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Captain Conan and Norbert argue

Captain Conan

The French writer/director Bertrand Tavernier died earlier this year (2021), like François Truffaut another of that band of movie critics who went on to prove that they could make great films as well as write about them. Captain Conan (Capitaine Conan) might not be the most shining example of Tavernier at his best, but it is a great example of what he was good at – sidestepping genre, effortless (almost invisible) technique, humane performances. It stars the effortlessly charming Philippe Torreton as the titular captain, a rough and ready officer in charge of a team of guerrilla-style fighters who specialise in quick in-and-out sorties and sabotage. They’re what we’d now call a SWAT … Read more
Trine Dyrholm and Pierce Brosnan in Love Is All You Need. Photo: Doane Gregory

Love Is All You Need

Wedding films can be a bit like wedding cake – lots of layers, too sweet, just enough is already a bit too much, not everyone is a fan. Given those caveats, and with the realisation that for every joyous wedding-themed movie like Bridesmaids there’s a steaming pile such as 27 Dresses, let’s wander up the aisle with director Susanne Bier and her two stars, Pierce Brosnan and Trine Dyrholm. Brosnan plays Philip, the father of the groom, Dyrholm plays Ida, mother of the bride, people who have never met until, at the airport, she manages to reverse her car into his. Ida is a hairdresser recovering from cancer and from the fact that … Read more
Diana Rigg and Ron Moody

The Avengers: Series 5, Episode 5 – The Bird Who Knew Too Much

Even being kind The Bird Who Knew Too Much is a fairly crap episode of The Avengers, a half-hearted rewrite of an Alan Pattillo story by Brian Clemens. But it gets off to a quirky enough start – a man on the run is shot and, instead of shedding blood, gives out a little trickle of bird seed. Steed Fancies Pigeons: Peel Gets the Bird is what the irritating subhead card reads before action recommences after the credits with another one of “our” gang – a pigeon keeper (a “fancier” in the terminology) – winding up  backwards in a tank of wet cement. “He was a pretty solid sort of man,” Steed later … Read more
Charlotte Rampling and Diana Rigg

The Avengers: Series 5, Episode 12 – The Superlative Seven

Charlotte Rampling, Donald Sutherland and Brian Blessed are the standout names in The Superlative Seven, a title suggesting this episode is going to borrow heavily from The Magnificent Seven of seven years before. In fact it’s more a reworking of Agatha Christie’s Ten Little Indians, with a bit of Hunger Games thrown in (appropriately, since a five-decades-older Sutherland would be prominent in that). Blessed was probably the best known of the three at the time, having been a key cast member of the hit UK show Z Cars, though Rampling was close behind, Georgy Girl having made her a name the year before. Sutherland? More a familiar face than a big name, TV … Read more
Carter and Grace embrace

Stay the Night

Boy meets girl in Stay the Night, a story of an antsy girl and an angry boy who meet by accident in downtown Toronto and dance around each other hesitantly while writer/director Renuka Jeyapalan teases the audience with the old will they/won’t they. Grace (Andrea Bang) works in HR but has just got passed over for promotion. Too standoffish for a people-facing position, her boss says. Too picky generally, her sexually adventurous room-mate tells her. Carter (Joe Scarpellino), meanwhile, is an ice hockey player who’s just been canned from his team. Having taken his position for granted, he’s been coasting – till now. Overnight, if he’s very lucky, his agent might find something for … Read more
Imelda Marcos at home

The Kingmaker

Lauren Greenfield’s new documentary is called The Kingmaker but it looks at first glance like nothing more than a film about a woman whose days in the sun are long behind her. Greenfield you may remember as the director of The Queen of Versailles, a film about a trophy wife of a very rarefied sort. Imelda Marcos, subject of The Kingmaker, you might remember as another trophy wife, of Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos. She of 3,000 pairs of shoes. Watching it I was reminded of Errol Morris’s 2013 documentary about Donald Rumsfeld, The Unknown Known, in which Morris managed to lay not a single glove on the old fox, who had absolutely no … Read more
Charlotte Rampling and Ménothy Cesar sit on a bed

Heading South

Charlotte Rampling often gets a free pass in films. Sometimes that’s for all the right reasons, such as her association with great directors such as Visconti, Lelouch or Ozon. Sometimes for the wrong ones – the more generalised cultural cringe before the French, with whom she’s also had a long association. The films she’s in often get the free pass too. Let’s take this drama, ostensibly something very daring about matronly white women heading to Haiti to be boned by the local black youth. There are many ways of describing this film but in all honesty it is an interminable drag and actually at its most boring while Rampling and fellow harpies (including … Read more
Pippa and Thomas with binoculars

The Voyeurs

Sydney Sweeney’s big eyes and impressive breasts both work hard in The Voyeurs, a thriller that with a heart of pure trash designed to titillate even as it vaguely warns of the perils of being too interested in what other people get up to. As is often the way with these things, a hearty interest in what other people get up to is actually The Voyeurs‘ raison d’etre. It starts with one of those grand cinematic establishing shots of a cityscape, the camera gradually zooming in, in, in, onto a street, a shop, then dissolving the window separating outside from inside, before advancing still further into this boutique selling lingerie, and towards a … Read more
Radha Blank on a bus

The Forty-Year-Old Version

First, the title. It’s called The Forty-Year-Old Version because this autobiographical, documentary-style drama is about the 40-year-old, grown-up version of the kid who wanted to be a writer. Now a struggling actor/writer/director, Radha Blank had once upon a time also turned up on a 30 Under 30 list of hot young talents to watch, so the kid wasn’t deluded. Clearly, something has gone wrong in the intervening years. Instead of having a successful career in the theatre, Radha teaches. They’re nice, funny, feisty kids – the girls want to fight, the boys are obsessed with genitalia. But it’s not what she really wants to do. Radha’s mother, a painter, has recently died and … Read more
Balram, Pinky and Ashok

The White Tiger

Director Ramin Bahrani’s adaptation of Aravind Adiga’s Man Booker-winning novel The White Tiger looks at first like it’s going to be one of those “trickster” stories about a low-born person cutting a swathe through life using their natural-born smarts. When we meet him, Balram is clearly a man who has done well out of life. The White Tiger will play out in flashback, but for now Balram’s nice suit and fussy facial hair tell us all we need to know about his success in the world. How he got there is what the film is about. From poor beginnings in a dirt-poor village, where he appeared to be condemned to a life of … Read more
Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon

Reno 911!: Miami

A feature length version of the Comedy Central TV show. And, obeying a law that stretches back at least to the dawn of TV comedy, the format goes on holiday. To Miami, as the title suggests, where Reno’s precinct of variously useless cops suddenly find themselves the only police in town with a drug lord to contain called Ethan the Drug Lord (played by Paul Rudd) and day-to-day policing duties to carry out. Obeying another law, there’s the odd guest cameo – Danny DeVito in this case (his Jersey Films outfit are bankrolling the movie so it makes sense). But who cares about guests or the plot – no one involved seems to – … Read more
Juliette Binoche as Claire

Who You Think I Am

One person stalks another person online in Who You Think I Am (Celle Que Vous Croyez). If it’s not quite as creepy as you might expect, it’s not quite as emotionally engaging as it might be either, which is deliberate. We’re held at arm’s length, while co-writer/director Safy Nebbou gets busy with the mechanics of a plot that reveals all towards the end, and then reveals all one more time. The plot seems quite straightforward. Claire (Juliette Binoche, great as ever) is a teacher of French literature who strikes up a relationship with much younger man Alex, a friend of an ex lover, on a social network we might as well call Facebook, … Read more

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