Saturday 29 June 2013

1,001 Films: "The Saragossa Manuscript" (1965)

The Polish epic The Saragossa Manuscript has the distinction of having gone down in history as one of Jerry Garcia's all-time favourite films. Easy to see why: it's a noodly, offbeam costume drama, set to a Penderecki score, which returns to the past as a series of wild nights out from which one might well wake up in a field with a bad head. Unfolding against a pox-blighted landscape dotted with skulls, the narrative has echoes of Tristram Shandy and Arabian Nights (soon to be adapted by Pasolini): instead of straight lines, cause and effect, it proffers diversions and tales within tales, spun out over the course of three (longish) hours.

An officer in the midst of battle is bedazzled by a lavishly illustrated manuscript he finds in an abandoned hovel; his opposite number, sent in to arrest him, finds amid the book's pages the tale of his own late grandfather, who was once taken in at an inn deserted save for a pair of gorgeous, horny women, only to find himself waking up the next morning face down in the dirt. On his quest to work out what happened - and, more specifically, how he might get back in touch with the girls, a plot point that will forever hold its relevance - he too will meet people with stories to tell.

Certain images recur often enough within director Wojciech Has's busy compositions to seem significant: men waving their swords around, women with plunging cleavage who aren't entirely as available as they'd appear, enough ghosts and corpses to remind anyone of their mortality. Some stories prove more engaging than others, and getting your head around its multiple layers isn't always easy: it actually gets more, and not less, convoluted as the final pages near, with practically every character who shows up attempting to get something off their chest. As Jerry might have discovered, it's perhaps best viewed on substances that better allow the viewer to go along with the flow, but it's striking in its determination that nothing - not love, nor war, nor plague, nor, indeed, conventional narrative structure - should get in the way of a good yarn.

The Saragossa Manuscript is available on DVD through Mr. Bongo.

Friday 28 June 2013

For what it's worth...

Top Ten Films at the UK Box Office            
for the weekend of June 21-23, 2013: 
1 (1) Man of Steel (12A) ***
2 (new) World War Z (12A) ** 
3 (2) After Earth (12A)
4 (5) Behind the Candelabra (15) ***
5 (3) The Hangover Part III (15) **
6 (new) Snitch (12A) **
7 (4) Epic (U) **
8 (new) Before Midnight (15) *****
9 (6) Fast & Furious 6 (12A) **
10 (7) The Great Gatsby (12A) ***

My top five:              
1. Before Midnight [above]  
2. The Act of Killing
3. Night of Silence/Lal Gece
4. Renoir
5. Stories We Tell 

Top Ten DVD rentals: 
1 (1) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (12) ***    
2 (5) Argo (15) ***  
3 (2) Flight (15) **  
4 (new) Django Unchained (18) **  
5 (4) I Give It A Year (15)  
6 (3) Wreck-It Ralph (PG) ***  
7 (new) Pitch Perfect (12) ***  
8 (7) Silver Linings Playbook (15) ****  
9 (re) Skyfall (12) ****  
10 (6) The Impossible (12) ***  
My top five:                  
1. NO    
2. Cloud Atlas
3. Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God  
4. Lincoln      
5. Chasing Ice 

Top five films on terrestrial TV this week:            
1. Die Hard with a Vengeance (Saturday, BBC1, 9.50pm)
2. Notting Hill (Friday, ITV1, 10.35pm)
3. Space Cowboys (Saturday, ITV1, 10.45pm)
4. Fracture (Sunday, C4, 10.05pm)
5. Sixty Six (Friday, ITV1, 3am)

Insiders: "This Is The End" and "Despicable Me 2" (ST 30/06/13)

This is the End (15) 107 mins ***
Despicable Me 2 (U) 98 mins ***

With the intervention of the guru-like Judd Apatow, American screen comedy has of late attempted to mount visions somewhat grander than might be inherent in the average fart or knob gag. This is the End has plenty of the latter, but tells them within the context of the apocalypse; its USP is that it observes this meltdown from the vantage of James Franco’s none-more-modernist Hollywood retreat. Franco is among several comic luminaries playing versions of themselves, and the film thumbnails exactly what one imagines these guys do between shoots: they party, get stoned, sit around chowing down burgers or ragging on one another’s movies.

