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Charlie Yeung and Takeshi Kaneshiro

Fallen Angels

Fallen Angels was originally meant be the third part of Wong Kar-Wai’s previous film, 1994’s Chungking Express, but Wong realised he’d told his story already in the two separate but interlinked stories he already had in the can. No third part necessary. And so here it is, all on its ownsome, an expanded reworked standalone, released in 1995. Stylistically it’s similar to Chungking Express – lurid lighting, whipcrack edits – but Wong and DP Christopher Doyle this time use very wide lenses held very close up, rather than the much longer ones of Chungking Express. A wide lenses give everything a stretched, in-your-face immediacy. Everything is tightly on and about the person in … Read more
Quint and Drew face off

Human Capital

First-world and real-world problems collide in Human Capital, which started life as an American novel, became an Italian movie (Il capitale umano) in 2013 and then returned to the US in 2019 for this English-language version. How best to describe all three? Bonfire of the Vanities meets The Ice Storm will about do it. In other words a broad spectrum portrait of modern life, with a narrow focus critique of the elite at its core. It starts, as Bonfire of the Vanities did, with a car accident, and then plays and replays the story from the point of view of each of the characters involved. Not the same events, exactly, but a “how … Read more
Mr Wilson with Mary

The Stranger

The Stranger is an entertaining enough noirish thriller but the real fun comes from watching it as a contest between a maverick director and a studio that wanted their hireling to turn out Hollywood product rather than a grand auteurish statement. The director is Orson Welles and the year is 1946. Welles was at a low ebb. He hadn’t been let near a feature film on his own for four years. 1941’s Citizen Kane had flopped and the follow-up, The Magnificent Ambersons, had gone so far over schedule and over budget that the studio had taken it off Welles, cut an hour and reshot whole chunks of it. It also bombed. Future generations … Read more
Desi licks chococlate off Lucy's face

Lucy and Desi

Amy Poehler’s debut documentary Lucy and Desi wants to tell the story, not unreasonably given its title, of both titan-of-TV-comedy Lucille Ball and her husband, business partner and co-star Desi Arnaz. Immediately there’s a problem. Lucy was a genuine star, Desi was not. Whatever his many talents behind the scenes, first as a musician then as a producer, they didn’t translate to the screen, and even a cursory glance at any one of Desi’s many appearances alongside his wife reveal a man who looks like he’s eager to get out of the bright lights. Not everyone can be a gifted comic actor, or wants to be. This asymmetrical twin focus is tough enough, … Read more
Lavardin eyeballs Lavoisier

Cop au Vin

Bienvenue à Cop au Vin, a rare example of a French film that didn’t use its original title (Poulet au Vinaigre) in English-speaking territories when it was released in 1985 but instead went for a different French title. Poulet is slang for cop. Cop in vinegar? Shrug. Actually, it’s everyone else who’s in vinegar in this superficially straightforward policier set in a charming French provincial town where a trio of local notables are trying to corner the market for real estate and now just need one family to agree to sell up. Director Claude Chabrol opens the film with a quick scene at a party, which introduces the action. It drifts by but … Read more
Colin Farrell in a dark room

After Yang

Philosophical (ie moody) sci-fi movie After Yang picks up on Philip K Dick’s sci-fi reflections on the possibility of consciousness in bots. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, and all that. Dick’s stories tends to arrive on screen dark – Blade Runner, Total Recall, A Scanner Darkly, Minority Report – but director Kogonada decides to go one better than any of those with a film that is almost stygian in its gloom. No matter which way you come at this movie – soundtrack, acting, delivery of speech, clothing, cinematography, framing, screenplay – that doomy, gloomy mood is there. It makes for a meditative experience, if you’re up for something that could also be … Read more
A fearful Leona on the phone

Sorry, Wrong Number

Sorry, Wrong Number, made in 1948, is a superbly melodramatic drama taking the brittle, “dangerous dame” image of its star, Barbara Stanwyck, for a protracted ride. Four years earlier Stanwyck had starred in Double Indemnity as the manipulative minx persuading poor schmuck Ed McMurray to kill her husband, and here she is in Sorry, Wrong Number as a victim, a bed-ridden rich woman who, on a crossed line while telephoning, overhears two men discussing a murder they’re going to commit later that night. The servants have been given the night off, her husband is away, but Leona Stevenson (Stanwyck) isn’t initially that worried. But as the night progresses and as she makes and … Read more
Alana Haim and Cooper Hoffman

Licorice Pizza

Paul Thomas Anderson’s quest to make the perfect 1970s movie continues with Licorice Pizza, a living, breathing simulacrum of the sort of film that stalked the landscape before George Lucas came along with changed/ruined (according to taste) everything with Star Wars. Ironically, another Lucas film, American Graffiti, might have served as a moodboard for his attempt to outdo 2014’s Inherent Vice – itself an attempt to outdo 1999’s Magnolia – along with Robert Altman’s rambling, discursive Nashville, though the storyline deep down is actually A Star Is Born – guy on the way down meets gal on the way up – with a scrappy side order of What’s Up, Doc. The guy is … Read more
Woman in Blonde Wig with Cop 223

Chungking Express

Written on the hoof while shooting on his previous film, Ashes of Time, was paused, Wong Kar-Wai’s Chungking Express is one of the defining films of the 1990s and, thanks to Wong’s remarkable approach to storytelling, one of the great films of all time. It’s two stories in one, or one story told two ways, if you like, as if Wong had assembled all his elements, used them to tell his first story and then given the kaleidoscope a tiny twist. Hey presto, here are the same bits and pieces arranged in an entirely different way. Both are romantic fever dreams and take place in a world that’s not really our own, where … Read more
Manu and Jean-Gab

Mandibles

Mandibles (Mandibules in the original French) is a film by Quentin Dupieux, the guy who in 1999 gave the world Flat Eric, a nodding glove puppet with deadly comic timing originally designed to sell Levi’s Sta-Prest clothing. Aspects of the manic, affectless, idiot-savant spirit of Eric (if you don’t know him, here’s an example) can often be seen in Dupieux’s characters. Dupieux’s people are usually Flat in some way. There’s often something not-quite-there about the storyline too, and Dupieux has an unusual way of framing his shots – deliberately slightly too high, or too low, always just a bit off somehow. All fully evident here. Manu (Grégoire Ludig), a bum who sleeps on … Read more
Ray Milland and Charles Laughton

The Big Clock

The IMDb description of The Big Clock succinctly tells the story of what happens – “A magazine tycoon commits a murder and pins it on an innocent man, who then tries to solve the murder himself” – while remaining silent about the massive irony at the centre of the story. The further the man advances with his investigation, the more he’s going to incriminate himself. It’s also about the fact that the entire story is seen through the eyes of the innocent man. It’s dependable Ray Milland as the “man”. George Stroud is a journalist at the top of his game, who’s made his name on a true crime magazine bringing in the villains … Read more
The pigeon Dr Bird with James on a couch

Dr Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets

Dr Bird’s Advice for Sad Poets starts off in voiceover. “My father, The Brute, said reading Walt Whitman is a waste of time, despite sharing the same name,” says James Whitman (our teenage sad poet, played by Lucas Jade Zumann) lying on his back in a sulk on his lonely bed. He glances over at a poster on his wall of the bearded Walt. And Walt, adjusting his pose, replies mellifluously with lines from his poem All Is Truth – “And henceforth I will go celebrate anything I see or am, And sing and laugh, and deny nothing.” It’s not only a manifesto declaration for the teenage James but an instant way of … Read more

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