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…

Possession (1981)

“You know, when I’m away from you, I think of you as a monster or a woman possessed, and then I see you again and all this disappears.” ‘Possession’, directed by Andrzej Żuławski in 1981, is a psychological horror movie set in Berlin.  Mark, played by Sam Neill, is a spy whose marriage, and mind,…

Memories of Underdevelopment (1968)

“I am 39 years old and already an old man. I feel stupid. More rotten than mature.” ‘Memories of Underdevelopment’, directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea in 1968, is a Cuban drama that focuses on a writer in Havana during the lead up to the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. The writer, Sergio played by…

Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

“We are all faced throughout our lives with agonizing decisions. Moral choices. Some are on a grand scale. Most of these choices are on lesser points. But! We define ourselves by the choices we have made. We are in fact the sum total of our choices. Events unfold so unpredictably, so unfairly, human happiness does…

Weekend (1967)

“What a rotten film. All we meet are crazy people.” ‘Weekend’, directed by Jean-Luc Godard in 1967, is a satirical French comedy. It’s a strange, apparently directionless film that at times seems to seek to dismantle the concept of film itself. It focuses on a couple who are travelling to secure an inheritance, they leave…

Vagabond (1985)

“Champagne on the road’s better.” ‘Vagabond’, directed by Agnès Varda in 1985, is a French drama following the final days of Mona, a homeless woman played by Sandrine Bonnaire. The film opens with the discovery of Mona’s body in a ditch next to a vineyard, and in flashbacks it then charts her encounters with a…

Triumph of the Will (1935)

“It is our will that this state shall endure for a thousand years. We are happy to know that the future is ours entirely!” ‘Triumph of the Will’, directed by Leni Riefenstahl in 1935, is a German propaganda documentary and raises some challenges with this review. It’s almost impossible to set aside the knowledge of…

Black Narcissus (1947)

“We all need discipline. You said yourself they’re like children. Without discipline we should all behave like children.” ‘Black Narcissus’, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger in 1947, is a British melodrama set in a convent of nuns in the Himalayas. Sister Superior Clodagh, played by Deborah Kerr, is placed in charge of a…

Captain America: Civil War (2016)

“That shield doesn’t belong to you. You don’t deserve it! My father made that shield!” ‘Captain America: Civil War’, directed by Anthony and Joe Russo in 2016, is the third in a trilogy of superhero films, and another entry in the complex Marvel sequence of movies. In this instalment, Steve Rogers, played by Chris Evans,…

Le Samouraï (1967)

“He’s a wounded wolf; now there will be a trail. He must be disposed of quickly.” ‘Le Samouraï’, directed by Jean-Pierre Melville in 1967, is a sparse, minimalist French thriller. Jef Costello, played by Alain Delon, is an assassin who is hired to kill a night club owner. He does so and escapes but leaves…

Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)

“Together, we can turn this fucking world to rust!” ‘Tetsuo: The Iron Man’, directed by Shinya Tsukamoto in 1989, is a low budget Japanese horror movie. The film is sparing with dialogue and exposition and the characters don’t have names. The main character, a metal fetishist with a penchant for inserting steel rods into his…

His Girl Friday (1940)

“You’ve got the brain of a pancake. This isn’t just a story you’re covering – it’s a revolution. This is the greatest yarn in journalism since Livingstone discovered Stanley.” ‘His Girl Friday’, directed by Howard Hawks in 1940, is an American screwball comedy based on a play by Ben Hecht and Charles MacArthur. Rosalind Russell…

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

“Okay. How do we blow it up? There’s always a way to do that.” ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, directed by J. J. Abrams in 2015, is a science fiction fantasy movie based on George Lucas’s series from the 1970s and 1980s. Set thirty years after the third movie in the original trilogy, it focuses…

Viy (1967)

“I summon the vampires! I summon the werewolves! I summon Viy!” ‘Viy’, directed by Konstantin Yershov and Georgi Kropachyov in 1967, is a rare Soviet-era Russian horror movie. Based on a story by Nikolai Gogol, it focuses on a philosophy student called Khoma, played by Leonid Kuravlyov. Khoma encounters a witch whilst on his way…

Tongues Untied (1989)

“Anger unvented becomes pain unspoken becomes rage released becomes violence.” ‘Tongues Untied’, is a documentary directed by Marlon Riggs in 1989. It explores the world of gay, African Americans and the struggles they face both from homophobic and racist abuse, but also from their own communities. Riggs uses a mixture of poetry, performed interviews, and…

Come Drink with Me (1966)

“I didn’t want to use real martial arts what we call real kung-fu. I had seen it in tournaments, I didn’t find it very beautiful and I didn’t understand a thing about it; as a matter of fact, I still don’t.” ‘Come Drink with Me’, directed by King Hu in 1966, is a Hong Kong…

Ida (2013)

“What sort of sacrifice are these vows of yours?” ‘Ida’, directed by Paweł Pawlikowski in 2013, is a Polish drama set in 1962. Agata Kulesza plays Anna, a novice nun who has grown up in the convent. When she comes of age, the prioress tells her she must leave to find out more about her…