Halloween Triple Bill

“Do you have to open graves to find ghosts to fall in love with?” In dark and eldritch celebration of Halloween I’ve made the sign of the Devil, summoned up the spirits of the dead, called on the services of Mephistopheles, raised the dread demon Pazuzu, supped with the Great God Pan and abandoned my…

Queen Christina (1933)

“I have grown up in a great man’s shadow. All my life I’ve been a symbol. A symbol as eternal, changeless. An abstraction. A human being is mortal and changeable – with desires and impulses, hopes and despairs. I’m tired of being a symbol, Chancellor. I long to be a human being. This longing I…

Eyes Without a Face (1960)

“Smile. Not too much.” ‘Eyes Without a Face’, directed by Georges Franju in 1960, is a French-Italian horror movie that tells the macabre story of a plastic surgeon who takes ever more extreme steps to repair the face of his daughter. Pierre Brasseur plays Doctor Génessier, the doctor who begins to kidnap women with the…

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

“Pompey, go find Doc Willoughby. If he’s sober, bring him back.” ‘The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance’, directed by John Ford in 1962, is an American Western starring Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. Stewart plays Ransom “Ranse” Stoddard, a Senator who returns to the town of his youth to attend a funeral. In flashback, Stoddard…

Roma (1972)

 “Alea iacta est.” ‘Roma’, directed by Federico Fellini in 1972, is the perfect example of a movie in which a city forms the central character. As with most of his films, ‘Roma’ doesn’t have a straightforward plot but is rather a sequence of vignettes ties loosely around the director’s own encounters with the city in…

The Martian (2015)

“I’ve been thinking about laws on Mars. There’s an international treaty saying that no country can lay claim to anything that’s not on Earth. By another treaty if you’re not in any country’s territory, maritime law applies. So Mars is international waters. Now, NASA is an American non-military organization, it owns the Hab. But the…

City of God (2002)

“Why return to the City of God, where God forgets about you?” ‘City of God’, directed by Fernando Meirelles in 2002, is a Brazillian crime drama set in the Cidade de Deus suburb of Rio de Janeiro. The story is told through the eyes of Rocket (played by Luis Otávio as a child, then Alexandre…

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997)

“If you analyse it too much, life becomes almost meaningless.” ‘Fast, Cheap & Out of Control’, directed by Errol Morris in 1997, is an American documentary that contrasts the occupations of four men: a lion tamer, a creator of topiaries, an expert in the hairless mole-rat and a scientist working in the field of robotics….

Dracula (1931)

“The spider spinning his web for the unwary fly… The blood is the life, Mr. Renfield.” ‘Dracula’, directed by Tod Browning in 1931, is an American horror movie based on the stage-play version of the novel by Bram Stoker. Renfield, played by Dwight Frye, is a solicitor who travels to rural Transylvania to complete the…

Run Lola Run (1998)

“Man… probably the most mysterious species on our planet. A mystery of unanswered questions. Who are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going? How do we know what we think we know? Why do we believe anything at all? Countless questions in search of an answer… an answer that will give rise…

Nebraska (2013)

 “Well, it looks like somebody got bored doing it. Washington’s the only one with any clothes, and they’re just kind of roughed in. Lincoln doesn’t even have an ear.” ‘Nebraska’, directed by Alexander Payne in 2013, is an American comedy road movie that follows the journey of an elderly man and his son as the…

The Cloud-Capped Star (1960)

“And like the baseless fabric of this vision, The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces, The solemn temples, the great globe itself— Yea, all which it inherit—shall dissolve, And like this insubstantial pageant faded, Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff As dreams are made on, and our little life Is rounded with a…

Rocco and his Brothers (1960)

“There’s no hope now.” ‘Rocco and his Brothers’, directed by Luchino Visconti in 1960, is an epic Italian drama that focuses on a family who move from the rural south of the country to the industrial north. Alain Delon plays Rocco Parondi, one of five brothers who, with their mother, struggle to make money and…

Room (2015)

“When I was four, I didn’t even know about the world, and now me and ma are going to live in it forever and ever until we’re dead. This is a street in a city in a country called America, and earth. That’s a blue and green planet, always spinning, so I don’t know why…

L’Age D’or (1930)

“I have waited for a long time. What joy to have our children murdered!” ‘L’Age D’or’, directed by Luis Buñuel in 1930, is a surrealist comedy that, through a sequence of strange and impenetrable vignettes, unpacks the tensions between sex and Catholicism. It’s the film that Buñuel directed after ‘Un Chien Andalou’ the year before,…

