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Meryl Streep in spectacles

Let Them All Talk

Meryl Streep, Candice Bergman and Dianne Wiest star in Let Them All Talk and even before it’s started the names alone seem to suggest two possible outcomes. It’s either going to be an American version of one of those British Dame Dramas, in which various theatrical Maggies or Judis are arranged fragrantly and tastefully, with the odd “fuck” thrown in to show the noble ladies are still down to earth. Or it’s going to be a female version of one of those Four Old Dudes Go to Vegas comedies, in which the once hip gracefully accept they’re now in the hip-replacement demographic, with the odd “fuck” thrown, possibly of the physical sort, just … Read more
Kosovare Krasniqi as Venera

Looking for Venera

Men are mostly lurking presences rather than characters in Looking for Venera, Norika Sefa’s film which she says is about showing the world that life in Kosovo isn’t all about poverty and exotica. Sitting in London, it looks pretty poor and exotic to me. Sefa opens with a shot of a teenage female having pounding sex with a man in the woods, observed sight unseen by another teenage female. Later we learn that the young woman having sex is Dorina (Rozafa Celaj) and the one watching is Venera (Kosovare Krasniqi). They are not friends, but after Venera pulls Dorina aside to quiz her about what she was up to on her back among … Read more
Jamie Foxx and Colin Farrell in Miami Vice

Miami Vice

So masculine it could be used an infertility treatment, Michael Mann’s feature length Miami Vice actually tells the same story that eventually ground down the TV series – Crockett (now Colin Farrell, then Don Johnson) and Tubbs (now Jamie Foxx, then Philip Michael Thomas) go undercover with a drugs gang, get so deep they’re not sure which way they’re facing any more, then refind themselves before screaming towards a guns-blazing finale, designer clothes looking immaculate. Built from what look like a series of high-end international aftershave adverts showcasing the very pinnacle of fast living, it is an out and out exercise in cool glamour. So was the 1980s TV series, of course, but … Read more
Louis in Tahiti

The Intruder

Claire Denis’s remarkable film The Intruder (L’intrus) was first released in 2004, rolled out worldwide in 2005 and promptly disappeared. In some countries it was never shown at all; in the US, for instance, it’s only in 2021 that people are getting a chance to see it. It is a deliberately oblique drama, constructed almost as a series of questions – where are we? who is this guy? who’s that strange woman? and what the hell is Béatrice Dalle doing in this film, and why for only for a handful of seconds? Denis has said that she’s done this deliberately, having taken the original idea – an adaptation of an essay by French … Read more
Phylicia Rashad and Mamoudou Athie

Black Box

There are exceptions, but it used to be the case that apart from blacksploitation, or movies made by and for specific black audiences, you didn’t used to see an awful lot of people of colour in genre movies – like rom-coms or sci-fi, action or horror – except, perhaps, as the guy who dies first. That has been changing for some time, but Get Out and Hamilton seemed to mark a watershed, the arrival of “post-white America” on screen. A black man isn’t a black man, he’s just a man. Black Box, title be damned, sits comfortably in that niche. A knotty identity thriller starring the subtly persuasive Mamoudou Athie as Nolan, a photographer … Read more
Mother and daughter cower


Settlers is a sci-fi film so far away from what people usually term sci-fi that it barely qualifies. In fact it opens looking like a western – big craggy mountains in a dusty landscape – and then plays out like a wildlife documentary. The sort of wildlife documentary where a new male lion arrives on the scene, kills the old leader of the pride and then moves in with the lionesses who were already there. It’s the law of the savannah. In this scenario the existing cubs usually get killed, a fact innately understood by young Remmy (Brooklynn Prince) after new male Jerry (Ismael Cruz Córdova) arrives at their remote settlement, displaces dad … Read more
Michael Caine and Aubrey Plaza in bed

Best Sellers

At the Raindance film festival, London, UK, 27 October–6 November 2021 Formula written, if you’re feeling grouchy, inspired by Hollywood’s golden era, if you’re not, Best Sellers has two great performers at its centre – Michael Caine, still pumping out the charisma and deadly comic timing at 88, and Aubrey Plaza, who ups her ante to stay in the game with a wily old master and puts a soft edge on her usual smart sexy sarcasm. Here’s the formula. He’s an aged writer who wrote a best seller 50 years ago but has done nothing since. She’s the poor little rich girl who’s inherited a publishing house and is now watching it collapse … Read more
Joe with gun, and Ann and Pat on a staircase

Raw Deal

Everyone gets a raw deal in Raw Deal, a taut and dark film noir from 1948, directed by Anthony Mann, lit by the great John Alton and so often overlooked when Greatest Noir lists are being compiled. Its characters all come with a tragic flaw which writers John Higgins and Leopold Atlas are eventually going to prise wide open but it’s the additional wallop of sheer bad luck that makes this unusual – that and the voiceover by one of its female characters, Pat Regan, played by Claire Trevor. Pat is in love with Joe (Dennis O’Keefe) but Joe is in prison doing a stretch as the fall guy for bigshot criminal Rick Coyle … Read more
Anthony Hopkins with Christopher Jones

The Looking Glass War

The third of John Le Carré’s spy thrillers to be adapted for the big screen, 1970’s The Looking Glass War is an odd and pretty much entirely unsuccessful spy thriller that’s taken a big conceptual decision only for it not to pay off at all. The first two adaptations were the big success The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (Richard Burton starred) and the underrated The Deadly Game (a reworking of Le Carré’s novel Call for the Dead, with James Mason as a version of George Smiley). There’s no sign of Smiley here, though he was in this film’s original novel. That said, there is some justification for removing him since … Read more
Frank points the gun at the camera

Blast of Silence

Allen Baron. You’ve probably never heard of him. But he willed into being 1961’s Blast of Silence, a remarkable late noir – or early neo-noir, depending on which end of the telescope you’re looking through – which he wrote, directed and also took the leading role in when his original star, buddy Peter Falk, bailed out on him. Understandably, Falk was being offered a paying gig in the movie Murder, Inc. and Baron’s no-budget film looked like it might never get finished. There isn’t much of a story but there’s enough. A hitman (Baron) arrrives in New York, is given the name of the target, then sources a gun to do the job. … Read more
Rory Cochrane, Jason London and Sasha Jenson

Dazed and Confused

Dazed and Confused is Richard Linklater’s 1993 film doing for 1976 what George Lucas’s American Graffiti (1973) did for 1962. That is, it looks back fondly at a group of teenagers on the cusp of adult life on their last day/night of high school, while also observing how long ago it now all was, and in more than plain old years. Like Lucas’s gang, Linklater’s crew are a mixed crowd of jocks and nerds, lookers and plain-Janes and Johns, sensitive souls and bozos, cool kids and the terminally awkward, kids whose best days are to come and those whose lives have already peaked. The style builds on the loose, superficially disorganised approach of … Read more
Cameron and Erin


I must have missed the bit where they explained why this strange, Shyamalan-on-a-budget movie is called Linoleum. But Linoleum it is. “A floor covering made from… linseed oil, pine resin, ground cork dust…” etc etc. Says Wikipedia. No idea. But then I’m not the sort of movie watcher who second-guesses. I like the film-maker to reveal what they’re going to reveal at the time they want to reveal it. If I get there first… problems. Otherwise, you do you and I’ll sit back and watch. So, obviously there is a reveal. A grand one. Which casts everything you’ve been watching in a new light, explains it all, also helps explain some of the odd … Read more

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