Beau Travail (1999)

“If it weren’t for fornication and blood, we wouldn’t be here.” ‘Beau Travail’, directed by Claire Denis in 1999, is a French drama set in the Republic of Djibouti. Denis Lavant stars as Galoup, a veteran soldier in the French Foreign Legion. We first meet him in retirement in Marseille, and in flashback he recalls…

Gabbeh (1996)

“Life is colour; love is colour” ‘Gabbeh’, directed by Mohsen Makhmalbaf in 1996, is an Iranian movie that, whilst short, manages to create an entirely distinct and magical cinematic universe all of its own. It begins with a fractious elderly couple who go to the river to wash their rug. When they unfurl it, a…

The Big Short (2015)

“Truth is like poetry. And most people fucking hate poetry.” ‘The Big Short’, directed by Adam McKay in 2015, is an American comedy that tells the story of the 2007-2008 financial collapse through the eyes of speculators who made money from it. Christian Bale plays Michael Burry, a hedge fund manager who predicts the crisis…

Outside the Law (2010)

“You, the colonized Africans, you must follow the example of the Vietnamese people. Your brothers, your wives and your children have a right to justice and freedom! Fighters, do not be the colonists’ slaves any longer. Witness the Vietnamese victory, and break free of your chains!” ‘Outside the Law’, directed by Rachid Bouchareb in 2010,…

The Ice Storm (1997)

“In issue 141 of the Fantastic Four, published in November, 1973, Reed Richards had to use his anti-matter weapon on his own son, who Aannihilus has turn into the Human Atom Bomb. It was a typical predicament for the Fantastic Four, because they weren’t like other superheroes. They were more like a family. And the…

À Nous la Liberté (1931)

“Liberty is the happy man’s due, he enjoys love and skies of blue, but then there are some who no worse crimes have done, it’s the sad story we tell from a prison cell” ‘À Nous la Liberté’, directed by René Clair in 1931, is a French comedy starring Henri Marchand and Raymond Cordy as…

The White Balloon (1995)

“One hundred tomans! You want to pay one hundred tomans for a goldfish. You can watch two films with that money. You’re nuts.” ‘The White Balloon’, directed by Jafar Panahi and written by Abbas Kiarostami in 1995, is an Iranian movie. It follows a small girl, Razieh, played by Aida Mohammadkhani, in the hours leading…

Julieta (2016)

“Art always finds a way to reflect reality at that moment” ‘Julieta’, directed by Pedro Almodóvar in 2016, is a Spanish drama that charts the life of the title character, played by Emma Suárez and Adriana Ugarte. The movie opens with Julieta about to move to Portugal with her boyfriend, Lorenzo, when a chance encounter…

Forbidden Planet (1956)

“One cannot behold the face of the gorgon and live!” ‘Forbidden Planet’, directed by Fred M. Wilcox in 1956, is an American science fiction movie. The plot is a riff on Shakespeare’s ‘The Tempest’: a crew of spacemen lead by Commander John Adams, played by Leslie Nielsen, are on a rescue mission to a remote…

Sons of the Desert (1933)

“Why don’t you pattern your life after mine? I go places and do things and then tell my wife. Every man should be the king in his own castle.” ‘Sons of the Desert’, directed by William A. Seiter in 1933, is an American comedy starring Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. The pair are a member…

Penda’s Fen (1974)

“Hear the angel and the demon on those hills.” ‘Penda’s Fen’, directed by Alan Clarke and written by David Rudkin in 1974, is a BBC television play. Set in and around the village of Pinvin in the Malvern Hills in Worcestershire, it focuses on Stephen, played by Spencer Banks, the son of the local vicar…

Leviathan (2014)

“Can you pull in Leviathan with a fishhook, or tie down its tongue with a rope? Will it keep begging you for mercy? Will it speak to you with gentle words? Nothing on Earth is its equal. It is king over all that are proud.” ‘Leviathan’, directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev in 2014, is a Russian…