John's Reviews

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I think you would have to be fairly interested in American politics of the Civil War period not to find this film rather dull. I lasted only 40 minutes. It may well have perked up later. But I give it an extra star for Daniel Day-Lewis' performance.
(Maybe) - review by John
A quirky film with the dog as main character but the story doesn't add up to much and the humour and backchat could have come straight out of The Sundowners ('60)
(Maybe) - review by John
One of those Westerns that are languid in the extreme with very little plot. The development of character becomes so tedious that one can't wait for the inevitable shoot-out.
(Maybe) - review by John
A low-budget adaptation of the Thomas Hughes novel. The scenes of life as imagined in an English Public School in the 1830s are well done, and the boy-actors excellent without exception. But Stephen Fry, as the headmaster, gives a singularly uninspired performance.
(Maybe) - review by John
A self-indulgent Woody Allen exploring his usual emotional hang-ups and only saved by the late entry of Penelope Cruz.
(Maybe) - review by John
Tilda Swinton is superb in this nerve-wracking thriller. The early part of the film includes scenes that 'may offend some viewers', but it is definitely worth staying the course. The director made the prize-winning French film, 'The Dream Life of Angels'.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Set in rural Bohemia in the 1800s, a wondering herdsman gives the secret of making 'ruby' glass to a factory owner, who dies before passing it on to his son. The new owner now becomes obsessed with discovering the formula on which the future of the factory depends and on which the villagers rely for their livelihood. Stunning long-duration shots of the winter landscape and rustic background help to maintain interest in a story which is slow to develop and at times mystifying.
(Maybe) - review by John
As he travels through Spain, a neatly-dressed hitman has to pass through the hands of a number of individuals in order to reach his quarry. Each gives him instructions in code for his next rendezvous. The meetings occur at a variety of places, and his contacts never reveal their identities until he has become part of a scene which eventually establishes his bona fides. Putting him to the test are some bizarre characters played by veteran actors such as Tilda Swinton, Bill Murray and John Hurst. A slow-paced movie which is constantly intriguing, and which displays the artistry of cameraman, Chistopher Doyle.
(Excellent) - review by John
A very dated soap-opera in which a fast-talking, fun-loving socialite (Bette Davis) is eventually reduced to few words when symptoms appear that endanger her health. But interesting because of minor roles played by a young Humphrey Bogart and Ronald Reagen.
(Maybe) - review by John
Yella, a young accountant, is an East-German migrant who flees from her slightly deranged ex-husband to take up a job in Hanover. She finds that the company has folded but, by chance, meets a solitary businessman needing an accountant to help set up deals. She soon finds herself up to the neck in some very questionable negotiations as well as being pursued by her ex-husband to whom she owes $20,000. An understated but subtle performance by Nina Hoss helps to maintain a high degree of tension right up to the surprise ending.
(Excellent) - review by John
Totally absorbing psychological thriller as chilly as the location, in and around Helsinki in mid-winter, but not without some flashes of humour. The ebb and flow of the relationship between the two women protagonists creates the sense of danger and what drives the film.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Some say this is Rossellini's masterpiece, and George Sanders and Ingrid Bergman are, indeed, facinating to watch. But this 'magical love story' is paper thin and filled out with extended tours of the ancient Roman sites in and around Naples. This mis-matched pair, after bickering for most of the film, all be it in a very civilized manner, then come together for the happy ending which is both unexpected and far from convincing.
(Maybe) - review by John
The character Helen Mirram plays here, as she investigates art theft and the murder of a friend, is not dissimilar to that in 'Prime Suspect'. But here she also portrays a down-and-out blues singer in a earlier life, and later, a wealthy Russian Baroness posing as an art dealer. Addicts to that series will certainly enjoy this 2-part TV production with its nail-biting, but rather convoluted plot, and the usual ration of gratuitous violence. An impressive performance by Iain Glen helps to raise the standard a little above that of the earlier series. Longer than 3 hours, it is divided into 2 episodes with no choice at the start to select only the first episode. To avoid having to watch both at a single sitting, be ready to press the 'pause' button as soon as the title comes up for the second episode .
(Worth watching) - review by John
What induced Zaffirelli to cast Mel Gibson in the lead role is hard to fathom. Gibson's delivery of the soliloquies is unimpressive, and when he finally comes out of his reverie, leaps about like a D'Artagnon in The Three Musketeers. Alan Bates, as Hamlet's uncle, who succeeds his brother as king, has the experience to uphold the Shakespeare tradition, but even he is unable to conceal a look of amazement, perhaps unknowingly caught by the camera, in one or two of the scenes. This shortened version of the play has characters making an entry and disappearing without giving much indication as to what they are about. Zeffirelli's settings are as opulent as you would expect, and the cinematography always interesting.
(Maybe) - review by John
Parallax View (1974) This is a one-star thriller with an absorbing performance by Warren Beatty, but lacks the level of tension of the director's 'Klute' made 3 years earlier. Despite the excitement of the occasional brawl, the convoluted story and the absence of a vulnerable Julie Christie confirm what audiences thought of this film when it first came out: just very average.
(Maybe) - review by John
The film is based on a memoir of journalist Lynn Barber, and tells the story of a highly intelligent schoolgirl who is distracted from her studies by the glittering life offered by a middle-aged businessman. It's compelling viewing mainly due to the remarkable performance of Carey Mulligan as the schoolgirl, but also by the very talented supporting cast headed by Alfred Molina (Chocolat) as her father. The excellent screenplay by the novelist Nick Hornby keeps the action moving relentlessly to the very last scenes, which would have been more satisfying had they been allowed more time.
(Worth watching) - review by John
This is inferior to the adaptations of Jane Austen's novels done in the 90s for the BBC. The screenplay lacks the ingenious plot and verbal virtuosity we come to associate with the author. Anne Hathaway, as Jane, is less than inspiring, and the cast of second-tier British actors does little to bring a sparkle to the production despite James McAvoy's valiant efforts.
(Maybe) - review by John
This riveting thriller, spooky and enigmatic and needing all one's concentration to follow, should not scare people away because of its horror tag. The only gory scene is short and comes right at the end. Carefully paced by the director, Julie Christie and Donald Sutherland, as the married couple, underplay their role with devastating effect.
(Worth watching) - review by John
An aged alcoholic, complaining of stomach and head pains, is first tendered by his immediate neighbours and then, after a good deal of persuasion, agrees to be driven off in an ambulance.The local hospital is not able to accept him and his condition deteriorates as he is shunted from one hospital to another due to the apathy and inefficiency of hospital staff, while the diagnosis of his ailments become progressively more serious. Produced on a tight budget and shot mostly with hand-held camera, the Romanian director reveals the last few hours of a man's life in real time, but thankfully not the final outcome.
(Worth watching) - review by John
This Red Riding (1974) TV production with a story-line all too familiar and scenes of escalating police brutality more disturbing than usual, doesn't bode too well for the rest of the series. But the different directors and different casts of Red Riding (1980) and Red Riding (1983) may offer better entertainment.
(Maybe) - review by John
A hit-and-run in the first minute sets the scene in this excellent drama which has been adapted from Nigel Balchin's novel from the 1950s. Julian Fellowes, who wrote the screenplay for Gosford Park and here is both writer and director, has very successfully brought the action forward to the present day.
(Excellent) - review by John
This TV production might be judged as quite a good effort in holding the attention of a television audience, but it gives the impression of being produced on a tight budget and hardly measures up to the standards required of a feature film.
(Maybe) - review by John
A lightweight comic period piece with would-be singer, Delysia, brilliantly played by the sparkling Amy Adams, trying to nail a singing contract while juggling three lovers. But she is soon brought down to earth by her newly appointed prim and proper social secretary, Miss Pettigrew, played by Frances McDormand. It is hard to understand why an American actress, best known for her wonderful role as the police woman in 'Fargo', is brought in to play the lead in what is essentially a British comedy. The part, in fact, is very unforgiving and McDormand plays it dead-pan, without a hint of humour. One could imagine what a feast a Julie Walters (Educating Rita) would have made of it.
(Maybe) - review by John
Set in a small township in French West Africa a year before the beginning of WW2, this film noir is given real depth by Jim Thompson's (The Grifters) brilliant screenplay. The solitary police chief has little power and is made to feel inadequate by his wife and the other French colonists. The somnolent atmosphere of the tropics and the unpredictable behaviour of the main characters create scenes that seem almost unreal, either in their comic absurdity or their unexpected violence.
(Worth watching) - review by John
The correct title of this movie is 'Shall We Dansu' and should not be confused with the Hollywood re-make 8 years later. This is not just about ballroom dancing but about a very buttoned-up accountant who falls in love with a beautiful dancing teacher and who struggles to overcome the suffocating conventions which are part of middle-class Japanese society. Despite being a very moving story it has some wonderfully comic moments.
(Excellent) - review by John
A slick production and impressive stunts are not backed up with an equally good script.
(Maybe) - review by John
Alexander Payne has now directed two movies that are supposed to be comedies but fail to connect: 'About Schmidt', with Jack Nicholson, and this one, with Paul Giametti. Two guys, approaching middle age, are on a road-trip visiting vineyards for some wine-tasting and to celebrate the immanent marriage of one of them. But all he is thinking about is getting laid before the big event, preferably with one of the barmaids or waitresses they encounter en route. As they progress across California they argue and go-on-about their hang-ups like a couple of adolescents. With 40 minutes gone and there being little prospect of anything much happening, the thought of sitting through another hour and 20 minutes of boredom was too awful to contemplate.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
A threadbare story interspersed with the odd Jazz number while the camera pans drab city scenes. No Thelonius Monk or Miles Davis, so why the title?
(Don't bother!) - review by John
Quite an absorbing film, skilfully directed, but the main character is an obnoxious individual who thinks nothing of subjecting the defenseless girl he picks up to some harsh treatment. The film opens with the daughter having just met with an accident on her motorbike, and there is the usual nail-biting hospital scene. Will she make it? We don't see much of her after that; he's too busy with his extra-marital affair. The ending is suitably wrapped up while the violins play.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Greatly overrated, the story just wasn't all that gripping. One can put up with a certain amount of hokum in American westerns, but it went over the top in this film and boredom set in early. Maybe worth 2 stars for the cinematography.
(Maybe) - review by John
Not for anyone who has fond memories of Bazil Rathbone and other great British actors taking the part of Holmes. Robert Stephens hams it up as if he were performing in an Oscar Wilde play, doubtless to the amusement of the American audience to which this film must have been directed.
(Maybe) - review by John
Quite an exciting thriller, adapted from one of Patricia Highsmith's 'Mr Ripley' crime novels, has one or two holes in the plot, but is definitely worth watching due to fine performances from Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz early in their careers.
(Excellent) - review by John
If you have seen and greatly enjoyed the brilliant 'Mad Max' of 1979, hang on to that memory. The sequel just hasn't the impetus or excitement of the earlier film.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
Ham acting and an unbelievable story is, quite rightly, the staple of TV comedies, which this closely resembles. Judged in that category the French obviously have a ball watching this. But it's pretty mundane fair for the serious non-French speaking movie-buff. Francis Weber, the French director of such films as 'The Closet' and 'The Valet', provides a more sophisticated, comic look at French life, admitted not in the sticks.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
A thoroughly unlikable principal character is given the news that he has incurable cancer and only a short time to live. He picks fights with members of his own family, takes cocaine and has gay sex, leaving little to the imagination, but never for a moment elicits our sympathy for the plight he finds himself in. The film might be worth a look just to see the wonderful Jeanne Moreau who plays his grandmother.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
Not a particularly good adaptation with Captain Wentworth given so little to say he becomes almost a cardboard figure, the progress of the couple's reconciliation not always in tune with the book, and the ending extraordinarily banal. The director instigates incidents that are out of character for the period. For instance Anne's younger sister literally jumps into the arms of Captain Wentworth more than once, and Anne's pursuit of the captain in the final scenes, kissing in public and dashing headlong through the streets of Bath, hatless, is not the behaviour of the self-effacing daughter of a baronet, but no doubt put in for dramatic effect. Jane Austin handles the ending much more subtly and romantically. The general standard of acting has little to commend it.
(Maybe) - review by John
Unforeseen circumstances frustrate several attempts of three affluent Parisian couples from sitting down and enjoying a meal together. Each time they meet and make the attempt, some totally unexpected, bizarre happening or calamity occurs that prevents them from doing so. The interruptions include the restaurant where they have booked for dinner running out of food, and a brush with the army fighting nearby terrorists. The women are socialites with little to do but prepare for dining out each evening. Their well-heeled male partners, one of whom is an ambassador from a tiny South American country, are engaged in illicit drug dealing by way of the diplomatic bag. The director, Luis Brunuel, quite brilliantly pokes fun at the cosseted wealthy out of touch with the everyday life going on around them.
(Worth watching) - review by John
An uncompromising and at times absurd story of a dysfunctional Madrid family. Carmen Maura plays a housewife who acts instinctively when faced with some unexpected and awkward situations. The Spanish director, Pedro Almodovar, has once again given us a film of believable real-life characters, not too far removed from his 'Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown', that both delights and shocks.
(Excellent) - review by John
The incompetent exploits of a small contingent of Italian soldiers sent to occupy a Greek island. Intended as a comedy but you probably need to be Italian to find it at-all funny.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
Two couples bickering and cheating on their partners, much of it captured on shaky cam. Great acting if you like that sort of thing. Judy Davis brilliant as always, but Woody Allen as usual playing the habitual whinger. Not surprisingly he and Mia Farrow had separated by the time the movie was released.
(Maybe) - review by John
The relationships of the historical poets are so much more intriguing than the activities of the present-day literary sleuths, that time spent with the latter becomes almost tedious. Gwyneth Paltrow is sadly unconvincing as an academic, and Aaron Eckhart is too much the type-cast research student, complete with rucksack and permanent stubble, to be interesting.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
A pretty dumb musical comedy with the slightest of plots, abrupt interruptions in the soundtrack, and a musical score by Michel Legrand which must be his least memorable. The camera is focused on Anna Karina to such an extent that the movie hardly rises above a promotional for the body beautiful; which is not to question her acting ability, which she surely has, as do the two principal male characters. But Godard's striving for originality soon becomes irritating. The result is little more than a mishmash of quirky images and staged tableaux.
(Maybe) - review by John
Clever cinematography and scene selection doesn't make up for an incoherent story line and a surfeit of political and philosophical theorizing. Supposedly a remake of 'The Big Sleep', it requires considerable stamina to stay the course. This is Godard way-out on a limb, and as far from 'Breathless' as you can get.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
An epic covering two decades at the beginning of the 19th Century concerning five aristocratic families living in Moscow and St Petersburg, the interaction of the members with each other, and their involvement in the European conflicts of the time. The adaptation of Tolstoy's novel into twenty 45-minute episodes is meticulously accurate with all the major strands of the story given their full value, and much of the dialogue reproduced word-for-word. Some philosophizing and political and religious discussion has been necessarily shortened or omitted. The battle scenes and Napoleon's invasion and ultimate withdrawal from Russia are impressively done. The cast has been chosen with great care, which can be borne out by reading the novel, the enjoyment of which is greatly enhanced by having an accurate portrayal of the characters and scenes fresh in the mind. Military operations do play an important part in the story, but the public and private lives of the main characters take up a greater part of the film, and are not unlike the emotional entanglements encountered in a Jane Austin novel, only in a different social setting. An altogether brilliant and satisfying production.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
This is a very amateurish effort. The 21 year old Bernardo Bertulocci, thrust into directing it to replace Pasolini who decided he had more important things to do, shows his lack of experience, especially in the first half-hour, where he can do little to inject some life into a screenplay which is unbelievably banal. What follows later hardly lifts the overall standard more than a notch or two.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
A couple of hoodlums enter a diner and enquire about the whereabouts of the 'The Swede'. One of the staff explains that he'll be in for lunch at one o'clock, which will be shortly, but doesn't like the look of the two visitors and slips out to a lodging house nearby. 'The Swede', a regular customer, is stretched out on the bed in his room, but doesn't move and merely mumbles, 'I did something wrong, once'. In a succession of flashbacks, the story of 'The Swede's' life from being a service-station attendant to becoming involved in a big-money robbery is gradually revealed through the eyes of an insurance investigator, Jim Rearden (Edmund O'Brien). Adapted from a Hemingway short story, the action involves murder, robbery and betrayal. With impressive debut performances from Burt Lancaster as 'The Swede', and Ava Gardner as Kitty Collins, the femme fatale, the tension created in the opening scene is maintained throughout, helped along by Miklos Rozsa's dynamic score (used later in 'Dragnet').
(Worth watching) - review by John
A teenager owes a sizeable amount of money at school and tries to screw it out of his wealthy father who refuses to give him an advance on his allowance. A friend persuades him to launder a counterfeit 500 franc note by purchasing a picture frame at a photographic shop. The shop-owner is annoyed that his wife, who is also the shop assistant, accepted a suspicious-looking note, but tells her 'to pass it on', which she does in payment to a van driver, Yvon, who delivers a consignment of oil for the shop's heating. He's arrested when he unsuspectingly cashes it at a restaurant. His story is not supported in court by the shop-owner. A suspended sentence results in him losing his job, and, in desperation to provide for his wife and young daughter, he begins a life of petty crime. A freely adapted short story by Leo Tolstoy in which so-called respectable people lie to save their own skins, and the disillusioned victim strikes back in anger and frustration. Although set at a different time and in a different country, the director, Robert Bresson aligns himself perfectly with Tolstoy's intentions, and by the use of the static camera, nails the essence of each scene, gradually creating an under-currant of suspense.
(Excellent) - review by John
Emma, the town matchmaker in early 19th Century England, helps, but sometimes hinders, several of her women acquaintances to find their true loves. Intrigue and reversals are the subject of the mostly small talk, conversations laced with wit and sophistication. Gwyneth Paltrow is subtle and persuasive as Emma, and the rest of the cast are true professionals. Great care has been taken with every scene to be correct historically in every detail. This light and breezy adaption is perhaps only for those who are already familiar with, and enjoy, the novels of Jane Austen or their film adaptations.
(Excellent) - review by John
A 'B' standard Hollywood thriller that starts well with an accused murderer's encounter with a mysterious woman who may prove his innocence, but, as the plot develops, becomes contrived and unconvincing. The director, Robert Siodmak, had much greater success 4 years later with "The Killers".
(Maybe) - review by John
The first hour is an account of the bad blood that existed in the officer's mess of the Light Brigade immediately before the outbreak of the Crimea War, when Britain went to the aid of Turkey in their effort to repel the invading Russians. Captain Nolan (David Hemmings), the only officer to have seen active service, criticizes the lack of any system of training in the Brigade. He falls foul of his Brigade Commander, Lord Cardigan (Trevor Howard), who is more interested in the officer's mess protocol than the welfare of his troops. There is a famous instance where the captain orders wine which is served in a black bottle, and his CO accuses him of ordering beer, unheard of in the mess. But there are many scenes that are far from convincing. There is an awful lot of British upper-crust drawl and posturing, and the illicit affair the captain has with another officer's wife is entirely fictitious, possibly included to give a part to Vanessa Redgrave (the director's ex-wife). Thankfully, when the Brigade arrives in the Crimea (filmed on the Anatolian Plateau in Turkey), there is plenty of action and excitement.
(Maybe) - review by John
A pregnant woman is seen staggering across the Yorkshire Moors in period dress of late Victorian times. She eventually reaches a derelict hut, collapses inside and miscarries the child. She wraps it up, takes it outside and buries it under some stones, and continues on her way to the small town where she hopes to find her lover. Arriving at dusk and with nowhere to go, she is taken in by the lamplighter and his family. She is too weak to eat and is put to bed by the kindly wife. By next morning she has recovered and is fitted out with the clothes of a daughter that recently died of rheumatic fever. She goes for a walk in the town and sees a man, whom she thinks is her lover, disappear into an office building. She's thrown out when she tries to follow. Perhaps she has made a mistake. There are three unmarried sons in the family where she is been taken in, all of whom take an interest in the young lady. She is particularly attracted to one, and very brazenly, for those times, follows him when he goes off into a nearby wood. She discovers that he is involved in a secret activity there. A rustic drama based on a novel by HE Bates, it seldom rises above the level of a very ordinary TV mini-series. Embeth Davidtz' performance is below her best and the rest of the cast is undistinguished. Billed as 'A Merchant Ivory Production', Ismail Merchant is but one executive producer among six, and James Ivory is not in his usual director's chair.
(Maybe) - review by John
Top fashion designer and the very beautiful Susanne is overseeing a photo-shoot in her studio with her favourite model, Doris. Both are experiencing emotional problems. Susanne frets over a married man, Henrik, with whom she has been having an affair but who has left Stockholm, and Doris is having trouble coping with her over-possessive and argumentative boyfriend, Palle. When Susanne decides to go to Gothenburg for a fashion photo-shoot in the hope of meeting up and spending some time with Henrik, she invites Doris to go with her, but Palle doesn't want to lose Doris, even for only a few days, and throws a tantrum, which makes Doris even more determined to go. In Gothenburg Suzanne manages to arrange a rendezvous with her ex-lover, and the inexperienced Doris meets up with a philandering middle-aged consul who showers her with expensive gifts. Both women pursue their fantasies as if there is no tomorrow, until reality eventually dawns, while the men they encounter delude themselves that no harm can come from a little dilly-dallying. Beautifully shot in black and white, with impressive performances from Eva Dahlbeck as the worldly professional woman, and Harriet Andersson, the gullible young model.
