dweeb or two – instead a gaggle of black … Read more


Rita Hayworth in femme fatale pose with cigarette

A froth of noir, romance and melodrama aerated using Rita Hayworth as a whisk, Gilda exploits the star’s status as the number-one pinup girl for American troops fighting overseas during the Second World War. It’s the Rita Hayworth movie, not just in the eyes of posterity but according to its own estimation of itself. “Starring Rita Hayworth” it says, alongside nobody else’s name in the opening credits, while a massive fanfare blares as the big, big sparkly letters dance on the screen. And, surely, what with Hayworth being a triple threat – she acts, she sings, she dances – this is going to deliver. Surely? The noirish story focuses on a pair of … Read more


Jonathan Majors as Jesse Brown

Three stories fight for space in Devotion. Most obviously the Korean War, which turns up so infrequently it’s almost as if film-makers have taken a vow of silence on the subject (Robert Altman’s Mash, while set in the Korean War, was really about Vietnam – and it was 50 years ago). Second up, the trials and tribulations of a black naval flyer in a largely white American fighting force after the Second World War. And third, a story of platonic love between two men. It’s a true story, about white preppy academy guy Lieutenant Tom Hudner (Glen Powell, who’s also the producer) and black up-by-his-bootstraps Ensign Jesse Brown (Jonathan Majors, so hissably good … Read more

The Big Sleep

Boagart and Bacall sit on a desk

The older it gets, the better 1946’s The Big Sleep looks. When it was new, Howard Hawks’s adaptation of Raymond Chandler’s famously unfathomable story was rooted in reality – the clothes, the cars, the language, the streets of LA. Since then, as it’s become detached from the everyday, it has risen unimpeded into the mythic. The opening scene sets the tone. A detective, Philip Marlowe, arriving at the mansion of General Sternwood (Charles Waldron), where the sick old man lives in an orchid house, staying alive on the heat, while his daughters run wild with his money. One of them, the general informs Marlowe, has got into some trouble. Can Marlowe fix it? That’s … Read more