It’s meant to be an eye-opener. Franco fails to impress Seth Rogen with his art nous. The bearded, bloated Danny McBride, modern comedy’s go-to partycrasher, tests everyone’s patience. One surprise is seeing Michael Cera, meek cherub of Juno, repositioned as a coke-snorting bottom-grabber. Then the ground opens up, the fireballs plummet, and This is the End blows its one truly inspired gag: how quickly these over-privileged whiners return to scattering pop-culture references. As Jonah Hill frames it: “Just because a bunch of people fell into a hole outside, it doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun.”

A lot here depends on the kind of fun you want to have. The film is written and directed by Rogen with Evan Goldberg, and like the pair’s previous screenwriting output – Superbad, Pineapple Express, The Green Hornet – it has two modes, funny and noisy, with nothing in between. Granted, this pair are sweet and often perceptive on male group dynamics. It was smart to enlist the likable, bookish Jay Baruchel to play an outsider amid these kidult millionaires, nudging us past any lurking smugness; Hill’s attempts to snuggle up to him constitute one reliably amusing throughline.

Yet the second half is a string of missed or muffled opportunities, right through to a punchline that won’t mean a thing to anyone who wasn’t 14 years old in 1997. Hill has a nice bit when trying to ingratiate himself to God as “Jonah Hill, from Moneyball”, but any subtler ripples of status anxiety – such as TV’s magnificently meta Larry Sanders and Louie delighted in – get drowned out by clumsy stoner business, shouted masturbation riffs, and gory gross-out where the threat is immediately neutralised by the abiding quotation marks. Not even the Rapture can shake the modern American comedy from its skittishness.

Or, indeed, its casual disregard for women: Rihanna and Mindy Kaling are tossed into the pit early on, leaving Emma Watson to provide the cue for an extended rape joke, and Lindsay Lohan’s honour to be besmirched in another conversational throwaway. This apocalypse isn’t a nightmare so much as the ultimate bromantic fantasy, one in which – with the removal of anything to be responsible about – the boys are free to bicker, banter, and bed down together. Despite the whiff of stale socks and species extinction this carries, everybody’s holding onto it until the very end.

Those few American comedians absent from This is the End return among the voice cast of Despicable Me 2. 2010’s original charted the redemption of Steve Carell’s Slavic supervillain Gru, raising the question of where any sequel might go. The answer, apparently, is indoors, sending the newly assimilated Gru undercover on spy business into the so-called “Paradise Mall”. Such a location is beyond satire for studio product like this: it’s the kind of bright, shiny consumerist utopia most cinemagoers will find themselves sitting in while watching Despicable Me 2. Yet it’s a paradise that will be threatened by suspect Mexican and Asian interests, who co-opt the workforce (turning Gru’s yellow-bellied minions purplish-Red) before eventually threatening Gru’s family. As 3D-enhanced summer holiday distraction, it’s about passable. As a paranoid vision of America, it’s remarkable.

This Is The End and Despicable Me 2 are in cinemas nationwide.

"Hummingbird" (Metro 28/06/13)

Hummingbird (15) 100 mins **

Give Jason Statham points for ambition: the hardnut’s latest, being the directorial debut of Dirty Pretty Things scribe Steven Knight, tries to work the expected fisticuffs into a socially-minded thriller. Statham and Knight can do a lot with stillness and silence, so it’s a pity the plot’s a trying nonsense about Joey, a homeless ex-Special Ops veteran who reinvents himself after breaking into a swanky Soho pad; “Crazy Joe” uses Triad money to feed the hungry, tears after Evil Bankers, and eventually turns the head of a Polish nun. “This is a very strange thing to be doing,” says the latter, perhaps channelling Our Jase’s agent. It’s a lively mess, at least, barely pausing to waste Vicky McClure as Joey’s ex and to have Statham tormented by CG hummingbirds (they’re symbolic), but action fans are surely going to want fewer bleeding hearts and many more kicked asses.

