Land Without Bread (1933) and The House is Black (1963)

“I said, if I had wings of a dove I would fly away and be at rest. I would go far away and take refuge in the desert. I would hasten my escape from the windy storm and tempest. For I have seen misery and wickedness on Earth.” Two short documentaries from different countries and…

My Man Godfrey (1936)

“Tommy, there’s a very peculiar mental process called thinking – you wouldn’t know much about that – but when I was living here I did a lot of it.” ‘My Man Godfrey’, directed by Gregory La Cava in 1936, is an American screwball comedy starring William Powell and Carole Lombard. Powell plays a down-an-out called…

Best Films – 2017

2017 has been (another) year of political upheaval and personal wobbles. Life and work have meant that, towards the end of the year, I have stopped blogging once a day, but shifted to two or three times a week. Despite this, I continue to discover films that chime with me personally, emotionally and academically. Some…

Camille (1936)

“If you don’t stop being so easy-going with your money, you’ll land in the gutter before you’re through or back on that farm where you came from, milking cows and cleaning out hen houses. “ ‘Camille’, directed by George Cukor in 1936, is an American adaptation of ‘La Dame aux Camélias’ by Alexandre Dumas, fils….

Vampyr (1932)

“What was going on? What terrifying secret was unfolding? Allan Gray felt certain of one thing: A soul in mortal distress was crying out for help, and a voice within urged him to heed that call. “ ‘Vampyr’, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer in 1932, is a German and French horror movie made by the…

Dodsworth (1936)

“Remember, I, I did make a home for you once, and I’ll do it again, only you’ve got to let me have my fling now! Because you’re simply rushing at old age, Sam, and I’m not ready for that yet.” ‘Dodsworth’, directed by William Wyler in 1936, is an American drama starring Walter Huston and…

The Black Cat (1934)

“You must be indulgent of Dr. Verdegast’s weakness. He is the unfortunate victim of one of the commoner phobias, but in an extreme form. He has an intense and all-consuming horror of cats.” ‘The Black Cat’, directed by Edgar G. Ulmer in 1934, is an American horror movie starring Béla Lugosi and Boris Karloff. Lugosi…

City Lights (1931)

“Children who see them at a certain age don’t notice they’re “silent” but notice only that every frame speaks clearly to them, without all those mysterious words that clutter other films. Then children grow up, and forget this wisdom, but the films wait patiently and are willing to teach us again.” (Roger Ebert) ‘City Lights’,…

Mutiny on the Bounty (1935)

“Captain Bligh, you’ve told your story of mutiny on the Bounty, how men plotted against you, seized your ship, cast you adrift in an open boat, a great venture in science brought to nothing, two British ships lost. But there’s another story, Captain Bligh, of ten cocoanuts and two cheeses. A story of a man…

I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932)

“What would I say to a hamburger? Boy. I’d take Mr. Hamburger by the hand and say, ‘Pal, I haven’t seen you for a long, long time.’” ‘I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang’, directed by Mervyn LeRoy in 1932, is a crime-drama starring Paul Muni as James Allen, a soldier returning from the…

The Lady Vanishes (1938)

“Never mind, dear. Now if I were you I’d try to get a little sleep. It’ll make you feel quite well again! There’s a most intriguing acrostic in the Needlewoman. I’m going to try to finish it before you wake up.” ‘The Lady Vanishes’, directed by Alfred Hitchcock in 1938, is a British thriller starring…

Stagecoach (1939)

“Look, Miss Dallas. You got no folks… neither have I. And, well, maybe I’m takin’ a lot for granted, but… I watched you with that baby – that other woman’s baby. You looked… well, well I still got a ranch across the border. There’s a nice place – a real nice place… trees… grass… water….

Le Jour Se Lève (1939)

“You’re the type women fall in love with . . . I’m the type that interests them.” ‘Le Jour Se Lève’, directed by Marcel Carné in 1939, is a French drama starring Jean Gabin as a man driven to murder. The movie opens dramatically: a man staggers from a room in a high-rise building and,…

Little Caesar (1931)

“Mother of Mercy! Is this the end of Rico?” ‘Little Caesar’, directed by Mervyn LeRoy in 1931, is an American gangster movie starring Edward G. Robinson, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. and Glenda Farrell. Robinson, in his break-through role, plays Caesar Enrico “Rico” Bandello, a small-time crook who, with his friend and accomplice Joe Massara, played by…

Footlight Parade (1933)

“Aw, talking pictures, it’s just a fad.” ‘Footlight Parade’, directed by Lloyd Bacon in 1933, is an American musical comedy starring James Cagney as Chester Kent, a theatre director whose career is failing. He comes up with the idea of staging a live action musical ‘prologue’ in movie theatres before the main feature, but under…

Partie de campagne (1936)

“Henriette at the oars while her useless husband languishes in the boat’s prow. It’s the opposite of the way in which Henri once rowed her to this secluded spot to seduce her, and as he watches her row away, partially obscured by the leafy foliage overhanging the river, this last little comic touch becomes almost…

Top Hat (1935)

“No, no. When a clumsy cloud from here meets a fluffy little cloud from there, he billows towards her. She scurries away and he scuds right up to her. She cries a little and there you have you showers. He comforts her. They spark. That’s the lightning. They kiss. Thunder.” ‘Top Hat’, directed by Mark…

The Goddess (1934)

“The Goddess delivers the leftist sentiments of social inequality and of the need for change within China through focusing on female suffering in 1930s society.” ‘The Goddess’, directed by Wu Yonggang in 1934, is a silent Chinese film telling the story of a sex worker who is abused by her pimp and struggles to care…

Modern Times (1936)

“Good morning, my friends. This record comes to you through the Sales Talk Transcription Company, Incorporated: your speaker, the Mechanical Salesman. May I take the pleasure of introducing Mr. J. Widdecombe Billows, the inventor of the Billows Feeding Machine, a practical device which automatically feeds your men while at work? Don’t stop for lunch: be…

Medieval Movies

There is an debate that divides historical movies into two camps. The first attempts to depict history without mediation, in essence films that try to access a past before cinema began to shape it  through genre. The second embraces this mediation by presenting the past as a series of genre tropes and iconography, the past…

Jezebel (1938)

“But you had to come back home, didn’t you? You had to come back to the country and the things you know, because you belong here! Nothing can change that. Pres, Listen… Can you hear them? The night noises? The mockingbird in the magnolia? See the moss hanging from the moonlight? You can fairly taste…

Bringing up Baby (1938)

“Well, I followed George around for three days. I dug holes with him, and he dug holes with me, and I found your bone!” ‘Bringing up Baby’, directed by Howard Hawks in 1938, is an American screwball comedy. Katherine Hepburn plays Susan Vance, a free-spirited agent of chaos who latches on to a palaeontologist David…

The Invisible Man (1933)

“We’ll begin with a reign of terror, a few murders here and there, murders of great men, murders of little men – well, just to show we make no distinction. I might even wreck a train or two… just these fingers around a signalman’s throat, that’s all.” ‘The Invisible Man’, directed by James Whale in…

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)

“I’ll organize revolt, exact a death for a death, and I’ll never rest until every Saxon in this shire can stand up free men and strike a blow for Richard and England.” ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’, directed by Michael Curtiz and William Keighley in 1938, is an American historical drama starring Errol Flynn as…

Tabu: A Story of the South Seas (1931)

“I must go. Hitu is here and waits for me. You will die if I do not obey. I will go so that you may live. The tabu is upon us. I have been so happy with you far more than I deserved. The love you have given me, I will keep to the last…

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…

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…

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,…

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…