(Worth watching) - review by John
The rather depressing account of a vulnerable, flighty young woman, married to a French Army officer, who can't resist having affairs, not only while he is a POW in German hands during WW2, but when overseas afterwards. The episodic story takes leaps in time with little explanation, and the affairs are conducted with so little build-up or interesting background that they never appear to be real-life situations. Emmanuelle Beart is fine as the softy who can't help falling in love with any male who shows enough devotion, but Daniel Auteuil, totally miscast, has a thankless task as the Army Officer portrayed as a spineless cuckold, and appears most of the time uncomfortable with the part.
(Maybe) - review by John
Gino, a handsome well-built drifter, is dropped off at a rundown restaurant not far from Ferrera in the Po Valley, after thumbing a lift in a truck. He immediately becomes intrigued by the owner's trim and attractive wife, Giovanna, who does the cooking and serves the customers. Despite not having any money to pay for his meal he cunningly subdues the owner's anger by offering to repair his broken-down truck, but slips the distributor's rotor into his pocket unnoticed, forcing the owner to bicycle into town to buy a replacement. He wastes no time in bedding Giovanna, and she makes no secret of her frustration at having to live with a middle-aged oafish husband, whom she can't bear touching her. All is set for a 'Postman Always Rings Twice' scenario, except that this version of the early 40s by Visconti is shot very effectively on location and not confined only to the roadside diner as in the classic Lana Turner/John Garfield 1939 movie.
(Excellent) - review by John
In the early 1900s, the horse-drawn wagons of a travelling circus are seen silhouetted against the skyline. They are trundling slowly across country to a small town in southern Sweden where the wife and family of Albert, the circus owner and master of ceremonies, have their home. He has not seen them for three years and is playing with the idea of abandoning the hard life of the circus, returning to his wife, Agda, and settling down. Albert's mistress, Anne, a beautiful young bareback rider, suspects what he has in mind, so that when Albert goes to woo his wife, Anne dresses up in her finery and visits the local theatre to ferret out the leading man, Frans, whom she has already met in the town square that morning and had shown more than a passing interest in her. In the meantime, Albert is having trouble persuading his stubborn wife to accept him back now that she has become a prosperous business woman owning two shops, and enjoying the freedom that that gives her. While Anne, despite her beauty and charm, finds that the suave Frans is only interested in seducing her, and offers her a supposedly valuable amulet in return for sexual favours. Not only do the two main characters suffer humiliation, but so does Frost, the circus clown, who has to rescue his wife early on, when she inexplicably starts throwing off her clothes in front of a battery of soldiers on exercise nearby. Shot in black-and-white with some wonderful camerawork, this is a simple down-to-earth story in which the main characters experience humiliation by taking wrong decisions in trying to change the course of their lives. A young Harriet Andersson, in only her second Bergman film, plays Anne to perfection. In the early 1900s, the horse-drawn wagons of a travelling circus are seen silhouetted against the skyline. They are trundling slowly across country to a small town in southern Sweden where the wife and family of Albert, the circus owner and master of ceremonies, have their home. He has not seen them for three years and is playing with the idea of abandoning the hard life of the circus, returning to his wife, Agda, and settling down. Albert's mistress, Anne, a beautiful young bareback rider, suspects what he has in mind, so that when Albert goes to woo his wife, Anne dresses up in her finery and visits the local theatre to ferret out the leading man, Frans, whom she has already met in the town square that morning and had shown more than a passing interest in her. In the meantime, Albert is having trouble persuading his stubborn wife to accept him back now that she has become a prosperous business woman owning two shops, and enjoying the freedom that that gives her. While Anne, despite her beauty and charm, finds that the suave Frans is only interested in seducing her, and offers her a supposedly valuable amulet in return for sexual favours. Not only do the two main characters suffer humiliation, but so does Frost, the circus clown, who has to rescue his wife early on, when she inexplicably starts throwing off her clothes in front of a battery of soldiers on exercise nearby. Shot in black-and-white with some wonderful camerawork, this is a simple down-to-earth story in which the main characters experience humiliation by taking wrong decisions in trying to change the course of their lives. A young Harriet Andersson, in only her second Bergman film, plays Anne to perfection.
(Maybe) - review by John
'Le dernier combat', is set in a crumbling city in a desolate, post-apocalyptic, featureless landscape. Speech is no longer a means of communication, but survivors understand each other without the need for chatter, an electronic jazz score effectively setting the mood. A 'Mad Max 2' type movie, less nihilistic, with the theme that creating some sort of order out of chaos is better than trying to escape from it. 'Subway' is the companion piece on the disc. The scenes at the beginning of the movie of Christopher Lambert gate-crashing a high society birthday party and blowing open a safe, have been cut from this version, which makes little sense of the exciting car chase which opens this version, with Lambert being pursued by security men. The complete 'Subway' can be found as a single feature on its own disc, and for those who enjoy art house movies definitely worth watching.
(Worth watching) - review by John
In contrast to that wonderful 1956 movie,'The Red Balloon', a little boy does not follow a red balloon around the streets of Paris. Here the balloon can be seen taking on a life of its own, being gently propelled by the wind over the streets and roof-tops, allowing the cinematographer a fascinating way of capturing the vibrant life of the city. The fact that it is there, sometimes appearing at a window, is no more important than a bird seen hovering in the sky. Song Fang, a film student from Beijing armed with a digital camera, notices the balloon. She has just been hired by a very distracted single-mother, Suzanne (Juliette Binoche), to look after her 10 year-old son, Simon. Song becomes part of the family with little fuss, settles into the relative chaos around her, and is unruffled by the battle raging between Suzanne and her tenant, Marc, a friend of her ex-husband, who won't pay his rent. An intriguing look at just one family's life in Paris, shot on location, with no set dialogue, the actors just playing themselves. As one reviewer remarks, it's just like being in Paris for a week.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Antoine, a tall good-looking guy, gets taken on as an assistant keeper at the famous Ushant lighthouse, perched on a rock three or four kilometres off the extreme west coast of Brittany, during the days when the light was gas-powered in the 60s. Being an outsider he is not accepted by the men in the small fishing community, who expected the vacant position to go to one of their own. Ashore he fares no better with the men, who find ways of making him feel unwanted. But the womenfolk are not so unfriendly. Shot entirely on location, there are some amazing scenes of Yvon and Antoine battling to keep the light going during a furious storm. A fine mixture of drama, intrigue and romance, with the rugged Brittany coast as background.
(Excellent) - review by John
Elizabeth (Nora Jones) is out searching every night for an errant boyfriend, whom she thinks is seeing another girl. She calls regularly at a New York diner where he normally orders meat loaf, his favourite dish. Elizabeth calls back each night to see if the keys have been picked up, and becomes increasingly disconsolate when they are not. Jeremy is becoming attached to this waif-of-the-night and offers her some blueberry pie which his customers seldom choose.The development of the fragile relationship between Jude Law and Nora Jones is the director, Wong Kar-Wai, doing what he does best, as seen in his 'Chungking Express' and 'In the Mood for Love'. Natalie Portman is mesmerizing in her role as the gambler and manipulative con-woman and shows what a fine actor she is. Taken at a leisurely pace, Wong Kar-Wai is always more interested in the development of subtle relationships than hurrying the story, which is straightforward and doesn't need the degree of concentration required, for instance, to keep pace with the time-shifts in his '2041'.Once again he relies heavily on a superb cinematographer, usually Christopher Doyle, but in this case, Darius Khondji. The plaintive guitar-playing of Ry Cooder can be heard on the soundtrack.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
This movie doesn't begin to ring true. The plot is convoluted with nonsensical twists and turns, and there is a cold-blooded murder which is wholly gratuitous. The private eye comes over as a weak individual aping the vocal style of Clint Eastwood in one of his early westerns but, in contrast, exuding absolutely no menace. His words get lost in delivery, and it's hard to believe that he would have got anywhere with the real lowlife of the sleazy Boston neighbourhood. His attractive female partner has little to do but appear decorative. Morgan Freeman cruises through the movie as if wondering what the hell he's doing being associated with this bunch of amateurs. And the final wrap-up of the story is unsatisfactory, unconvincing and a real let-down.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
This 2005 version of Oliver Twist has the director, Roman Polanski, playing it straight. He keeps strictly to the main story with an authentic portrayal of Dickens' characters. Fagin and Bill Sykes tended to dominate David Lean's excellent 1948 version with greater dramatic affect. But Polanski's low-key approach is also very effective, and more akin to the leisurely process of reading the novel. Ben Kingsley's Fagin is as believable as Alec Guinness', but a little more sympathetic. Jamie Foreman as Sykes sees the role more as the calculating criminal and not as Robert Newton's out-of-control drunkard. This polished production with a cast of British actors, with mostly familiar faces, has some wonderfully composed shots by the cinematographer and an original soundtrack that is never obtrusive. David Lean's adaptation of more than 60 years ago is not supplanted by this fresh approach. Polanski is simply presenting the Dickens' classic to a modern day audience. The PG-13 rating seems about right.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Manni (Moritz Bleitreu) and Lola (Franca Potente) are a young couple living in Berlin. Manni gets roped in to working for a crime figure, Ronnie, who relies on him to collect a bag containing 100,000 deutschmarks, and deliver it safely to where he will be waiting in his car in a particular street. Lola is meant to be picking up Manni on her moped as soon as he has the money, but the moped gets stolen when she nips into a shop on the way, leaving him no other choice but to take the undergound. While he is sitting in the train, police board his carriage and he dashes out thinking they're are going to arrest him, leaving the bag of money on the seat in his state of panic. A hobo, travelling in the same carriage, picks up the abandoned bag, and steps off the train at the next stop and is seen disappearing down the platform. Manni enters a telephone booth at street level, calls Lola, who is back at home, and tells her what an idiot he's been, and he now has 20 minutes to come up with the money or else he's dead meat. Lola says she'll think of something, she won't let him down, and he's not to do anything rash. A gallery of faces flash through her mind of family and friends. She chooses the one most likely to help her and sets off running through the city streets at a cracking pace knowing exactly where that person will be. That's the beginning of three separate scenarios that are played out in her attempt to obtain the money. Her track through the city is similar in each case, but her encounters with the same people she comes into contact with on the way have different results, irrevocably altering the course of their lives for ever, which is shown in quick flashes of their future. Her encounter with the targetted person also has three very different results. A wonderfully exciting and absorbing movie, taken at a relentless pace matched by the excellent soundtrack, with moments covering just about every emotion from the deadly serious to the hilarious. The dubbing into English is done seamlessly with British voices, and their softer intonation gives this movie a decidedly British flavour. But the excellent cast is all German and Franka Potente just superb as the very athletic Lola.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
An adaptation of the 1937 Evelyn Waugh novel, this bleak but sympathetic portrait of a marriage breakdown, is reflective of the author's own when his wife ran off with an idle and penniless aristocrat. Kristin Scott Thomas, in her first major role, gives a fascinating performance as the wife. With the same director, every facet of the production has the hallmark of 'Brideshead Revisited' made a few years earlier with the same director and covering the same inter-war period. Neither have happy endings, but the one here is extraordinary, and one not likely to be forgotten.
(Excellent) - review by John
There were no problems with this disc. Episode 10 runs for nearly an hour, but episode 11 has the length of two episodes run together, possibly to avoid a break in the narrative. Julia and Charles are standing by the fountain in the garden at Brideshead. They are reminiscing about the two years that have passed. Julia tells Charles that she wants to marry him but there are two divorces to take care of, his and her's. In the drawing-room after dinner Bridey, always an unknown quantity, suddenly announces that he is engaged to be married to Beryl, comely not pretty, as he describes her, a widow with three children. He shocks Julia by saying he couldn't bring Beryl to Brideshead, not with her living in sin. Julia regards the remark as being bloody offensive and walks out of the room. Charles follows and finds her standing by the fountain very distressed but could do little to ease her anguish. She finally recovers and they return to the house, even going back into the drawing-room as if nothing serious had happened. But the incident raises doubts in Julia's mind about her relationship with Charles. Julia once said to him that it was frightening how completely he had forgotten Sebastian. But he had not forgotten. Sebastian was with him daily in Julia. Later Charles got extensive news of Sebastian from Cordilia, who had met a journalist, just returned from North Africa, in Burgos, Spain, where she had been nursing during the Spanish Civil War. But any plans that Charles and the family might have had for their immediate future were put on hold by Lord Marchmain's declared intention, in view of the international situation, of returning to England and passing his declining years in his old home. A most impressive series, the pace is necessarily slow, but reflects the times and lives led by noble families in the 1920s and 30s. One or two scenes centred on Sebastion when he is in Tunisia are a little laboured, but are more than made up for by those of Charles and his father having dinner at home in London where the father, John Gielgud, replies to whatever Charles has to say with devastating sarcasm. Claire Bloom has a major part as Lady Marchmain, the matriarch at Brideshead, who uses her charm to win the affection and exert her authority over the family members, and over Charles in particular, so as to keep her in touch with Sebastian. Laurence Olivier, as Lord Marchmain, comes into his own with a masterly performance in the last episode. Jeremy Irons is both Charles Ryder and narrator, whose measured tones are ever present as he goes back over his life after meeting Sebastian and becoming attached to Julia. There were no problems with this disc. Episode 10 runs for nearly an hour, but episode 11 has the length of two episodes run together, possibly to avoid a break in the narrative. Julia and Charles are standing by the fountain in the garden at Brideshead. They are reminiscing about the two years that have passed. Julia tells Charles that she wants to marry him but there are two divorces to take care of, his and her's. In the drawing-room after dinner Bridey, always an unknown quantity, suddenly announces that he is engaged to be married to Beryl, comely not pretty, as he describes her, a widow with three children. He shocks Julia by saying he couldn't bring Beryl to Brideshead, not with her living in sin. Julia regards the remark as being bloody offensive and walks out of the room. Charles follows and finds her standing by the fountain very distressed but could do little to ease her anguish. She finally recovers and they return to the house, even going back into the drawing-room as if nothing serious had happened. But the incident raises doubts in Julia's mind about her relationship with Charles. Julia once said to him that it was frightening how completely he had forgotten Sebastian. But he had not forgotten. Sebastian was with him daily in Julia. Later Charles got extensive news of Sebastian from Cordilia, who had met a journalist, just returned from North Africa, in Burgos, Spain, where she had been nursing during the
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
This disc covers episodes 8
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
This disc covers episodes 4, 5, 6
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
This Granada TV production of the Evelyn Waugh novel, meticulously adapted by John Mortimer in 11 episodes, is one to savour over a period of time, say, 4 week-ends. The 3 episodes recorded on this disc can be comfortably seen over two evenings, the first episode being longer than the second and third. The story begins a little over half-way through WW2 with Captain Charles Ryder (Jeremy Irons), as a company commander at Battalian HQ. He has a particularly obnoxious C.O., who openly despises temporary officers and picks on Charles whenever he gets the chance. Fortunately it's not long before the battalion is transferred to a temporary camp in the grounds of a country mansion, Brideshead, prior to going overseas. It turns out to be the home of his friend Sebastian Flyte (Anthony Andrews), whom he had met at Oxford twenty years earlier and where he had spent many happy hours. Sebastian and he may never have met, being at different colleges, but for Sebastian getting drunk one lunch-time, and making an unheralded entry into Charles' room, which happened to be on the ground floor. In recompense Sebastian invites him to lunch with several of his friends where they eat quails' eggs and drink quantities of wine. Charles treads carefully in the company of this smart set, not being used to high living. His father would be scathing of such frivolous activity. Charles meets Sebastian quite often, and one week-end gets invited down to his family home, Brideshead. He's impressed by its size and opulence, but doesn't meet any of the family, who are away for the summer. Lady Marchmain (Claire Bloom), a devout catholic, keeps a close eye on Sebastian, which he resents and is to be the cause of his troubles later. Charles and Sebastian spend most of the summer vacation at Brideshead, and despite Sebastian's warning not to become too involved with the family, Charles is gradually seduced by the world of privilege they inhabit and flattered by their assumption that he is part of that world. A captivating start to a wonderful series. A more general assessment is in the review of disc 4.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Melanie, aged 10, is a talented young pianist. Her parents have struggled to pay for her piano lessons, so it is important that she performs well at the scholarship auditions to be be held at the music academy. She tells her parents that if she fails she will give up music. At the audition she starts confidently and is half-way through her piece when she notices one the judges signing an autograph for a fan who has entered the room. She loses concentration and struggles to finish. The judge, a renowned concert pianist, who causes the lapse in her playing, doesn't suggest she start again. Her mother, waiting outside, has no need to ask how the audition went. Melanie is in tears. A decade or so later Melanie, now an attractive young woman, applies and is accepted as an intern at a prosperous law firm. One day the head of the firm confides in her that his wife, Ariane, a renowned concert pianist, needs part-time help looking after their young son, Tristan, when she's in Paris. As he explains, his wife has not fully recovered from a recent motor accident and is nervous at the prospect of performing again. Melanie carries out her duties satisfactorily, and when her internship comes to an end, accepts the permanent position as a live-in companion for the son at the lawyer's large chateau 20 kilometres from Paris. She not only becomes good friends with Tristan, but cautiously wins the affection of Ariane. She confides to her that she used to play the piano and offers to turn the pages of her music when she's practicing. Before long she becomes an integral part of the household, and Arianne comes to rely on her more and more, as a concert she is going to give approaches. Too subtle to be described as a thriller, this movie nevertheless is not without a certain menace. Deborah Francois as the cool and calculating Melanie is superb, not unlike Scarlet Johansson as the demur servant in 'Girl with a Pearl Earring'. Catherine Frot plays the dedicated performer, too self-centred to worry about other people's feelings. Thankfully the piano music chosen is easy on the ear, with not a Bach toccata in sight.
(Excellent) - review by John
A train is travelling through a central European state where the military appear to be in control. In one of the compartments two women in their thirties and a 10 year-old boy are sitting alone looking uncomfortably hot. The two women are sisters. The elder, Ester (Ingrid Thulin), periodically coughs uncontrollably into her handkerchief. The younger, Anna (Gunnel Lindblom), appearing casually sensual as she caresses her son, Johan, has an air of disapproval. Hardly a word is spoken. They arrive at a city not knowing the language and move into a suite of rooms in an old-style grand hotel now empty of guests except for a troupe of dwarfs appearing at a nearby variety theatre. Ester, a translator by profession, retires to bed with a book. She occasionally gets up to watch the street scene below, coughs frequently and drinks from a bottle of wine she has rung for. Anna and Johan collapse on a bed but are soon awakened by a squadron of aircraft flying overhead. Ester accuses Anna of humiliating her. She just wants to die at home. Carefree Anna makes herself up and goes out to a bar leaving a concerned elderly porter to attend to Ester's needs even though neither understands each other's language. Johan feels abandoned and wanders the empty corridors. He meets the dwarfs and has fun, but returns to his aunt for solace after seeing something he doesn't quite understand. This portrayal of the conflict between two lonely women is one of Ingmar Bergman's most satisfying psychological dramas. Shot in black and white mainly through Johan's eyes, we view the women as their emotions drive them further apart, and as Ester's condition deteriorates. Their lives appear to be in suspension, waiting for Ester to die, an impression emphasized by a massive tank rumbling past in the empty street below. City life is in suspension too with war immanent.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Veronike not only has a beautiful singing voice but a lovely personality reflected in her face and demeanour. She accompanies a pianist friend to a rehearsal of a male voice choir in Krakov and finds herself singing-along rather in the style of a boy treble singing a descant. This attracts the attention of the choir's director who invites her to an audition. Later, while walking across the main square, she has a strange experience. She notices among a tour group on board a coach, a girl standing up taking photographs and pointing the camera directly at her. The coach drives off before she realises the girl with the camera could be her identical twin. Days before, after making love with her boyfriend, she had remarked to him that she felt she was not alone in the world. The audition comes up and she is accepted as a soloist with a full orchestra and choir at an up-coming concert, but on the way home she has to rest because of a pain in her chest. She is not well on the day of the concert, but is determined to sing. After the concert in Poland, the movie takes up the story of Veronique in France who was a member of the tour group. She is also a musician, but is suddenly struck by a feeling of melancholy, as if grieving for somebody, while she is making love. The next day she decides to give up her singing lessons and to become a music teacher. The first third of the movie, set in Poland, is quite a compelling story with some wonderful music. But the second two-thirds set in France, where it mainly hinges on Veronique's relationship with her father and aunt and her friendship with a master puppeteer, is less absorbing. Even so, the search for connections between the two lives is intriguing, and we are held spell-bound to the end by the French actress, Irene Jacob, who performs both roles so brilliantly.
