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Cordelia and Frank in a Tube tunnel

Cordelia

The actor Antonia Campbell-Hughes is worth watching in anything she’s in. She’s particularly good at the externalisation of anxiety and there’s plenty of that in Cordelia, the story of a broken London woman trying to put her life back together after some terrible event. The event was the terrorist bombings of London in July 2005, though all we learn of what happened then is how it’s left Cordelia, an actor now afraid to leave the house, who hasn’t used the Underground ever since (this was made in 2019 and is set then too), and who leans heavily on her twin sister (also played by AC-H), a boozy, fun-lover who is presumably everything Cordelia … Read more
Françoise and François embrace

Le Jour Se Lève

Le Jour Sè Leve is a prime example of a film in the doom-flecked “poetic realist” style which flourished in France before the Second World War and we’re lucky to have it at all. When RKO set out to remake it in 1947, as The Long Night, they bought up and destroyed all the prints they could find. But not all of them, obviously, because here we are. It didn’t go too well for the remake (the New York Times described the 1936 French original as “in every respect superior to this new job”) even with Henry Fonda in the key role, as the murderer reflecting alone in his room as night gradually … Read more
Krypto and Ace

DC League of Super-Pets

The Superman story with a doggie twist. The tale, or tail, of the pup who jumped into baby Kal-El’s escape pod as his parents evacuated their son from the dying planet Krypton, and wound up as Superman’s best friend on planet Earth, complete with canine super powers of his own, a cape, and even a pair of black framed glasses as a doggie disguise. When he’s not being Krypto the superdog, he’s the Bark to Superman’s Clark Kent. Ho ho. Dwayne Johnson, surely at risk of spreading himself too thin, voices Krypto, the loyal companion whose daily round of walkies and fly-ies is interrupted by a series of events. First Superman and Lois … Read more
Valentine, Amédée and Batala

Le Crime de Monsieur Lange

When talk turns to the greatest films of all time, Jean Renoir is usually in there. And when talk turns to Renoir, it’s La Règle du Jeu or La Grande Illusion which most often figure, with Boudu Saved from Drowning sometimes making an appearance. Le Crime de Monsieur Lange not so much. Made in 1936, the year before La Grande Illusion, it has been eclipsed by it in the decades since, though it’s a virtuoso piece of film-making with a remarkable camera, brilliant performances and a story that goes right against the grain. A man and a woman on the run turn up at a bar near the border begging for a room … Read more
Pearl coverd in blood

Pearl

While shooting 1970s-porn-pastiche-horror movie X in New Zealand, and caught up in a bit of a covid quarantine hiatus, writer/director Ti West realised he might have the makings of a franchise on his hands. So he pitched the idea to production company A24 of extending his single movie into something more. They said yes, and West, wasting no time, immediately set about writing Pearl with his star, Mia Goth. The franchise idea is loosely linked horror movies set in different eras and shot in different styles. X told the story of a gang of amateur porn film-makers in 1970s America getting their rich-hued sex/death/slasher/giallo-inspired comeuppance. In that film Goth played two roles – … Read more
Ricardo Cortez and Bebe Daniels

The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon, but not that one. Not the 1941 version starring Humphrey Bogart and directed by John Huston, but the other one, the original filmic take on Dashiell Hammett’s story, from 1931, with Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade and Roy Del Ruth directing. That one. Retaining much of Hammett’s terse, hard-boiled dialogue, it keeps his story intact too – woman called Ruth Wonderly (Bebe Daniels) employs private eye Spade and his partner to help her find her missing sister. By the next morning two men are dead, one of them Spade’s partner, another the man who was supposed to have run off with Wonderly’s sister. The “sister”, it turns out, was all … Read more
Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren

The Girl

There were two dramatised features about the working methods of director Alfred Hitchcock in 2012. Hitchcock starred a pretty decent Anthony Hopkins as the corpulent director. But today it’s The Girl, a more obviously made-for-TV affair. It’s an HBO/BBC collaboration, with actors who bump it up the pecking order – Toby Jones as a dead-eyed Hitchcock, Imelda Staunton as his enabling, collaborative wife Alma and Sienna Miller as Tippi Hedren, the star of The Birds and Marnie. The story of The Girl is the story of a director who finds a new star, grooms her and, Vertigo-style, becomes hopelessly, almost pathologically obsessed with her. It’s Alma who first calls Hedren “the girl”, having noticed … Read more
Madeline and Kurt

Employees’ Entrance

Employees’ Entrance is a short, sharp and strange film, from the title on downward. A drama made in 1933 and set in a department store in the teeth of the Great Depression, it takes a look at rapacious capitalism in the form of its central character – Warren William as the time-and-motion guy Kurt Anderson, who somehow gains control of a business that’s been run almost on feudal lines till he came along. Kurt is a price-of-everything-value-of-nothing badass and though his technique isn’t all slash and burn, his management style is brusque, hectoring and unsympathetic and he demands total loyalty from his staff, who he expects to be on call 24/7. On the … Read more
Brad Pitt as hitman Ladybug

Bullet Train

So you’ve decided to watch a film called Bullet Train. You know Brad Pitt is in it. You know David Leitch directed it – he co-directed John Wick and was Pitt’s stunt double in Fight Club. You have certain expectations. In fact you almost know exactly what you’re going to get – something that’s expensive and glossy, well made, with driving action and perhaps a squeeze of humour. The names Sandra Bullock and Brian Tyree Henry back up the suggestion there’ll be comedy. And there’s Michael Shannon in the credits, so maybe a bit of badassery? Want to bet there’ll also be a runaway train factored into the plot somehow? Enter Brad Pitt, … Read more
John Barrymore and Carole Lombard

Twentieth Century

Named after the New York to Chicago train and designed to be just as sleek, fast and modern, Twentieth Century is a brilliant Howard Hawks screwball comedy that’s been slightly overshadowed by other brilliant Howard Hawks screwball comedies, like Bringing Up Baby and His Girl Friday. In art-imitates-life style, it tells the A Star Is Born story of one person in the ascendant and another on the decline, with Carole Lombard in the role that made her name, and John Barrymore pausing momentarily as he transited from movie godhood to a very mortal early death. Both are brilliant, but Barrymore is perhaps even better than Lombard, as Oscar Jaffe, a stage impresario with … Read more
Christine screams in fear

Nocebo

Nocebo is director Lorcan Finnegan and writer Garret Shanley’s follow-up to the massively stylised Vivarium. It’s another horror movie, a much more conventional and familiar one this time, though driving it is something not so often encountered in horror – a “the empire strikes back” tale of capitalist overlords sucking a big one. In a property-porn house in Dublin, Christine (Eva Green), her hunky husband Felix (Mark Strong) and their cute, smart kid Bobs (Billie Gadsdon) lead the lives that people of their class do. While the kid’s at a nice school, he works in marketing strategy and she’s a successful designer of children’s clothes, who we first meet supervising the shoot for … Read more
Thomas Gomez, Ella Raines and Franchot Tone

Phantom Lady

A man with a spare ticket to a show invites a random woman to go with him. He’s been stood up, he explains and this is a geniune “shame to waste it” offer. She, wary of this stranger but distraught about something and needing distraction, half-heartedly agrees. No introductions, she insists, no names. To emphasise that this is no prelude to a pick-up, or beginning of a relationship, or anything of that sort. It’ll just be an evening of fun at a show. And so it is. They take a cab from the bar where they met to the Chica-Boom-Boom musical revue, where the revue’s drummer gives the mystery lady the glad eye. … Read more

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