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The hovering couple inspired by Chagall's Over the Town

About Endlessness

In one of the first scenes in About Endlessness, a waiter brings a diner a bottle of wine, opens it, sniffs the cork to check the wine is OK, then walks over to the right hand side of the diner to fill his glass. Holding the bottle near the bottom, the way a practised waiter does, he pours the wine precisely into the glass, then keeps pouring, pouring, pouring, until the wine overflows and starts pooling over the table. The diner, who’s been stuck behind his newspaper, suddenly notices. If you’re not familiar with the work of Swedish director Roy Andersson, this is a typical entry into his world. About Endlessness doesn’t mark … Read more
Maria Bakalova, Amandla Stenberg, Myha'la Herrold, Rachel Sennott

Bodies Bodies Bodies

The thing about those murder mysteries full of celebrity names, where Faye Dunaway or Lauren Bacall swan about among fellow stars until they either wind up dead or are revealed as the killer, is that everyone on the train or in the country house deserves what’s coming to them. There’s an uber-entitlement payback thing going on. Bodies Bodies Bodies understands that dynamic and mints it anew, with a privilege-unchecked gang of nicely rich bright young things, who convene at the big old house owned by the absent dad of one of their number, take drugs, drink, cavort and finally decide to play a game. What I’d call Murder in the Dark they call … Read more
Makwa as the grown-up Michael

Wild Indian

Wild Indian starts out looking like it’s going to be a film about a troubled kid, abused at home, struggling at school, who suddenly takes matters into his own hands and does something heinous. It turns out to be a film about the two grown-ups involved in that heinous event – the guy who did it, and the friend who was there when it happened. We first meet Makwa (Phoenix Wilson) and Ted-o (Julian Gopal), a pair of Native American kids cusping on puberty. Makwa isn’t having too good a time of it – beaten at home, bullied at school, unable to get the girl he fancies – and in a moment of … Read more
Diana Rigg and John Laurie

The Avengers: Series 5, Episode 13 – A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station

The Stephen Sondheim musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum – a hit on Broadway in 1962, in 1966 a film directed by Dick Lester and featuring Zero Mostel, Phil Silvers and Buster Keaton in his final role – is the obvious inspiration for the title of this episode, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Station. But beyond the title, there’s not really any sign of the musical in this story, no shred of Forum’s plot about a slave helping his young master to navigate the waters of true love. So, that diversion tackled, let’s get on to the episode itself, a very good one initially … Read more
Lieutenant Niki and band leader Franzi

The Smiling Lieutenant

Gay – in the old sense – is probably the best way to describe 1931’s The Smiling Lieutenant, a blithe, smart, quick and gossipy comedy from director Ernst Lubitsch starring Maurice Chevalier as the military man in question. Chevalier, as French as they come and not making the slightest effort to hide it, plays a very Viennese womanising army officer who in very short order meets the love of his life, the violinist leader of a female orchestra, only to end up shanghaied into marrying the princess daughter of a visiting king, after a mix-up over who exactly the lieutenant was smiling at as the royal procession whizzed by. I know, everyday stuff. … Read more
Jeon Do-yeon

Beasts Clawing at Straws

Beasts Clawing at Straws also goes by the English-language title of Beasts That Cling to the Straw but Rats in a Sack would also be a useful way of translating its original Korean title. It’s a story about different sets of people, all connected by a Louis Vuitton holdall full of cash, which we first see in the movie’s opening shot. Then, in 1960s heist-movie opening-credit style, the camera follows the holdall at its level while an unidentified someone carries it to a left luggage locker and leaves it there. As the movie ends, the bag is once again picked up and the camera follows it, again at bag height, off out onto … Read more
War planes swing low over the smallholding

Shame

Shame is Ingmar Bergman’s war movie. Except, being an Ingmar Bergman movie, it’s really about relationships, a marriage in trouble (probably Bergman’s own – number four was heading for the exit), and something else on top. Kriget (The War) was Bergman’s original title for it, but Skammen (literally, The Shame) is what Bergman settled on. So, not a generalised Shame but a specific instance of it. What that shame might be precisely is what Bergman will eventually reveal, but he starts out by painting a portrait of two former orchestral musicians (wife number four, Käbi Laretei was a concert pianist) who have given it all up to live the good life, growing and selling … Read more
Jack Nicholson in The Departed

The Departed

Martin Scorsese’s remake of the brilliant 2002 Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs adds 50 minutes of flab to what was a lean, taut thriller. The plot is the same – cop bosses Martin Sheen and Mark Wahlberg send in undercover man Leo DiCaprio to bust a gang. Unbeknown to the boys at the precinct, gang boss Jack Nicholson is one step ahead of them and has been grooming a placeman of his own (Matt Damon) for years, and he’s now deep deep inside their gangbusting team. The drama springs from the “Who is going to get whacked first?” premise as each side works out after a while that there’s a mole on the … Read more
Diabolik and Eva in front of a white E type Jaguar

Danger: Diabolik

Arsène Lupin, Fantomas and James Bond all come together in Danger: Diabolik, the first screen appearance of the Italian masked master criminal. A flop on its initial release in 1968, it’s now regarded as something of a cult classic. The reasons for that are hard to ignore. This is prime mid-1960s kitsch, a psychedelic, phantasmagoric, frequently silly, almost always entertaining dollop of schlock elevated by the superb eye of director Mario Bava and a soundtrack by Ennio Morricone at his most poptastic – twangy guitars, wordless choirs, drums thrashing, a harpsichord, the sonic equivalent of Bava’s colour-soaked, bright, stylish and slightly demented visuals. Italian audiences were familiar with Diabolik (also the film’s original … Read more
Barthélémy Karas, as voiced by Daniel Craig, in the Anglophone version of Renaissance

Renaissance

Daniel Craig, Romola Garai, Ian Holm, Catherine McCormack and Jonathan Pryce? That’s quite a cast and it’s just for starters. And for a French anime-style sci-fi too, the “French” bit being the clue that the names are actually here to revoice Gallic product for Anglophone consumption. What they’re lending their voices to looks interesting though, a futuristic story about a kidnapped geneticist (Garai) who turns out to have the key to immortality. The USP of Renaissance is its look – the actors have all been motion-captured, then converted to the harshest black and white renditions of themselves. This is unusual though hardly revolutionary: as a technique it can be traced back to Walt … Read more
Emma Peel in a coffin

The Avengers: Series 4, Episode 7 – The Murder Market

The Murder Market is one of the episodes first shot with Elizabeth Shepherd playing Mrs Peel, then reshot with Diana Rigg in the role after it was decided that Shepherd didn’t fit the bill. Hence the two directors on the imdb credits – Wolf Rilla shot the original, Peter Graham Scott this version, which eventually was broadcast on 12 November 1965, a Friday night, rather than the usual Saturday (in the London region at least). Order was restored the following Saturday. The title is a weak pun on “meat market” since the plot revolves around a dating agency with a natty sideline in murdering people – as established in the opening scene in … Read more
Bangui's Hyenas

Saloum

There are a lot of interesting films coming out of Africa right now. Here’s Saloum, not perfect but pretty damn exhilarating for its first half at the very least. It’s an open homage to Tarantino putting colourful characters with unexpected skillsets into tense situations and then watching as the pinball-machine consequences play out. Congolese director Jean Luc Herbulot gives us a fascinating opening shot of a shadowy figure entering what might be a lake with a gun. What are we about to see? A western? A sci-fi movie? A war movie? A revenge drama? There are flavours of most of those in what Herbulot eventually delivers. But first let’s meet the team: a … Read more

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