(Excellent) - review by John
After being away in WW2, Antonia, with her teenage artist daughter, Danielle, returns to the family farm in the Netherlands to be with her mother who is dying. At the funeral she meets her old friends, except for Crooked Finger, who stays at home and has nothing good to say about the catholic church or the world in general. Of some of the others, Russian Olga runs the village cafe and is the midwife. Mad Madonna, a catholic, howls like a banshee at the moon because she is not allowed to marry her lover, the 'Protestant'. Tall and lanky Loony Lips does odd jobs for Antonia, and there is Farmer Bas, a widower with five sons, who doesn't waste time arriving at the farm with a proposal of marriage. He says his sons need a mother, but Antonia doesn't need his sons. Evenso he still gives her a helping hand working the small farm, hoping to win her affection. Danielle sets about painting Crooked Finger surrounded by his books. The portrait inspires her to go to art school in the nearby city, but when she's finished the course, she tells her mother she wants a baby, but not the father who goes with it. Mother and daughter set out on an usual quest to make certain that Antonia's line will not end with Danielle. Antonia played by Willeke van Ammelrooy is a wonderful character, forthright, warm and matronly, but when angered, as by one of Farmer Bas' sons, capable of delivering a devastating curse. With her in the village are some very unusual people, all of whom play an important part in the story. A delightful family saga covering four generations, both light-hearted and serious with the women, on the whole, happy to be in control of their own lives.
(Excellent) - review by John
Isa (short for Isabelle), a free spirit with all her possessions in her backpack, arrives in the City of Lille looking for a friend she was fond of back home, but he seems to have moved on. Being short of money, she takes a job in a garment factory. There she meets Marie, during a break, smoking and looking dejected. She cheers her up, and not wanting to endure another cold night sleeping rough, asks her if she would put her up. When they are in the apartment, which is more comfortable than Isa expected, Marie explains she's not renting it, just looking after it for the owner who is in hospital with her daughter after a motor accident. Always seeming to be restless, Marie says she can't stay in of an evening, so they go out to a noisy bar and enjoy shouting at each other above the din. The next day Isa gets fired from the factory for not sewing garments correctly, and Marie, her rebellious nature taking over, leaves too. The pair go off into the city in a light-hearted mood in search of fun, which is the beginning of their days of hanging out together. They are given lifts about town by a couple of good-natured bikies, whom they meet when trying to gate-crash a concert. When Isa's pottering about in the apartment one day, she comes across a diary. It belongs to the daughter in hospital. She is so touched by what the girl has written, she decides she must visit her. When she gets to the hospital, a nurse tells her that the mother has died, but she is welcome to sit with the daughter, and perhaps talk to her. Isa finds a girl in her late teens lying quite still on the bed. She pulls up a chair and gently puts her hand on the girl's arm. This will be the first of many visits. At about this time her relationship with Marie begins to unravel, as Marie becomes obsessed with the owner of a bar she's been visiting. The lives and aspirations of the two girls, so different in personality, and yet having so much in common, are wonderfully portrayed by Elodie Bouchez and Natacha Regnier, an extraordinary pair, both receiving Best Actress Awards at Cannes. This movie is an emotional rough ride, but wonderfully rewarding.
(Excellent) - review by John
Anne, a smart-looking woman in her thirties, enters a traditional office block occupied by professionals. She has an appointment with Dr Monnier, a psychiatrist, and is told he's on the 5th floor. There she knocks on one door and doesn't get an answer. She tries another down the passage, and it's opened by William Faber, a middle-aged tax accountant, whose secretary has left for the day. She says it's urgent, breezes in, sits down and starts talking about her marital problems which William assumes will probably lead to some disagreement over money. Having unburdened herself, she gets up, suggests an appointment for the same time next week and is gone before William realises that she has mistaken him for the psychiatrist down the corridor. When he talks to his ex-wife about Anne she tells him he must own up to not being a doctor the next time she calls. But when he tries to do that, Anne brushes his explanation aside saying that not all therapists are doctors, sits down and takes up the story of her marriage where she left off, with William sitting quietly at his desk trying not to appear too interested in her revelations. Although the movie tells the story in all seriousness, there are some very funny moments, as well as some surprises later. The artistry of Sandrine Bonnaire is totally absorbing to watch as she plays the likable but slightly neurotic woman of restrained sexuality. Fabrice Luchini may seem a little too reserved as the accountant, but his role as a bogus therapist is to sit quietly and not butt in. The director, Patrice Laconte, convinces us right from the start that the mistaken identity is entirely feasible and could happen to anyone.
(Excellent) - review by John
In 1980's England Nan worked as a serving girl in her father's oyster bar in the coastal town of Whitstable near London. On his birthday he treats his family to a visit to the local music hall which puts on a variety of acts. Nan is thrilled by the male impersonator, Kitty Butler, and goes along to the theatre to see her perform on the following nights. At the end of her act Kitty is in the habit of throwing a rose to an attractive girl in the audience. On Nan's third night, she throws her rose to Nan and invites her backstage. Kitty is so taken with Nan and her girlish enthusiasm that she offers her the job as her dresser, and it is not long before Nan, after some rehearsals, becomes her partner on stage. The act is so successful that they are given a contract to perform at a London theatre. Nan finds that she is not only sharing a room with Kitty at a lodging house in Brixton, but also her bed, which doesn't bother her as she is in love with Kitty. After a shaky start their act is well received by the London audiences and the show has a successful run of six months before Nan is given a break. She goes home to visit her parents, but finds her family dull after the excitement of London and she returns to her lodgings in Brixton early. What she finds is very upsetting and changes the course of her life irrevocably. A wonderful movie, both joyous and heart-rending, with a cast of fine actors, but perhaps not for those likely to be embarrassed by scenes of love-making between women, or the seamier side of Victorian London. Rachael Stirling plays the part of Nan superbly. She could easily be mistaken for her mother, Diana Rigg, when she was the Emma Peel character in the TV series, 'The Avengers', back in the 60s. Diana Rigg would have been about the same age as her daughter when this 2-part series was made. The likeness is uncanny.
(Excellent) - review by John
An unusually accurate dramatized documentary of the inventor of The Marine Chronometer, John Harrison, in the 18th century, which solved the problem of calculating longitude at sea, and of Lieutenant Commander Rupert Gould, RN, who reconstructed Harrison's early models in the 1920s. There is convincing coverage of life at sea in the 1750s and 60s and re-ennactment of a few battle scenes as part of the 7 Years War.
(Excellent) - review by John
Anne, a smart-looking woman in her thirties, enters a traditional office block of office suites occupied by professionals. She has an appointment with Dr Monnier, a psychiatrist, and is told he's on the 5th floor. There she knocks on one door and doesn't get an answer. She tries another down the passage, and it's opened by William Faber, a middle-aged tax accountant, whose secretary has left for the day. She says it's urgent, breezes in, sits down and starts talking about her marital problems which William assumes will lead on to some disagreement over money. Having unburdened herself, she gets up, suggests an appointment for the same time next week and is gone before William realises that she has mistaken him for the psychiatrist down the corridor. When he talks to his ex-wife about Anne she tells him he must own up to not being a doctor the next time she calls. But when he tries to do that, Anne brushes his explanation aside saying that not all therapists are doctors, sits down and takes up the story of her strange marriage, happy to have a good listener. William continues to see Anne on a weekly basis, late in the afternoon when his secretary has gone for the day. If the truth be known, William looks forward to these sessions more than he cares to admit. Although the movie tells the story in all seriousness, humour is never far from the surface, and there are some very funny moments, as well as some surprises later. The artistry of Sandrine Bonnaire is absorbing to watch as she presents a likable but slightly neurotic woman of overt sexuality, but underplaying the part with great subtlety. Fabrice Luchini may seem a little too reserved as the accountant, but his role as a therapist is to sit quietly and to listen. The director, Patrice Laconte, convinces us right from the start that the mistaken identity involving William and Anne is entirely feasible and could happen to anyone.
(Excellent) - review by John
Roseanne (Naomi Watts), an American poet and long-time resident in Paris, is married to Charles-Henri. She returns home one day after shopping with her young daughter to find her husband with packed bag ready to leave her 'for the love of his life', performance artist, Magda. As he walks out, Roseanne's younger sister, Isabel (Kate Hudson) arrives from America and finds her sister distraught. Charles-Henri's mother, Suzanne (Leslie Caron), mildly disapproves of what her son is doing, but only because Roseanne is pregnant. Charles-Henri starts legal proceedings and has valuers sent round to his and Roseanne's house. Of particular interest is an old master's painting belonging to Roseanne, that may or may not be authentic, but which he could claim a half-share. Roseanne still loves him but under French law can't stop him divorcing her. Charles-Henri is unaware that he has roused the fury of Magda's husband who stalks Roseanne thinking she's the cause of the break-up, but who will eventually turn his anger on Charles-Henri. In the meantime Isabel has been invited out to lunch by Suzanne's 55 year-old brother and smooth operator, Edgar, who proposes that she become his mistress. She has also done well by picking up a job with long-time resident and famous American author, Olivia Pace (Glen Close), who, many years earlier had been one of Edgar's lovers. By the time the sisters' parents and brother arrive from America, the impending sale of the painting has become a hot issue. This adaption of the Diane Johnson novel attempts to put too much of it on screen. Much could have been gained by eliminating the Olivia Pace character, almost certainly the author's alter ego, whose presence is so peripheral to the plot, her absence would not be noticed. Roseanne is about the only important character who deserves our sympathy. The French, as to be expected, behave true to an American's view of them. An entertaining movie of no great depth.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Identical twins, Elliot and Beverly Mantle (Jeremy Irons), are gynaecologists who work together in the same practice, share the same apartment and make love to the same women without their being aware of the existence of the other twin. The brothers' good relationship depends on them hiding nothing from each other. To the casual observer they are difficult to tell apart, but they do have different personalities. Elliot is outgoing and confident, and initiates their affairs with women. Beverly is more cautious and has to be chivvied into taking up with a new female. But the system breaks down when Beverly falls in love with a patient, Claire (Genevieve Bujold), who introduces him to drugs, but ditches him when she discovers, quite by chance, the existence of the other brother who has also made love to her. Beverly takes this very badly and increases his drug-taking to the extent of becoming psychotic. At this point the story takes an ugly turn, becomes increasingly bizarre, and transforms into a horror movie. There are two or three scenes regarding the speciality of the twin doctors which are particularly unpleasant.
(Maybe) - review by John
Frederick Bruchmann (Dirk Bogarde), an employee of the Von Essenbecks, a wealthy industrialist family, has acquired a powerful position in the company with the support of his lover, Sophie (Ingrid Thulin). The widowed daughter-in-law of Baron Von Essenbeck, head of the family, she would like to see him take over the company. Frederick is also being encouraged by SS Officer Aschenbach (Helmut Griem), a family cousin, who is using Frederick as a pawn in his attempt to wrest control of the steel and armaments complex on behalf of the Nazis. But events overtake them. After a dinner to celebrate his birthday, the Baron is found shot lying on his bed, the firm's vice president is wrongly accused of the murder but escapes, and the company passes into the control of the boorish SA Officer Konstantin Von Essenbeck who is determined that his rather troubled son, Gunther, succeed him. But awaiting his chance is the despicable Martin (Helmut Berger), Sophie's son and the Baron's heir. Aschenbach believes that an unsolved murder was committed by Martin, and blackmails him into joining the SS where he would be beyond the reach of the law, but also conveniently in Aschenbach's pocket. A powerful melodrama, done on a lavish scale, that never loses its intensity. Set in 1934, shortly after Hitler became Chancellor, the movie depicts not only the power struggle within the family, but also that which existed between the SA and the SS which eventually erupted in the slaughter known as 'The Night of the Long Knives', graphically depicted later in the movie. A cast of great actors, the slow and subtle camerawork and the brilliant direction by Luchino Visconti all make for a memorable experience. The dubbing into English is excellent and not noticeable.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Helen (Gwyneth Paltrow), a PR executive, turns up late once too often for a committee meeting being held at a London office and gets fired by her boss. She marches out of the office block into the street, and takes the escalator down to the underground just in time to catch a train. She's feeling low but in the seat next to her is one of those pests, James (John Hannah), who persistently keeps talking to her when she wants to be left alone in her misery. Returning to her flat unexpectedly, she finds her lazy live-in boyfriend, Gerry (John Lynch), in bed with Lydia, a woman she has never seen before. She retires to the local hotel bar to drown her woes, and is picked up later by her girlfriend, who takes her to her flat, and puts her to bed. Next morning the pair decide on a strategy which transforms Helen into a blond and a new career path mapped out. But what if the sliding doors of the underground train close before she's able to board it, decides she won't wait for the next one, and goes back up the escalator to catch a taxi home. Just as it drives up, she's mugged and knocked to the ground. The taxidriver takes her to hospital, where she's patched up and rested for a while. Returning to her flat at about four in the afternoon, she finds Gerry in the shower, having spent the day making love to Lydia. He's all over her, of course, commiserating with her about losing her job and, to cheer her up, takes her out to dinner at that same hotel where, in her other life, she gets horribly drunk. Paltrow, always interesting to watch, gives a creditable performance as the two Helens, one who turns blond and the other who remains a brunette. She deserves better than the two male leads chosen. Neither have the charisma to match hers'. Gerry's friend, played by Douglas McFerran, is excellent, and brings a real spark to the scenes in which he appears. A lightweight romantic comedy which is very average entertainment.
(Maybe) - review by John
Tension between the beautiful Beart and the artist becomes apparent in the first part of the movie (see my review) as the model lives up to its title, which refers to a woman who drives men to distraction. Evenso, the beautiful Beart remains uncomplaining as the artist places her in one awkward pose after another. She tries to engage him in conversation, and presses him about the painting of his wife abandoned 20 years earlier. He's not to be drawn, but she's determined not to let him abandon the painting this time. When he is almost at the point of giving up, Beart walks out of the studio and tells him pointedly she'll be back at 10 o'clock next morning. He arrives late, but is ready to paint. One day, before work has started, she clears the studio of props, plonks a mattress down on the floor, throws a cover over it, and takes up a pose, while the artist looks on, saying nothing. As his muse, she is helping him to look at her differently. In the meantime his beautiful wife becomes more unhappy with a husband so wrapped up in his work that he hardly notices her. As he continues to cover large sheets of paper with charcoal drawings, she wonders whether all these sketches will achieve anything. Is he really serious this time about completing the painting? Was she right in suggesting Beart, whom she had only just met, as a model for him in a vain hope to start him painting again? DirectorJacques Rivett has given us not only a wonderful insight into the creative process, but also a drama in which time slips by unnoticed.
(Excellent) - review by John
Not a typical Western, yet perhaps the greatest Western of all time. An intense drama with a fascinating story covering two continents, romance, humour, excitement and the two male leads, played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford, with a presence and a rapport which is totally absorbing. For some, that wonderful scene of Paul Newman riding a bicycle with Katharine Ross sitting on the handlebars to the soundtrack of the Burt Bacharach song, 'Raindrops Keep Falling', is ever etched in their memories.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
A young Jewish reporter, Barry Kohler, stumbles across a group of Nazi conspirators who meet in a wealthy businessman's residence in a city in Paraguay. He keeps track of their comings and goings, and warns Ezra Liebermann, the Nazi-hunter in Vienna, by telephone, that he is on to something. Lieberman, old and tired, doesn't want to be bothered, but Kohler gets a listening device placed in the room where the conspirators meet, and overhears their leader, Dr Josef Mendele, explaining the need to assassinate 94 former Nazi civil servants still living in different parts of the world. They all adopted sons, now aged 14, from the same orphanage that had accepted boys cloned by Dr Mendele from a piece of Hitler's flesh, and raised on his estate in Brazil. Hitler's father had died when he was 14, and it was necessary, if these boys were to develop as little Fuhrers, and bring about another Third Reich, that their environment should be the same as Hitler's at that age, free of a father's influence. While phoning this latest bit of information to Liebermann, Barry is murdered by Nazi thugs, which goads Liebermann into action. A thriller with considerable impact, Dr Josef Mendele, of course, is the historical figure known as 'The Angel of Death' at Auschwitz, and who was one of many Nazis who escaped to South America after the war. He is powerfully played here by Gregory Peck, both overbearing and ruthless. Laurence Olivier brings all his superb acting ability to the part of Liebermann, equally resolute in tracking down a wanted war criminal. James Mason makes a number of appearances as a Colonel who is the doctor's contact with the Nazi Higher Command in exile. The idea of cloning humans is not as far fetched now as it must have been when the movie was released in 1978.
(Excellent) - review by John
Poppy, a 30 year-old primary school teacher, sharing a flat in North London with best friend Zoe, gets her bicycle stolen while she's browsing in a bookshop and annoying the shopkeeper by her mindless chit-chat. Cut to rave party with Polly and friends dancing with abandonment in a crush of bodies. Cut to Polly and mates, tipsy, spread out on the floor of someone's flat, talking nonsense. Cut to Polly's school class making paper hats. Cut to Polly in a gym jumping up and down on a trampoline, something, she tells us, she really likes doing. Cut to the first driving lesson with surly, middle-aged redneck harbouring a massive chip on his shoulder, the full effect of which will not be seen until later in the movie. Cut to Polly strolling round Camden Street market. Cut to Polly's first Flamenco dance-class with much stamping of feet led by Spanish lady straight from Seville. Cut to very beefy male physiotherapist fixing the crick in Poppy's back after over-doing the trampolining. Cut to second driving lesson with surly instructor, who is becoming more and more angry with Polly's endless chatter, and we can't help sympathizing with him. Interspersed with these happenings are banal conversations Polly has with her mates that are really no more than girl's talk and almost certainly unscripted.The first half-hour has passed and the only discernible story to emerge is Polly's encounters with her driving instructor. Despite her happy disposition and her efforts to cheer-up everyone she comes in contact with, the Polly character ends up by just being irritating. She's no comic, and her jokes hardly raise a smile. The question needs to be asked, what's driving her? Could it be the shallow life she's leading.
(Maybe) - review by John
The French island of Martinique in the Carribean was administered by the Vichy government during the Nazi occupation of France during WW2, with the French underground active there as well as in France. Harry (Humphrey Bogart), an expatriate American, earns a living taking tourists deep-sea fishing out of Fort-de France. His client that day, a supposedly wealthy American, is inept enough to lose his rod and line overboard and ends up owing Harry $825, which he will hand over when he goes to the bank in the morning. But his wallet is neatly taken off him that evening in the hotel restaurant where everybody socializes, by a young American woman, Marie (Lauren Bacall). Harry sees it happen and confronts her, but on examining the contents, discovers the tourist has an airline ticket to fly out early next morning and had no intention of paying him. Harry buttonholes the tourist and forces him to write a traveller's cheque, which brings him to regard Marie rather more kindly, especially when she tells him she's desperate for money so that she can fly home. While they are enjoying a drink in Harry's hotel room, Free French activists pay a visit and try to persuade him to rescue two important resistance fighters stranded along the coast. Harry doesn't want to get mixed up in any political standoff but, as the French are willing to pay, sees a way of raising money for Marie's airline ticket. Apart from it being a darn good yarn, adapted very freely from the Hemingway novel, this movie also has the huge impact of two of Hollywood's greatest stars acting in romantic roles on screen, at the same time as they are falling in love in real life. Lauren Bacall's first feature film, her performance is nothing less than mesmerizing. There is also wonderful footage of that fascinating musician, Hoagy Carmichael, as Cricket, performing in the hotel restaurant. With a slightly similar story, this movie is a worthy successor to Casablanca, made two years earlier. (Note that Harry addresses Marie as 'Slim', and Marie addresses Harry as 'Steve', names, so it is said, that the director, Howard Hawks and his wife called each other).
(Worth watching) - review by John
The movie opens with a hectoring political speech on anti-racism by a student, Tahara, in front of her classmates. They get the message, which they don't particularly like, and chase her through the classrooms when school finishes. Her older brother, Cassim, who had come to take her home, rescues her and meets Roisin, a teacher giving a music lesson. To gain favour he does her a couple of good turns, invites her to the club where he's the disc-jockey, shows her the bare premises where he intends to open his own club and has her in bed in next to no time. Without telling his parents, he also takes her to Malaga, on the Mediterranean coast, to enjoy the sea and sunshine, and to spend time comparing their different backgrounds. Cassim, being a good Muslim, is shocked to discover that Roisin is a practicing catholic and was married at 19. Cassim's parents are immigrants from Pakistan, are not only in the process of negotiating the marriage of their eldest daughter to the son of a wealthy Pakistani family, but they also expect Cassim to marry the beautiful virgin, Jasmine, who is on her way from Pakistan. He is worried about the trouble he is going to cause by continuing to see his Scottish music teacher. As an actor, Atta Yaqub, is not convincing enough to carry off such an important role as required of Cassim, especially when emotions start to build. Eva Birthistle, as the teacher, shows a stronger personality and comes over well, as does the priest, Gerard Kelly, who demolishes her woolly thinking. It's not exactly a gripping story. There are about half-a-dozen movies out there covering similar ground. Attempts at injecting a bit of humour early on fall flat, and the cinematography is very ordinary.
