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Warren Beatty head shot

The Parallax View

One of three 1970s thrillers Alan Pakula directed in quick succession, The Parallax View is sandwiched between two better films, Klute (1971) and All the President’s Men (1976), the second leg of what’s now known as his “paranoia trilogy”. Posterity is in the process of polishing The Parallax View’s reputation, with the focus usually on two aspects: the cinematography of Gordon Willis and the conspiracy at the centre of it, which is not, for once, all a big government put-on. Instead it’s a big bad company, the Parallax Corporation, that’s pulling the strings by seeking out unstable individuals and then grooming them for political assassinations. Don’t tell Ayn Rand. Loren Singer’s original novel … Read more
Kate and Blond

True Things

True Things is only the second feature from Harry Wootliff, a writer-director fascinated with relationships. And after the slow-burning torture of Only You, she follows up with another rocky road leading to who knows where. Again it’s a two-hander, again the performances are sensational. In Only You Laia Costa and Josh O’Connor were the couple negotiating parenthood (adulthood, actually). Here, it’s Ruth Wilson and Tom Burke at a much earlier stage of a relationship. That’s if this is a relationship at all, which is kind of what the film is about. Wilson plays Kate Perkin, a young woman with a shaky work situation, not much in the way of a social life, a … Read more
Paul Renard in church

Broken Lullaby

Ernst Lubitsch’s 1932 drama Broken Lullaby was originally called The Man I Killed, like the Maurice Rostand play it was based on (L’homme que j’ai tué). It turned out to be a title too hard-hitting for the box office and so it was decided to change it. To The Fifth Commandment. Until some bright spark pointed out that “Thou shalt not kill” isn’t always in the number five position in the Commandments. If you’re Jewish or Orthodox, it’s number six, for example. And so, bizarrely, Broken Lullaby is what the movie ended up being called. Both the play and the film are the story of a French soldier who kills a German soldier … Read more
The Mighty Thor and Thor

Thor: Love and Thunder

Though the Asgardian deity has appeared in other Avengers movies in the interim,Thor: Love and Thunder is the first outing for Chris Hemsworth’s caped godhead since the last standalone Thor movie, 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok. Time has moved on and we’re now in a different phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, one determined to bolt a “meta” onto the usual stew of tall tales, quips, dressing up, special effects and heroics. Some things have changed, but some remain the same. In textbook Thor fashion, we first meet the villain. Christian Bale plays Gorr, a grieving father driven into a frenzy when he discovers that Rapu, his liege lord/godhead, doesn’t give a stuff about his … Read more
Treeshaker

Son of the White Mare

Psychedelia came late to the Soviet Bloc. Marcell Jankovics’s Son of the White Mare (aka Fehérlófia) didn’t come out till 1981, at which point in the West long hair was out and short hair was in, weed had been traded for speed and nothing seemed quite as old hat as self-indulgent, soft-edged hippie-infused visuals. Way out east, however, the Communist regime remained steadfastly against anything that was soft, western, bourgeois, non-practical, non-utilitarian or non-propagandistic. With its decorative, non-logical looks, psychedelia’s message was in itself dissident and political and its counter-cultural impact was strong. On the other hand the regime did like folk art. Pop art bad, folk art good ran the mantra of … Read more
Frank Kitchen before gender re-assignment

The Assignment

Hardboiled graphic-novel pastiche is the big idea behind The Assignment, which stars Michelle Rodriguez as Frank Kitchen, a hitman who becomes a hitwoman after his enemies perform some non-elective gender re-assignment (Re-Assignment was a working title, as was Tomboy) on him/her. As you might expect, revenge is served hot and cold, warm and wet. Walter Hill directs. Yes, the same Walter Hill of 1980s hits like Southern Comfort, 48 Hrs and Brewster’s Millions, still in the game, still knocking out remarkably varied movies, still happy to get down and slum it, as he’s doing here – the film was made for very little money and Hill was well into his 70s when it … Read more
Group shot of the cast of Jurassic World Dominion

