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François Civil as D'Artagnan

The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan

As handsome as its star, François Civil, The Three Musketeers: D’Artagnan was shot back-to-back with its bookend companion, The Three Musketeers: Milady, a pair of old-school spirited adventures full of flashing eyes and flashing blades. I read somewhere that it’s quite tonally different from other Musketeer movies. It didn’t seem so to me. I only recently watched its century-old predecessor, 1921’s The Three Musketeers, starring Douglas Fairbanks, and that is pretty much identical to this in storyline and feel. But then all Musketeer movies tell the same story – Alexandre Dumas’s original tale must be one of the least messed about with in moviedom. D’Artagnan, the cocksure whelp from Gascony, arrives in Paris and … Read more
McCabe in a massive fur coat

McCabe & Mrs. Miller

The superb McCabe and Mrs Miller (generally styled McCabe & Mrs. Miller) was sold as a revisionist western when it came out in 1971. Its director, Robert Altman, went so far as to call it an “anti-western”. Even though Anthony Mann in the 1950s and Sergio Leone in the 1960s had paved the way with “revisionist” westerns of their own, the first reviews of Altman’s version of the revisionist western were harsh. Rex Reed of the New York Daily News called it, “an incoherent, amateurish, simple-minded, boring and totally worthless piece of garbage”, which is nailing your colours to the mast if nothing else. Other critics liked, loved and raved over it. Pauline … Read more
Rebecca and Eileen dance

Eileen

Another tale of female self-actualisation from William Oldroyd, who follows Lady Macbeth with Eileen, a low-key melodramatic adaptation of Ottessa Moshfegh’s best-seller. Lady Macbeth made a star of Florence Pugh, who had been a star-in-waiting since her debut in Carol Morley’s The Falling, in 2014. The transformation isn’t quite so marked here, since Thomasin McKenzie has been turning heads since she was 12 – you might have seen her in JoJo Rabbit, The Justice of Bunny King, The Power of the Dog and Last Night in Soho. Like Pugh, it seems to be written in stone that McKenzie will hold aloft an Oscar at some point in her career. We feel her pain … Read more
Mark and Celia in Mexico

Secret Beyond the Door

Largely bonkers, 1947’s Secret Beyond the Door is a great film if what you need is a laugh, but a joke as what it’s meant to be – a twisted psychological film noir. It’s the last of five collaborations between Joan Bennett and director Fritz Lang, and it’s produced by Bennett’s husband, Walter Wanger, who saw this film as a way of reheating the Rebecca pot, Hitchcock’s Oscar-winning first Hollywood movie of seven years earlier. It is the Rebecca story all over again, in fact – woman marries rich guy as his second wife and finds she can’t live up to the memory of the first – but with an addition of the … Read more
Sara wearing headphones

Piggy

Lots of things do battle in Piggy, but most of all it’s a story about a teenager at war with herself. Or is it a slasher movie? Or a coming of ager with a visceral psychology at work? Bit of all three, and possibly a few more things besides. Writer/director Carlota Pereda welds all the aspects together brilliantly and in her star, Laura Galán, she has an actor who can emote in any direction. This film gets better the longer it goes on and the more we see of Galán. There is quite a lot to see. Sara (Galán) is a big girl, the daughter of a pork butcher in a small Spanish … Read more
Doll (Jean Hagen) and Dix (Sterling Hayden)

The Asphalt Jungle

“Trash,” was MGM boss Louis B Mayer’s verdict on The Asphalt Jungle when he saw it in 1950. “Ugly people doing nasty things,” he added, possibly unhappy that John Huston had borrowed from the glamour-dodging European neorealists to make what’s now considered to be one of the pre-eminent films of the 1950s. Does Mayer have a point? Not from this end of the telescope. If nothing else, Huston has been proven right by the passage of time and the respect of countless other directors. You can see plenty of The Asphalt Jungle in the work of Quentin Tarantino, for instance. It’s a heist movie, a heist-gone-wrong movie in fact, and so there’s nothing … Read more
Brie Larson as Captain Marvel