Hummingbird is in cinemas nationwide.

"I Want Your Love" (The Guardian 28/06/13)

I Want Your Love (18) 71 mins **

Were it not for the explicit sex that marks this as an, ahem, offshoot of gay porn studio NakedSword, Travis Mathews’ shrugging drama could pass for an example of that grungy, sketchy queer cinema that emerged around the early 1990s. Its couplings among bearded, tattooed San Franciscan hipsters prove laidback to the point of inertia; even the threesomes are oddly half-hearted. There’s something to be said for any adult venture employing performers who don’t resemble Tom of Finland etchings, but for once representation isn’t in itself enough: no matter how many erections Mathews squeezes in, any film named for Chic’s finest dancefloor achievement frankly demanded greater dramatic pulse and thrust. 

I Want Your Love opens in selected cinemas from today.

Thursday 27 June 2013

1,001 Films: "Doctor Zhivago" (1965)

In a peculiar way, Doctor Zhivago may be David Lean's response, as a member of the movie old guard, to the turmoil playing out on the streets as the Sixties started to grip: if not quite his La Chinoise, then certainly a film that looked east as a way of getting a fix on a newly chaotic, indeed insurrectionary, world. If that's right, then Zhivago adopts a perverse tactic: recruiting graduates of an emergent left-leaning cinema (Julie Christie, Tom Courtenay, Rita Tushingham), sticking them all with several inches of black woollens under six feet of spray-on snow, and then removing them all to pre-revolutionary Russia (or an idea thereof, drawn by Robert Bolt from Boris Pasternak's novel) where they threaten to be lost amid a million and one extras.

Lean is less interested in realpolitik than romance, so he conspires to make Courtenay's revolutionary intellectual a marginal figure (obliged to wear Nazi-er specs the more hardline he gets) and spins the whole thing around a girl: 17-year-old beauty Lara (Julie Christie, stronger on the beauty than the 17-year-old part), as she sets the hearts of the upper-classes - and Omar Sharif's upwardly mobile doctor-slash-poet (sublime words, but you can't read the handwriting) - to fluttering; the sole suspense concerns who's going to win her hand, and whether or not they'll be able to do it before being dragged off by the Bolsheviks.

Beyond that, the film is a demonstration of those virtues the British film industry has clung to over the past half-century, in the absence of passion or imagination: spotless craft and brisk professionalism. We're meant to admire how pretty these pieces are, and how efficiently Bolt and Lean have them moved around the board, no matter that they're being used to no ends greater than saying "booo!" to isms and hurrah to young lovers. And it is possible to admire Doctor Zhivago, up to a point: swallow the opening hour's lumpy porridge, and it equally sucks you in, mostly due to Sharif's very skilful playing of a kind-of ideal: the kindly cheater, a.k.a. the man whose heart is just too big for just one woman.

Christie, too, is compellingly lovely, but you just know her L'Oreal look wouldn't survive one harsh Russian winter, let alone the three or four the film eventually drags on for. Still, it's stiff, out-of-time and pre-revolutionary in a sexual sense, too, judging by the way Sharif's two women are defined chiefly by their ability to perform household tasks: Julie's an angel over the ironing board, while Geraldine Chaplin (as the doc's first wife) allows a stove to go out on her young son, and is never quite forgiven for it. If you did find yourself with three-and-a-bit hours to spare - and I know you're busy these days - it's been superceded by Beatty's Reds, which gives you the romance, but also makes something truly exhilarating out of the politics, national, international and domestic.

Doctor Zhivago is available on DVD through Warner Home Video.