Ariel (1988)

“In a way I did kill him, but the truth is, I didn’t. The result was the same: the man died, and I was sent here. All right, let’s go, then. I am 37 now and eight years more makes me about 43. Then I won’t last three hours outside without killing somebody.” ‘Ariel’, directed…

Spotlight (2015)

“Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around the dark. Suddenly, a light gets turned on and there’s a fair share of blame to go around. I can’t speak to what happened before I arrived, but all of you have done some very good reporting here. Reporting that I…

Pépé le Moko (1937)

“Blame it on the Casbah.” ‘Pépé le Moko’, directed by Julien Duvivier in 1937, is a French thriller set in the Casbah quarter of Algiers. The title character is a criminal played by Jean Gabin who has escaped from Paris and has hidden in the lawless labyrinth of the streets of Algiers. He slips from…

The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa

My experience of the films of Akira Kurosawa before I started this journey through international cinema was limited. I’d seen ‘Rashomon’, bits of ‘Seven Samurai’ and, because of the film’s connection with ‘Star Wars’, the beginning of ‘The Hidden Fortress’. As with Andrei Tarkovsy, it took a few films to adjust my expectations to what…

Nostalgia for the Light (2010)

“I am convinced that memory has a gravitational force. It is constantly attracting us. Those who have a memory are able to live in the fragile present moment. Those who have none don’t live anywhere. Each night, slowly, impassively, the centre of the galaxy passes over Santiago.” ‘Nostalgia for the Light’, directed by Patricio Guzmán…

Scarface (1932)

 “This picture is an indictment of gang rule in America and of the callous indifference of the government to this constantly increasing menace to our safety and our liberty. Every incident in this picture is the reproduction of an actual occurrence, and the purpose of this picture is to demand of the government: ‘What are…

The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

 “Well I’m not a scientist. But I know all things begin and end in eternity.” ‘The Man Who Fell to Earth’, directed by Nicolas Roeg in 1976, is a British science fiction movie set mainly in New Mexico. David Bowie plays Thomas Jerome Newton, an alien from a desert planet who has crashed to Earth….

Hail Caesar! (2016)

“Hobie Doyle: Would that it were so simple. Laurence Laurentz: Would that it were so simple! Hobie Doyle: Would that it were so simple. Laurence Laurentz: Would that it were so simple! Hobie Doyle: Would that it were so simple. Laurence Laurentz: Would that it were so simple!” ‘Hail Caesar!’, directed by Joel and Ethan…

Zootopia (2016)

“I thought this city would be a perfect place where everyone got along and anyone could be anything. Turns out, life’s a little bit more complicated than a slogan on a bumper sticker. Real life is messy. We all have limitations. We all make mistakes. Which means, hey, glass half full, we all have a…

My Problems with Folk Horror

“You must have patience, even while people die. Only thus can the whole evil be destroyed. You must let it grow.” I’m a happy member of the ‘Folk Horror Revival’ Facebook group. I bought the ‘Folk Horror Revival: Field Studies’ book and I’ve contributed a poem to the up-coming ‘Corpse Roads’ anthology, but I have…

Solaris (1972)

“We don’t want to conquer space at all. We want to expand Earth endlessly. We don’t want other worlds; we want a mirror. We seek contact and will never achieve it. We are in the foolish position of a man striving for a goal he fears and doesn’t want. Man needs man.” ‘Solaris’, directed by…

Moon (2009)

“I’m here to keep you safe, Sam. I want to help you.” ‘Moon’, directed by Duncan Jones in 2009, is a British science fiction drama featuring Sam Rockwell as Sam Bell, the sole occupant of a moon base at the end of a three year mining mission. With his only company a computer called GERTY,…

A Short Trip Around Czechoslovakia

I’d watched very few Czechoslovakian movies before I started on this, frankly ill-advised, journey in January. I’d seen the American films of Miloš Forman, including the great ‘Amadeus‘ and disturbed myself silly with Jan Švankmajer’s short animations, hunted down his adaptation of ‘Faust’ on VHS, and watched his 2000 fantasy ‘Little Otik’ at the cinema….

The Night Porter (1974)

“You were always insane, and you still are.” ‘The Night Porter’, directed by Liliana Cavani in 1974, is an Italian erotic thriller starring Dirk Bogarde and Charlotte Rampling. Bogarde plays Maximilianan Aldorfer, an ex-Nazi SS officer who had gone into hiding as a hotel porter in Vienna. Rampling plays a Holocaust survivor called Lucia Atherton…