Joseph and Anna in a happy moment

Birth doesn’t quite sit with Jonathan Glazer’s other films. As I write (February 2024), his latest, The Zone of Interest, is attracting awards like an MRI scanner attracts spoons. As did Glazer’s debut, Sexy Beast, in 2000, and the film that followed Birth, 2013’s Under the Skin. As for Birth, it was booed at its premiere at the Venice Film Festival and its current rating on Rotten Tomatoes puts it around 40% “fresh”. Rotten, in other words. People probably need to take another look. First thing: it’s brilliantly made. Second thing: it’s brilliantly acted, with a great cast all rising to the challenge. Third thing: the plot. This is where it does come … Read more


Diane Kruger and Liam Neeson

Warmed-over Raymond Chandler isn’t quite the same as hard-boiled Raymond Chandler, but that’s what’s on offer in Marlowe, a strange misfire that looks like it wanted to make a high-concept colourised simulacrum of a darkly noirish 1940s-style thriller and then settled instead for bloodless pastiche. It’s second order stuff all the way, from Xavi Gimenéz’s deliberately un-cinematic, almost Hallmark TV cinematography, to screenplay writer William Monahan’s flat adaptation of John Banville’s novel, itself a simulacrum of Raymond Chandler’s style. David Holmes’s non-committal (bewildered?) soundtrack kind of says it all. It’s all set in 1939, where ex-cop-now-gumshoe Marlowe (Liam Neeson) is visited by a rich, breathy, libidinous blonde (Diane Kruger) who wants him to … Read more

The Last Photograph

Danny Huston on the River Thames

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


Danny Huston in Ivansxtc

A movie for every day of the year – a good one 09 September Leo Tolstoy born, 1828 On this day in 1828, Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy was born. A gambler, womaniser, brawler and university dropout in his youth, he took a turn to the spiritual as he got older, sometime after having already written War and Peace (1869) and Anna Karenina (1877). Indeed, he became something of an ascetic anarchist, choosing to live a life of simplicity and pacificism. He was an advocate of non-violence and extremely influential on Mohandas (ie Mahatma) Gandhi, who named his second ashram in South Africa the Tolstoy Colony, and on Martin Luther King Jr. A prodigous essayist … Read more