Empire of Light

Stephen and Hilary on the roof of the cinema

Margate on the south coast of England is one of many British seaside towns that’s seen better days. So has its cinema, Wonderland, here renamed by Sam Mendes and his team as the Empire, for a story set in 1980 about people who’ve seen better days, a country too, perhaps. Britain once had an empire of its own, of course. Metaphor and symbolism hang heavy in Empire of Light and affect every aspect of it. In the opening sequences cinematographer Roger Deakins’s camera mooches balefully about the interior of this palace of plush. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s score weeps. This place isn’t in good shape. Bits are roped off, a whole floor … Read more

American Beauty

Mena Suvari in American Beauty

London theatre director Sam Mendes’s debut as a movie director has been treated by some critics as if it were a missive from the gods. Perhaps it was the opening scene which showed Kevin Spacey jerking off in the shower which did it for them – so bold, so adult. The film locks straight in to a long line of suburban dystopian drama and hangs its story off the jowls of Spacey, playing the worm that turned, the comfortable middle-class corporate Joe who chucks it all in for the easy release of drugs and sex after he becomes infatuated with his daughter’s best friend (Mena Suvari). His wife, meanwhile, is filling in the … Read more