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Patrick McGoohan and Chris Rodley in 1984

In My Mind

In My Mind is a close relative of one of those Nick Broomfield documentaries where, instead of making a film about his original subject, Broomfield tells the story of how he tried, but failed, to get his man or woman (see Tracking Down Maggie, about failing to get an interview with Margaret Thatcher, or Kurt and Courtney, in which he chased Courtney Love, to her increasing irritation). The person in question here is Patrick McGoohan and the film-maker is Chris Rodley, who in 1983 was sent to LA by Britain’s Channel 4 to film some interviews with McGoohan for an upcoming documentary about the cult 1960s TV series The Prisoner, which Channel 4 … Read more
Eva Green and Daniel Craig in Casino Royale

Casino Royale

You only live twice, or so they say. Casino Royale is the old Bond song incarnate. Because we have been here before. Not titularly – though we have, in the 1967 spoof made by a gaggle of writers and directors (John Huston, Billy Wilder, Woody Allen and Joseph Heller among them) who must have been high. Tonally, I mean. After A View to a Kill, Roger Moore’s last Bond and a bad performer at the box office, moves were made to zhuzh up the increasingly tired formula. In came Timothy Dalton, out went the eyebrow, and for a couple of films, which in retrospect, look better and better, there was a return to … Read more
Fausto and friends

I Vitelloni

Federico Fellini’s 1953 breakthrough I Vitelloni is often translated as The Bullocks. The Young Bucks would be better, since it’s the story of a group of young Italian guys – all of them pretty good looking, all of them with a high opinion of themselves – who do very little with their time apart from drink, smoke, play billiards, bet on the horses, chase women and, coming way down the list, occasionally wonder what the future might bring. Scratch that. It’s actually really the story of one of the group, Fausto (Franco Fabrizi), a handsome devil in the Richard Burton mould who, as the film starts, is trying to skip town, having impregnated … Read more
Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño as Ulises

I’m No Longer Here

There’s a hint of early Jim Jarmusch in I’m No Longer Here (Ya no estoy aqui originally), a spicy Mexican drama with an offbeat attitude and a strong sense of place. Early Jarmusch often featured distinctive characters floating around in a world outside their control. Stuff happens, but very little of it is at their instigation. They react to events rather than act upon them. So it is with Ulises (Juan Daniel Garcia Treviño), a creature of the barrio in Monterrey, a big fish in a small pond, a member of a loose cadet wing of a gang – everyone’s in one – who is marked out by his remarkable hairstyle, as if … Read more
Celebrating the build


Phyllida Lloyd is most often described as the director of Mama Mia! but there’s a lot more to her than that. Take Herself, the latest in a line of strongly female-centred productions, including the Mrs Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady and the all-female Shakespeare productions of Julius Caesar, Henry IV and The Tempest at the Donmar Theatre in London, which drew raves from the critics, wild applause from audiences and loud harrumphs from the gammons. The Shakespeares all gave top billing to Harriet Walter, and meaty roles to Clare Dunne. Here, Dunne is thrust into the lead (well, she did co-write) and Walter is a gracious supporting star in a story about one … Read more
Lincoln Maazel being chased

The Amusement Park

There is a story behind The Amusement Park. Having made Night of the Living Dead in 1968, George Romero should have been sitting pretty. But though the film went on to make a lot of money, it was mostly for other people. Somehow, and who knows what looks were exchanged when it was discovered, someone forgot to attach a copyright notice to the film and so it went into the public domain. Result: a massive instant loss of earnings on ticket sales at the cinema and no secondary rights for George when the home video market came calling. But that was mostly all in the future. In 1973 when the Lutheran Church came … Read more
Buscetta gives evidence

The Traitor

The Corleones weren’t fictional. There really was a crime family called the Corleonesi, after the town in Sicily where they came from. In The Traitor (Il traditore in the original Italian) we learn what happened when the Corleonesi fell out with a fellow mob family, in a dramatisation of the true story of Tommaso Buscetta, the crime boss who went “pentito” and sang like a canary to the authorities. Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino) wasn’t a Corleonesi, he was from the other mob, and as Marco Bellocchio’s film opens Buscetta is in Brazil, where he’s living in happy early retirement, having divined that war between rival mobs was imminent, that it was going to be … Read more
Major Prentis in a prison cell

Shuttlecock aka Sins of a Father

Shuttlecock, it says on the IMDB, with the year 2020 in a bracket. Strange, that guy looks like Alan Bates, I thought to myself as the grainy face of a middle-aged man appeared on the screen. Since Bates died in 2003 this seemed unlikely. Up come the opening credits and there is the name Alan Bates at the top of the list. What am I watching? A bit more digging and I see there’s another film called Shuttlecock on the IMDB, from 1991, also directed by Andrew Piddington and starring… Alan Bates. A bit more digging still and (thank you Wikipedia, and, yes, I have sent some money) a picture starts to emerge, … Read more
The lovers asleep

The Killing of Two Lovers

The Killing of a Two Lovers starts, unusually, with a climax, backs off quite a bit to let us work out what’s going on, before returning with another climax at the end, exactly where we’d expect one to be. It opens with two people in bed asleep. Hovering over them is a bearded man with a desperate look on his face and a gun in his hand. He hears a noise from somewhere else in the house, takes fright and climbs out the ground-floor window and makes good his escape. The two people sleep on unawares, while we head out with David, the desperate guy, and find out more about him. The film … Read more
Andrey throws the TV

Why Don’t You Just Die!

The trailer does not lie. Why Don’t You Just Die! (Papa, sdokhni in the original Russian) is a camp melodrama awash with blood, gruesomeness, novel ways of hurting people and comic-book cruelty. It’s as if all the horrible things that ever happened to Wile E Coyote were bundled together and then brought to the screen by a Quentin Tarantino or Robert Rodriguez in one of their Grindhouse jaunts. The opening shot: a young man with a fantastically broken nose (Aleksandr Kuznetsov, and that’s his real nose) is waiting outside an apartment with a hammer behind his back. The door after much knocking opens. It is a bullet-headed man (Vitaliy Khaev). Andrey, the young … 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 the Chicago Sun-Times took against it, doling out only two (out of four stars) in a review that expressed bafflement at other critics’ admiration of the film. The years have tended to vindicate Ebert. The movie, like the original Günter Grass book on which it was based, has been steadily rerated downwards over the decades, not least since … Read more
Eun-hee in class

House of Hummingbird

Why is House of Hummingbird called House of Hummingbird? I’ve got no idea, and watching this South Korean coming-of-ager hasn’t enlightened me. Can anyone help? Answers below if you can. Maybe I missed something. Odd in a way, because the film itself is as clear as day and is told in a bright, clear manner, by actors with open, honest faces, particularly Park Ji-Hu, who plays schoolgirl Eun-hee. This is her story. She’s an average kind of schoolgirl with an interest in comics and drawing. Life at home is a bit tense. Her brother bullies her a bit, her older sister is skipping out at night to see her boyfriend, mum and dad … Read more

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