(Maybe) - review by John
Two stories unfold at the same time. The first is about a young composer, Julian Crastor (Marius Goring), who attends the ballet and hears something he has composed being played by the orchestra. He goes with his complaint to the impresario, Boris Lermontov (Anton Walbrook), who promptly gives him the job of orchestral coach after hearing him play his themes on the piano. The second is about a young, relatively unknown ballerina, Vicky Page (Moira Shearer), a dancer with the Ballet Rambert, who is introduced to Lermontov by the conniving Lady Neston, and who accepts her into his ballet company after an audition. There is also a third story. Lermontov's principal ballerina takes time out to get married, which infuriates the impresario, but which greatly improves Vicky's career prospects. This first hour is mainly taken up with the melodrama and intrigue that go on backstage, and some of the acting may seem a bit over-the-top. But these are theatre people with volatile personalities. Vicky at least remains cool knowing how precarious her position is. When the ballet of The Red Shoes is finally performed, it is 17 minutes of pure delight. The three principal dancers, Moira Shearer, Robert Helpmann and Leonide Massine are a class act. Choreographed by Robert Helpmann, the editing is brilliantly done, achieving a continuous narrative with each scene dissolving imperceptibly into the next. With the music performed by the Royal Philharmonic conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, this production is as good as any performed at Covent Garden.
(Excellent) - review by John
A romantic 'soap' with handsome Jose coming to the rescue of distraught Nina in her hour of need.
(Maybe) - review by John
Mitch Brenner (Rod Taylor), a criminal lawyer, recognizes attractive socialite Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hendren) who is waiting at the counter of a bird shop. He deliberately mistakes her for a shop assistant and says he's looking for some lovebirds for his eleven year-old sister's birthday. She's happy to play along with this rather unusual method of introduction but struggles to answer his questions about the various birds on show. She feels she's made to look stupid when he finally calls her bluff and leaves. Determined not to let him off the hook, she takes two love birds to his isolated farmhouse on Bodega Bay, where he spends the week-ends with his widowed mother. When she arrives the front door is open, so she nips in unseen and leaves the cage with a note. But while watching for his reaction nearby, she's attacked by a seagull. Mitch sees her in trouble and comes to the rescue, takes her into the house to be patched up and introduces her to his mother, Lydia, and his little sister, who of course is delighted with the birds. They hear of other people being attacked by birds. Mitch invites Melanie to stay the night, but she senses that Lydia is cool towards her, so she stays over with the local teacher who has a room to let. Next morning, while driving past the school, she notices a large flock of crows perched nearby looking very menacing, and is worried about the children's safety. An adaptation of a Daphne Du Maurier story, scenes of the attacking birds are realistic enough to be scary. Artificial bird noises are used affectively in the soundtrack in place of music, adding to the sinister atmosphere. A Hitchcock movie of the early 60s, all sorts of symbols have been read into this story, but taken at face value, it's still good entertainment.
(Excellent) - review by John
Read the review by Big Ads G. He has said it all.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
Handsome Ned Racine (William Hurt) is not the brightest of lawyers. He's copping it from a judge for not preparing his case adequately. So when he meets Maddy Walker (Kathleen Turner), a married woman, and succumbs to her sultry charms, he's also not being too clever. Fortunately, hubby (Richard Crenna), who has acquired his wealth dealing in real estate, is away week-days, so the affair is free to take-off in the Florida heat with sizzling intensity. But as their love-making gets to saturation point, ugly thoughts begin to surface. Maddy belittles her husband and describes him as a 'small' man, and Ned begins to see his way to acquiring not only the body perfect, but a sizable fortune. Lawrence Kasdan wrote and directed this brilliant thriller. From early on, one can see a trap opening up, but at no point is it possible to judge how or when the victim will fall into it. Kathleen Turner and William Hurt in their first feature film give riveting performances. As the laconic firebomb expert Mickey Rourke also launched his career. To cap it all, the soundtrack is by John Barry, well-known for his '007' theme.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Handsome Ned Racine (William Hurt) is not the brightest of lawyers as we see him in court copping it from the judge. But whatever intelligence he has, goes out the window when he meets Maddy Walker (Kathleen Turner) and succumbs to her sultry charms. Fortunately, hubby (Richard Crenna), who has acquired his wealth dealing in real estate, is away week-days, so the affair is free to take off in the Florida heat with sizzling intensity. But as their love-making gets to saturation point, ugly thoughts begin to surface. Maddy belittles her husband and describes him as a 'small' man, and Ned begins to see his way to acquiring not only the body perfect, but a sizable fortune. Lawrence Kasdan wrote and directed this brilliant thriller. From early on, one can see a trap opening up, but at no point is it possible to judge how or when the victim will fall into it. Kathleen Turner and William Hurt in their first feature film give riveting performances. This also launched the career of Mickey Rourke as the laconic firebomb expert. To cap it all, John Barry's cool jazz score complements the action perfectly.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
This story of a Spanish dancer, who is 'spotted' and persuaded to go to Hollywood, is not particularly absorbing. There is so much talk and so little happening that it could be mistaken for a theatre production transferred to the screen. Humphrey Bogart seems miss-cast as the down-trodden film director given his last chance. He is also the narrator, which of course he does very well, but there are so many dull scenes of the other male characters holding forth, that when the camera zooms on to him standing in a graveyard in the pouring rain, we've really had enough. Ava Gardner is the shining light in this movie.
(Maybe) - review by John
Dave, a shady character from Saskatchewan, is seen watching a telephone booth on a street in Philadelphia waiting for a package of dope to be dropped off. As soon as that happens he nips in and collects it. The trouble is, it's not meant for him. Penniless, he and his girlfriend, Chrissie, hitch-hike to Atlantic City and make for the Casino where his ex-wife, Sally (Susan Sarandon), works as a waitress. Dave persuades her to put them up for one night in the run-down apartment block off the Broadwalk where she lives. While there he meets Lou (Bert Lancaster), an elderly neighbour, on the stairs. Lou ekes out a meagre living touting for small bets around the decaying neighbourhood, and receiving the odd dollar doing domestic jobs for Grace (Kate Reid), a woman of his own age who also lives in the block. Lou is attracted to Sally, and often spies on her from his window when she gets back from work. When Dave meets Lou out exercising Grace's miniature poodle, Lou boasts to him about his days of being a gangster in Las Vegas, which is more fantasy than fact. Andy seizes the opportunity to talk him into delivering a package of his stolen dope to a dealer he's unearthed and will pay him $1,000. Lou is reluctant to take the risk, but can hardly back out after telling him about his mobster connections. He completes the assignment like a true professional, but before he can hand over the money, the original owners of the dope show up. Bert Lancaster is masterful as the ageing, dignified Lou, a bit out of his depth when confronted with hit-men, but warm and gentle as his love affair with Sally develops. Susan Sarandon had been acting for 10 years in small parts before teaming up so wonderfully here with the veteran actor. The movie reeks of the atmosphere of old Atlantic City with its decaying buildings due to be demolished and with many of their occupants living in the past, like Lou and Grace, which adds poignancy to the story.
(Excellent) - review by John
A good adaptation of the children's novel by C.S. Lewis with excellent performances all round, but strictly for children, or for adults reliving their childhood. The music of Harry Gregson-Williams was a disappointment. Good in parts, for instance the faun's light and airy pipe tune early on, but at other times thunderous for no good reason, sometimes almost blotting out the dialogue. A lighter touch using a small ensemble rather than a full orchestra would have made the movie much more enjoyable.
(Worth watching) - review by John
In 1939 at the beginning of WW2 Guy Crouchback feels that he needs to join the fight against the Nazis even though considered to be too old at 35. He finds a place in the Royal Corps of Halberdiers with the help of a friend of his father's, a Major Tickerage, who recommends him for the special operations brigade about to be formed. Guy gets sent on a course of elementary training at the Corp's HQ barracks and is put through the usual square bashing, weapons handling and basic field tactics. Given a week's leave at Christmas, he spends it at his club in London and hears that his ex-wife, Virginia, is in town and asking after him. Guy, in a state of apprehension, meets her at her hotel. They have a pleasant chat and she more than implies that she is at a loose end and tells him that they must meet often. Guy has to leave almost immediately to go on a weapons' training course at Southsand-on-Sea. There he spends time on the 500 yard rifle range and discovers that he not a very good shot, but is more successful firing the Bren gun with its bipod. Moving on to the final stage of officer training he shares a room with Apthorpe, the same age as Guy and, like Guy, often referred to as 'uncle' by the others. He's very secretive about a fine wooden thunder-box (portable toilet) he carries around with him, which mysteriously disappears. Trimmer is a fellow-trainee whom none of the batch seem like. He fails the course but Guy, to his surprise, comes across him later in a different uniform and with Virginia on his arm. The commanding officer is Brigadier Richie-Hook, a frightening character with a permanent patch over one eye and given to taking enormous risks. When a raiding party goes ashore in West Africa, he joins it and returns under fire with a grisly trophy. The casting of this brilliant adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's three war novels is spot on and the performances outstanding. Daniel Craig is suitably restrained as Guy, and quite rightly, as his character is far from being assertive. There are no dull moments in this excellent TV production transferred to 2 DVDs only recently.
(Worth watching) - review by John
It's the end of the Christmas holidays in 1944 and boys are boarding the train in Paris which will take them to a Catholic boarding school in Seine-et-Marne, SE of Paris. Julien clings to his mother on the platform not wanting to go back to school. There are three new boys who have been accepted by the headmaster despite their being Jews. This is kept secret from the other boys by their use of false names. At first they are subjected to the usual jokes played on them by the other boys, but they settle in and Julien eventually becomes friendly with the youngest, Jean. They have much in common. They are both avid readers, even to the extent of reading by torchlight at night. Julien and his older brother, Francois, do quite a bit of trading through the kitchen hand, Joseph, for black-market items. Francois acquires cigarettes which he shares with his friends. When allied air raids occur the boys and staff shelter in the subterranean passages under the school where classwork is continued. Once a week the whole school troops off to the public baths for a scrub down with the aid of hot water, no longer on tap at the school. One way or another the naive Julien learns at first hand how the Nazi occupation is affecting everyday life. But it's a while before he becomes aware that his best friend is a Jew, and then he has to ask his brother what makes them different from anyone else, and is mystified when Francois tells him they don't eat pork. This movie is based on the experiences of the director, Louis Malle, when he attended a Jesuit boarding school near Fontainebleau at the age of 12 during WW2. He is the Julien character, and it is clear from the epilogue, which he narrates, that he is still deeply affected by the events he witnessed at the school, and which we find so heartrending to see re-enacted.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Philip Winter has been commissioned to write a long piece on his impressions of America as a European. 4 weeks of travel in his late 60's Chrysler through the monotony of urban landscapes and the viewing of countless banal television programs in the motels where he stays, has left him in a state of mental paralysis. All he has is a collection of polaroid photographs taken on a journey that has failed to get him writing. He sells his car for $300 and makes for the airport. At the checkin he finds there are no flights to Germany due to a strike. Also trying to book seats is a German woman, Elizabeth, with an 8 year-old daughter, Alice. She suggests going to Amsterdam, and they both book a flight next day, and share a room at the airport hotel that night. Early next morning Elizabeth slips out leaving a note to meet him and Alice at the top of the Empire State Building at 1 pm. She doesn't show up and scanning the road below with binoculars Philip sees her get into a taxi and drive off. Back at the hotel there is another note with vague instructions that she'll meet him at Amsterdam airport. Philip and Alice catch the flight to Amsterdam, but Elizabeth fails to appear on any of the incoming flights from New York. Philip decides reluctantly to take Alice with him to Germany where she assures him she used to visit her grandmother. A fascinating road movie, but also a penetrating portrait of a man whose spirit is lifted out of the doldrums by the need to care for the abandoned child. Rudiger Vogler very subtly develops the character of Philip Winter, the disillusioned traveller and failed writer who becomes a surrogate father. Yella Rottlander is endearing and quite remarkable as Alice, and is the real star of the movie. Can, the 70's minimalist German band, brilliantly creates the mood to match the many forms of travel undertaken by Philip and Alice. Deep Purple, Canned Heat and The Stones are also on the soundtrack, and a decent clip of Chuck Berry performing live.
(Excellent) - review by John
Jeanne is the beautiful, bored wife of newspaper proprietor, Henri, who appears to take little notice of her. They live in an impressive chateau outside Dijon with a full-time male servant and a motherly woman to look after their young son. Jeanne has developed the habit of going off to Paris regularly for two or three days to stay with her childhood friend, the rather empty-headed Maggy, who enjoys the social life of Paris. Her aristocratic friend, Raoul, a handsome polo player, is in love with Jeanne, but she's rather casual about the affair, which makes him even more persistent in his attentions. Maggie invites Jeanne at short notice to a dinner party, but Henri has had enough of her absences and tells her she can't go. But he suddenly has an idea, and to Jeanne's surprise and dismay tells her to invite her friends down for dinner at the chateau. On the afternoon of the dinner-party, Jeanne's car breaks down, and she's given a lift home by a younger man, Bernard, an archaeologist, whom she treats as an inferior until she discovers he has a sense of humour, and arrives at the chateau laughing hysterically. Henri and her dinner guests are standing around waiting, and it turns out that Henri knows Bernard's family and insists that he joins them for dinner and stays the night. The consequences of this decision are soon felt. Jeanne Moreau, as Jeanne, is as captivating as ever, and the camera keeps her in focus for almost the entire movie, which is just as well, as the story matches the leisurely pace of life in the 50s led by many French families with money.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Elizabeth, a leading actress, suddenly becomes silent half-way through a performance of a Greek tragedy. She spends time in hospital but doesn't utter a word. The hospital psychiatrist arranges for a young nurse, Alma, to look after her, and the two move to a beach house. Elizabeth acts quite normally moving about the house, and Alma talks to her enthusiastically, but Elizabeth's response can only be gauged by changes in her expression. As Alma runs out of topics of conversation, she begins to reveal more about herself, and the relationship between the two women becomes more intimate. At one stage Alma launches into an account of a sexual encounter she and her girlfriend had with two boys on a beach. Elizabeth shows surprise and Alma remorse at revealing the episode. By now her fondness for Elizabeth is beginning to waiver and be replaced by a sense of frustration. She is not always kind to Elizabeth, and leaves some glass on the floor where she knows Elizabeth will walk. Bibi Andersson's performance as the young, naive nurse is a tour-de-force, and Liv Ullmann's reactions to her monologue is subtly conveyed by her wonderfully expressive face. The constantly changing relationship between the two women is intimately captured by long, close-up shots that seem to reveal their innermost thoughts.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Ali is an elderly Turkish-born immigrant living in Bremen, Germany. He becomes so fond of a prostitute, Yeter, also Turkish, whom he's been visiting, that he persuades her to live with him and will pay her as much as she would normally earn. His son, Nejat, a young university professor who shares his house, is doubtful that the arrangement will work. But Yeter is an intelligent and kindly person and he soon accepts her into the family. One day when they are chatting she tells him about her 27 year-old daughter, Ayten, who is in Istanbul and whom she hasn't heard of for years. When something happens to Yeter, Nejat feels under an obligation to travel to Turkey to look for her daughter. Ayten is in fact a freedom fighter and is being hunted by the Turkish authorities. She makes her escape and returns to Bremen and begins a search for her mother. She has no address as Yeter didn't want her to know what she did for a living. She soon runs out of money and, in desperation, infiltrates the city's university and uses the campus as a temporary home. There she meets Lotte, one of the students, who gives her a bed in the apartment she shares with her mother. When the two girls are travelling in Lotte's car one night, they get stopped in a routine police check, and Ayten is arrested as an illegal immigrant and deported back to Turkey. Fearful that Ayten will be detained and imprisoned as soon as she lands, Lotte takes a flight to Istanbul. Her mother then begins to worry about Lotte who may become involved with the freedom fighters, and decides to follow. An extraordinary drama that traces the fortunes of the six characters as they become involved in each other's lives, yet their paths don't necessarily cross. An intriguing, complex and absorbing movie rated highly in America and Europe.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Philip Marlow, a private investigator, has been out shopping for cat food. When he returns home he finds his friend, Terry, waiting, with a scratch or two on his face. He wants Marlow to drive him over the border to Tijuana before Marty, a known gangster, catches up with him. When Marlow returns there are two burly police officers waiting to talk to him. They want to know where he's been and does he know anything about the murder of Terry's wife. His evasive answers lands him in jail on a technicality. He's released when the Mexican police report Terry's suicide and finding a note admitting to the murder of his wife. Marlow can't believe that his friend is a murderer and decides to investigate.There is a sub-plot in which he is hired to look for a missing husband who turns out to be an alcoholic and a complete bore. An updated adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel, the only crime discernible in the first 10 minutes of this movie is Marlow's failure to buy his cat the right cat-food. Elliott Gould, as Marlow, shambles from one scene to the next, and is just about as far away from the Chandler character as you can get. Robert Altman must have run out of good ideas when he made this mediocre movie.
(Maybe) - review by John
In the 20s daughters of well-to-do families very often remained at home until they were married. Kitty is in that situation when Doctor Walter Fane, a bacteriologist, asks her to marry him. She isn't in love with him, but her mother makes it clear that her father cannot keep on supporting her, so she accepts. Walter takes up a research job in China without as much as consulting Kitty, which makes her very angry. They arrive in Shanghai and she soon finds the close English community unwelcoming, so that when the suave British vice-consul, Charlie Townsend, makes a pass at her at a formal party, she falls for him and they become lovers. Unfortunately they are not particularly discreet and Walter gets to know about it, and in a fury, volunteers to work far away in the countryside where there is a cholera epidemic. He tells her that if she doesn't go with him, he'll divorce her for adultery. As Charlie has no intention of leaving his wife, she has little choice but to go with him. In the small town of Mei-tan-fu, where the cholera epidemic is decimating the population, her husband works in the infirmary all day while she is confined to the house. Her only neighbours are Waddington, the deputy commissioner, amazed that her husband could bring her to such a place of death, and the mother superior in charge of the orphanage. Naomi Watts gives a powerful performance as the rather shallow Kitty, as does Edward Norton as the unforgiving husband. The plot adapted from the Somerset Maughan novel is wholly credible for that day and age. The author's precise and lethal dialogue is faithfully reproduced which makes the battle of wills so absorbing as the two people go to their own private hell and back. Diana Rigg, as the Mother Superior, brings a formidable presence to her character. The cinematography of the beautiful Chinese countryside is breathtaking.
(Excellent) - review by John
Jan Dite is a small man but he has big expectations and always on the lookout for an opportunity to better himself. As a young man in the 30s, he starts out by selling frankfurters to passengers on trains that stop at one of the railway stations in Prague. One day he's given a large denomination bank note and conveniently fails to deliver change to the customer before the train leaves the station. With money in his pocket he up-grades to a job as barman in a businessman's beer hall where he eavesdrops and learns a lot from the clientele of businessmen. It's there that he meets a smart young lady who is happy to entertain the young man with such an engaging personality. From barman he moves on to becoming a waiter at a high-class hotel, where he comes under the tutelage of the very superior maitre d', who has an erudite answer to every question, gained from having been in the service of the King of England. But Jan makes a big mistake in marrying a German girl living in Prague at the start of WW2. He discovers she is more wedded to National Socialism than to him, and goes off to serve in the German army. At the beginning of the movie, Jan Dite is a middle-aged man just released from prison. He had been given a 15 year sentence by the ruling communist party during the Russian occupation. He tells his story in a series of flashbacks. As a young man, Jan is a comic character seizing on the moment to have fun at the expense of the pompous idiots common in society. But with German troops arriving in Prague, comes a more serious note, and he has to rely more on his wits and good fortune. Jan Dite and the maitre d' are characters you won't forget.
