Saturday, June 09, 2018

Kiss Me Deadly

1955, US, directed by Robert Aldrich

A deeply cynical, and ultimately exceptionally bleak, film -- though of a piece with much pulp writing of the 1940s and 1950, this must have felt like a real cinematic slap in the face in 1955, with its generally anti-heroic characters, easy betrayals and casual violence, and the pall of broader threat. The location work is also striking -- some fascinating shots of mid-century LA.

Das letzte Schweigen

2010, Germany, directed by Baran bo Odar

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

L'Homme de Rio

1964, France/Italy, directed by Philippe de Broca

Thursday, May 10, 2018

White Material

2009, France, directed by Claire Denis

Isabelle Huppert in is top form here, while Claire Denis's work is typically strong, and less elliptical than in some of her 2000s work -- which is perhaps the more effective for this particular film. The sense of societal collapse is cogently and succinctly sketched in, and if I still have some vague sense of discomfort about the depiction of the African continent, Denis is trying to tease out something very challenging, including in her critique of the role of white settlers, about both her own relationship with Africa and cinematic depictions thereof.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Un Condamné à mort s'est échappé

1955, France, directed by Robert Bresson

My first viewing of the Criterion Collection restoration of this remarkable film -- and as much as the visuals are striking, it was the soundscape that came across even more strongly on this occasion (particularly in the tension of the titular escape). I still find Bresson to be tough going at times, primarily for his unique and uncompromising approach to performance, but this is one of the key texts. Bresson's star, François Leterrier, went on to a career as a director in his own right, though in a very different register, helming several scattershot popular comedies in the 1980s. 

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Too Late for Tears

1949, US, directed by Byron Haskin

Lizabeth Scott is in very fine form as a very fatale femme -- stay well back. Like Woman on the Run, this is a modest film in its ambitions but the whipsaws of the plot and the performances are generally pleasurable (and Dan Duryea plays an entirely atypical Dan Duryea part -- when he's not the least sympathetic person in the movie you know you're in uncharted waters). 

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Voyage à travers le cinéma français

2016, France, directed by Bertrand Tavernier

For anyone with even a passing interest in classic French cinema, this is a treasure -- Tavernier is an exceptional guide to the (French) films that marked him, while also setting them in their broader cinematic history. In addition to clips from pictures ranging from the iconic to the obscure (such as Jacques Becker's early film Dernier atout), there is some wonderful interview footage -- including a memorable sequence when director Henri Decoin performs a note-perfect impression of Jean Gabin, with whom he worked on two impressive films.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Lion King

1994, US, directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff

Monday, April 02, 2018


1947, US, directed by Douglas Sirk (aka Personal Column)

A film I last saw nearly thirty years ago, though Lucille Ball's performance lingered long in the memory, and her work captivated me anew here. By contrast, I had completely forgotten that a personal favourite, George Sanders, was also present, but then again Ball wipes the floor with pretty much everyone on this occasion. I didn't quite buy the picture, though, as an example of Sirk-as-auteur -- it comes across as an exceptionally competent 1940s film that has relatively little in common with the director's distinctive 1950s work. 

Sunday, April 01, 2018

Mary Poppins

1964, US, directed by Robert Stevenson

I hadn't seen this since childhood, and watched it with my kids on a very rainy school holiday afternoon. They absolutely loved it, and I took great pleasure in hearing them ask, in this age of digital wizardry, how did they do that?! There's an unexpected, and perhaps underestimated, power in a little straightforward visual trickery. Personally, I also enjoyed the choreography, in particular for the marvelous chimney sweep sequence. I'm hardly the first to comment on it, but what on earth was going on with Dick Van Dyke's "accent"? Didn't they have dialect coaches in 1964?! 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Woman on the Run

1950, US, directed by Norman Foster

A modest but distinctive San Francisco-set noir; as with so many films in the genre there's plenty to chew on, in particular the location work (which occasionally evokes the feel of Charles Willeford's novel Pick-Up), as well as Ann Sheridan in strong form. The ending sequences struck me as a possible influence on the dockside section of Ida Lupino's The Hitch-Hiker -- in both films, an atmospheric location available at a low price for the budget-minded filmmaker. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Police Story

1985, Hong Kong, directed by Jackie Chan

A film I hadn't seen since a UK TV outing 25 or more years ago, with an intro designed to educate the viewer as to the wonders of Hong Kong action cinema. The set-pieces are as jaw-dropping as ever, but the connective tissue is harder work, especially since Hong Kong humour is very much an acquired and/or locally-specific taste. Still, the chutzpah and Keaton-esque physical grace linger long in the mind. 

Monday, March 05, 2018

Deux hommes dans Manhattan

1959, France, directed by Jean-Pierre Melville

Melville at his loosest, and despite the cynicism and world-weariness on display, the picture is really rather fun by the director's astringent standards, with wonderful historical in the on-the-fly location work (though the incongruity between the actual New York exteriors and the obviously French studio scenes is amusing at times). Melville's own amusingly lugubrious presence in one of the starring roles recalls, at times, Renoir's highly effective self-casting in La Règle du jeu

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Black Panther

2018, US, directed by Ryan Coogler

Friday, February 16, 2018

Blessed Event

1932, US, directed by Roy Del Ruth

Terrific pre-Code fun, with motormouth Lee Tracy as that most unscrupulous of columnists; it's not quite as strong or, ultimately, as committed in its cynicism as Five Star Final, but it's still a pretty heady early 1930s brew, delivered at an absolute breakneck pace. Glenn Kenny's 2011 capsule review is well worth revisiting, too. 

Sunday, February 11, 2018


2017, US, directed by Lee Unkrich

Stunning animation -- especially on the big screen -- and a beguiling, often very funny storyline. One we've already watched several times with the kids.

