Tuesday, 17 December 2013

The Hoodlum



Lawrence Tierney is incredibly mean and nasty in this nihilistic film noir.

Pocketful of Miracles



Frank Capra remade his own Lady for a Day in 1961 with Bette Davis, Glenn Ford and Peter Falk and it’s just as intense and poignant as the original, even if at the time it got slaughtered by the critics – who found it sentimental and old-fashioned – and it turned out to be the last film Capra made.

Monday, 9 December 2013

Lady for a Day



Frank Capra takes on Damon Runyon’s short story and produces a film of extreme emotions and fears. Interesting to watch alongside Vittorio de Sica, who seems to share a similar, somewhat Christian, belief in the essential virtuousness of the poor and marginalised. Luis Bunuel would beg to differ.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Rome, Open City



Rossellini’s Rome, Open City is on a different level to other Italian neo-realist films. The tragedy, as it should be, is remorseless. An utterly bleak film. Never have the Germans been portrayed as such animals.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Marriage, Italian style



Vittoria de Sica’s film is wonderfully intense and brilliantly performed by Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren.

Friday, 22 November 2013

The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui



Nicol Williamson is hilarious as Arturo Ui, the gangster who ruthlessly corners the cauliflower market in Chicago as a prelude to dominating the trade throughout America in Bertolt Brecht’s allegorical tale of Hitler’s rise to power.

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

They Came to Cordura



Gary Cooper plays Major Tom Thorn – ‘a sort of Homer on horseback. Galloping around the country looking for bravery in battles’ – in Robert ‘Alexander the Great’ Rossen’s first-rate Western with a magnificent cast, including Gary Cooper, Rita Hayworth, Richard Conte and Van Heflin.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Saturday, 9 November 2013

City Hall



Predictable and self-righteous, but Al Pacino tears it up as flawed New York mayor John Pappas.

Thursday, 7 November 2013

A Simple Plan



Good crime drama in the spirit of John Huston, the terrible and ultimately self-destructive lengths people will go to in pursuit of money and what it purports to offer. Bridget Fonda is great as Lady Macbeth.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

The Road



Apocalypse Porn. Film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel is relentlessly grim and depressing. In fact, so grim and depressing that it almost parodies itself and becomes funny. To make matters worse, there’s even a heavy dose of sentimentality.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Big Bounce



How the filmmakers came up with this flashy trash claiming it to be an interpretation of Elmore Leonard’s great novel about aberrance is unfathomable. Wretched, despicable, unwatchable.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

The Scalphunters



Very dark subjects – slavery and the hunting of Indians – in a very dark period of American expansion are given comic treatment in this flawed Western, starring Burt Lancaster and Telly Savalas.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Underworld



Josef von Sternberg’s gangster movie – reckoned to be the first gangster movie ever made – stands up very well; a bit like watching the original Boardwalk Empire.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

The 300 Spartans



Pretty silly but not as bad as I remember. Good spectacle and David Farrar’s portrayal of the inept and bewildered King Xerxes is fun. Above is the trailer for the film, which you can watch in its entirety here.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

No Country for Old Men



Faithful adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel. Simpering, whimpering Kelly Macdonald annoys.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Dr M.



Claude Chabrol has a go at the story of Dr Mabuse, the arch criminal who peddles chaos, terror and death. It’s pretty awful, almost unwatchable. Jennifer Beals looks remarkably like Joey Ramone.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Thousand Eyes of Dr Mabuse



Fritz Lang returned to Germany from Hollywood in 1960 to make this film, his final say on the master criminal Dr Mabuse.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Get Shorty



Pretty good version of the Elmore Leonard novel. Maybe a little conservative.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Prisoners



The story is not credible and the plot full of holes, but the film is entertaining enough.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Dr Mabuse the Gambler, Part Two: Inferno



The second part of Fritz Lang’s silent classic is relentlessly grim. It's got suicide, murder, kidnap and loads of insanity. See the film here.