Wednesday 26 June 2013

From the archive: "Despicable Me"

For the passable computer animation Despicable Me, Steve Carell has adopted a Slavic accent somewhere between Tim the Bear from The Cleveland Show and that Alexander meerkat from the insurance ads; he's playing Gru, a supervillain with Giacometti legs and an inferiority complex, trying to lasso the moon - possibly to gain the respect of his mother. Pixar once again provides the touchstone, and the chief comparison point. Gru's credulous, obeisant Minions (ambulant yellow blobs, like the centrepiece in a Kinder Surprise) owe a lot to the aliens in the Toy Story movies, and their cooing delight upon entering a shopping mall is somehow very familiar. The main subplot, pitting Gru against nerdy rival Vector (Jason Segel) follows a template set down by The Incredibles, apparently a holy grail for modern animators.

The new film isn't quite in the same league, but it has pleasing elements of design. Some of this team worked on the outdoorsy Ice Age series for Fox, and Despicable Me - branching out, like the best Pixar ventures, in new directions - relishes the chance to do something a little more interior. From the prologue, featuring an inflatable pyramid thrown up to divert tourists from the fact the Pyramid of Geza is being stolen from under their very noses, the animation is good with edifices: I liked Gru's lair, a Gothic anomaly on an otherwise sunny suburban thoroughfare, where the TV is always left on (more energy-wastage, to go with the anti-hero's gas-guzzling tank-car), it comes complete with an ornamental Iron Maiden and a pet that's half-canine, half-ocean predator. The finale involves the moon rolling round inside a spaceship, a nice flourish of daffy, recto-verso cartoon logic.

Still, you can tell it's pitching to the U-certificate crowd from the fact Gru can't even bring himself to utter the words "fart gun". The whole thing is scaled dinky and rather too cute, as though it'd fallen subject to a blast from the shrink ray central to Gru's nefarious plans. The narrative obliges this once-heartless central figure to adopt three twirling, bright-eyed orphans, after which his life is all pinkie promises and tiny tutus. At which point, Despicable Me settles for becoming yet another of the multiplex's parables of practical parenting, one that suggests abandoning your grand designs to care for the little ones in your life - a message immediately undermined by the fact the Minions (who are, very much, a part of Gru's evil masterplan) are more memorable than any of the standard-adorable kiddiwinks.

Pharrell's score is almost entirely nondescript, but the direction has a zappy energy that gets the whole some way clear of its influences, and the voicecast - sourced from the ranks of the New American Comedy - ensure it's a shade or two less sickly than it might have been: in a fine demonstration of his own parenting skills, Carell makes something rather heartwarming of the simplistic bedtime stories he comes to read to his charges. Anyone over, say, eight years of age may well prefer the later Megamind, which majored in actual jokes, and wasn't so obviously beholden to a children's book.

(March 2011)

Despicable Me is available on DVD through Universal; a sequel, Despicable Me 2, opens in cinemas nationwide on Friday.

Saturday 22 June 2013

From the archive: "Glastonbury"

In a year without an actual Glastonbury festival, here's a terrifically entertaining substitute. Opening with the almost inevitable sound of wellies sloshing through mud, Glastonbury, Julien Temple's documentary collage of recent and archive footage, stays true to the festival's ethos of letting it all hang out. Where Woodstock sought only to chronicle - as its subtitle had it - "Three Days of Peace and Music", Temple's survey spans the decades to give an understanding of Glastonbury's changing nature. Gone are the days when acid-buoyed guests were serenaded by the likes of Melanie; in recent years, the carnival has followed a rather different direction, erecting steel walls to keep out unwanted gatecrashers, and granting the Manic Street Preachers their own private facilities backstage. Corporate logos jostle and vie with the resident wild and crazy horses.

Headline acts include Morrissey, Bowie, Björk and Radiohead, but a deliberate, just-loose-enough structure preserves a sense of what it might be to stumble across an impromptu happening in some far-distant field, or wander into the wrong tent at the right time. Best of all: there's no Jo Whiley. The keynote is diversity: of people, of opinions, of performance. There's something to be said in favour of any doc that can bring together, within moments of screen time, the triumphant appearance of Rolf Harris, a segment on how sewage is removed from the site, and Joe Strummer encouraging the crowd to smash up CCTV cameras during a rendition of "Straight to Hell".