The Marvels

The Marvels, the shortest movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe so far, is also the least successful in terms of box office. It didn’t even recoup its production costs on its theatrical run. I wonder if posterity might be kinder to it than fickle cinema audiences, because whatever you think of the 33rd movie in this gargantuan MCU run, it is at least trying something new and of courting an entirely different audience this time around. Women, in short. This is a fluffier, more touchy-feely, from-Venus-not-Mars kind of superhero movie, and while that might seem, to some, to shortchange women, it looks like that is exactly the direction that Marvel high command have … Read more
Mickey Rourke as Francis of Assisi

Francesco

So who wants to see Mickey Rourke playing St Francis of Assisi? Not many people is the answer. Liliana Cavani’s Francesco wasn’t a box office hit when it debuted in 1989, didn’t rake in awards at the festivals and has largely disappeared without trace. But Mickey Rourke dressed in a simple brown habit as the founder of the Franciscan order of monks, isn’t that an offer too good to refuse? In flashback, it’s the story of the Italian Francis, or Francesco, told by a group of disciples who have gathered after his death to get down on paper/parchment/vellum/whatever the remarkable story of the man they had followed. As they pick over the facts … Read more
Nicolas Cage as Paul

Dream Scenario

Dream Scenario is one of six movie acting credits listed for Nicolas Cage in 2023. Discounting his blur-on as Superman in The Flash, five bona-fide movie appearances in one year is quite a thing, and he is the star of three of them (this, The Retirement Plan and Sympathy for the Devil), co-star in Renfield and had a significant role in The Old Way. But we all know Cage’s tendency to turn up in any old rubbish, especially when a marriage has gone south, or property investments have turned to water. Rest assured, Dream Scenario isn’t the sort of Cage movie where he ships in, gesticulates wildly and ships out again. Nor is … Read more
John in sunglasses

Light Sleeper

Of the three “loner” films that Paul Schrader wrote, Light Sleeper gets the least love. Taxi Driver is always number one, of course, and American Gigolo is often mentioned in despatches. But ask people if they’ve seen Schrader’s 1992 drama and the answer is often an open mouth and a tilted head. It’s a pity because it’s a superb film in which Schrader gets it right both as a writer and as a director (something he doesn’t always manage). These “loners” are all night workers too – Taxi Driver’s Travis (Robert De Niro), American Gigolo’s Julian (Richard Gere) and now, in Light Sleeper, Willem Dafoe’s John, a drug dealer who works the high … Read more
Elvis and Priscilla kiss on their wedding day

Priscilla

So, Priscilla Presley the origin story, authorised version. Priscilla director and adapter Sofia Coppola isn’t out to bust any myths here, taking the onetime wife of Elvis, Priscilla Presley (an executive producer of this movie) at her word, or at the word of her 1985 biography Elvis and Me, at any rate. The result walks the line between high-end hack work and a prison-break drama, albeit one dressed to within an inch of its life. It’s the soup to nuts version of Priscilla’s life with the King – 14-year-old Priscilla Beaulieu meets Elvis Presley, the most famous man in the world, while he’s stationed in West Germany on military service in 1959. He … Read more
Lady Sylvia with fangs

The Lair of the White Worm

The Lair of the White Worm is a good place to start if you’ve ever wondered what happened to Ken Russell. Once upon a time he was a good film-maker who made fascinating, elegant dramas. Then the success of Women in Love turned his head and from that point on, almost without exception, his subject matter – rock music (Tommy), classical music (Lisztomania), DH Lawrence (The Rainbow) – mostly came second to Ken’s “vision”, a frotter’s orgy of corny erotica. The Boy Friend somehow escaped the Russell treatment, and in Altered States Russell was held in check by a studio mightier than Ken’s own ego. But give Russell his head, and look out. … Read more

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