Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978)

“Haze around the moon, snow is coming soon ” Written and directed by Ermanno Olmi, Tree of Wooden Clogs is an understated and meditative drama set in a small Lombard community in 1898. The film follows the fortunes of four peasant families as they work through the year, raising animals, growing crops and looking after…

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

“You see, Mr. Milton, in the Army I’ve had to be with men when they were stripped of everything in the way of property except what they carried around with them and inside them. I saw them being tested. Now some of them stood up to it and some didn’t. But you got so you…

Wavelength (1967)

‘Wavelength’, directed by Michael Snow in 1967, is an experimental film, 45 minutes long and minimal. The film is one shot: the camera focuses on a room with windows and pictures on the wall opposite – too far away to see clearly. Over the course of the 45 minutes, the camera imperceptibly zooms in on…

The Travelling Players (1975)

‘The Travelling Players’, directed by Theodoros Angelopoulos in 1975, is an epic Greek historical drama following a troupe of actors as they perform a play through the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. The film moves from the dictatorship of Ioannis Metaxas, through the Second World War and the occupation by the Nazis, to the post-war occupation…

Amour (2012)

“Things will go on, and then one day it will all be over. ” ‘Amour’, directed by Michael Haneke in 2012, is a French drama following the story of an elderly couple whose lives are turned upside down when one of them suffers from a debilitating stroke. Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play Georges and…

The Captive (2000)

“I prefer the truth even if it hurts. Yet all you give me are half-truths when you know I’ll find out anyway. ” ‘The Captive’, directed by Chantal Akerman in 2000, is a French psychodrama starring Stanislas Merhar and Sylvie Testud as a pair of lovers with an abusive and toxic relationship. Testud plays Ariane,…

Meshes of the Afternoon (1943)

‘Meshes of the Afternoon’, directed by Maya Deren and Alexander Hammid in 1943, is a short American experimental film following the strange adventures of a woman who dreams. Deren plays a woman who returns home and falls asleep. In her dream she chases a hooded figure with a mirror for a face but is unable…

Stranger than Paradise (1984)

“Here, let me tell you a joke, all right? There’s three guys, and they’re walking down the street. One guy says to the other one, “Hey, your shoe’s untied.” He says, “I know that.” And they walk… No… There’s two guys, they’re walking down the street, and one of them says to the other one,…

A Touch of Zen (1971)

‘A Touch of Zen’, directed by King Hu in 1971, is a Hong Kong and Taiwanese wuxia movie. Gu, a mild-mannered rural portrait painter in medieval China, is drawn into a plot of political intrigue and spiritual superheroes. This is a strange, rambling film with wild shifts in tone that, for someone not steeped in…

A Canterbury Tale (1944)

“Well, there are more ways than one of getting close to your ancestors. Follow the old road, and as you walk, think of them and of the old England. They climbed Chillingbourne Hill, just as you. They sweated and paused for breath just as you did today. And when you see the bluebells in the…

Sleeper (1973)

“This was Josef Stalin. He was a communist, I was not too crazy about him, had a bad moustache, lot of bad habits. This is Bela Lugosi. He was, he was the mayor of New York City for a while, you can see what it did to him there, you know. This is, uhm, this…

Pusher (1996)

“For instance, there was this Turkish guy once. He fucked up and owed Milo some money. So I went over to his place. I’d been there many times before, asking for the money in a polite way, without any luck. Finally, I took a knife, stabbed it in his kneecap and teared the shit up….

