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Jeremy Theobald in Christopher Nolan's debut, Following

Following

Can you honestly tell from Following, that its first-time director Christopher Nolan is only two years away from making Memento, the film that put him on Hollywood producers’ speed-dials? Shot on weekends and holidays guerrilla-style around London for about $6,000, it is a real “you saw it here first” effort and the acting is strongly redolent of the great days of British film – it’s rank. But when a story is this strong it barely matters. It’s simple too. We follow, in low-budget monochrome, a young, luckless and broke writer (Jeremy Theobald) who thinks it would be fun, “creative” in an artschool way, maybe, to “follow” people and see where it leads him. … Read more
Thandie Newton and the back of David Thewlis's head in Besieged

Besieged

Bernardo Bertolucci was once famous you know. As a director of the brilliant political drama The Conformist, the controversial Last Tango in Paris, Bertolucci’s was one of the big names in cinema. Since that early 1970s heyday he’s stopped making headlines but continued making films. Often they have been marked out by the director’s keen eye both for a well composed shot and for women with strong, beautiful faces. Both figure centrally in this romantic drama from 1998, which in so many respects apart from its troubling message (is there one?) delivers few surprises. It’s the story of an exiled African woman (Thandie Newton) skivvying for a Rome-based classical pianist (David Thewlis). Is … Read more
Mathilda Paradeiser and Linda Molin in She Monkeys

15 April 2013-04-15

Out in the UK This Week She Monkeys (Peccadillo, cert 12, DVD) Vaguely marketed as a lesbian drama, this is in fact an instant classic of the twisted coming-of-age genre, a superbly taut story of a teenager called Emma (Mathilda Paradeiser) who meets a similarly blonde, similarly athletic girl (Linda Molin) while learning equestrian vaulting. Meanwhile, at home, Emma’s five-year-old sister is making her first advances into the world of sexual strategy. Friendship and rivalry, sex and power duke it out for supremacy in this superbly photographed, coolly understated Swedish drama recalling Let the Right One In in look, tone, ambition and effect. A gripper. She Monkeys – at Amazon The Spirit of … Read more
Andrea Riseborough as young Margaret Thatcher in The Long Walk to Finchley

Five Films about Margaret Thatcher

Margaret Thatcher, Mrs T, The Iron Lady, is dead. 31 years ago she was the most unpopular UK Prime Minister in history. Then, after winning the Falklands War she was re-elected in 1983. She was elected again in 1987 before being defenestrated by her party in 1990, a defeat she never quite came to terms with. Politically she was deeply divisive but on one point everyone is agreed – she recast British politics, and to a certain extent global politics, with her doctrine of open markets, privatisation, financial deregulation and tax cuts. Thatcher made the world we live in now. To some she was the greatest prime minister who ever lived, to others … Read more
Winona Ryder and Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted tells the real-life story of Susanna Kaysen, who wrote the original memoir about her enforced stay at a mental hospital in the 1960s. She was banged up after a pills overdose for what was termed a “borderline personality disorder” but the suspicion remains that she was being incarcerated at least partly because she was young, rebellious and pissing off her parents. Director James Mangold’s film version turns the whole experience slightly into One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest redone as a 1960s Mean Girls drama. Instead of shock therapy there’s the withdrawal of TV privileges, straitjackets have largely been replaced by attentive, pleasant carers. And as for debilitating doses of recreational … Read more
Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler in The Phantom of the Opera

The Phantom of the Opera

It’s something of a minor industry to make fun of Andrew Lloyd Webber. But with this film version of his stage phenomenon (billions of dollars at box offices worldwide, and counting) it looks like the musical lord is once more going to be having the last laugh. It’s a story we all know – a hideously disfugured creature, endowed with a gift for music, yearns for the love of a pretty, young singer. He tutors her and turns her into a star. But could she ever love him? It’s often said that the story is a coded version of the relationship between Lloyd Webber and his ex-wife, Sarah Brightman. Brightman was the original … Read more
Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro in The Way of the Gun

