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Sabrina Ferilli and Toni Servillo in The Great Beauty

The Films of Paolo Sorrentino

  Paolo Sorrentino’s latest film, La Grande Bellezza (The Great Beauty) is a portrait of Rome through the eyes of a world weary writer. It’s being hailed as Sorrentino’s La Dolce Vita and stars Sorrentino’s Marcello Mastroianni, Toni Servillo. It’s close to a masterpiece in other words, making this a good time to take a look at the career of Italy’s best film-maker right now. Firmly in the tradition of the 1960s generation of Fellini and Visconti, yet clearly his own man too, Sorrentino’s films are intelligent, engaged, stylish, beautifully made and intriguing – they’ve got the lot, in short.       One Man Up (2001) Sorrentino’s debut feature also saw him … Read more
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Build Your Own Bond

Tired of waiting for the next 007 movie to open? Here’s a solution that even Q would find fiendishly ingenious His name might be Bond, James Bond but at the beginning of 2011 the studio responsible for the most successful franchise in spy movie history found itself in dire straits. It was broke, dead broke. It looked like the mighty roar of the MGM lion was about to be silenced forever. In the event last minute refinancing bailed the studio out and, to the joy of fans everywhere, Bond 23 returned from an enforced layover and went back into production. But for diehards who’d been expecting Daniel Craig back in 2011, the news … Read more
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Ryan Reynolds and the Death of the Real Man

All aboard Ryan Reynolds, prime example of Hollywood’s new breed of depilated, exfoliated, irrigated masculine star. Whatever happened to real men? From out of the low, strong sun, three figures ride towards the camera, tall in the saddle, squinting into the wind. As they hit medium shot, John Wayne turns to the compadre on his left and parts the lips on his line-free face to reveal two rows of snowy white teeth. Meanwhile the man he is about to address, Clint Eastwood, has thrown aside his poncho to reveal a shirt unbuttoned to the waist, his tan, hairless chest cresting sensually towards what might or might not be a nipple ring. And on … Read more
Alice Terry and Rudolph Valentino

100 Years of… The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse was the first of five films Rudolph Valentino made in 1921 and though it’s the film that made him a star he’s not the star of the film, which is an ensemble piece. The star is the film itself, an epic so complete and fine-tuned that it’s a reference point today whenever producers and directors are aiming to tell tender human stories against a background of raging conflict. It’s a big film too – two and a half hours long, which isn’t gargantuan compared to, say, Birth of a Nation (three and a quarter hours) or Greed (originally four and a half hours) – but surprises people who … Read more
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Ben Dover: The Sultan of Schwing

Britain’s pornographer-in-chief on the toughest thing about his job, changing attitudes to sex and why all politicians are bastards “M’lud, one of the pornographic tapes in question involved a young lady and a German sausage, a Brat… (leans back) – or was it a Bock…? It was, I believe, a Bockwurst. The lady was in the process, your honour, of committing an unnatural act with a meat appendage.” Ben Dover, real name Simon (though he tells me it’s Lyndsay) Honey, hits the Soho bar we’re meeting in with his motormouth at full throttle and full volume. Now sitting opposite, he’s telling me about his court appearance for supplying porn to some Belgian bloke … Read more
Forrest Stanley and Marion Davies in a clinch

100 Years of… When Knighthood Was in Flower

When Knighthood Was in Flower answers the question posed by Citizen Kane – just how much of a chump was media magnate William Randolph Hearst over actress Marion Davies? Here is how much – a massive movie conceived on the grandest scale, produced by a company Hearst set up expressly to make Davies a star, with her name above the title, opening credits making great claims to the film’s historical accuracy, an opening scene with a grand entrance by Davies’s character in a royal barge, exteriors shot in Windsor, UK, even though much of the rest of the film was shot in New York and Connecticut, followed by an advertising campaign on the … Read more
Uggie the Jack Russell with co-star Bérénice Bejou in The Artist

Dogs in the Movies

        Dogs. Yes, that’s right, dogs. I’ve probably already doubled the amount of traffic to this site just by writing the word “dogs” three times. Four times if you count that mention. Because people just love dogs (five). They can’t help themselves. It’s down to their dependability. A human being might let you down, but a four legged friend probably won’t eat you until you’ve been dead at least four days. A cat would probably tuck in while you were still warm. Trenchant insight aside, a dog’s loyalty and trainability make it a natural for the movies. A dog can be encouraged to do stuff that’s cute. Or, with a … Read more
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The Olsen It’s Cool to Like

Elizabeth Olsen, younger sister of those squeaky Olsen twins, is going into the family business. Is the business ready for her? Is our interviewer?     One of the hazards of this journalism game, particularly if you’re a middle aged man, is meeting attractive young female actors in the interview situation. They’re likely to look at you intently, laugh at your feeble stabs at humour, lean towards you confidentially, look interested. And of course they’re in the acting game, so being plausible is a large part of what they do. It’s unbelievably easy to believe these bundles of talent and hotness fancy you. It’s a frequent occurrence to leave the interview completely smitten. … Read more
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And God Created Bardot

  “I am really a cat transformed into a woman… I purr. I scratch. And sometimes I bite.” Brigitte Bardot – icon, activist, bigot and just possibly the future president of France. By Steve Morrissey   In a recent poll of the Sexiest Movies Stars by the film magazine Empire, Brigitte Bardot squeaked in at number 98. Down the list maybe, but she was nestling next to Thandie Newton, one of  the undisputed knockouts of our time. And that isn’t bad for a woman who hasn’t made a film in 40 years. Which raises the question: why is she still so fondly remembered? It’s not her ageless good looks. Bardot has always refused … Read more
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James Bond: The Omega Man

007 first strapped on an Omega watch in 1997. Since then the once-ailing franchise has gone from strength to strength. Coincidence? Every human being on the planet, even those in Bhutan, or out in the rainforest distilling poison from tree frogs, knows who James Bond is. So ubiquitous is he that even people who haven’t yet been born have a favourite James Bond actor, a favourite Bond girl, a favourite Bond movie, Bond song, car or baddie. In fact even as I write these words images of Louis Armstrong, Daniel Craig, an Aston Martin Vanquish, Jaws and Denise Richards (wrong, I know) are flashing across my cerebral cortex. But, now that Adele has belted … Read more
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Great Films About Food

With the good burghers of the UK reeling from revelations that there’s more horse in their impossibly cheap frozen dinners and meat patties than in the 2.30 from Uttoxeter, I started thinking about food in films. Not the “food as scene setter” – though who doesn’t hanker after a cosy neighbourhood Italian restaurant with booths and checky tablecloths, the sort you see in old Scorsese movies – no, I’m after the ones where food is either pivotal, or transgressive, or transformational. Significant, in other words. By the way, I bought these burgers from Tesco – and they’re off!     Babette’s Feast (1987, dir: Gabriel Axel) Often held up as the best film … Read more
Matt Dillon and Lili Taylor in Factotum

Movies About Charles Bukowski

    The news that James Franco is directing a film about gravel-voiced, pock-faced author Charles Bukowski, the go-to man for closet writers, bedroom tough guys and incipient alcoholics, reminds us that there have been several shots on goal before. Franco has a double obstacle – films about writing are inherently uncinematic, and films that rely on an authorial voice that’s ironic but utterly deadpan are also in choppy water. So Franco is concentrating on how Bukowski’s early years – abused at home, disfigured by acne – affected his later life. Perhaps Franco is buoyed up by the success of his portrayal of another writer, Allen Ginsberg. Or perhaps not. This is not … Read more

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