Sunday, 29 September 2013

The Testament of Dr Mabuse



Fritz Lang’s film amounts to Weimar’s valedictory indictment of the terror and madness to come and has some remarkable moments.

Friday, 27 September 2013

Walk Softly, Stranger



Very nice idea, with lots of good dialogue, which, unfortunately, peters out. Joseph Cotten is terrific as the charming fraudster, trying to keep a lid on his secrets and prevent his true motives from being revealed.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Monday, 23 September 2013

Secret Beyond the Door



The Freudian angle in Fritz Lang’s film, which at the time must have seemed novel and insightful, now appears utterly ridiculous. A disturbed man reconstructs rooms in which notorious murders have taken place. His latest creation is the bedroom of his new wife. Being understanding, she doesn’t run a mile but tries to help him by unlocking the secret childhood trauma that has turned him into such a grotesque weirdo.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Merci Pour le Chocolat



Another fascinating and compelling film from Claude Chabrol, clarifying other themes in his work, such as the emotional retardation of intellectuals and how we aren’t who we think we are.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

La Fleur de Mal



‘Why do the poor always have the meanest dogs?' Claude Chabrol takes another adroit pop at the hypocrisy and deceit of the French bourgeoisie.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

La Cérémonie



Claude Chabrol irons out the weaknesses in Ruth Rendell’s A Judgement in Stone – such as Jean’s religious fanaticism and Giles’ precocious intellectualism – and makes one of his best films, a worthy addition to the sub-genre inspired by the case of the notorious Papin sisters.

Monday, 9 September 2013

Jackie Brown



Tarantino’s best film, a smart and effective interpretation of Elmore Leonard’s Rum Punch.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

To Live and Die in L.A.



Flashy, vacuous cops and robbers thriller from William Friedkin. Mostly obnoxious. Willem Dafoe is good.

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

The Brink’s Job


Disappointingly conventional heist film from William Friedkin, not salvaged by its stellar cast – Peter Falk, Warren Oates, Peter Boyle, Gena Rowlands, Paul Sorvino. The events on which the film is based are a lot more interesting than Friedkin suggests.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

Outrage



Takeshi Kitano’s yakuza film is relentlessly violent and utterly brilliant.

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Friday, 30 August 2013

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Django



Spaghetti Western. One or two striking moments; otherwise, very silly and dead boring.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Inglourious Basterds



Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds couldn’t be sillier; though there is something admirable in the way he megalomaniacally insists on rewriting the history of the Second World War because it suits the interests of the film he wants to make.

Saturday, 17 August 2013

Django Unchained



Quentin Tarantino’s truly awful film. Crude, stupid, an insult to the intelligence.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Spartan



David Mamet’s Spartan is bizarre and crude but quite entertaining.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Ghost Dog



Jim Jarmusch’s film is better and more interesting than I remembered, but it’s still not quite right. Bit too contrived and silly.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Friday, 2 August 2013

Night on Earth



From Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth, the scene in which Roberto Beningi picks up a priest with a bad ticker in his cab and confesses his sexual misadventures to him. Hilarious.

Coffee and Cigarettes



From Jim Jarmusch’s film, the scene with Iggy Pop and Tom Waits.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Down by Law



Jim Jarmusch on, among other things, the vacuousness of American cool.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Stranger than Paradise



Jim Jarmusch’s deft, funny road movie. Story is marginal, all about hostile landscapes and the tics and movements of the actors.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Big Bluff



Very nasty film noir. John Bromfield tries to kill his sick wife by providing her with too much excitement and tampering with her heart pills. What a cad!

Friday, 19 July 2013

Dark Passage



Very good adaptation of David Goodis’ novel, even if it goes too much on the Bogart and Bacall romance angle, which in Goodis is not romance but insanity.

