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Dodin and Eugénie at a celebration

The Taste of Things aka La Passion de Dodin Bouffant

Tran Anh Hung has only made five films in the years between his breakthrough and The Taste of Things (La Passion de Dodin Bouffant). Not much has changed since 1993’s The Scent of Green Papaya. This is also a languid and beautiful film full of longing for a bygone time when people did things properly and (say this very quietly) they also knew their place. It doesn’t need a plot. You could watch this exquisite movie for the images alone, which are spectacular and gorgeous, like paintings by Renoir or Manet come to life. But there is one, several in fact, providing just enough thread to lead us from one elegant instance of … Read more
Émile and latest victim, Monique

L’Étrangleur aka The Strangler

Beautiful and weird, Paul Vecchiali’s 1970 serial-killer thriller The Strangler (originally L’Étrangleur) is Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom and Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy mixed with Vecchiali’s humid take on queer sexuality. And on top of that it sends a string of women to their graves as if doing them a favour. A very very odd movie. Vecchiali only died in 2023, aged 92, and was making movies to the end having started in 1961. Along the way he also happened to produce Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles, currently number-one film in Sight and Sound’s prestigious poll, but he also wrote, acted and edited and occasionally composed the music for his films too. … Read more
Antoine and Olga

The Beasts

Spanish director Rodrigo Sorogoyen reportedly said he wanted to make The Beasts (As Bestas, in Spanish) “as a western”. To a large extent that’s what he’s done. This is like a western where two opposing and implacable forces square off in a lawless milieu. John Ford might have made this, back in the day. If he had I wonder how much shorter he’d have made it. The story it tells is a true one, of a Dutch couple moving to a remote Spanish village to start a new life, then falling out badly with their neighbours until one day a moment of reckoning arrives. For the factual account, the true-crime documentary Santoalla (2015) … Read more
Mrs Callingham in close-up

Don’t Look in the Basement

All the way from 1973, Don’t Look in the Basement, which originally went by the title The Forgotten. The original is the better title – there isn’t much basement action going on here – and a more apt one, since this is something of a forgotten horror oddity. Being 1973 there’s something overtly and covertly pornified about it. Overtly in the casting of Playboy cover star Rosie Holotik as a new nurse at an out-of-the-way asylum run by one Dr Stephens (Michael Harvey). Covertly in the way it feels like it’s about to break into hot hardcore action at any moment. It never does. Some fairly random bare breasts to one side (in … Read more
Timéo Mahaut as Ryan

The Worst Ones

Write what you know, they say. Les Pires (The Worst Ones in English) is the debut movie by two former casting directors, Lise Akoka and Romane Gueret, telling the story of what happens when a film company comes to your disadvantaged part of town, picks your sorry ass out of a heap of fellow nobodies and puts you in a movie. Being former casting directors and now director-directors who have done just that – gone to the rundown Picasso City in Boulogne-sur-Mer and plucked several feisty kids to star in their film about kids from a rundown estate being cast in a movie – Akoka and Geuret are clearly in the life imitates … Read more
The projectionist reads a book on how to be a detective

100 Years of… Sherlock Jr.

Buster Keaton’s masterpiece Sherlock Jr. wasn’t that successful when it debuted in 1924. Audiences didn’t laugh that much. Critics also didn’t think it was that hilarious – “far and away about the most laughter lacking picture that “Dead Pan” Buster has turned out in a long, long while,” said Variety. Even Buster Keaton seemed rueful about it when later interviewed – “alright but not one of the big ones”. There is something in those verdicts. It isn’t a massively funny film but there is so much conceptual and theoretical brilliance on display here that it doesn’t matter. Variety’s review also reckoned Sherlock Jr. wasn’t a patch on Harold Lloyd. But Keaton here is … Read more
Sharon tries to hand out some flyers

Ordinary Angels

Ordinary Angels is a very ordinary film in many ways. It’s familiar and comforting and goes exactly where you probably expect it to go. The fact that it’s based on a true story and features representations of real people is almost immaterial. These are screen archetypes doing what screen archetypes do. On one side a stoic, manly, buttoned-down dad who’s lost his wife and is now in trouble again, with a sick daughter whose medical treatment is going to bleed him dry. On the other one of those folksy, Southern women whose university-of-life smarts can open doors that otherwise remain closed. Alan Ritchson plays Ed, a blue-collar guy who straps on a utility … Read more
Henry spots Martha making a phone call

Heaven Can Wait

Here’s the logline that the IMDb is currently using for Heaven Can Wait – “An old roué arrives in Hades to review his life with Satan, who will rule on his eligibility to enter the Underworld.” Fair enough. It’s the line everyone inevitably takes when describing this 1943 movie, which cleverly sells a headline (the supernatural stuff) only to deliver something completely different. Yes, it does start out with Henry Van Cleve arriving in Hell, where the Devil, referred to as His Excellency throughout, refuses to grant Henry entry until he’s heard his story. And that’s the last we’ll see or hear of His Excellency until the dying moments of the film, when … Read more
Pedro's daughter Vicky and her pet dog

When Evil Lurks

Two spooked brothers head out into the night with guns. In the woods they find a corpse. Half a corpse, in fact. They examine it closely and discuss in practical tones what might have cut a man in two. A jaguar, one of them suggests, possibly wishfully. Too clean, says the other. And on they press, to a farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, where it turns out that the bisected man had an appointment to kill Uriel, a pus-filled human being grown vast on cankers and sores. Pedro (Ezequiel Rodríguez) and his brother Jimi (Demián Salomón) know exactly what this means. The brilliant thing about the Argentinian horror movie When Evil Lurks … Read more
Fawn in a black bikini top

Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies

Made in the 1990s but smelling like something from the 1970s, Auntie Lee’s Meat Pies is the product of a porn director and a few Playboy ladies getting together and making something in their downtime. The results are as impressive as the stars’ superstructures, though there’s scant pickings if you’re only here for a leer. The plot is a lift from Sweeney Todd – humans repurposed as baked goods – with Karen Black as Auntie Lee, a faded Southern belle and enterprising baker who uses the wayward men her nieces entice in from the street, or wherever, as the savoury filling in her celebrated pastries. Black isn’t the only actor whose name you might … Read more
Laurence in the dock

Saint Omer

In 2013 a young mother named Fabienne Kabou left her baby on a French beach to be swept away by the tide. Saint Omer is the wistful, powerful, thoughtful and, ultimately, rather sad fictionalisation of the trial that ensued when Kabou ended up in the court on the charge. Open and shut, you’d have thought, and possibly that’s what film-maker Alice Diop thought when she first started attending the trial, initially drawn in by the fact that the plaintiff was of Senegalese origin like her. Diop wasn’t there with the intention of making a film about it. Cameras aren’t allowed. But as time went by she realised that this was the subject matter … Read more
Trina and Bill hugging

Man’s Castle

There’s something a bit mad and a bit magical about Man’s Castle, one of the lesser known of director Frank Borzage’s movies. Expert at delivering dramas with complicated romantic relationships at their core, Borzage’s 1933 movie fits snugly alongside the likes of 1928’s Street Angel, 1932’s A Farewell to Arms and 1936’s Desire. A 1933 release means Man’s Castle arrived just as the Production Code was coming into effect. It was released again in 1938, off the back of the heightened fame of its star Spencer Tracy, by which time the Code was fully operational. If the version you are watching is 75 minutes long, you have the 1933 version. If it’s 66 … Read more

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