The Great Silence

Jean-Louis Trintignant as Silence

One of the great puzzles about Sergio Corbucci’s 1968 spaghetti western The Great Silence (Il Grande Silenzio) is how shakily it starts. In one gruesomely unsteady shot after another, using lenses that are way too long, cinematographer Silvano Ippoliti appears to be putting on a demonstration of the genre’s technical shortcomings. Distant figures swing wildly all over the frame, rendering action almost impossible to follow. Stick with it, it settles down. By the end, as events build towards a climax that’s satisfying because it’s so unexpected, Ippoliti and Corbucci have relaxed into a groove and are delivering cinematic storytelling at its finest. Scenes play out in as much time as feels necessary, minor … Read more

The Little Drummer Girl

Charlie training with the Palestinians

Is the 1984 flop The Little Drummer Girl really a spy thriller, as it says on the tin, or an existential drama about a woman losing her mind because she believed in nothing to start with? Diane Keaton stars in this adaptation of a semi-successful John Le Carré novel (attempts have been made to re-appraise it since the author’s death), playing an actress recruited by the Israeli secret service to infiltrate a Palestinian terrorist network. Le Carré (real name David Cornwell) based “Charlie” on his half sister, the actress Charlotte Cornwell, who around this time was suing a UK newspaper for suggesting her “bum is too big”. She won, on the grounds that … Read more