(Excellent) - review by John
Ex-Squadron Leader Dick Blaney (John Finch) finds it hard to hold down a job after years in the service. He has been working in a Covent Garden pub as barman, but that job comes to an abrupt end when the landlord catches him taking one too many free drinks. He meets his friend, Bob (Barry Foster), a street-smart trader, just round the corner from the pub, who offers him a few notes from the wad he's carrying to see him through, but Dick won't accept his money. Depressed he calls on his ex-wife, Brenda (Barbara Leigh Hunt), who is making a good living running an escort agency nearby. Dick gives her a hard time in her office venting his frustrations, and again over dinner at a restaurant. When he goes back next day to apologize he's surprised to find the office locked but decides not to wait. The secretary, returning from her lunch break, spots him on his way out, so that when she discovers her boss strangled with a necktie in her office, she has no doubt who murdered her and tells the police about seeing the ex-husband leave the premises earlier. Dick becomes the prime suspect, and realizes that he could also be accused of similar murders that had occurred recently. This is one of Hitchcock's more macabre thrillers with a great screenplay by Anthony Shaffer. The cast is studded with well-known actors from the London theatre, including Bernard Cribbins as the landlord where Dick is the barman. There are a couple of excessively violent scenes which could have been left more to the imagination. Ex-Squadron Leader Dick Blaney (John Finch) finds it hard to hold down a job after years in the service. He has been working in a Covent Garden pub as barman, but that job comes to an abrupt end when the landlord catches him taking one too many free drinks. He meets his friend, Bob (Barry Foster), a street-smart trader, just round the corner from the pub, who offers him a few notes from the wad he's carrying to see him through, but Dick won't accept his money. Depressed he calls on his ex-wife, Brenda (Barbara Leigh Hunt), who is making a good living running an escort agency nearby. Dick gives her a hard time in her office venting his frustrations, and again over dinner at a restaurant. When he goes back next day to apologize he's surprised to find the office locked but decides not to wait. The secretary, returning from her lunch break, spots him on his way out, so that when she discovers her boss strangled with a necktie in her office, she has no doubt who murdered her and tells the police about seeing the ex-husband leave the premises earlier. Dick becomes the prime suspect, and realizes that he could also be accused of similar murders that had occurred recently. This is one of Hitchcock's more macabre thrillers with a great screenplay by Anthony Shaffer. The cast is studded with well-known actors from the London theatre, including Bernard Cribbins as the landlord where Dick is the barman. There are a couple of excessively violent scenes which could have been left more to the imagination.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Jackie is a smart 44 year-old but in a poorly-paid job as an airline flight attendant on a shuttle service between Mexico and LA. She supplements her income by bringing in stashes of $50,000 from Mexico for a gun-dealer, Odel. But she finally gets picked up by a couple of federal police agents, who have been given a tip-off. They know exactly how much cash she is carrying without even counting it. But it's Odell they're after, and they offer her a deal if she'll inform on him. She's not talking, so they take her into custody. Odell raises the $10,000 bail through Max, a bail bondsman, and she's soon released. Odell still has half a million dollars in Mexico, and Jackie devises an intricate plan to get her hands on it by convincing the feds that she's working for them, and Odell that she's only interested in the commission. Quentin Tarantino has adapted an Elmore Leonard novel and uses Pam Grier, a veteran of tough-girl movies of the 70's, as his lead. Samuel L Jackson is the fast-talking gun-salesman, Odell, and Robert De Nero, Louis, his accomplice just out of prison. For light relief, Bridget Fonda has an interesting part as Odell's loose girlfriend. An evenly paced, structured narrative, don't expect it to have the impact of a 'Reservoir Dogs' or 'Pulp Fiction'.
(Worth watching) - review by John
David (Dustin Hoffman) and Amy (Susan George) move into an isolated farmhouse a few miles from Lands End in the south-west of England with the nearest village more than three miles away. David, doing research into an obscure branch of mathematics, would be regarded as a nerd in urban America where he comes from, but the rugged village tradesmen, whom he hires to work on the roof of the barn next to the house, come to regard him as just 'a bit strange'. The attractive Amy, whose father used to live in the farmhouse, went to school in the area, and had a short affair with Charlie, one of the roof tilers, and he goes out of his way to remind her of it in front of her husband. David is intimidated both by Charlie and his three mates, who mock him behind his back. Amy, bored with nothing to do most of the day while David sweats over his equations, provides an added interest for them by flouncing around the house bra-less. They suggest to David one day that they go out on a shoot, and to show a bit of manly spirit, he accepts. They do the beating while he pops the birds, but warn him that there might be a long wait before the birds start to fly. David doesn't realize that the shoot is a ruse to give Charlie time to call on Amy, while he's out of the house. From here on the festering tension between the couple and the locals, always suspicious of city-dwellers, starts to escalate. Taken from the novel, 'The Siege at Trencher's Farm', there is a 20 minute sequence at the end of this movie of gradually increasing violence which is perhaps the most riveting and spectacle sequence ever put on film. Previous to that there is a disturbing rape scene (easily negotiated by closing your eyes) which is a prelude to the battle that follows. Susan George and Dustin Hoffman are simply superb, and the director, Sam Peckinpah (The Wild Bunch) brilliant in his pacing and staging of the last incredible scene.
(Excellent) - review by John
Adam (Stephen Campbell Moore) returns from a spell of living in France having completed his novel satirizing the life-style of the decadent young in London society. On landing from the Channel steamer, a bigoted, narrow-minded customs' officer confiscates the manuscript, describing it as 'filth'. Without an advance from his publisher, Adam is penniless and can no longer afford to marry the socialite Nina (Emily Mortimer). At his hotel he wins 1,000 pounds on the turn of a coin from the very wealthy Ginger (David Tennant), who has his eye on Nina. But then promptly places the full amount on an outsider, 'Indian Runner', recommended by a slightly tipsy 'major', (Jim Broadbent), a racing man, who convinces Adam that he stands to win over 30,000. In the meantime his attempts to write a gossip column fails dismally. Lord Balcairn (James McAvoy), on the other hand, in his well-established 'Chatterbox' column, has been writing anonymously about the scandalous goings-on of party-goers for some time. But his secret has been leaked, his friends feel betrayed, and his lordship is barred from attending Lady Maitland's annual party. In desperation he asks Adam to cover for him, and ring through an account of the party to his editor, a favour that has unexpected consequences for both. A very faithful adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's between-the-war's novel, 'Vile Bodies', the frenetic energy of the party-goers is wonderfully portrayed. But Waugh is ever the shrewd observer of people's folly and this movie does not end with everybody in a state of joyous collapse.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Charlie (Joseph Cotton) is stretched out on a bed in his rented room in a rundown part of town. Two men have called, but his landlady hasn't let them in, as instructed. The newspapers have been carrying a story about the latest murder of a rich widow, and we are left in no doubt that Charlie is a suspect. He decides to leave town and sends a telegram to his sister, Emma (Patricia Collinge), in Santa Rosa, to tell her he's on his way to see her. He's given a huge welcome by the family and especially by the impressionable daughter, Young Charlie (Teresa Wright), who has been complaining about being bored. She loves her Uncle Charlie and intends to make the most of his visit. But the next day two men show up, one with a camera. We know that they are in fact police officers, but they convince Emma that they are conducting a survey on how middle-class families live, and she takes them in and shows them the house. And of course they want to interview everyone. In the meantime Uncle Charlie is blatantly depositing $20,000 in cash in the local bank where Emma's husband is a teller. Afterwards he returns to the house and of course doesn't want to talk to the intruders. While he's out, Young Charlie goes to collect something from her bedroom, now occupied by her uncle, and discovers some newspaper cuttings in the waste-paper basket referring to the Merry Widow Murders. At this stage the story is not all that convincing. One gets the impression that Uncle Charlie thinks he's above suspicion and appears to be making little effort to cover his tracks. Emma is as gullible as they come and is incredibly naive to let a couple of guys loose in her house. However, Young Charlie's adulation and subsequent suspicions are genuine and what you'd expect from a starry-eyed yet intelligent girl. So she's the mainstay that keeps the narrative from foundering. Excellent acting, camerawork and direction as to be expected from a Hitchcock movie .
(Worth watching) - review by John
Michael Sullivan (Tom Hanks) is the long-serving enforcer for John Rooney (Paul Newman), the local mafia boss controlling a Chicago suburb in the early 30s. His 12 year-old son, Michael Jr (Tyler Hoechlin), sees him leave the house smartly dressed everyday, as if going to the office, but he doesn't know exactly what his father does for a living. When he sees him getting ready to go out one night, he sneaks into the back of his Ford and hides under the seat. Arriving at a disused warehouse, his father joins a meeting of gang members, which turns out to be a kangaroo court to decide the fate of one of their number, who is promptly shot. Michael Jr witnesses the shooting through a peep-hole from outside, but he's noticed by one of the gang members as he scrambles back into the car. The boy is now vulnerable, and to protect him, Michael Sr has little choice but to find a hide-out to escape the hit-man who will surely be on the way. Sullivan is impressively portrayed by Tom Hanks who carries out orders with cool detachment, and as a man under an obligation to John Rooney, who brought him up. Whereas the Boss, played by Paul Newman, is unpredictable, switching from being friendly to being ruthless in a matter of seconds, and yet revealing an underlying sadness when his favourite 'son' has to be hunted down. A masterly performance. The Sam Mendes touch is apparent in every scene, beautifully shot by his cinematographer, Conrad L Hall. Both worked together in 'American Beauty'.
(Excellent) - review by John
Three comrades from Revolutionary Russia book into a 5 star hotel in Paris, but the only room with a safe is the Royal Suite, so they move in and enjoy all the trappings reserved for royal guests. They have with them jewelry confiscated by the State from the Grand Duchess Swana, now a socialite living in Paris. Their orders are to sell the jewelry through a well-known dealer, M Messier, to raise funds for the revolutionary cause. The Duchess hears of the sale, and seeks help from her close friend, Count Leon (Melvyn Douglas), who obtains a court injunction temporarily forbidding the sale. When Kommissar Razinin, back in Russia, hears of the hold-up, he sends Ninotchka Yakusova (Greta Garbo), a trade official, to Paris to bring the three wayward comrades into line and to push forward with the sale. Ninotchka is an attractive but humourless lady, with a communist's outlook on the decadent culture in which she finds herself. Her biting criticisms of it would do justice to Karl Marx. At first she is not taken-in by the attentions of the smooth talking Count, and suspects he is only trying to win her over to accept a 50-50 deal on the sale of the jewels. But in fact he has fallen in love with her, and manages to accompany her on a site-seeing tour, which goes a long way in softening her attitude to him and to the bourgeois life-style she sees all around her. But it is the beautiful clothes in the shops that finally persuades her that Paris is not such a bad place after all. The Duchess is not pleased in the way things are turning out, and decides that she must lose no time in separating the couple. The excellent screenplay is very witty and keeps the story bubbling along. Greta Garbo is absolutely stunning as Ninotchka. She has a charisma that so rivets your attention that more is never enough. Fans were devastated when she decided to retire shortly after making this movie. If you have never seen her perform, this romantic comedy gives you the chance.
(Excellent) - review by John
Jake Berman (Harvey Keitel), a real-estate developer, suspects that his wife, Kitty (Meg Tilly), is having an affair, and hires Jake Gittes (Jack Nicholson), a private eye, to investigate and collect evidence. The motel where the couple meet is located, and Jake Berman is instructed in what to do when he bursts in on them. But when he does, with Jake Gittes and his assistant in the next room as witnesses, he produces a gun and shoots his wife's lover, who turns out to be his business partner. But the partner's wife, Lillian (Madelaine Stowe), doesn't think it was the wild action of a doting husband, but a set-up by the Berman's to acquire the half-share of a huge property the partners were developing. She knows that Jake Gittes has a tape-recording of the couple's last conversation immediately before the shooting, and calls round and throws herself on him to acquire it. But Jake not only has a professional interest in the tape, but a personal one. The name of Katherine Mulwray is mentioned, which reminds him of the death of her mother, Evelyn (Faye Dunaway), in a police shooting in L A's Chinatown 10 years before, and the spiriting away of her daughter, Katherine, by the evil Noah Cross (John Huston). This is billed as the sequel to' Chinatown', with oil the hidden element rather than water, and Nicholson, as director, rather than Polanski. The plots of both movies are fairly involved, but Nicholson manages to make his rather more convoluted. Harvey Keital takes the palm for acting, followed closely by Madelaine Stowe, whose seduction scene with Nicholson is hilarious. This is a good run-of-the-mill mystery thriller.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Colin Briggs (Clive Owen) is in jail and coming to the end of a long sentence. As a well-behaved prisoner he is given the chance to serve out his term in an Open Prison, where there are no warders and no barbed wire. He and the other prisoners, who have accepted the offer, arrive at a cluster of buildings in the Cotswolds about 100 miles west of Oxford. His room-mate, Fergus (David Kelly), who is old and frail, and serving a life sentence, likes to chat, but Colin keeps to himself. At Christmas Fergus gives him a packet of violet seeds, which he plants out in the prison grounds just to keep Fergus happy, thinking they won't come to anything in the stoney ground and cold weather. But in the spring when they start to bloom, the Prison Governor (Warren Clarke) decides that Colin has green fingers, and he details him, together with Fergus and a couple of fellow prisoners to design and build a flower garden in the prison grounds. They clear the brambles, lay out the garden and sow the seeds. By mid-summer they have a colourful show, and the Prison Governor is so taken with their efforts he persuades a friend, Georgina Woodhouse (Helen Mirren), a best-selling author of gardening books, to take a look. She is so impressed she sponsors them to enter a competition. This is a light-hearted romantic drama based on fact. Colin is a sufficiently complex character, and the story unusual enough to keep us guessing as to how things will turn out. The governor's daughter, Primrose (Natasha Little), provides the love interest difficult to sustain in the prison environment despite the freedom accorded to the prisoners.
(Worth watching) - review by John
John, a captain in the navy, and his wife, Rae, decide to spend time on their 50ft yacht sailing the Whitsunday Passage. Rae has been in an accident in which her young son is killed and needs time to recover. During a period of light winds they notice a black schooner come into view. It looks as if it has been through some bad weather. They are studying it through binoculars when they see a man in a dinghy rowing furiously towards them. They motor over and pick him up. The man, who calls himself Hughie, is traumatized and John has trouble finding out what has happened. Hughie eventually explains that the rest of the crew, totalling five, have died of food poisoning. John suggests it could be from botulism caused by eating badly-stored food, but he's suspicious and locks Hughie in the cabin when he falls asleep. He launches the dinghy and rows over to the schooner some distance away. He finds the deck in a real mess, some of the rigging is swinging about and the sails in a sorry state. Below deck water is swilling around and the engine won't start. In the meantime Hughie has woken up, finds himself locked in, and starts hammering on the cabin door. Rae has no intention of opening it. Instead she starts the engine and begins motoring towards the schooner. A full-blooded thriller that keeps up the suspense relentlessly with no holds barred. Nicole Kidman is superb as the resourceful Rae, and Sam Neill, as her husband, puts in a gritty performance surviving his ordeal aboard the schooner. Scenes below decks in both yachts are wonderfully captured.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
George and Martha have no children, but Martha has an imaginary son, aged 16. George knows about it, and plays along with her fantasy. George is an associate professor of history at the college where Martha's father is president, but instead of being head of his department, his career has stalled. Martha niggles him about his lack of ambition. They are first seen walking through the college gardens after attending a staff party at the college. It's 2.30 in the morning and Martha tells George she's invited a new member of staff, Nick, and his young wife, Honey, over for a nightcap. George is not pleased, he's tired and complains that she's always springing things on him. The young couple arrive in the middle of a heated argument with Martha baiting George about being bogged down in the history department. The young couple sit watching and shocked at the ferocity of their invective. With insults being hurled at him, George disappears into a back room, takes down a rifle from a top shelf and gives Martha the fright of her life when he comes out and points it at her. An adaptation of the 1962 Albee play, this movie packs an emotional punch that leaves one reeling. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor go from loving couple to hurling accusations at each other in perhaps their greatest performance on film. George Segal and Sandy Dennis are wonderful as the invited audience witnessing, and eventually drawn into, the verbal battle and party games that continue until dawn.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Dan and his fiance, Nicole, are searching for a larger apartment with the help of Thierry, a real estate agent. Dan, recently discharged from the army, is also looking for a job but spends too much time, from Nicole's point of view, propping up the bar at a nearby hotel. Dan and the barman, Lionel, commiserate with each other, Dan because Nicole is getting short-tempered with him, and Lionel because his bedridden father is rude to anyone he employs to look after him. Charlotte, Thierry's secretary, has taken on that job in the evenings and managing to keep her temper. She's a dedicated Christian and records religious TV programs on video. One of these she gives to her boss to view, always hopeful of a convert, but forgets to erase some revealing footage at the end of the tape. Thierry is able to watch the video undisturbed because his sister, Gaelle, who shares his apartment, is out most nights keeping appointments with men she has contacted through an agency. One of these turns out to be Dan, having taken Lionel's advice to find a replacement for Nicole. This adaptation of the Alan Ayckbourn play, 'Private Fears and Public Places', has moved its location from London to Paris. The theatrical plot, despite consisting of a number of short scenes, never appears episodic because the characters are all linked. Andre Dussollier as Thierry, the real estate agent, and Sabine Azima as Charlotte, his secretary, have the best scenes and are the stand-out performers. An enjoyable romantic drama with touches of wry humour.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Finn (Peter Dinklage) is the repairman in Henry's model train shop, The Golden Spike. But Henry is a chain-smoker and he drops dead one day. The shop and its contents are sold, and Finn is out of a job, but Henry has left him a plot of land a mile or so from a small rural town in New Jersey called Newfoundland. When Finn goes to inspect it, he finds a single-line railway runs through the property and an agent's office right beside the track. The inside of the building is rather like a stationmaster's office, complete with ticket box, a comfortable couch, sink and stove. Finn makes himself at home. Being unusually small he is often made fun of and keeps very much to himself, so when Joe (Bobby Cannavale), a friendly Cuban immigrant, who parks his coffee wagon nearby, calls on him and offers him a cup of coffee, he politely declines. Joe has few friends too, spending all his free time looking after a sick father, so he persists with Finn and it's not long before he joins him trainspotting. Finn also meets Olivia (Patricia Clarkson), an artist living in the town, who nearly runs him over in her 4-wheel drive. He won't accept the lift she offers, so she turns up at his place with a bottle of bourbon and they settle down for a quiet evening. It's not long before all three are out trainspotting, drawn together by their individual loneliness. This delightfully quirky movie, despite its dark side, has a lightness and genuine charm. Very little movement of the camera emphasizes the peacefulness of the setting, as if time stands still as we get to know the characters. The varied soundtrack, closer to folk than country, matches the story perfectly.
(Worth watching) - review by John
The first 40 minutes of this movie is taken up following the trail of an unemployed executive, with a singularly bland personality, travelling around the countryside, sleeping in his car and generally killing time, while pretending to his wife and friends that he is on to something big. His sortie into Switzerland is even more bizarre since there is no indication of what he is really up to. No doubt he pulls off the big deal to save his self respect and avoid the ridicule of his family, but it's hardly worth hanging around waiting for it to happen.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
Towards the end of my review of this movie, Danny's experiences should read Robbie's experiences.
(Worth watching) - review by John
The Tullis family live in an imposing mansion not far from London in the period immediately before WW 2. They are getting ready for a party to celebrate the homecoming of their eldest son, Leon. Celia is standing beside the fountain chatting to Robbie, their cook's son, whom the family have helped educate, when Briony, Cecilia's 13 year-old sister, notices them from her bedroom window. Suddenly Cecilia throws off her clothes and plunges into the water to search for a piece of vase which Robbie has accidentally broken. To the innocent Briony it seems strange behaviour, and when Robbie gives her a lewd note to deliver to her sister, which she reads, she becomes suspicious of Robbie's intentions. The brother arrives bringing his friend, Paul, who seems a bit of a sly character.That evening Robbie joins the other house guests, the women in their long dresses and the men in their dinner jackets. Before dinner Briony happens to wander into the library and finds Danny and Cecilia making love. She is shocked and thinks Danny is seducing Cecilia. Later that evening, when walking in the garden, she witnesses something worse, and tells a lie which she has to live with for years to come. Not long after this episode, the story moves to northern France and becomes almost entirely concerned with Danny and his experiences at Dunkirk, with minimal screen time given to either Cecilia or Briony. The lives of the three main characters might have been given equal space in Ian McEwan's novel; they are certainly not given equal exposure in the movie, and it suffers accordingly. Saoirse Ronan, as the young Briony, easily takes the prize as best actor.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Roy (John Cusack) is a small-time con-man. For instance, he would go up to a barman and ask for change for a $20 bill but slip him a $10 bill instead. Unfortunately he does it to a barman who knows the trick and gets thumped in the guts, which lands him in hospital. Roy's girlfriend, Myra (Annette Bening), is in a different league. She and her previous partner would rent furnished premises and make them look like an established broker's business, similar to the bookie's set-up in 'The Sting'. Using her wiles as a high-class whore, she would introduce her wealthy clients to her partner, who would persuade them to hand over large sums of cash for investment, which the pair would then pocket. Roy wants to know what happened to her partner, but she's evasive, which makes him cautious about putting up the money for a scam she has in mind. Roy's mother, Lilly (Anjelica Huston), is working a different racket. For years she has been employed by a mobster to lay bets of thousands of dollars at race tracks on races that have already been fixed. She runs into trouble with her boss because she helps Roy get to hospital instead of being down at the race track, and he loses thousands of dollars. An exceptionally good screenplay with three great actors playing such diverse characters, makes this crime/thriller one of the best.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Finn, aged 10, lives in an old weatherboard house on the Florida Gulf Coast with his sister, Maggie, and her partner, Joe, an odd-job man. He's out in his boat one day sketching fish swimming in the shallow water, when he is suddenly grabbed by Lustig, an escaped convict, who persuades him to bring him food and a pair of bolt-cutters from the house. Finn manages to do this undetected, and Lustig will remember this good turn. Joe gets the job of tidying up the garden of a Gothic-style mansion nearby. He takes Finn with him on his first day, where Finn meets Estella, a pretty girl about his own age, the niece of the rich owner, Ms Dinsmoor. She approves of Finn and tells him she'll give him pocket money if he will call every Saturday to play with Estella. The money comes in useful to Finn over the years in paying for his art materials. But Ms Dinsmoor warns him that Estella will break his heart, as her heart was broken when her fiance abandoned her on their wedding day. This first part of the story is reasonably faithful to the novel and has a fairy tale quality about it. The relationship between Finn and Estelle is very touching and the interior of the house where they play appears as if nothing had changed since the day the eccentric Ms Dinsmoor bought it 30 years before. But when Finn moves to a spacious studio in New York's centre of the arts, SoHo, to develop his mediocre talent as an artist, the movie becomes much less convincing. Gwyneth Paltrow, as the grown-up Estella, seems a little too cold to hold Finn's interest, and the serious Ethan Hawke certainly doesn't mirror the outgoing and enthusiastic Pip.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Archie's second-rate vaudeville act in a small theatre in the seaside town of Morecomb in Lancashire is not attracting the holiday crowds it used to. For years he has been relying on the reputation of his father who was a star turn. He tries unsuccessfully to persuade the new manager at The Wintergarden, the largest theatre in town, to put on his new but untried show, which is still only in his mind. But always one to seize an opportunity, he accepts the job of master of cermonies at the national beauty contest being held in the resort. A womanizer for most of his adult life, Archie becomes besotted with the young Tina, the competitor who comes second, and sweet-talks her into meeting him next day with predictable results. She sees her chance to be a star, and he looks to her well-off parents to finance his new venture. Apart from the dominating presence of Laurence Olivier, there are some interesting young actors in this movie making their film debuts, including Alan Bates, Albert Finney and Joan Plowright, all of whom have become household names. The screenplay is by John Osborne of 'Look Back in Anger' fame, who is riding his usual hobby-horse of people living without hope in a world of false values, great theatre in 60s Britain, but hardly of interest today.
