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The Countess and Roger in a skull filled corridor

The Torture Chamber of Dr Sadism

There was a vogue for films like The Torture Chamber of Dr Sadism in the 1960s. Lurid shockers that were little more than a vivid title in search of a good idea – Torture Chamber was often shown in a double bill with Mad Doctor of Blood Island, another prime example. Put another way, what … Read more
Brian Wilson at the recording desk

Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road

There are two different versions of the same guy on view in Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road, a documentary about the famous Beach Boy that tries to connect the two. And does so, unsurprisingly though nevertheless touchingly, through music. Version 1 is the Wilson of many an old YouTube clip, the maverick genius who turned … Read more
Harry with a silhouette of St Paul's Cathedral behind

Night and the City

Night and the City is often described as the best film noir out of the UK. It was made by an American director with a French sounding name, Jules Dassin, which is poetically appropriate at least since the US is the home of noir and it was the French who coined the term. The title … Read more
Cast photo with Benjamin Lavernhe centre

The Speech

The nightmare of public speaking. The nightmare of a breakup. The Speech (Le Discours, in the original French) is a film about a man dealing with two anxiety-inducing situations simultaneously. Or not dealing with them. Number one: the speech. Adrien is a nice, typically anxious French guy at a family dinner so unremarkable that underfloor … Read more
Jane Wyman and Marlene Dietrich

Stage Fright

When the conversation turns to Alfred Hitchcock films, Stage Fright doesn’t often come up. Notorious, Psycho, Strangers on a Train, The 39 Steps, North by Northwest, Vertigo and even The Birds all regularly make an appearance. Stage Fright not so much. And yet it’s a fascinating film, not least because in it Hitchcock tries to … Read more
Abe and Aaron

Primer

Primer is the mumblecore sci-fi movie par excellence, if you can use a high-falutin term like par excellence with a film-making ethos as meat and potatoes as mumblecore. The writer and director Rian Johnson reckons it’s the best time travel movie ever made, and when he was sketching out ideas for Looper sent them to … Read more
Charlies as the Little Tramp

The Real Charlie Chaplin

The most significant point that the documentary The Real Charlie Chaplin makes is that Chaplin wasn’t just the most famous man in the world from an early stage in his career, he was also famous in a way that had never happened before – planet-wide recognition, mass hysteria, factories pumping out merchandise, fakes pirating his act … Read more
Burt Lancaster as the Prince

The Leopard

The movie-as-oil-painting prize goes to The Leopard, Luchino Visconti’s majestic, magnificent, magical magnum opus from 1963, a contender in all the serious forums for best looking film ever made but also a triumph as an examination of a society, a politics and a psychology in flux. It’s an adaptation of Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s only novel … Read more
James and young Bella

Strawberry Mansion

The Wikipedia entry for Strawberry Mansion describes it as “an American surrealist science fiction adventure romantic comedy film” – a genre pile-on by any standards. Whoever wrote that missed one – the fairy tale. For the strawberry mansion of the title read gingerbread house and you’ve about got the flavour of this strange surrealist (etc … Read more
The dog, Charlie, Kat and Lou on the sofa

Marry Me

Unlikely but theoretically possibly, Marry Me is not to be confused with a 2011 Lucy Liu film with the same title. That said, this Marry Me doesn’t much care how familiar it looks, feels and plays. From the moment it starts to the final disappearance of the last credit, it’s recognisable right down to its … Read more
Oskar bangs his drum

The Tin Drum

The Tin Drum won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 1980, as well as the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1979. Not everyone was enamoured, though. While the Los Angeles Times thought it “a masterwork of cinema” and the New York Times slightly less effusively reported that it “compels attention,” Roger Ebert of … Read more
Sebastian Cavazza as Milutin

AI Rising

Seen any good Serbian sci-fi lately? How about AI Rising, a film that works wonders with two main actors, a couple of sets, some clever lighting, moody music and a small team of special-effects artists who know their stuff. If there’s a criticism – let’s get this out of the way straight away – it’s … Read more

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