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Before Sunset

This 2004 follow-up to Richard Linlater’s 1995 Before Sunrise is a first-date movie for people who fancy themselves as having more going on upstairs. But grey matter to one side, do you need to have seen the first film to enjoy the second? Probably not, though it helps to know that in Before Sunrise Ethan Hawke had fulfilled every heterosexual male InterRailer’s wildest fantasy – by meeting the stomach-churningly beautiful, witty and, very important, French Julie Delpy on a train and having a night of flirtatious intellectual chat and wild adventure with her. By the end of Before Sunrise both parties are agreed – it’s love and they are absolutely definitely going to … Read more
Ciarán Hinds and Amanda Root in Persuasion

Persuasion

Before popping up seemingly out of nowhere when he directed Notting Hill, Roger Michell had had a successful career as a theatre director, at the groundbreaking Royal Court Theatre in London with Samuel Beckett and John Osborne (where he also met Danny Boyle), before moving on to the Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) and then switching to directing for TV. Persuasion was his second gig for the BBC, and considering that stories of difficult love (Notting Hill, The Mother, Venus) would be his future, and the theatre was his past, it is the Venn diagram overlap of the two spheres. His cast for Persuasion is theatrical through and through, Amanda Root (an RSC stalwart) … Read more
Robert De Niro

Cape Fear

It’s compare and contrast time. Max Cady, a psychopath recently out of stir after a long stretch for rape, sets out to terrorise lawyer Sam Bowden who he believes withheld information about his case at the trial which resulted in him going down. The original, directed by cult British director J. Lee Thompson in 1962, starred Robert Mitchum as the avenging psycho (a role he’d perfected in 1955’s Night Of The Hunter) and Gregory Peck as the apparently decent lawyer. Both turn up again in cameos in Martin Scorsese’s remake, in which things aren’t quite so clear cut. This time around Bowden (now played by Nick Nolte) is a lousy lawyer, and a … Read more
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Hidden aka Caché

Everyone loves a form/content double whammy, when a film’s story and its method of telling correspond. It’s why Memento succeeds so well, for example, a tale about an amnesiac told in partial and unreliable flashback. How much craftier is Michael Haneke’s psychological thriller Hidden. Georges (Daniel Auteuil) and Anne (Juliette Binoche) are media professionals, members of the Parisian chattering classes, liberal right down in their DNA. What could people of such good intent have to do with the rising tide of Islamism, anti-westernism, terrorism? Why are they being blackmailed by an increasingly incriminating series of videotapes? Are they guilty of something, or innocent, as the film seems to proclaim? Haneke’s double whammy is … Read more
Pasolini's Arabian Nights

Arabian Nights

Pier Paolo Pasolini’s beautiful, erotically charged Arabian Nights took Cannes by storm in 1974 but all these years later it’s an almost forgotten film and the director seems to have fallen even further out of favour than fellow Italians Visconti, Fellini or Antonioni. Perhaps he’s gone so far out of fashion that he’s about to come back in via the back door. The film is definitely worth a look, being the third and best in his Trilogy of Life series. More completely than Canterbury Tales and The Decameron, Arabian Nights showcases Pasolini’s eye for unconventional beauty – both male and female. To get a taste of Islamic authenticity, Pasolini shot his handful of the … Read more
Snow White sings to the bluebird in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

David Hand? Look at the credits and you’ll see the name down as the director, one among quite a few, depending on where you’re looking. Such is the grip of the “director as auteur” notion on modern thinking that everyone – from the IMDB down – feels obliged to list the director first, as if theirs were always the guiding hand. Which is a long-winded way of saying that Snow White is a Walt Disney film. He might not have directed any of it but he directed the people who did. And, in the days when we’re meant to marvel at the computer-generated output of Pixar and the like, how much more amazing to … Read more
Orson Welles in Confidential Report aka Mr Arkadin

Confidential Report

The prevailing wisdom on Orson Welles has changed in recent years. It used to be: “Poor Orson, his masterpieces (such as The Magnificent Ambersons, It’s All True, The Lady from Shanghai ) butchered by the studios”. Now it’s: “Lazy Orson, got most of the way through a film and then lost interest”. Certainly Welles subscribed to the former view, and broadcast it widely wherever he went in Europe during his exile (or extended flake-out, take your pick). Confidential Report fuels the debate. A shadow of both his masterpiece, Citizen Kane, and Carol Reed’s The Third Man (in which Welles played the similarly gnomic Harry Lime), the film jumps around the world excavating the … Read more
Jeremy Theobald in Christopher Nolan's debut, Following

Following

Can you honestly tell from Following, that its first-time director Christopher Nolan is only two years away from making Memento, the film that put him on Hollywood producers’ speed-dials? Shot on weekends and holidays guerrilla-style around London for about $6,000, it is a real “you saw it here first” effort and the acting is strongly redolent of the great days of British film – it’s rank. But when a story is this strong it barely matters. It’s simple too. We follow, in low-budget monochrome, a young, luckless and broke writer (Jeremy Theobald) who thinks it would be fun, “creative” in an artschool way, maybe, to “follow” people and see where it leads him. … Read more
Madeleine Carroll handcuffed to Robert Donat in The 39 Steps

The 39 Steps

There are several filmed versions of John Buchan’s novel. The other two notables have Kenneth More and Robert Powell in the lead. But this one, in spite of its antiquity, is the best. It stars debonair, pencil-moustached Robert Donat as the innocent man forced into going on the run after accidentally getting caught up at the wrong end of someone else’s spying caper. The “innocent” theme was something Alfred Hitchcock was already comfortable with in 1935 and one which he’d return to repeatedly, most notably in North by Northwest. If you’ve read John Buchan’s original book, you’ll know The 39 Steps is a taut thriller full of derring-do, a rattling good read even … Read more
review kissmedeadly poster

Kiss Me Deadly

Critics continue to argue over whether this is the best film noir ever made but all seem united on one point – Kiss Me Deadly is the best adaptation of one of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels. Now 50 years old, the film opens with a scene that still packs a punch – cynical private eye Mike Hammer picks up a girl hitchhiker who is wearing only a mac. Within minutes his car has been run off the road and a brutal gang is torturing the girl before killing her. The stage is set for Hammer, one of cinema’s great anti-heroes, to become avenging angel, visiting bad men in places high and low … Read more
Aleksei Kravchenko in Come and See

Come and See

Best Of lists are designed to infuriate, obviously, to provoke debate. But even so, it seems beyond the realms of the credible that Elem Klimov’s Come and See only made it to number 71 when UK television’s Channel 4 ran a Best War Movies Ever poll a few years ago, while Ridley Scott’s fart in a biscuit tin, Black Hawk Down, sat happy at number 9. The 1985 Russian film is the best film about the Russian experience of the Second World War, one of a handful of real contenders for the best war film ever made. Following a tender 14-year-old (Aleksei Kravchenko) as he is first pressganged into joining a ragtag militia … Read more
Redneck Keanu Reeves in The Gift

The Gift

Director Sam Raimi is an expert in genre-twisting. Back when he was making The Evil Dead he so overloaded his gore epic that it eventually became funny. With The Gift he takes on a genre even more arcane: the British whodunit. Then he does weird shit with it. First he transports the whole shebang to the Deep South to remove all traces of afternoon tea or warm beer. Then he gives us Cate Blanchett as a clairvoyant detective who can’t quite make out the identity of the murderer – well, it wouldn’t be much of film if she could, would it? And then, as a masterstroke, he takes a raft of famous faces … Read more

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