(Maybe) - review by John
Tore and his wife, Mareta, live in a simple homestead with their daughter, Karin, a pregnant servant girl, Ingeri, whom they've fostered, and three or four retainers who work the small farm. Karin is charming and innocent but spoilt by her doting parents. But they are strict Christians and it's Karin's job to take Our Lady's candles to matins some distant away. Karin is happy to go once she is allowed to wear her best clothes. She persuades the jealous and unkempt Ingeri to go with her for company, and they set off on their horses, taking freshly baked bread for their journey. They come across a shack in the woods where an old man lives. Ingeri decides to stop there for a while and persuades Karin to ride on alone through the forest knowing the dangers. Further along the track Karin encounters two rough-looking men and a boy lounging beside the track while their goats feed. They follow her and when they catch up pretend to be friendly, but lead her horse to a clearing where they all sit down and take out the bread from her saddle bag. Ingeri sits watching, out of sight, having caught up. She sees one of the men tear a piece off one of the loaves and jump in the air with fright. He has found the toad she put there that morning. A traditional story set in Sweden in the Middle Ages, where Christianity has taken root, and is practiced by the devout family. But Paganism still played an important part in the lives of many of the poor. The nasty trick played by Ingeri was part of her worship of the pagan god, Odin, the chief god of Norse mythology, whom she had invoked earlier that morning to bring down a curse on Karin. A powerful drama exploring the big themes of religion and superstition, innocence and guilt.
(Excellent) - review by John
Camille lives alone in a chilly attic apartment of a large block. She works as an office cleaner, but does portraits in charcoal. She's lonely up there so when she bumps into Philibert, a friendly well-mannered young man, occupying a large apartment on the ground floor, she invites him to dinner, which is quite a success despite the cramped conditions. He becomes concerned for her welfare when she catches 'flu later on, and puts her to bed in his apartment. But Franck, a chef and Philibert's housemate, is not happy with the arrangement. He becomes surly, plays his radio at full volume and makes life pretty unbearable for Camille. But when he goes to visit his sick mother on his day off, he becomes another person, providing for her every need. While the stand-off between Franck and Camille is going on, Philibert visits his family, which gives them a chance to make peace with each other. To make amends for his bad behaviour, Franck takes Camille to a happy family celebration. This adaptation from a very long novel does suffer from one or two anomalies. For instance, Philibert produces a fiance at the end when we had no indication that she was even a girlfriend. Audrey Tautou, as Camille, is as captivating as ever, and Laurence Stocker, as the slightly eccentric Philibert, plays a vital part in injecting some badly needed humour into the drama.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Recently Giuliana (Monica Vitti) was involved in a near-collision with another car and spent a month in hospital suffering from shock. She wouldn't let the hospital tell her husband, Ugo (Carlo Chionetti), when he came to see her, that she also had a nervous breakdown. When she visits him one day at the huge power-generating plant where he is the manager, he is talking to a mining engineer, Corrado (Richard Harris), who is recruiting skilled labour for a project in Argentina. Ugo, who can't help but notice that Corrado is both attracted to Giuliana and a little intrigued by her odd behaviour, tells him that his wife is still suffering from shock. Corrado thinks there is more to it than that and manages to track Giuliana down when she is visiting a shop that she is planning to open. He persuades her to accompany him to the next town where he wants to interview a potential recruit for his project. They begin a dialogue, a relationship conducted at arm's length, in which she is searching for stability and meaning in her life, and he, seemingly baffled, trying to come to terms with her as a person. Giuliana is not only suffering from a mild form of mental illness, but she has a husband not interested enough to take control of her chaotic life and give her the support she desperately needs. Present in nearly every scene is the bleak landscape of the huge industrial complex, the ground littered with discarded scrap-iron and chimneys belching clouds of poisonous smoke. Not an environment in which to get back one's sanity. A haunting psychological drama with breath-taking cinematography.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
Lulu is a tease and plays with the affections of men to further her ambitions in society. It is widely known that she is the mistress of newspaper publisher, Dr Schon, but he calls one day looking very depressed to tell her that he is marrying his fiance, Marie, to avoid any further scandal. Lulu still wants to carry on with the relationship, but she also wants to take up a career as a circus acrobat after being talked into it by Rodrigo, himself an acrobat. It so happens that Dr Schon's son, Alwa, is putting on a theatrical revue. He' s looking over costume designs in his father's office one day when Lulu shows up to see Dr Schon, and seizes the opportunity to charm Alwa, who, with his father's approval, decides to use her in his revue. But on the first night she refuses to go on stage when she sees Schon standing in the wings with his fiance. He's furious, storms over to Lulu and grabs her roughly, but ends up embracing her, while Marie looks on in disgust. This could be the end to Schon's marriage plans. Being a silent movie with fewer subtitles than a present day foreign movie, it sometimes takes a while to put labels to characters and to understand their motives. Louise Brooks plays the seductive, young prostitute with a beguiling innocence, and one can understand her reputation as a brilliant actress of the late 20s and 30s. A suitable soundtrack of original music has been added, but it could be mistaken for Kurt Weill.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Camille returns to the French stage, after being away for 3 years, in a production of Pirandello's 'As You Desire Me', put on by her leading man and husband, Ugo. It is only attracting small audiences and she's not happy with her performance. She finds solice in meeting up with her ex-boyfriend, Pierre, an academic now married to Sonia, a ballet teacher. He hasn't changed much and is still researching the philosopher, Heidegger, and bores his friends on the subject. Ugo meanwhile is off to the library in search of the lost manuscript of a play, which, if found and performed would save the struggling company. Dominique, working in the library, helps him in his search and finds him attractive. Her rich family owns a private library of manuscripts, which her devious half-brother, Arthur, manages. He's interested in Sonia, but still has a hold over Dominique. This is a comic drama in the old-style. Couples swop partners, but only temporarily, and, as in the traditional theatre, are far too sophisticated to be seen in bed with each other. In fact that only occurs with one couple for a reason that has nothing to do with lust, and is left to the imagination. Both the movie, and the play within the movie, revolve round Camille, played by Jeanne Balibar, whose magnetism in both roles rivets attention. She is ably backed-up by a strong cast, including Sergio Castellitto, who is so brilliant in 'Mostly Martha'.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Paul (Sean Penn), an academic, languishes in a hospital bed waiting for a heart transplant. His wife Mary is consulting a specialist hoping to have a baby by artificial insemination. Christina (Naomi Watts), happily married to an architect, has two young daughters and is attending a support group to overcome her drug addiction. Jack (Benicio Del Toro), an odd job man, has a wife, Marianne, and two young children, and has found religion while in gaol. All three are severely affected by a tragic accident which occurs early in the movie, but which is never shown. The life of each one is told separately, switching from one to the other, moving backwards and forwards in time, until they meet in a final showdown. The relatively short scenes keep us on our toes and ensure that we give it our full concentration. It's a compelling story with considerable emotional impact due to outstanding performances by the three principal characters.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Louise, a beautician in a small country town, arrives in Paris for the week-end to stay with her older sister, Marline. Her first novel has been accepted for publication and on the Monday morning she is due to sign the contract. She is looking forward to a jolly week-end with her sister, whom she hasn't seen for ages. But Marlene turns out to be a humourless, over-particular housewife who is furious that her space has been invaded, even for such a short time, and is positively rude to her. Louise is quite puzzled by her sister's behaviour, but doesn't allow it to dampen her high spirits. Marline is beastly to her at home, and tries to cut off her incessant chatter when out shopping or when they meet up with her posh friends. A dinner party ends in disaster when Louise launches into an embarrassing story about how she met her husband. Despite the antagonism between them, there's a wonderful scene where the sisters are arguing and they suddenly notice the TV is showing a clip from the movie 'The Young Girls of Rochefort' with the Deneuve sisters doing a song and dance routine. All is forgotten. They both jump up, dance and sing along to the music with total abandonment, eventually collapsing in each other's arms. Marline can't help but let her hair down once in a while. Isabelle Huppert is devastating in the role. She is so obsessed with hatred that we are appalled but can't help but feel half-sorry for her. Catharine Frot is wonderful as the irrepressible sister whose forbearance and sadness is wonderfully conveyed. This may be high drama, but it has its comic side.
(Maybe) - review by John
An elderly couple travel by train from their home in Onomichi to visit their family in Tokyo, which in the 50s was quite a long journey. They first stay with their eldest son, a doctor, and his family, who barely tolerate their presence. An expedition is organized then cancelled with a feeble excuse, and the old couple end up at the public baths. They are even less welcome by their married daughter, a beautician, who hardly bothers to disguise her impatience, and ropes in the daughter-in-law to accompany them on a coach tour of the city. The daughter-in-law is the only one who shows concern or respect for her dead husband's parents. She insists they stay over-night with her even though she only lives in a one-room apartment. She cadges a bottle of sake from next door, which she knows her father-in-law will appreciate, gives them a decent meal, and makes them feel at home. Each scene of this movie is an episode in itself, rather like a single-page short story. The camera remains still, sometimes set low, so that detail often overlooked comes into focus. But between the scenes, it scans the immediate background, picking out a feature here and there, which reminds us that the couple are on holiday and might have taken those shots themselves had they possessed a camera. A fascinating insight into a family with its members so absorbed in their own lives they have little time for each other.
(Excellent) - review by John
30 year-old Tess McGill (Melanie Griffith), gets a job as a secretary in the mergers and acquisitions section of a Wall Street firm, but her dolly-like appearance, which belies her intelligence, doesn't encourage her work-mates to take her too seriously. Her new boss, Katharine (Sigourney Weaver), rather unkindly tells her to 'get rid of those earrings', but still listens to her ideas. One of these recommends the takeover of a radio network by a company that would not normally be interested in radio. Her boss brushes her proposal aside as if not worthy of consideration. Tess stands-in for her boss when Katharine breaks her leg in a skiing accident and is away for 6 weeks. She is checking on something in Katharine's computer one day when she discovers her radio proposal in one of the files. Furious that Katharine should steal her idea, she moves into her office, and persuades one of her friends in the back-office to act as her secretary in times of need. From her research she knows that Jack Tanner (Harrison Ford), is the guy most likely to be interested in brokering the deal. She gives him a call and they arrange to meet next morning. That night she buys a dress specially to go to a party of mostly finance people. By chance Jack is there, sees this attractive blond sitting at the bar and goes over to chat her up, not realizing that she is the person he'll be meeting next morning. Mike Nichols paces this story perfectly. Tess takes us along with her as she slowly finds her feet in the cut-throat field of finance. Jack, when not dazzled by Tess, has the worried look of someone who knows all the pitfalls as the deal takes off. There's quite a bit of fun along the way, and a grand finale that you would expect from the director of 'The Graduate'.
(Maybe) - review by John
Erin is trying to raise $15,000 so as to appeal the court's decision to grant custody of her 7 year-old daughter, Angela, to her ex, Darrell, who makes a living stealing hospital wheelchairs. She takes a job doing the only thing she's capable of to make money fast and becomes a stripper at the Eager Beaver. She's not a bad dancer and the patrons attach the odd dollar bill where they can to her anatomy. One over-enthusiastic member of the audience gets a bit fresh, and Congressman Dilbeck, visiting the club very much incognito, and mesmerized by the beautiful Erin, hits him over the head with a bottle. For the story to proceed there has to be someone with a camera at-the-ready to take the damaging photograph. It turns out to be Jerry, a young guy in love with Erin. He tells her that he will soon be able to give her the money to launch her appeal. You guessed it, he has a photograph worth at least $15,000. But Jerry doesn't take account of the congressman's minders. A couple of days later he's found floating in the sea. The story so far is not exactly gripping and it doesn't get any better. Billed as a comedy as well as being a thriller, Demi Moore, as Erin, follows the script and is suitably subdued most of the time worrying about her child and how she is going to get her back. But all that's forgotten when she hits the stage to show off her physical attributes in the club, which she does about every 15 minutes. Bert Reynolds, as the congressman, is obviously the comic turn to make us laugh, but he overplays the part so outrageously he ceases to be amusing. Armande Assante is painful as the helpful cop, always looking away from the person he's talking too. A movie easily forgotten.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
The billionaire owner of Knox Oil in Texas, Felix Happer, wants to build an oil refinery on the North Sea coast of Scotland. He has his eye on a fishing village of only a few houses and instructs a young executive, Mac, chosen because of his name, to fly to Scotland to negotiate its purchase. Danny, a company employee and a genuine Scot, but a bit of a twit, meets Mac at the airport, and the two make their way to the village and check in at the only inn. Mac has to admit to Gordon, the innkeeper, that they have come to buy the village and the foreshore. Gordon tells them that's not a problem. He's the accountant for the villagers and handles all their business, and will negotiate the deal. The villagers find the prospect of retiring to Edinburgh with a million or so very attractive, but Gordon keeps quiet about that. He and Mac finally agree on a purchase price, which is way-below the limit Mac's boss has given him. This time Mac is the one who keeps quiet. The deal is ready to be signed but they still have a problem. Old Ben, living on the beach in a house built of driftwood, doesn't want a bar of it and refuses to sell. Burt Lancaster plays the eccentric American tycoon with his usual flair. Peter Riegert, as Mac, just carries it off as the bemused executive. The rest of the cast keep the wry humour nicely under control in this low-key British comedy.
(Maybe) - review by John
Okwe, a Nigerian doctor forced to flee his own country over a trumped up charge of murder, is living as an illegal immigrant in Central London. He is sharing a room with another illegal, Senay, a young woman running away from a forced-marriage in Turkey. Okwe drives a cab in the day, and mans the front desk of a hotel at night. Senay is a chambermaid there. Juliette also works in the hotel as a prostitute, occupying a different room every night. On her way out one morning she tells Okwe to check the toilet in the room she's just vacated. He discovers a human heart has caused the blockage, and when he hands it over to Sneaky, the smooth, ever-smiling hotel manager, Sneaky tells him not to worry about it. Okwe suspects that the hotel is involved in the trading of body-parts, taken from illegals desperate to obtain a British passport. The heart probably belonged to someone who had died after his kidney, worth about 10,000 pounds, had been taken. Senay is also in trouble. Immigration officers have tracked her down at the hotel, so she has to leave and take a job in a clothing sweatshop where the boss is a nasty predator. A riveting part-thriller, part-morality tale, with the two main characters wonderfully played by Chiwelel Ejiofor and Audrey Tautou. They hardly see each other, leaving the door key somewhere for the other to pick-up, yet when they meet show a tenderness that is very moving. This is a drama that will hold you fascinated until the end, and don't dismiss it because of its rather strange title.
(Excellent) - review by John
Goria (Tara Fitzgerald), in her early 20s, moves into digs in Grimley, a large village not far from Barnsley in South Yorkshire. She accepted an office job at the local colliery hoping to meet up with Andy whom she fell in love with while still at school. But the colliery may close any day, the deep shafts too costly to work. The miners have been asked to vote on whether to keep it open, or accept a 20,000 pounds redundancy payment. The renowned Grimley Colliery Band gather for what might be their last practice session. Danny (Pete Postlethwaite), the band's leader, is surprised when Gloria shows up with her flugelhorn, and he and the bandsmen are astonished when she plays the solo part in Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez so beautifully. Sitting right next to her is Andy (Ewan McGregor), and they are soon chatting like old friends. Danny and the band decide to go ahead and take part in the 14 village band contest despite the imminent closure of the colliery. Filmed on location in the village of Grimethorpe, the colliery there managed to stay open for 10 years after the first closures. Going nuclear rather than staying with coal was a decision that had a devastating impact on mining communities at the time, but in hindsight proved the right one. The Grimethorpe Colliery Band, whose members made up much of the band in the film, has an impressive history of performances and awards. The excellent soundtrack is not confined to brass band music. Pete Postlethwaite heads a cast of fine actors most of whom will be familiar to followers of British drama.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Mona (Natalie Press), a deprived 16 year-old, has been running a small pub on the edge of a Yorkshire village with her brother, Phil (Paddy Considine). He's been 'inside' for petty crime, but returns a changed man. He has found God. Mona catches him at the bar emptying all the bottles of spirit down the sink. There is nothing she can do, he is going to turn the pub into a place for prayer. Tamsin (Emily Blunt), well educated, lives in a rather grand manor house nearby, spends her summer holidays riding, playing the 'cello and staying in her room. The two girls meet one day when Tamsin is out riding and they start hanging out together. Mona visits the big house, listens to songs by Edith Piaf, tries on some of Tamsin's clothes and stays overnight. Both are at a loose end, Mona with a brother who's taken away her livelihood, and Tamsin mostly in an empty house, with her mother away and her father spending time with his mistress. For rather too long in the first part of the movie, the two girls indulge in less than interesting activities and chats, which for anyone not in their age-group may find tedious. But eventually the story picks up and there is just enough drama to keep us watching. Well chosen for the parts they play, the two girls are exceptionally good.
(Maybe) - review by John
Frank Martin, retired from army service, is a courier, transporting high-value packages from one location to another for fairly big money. His clients have to agree that once a deal is done, it can't be altered, and no names be mentioned. He has a further rule for himself: never open the package. But when a bag is dumped in the boot of his car containing a beautiful Chinese woman, he brakes his third rule and becomes involved in a people-smuggling operation organized by the girl's father. The movie opens with a spectacular car chase filmed in Aix-en-Provence, with Martin having to shake off a dozen French police cars. After he discovers the girl, they take refuge in Martin's pad, a castle-like structure on the Mediterranean coast. But their peace is soon shattered. A posse of well-armed thugs attack with machine guns and rockets in an attempt to recapture the girl. The story-line is uncomplicated and allows plenty of scope for long action sequences. Jason Statham, as Frank Martin, is a likable, cool customer, but displays a formidable expertise in martial arts (without the help of wire) and rough-house brawling. More realistic and less gimmicky than the average James Bond, fans of the action-movie should be well-satisfied.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Being the true story of the hunt for a serial killer, the movie opens with the murder of two young couples, with the killer taking his time to deliver the final shots. These sequences are far more disturbing than the short, sharp killings in similar movies. The SFPD investigate and collect clues, and the San Francisco Chronicle not only covers the case but becomes directly involved in having to print messages from the killer. While the killer is active and the investigation is in full swing, tension is maintained. But as the years go by, and there are no more murders, and not enough evidence collected to arrest and charge anyone, the police department gives up and the paper gives up. The paper's cartoonist is the only man left standing, and he can only point the finger. After two-and-a-half hours you wonder whether the journey was worth it.
