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Renate Reinsve

The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World is not about the worst person in the world, though it’s a good catchy title and so why not? Instead it’s about something that’s far less of an easy sell – how to live the good life. The latest in a 20-year run of collaborations between director Joachim Trier and regular writing partner (and a director in his own right) Eskil Vogt, it follows dense, layered and intense films like Thelma, Louder Than Bombs and Blind with more of the same in a 12-chapter story about a smart, pretty young woman called Julie. At the end of each one Julie has traded in what she had for … Read more
Joan and Eddie on the run

You Only Live Once

Fritz Lang’s second Hollywood picture, You Only Live Once, was released in 1937, three years after the death of Bonnie and Clyde, and was the first movie to tell their story – sort of. A tale of bad luck and trouble rather than one of bad people doing bad things, it stars Henry Fonda and Sylvia Sidney as a couple in love – she a sweet girl who works for the Public Defender, he a threetime jailbird determined to go straight and make an honest woman of his wife-to-be but finding that society won’t give this sucker an even break. Blocked at every turn, Eddie (as Clyde is called here) turns back to … Read more
Friedrich Mücke and Liv Lisa Fries

Staudamm

Unspectacular in an almost nonchalant way, Staudamm tells its story slowly and poetically, which is all the more remarkable when you consider its subject matter – a high school shooting. This one took place in a sleepy village in Bavaria and proceeded otherwise in classic US style – kid stalking the corridors letting off rounds in a slow and methodical fashion, killing many, before he too was brought down by a police bullet out by the dam (The Dam is the English language title) where he’d fled, in what looked like a pre-planned bit of suicidal “come and get me, suckers” bravado. Staudamm is about the aftermath rather than the event itself and … Read more
Bartolomea and Benedetta

Benedetta

How funny is Benedetta meant to be? Is it a serious film examining the mindset of religious people of a different time, or a nunsploitation flick straining every sinew to get its stars out of their clothes and comically at it? It’s an adaptation of Judith C Brown’s book, Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Reinaissance Italy. But tellingly, Gerard Soeteman, who worked on the original, never-realised adaptation with director Paul Verhoeven in the 1980s, had his name removed from the credits when he realised which way Verhoeven and new screenwriter David Birke were taking the material for the 2021 version. In bawdy, winkingly vulgar style, not unlike Pasolini’s Canterbury … Read more
Makeda and Pharaoh

100 Years of… The Loves of Pharaoh

Why this film from 1922 is called The Loves of Pharaoh in English is a bit of a mystery. It’s Das Weib des Pharao – Pharaoh’s Woman (or Wife) – in German and in every other language it was translated into (per the IMDb), the lady in question has been faithfully rendered as wife/woman/love singular. In fact the film was also much messed about with when it first debuted. In Russia Pharaoh was more of a tyrant, in the US there was more of a happy ending, whereas in its native Germany audiences got to see more or less what the director Ernst Lubitsch and writers Norbert Falk and Hanns Kräly had wanted … Read more
An ecstatic Alex

The Novice

Lauren Hadaway’s directorial debut, The Novice, is a bit like two other films – Black Swan (she admits the influence) and Whiplash (which she worked on as sound editor). Both are stories where extreme physical dedication borders on madness and coaching is a form of abuse. The Novice has its feet in both of those camps too, but it also has something else to say. Let’s just talk about Isabelle Fuhrman’s face first though. Composed of cubist planes and flat angles, it’s a physiognomy that the camera loves and is capable of registers of emotion that are locked off to other actors. You might remember her as the ominously creepy kid in 2009’s … Read more
Béatrice Dalle and Charlotte Gainsbourg

Lux Aeterna

Gaspar Noé’s Lux Aeterna (or Lvx Æterna in its original Latin-script form) is a short film about the shit women have to put up. Like the old ironic joke about the light at the end of a tunnel probably being an oncoming train, Noé’s “eternal light” (the translation of lux aeterna) is probably being emitted from the fire built to burn problematical women as witches. The first image is from Carl Theodor Dreyer’s Day of Wrath (made in 1943, but with looks from 1443) and is a remarkable shot of a woman being placed on top of a ladder, from where she’s dropped down at speed into a massive fire. The actress, Noé’s … Read more
Mimi and Jean-Pierre

La Bouche de Jean-Pierre

La Bouche de Jean-Pierre (sometimes known as Mimi) was the first film Lucile Hadžihalilović directed and in its short 52 minutes’ running time it introduces the theme she’d more fully explore in later films – the arduous, abusive, coercive, manipulative way that human beings are tamed, trained, civilised, call it what you like. The work of the philosopher Michel Foucault, in particular Discipline and Punish – which deals with social control – seems to lurk in the background of all of Hadžihalilović’s films, all of which are extraordinary, often in a quiet and unassuming way. In this one the action opens with a woman taking an overdose, witnessed by her daughter, Mimi, who ends up … Read more
Lady Marian and Robin Hood

100 Years of… Robin Hood

Accept no substitute. This is the original Robin Hood, or Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood (as the registered title insists), the one that Errol Flynn’s 1938 version modelled itself on, the one that gets all the Merry Men, Maid Marian, good King Richard and bad King John, Sir Guy of Gisbourne and the Sheriff of Nottingham into forms so recognisable that even at 100 years old, it’s instantly obvious who is who. This wasn’t the first screen outing for the mythical character, in fact there had already been five before (if we include 1919’s My Lady Robin Hood), so Robin Hood as a movie character was at least fairly well known, though of … Read more
Crystal led away by a military man

The Hunt

Very much a Trump-era movie, The Hunt is the story of a gang of the “elite” going on their annual “deplorables” hunt (spot the Hillary Clinton reference), with a ragtag bunch of gagged and tied rednecks as their quarry. Interesting concept. The idea is that the elite set the rednecks running and give them something of a head start before coming after them with an intention to kill. The reference point for this sort of thing is usually Kinji Fukasaku’s 2000 bloodfest Battle Royale, though it wasn’t the first movie to present hunting as some sort of bloodsport – 1987’s The Running Man springs to mind, or going even further back there’s 1965’s The … Read more
Mickey, Peter, Mike and Davy

Head

Head is many things. The Monkees’ declaration of independence, a psychedelic beanfeast, a wackadoo retread of Help by the Prefab Four, director Bob Rafelson’s big screen debut and one of Jack Nicholson’s rare writerly contributions to the movies to list just a few. What it isn’t is a good film. Tiresome in the extreme, it wears out its welcome very quickly. If it wasn’t for the fact that the Monkees are an extremely likeable foursome, it would be barely watchable at all. But there is something to be squeezed from it, and it’s not just the chance to see cameos by Frank Zappa, Sonny Liston, Victore Mature, Dennis Hopper and Jack Nicholson himself … Read more
Dan Duryea

Walk a Tightrope

Walk a Tightrope, a British B movie from 1964 packs more of a punch than you might expect, thanks to a properly ingenious story and a great performance by Dan Duryea, who adds the all-important element for British B movies of the era, a starring role for a second-string American actor at the tail end of his career. Duryea was 57 when this was made and looks older. Often cast as a villain, this “heel with sex appeal” (as the New York Times called him in his obituary) would be dead of cancer within four years and looks gaunt here, so maybe it was already taking its toll on his health. His appearance … Read more

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