December 29, 2014

Like a Woody Allen movie in Hell

Le Week-End (Roger Michell, 2013). After midnight, in Paris. How many times has Jim Broadbent been this guy? How many times has Hanif Kureishi written these arguments? The bickering classes, with their despondency. 

December 27, 2014

No one has the secrets

A portrait of the reclusive writer as a misanthropic asshole. Pay no attention to the drunk behind the curtain. The Fault in Our Stars (John Boone, 2014).

December 21, 2014


Chloe (Atom Egoyan, 2009). A going through the motions erotic thriller set in a cold world of Toronto modernism where only some of the location scouting – all the glass walls and windows that provide constant views of others – suggests the rich, dark, depressing mood of suspicion and surveillance in the early films that Egoyan has still not improved upon. Or is this depressing in a different way? From Wikipedia: “Despite its mixed critical reception, Chloe made money than any of Atom Egoyan’s previous films.” 

December 19, 2014

Real crime

Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock, 1972). Middle and late Hitchcock can usually be charted according to movie-star glamour but Frenzy dispenses with that: no stars you ever remember, zero glamour, just the grim and sordid ugliness of real people, real violence, real crime. 

December 18, 2014

Pagan Rome

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento, 1970).

December 16, 2014

Imaginary marriage

Venus in Fur (Roman Polanski, 2013). Its jaded sexual shocks now played as comedy, informed by the director’s home life.

December 15, 2014

Lou has the pictures

Nightcrawler (Dan Gilroy, 2014). The best thing about Nightcrawler is an obsessive Jake Gyllenhaal performance as Lou Bloom, a skeletal, bug-eyed sociopath navigating a shadowy Los Angeles by GPS and police scanner, a performance only suggested by Gyllenhaal’s work in Zodiac and (more promisingly) Prisoners. The less serious summary: he’s pasty, a loner, morbidly attracted to gore and almost entirely nocturnal ­ it’s no wonder the film critics all relate. Media studies classes will have a field day too. There is an argument in here about the dangers of competitive media outsourcing its worst work to entirely amoral freelancers, but the media critique is more satirical than finger-wagging, bordering on Network. It also works as a lurid, night-time thriller. 

December 13, 2014

Stuck on Earth

The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975) vs Interstellar.   

December 11, 2014

Jesus in New York

The Book of Life (Hal Hartley, 1998). Hal Hartley’s The Book of Life was a slightly dopey idea – Jesus (then Hartley regular Martin Donovan, doing his mildly aggressive inscrutability) and sidekick Mary Magdalena (PJ Harvey) appear in New York on December 31, 1999, to get the imminent end of the world going – but it had some resonance watched again, 15 years on, or more resonance than a rerun of Kevin Smith’s Dogma or the Schwarzenegger film End of Days would carry now, at least. The lo-tech 90s video looks smeary and awful but otherwise the texture of the 90s is so subtly different – almost no mobile phones, the clunky and slow Apple Mac graphics on Jesus’ laptop, people still smoking – that only the millennial deadline really stresses that this is recent history. Watched now, it is impossible to forget about the actual apocalyptic event that hit New York nearly two years later. Images and ideas seem to prefigure it. An airport is the first location; a few minutes in, a man gazes up at the sky from the street and sees an airliner over Manhattan; later, the movie Jesus is indecisive (men are usually indecisive in Hartley films) about whether to annihilate a large chunk of humanity. He and Satan debate the rights and wrongs of religious violence and fanaticism and ethics, whether humans have souls, whether God is fair. The last shot is of the Twin Towers, receding into the distance. This was the first September 11 film, three years early.

December 10, 2014

The films of 2014

More on all these and others over at Werewolf.
The year’s top 10:

1. Under the Skin

2. Blue is the Warmest Colour

3. Winter Sleep

4. Ida

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel

6. Boyhood

7. Maps to the Stars

8. Her

9. What We Do in the Shadows

10. Interstellar

A second ten:

Dallas Buyers Club, The Dead Lands, Gloria, It Follows, The Lego Movie, Leviathan, Locke, Nymphomaniac, The Selfish Giant, The Trip to Italy

December 7, 2014

December 3, 2014

20 years ago, 30 years ago

The Weight of Elephants (Daniel Borgen, 2013). Made of memory, set in the present.