Jurassic World Dominion

Going into production, the makers of Jurassic World Dominion knew they had to deal with a raft of problems that most franchises don’t have to deal with. They couldn’t change the villain – one of the key ways that long-running franchises refresh their offering. In Jurassic Park movies the bad guy remains the dinosaur no matter how many crazed megalomaniac human are injected into the mix. They also couldn’t really change the location. This isn’t a story of a world taken over by dinosaurs but of a theme park (essentially) going wrong. James Bond gets sent to Bermuda, or Brazil, or Baluchistan, or into space orbit or beneath the waves to ring the … Read more
Lawrence and a wealthy widow

Bedtime Story

Bedtime Story is one of a string of movies produced by Marlon Brando’s Pennebaker Productions, a company run by Brando’s father, Marlon Sr, and named after his mother, Dorothy Pennebaker. They didn’t all feature Brando Jr. 1961’s Paris Blues was a vehicle for Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Sidney Poitier and Louis Armstrong. 1959’s Shake Hands with the Devil starred James Cagney. 1964’s Man in the Middle was a courtroom drama set during the Second World War and handed a lead role to Robert Mitchum. You’ve probably not heard of any of them, and apart from One Eyed Jacks, Pennebaker Productions’ hit rate wasn’t astonishing, though the films they turned out did generally feature … Read more
OJ on horseback

Nope

Nope is what you say when heroics are required but you’ve decided on an impulse that absolutely no way are you going to do what’s required. Maidens to be saved, beasts to be slain or dim passageways to be entered, whatever it is, the answer is no. Nope is also the return to form for Jordan Peele, the actor turned director whose conceptually brillant Get Out – Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner done as a horror movie – was followed up by the less conceptually innovative but nonetheless very tidy Us. Nope is Jaws done as a sci-fi, a tale of a big something lurking somewhere out “there” in the sky somewhere and … Read more
Lily and Gaston stealing from each other

Trouble in Paradise

Trouble in Paradise was Ernst Lubitsch’s favourite of his own films. It’s 83 quick minutes of screwball farce, made in 1932 just as Hollywood was putting its own house in order (before the government stepped in and did it), one of the highlights of the pre-Code era. It’s more sexually risqué than later films, for sure, though that isn’t what got it into trouble when Paramount tried and failed to re-issue it in 1935. Banned for decades, it wasn’t really seen again until the 1960s It’s the story of a conman called Gaston and a thief called Lily who try to swindle/steal each other but instead fall in love. Realising they’re a crack … Read more
Yûsuke and his driver Misaki

Drive My Car

Ryûsuke Hamaguchi delivered two chunky movies in 2021. The three hour Drive My Car followed hot on the heels of Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy. Both movies are interested in identity and the way humans sometimes make use of lies in order to access truth. It’s a case of the theatre director, his driver, his wife and her lover, with the slightly hangdog Hidetoshi Nishijima playing Yûsuke, the grieving actor-turned-director trying to put on a production of Uncle Vanya with a cast using his celebrated avant-garde methods – different people talking in different languages (including one actor using Korean sign language). It’s a metaphor for the gulf between speech and meaning – language … Read more
John Gilbert and Mae Murray

The Merry Widow

The Merry Widow. In the 21st century the title creaks and the concepts of merriness and widowhood seem strangely out of step with modern life. And yet, 100 years ago The Merry Widow was quite the thing. The huge success of Franz Lehar’s 1905 operetta is what prompted film versions, which popped up regularly in the early decades of the 20th century. First up was Michael Kertézs’s 1918 version, made in Hungary before the director emigrated to the United States, where a name change to Michael Curtiz and a long career (including Casablanca and Mildred Pierce) awaited. The IMDb is currently describing Curtiz’s Merry Widow as a musical, which is quite bizarre considering … Read more

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