When Evil Lurks

Pedro's daughter Vicky and her pet dog

Two spooked brothers head out into the night with guns. In the woods they find a corpse. Half a corpse, in fact. They examine it closely and discuss in practical tones what might have cut a man in two. A jaguar, one of them suggests, possibly wishfully. Too clean, says the other. And on they press, to a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, where it turns out that the bisected man had an appointment to kill Uriel, a pus-filled human being grown vast on cankers and sores. Pedro (Ezequiel Rodríguez) and his brother Jimi (Demián Salomón) know exactly what this means. The brilliant thing about the Argentinian horror movie When Evil Lurks … Read more

Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies

Fawn in a black bikini top

Made in the 1990s but smelling like something from the 1970s, Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies is the product of a porn director and a few Playboy ladies getting together and making something in their downtime. The results are as impressive as the stars’ superstructures, though there’s scant pickings if you’re only here for a leer. The plot is a lift from Sweeney Todd – humans repurposed as baked goods – with Karen Black as Auntie Lee, a faded Southern belle and enterprising baker who uses the wayward men her nieces entice in from the street, or wherever, as the savoury filling in her celebrated pastries. Black isn’t the only actor whose name you might … Read more

Saint Omer

Laurence in the dock

In 2013 a young mother named Fabienne Kabou left her baby on a French beach to be swept away by the tide. Saint Omer is the wistful, powerful, thoughtful and, ultimately, rather sad fictionalisation of the trial that ensued when Kabou ended up in the court on the charge. Open and shut, you’d have thought, and possibly that’s what film-maker Alice Diop thought when she first started attending the trial, initially drawn in by the fact that the plaintiff was of Senegalese origin like her. Diop wasn’t there with the intention of making a film about it. Cameras aren’t allowed. But as time went by she realised that this was the subject matter … Read more

Man’s Castle

Trina and Bill hugging

There’s something a bit mad and a bit magical about Man’s Castle, one of the lesser known of director Frank Borzage’s movies. Expert at delivering dramas with complicated romantic relationships at their core, Borzage’s 1933 movie fits snugly alongside the likes of 1928’s Street Angel, 1932’s A Farewell to Arms and 1936’s Desire. A 1933 release means Man’s Castle arrived just as the Production Code was coming into effect. It was released again in 1938, off the back of the heightened fame of its star Spencer Tracy, by which time the Code was fully operational. If the version you are watching is 75 minutes long, you have the 1933 version. If it’s 66 … Read more


De Roller

You’ll probably enjoy Pacifiction if you go for Graham Greene stories about shady white guys in white suits hitting the moral buffers in some sweaty colonial sump. It’s a familiar screen sub-genre. Most obviously there’s The Quiet American (either version) or 1967’s The Comedians, starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. But Greene’s complex-hero-abroad scenario turns up regularly in other people’s work – for example in The Tailor of Panama (writer John Le Carré obviously channelling Greene) and in Claire Denis’s Stars at Noon (Denis Johnson doing the same). And so to our man in Havana. Tahiti, in fact, where the compromised hero is a gent called De Roller. Dressed in a white suit … Read more

100 Years of… The Thief of Bagdad

The princess and the thief

Douglas Fairbanks was the Tom Cruise of a century ago and in 1924’s The Thief of Bagdad, Fairbanks’s favourite of his own films, you get to see him at his very best, in the peak of physical condition, in a film that’s one remarkable action set piece after another. As you’ve probably guessed, it’s silent, in black and white and set out in old Bagdad, where an Arabian Nights story unfolds concerning Ahmed (Fairbanks), a common street thief caught up in the machinations over who will wed the country’s fair princess (Julanne Johnston). Many would scale those walls, not least Ahmed, though he understands he has only a snowball’s chance in hell against … Read more


A picture of Yannick disfigured with marker pen

Just when it looked like Quentin Dupieux had hit a creative wall, out comes Yannick, a swerve from his more surreal outings towards something a touch more political. If it’s not entirely plausible, it mostly is, and for Dupieux – the man who gave us a sentient truck tyre in Rubber and a chase comedy involving a gigantic insect in Mandibles – it’s probably as normal as it’s ever going to get. It’s also short, which Dupieux films tend to be, this one clocking in at only 67 minutes. It was short enough that Dupieux was able to film it on the hoof while preparing for his next official movie, Daaaaaali! (about surrealist … Read more

The Cat and the Canary

Annabelle in bed with a hand hovering over her

The director Paul Leni died just as the talkies were coming in, but even so his name still has clout 100+ years on. 1927’s The Cat and the Canary reminds us why. It’s not only a cracking whodunit, and a demonstration of technical wizardry but is also a masterpiece of gothic expressionism… done only semi-seriously. Leni later directed The Man Who Laughs and he’s also having a lot of fun here. The plot is so familiar Agatha Christie might have written it – a group of people gather in a spooky old house to hear the reading of the will of a relative who died 20 years before. This will make one of the … Read more

The Origin of Evil

Laure Calamy as Nathalie

Farce played as a thriller, The Origin of Evil (L’Origine du Mal) stars the brilliant Laure Calamy. If you enjoyed her style of paranoid ditziness in the worldwide TV hit Call My Agent (Dix Pour Cent), there’s plenty more of the same on offer here. She plays Nathalie, an ex-jailbird who decides that while her lover, Stéphane (Suzanne Clément), is in jail on a five-year stretch she’ll impersonate her and introduce herself to the father Stéphane never knew. For why? This is not exactly clear – she hoping to get some money out of him, maybe, or it’s just the latest of her scams, or she’s after a family she can call her own … Read more

The Burmese Harp

Mizushima as a monk

After a career banging out one makeweight movie after another, on the 27th go director Kon Ichikawa hit paydirt with The Burmese Harp. A box-office smash and critical hit at home in Japan and abroad, it propelled Ichikawa into the ranks of internationally celebrated Japanese directors, alongside Kurosawa, Ozu, Mizoguchi et al. It’s worth remembering the Japanese martial code before diving into this strangely meditative drama – death before dishonour, to boil it down – and that the surrender by the Japanese emperor in 1945 had been seen by many in the military as an act of treason. The film deals with that surrender and the acceptance, or lack of acceptance, of it. … Read more