(Maybe) - review by John
A young model, Valentine, accidentally hits a dog while she is out driving her car one night. She traces the owner to an embittered old judge living alone, who tells her she can have it if she wants it. Upset that he should be so callous, she takes it to a vet, who stitches it up and it recovers. A few days later the dog decides to return to its old home, and when Valentine calls on the judge she finds him listening to a neighbour's telephone conversation. It is a husband talking secretly to his girlfriend which he is recording. Taking the high moral ground she goes strutting over to the neighbour, but when she meets the carefree wife and the happy young daughter, she can't bring herself to expose the husband. The judge is not surprised and starts talking about some of the difficult decisions that he has had to make in his own life and as a judge. Told in parallel is the story of a law student, very like the judge when younger, whose girlfriend, a pretty weather-forecaster, acts foolishly and destroys the relationship, as if the connection between each other has been suddenly broken. Valentina and her boyfriend in England are constantly talking to each other on the telephone, yet they appear less connected than she is to the judge. Despite her greater understanding of the judge and his motives, she is greatly surprised when he tells her what he intends to do about his snooping. A wonderful movie with mesmerizing performances from Irene Jacob and Jean-Louis Trintignant.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Sailor goes inside the North Carolina State Penitentiary for 22 months for killing a man who attacked him with a knife when leaving a dance hall with his girlfriend, Lula. He suspects Lula's mother, Marietta, whose advances he has rejected, is behind the attack and who is determined to break up the relationship. When Sailor comes out on parole, Lula is waiting for him in her car, and they go off to a hotel. Marietta persuades her laconic boyfriend, John, to find her daughter and bring her home, but Sailor has already decided to break his parole and head west. Stopping off at motels, the lovers meet some weird characters, and by the time they reach New Orleans, Marietta is getting impatient, and has contracted a hit-man to hunt them down. A road movie taken at a leisurely pace, with shades of 'Bonnie and Clyde' about it. As the couple drive west there are flash-backs showing shattering events that occurred earlier in their lives, memories which they find hard to forget. Great performances by Nicholas Cage, Elvis-like, and Laura Dern, carefree and sexy, as the two runaways. Diane Ladd, Dern's demented mother in the movie, is her mother in real life. Harry Dean Stanton and Isabella Rossellini impressive in minor parts. There are some moments of extreme violence but you have time to shut your eyes. Some of the scenes are a bit over-the-top, but then that's half the fun of watching a David Lynch movie.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Raimunda arrives home one day to find her layabout husband lying on the kitchen floor dead. Paula, her teenage daughter, has stabbed him with a kitchen knife after he had made sexual advances. As Raimunda is cleaning up the blood, the door-bell rings. The owner of the restaurant next door calls to tell her he's selling up and leaving, and gives her the keys in case people want to look round. This gives her an idea to dispose of the body. She and Paula drag it out of the house and into the restaurant and put it in the deep freeze. Just as she is closing the lid, a guy from a film unit, shooting a movie nearby, walks in and wants lunch for 30 people. Her life as a restaurateur begins. Interwoven with this story is one concerning Raimunda's mother, Irene, who has been dead 4 years, and her senile sister, Paula, who has been looked after by Irene's spirit. Paula dies just at the time when Raimunda's husband is still lying on the kitchen floor, so she can't attend the funeral. But her sister Sole goes, and attends the wake, which is held in Irene's old house. She gets a glimpse of her mother's spirit when she goes looking for the bathroom. On arriving home afterwards, she finds her mother curled up in the boot of her car very much alive and, to avoid awkward questions, she becomes Sole's Russian-born assistant in her backroom hairdressing business. An implausible situation, but one that has to be accepted to stay with this movie. The cast, apart from one or two walk-ons, is entirely female. Some of the dialogue is so rapid, it's an effort to keep up with the subtitles. But Penelope Cruz is in great form, and with a little help to her posterior, is as bewitching as ever.
(Worth watching) - review by John
A portrait of a great performer that, despite having some good moments, badly misses the mark as drama. The movie has been put together as a series of episodes with no connecting story-line. Years are leapfrogged with no explanation, and well-known performers come and go without an indication of who they are. The voice of Joaquin Phoenix is hardly the rich baritone we are all familiar with, and the actor's personality doesn't begin to measure up to that of Johnny Cash as seen on stage and evident in countless film clips. A 'B' movie at best.
(Maybe) - review by John
In his younger days, Mike Ribble (Burt Lancaster), fell from a trapeze during a circus act while attempting a triple somersault. He landed safely in the net but was thrown on to the floor of the arena, breaking a leg which never healed properly. Since then he has been a rigger setting up trapezes for other acrobats. Along comes cocky Tino Orsino (Tony Curtis), who wants Mike to teach him the triple somersault. Tino shows reasonable technique on the trapeze but not enough to convince Mike to take him on. But an old flame, part of a two-horse act, gets to work on him, and he finally relents and starts putting Tino through his paces and becomes his catcher. But the voluptuous Lola (Gina Lollabrigida), an aerial artist, sees an opportunity to dump the two male members of her act, which has just been taken off the circus program, and join up with the much more impressive Mike and Tino. When Mike visits her dressing room, she uses all her feminine wiles to snare him into accepting her as a third member of their act, which he does on second thoughts. The stage is now set for some spectacular stunts and some emotional fireworks as the trio set to work. Carol Reed, surprisingly, directed and Malcolm Arnold wrote the music. Burt Lancaster began his working life as an acrobat in a circus and always wanted to make a movie about life under the big top. Good entertainment if you like circuses.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Walter Neff (Fred MacMurray), a fast-talking, hot-shot insurance salesman, calls on the Dietrichson's about the elapsed policy on their two cars. He is met by Phyllis Dietrichson (Barbara Stanwyck), an attractive blond in a negligee. After engaging in a little banter with an undercurrant of sexual innuendo, Neff agrees to return the following evening when her husband will be at home. But later, Phyllis Dietrichson calls Neff and changes the appointment to an afternoon one. She has something on her mind and wants to talk to him privately. When he returns to the house, she invites him to sit with her on the sofa, and after a few preliminaries puts a proposition to him that he doesn't want to hear, and he leaves in a huff. But the blond has him hooked and he can't stop thinking about her and her determination to make big money on an insurance scam. Neff knows that any claim made on a policy that he arranges will come under the scrutiny of his boss, Keyes (Edward G Robinson), who makes it his job to detect fraudulent claims. We see Keyes at work early on grilling an unfortunate truck driver who's claiming on his burnt-out truck. The screenplay by Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler has a rapier-like wit, and a conciseness of narration and dialogue which drives the story along relentlessly. Shot in black and white with sharp edges and dark shadows, an atmosphere of foreboding is there at the start with a car careering along a wet road at night almost out of control. A movie that set a bench-mark for the crime-thriller.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Tony Campion (Hugh Grant), a young Anglican clergyman just out from England, and his wife, Estella, call on Norman Lindsay (Sam Neill) at his home in the Blue Mountains ostensibly to persuade the artist to withdraw a work of his from an exhibition which had offended some members of the Christian community. Norman Lindsay is happy to entertain the young couple, he likes a good argument, but serious discussion only takes place at the dinner-table, so for the rest of the time Tony and Estella are able to enjoy the idyllic life of staying in a lovely house in beautiful surroundings. But they become a little disturbed, even shocked, when they come upon the artist's three eldest daughters in the garden posing in the nude. Tony averts his eyes but Estella becomes fascinated. Before long she is friends with the three girls and is enticed into their free and easy life of swimming in a nearby rock pool and lazing about. She even joins them on a visit to the local pub. Tony detects the whiff of beer coming from his wife when she returns, but being a good Christian, he is happy to forgive her. Filmed at the artist's actual home, this movie has a wonderful dream-like quality about it as Estella, sympathetically played by Tara Fitzgerald, is gradually drawn into the daughters' fantasy-world, mainly through the gentle persuasion of the slightly bemused eldest daughter, Sheela, played very convincingly by Elle MacPherson. Set in the 30s, both Hugh Grant and Sam Neill capture perfectly the old-world style of the period. A most enjoyable movie, but watch the last scene closely, because the director has a trick up his sleeve which should send you to bed laughing.
(Excellent) - review by John
Martin, who has been blind since childhood, employs Celia as his housekeeper. She is very fond of him, but Martin has a problem. He doesn't trust anyone to tell him the truth, especially about the photographs he takes. Russell Crowe, as the not always truthful Andy, shows tremendous talent here in one of his early films, and Hugo Weaving's performance is so realistic, one never doubts for a moment that he is blind. But most impressive, too, is Genevieve's Celia. She really does capture our sympathy at the callous way Martin treats her. A wonderful achievement for writer-director, Jocelyn Moorhouse.
(Excellent) - review by John
Chuyia, an 8 year-old in 1938, doesn't remember getting married, but she becomes a widow on the death of her husband. Living in the holy city of Varanasi on the banks of the Ganges in Northern India, her mother delivers her to the widow's ashram there, a complex of rooms containing hardly any furniture, and where the inmates sleep on mats on stone floors and rely on money from begging and prostitution to buy food. 20 year-old Kalyani befriends Chuyia and shows her a puppy she has hidden away. One day it escapes and runs into the street chased by Chuyia. A young law student, Narayan, catches it, but as he hands it back to Chuyia, notices the child's friend, Kalyani, and is immediately attracted to her. Even though he is a high-caste Brahmin, Naraya is a supporter of the New India and Gandhi, and is prepared to incur the disapproval of his parents in his pursuit of the beautiful Kalyani. The background to this movie is the Hindu religious practice of widowhood of not allowing a widow to remarry unless it is to the younger brother of her dead husband. If their families can't or won't provide for them, they are taken to a widow's hermitage where they spend the rest of their lives. At the time of this story in 1938, despite this practice being declared illegal in many states, it was still common. In Chuyia's case, widowhood probably came about by an older man marrying her for money and then not taking any further interest in her. The life that Chulia leads in the Ashram, after the initial separation from her parents, is not an unhappy one. Kalyani treats her as a friend and amuses her, and she is taken under the wing of a sympathetic older women. The movie has its sad moments but is heartening in the way it shows the resilience of women with so little to live for.
(Excellent) - review by John
Chow (Tony Leung) has nothing to keep him in Singapore, so he returns to Hong Kong and takes a room in the same apartment block where he met the love-of-his-life, Su Li-zhen (Maggie Cheung, 'In the Mood for Love'). He had lost money gambling in Singapore, but helped by a beautiful gambler, (Li Gong), returns to Hong Kong, and goes back to being a hack journalist. But at night he begins writing steamy novelettes which his editor can't get enough of. The landlord's daughter, Jing-wen(Faye Wong) a budding writer, helps him with the stories, just as Su Lihzen used to do. With money rolling in he hits the party scene and entertains lots of girlfriends. One in particular, Bai Ling (Ziyi Zhang) who has an apartment in the same block, plays the hard-to-get game. She's a well-educated, high-class prostitute, and tantalizes Chow without allowing him any favours, because she's fallen in love with him. In the meantime Chow is becoming frustrated churning out pulp fiction and begins writing a serious science-fiction story '2046', which opens the movie. A mysterious, brightly-lit train is hurtling through the night, part of a vast rail network spanning the globe. The narrator tells us that people board the train to recapture their lost memories. Nobody has ever returned except him. He went because he once fell in love with someone, and thought she might be there. He can't stop worrying whether she loved him or not. The sadness conveyed by these thoughts of Chow, the writer, is never far from the surface in his real life. The friendships he has with women can never replace the love that escaped him long ago. This story of Chow's life in real-time, with numerous flash-backs, is interrupted by long sequences of his fictional story aboard the futuristic train. A wonderful mosaic of fact and fiction, a cast of superb actors and the brilliant cinematography of Christopher Doyle makes this an outstanding movie.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Mr Chow (Tony Leung) and his wife move into a small apartment block, in a rather rundown district of Hong Kong, on the same day as attractive Li-zhen Chan (Maggie Cheung) moves in with her husband. Mr Chan goes to Japan on business and Mrs Chow is a shadowy figure, away much of the time, but often seen making secret phone calls which are, in fact, to Li-zhen's husband. Mr Chow and Li-zhen, left very much on their own, lead solitary lives. Being on the same floor they inevitably meet in the corridor and on the stairs. A nodding acquaintance turns into short conversations and soon leads to their dining out together. When Mr Chow reveals that he is writing a martial arts' serial, Li-zhen starts visiting his apartment to help him write the stories. There is no impropriety between them, but one night Li-zhen is confronted by her rather nosey landlady over her going out so much. Not wanting people to think they are conducting a sordid affair, as their partners are doing, they meet secretly, putting considerable strain on an already fragile relationship. A simple story, told in simple language, of two people wanting to be together, yet trapped in the claustrophobic atmosphere of close living, is wonderfully captured by Christopher Doyle's cinematography. Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung exhibit an on-screen presence which can only be described as hypnotic.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Raimond, aged 10, is living with his father, Romulous, in a rough homestead on a small property in central Victoria. He came to Australia when he was 3 with his German mother, Christina, and his Rumanian-speaking father. His mother has left his father to live with the brother of his father's best friend, Hora. She comes to visit occasionally but her behaviour is odd and he can never rely on her. Sometimes she's playful and light-hearted, at other times, silent and depressed. His father finds it hard not to lose his temper with her. But in general the boy leads a happy life, cycles to school in Maryborough, and has a border collie to play with. Working the land is hard and his father is always desperately short of money, and, of course, lonely. His father's friend, Hora, comes to visit and tries to get his father interested in a girl he knows, but nothing comes of that. Episodic in the later stages, this story badly needed to be filled out, even at the expense of authenticity. As it is, it's just not eventful enough to sustain the interest and entertainment expected of a full-length feature. The scenes with Franka Potente, with a not very rewarding role, injects life into the movie whenever she appears, but it is hard to get to grips with her character when we are given no indication as to the origin of her insanity or the reason for her leaving her husband. It may be the boy's story but we still need to know the family background to become absorbed in his relationship with his father.
(Maybe) - review by John
Teenagers thinking of starting a band might find this good entertainment. I doubt if many other people would.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
A follow-up to 'The Umbrellas of Cherbourg', which was sung throughout, this light-hearted musical has dialogue connecting the song and dance numbers which certainly helps in following the story. Catherine Deneuve and Francoise Dorleac, sisters in real life as well as in this story, lead a talented cast of singers and dancers. Shot on location in the historic port of Rochefort on the west coast of France, it has a wonderfully fresh and summery atmosphere. The music once again by Michel Legrand.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Ruth Ellis holds down the job as manager and hostess at a none too classy London nightclub, typical of the 1950s, where the members drink and dance and sometimes end up brawling. Desmond, a businessman, is 'a regular' and fond of Ruth and is in the habit of inviting her to his table. Lounging at the bar one night is tall, handsome David Blakely who notices the attractive blond sitting with Desmond and is immediately captivated. He sends over a bottle of wine as an excuse to join them and invites Ruth on to the dance floor. They later disappear into her pokey flat in the building and begin their turbulent relationship. Despite having wealthy parents, David spends what little money he has on partying and keeping his racing car competitive for the big events. As a result he says he loves her but can't marry her. He has the key to her flat which he refuses to give up, stays the night whenever he feels like it, but still takes other women out, including the rich girl he is supposed to be marrying, all of which infuriates her. In the meantime Desmond remains ever attentive and is horrified when he sees bruises on her face. Despite the outcome, the story is in no way depressing. All three characters are dancing to each other's tune, hoping their love will be reciprocated. Thankfully there is no trial scene, so beloved of Hollywood, or that of the prisoner languishing in gaol. The murder is the end of the movie. We know it will happen because the story is based on fact. Watching the gradual disintegration of a loose but sympathetic, almost lovable woman at the the hands of a selfish, spoilt upper-class brat is the fascination of this intriguing story. Miranda Richardson is superb as the slightly unbalanced Ruth, revealing through her expression every flickering change of mood, and Rupert Everett perfectly cast as the loutish playboy. The screenplay was written by Shelagh Delaney famous for her 1960's play, 'A Taste of Honey'.
(Excellent) - review by John
Grace is still mourning the death of her husband when she finds out that he has left her with a pile of debts, their house heavily mortgaged and the finance company about to foreclose. Quite by accident she discovers that her gardener, Matthew, partial to a smoke now and then, has half-a-dozen marijiana plants growing in the vicar's garden, but not doing too well. Being an expert gardener she suggests bringing one into her greenhouse to see if she can instill some life into it. It thrives so they collect the others, get them strong and healthy, plant the shoots and before long have a crop large enough to pay off all Grace's debts. This unusual partnership now has the problem of selling it. Some of the villagers know about her and her gardener's clandestine activities, but they're sorry for her and are not saying anything. Although filmed earlier, this could be regarded as a follow on to the TV series, with an unbuttoned Doc Martin (Martin Clunes), in a lesser role, having drinks with the boys and playing snooker in the pub. Port Isaac on the North Coast of Cornwall is the locale for the film and the series. Watch for a shot taken on the hill above the village showing the harbour and the two massive rocks off Trevose Head in the far distance. It has the same flavour as the two TV series, but a lot funnier. Just a clever, down-to-earth English farce. If you are not an addict, give it a miss.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Alfie is an overbearing, unscrupulous, womanizing cockney living in the London of the swinging 60s. He prides himself on his knowledge of the ways of women, and puts it to good effect in initiating and engaging in a succession of short affairs that invariably fall apart through his arrogance and selfishness. But his life-style catches up on him and he spends time in a nursing home, where he meets the reluctant wife of a fellow patient, and things don't go his way. Michael Caine narrates the thoughts as well as acting the part of Alfie. Born a cockney he was a shoe-in for the part and it made his name. It takes real acting ability to play such an unsympathetic character and yet still show traits that are likable. Not only Caine but the young actors playing the women he seduced (Jane Asher, Shirley Anne Field, Julia Foster and Millicent Martin) have all appeared recently in films and TV productions, and with Denholm Elliott playing a very sinister character, this movie from the past can be quite fascinating.
(Worth watching) - review by John
I mistook this for the German movie, Gegen die Wand (2004), which has the same English title. Even so, decided to take a look. That was a mistake. An explicit encounter in a men's toilet in the first 10 minutes was not something I wanted to see.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
The story starts with a couple of guys, Primo and Secondo, owners of the 'Paradise' restaurant, gabbling away in broken English arguing about the obvious; they are losing money and going no where. Why? Because they are serving gourmet food the locals have no stomach for, are lucky to have half-a-dozen patrons a night and face closure. They've allowed the restaurant opposite to steal all their trade. When Secondo goes across for a drink he finds the place packed with patrons wolfing down platefuls of standard fare and the place bouncing with live music. He taps the owner, Pascal, for a loan, who turns him down. But Pascal will do him a favour and ask a friend of his, a well-known Italian-American singer, to perform with his band at the 'Paradise' which should draw in the customers. Secondo doesn't mention that he's having it off with Pascal's mistress. At the same time he's stringing along his regular girlfriend into thinking he is going to marry her. Nice guy! At this point I'd really had enough of Secondo and wasn't prepared to wait for the Big Night.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
To follow the early part of this movie it helps to know that burning at the stake of both clergy and commoners was common in Queen Mary's reign. She was a devout catholic and was determined to halt the spread of protestantism. The Duke of Norfolk, a catholic, and his supporters feared the accession of Mary's half-sister, Elizabeth, for not being a true catholic. They brought a trumped-up charge of treason against Elizabeth, but the evidence was so thin that Mary couldn't bring herself to sign the death warrant before she died. When the 25 year-old Elizabeth, still unmarried, succeeded Mary, she immediately appointed the aged Sir William Cecil (Richard Attenborough) as her private secretary, who was adamant that she should not marry her lover, Robert Dudley (Joseph Fiennes), but marry into the royal family of either Spain or France to stop them ganging up against England. Both countries sent their ambassadors to push the claims of their masters, as each would benefit from an alliance. For Philip II of Spain the arrangement would be purely formal and sharing a bed would not be expected. For the Duke of Alencon of France (Vincent Cassel), Elizabeth would just become one of his many lovers, which became apparent when he came to London at her invitation. An episode later on has Mary Guise (Fanny Ardant) a French aristocrat, married to the King of Scotland and mother of Mary Queen of Scots, dining with Elizabeth. Scotland was not yet part of England and had always allied itself to France to keep England at bay. In fact a large contingent of French troops were stationed in Scotland at the time of the conversation. One other player in the drama should be mentioned, Sir Francis Walsingham (Geoffrey Rush). He went abroad during Mary's reign, but became a secretary of state soon after her death. Concerned very much with foreign affairs, there was little going on in domestic politics that he didn't know about. He was happy to use bribery and deception if he thought it was necessary in the service of the queen. Thankfully this movie is reasonably faithful to the facts with only an adjustment to the time scale here and there. An impressive movie which has received accolades far and wide.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Carlo is a middle-aged executive in an advertising agency, easy going and not really suited to winning contracts. Giulia, his wife and school teacher, is far from easy going and is the driving force behind the family. Paolo is the 19 year-old son and student, a daydreamer and hopeless with girls. Valentina, 17 and still at school, dreams of becoming a dancer in a TV show. The opening scenes reveal four people moving in different directions, more or less oblivious of each other, but still maintaining a semblance of civility in the home. The family starts to fall apart and tensions develop when Carlo bumps into an old flame, Alessia, and starts seeing her; Giulia decides to rekindle her acting career and begins rehearsals; Paola becomes insufferable as he mopes about friendless and making no headway with his girlfriend; and Valentina throws herself at any male who can further her career as a dancer. Of the four family members, Carlo is the only one who might have our sympathy. The gap between him and the frenetic Giulia appears unbridgeable, and the love he has for Alessia, played by the stunning Monica Bellucci, also with two children in a loveless marriage, is intense and genuine. The story is kept moving at a good pace and not too far off the mark to be believable.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Ellie (Claudette Colbert) is virtually a prisoner aboard her father's luxury yacht moored off the Florida coast. He doesn't like the man she has just married and wants her to agree to annul the marriage. In a fury she dashes out of the cabin and dives over the side. We next see her boarding a bus to New York where she meets journalist, Peter Warne (Clark Gable). He doesn't realize until later that he is sharing a seat with a runaway heiress, a big news story, and so is in no mood to put up with her high-handed attitude. She in turn objects to his familiarity, but soon has to be more friendly when she is down to her last dollar. A long bus trip with stop-overs gives the passengers plenty of opportunity to chat and argue. Ellie and Peter do just that, and eventually come to tolerating each other's company. One of the best romantic comedies from way-back. Clark Gable is at his most charismatic, and Claudette Colbert the perfect foil for him.
