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Jeff and Kathie

Out of the Past

You can run but you cannot hide is the sentiment driving Out of the Past, Jacques Tourneur’s bleak film noir masterclass from 1947. Just when you think you’ve got clear of something, so the story goes, up it comes from your history and bites you in the ass. Robert Mitchum plays Jeff, a private detective hired by a big “operator” to go and find the woman who’s run off with his $40,000. What Whit (Kirk Douglas) really wants back is the woman rather than the money, and when Jeff tracks her down in Acapulco he discovers why. Jeff, instantly smitten, does the thing a private eye shouldn’t do and, after trading dialogue that’s … Read more
Kat and Michael hug

Drunk Bus

“Inspired by real shit,” it says at the beginning of Drunk Bus, a nineties/noughties-style coming-of-age comedy taking its cues from a host of (good) films. The setting actually is “inspired” – the late-night bus on the Campus Loop taking students back to wherever they live – driven invariably by late-20s Michael (Charlie Tahan), a guy locked in the sort of frozen, boy-to-man arrested-development crisis that movies seem to exist to sort out. He drives, mostly impassively, while behind him an early montage reveals the sort of shitshow that is his nightly ordeal. The traffic cone, the drunken staggering, the making out, the rowdiness, the bare butt. Fun to doing, not so much fun … Read more
Sheila screams

Mad Doctor of Blood Island

There’s no point pretending that Mad Doctor of Blood Island is any good. It isn’t. It has its moments but on the whole it’s a waste of time unless you watch it as it was meant to be watched – in the car at a drive-in playing tonsil hockey with whoever. The Filipino grind-em-out production house Hemisphere Pictures as good as tells us this in a short preamble before the film proper gets going. Here – against a backdrop of teenage couples wrestling in an approximation of cinemagoers making out – an overly serious voice implores audience members to repeat an oath while drinking the green serum that’s thoughtfully been provided for them … Read more
Inspector Buron and Louis

Keep an Eye Out

Keep an Eye Out (Au Poste! in the original French), from Quentin Dupieux – who gave us the film Rubber, about a sentient car tyre, and Deerskin, about a man who becomes possessed by a suede jacket – looks at first like one of the writer/director’s less weird films, as long as you ignore the guy out in a field in red Speedos conducting a full orchestra as the opening credits roll. From there, at least for a while, it presents itself as a fairly standard policier. A man has been brought in for questioning by the police over the discovery of a dead body outside an apartment block. While he sits in … Read more
The Countess and Roger in a skull filled corridor

The Torture Chamber of Dr Sadism

There was a vogue for films like The Torture Chamber of Dr Sadism in the 1960s. Lurid shockers that were little more than a vivid title in search of a good idea – Torture Chamber was often shown in a double bill with Mad Doctor of Blood Island, another prime example. Put another way, what you paid for wasn’t necessarily what you got. There’s not much in the way of a torture chamber in this German horror movie, and absolutely no one in it called Dr Sadism. Instead, at the beginning and end, we meet Christopher Lee playing someone called Count Regula (that’s Regula, not Dracula, you understand), a blood-sucking creature who is … Read more
Brian Wilson at the recording desk

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road

There are two different versions of the same guy on view in Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road, a documentary about the famous Beach Boy that tries to connect the two. And does so, unsurprisingly though nevertheless touchingly, through music. Version 1 is the Wilson of many an old YouTube clip, the maverick genius who turned the recording studio itself into a musical instrument in the mid-1960s and helped give the music of the era its claims to greatness. This Wilson is young, lively, amusing, driven and voluble, clearly the master of his realm, the writer, arranger, producer and musical director of the band he also performed with and a man who could command … Read more
Harry with a silhouette of St Paul's Cathedral behind

Night and the City

Night and the City is often described as the best film noir out of the UK. It was made by an American director with a French sounding name, Jules Dassin, which is poetically appropriate at least since the US is the home of noir and it was the French who coined the term. The title is surely the noirest of the noir – both night and the city are key elements of the genre. But this is London-based, and with a vengeance. Dassin, having fled the House UnAmerican Committee’s McCarthyite witch hunt after taking Twentieth Century-Fox’s Darryl F Zanuck’s advice to make himself scarce and head to London, took full advantage of a … Read more
Cast photo with Benjamin Lavernhe centre

The Speech

The nightmare of public speaking. The nightmare of a breakup. The Speech (Le Discours, in the original French) is a film about a man dealing with two anxiety-inducing situations simultaneously. Or not dealing with them. Number one: the speech. Adrien is a nice, typically anxious French guy at a family dinner so unremarkable that underfloor heating appears to be the main topic of conversation. Until his sister Sophie’s husband-to-be, Ludo, asks Adrien if he’d do them the honour of making a speech at their upcoming wedding. Adrien is instantly thrown into a funk and one strand of director Laurent Tirard’s film starts enjoying itself spinning fantasy “what could possibly go wrong?” versions of … Read more
Jane Wyman and Marlene Dietrich

Stage Fright

When the conversation turns to Alfred Hitchcock films, Stage Fright doesn’t often come up. Notorious, Psycho, Strangers on a Train, The 39 Steps, North by Northwest, Vertigo and even The Birds all regularly make an appearance. Stage Fright not so much. And yet it’s a fascinating film, not least because in it Hitchcock tries to do something different with his formula. All the usual elements are here – the innocent man, mistaken identity, flat-footed cops, the mystery blonde – but everything has been given a distorting twist, inside a movie which itself is set in a world with a distorted relationship to reality, as if all the characters in it have somehow become … Read more
Abe and Aaron

Primer

Primer is the mumblecore sci-fi movie par excellence, if you can use a high-falutin term like par excellence with a film-making ethos as meat and potatoes as mumblecore. The writer and director Rian Johnson reckons it’s the best time travel movie ever made, and when he was sketching out ideas for Looper sent them to Shane Carruth, Primer’s writer/director/star/composer/producer/editor/production designer/sound designer (and probably a few more roles besides). Carruth reckoned Johnson had got his time paradoxes and causalities all wrong, which he may well have done. Looper is fairly hard to follow in terms of what happened to which version of a certain person in which timescape, but Primer ties Looper’s comparatively simplistic … Read more
Charlies as the Little Tramp

The Real Charlie Chaplin

The most significant point that the documentary The Real Charlie Chaplin makes is that Chaplin wasn’t just the most famous man in the world from an early stage in his career, he was also famous in a way that had never happened before – planet-wide recognition, mass hysteria, factories pumping out merchandise, fakes pirating his act etc. The first global star of the age of visual media, this poor boy from London found success through Hollywood in an industry he only reluctantly joined thanks to the universality of silent movies. Chaplin’s fame outlasted his film career and his mortality. Like Mickey Mouse, a silhouette is enough to identify Chaplin. The “Real” bit of the … Read more
Burt Lancaster as the Prince

The Leopard

The movie-as-oil-painting prize goes to The Leopard, Luchino Visconti’s majestic, magnificent, magical magnum opus from 1963, a contender in all the serious forums for best looking film ever made but also a triumph as an examination of a society, a politics and a psychology in flux. It’s an adaptation of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s only novel – a best-seller to this day – and follows it closely. There is no real plot, in other words, more a series of tableaux from the life of a mid-19th-century Sicilian prince as he and his family are buffeted by change, brought about first of all by Garibaldi’s revolutionary Red Shirts, busy unifying Italy (re-unifying, if we’re counting … Read more

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