Nanook of the North (1922)

“The film is not technically sophisticated; how could it be, with one camera, no lights, freezing cold, and everyone equally at the mercy of nature? But it has an authenticity that prevails over any complaints that some of the sequences were staged. If you stage a walrus hunt, it still involves hunting a walrus, and…

Vinyl (1965)

“The finished film is disturbing, contains unsimulated violent acts and is not very audience-friendly.” Either a strong disrecommendation or a strong recommendation, depending on your proclivities. And if none of that draws you, maybe the soundtrack including Martha and the Vandellas, The Kinks, The Rolling Stones, and the The Isley Brothers will. Did Warhol pay to…

Kind Hearts and Coronets (1949)

“It is so difficult to make a neat job of killing people with whom one is not on friendly terms.” ‘Kind Hearts and Coronets’, directed by Robert Hamer in 1949, is a British black comedy made by the Ealing Studios. Dennis Price plays Louis D’Ascoyne Mazzini, the son of an aristocratic mother who has been…

La Belle et la Bête (1947)

“God of the forest. Let me go back to him. It is my only wish. My only desire.” ‘La Belle et la Bête’, directed by Jean Cocteau in 1947, is a French fantasy movie. An adaptation of an C18 fairy tale telling the story of a young woman, Belle, who rejects a suitor but, owing…

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…

8 ½ (1963)

“I thought my ideas were so clear. I wanted to make an honest film. No lies whatsoever. I thought I had something so simple to say. Something useful to everybody. A film that could help bury forever all those dead things we carry within ourselves. Instead, I’m the one without the courage to bury anything…

La La Land (2016)

“What do you mean you don’t like jazz?” ‘La La Land’, directed by Damien Chazelle in 2016, is an American romantic comedy musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Stone plays Mia, an aspiring actress who, over the course of a year, forms a relationship with Sebastian, played by Gosling, a Jazz pianist whose ambition…

The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)

“How fascinating. You make love without fading out?” ‘The Purple Rose of Cairo’, directed by Woody Allen in 1985, is an American fantasy comedy set in New Jersey during the Great Depression. Mia Farrow plays Cecilia, a waitress who is in an unhappy marriage and takes refuge in the local cinema in the evenings. She…

My Night at Maud’s (1969)

“Absolutely. For a Communist, Pascal’s wager is very relevant today. Personally, I very much doubt that history has any meaning. Yet I wager that it has, so I’m in a Pascalian situation. Hypothesis A: Society and politics are meaningless. Hypothesis B: History has meaning. I’m not at all sure B is more likely to be…

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…

The Class (2008)

“I didn’t asked you what you liked in the class, I want to know what did you learned from it.” ‘The Class’, directed by Laurent Cantet in 2008, is a French drama set entirely within a modern middle school in a district of Paris famous for its immigrant communities. Based on a book by teacher…

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…

Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

“The ‘honesty’ of documentary as compared with fiction film, the ‘perfection’ of the cinematic eye compared with human eye.” ‘Man with a Movie Camera’, directed by Dziga Vertov in 1929, is a Soviet experimental film that pushes the boundaries of how cinema was understood at the time. The film contains no plot, but, like ‘Koyaanisqatsi’…

The Sorrow and the Pity (1969)

“Some people are resistant by nature. In other words, some people are naturally headstrong. Others on the contrary, try to adapt to the circumstances, and get what they can out of it. If you are a resistant over everything and nothing, you’re exaggerating. But if you accept everything, you’re lying.”

Two Women (1960) and A Special Day (1977)

This review of ‘Two Women’ and ‘A Special Day’ on DVD first appeared on We Are Cult on the 6th of November 2016 CultFilms, a new independent label specialising in world cinema, have released restored versions of two award-winning Sophia Loren movies: ‘Two Women’, from 1960 and ‘A Special Day’ from 1977 on DVD and…

London (1992)

“Life is a hospital where every patient is obsessed by the desire of changing beds. One would like to supper opposite the stove another is sure he’d get well beside the window.” ‘London’, directed by Patrick Keiller in 1992, is the first of a trilogy of documentary films that include ‘Robinson in Space’ and ‘Robinson…

Monty Python Double Bill

“Listen, strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government. Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony.” ‘Monty Python and the Holy Grail’, directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones in 1975, and ‘Monty Python’s Life of Brian’, directed by…

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…