And yet, for all the harmony this implies, Temple never loses track of the tensions that exist in and around these fields: between those who come to express political solidarity, and those who just want to get drunk; between the naked hippies and tetchy Druids, and those braying toffs who refer to the festival as "Glasters", sing cluelessly along to Pulp's "Common People", and very likely deserve to be shot. Priceless archive news footage finds a young John Craven standing cross-armed in a meadow, reflecting on what Glastonbury's excesses might mean for "the straight society", while a monochrome old dear dismisses the festival crowds as rife with "filth and flies".

But it's precisely that filth and fury that gets an old punk like Temple going, you sense, and he was never going to be anywhere other than firmly on the kids' side: watch as he juxtaposes a bullet-headed security raid with the sounds of Primal Scream performing "Swastika Eyes". More soberly and charmingly, though, we also find festival figurehead Michael Eavis roaming among the tents and spectacle, and agreeing with one punter's assessment that the whole event's "a bit overrated". It's as close to the spirit of this most idiosyncratic of British institutions as audiences are likely to get sitting in a darkened room with all their clothes on and fully-functioning plumbing close at hand.

(April 2006)

Glastonbury screens on BBC2 tomorrow night at 11.30pm.

Friday 21 June 2013

For what it's worth...

Top Ten Films at the UK Box Office          
for the weekend of June 14-16, 2013: 
1 (new) Man of Steel (12A) ***
2 (1) After Earth (12A)
3 (2) The Hangover Part III (15) ** 
4 (4) Epic (U) **
5 (8) Behind the Candelabra (15) ***
6 (3) Fast & Furious 6 (12A) **
7 (5) The Great Gatsby (12A) ***
8 (6) Star Trek: Into Darkness (12A) ***
9 (7) The Purge (15) **
10 (re) Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (12A) **

My top five:              
1. Before Midnight
2. Like Someone in Love
3. Shun Li and the Poet
4. I Am Breathing
5. Black Rock 
Top Ten DVD rentals: 
1 (1) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (12) ***  
2 (5) Argo (15) ***
3 (2) Flight (15) **
4 (new) Django Unchained (18) **
5 (4) I Give It A Year (15)
6 (3) Wreck-It Ralph (PG) ***
7 (new) Pitch Perfect (12) ***
8 (7) Silver Linings Playbook (15) ****
9 (re) Skyfall (12) ****
10 (6) The Impossible (12) ***  
My top five:                
1. NO  
2. Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
3. Lincoln    
4. Chasing Ice  
5. Michael H. - Profession: Director   

Top five films on terrestrial TV this week:          
1. Before Sunrise [above] (Sunday, BBC1, 11.25pm)
2. The 'Burbs (Saturday, ITV1, 3.55pm)
3. El Dorado (Saturday, five, 4.30pm)
4. Glastonbury (Sunday, BBC2, 11.30pm)
5. Sleepless in Seattle (Sunday, five, 6.05pm)

"I Am Breathing" (The Guardian 21/06/13)

I Am Breathing (uncertificated) 72 mins ***

This sobering documentary stands as a memorial to Neil Platt, a Harrogate-based architect and new father who, at 33, was diagnosed with debilitating and terminal Motor Neurone Disease: we’re essentially watching a man disappear before our eyes. The directors’ intimate domestic images only occasionally match the humour and ruminative poetry of their subject’s own, blog-published words, but ghoulishness and undue sentimentality are kept at bay: one last, quiet peek around the subject’s bedroom very movingly suggests what has been lost. The running time perhaps does the greatest justice to Neil Platt’s life: it feels nowhere near long enough. 

I Am Breathing opens in selected cinemas from today.