The Way of the Gun

Having written The Usual Suspects, Christopher McQuarrie’s directorial debut was always going to generate a lot of interest. It also, when it finally did arrive five years later, generated a lot of disappointment, not least for McQuarrie, who wouldn’t direct another film until Jack Reacher in 2012. Which, looking back from more than a decade later, seems a bit unfair. In Usual Suspects fashion The Way of the Gun delivers blood and twists with a noirish inflection, and takes a pair of good-looking, tooled-up desperadoes (Benicio Del Toro, Ryan Phillipe), dresses them up in Tarantino attitude and pitches them into a plot constructed like a maze. Thing starts fairly easy, as the two … Read more
Anders Berthelsen and Iben Hjejle in Mifune

Mifune

The title is a reference to Toshiro Mifune, the Japanese director Akira Kurosawa’s favourite actor. He died as the film went into production and director Søren Kragh-Jacobsen and writer Anders Thomas Jensen came up with the title as a way of honouring him. So, no, this isn’t Japanese arthouse; it’s Danish. Which will scare a few people off, most likely. Scarier still, Mifune follows the Dogma commandments – the puritanical, ornament-free film-making style that has Hollywood-lovers reaching for their revolvers. The story is similarly bare-bones: the wife (it’s Sofie Gråbøl, later of The Killing fame) of a newly married man (Anders Berthelsen) is far from happy when she discovers his secret history – … Read more
Nicole Kidman shocked in The Others

The Others

Oddly, quite a few people hated this atmospheric ghost story when it came out. It’s a tale with a twist, set just after the end of the Second World War and it’s directed by the Spaniard Alejandro Amenábar. He was a cult name back then, thanks to Tesis and Abre Los Ojos and perhaps he was a bit too out there for some tastes. Nicole Kidman plays the woman waiting for her missing husband to return from the war, a too-dutiful mother who keeps their kids locked away from the light (they’re allergic to it, she says) in a weird dark house kept functioning by a trio of servants. They, we have seen, turned up … Read more
Jonathan Rhys Meyers in Velvet Goldmine

Velvet Goldmine

In 1988 Todd Haynes made Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story. In it he used Barbie and Ken dolls instead of actors to play out the tragic story of the singer with the golden voice whose anorexia eventually killed her off. Karen’s brother Richard Carpenter stamped it out of the record books, claiming Haynes didn’t have clearance to use the music. It has since resurfaced as an entry on imdb and pops up on youtube in various shitty resolutions. Haynes is in pop-music territory again with Velvet Goldmine, moving Ewan McGregor and Jonathan Rhys Meyers into 20th-century-boy poses in a story about a newspaper reporter (Christian Bale) in 1984 doing a story on the high point of glam rock more … Read more
Tom Green suckles from a cow's teat

Freddy Got Fingered

The ancient Hebrews used to send out a goat into the wilderness, hoping it would take all their sins off with it. Modern Hollywood continues the practice every year with the Razzies, awards handed out to films which supposedly stink but which are in fact often not significantly more terrible than many others. In fact Razzies are often awarded to films which tried hard and failed, rather than to films which cynically set out to be terrible, in the hope of turning a buck, so maybe there’s some honour in getting one. In 2012, was Kristen Stewart really deserving of hers, for Snow White and the Huntsman and the last of the Twilight … Read more
Original foyer poster

Duel in the Sun

Martin Scorsese reckons Duel in the Sun was the first film he ever saw and one of the reasons he became a director. It was made in the mid 1940s when David O Selznick was still basking in the glow of Gone with the Wind, in terms of bums on seats the biggest film ever made. The legendary producer was also feeling pretty pleased with himself at having tempted Alfred Hitchcock to Hollywood, Rebecca and Spellbound being the result of that bit of handiwork. Selznick was riding high. The stocky fortysomething was also riding a new starlet, 25-year-old Jennifer Jones. In a case of extreme hubris – those whom the gods wish to … Read more

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