Saturday, February 10, 2018


2016, France, directed by Mia Hansen-Løve (aka Things to Come)

Another fine, and attractive, recent French film, this time from Mia Hansen-Løve, and on the strength of this she's a very mature and assured filmmaker from the perch of her mid-30s, working with Isabelle Huppert in reliably strong form. Huppert plays a middle-aged professor dealing with a variety of familial upheavals, and Hansen-Løve astutely avoids the various pitfalls (though she does also set the viewer up to some degree); as with La Belle saison, the political backdrop is strong and there's an interesting, latter-day, riff on the city/country interplay that feels very much of the recent moment while also nodding to the 1960s/1970s back-to-the-land movement. The final shot is quite wonderful.

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Le Million

1931, France, directed by René Clair

René Clair at his 1930s peak; the sudden eruptions of song are a particular delight, and its notable that the device has only rarely been used as effectively in the many years since. 

Thursday, February 01, 2018

La Belle saison

2015, France, directed by Catherine Corsini (aka Summertime)

A fine film from Catherine Corsini about the romance between two women, one a Parisian sophisticate, the other a newly-arrived country girl. The backdrop, very well-evoked, is the social upheaval of the early 1970s, and the tension between the two modes of life; the depiction of debate and discussion by those engaged in social activism is especially fascinating. The obvious recent point of comparison is Blue is the Warmest Colour, including with respect to the directorial depiction of the physical relationship between the characters, though each film ultimately has quite different concerns (and each has its own strengths). The leads are both excellent, with Izïa Higelin especially convincing as the rural half of the central pair, while the evocation of the French countryside is utterly seductive in its own way. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The League of Gentlemen

1960, UK, directed by Basil Dearden

Given my general love for the criminal caper film, this is a surprising omission like Underworld for the American gangster film, this is a kind of ur-text for the many, many caper films that followed in subsequent decades, though done Dearden's film is carried off with considerably more skill than most of what followed. The one unpleasant taste comes from the film's treatment of women, who are very much an after-thought, if not seen as an actively malign influence. Hardly inconsistent with the year of production, but no less unsavory for that. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Spy in Black

1939, UK, directed by Michael Powell

Powell & Pressburger's marvelous first collaboration is strikingly beautiful at times, as well as being noteworthy both for its fine suspense-management and for the daring of creating sympathetic, or at least not wholly antipathetic, German characters (presumably at least some filmgoers would have been familiar with Conrad Veidt's personal history, with the actor taking up residence in the UK after the Nazis came to power, which couldn't have harmed). It's not hard to see here the germ of ideas, particularly with respect to the depiction of German characters, that could lead to something as wondrous as The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp within a few years.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


1945, France, directed by Jacques Becker

Despite the very different settings, Falbalas shares a great deal in common with Becker's previous film, Goupi Mains Rouges -- the confident sketching in of a very specific time and place, the mastery over multiple characters (with even the most minor among them having a sense of being people rather than plot devices), and the confidence in managing transitions of tone, though the blacker satire of the earlier film is absent here. One of the most fascinating aspects of the picture is Becker's insistent focus on the behind-the-scenes corps of women who transform the designer's work into actual garments -- it lends the film a striking political note, as well as a warmth that surely owes at least something to his work with Jean Renoir (perhaps not always to Renoir's benefit -- Becker was, after all, one of the behind-the-scenes personnel subjugated to the Renoir legend).

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Queen of Katwe

2016, US, directed by Mira Nair

Friday, January 19, 2018

The Emoji Movie

2017, US, directed by Tony Leondis

Seen at my child's school as part of a fundraiser.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The General

1926, US, directed by Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton

Having seen a variety of lesser versions, this beautifully restored print from Kino Lorber really allows you to appreciate the genius of Keaton's visual construction, particularly in gags like that  involving a moving train, a loaded cannon, and a key corner on the track, further explored by Kristin Thompson with copious stills. There's little for me to add to the many previous commentaries on the film, though I found myself far more aware on this occasion of the political components -- such as the brilliant gag involving Keaton's obliviousness to both advancing armies, and the concomitant commentary on the insanity of the entire tragedy. 

Friday, January 12, 2018


1927, US, directed by Josef von Sternberg

I loved every minute of this, shot and edited with tremendous verve, and providing the template for many of the gangland riches of the 1930s, most obviously under Hawks's baton. The film's brevity also gives a preview of the quickfire Warner Bros ripped-from-the-headlines style, while the set pieces are handled with exceptional skill and drama. 

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The Big City

1963, India, directed by Satyajit Ray (aka Mahanagar)

Ray's exceptional film is a warm, pragmatic depiction of the family dynamics that are cast into sharp relief when a young Calcutta woman elects to take a job in order to supplement her family's income. I had only previously seen Ray's Apu films, so this came as a welcome corrective to the idea that his focus is resolutely rural. Mahanangar provides a rich sense of life in early 1960s Calcutta -- the backdrop of economic precariousness is neatly summarized -- as well as a wonderful heroine (played with exceptional subtlety by Madhabi Mukherjee). 

Ray's particular skill here lies in sketching in each member of the family with a distinct and complex character; the refusal to over-simplify the characterizations creates moments of considerable emotional power (without ever leaving us in doubt who the centre of the story is). The film is also luminously beautiful -- there far too many striking and insightful shots to enumerate, though the effort would be a pleasure. 

(I was inspired to watch the film after it appeared in the Siren's end-of-year roundup of treasures). 

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

The Five-Year Engagement

2012, US, directed by Nicholas Stoller


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Most of the images here are either studio publicity stills or screen captures I've made myself; if I've taken your image without giving you credit, please let me know.

About Me

Boston, Massachusetts, United States