"Black Rock" (The Guardian 21/06/13)

Black Rock (15) 80 mins ***

This unusual, mumblecore-derived thriller whittles a boilerplate genre scenario into a strikingly bleak vision of male-female relations. Three twentysomething women, sundered by bloke-related squabbles, sail to a remote island for bonding larks, only to be spooked by a trio of men bearing big guns and grudges. Some running around in the woods follows, but – both narratively and psychologically – it’s clear how everybody got here, and there’s something resonant in the way the camps are reduced to vengeful Adams and naked, shivering, stick-sharpening Eves. Slender, but committed: even Kate Bosworth, as the girls’ team leader, foreswears her usual lipgloss. 

Black Rock opens in selected cinemas from today.

"Snitch" (Metro 21/06/13)

Snitch (12A) 112 mins **

Here’s a curio: a lumbering non-thriller, “inspired by true events”, which deploys Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s brawn to wrestle with America’s losing war on drugs. Construction boss John Matthews (Johnson) is obliged to take extreme measures when wayward, pill-pushing son Jason (Rafi Gavron) falls foul of draconian mandatory-minimum sentencing. Jason’s sole hope of early release is to turn supergrass, compelling Matthews Sr. to wade manfully into the underworld and find someone for Junior to dob in. If that sounds absurd and convoluted, writer/director Ric Roman Waugh’s big idea is that, yep, that’s the system, too.

There’s a better B-movie in here making the same point in niftier time, but this frowning, mostly funless effort takes the long way round, clogging the action with bluntly defined secondary characters. While Dwayne’s Wiki-ing “drug cartels”, Omar from The Wire and Benjamin Bratt posture as rival suppliers, while Barry Pepper sports a nausea-inducing beard as the cop on Matthews’ case, and Susan Sarandon is damned in one line (“I don’t have children”) as an ambitious stateswoman. It picks up whenever the star’s speeding around in a truck, but otherwise proves about as exciting and convincing as a Statham road safety campaign.

Snitch is in cinemas nationwide.

Thursday 20 June 2013

1,001 Films: "Onibaba/Demon Woman" (1964)

The screen fills with long grass, into which stray warriors, bloodied and bruised, come to take shelter. Yet there can be no real sanctuary here, for these walking wounded will be found out eventually - not, as it transpires, by their enemies, but by a mother-and-daughter-in-law team, who immediately skewer the usual paradigm of women as angels of mercy in times of war by putting pikes through the soldiers' chests. The women are strippers: not in the G-string-and-stiletto sense - though they clearly remain naked under their loose robes, and are prone to flashing the goods - but in the sense of merciless asset strippers, removing their victims' bodies of anything that might have resale value (armour, say), before dumping the corpses in a vast pit.

The opening ten minutes of Kaneto Shindo's film Onibaba remains as effective a fictional demonstration as any of the ruthless efficiency of capitalism, as the ladies do all the above, then return to their hut in the wilderness to stuff themselves silly with the grain they've bought with their ill-gotten gains. Shindo, one of the Japanese cinema's foremost leftists, had already made one parable of the new consumerism in 1961's The Naked Island; here, he relishes doing something bolder and more cinematic still, its wild streaks of nudity, violence and outright horror ironically transforming what must originally have been meant as cautionary tale (or legend) into a flagrantly commercial proposition.

The film's own sympathies, like the reeds, are forever blowing in the wind, however. After its opening salvo, Onibaba composes itself once again, and begins against all the odds to wonder whether these women, first presented as aggressors, might also be considered victims of war, deprived as they have been by combat of their sons and husbands - their breadwinners, if you like. In the context of the prevailing base, economic Darwinism - reducing its subjects to feeding, fucking and fighting - we might well see something heroic, or at least admirable, in the women's scrappiness, their ability to eke out a living in the face of death; not for the first time in 60s radical theory, the hole becomes a site of female empowerment. (Particularly when set against all those men running round with their swords out.)