Monday, 15 July 2013

And Hope to Die



Réne Clément’s often incomprehensible version of David Goodis’ novel Black Friday is still very good. Robert Ryan, inevitably, is superb.

Sunday, 14 July 2013

Too Late Blues
















In this Hollywood film, John Cassavetes couldn’t stand the demands producers and the studio made on his artistic integrity and expression and decided he would never work like this again. Still, despite all the compromises and flaws, this is a terrific film.

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Dark Odyssey



Very good Greek American film with Athan Karras as Yiannis Martakis, who arrives in New York from Greece intent on killing the man who raped his sister.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

Night Tide



Likeable film about Mora the mermaid from Mykonos, whose previous two boyfriends have died in mysterious circumstances. Now, what will be the fate of new beau Dennis Hopper?

Friday, 5 July 2013

I Shot Andy Warhol



An account of the shooting of Andy Warhol by radical feminist writer Valerie Solanas, author of the manifesto S.C.U.M. (Society for the Cutting up of Men), whose play Up Your Ass! Warhol had declined to produce.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Friday, 28 June 2013

Chain Letters



As usual with Mark Rappaport, some interesting mise en scene but dialogue and narrative are excruciating. Clearly, Rappaport is no writer.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

White Nights



Visconti’s exquisite version of Dostoevsky’s White Nights. Jean Marais is great as the enigmatic tenant.

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Nightfall



Jacques Tourneur’s excellent noir in the snow, taken from David Goodis novel.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Moon in the Gutter



Jean-Jaques Beineix does David Goodis as a surrealist fairy-tale. Not very subtle and mostly tedious, the scenes between Depardieu and Abril are some compensation.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

The Burglar



David Goodis scripted this excellent film noir from his own novel. Dan Duryea makes the perfect Goodisian protagonist. Paul Wendkos overdoes it at times with the music, camera and other Wellesian touches.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Auto Focus



Can’t figure out Paul Schrader’s film on the rise and fall of Bob Crane.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Les possédés















Andrzej Wajda’s adaptation of Dostoevsky’s The Devils.

Impostors

















Some very striking moments and scenes in Mark Rappaport’s film; but in truth I was bored and was glad when it was over.

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Machine Gun McCain



John Cassavetes is terrific as the eponymous villain who sets out to rob a Las Vegas casino in this brutal Italian-made crime film, which also stars Peter Falk and Gena Rowlands.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Columbo: Étude in Black






















In this episode of Columbo John Cassavetes is great as the insane maestro who murders his lover to prevent her from exposing their affair and ruining his marriage and, more importantly, his career. Very dark portrayal.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Alice doesn’t live here anymore



Clearly influenced by John Cassavetes, Martin Scorsese’s film has some good moments – like the above scene with Harvey Keitel – but it can’t escape Hollywood conventions and feels deficient when you compare it to Cassavetes’ much more complex and profound Woman Under the Influence, made around the same time.

Cornered (1945)



Very well written noir – even if the plot is convoluted and hard to keep up with (deliberately?) – about a Canadian pilot who after the World War II winds up in Argentina in pursuit of the Nazi collaborator who organised the execution of his French wife, who was in the resistance. Dick Powell plays the deranged, alcoholic, obsessive husband hell bent on revenge.

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Gangs, Inc. (aka Paper Bullets)



Rita Adams witnesses her fink father being gunned down, winds up in an orphanage. As an adult, her troubled past means she's unemployable, then she foolishly takes a hit-and-run rap for her feckless boyfriend. But Rita's not into self-pity and, on being released from prison, she embarks on a campaign of revenge against society and becomes the Queen of Crime.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Big Trouble



John Cassavetes was hired to direct this film half-way through at the behest of his friend Peter Falk; but Cassavetes couldn’t save this comic version of Double Indemnity.

Monday, 27 May 2013

No Orchids for Miss Blandish



The most sickening exhibition of brutality, perversion, sex and sadism ever to be shown on a cinema screen.’