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Ivan in a dark room with two heavies

Azor

A Swiss banker arrives in Argentina in 1980 looking for his partner, who’s mysteriously disappeared. Writer/director Andreas Fontana’s debut feature Azor tracks the progress of Ivan de Wiel, which is anything but straightforward, in an oblique, tangential, mood-soaked almost-thriller that’s more about the journey than the destination. Being Argentina in 1980, with a military junta in charge, strict class hierarchies in place and much of the “action” (there’s almost none) taking place in dark corners of colonial hotels where seedy middle aged and old white guys swap favours, the spectre of Graham Greene arises unbidden from the shadows. Ivan de Wiel (Fabrizio Rongione) is your Greene-esque anti-hero, an old-school Swiss banker trying to … Read more
Christine screams in fear

Nocebo

Nocebo is director Lorcan Finnegan and writer Garret Shanley’s follow-up to the massively stylised Vivarium. It’s another horror movie, a much more conventional and familiar one this time, though driving it is something not so often encountered in horror – a “the empire strikes back” tale of capitalist overlords sucking a big one. In a property-porn house in Dublin, Christine (Eva Green), her hunky husband Felix (Mark Strong) and their cute, smart kid Bobs (Billie Gadsdon) lead the lives that people of their class do. While the kid’s at a nice school, he works in marketing strategy and she’s a successful designer of children’s clothes, who we first meet supervising the shoot for … Read more
Danny Huston on the River Thames

The Last Photograph

For a good third of The Last Photograph, Danny Huston’s first directorial effort for nearly 20 years, there’s a distinct impression that something’s not right. The acting is wonky, some of the artistic choices are confusing (why has he put a soft filter on the camera at just this moment?), the narrative is playing out to a staccato rhythm which seems designed to confuse rather than enlighten. It’s all a bit chaotic. Huston also plays the lead character, a grouchy guy who owns a bookshop concession inside Chelsea Farmers Market, London, whose dealings with his fellow humans all seem to end the same way: the middle finger, either at him or from him. … Read more
Sylvia Sidney and George Raft

You and Me

What’s the best Fritz Lang film? The argument could go on all night, and there are so many to choose from – contenders include M, Fury, You Only Live Once, The Woman in the Window, or While the City Sleeps. Or how about Rancho Notorious, Metropolis, The Big Heat or Man Hunt? So how about the worst one? 1938’s You and Me is a prime candidate. It’s still an interesting if largely unsuccessful film. Lang himself considered it to be his worst, a “lousy picture”, he said in his autobiography, in which styles argue with each other while a miscast lead does his best to make sense of a character. George Raft is … Read more
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
Jeremy Irvine and Dakota Fanning in Now Is Good

Now Is Good

In Love Story, the 1970 weepie in which boy meets girl and girl dies – sorry, that’s it – it is, let me reiterate, the girl who dies. It always is, sickness being part of the female condition, in mainstream Hollywood of the era anyway. Different decade same idea in Now Is Good, a boy-meets-girl-and-girl-dies weepie with Dakota Fanning as the pale, interesting girl, Jeremy Irvine as the boy she falls for and leaves behind. To go into further plot detail is pointless – the publicity material points out that Tessa (Fanning) has a bucket list and that losing her virginity is at the top of it. But that’s little more than a … Read more
Krista Kosonen in dominatrix gear

Dogs Don’t Wear Pants

Grief rather than lust is what drives Dogs Don’t Wear Pants, the well-told story of a Finnish man who starts visiting a dominatrix after his wife dies. Director and co-writer J-P Valkeapää’s drama (with the odd comedic touch) is delivered in three big chunks. Chunk one is brief and details the life of Juha (Pekka Strang), a doctor with a beautiful wife and young daughter whose world changes entirely when the wife drowns while they’re holidaying by a tranquil lake. Chunk two: a frozen-by-grief Juha accidentally strays into the chamber of a working dominatrix while taking his daughter to have her tongue pierced, and then starts visiting the dominatrix regularly. Chunk three, also … Read more
Rosalind Russell and Leo Genn

The Velvet Touch

In The Velvet Touch, a Broadway star accidentally kills the impresario who made her after arguing with him about whether she should abandon frothy comedy (and him) and pursue a more noble career in the serious theatre. That’s the opening scene dealt with. The rest of the film concerns itself with the fate of the actress. Will she get caught, confess the crime or get away with it? Whether it’s to indicate her character’s superior opinion of herself or to mask her own incipient double chin, Rosalind Russell plays Valerie as a head-held-high kind of gal, an actress who saw herself starring in an upcoming production of Hedda Gabler. But the impresario who … Read more
Misty Beethoven looks and learns

The Opening of Misty Beethoven

The openings are both figurative and literal in The Opening of Misty Beethoven, the pornified Pygmalion that’s a key movie from the so-called Golden Age of Porn. The real Pygmalion, you’ll recall (and My Fair Lady, the musical version) is about two la-di-dah gentlemen betting on whether they can get a Cockney flower girl to pass as a duchess. Here Henry Higgins, Colonel Pickering and Eliza Dolittle are replaced by Dr Seymour Love (Jamie Gillis), his occasional lover Geraldine Rich (Jacqueline Bedaunt) and Misty Beethoven (Constance Money), a low-rent sex worker whom Dr Love picks up in a grindhouse cinema masturbating a guy dressed as Napoleon. In a plot following Pygmalion’s major beats, … Read more
Nicole Kidman's Charlotte Bless is very pleased to see John Cusack's Hillary Van Wetter in The Paperboy

The Paperboy

You want Southern Fried? The Paperboy has it for you by the boneless bucketful. Gourmets, look away now. Thanks to the success of Precious (Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire etc), a peculiarly successful misery memoir, for his follow-up its director Lee Daniels is able to call on a cast starry enough to open several films – Zac Efron, Nicole Kidman, Matthew McConaughey, John Cusack. A cast he then submerges in a 1960s Deep South swamp of gators and racial segregation, the spirit of Blanche Dubois invoked by Kidman’s performance as a slut of a certain age who relies on the comfort of whoever happens to be available. What little plot there … Read more
Hombre and Angel

Hombre

If you’ve ever wanted to see a Western out of Bulgaria, Hombre is your chance. It’s a fascinating film, attempting to use the familiar narratives from the West as an allegory for pan-Balkan co-operation. If we don’t all get on, the idea runs, there’ll be a lot worse to deal with than a gunfight at the OK Corral. Whatever else it is or isn’t, it’s a very well cast film. Everyone here feels real, and also manages to exist as a character you might expect to encounter either around a camp fire in a Bulgarian forest in the 21st century or spooning up pork and beans in 19th-century Utah. There’s not too much … Read more
A young Patricia Highsmith

Loving Highsmith

Delicately ambiguous as a title, Loving Highsmith also turns out to be a clever way of signalling the approach of its director, Eva Vitija, to its subject matter. It is both fan letter to the writer of classics such as Strangers on a Train (she really loves her Highsmith), and an attempt to delve into the love life of the author herself – what Highsmith was like to love. Highsmith’s dates are 1921 to 1995 but you’ll struggle to get that information out of this documentary. It isn’t full of details of that sort, and there isn’t particularly a timeline that can clearly be followed. Watch it with the Wikipedia page to one … Read more

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