Yet even this notional bond of sisterhood is fragile, and cannot last long: when the daughter-figure breaks ranks with her mother for a roll in the hay with a deserter, everyone falls prey to the demons that lurk wherever desires are inflamed, as a combination of natural and supernatural elements prove to be the characters' downfall - though the very last line has the ring of a cry of defiance. Shindo gives it the storytelling, pictorial sense and otherness of indigenous folk art, but the film also appears universal enough in its themes to be able to play comfortably with either the similarly elemental Woman of the Dunes (which replaced the whispering grass with sand) or Polanski's Cul-de-Sac (another great, warped love triangle in a remote location) as an outré double-bill. However you see it, it remains both a tremendously atmospheric ghost story and one of the weirdest, not to mention sexiest, denunciations of the military-industrial complex that you'll ever see.

Onibaba is available on DVD on Eureka Entertainment's Masters of Cinema label.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

1,001 Films: "Before the Revolution/Prima Della Rivoluzione" (1964)

Bernardo Bertolucci's second film Before the Revolution, which won the Prix de la Jeunesse at Cannes, is a youthquake drama of sorts that, in its bicycles, jumpcuts and other stylistic tics, clearly owed a debt to the French New Wave - though it's clad in a thick student overcoat of furrowed-brow seriousness that Godard and co. only aspired to at this point. Working with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro, who gives the film some lovely, misty widescreen compositions, Bertolucci searches out in bourgeois Parma the equivalent of those outskirts and fringe zones Pasolini had marked out as his own around Rome, then sends on a pair of young, ennui-laden lovers to skirt and flirt around them, interrogate their (very old-seeming) elders, and muse, in that upper-case Art Film way, about the possibility of change in the face of death.

Though very much of its time and place, there's nevertheless something in the film's attempt to understand at least a part of the world through cinema, as Bertolucci's French contemporaries were doing: the claim of one supporting character (a carry-over from the director's earlier career as a critic) that "in twenty years' time, Anna Karina will be as important to us as Louise Brooks is now" would eventually be proved right. It is, as that same character insists all movies should be, very much engagé, and you can see the filmmaker Bertolucci was to grow into forming before your very eyes, drawn as the film is to architecture, politics, beautiful women (you sense the camera both falling into, and falling in love with, Adriana Asti's dark eyes), and music of both the pop and classical variety, as well as characters whose destiny is the most lamentable form of compromise.

Before the Revolution is available on DVD through the BFI.

Saturday 15 June 2013

For what it's worth...

Top Ten Films at the UK Box Office        
for the weekend of June 7-9, 2013: 
1 (new) After Earth (12A)
2 (1) The Hangover Part III (15) ** 
3 (2) Fast & Furious 6 (12A) ** 
4 (3) Epic (U) **
5 (5) The Great Gatsby (12A) ***
6 (4) Star Trek: Into Darkness (12A) ***
7 (6) The Purge (15) **
8 (new) Behind the Candelabra (15) ***
9 (new) The Stone Roses: Made of Stone (15)
10 (new) The Iceman (15) ***       


My top five:
1. Aguirre, Wrath of God  
2. Grave of the Fireflies        
3. Populaire    
4. Something in the Air   
5. Beware of Mr. Baker

Top Ten DVD rentals: 
1 (new) The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (12) ***
2 (6) Flight (15) **
3 (7) Wreck-It Ralph (PG) ***
4 (9) I Give It A Year (15)
5 (1) Argo (15) *** 
6 (2) The Impossible (12) *** 
7 (5) Silver Linings Playbook (15) ****
8 (4) Jack Reacher (12) **
9 (new) Bullet to the Head (18) ***
10 (3) The Last Stand (15) ****
My top five:              
1. NO
2. Lincoln  
3. Chasing Ice
4. Michael H. - Profession: Director
5. Warm Bodies

Top five films on terrestrial TV this week:        
1. As Good As It Gets (Sunday, five, 10pm)
2. Skeletons [above] (Saturday, BBC2, 11.40pm)
3. Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Saturday, ITV1, 11.05pm)
4. This Happy Breed (Monday, C4, 1.05pm)
5. Road Trip (Friday, BBC1, 11.25pm)