(Worth watching) - review by John
A car with leaking brake fluid crashes into a tree. Two of the occupants are killed, a man and his 5 year-old daughter. The man's wife, Julie, survives but she is in a coma. She regains consciousness just in time to see the funeral of her husband, a distinguished composer with a symphony near completion, and her daughter on television. When she is well enough to go home, she puts their stone mansion on the market, sells its contents and makes her way to Paris. She moves into an apartment block in a poorer part, cutting herself off from her past life and friends and changing her name. However, a journalist manages to track her down and asks her, 'Is it true you wrote your husband's music?'. She refuses to answer. She lives a lonely life visiting cafes and taking the occasional swim in a nearby indoor pool. Her only friend is a prostitute in the apartment below, who knows instinctively that something unusual has happened to the woman on the floor above. Juliette Binoche, as Julie, coping with loss and trying to build a new life, shows little outward emotion. One wonders what she is thinking. Was she in love with her husband? Does she grieve for her lost daughter? Is the colour blue, the colour of liberty, so significant that a pendant of blue glass crystals is the only piece of decoration she takes from the house? All these questions come to mind while watching this movie. The haunting theme of the half-completed symphony is used very effectively for the soundtrack.
(Excellent) - review by John
Remy, a Montreal history professor, lands up in hospital after years of high living and not caring much about his family and friends. He's diagnosed with cancer with not long to live. His ex-wife, Louise, comes to the rescue and breaks the news to family, friends and former (and current) lovers scattered far and wide. Like an invasion they come jetting in to lend their support despite the fact that most of them have not been too impressed with his behaviour over the years. His son, Sebastien, living in London, is the first to arrive. Not short of a dollar he immediately sets about making life more comfortable for his father, even though they start off by quarreling. Getting him out of a public ward and into his own private room is his first priority which he does by bribing a union official and hiring union members to renovated an empty room in the hospital. Substituting his father's morphine regime for heroine, which would be more effective in easing his pain, proves to be more tricky. He tries the narcotics branch of the police, but strangely they aren't terribly enthusiastic. But Nathalie, a drug addict and childhood friend, provides the answer. There's a nasty flavour about Sebastien's ability to conjure up special facilities for his father and to hell with the other guys in the ward. There's an awful lot of political argy-bargy, Remy being a fanatical socialist and Sebastien, a capitalist money-market trader. Then there's also the stream of reminisces trotted out by the motley gathering of invaders, some of it embarrassing enough to make you wonder what they're going say next. Staying with this movie to the end was an effort.
(Maybe) - review by John
Movie star, Bob Harris, arrives in Japan to do a whisky commercial. He meets up with young, bored female, Charlotte, temporarily abandoned by photographer husband who's off on a shoot. Both are trapped in a plush hotel not knowing the language, and engage in a succession of excruciatingly boring conversations, in a bar, in a restaurant, in a hotel room. The itinerary also includes a visit to a nightclub, a karaoke bar, a sleazy strip-club and, when they come up for air, other Tokyo tourist attractions. Great travelogue but where's the story? A wooden performance from Bill Murray with all the running done by the wonderful Scarlett Johansson.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Alex, a pediatrician in a Paris hospital, is accused of murdering his wife, Margo, 8 years ago. He has always been a suspect, but when two male bodies are found close to the lake where she and Alex had been swimming, and where she had disappeared, the case is reopened. Alex is once again grilled by the local gendarmerie, and when they search his apartment and find what they think is the murder weapon, they descend on the hospital to arrest him. But he's warned by his lawyer, escapes through a window and goes on the run. Alex thinks that his wife may still be alive. There have been links on his computer that may have come from her, including very grainy webcam footage of a woman standing in a street among passers-by, and a recent cryptic e-mail, 'Tell no one. They're watching'. A loose adaptation by the author of his successful American novel, it has an intricate plot not easy to follow, and characters' relationships with each other, not always clear. But it is an absorbing thriller with some brilliant set pieces, and all is revealed at the end. Kristine Scott Thomas stands out in an otherwise French cast. A mystery thriller better than most.
(Excellent) - review by John
Paul and Helene, a professional couple in their 40s, are driving home one night when a girl, looking very much like a prostitute, flags them down and tries to get into their car. She is being pursued by three thugs, but Paul locks the car doors and drives on. The thugs beat up the girl and leave her lying in the road. Helene argues with her husband to stop but he won't change his mind. Next day Helene gets on the phone and discovers the name of the hospital where the girl, Noemie, has been taken, goes to visit her and finds her in a coma. She decides to help look after her, takes leave from work and, without saying what she is up to, tells Paul and her son, Fabrice, that they can fend for themselves for a while. There are several strands to this story. Noemio's oppressive Algerian family living in France who won't have anything to do with her. Paul's relationship with Helene, both living such hectic lives that they hardly notice one another, and are on the point of splitting up. Fabrice juggling two girlfriends and finding the one he's trying to discard occupying his room. There is the general chaos at home, neither he nor Paul capable of looking after himself. Then there is the criminal gang, responsible for the attack on Noemie, trying to get at her. It all adds up to a wonderfully thrilling and entertaining movie with a virtuoso performance from Rachida Brakni, as Noemie, in her first major role.
(Excellent) - review by John
Morvern, a girl in her early twenties, wakes up one morning to find that her boyfriend has slashed his wrist and was dead. On his computer was a message, 'Read Me' and the comment, 'It seemed the right thing to do', also instructions how to access his bank account and submit the manuscript of his novel for publication. She changes his name to her's as the author, opens the presents he's left, leaves the apartment and waits on a station platform until a pay phone rings. Only she hears what the caller says. That evening she goes out on the town with her friend, Lana, from the supermarket where they both work, and both end up slightly drunk and in bed with a couple of guys. She cleans up the apartment, disposes of the body, and she and Lana set off for sunny Spain. To get to this stage, after 40 minutes, we still have no idea what makes Morvern tick, or what the motives are for her macabre behaviour. Except we do know that she and Lana are a couple of giggling, pill-dropping party-goers whose conversation is banal and could only be of interest to twenty-somethings suffering from arrested development. When they meet up with guys of a similar nature in Spain, and there is the prospect of more banal conversation, I pressed the 'eject'.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
Giulietta is the rather docile and insecure wife of a businessman who is always going off on long trips. He seldom shows affection for her except in the company of friends. She has suspicions that he is seeing another woman, which become more certain when he calls out 'Gabrietta' in his sleep one night. He encourages her to be friendly with their neighbour, Suzy, an outgoing buxom woman who has numerous male admirers, but really he is hoping that his wife becomes more like her. Giulietta tries to be as smart as her friends, improves her appearance and joins in outings to the beach and the countryside but, far from being happier, as her husband suggests, she becomes more unhappy. Giulietta is Fellini's profile of the bourgeois Italian housewife of the 60s, whom he places in a number of absurd situations, more as an observer than a participant, which allows him to indulge his passion for parades and processions, and for staging cameo scenes bordering on the surreal. With little plot, this movie is still worth seeing for Giulietta Masina's wonderful performance, and for the strange mixture of characters that people it.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Professor Grady Trip (Michael Douglas), teaches an undergraduate writing class and recognizes the undoubted talent of one of his young students, James (Tobey Maguire), whom the other students despise. He has a certain sympathy for James who is moody, unpredictable and gives strange answers when questioned about his private life. The professor's own life is in disarray. His wife has just left him, a colleague, Sara (Frances McDormand), is expecting his baby, and he is having trouble finishing a very long novel he's been working on for 7 years. When meeting his editor, Terry (Robert Downey), invited to attend a 'WordFest' at the university, he has to pretend he is just putting the final touches to it. Sara throws a party for writers, university staff and students attending the festival. The professor, wandering about trying to avoid people he doesn't want to talk to, especially other writers, goes outside for a smoke in the garden. There he meets James, as unpredictable as ever, brandishing a pistol, which gives the professor quite a fright. James maintains it's only a cap pistol, but that's proved otherwise when they go into the house to join the party-goers. In this witty and sophisticated movie adapted from Michael Chabon's 1995 novel, bizarre situations occur frequently, reinforcing the dry humour of the dialogue. Michael Douglas, superb as the slightly dishevelled academic facing a succession of surprises, is backed up by a wonderful cast. To cap it all the soundtrack of twenty-odd songs includes a Tim Rush, a Neil Young and 3 Bob Dylans.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
In August 1944, with the German army preparing to pull out of Paris, Colonel Franz von Waldheim, an obsessive art lover, decides to ship hundreds of French masterpieces out of France and into Germany by train. The curator of the museum, where they are kept, is so distressed that she informs the French resistance, who decide to delay the train long enough for the allies to reach Paris. The Inspector, Labiche, in charge of the railway yards where the crates containing the artworks are to be loaded, is persuaded to organize the sabotage. Before he can put his plan into action, an old engineer takes matters into his own hands and is caught trying to disable the engine of the train commandeered by the Germans, and shot. Labiche has trouble preventing other railwaymen from risking their lives, so he goes ahead with his plan to derail the train out in the countryside, despite a detachment of the colonel's soldiers guarding it when it finally leaves. Not so much a war film but one about the French resistance, brilliantly conceived and executed by John Frankenheimer, the director. The background of the railyards is completely authentic, and the engines used in a spectacular pile-up, resurrected from disused sidings. The cast is entirely French apart from the two male leads. Burt Lancaster, as Labiche, is no pampered Hollywood star. He looks like a grubby railway worker for most of the time and boards a fast-moving train and later jumps clear in a manner that only a super-fit man would dare to do. Paul Schofield, as the colonel, is almost frightening in his cold, calculating manner of overseeing the massive art theft. He speaks and gives his orders in no fancy German accent, but with just the right trace of intonation that gives him total credibility. With great acting by the whole cast, a strong and convincing story-line, and clever use of the camera, this movie is an all-time classic.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
A fascinating look at the great cosmopolitan city of Istanbul with its mixture of races and cultures. This documentary explores the many musical trends that have been part of the city's salon and street life over the past two decades, and the influence that western music has had on the musical life of the city. It does not include traditional arab music or the style of virtuoso singing of an earlier period. The footage is mostly of highly regarded instrumentalists and singers performing for small groups of enthusiasts in social clubs and in the streets and squares for passers-by. A musical feast but also a great visual experience with the camera roaming the city to the background of the music. A delight but only for those with broad musical tastes.
(Worth watching) - review by John
A truck-driver, Pat, just about to get his head down, notices the driver and a female hitch-hiker leave a dark green van and check in at the hotel where he has parked his semi-trailer. Early next morning his dog starts sniffing at a suspicious-looking garbage bag, and a curtain moves in the room above. We make the connection, but Pat doesn't of course, and he goes off to the abattoir to pick up a load of pig carcasses. Driving north he's overtaken by the dark green van which he later observes parked out in the scrub, way off the road, and a man beside it digging a hole. Pat's just heard on the radio about some body parts being found. What a coincidence. This time he makes the connection and calls in at the next cafe to phone the police, but due to the din made by the juke box, can't make himself heard. He picks up a good-looking female hitch-hiker, Pamela, and after a roadside stop-over for a sleep, calls in at the next cafe to discover the dark green van in the car park with no sign of the driver. Pat puts on his thinking cap and decides he must be in the toilet. Yes, there is a man in one of the stalls; his leather boots are visible under the door. Pat mounts guard with a suitable cudgel, while Pamela goes over to the parked van and steps inside to have a look around. In the meantime the guy in the toilet appears and is definitely not the driver of the van. Oh! sorry, mate. But where is the van? A quizzical expression comes over Tom's face. That's only half the story, but I just couldn't take any more. Throw in some crazy incidents that happen on the road with no explanation, and you have a movie that just doesn't add up to being entertainment, let alone a thrill. I don't know what Jamie Lee Curtis is doing here. In the first half she gets no opportunity to show off her chief assets. Perhaps she gets a chance later.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
Billed as a comedy/drama, this movie has neither comedy nor drama, nor a vestige of interesting cinematography. An excruciatingly boring story with Hugh Grant, fine professional that he is, depicting a thoroughly obnoxious character for the best part of an hour, emphasized by his own humourless commentary. The transformation is hardly worth waiting for.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
The large red doors of Fire Station 451 open and out drives a modernistic red fire truck fully manned. It stops outside a block of flats, and the firemen dismount and go to an upstairs flat. They burst in and start searching for books. Any found are thrown out of the window, piled in a heap and subjected to a long burst from a high-pressure flame-thrower. At a temperature of 451 degrees fahrenheit the pile is reduced to cinders. Books are banned because they make people unhappy and anti-social. One of the crew, Guy Montag, on his way home on the monorail, is approached by the young woman, Clarisse, living next door who puts doubts in his mind about the job he is doing. He secretly starts to horde books from his searches, and gets up in the middle of the night, without disturbing his wife, Linda, to read and study. He again meets Clarisse on the monorail and she tells him she's been sacked from her teaching job and doesn't know why. She wants him to be with her when she calls at the school for her things. There they have a rather unpleasant experience. An adaptation of a Ray Bradbury novel written in the 1950s, it should still be judged as science fiction. For instance, interactive TV is in every house. The dialogue is simple, almost stilted, giving the impression of minds without nourishment. Julie Christie plays both Clarisse and Linda convincingly, her hair-styles appropriately dissimilar. As Guy Montag, Oscar Werner was chosen ahead of some very accomplished actors. The brilliant soundtrack by Bernard Herman creates a sinister atmosphere right from the start and has the fire truck trundling along the road to music of Wagnerian proportions.
(Excellent) - review by John
Fred, tall, hip and blond, given to blowing safes open, is invited somewhat by accident to a birthday party given by a millionaire for his young wife, Helena, whom he's fallen in love with. He seizes a chance to dynamite a safe, escapes with a large envelop of compromising documents and takes off in Helena's Renault hotly pursued by four security guards in a large Mercedes. After a hair-raising chase he eventually crashes and hotfoots it into the Paris Metro. Using the subterranean passages to avoid his pursuers and a posse of gendarmes hot on his trail, he comes across The Roller, a bag-snatching expert on skates, who becomes his friend, and who introduces him to a motley collection of drop-outs living permanently underground and feeding, one way or another, off the stream of passengers using the subways and stations of the Metro. Fred contacts Helena on his mobile to talk money. Her husband will have to pay to get his documents back. She's willing to do a deal, anything to escape her boring husband, and they arrange to meet in the subway. That's risky for him because the place is crawling with gendarmes and the security guards are still looking for him. But he can't wait to see her. This is really a fantasy tale where love is the driving force. Christopher Lambert, as Fred, is very charismatic, and Isabelle Adjani, sensitive and adorable. The contrast of the dimly-lit tunnels, dark conduits of the Metro, and the florescent lighting of the subways, all add to the slightly surreal atmosphere. The dubbing into English is hardly noticeable and in no way affects one's enjoyment of the movie.
(Excellent) - review by John
This is a stunning musical show filmed live in the grounds of Slane Castle just north of Dublin. Five singers and a violinist, all Irish female artists, are the core of the show, but there is also a back-up of 12 singers, and a 20 piece orchestra. The young musical director is obviously a genius, and has put together songs both traditional and popular, sung solo and in various combinations. His arrangement for Danny Boy, calling on all his forces, is superb and brings new life to the old song. All the soloists have beautiful voices and the violinist is a class act, leaping about yet never missing a note. The singers are devoid of mannerisms, thankfully, and sing their songs from the heart. In comparison with their first DVD, Celtic Woman, filmed at the very modern Helix auditoria in Dublin, the setting here is visually more spectacular with the floodlit castle as backdrop, but the stage setting of Celtic Woman is also very beautiful. As regards the sound of the women's voices, The Helix, with its almost perfect acoustics, has the edge. A wonderful show performed with tremendous jest, and if you have a drop of Irish blood in your veins, you'll just love it.
(Excellent) - review by John
The aged Mrs Palfrey arrives at a small London hotel in a taxi. She is greeted in an offhand manner by the manager, who assures her she has an excellent room. The room is pokey and the wallpaper and furniture signals pre-WW 2. On the first night she dresses for dinner and discovers she is not at the Ritz. She tells her fellow diners that she is expecting a visit from her grandson, but Desmond is hard to track down. On the way back from a walk next day she trips and is helped up by a young man, Ludo, who looks as if sugar wouldn't melt in his mouth, but who invites her down to his basement flat to recuperate. She is well-dressed, so is he after her millions? Definitely not. He's a struggling writer and a genuine nice guy. In return she invites him to dinner at the hotel and before she can explain, her fellow guests assume she is entertaining her negligent grandson, and she has to go along with the story. Ludo agrees to act the part of Desmond and the dinner date passes off without incident after some awkward questions are successfully parried. When Desmond finally appears unexpectedly, he is ushered out of the hotel unceremoniously. To maintain her credibility, Ludo has to remain the grandson and the subterfuge continued. Taken from a novel by Elizabeth Taylor with a story set in the 50s, this movie is centred on the present. For instance there is a red London taxi in the first scene and the mention of a laptop later on. But the the tone of the first 40 minutes, with scenes mostly in the hotel, is closer to a Faulty Towers' episode. The hotel staff comprise of a Basil Fawlty-like character at the front desk, a Polly-like waitress flouncing about the dining room, and a hall porter almost as incompetent as Manuel. Among the guests are half-a-dozen or so English eccentrics and has-beens including a character mistaken for a major taken straight out of Faulty Towers. And of course to crown it all, the struggling writer. With the story moving at a snail's pace and 'the major' making a bid for Mrs Paltry's hand, I decided to pull out. But I must give one accolade: Anna Massey as Mrs Arbuthnot, one of the guests, is brilliant.
(Maybe) - review by John
Rosalba had probably never seriously thought of taking a break from her husband and two children, but when she's left behind at a roadside cafe during a coach tour, she decides not to hang about waiting, but to hitch a ride home and enjoy a couple of days of peace and quiet. But on the road to Venice, while in the driver's seat, she makes an instant decision to ignore the sign to Pescara, her home town, and keeps driving. For her first night in Venice she finds a pension, but that closed down the next day. For the second night, with little money left, a kindly but rather sad looking waiter, Fernando, at a cheap little restaurant she visits, offers his lounge for her to sleep on, and soon gives her his junk room. In the meantime she finds a job in a florists run by an anarchist, Fermo, and gets to know the whacky holist beautician, Grazia, in the next apartment, who turns her hand to other activities. Mimmo, her husband back home is far from happy with his runaway wife and, to track her down, has hired a private detective, Constantino, who is really just a softy mother's-boy-out-of-work plumber with an insatiable appetite for detective novels. A clever script with believable characters, despite their quirkiness, and wonderful performances from the actors playing Rosalba and Fernando, this movie was received with accolades by the Italian public, and quite rightly so.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Frank Bryant , a Professor of English at Liverpool University, takes on part-time students enrolled in The Open University program in his spare time. One of these is Rita, a 26 year-old hairdresser, who 'wants to discover herself' she tells him. Because of her lack of education, he tries to dissuade her from starting. But she insists, goes off with a copy of 'Howard's End', and returns next week with an essay written. Frank tells her it's crap. She admits it's crap but he has got to teach her. This is the start of an unusual teacher-pupil relationship which, happily, never strays from being anything else. But Frank still finds it hard to take her seriously because of her wicked sense of humour delivered in the broadest of scouse accents. Rita is also up against it at home. Her tradesman husband wants her to have babies rather than fill her head with useless knowledge, and can't understand why she isn't pregnant. Frank has a problem to do with a bottle of Haig whisky he keeps handy behind his desk. On more than one occasion it has led him to making a fool of himself on campus. Despite being hilariously funny in parts, there is the serious theme of a woman taking hold of her life. The dialogue between Frank (Michael Caine) and Rita (Julie Walters) is verbal sparring at its best, and both give tremendous performances. A wonderfully entertaining movie.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
A multiple car pile-up on a deserted road causes the occupants, including one seriously injured, to seek shelter at a nearby motel. A police car drives up and a police officer, handcuffed to a multiple murderer, is the last to check in. There are 10 rooms occupied. Continual heavy rain has caused the road to be flooded in both directions. Those with cell phones try calling for assistance but they're out of range. Nor is there a response from the radio in the police car. Frustrated, one of the party, a former film star, who has bribed the motel manager to give her the best room, No10, goes walking off into the rain to get a better signal. Supposedly worried, her driver in Room No1 goes looking for her, but returns without success. Part of a body is later found rotating in one of the motel's washing machines. In the meantime the prisoner has escaped and an occupant of room No 9 is found murdered. During the course of the movie there are several cuts to a judge's hearing of a plea of insanity by a middle-aged convicted murderer. The non-stop psycho-babble of the psychiatrist, one of the panel of experts, is so intimidating that the murderer has a good chance of being declared insane and avoiding the gas chamber. The suspense and tension created in the main story is unrelenting, with all the actors, looking like drowned rats for most of the time with the incessant rain, contributing equally. With clues from both stories, the killer should be identifiable by the final scene in the motel. The movie ends with the completion of the second story, very appropriately as it turns out.
(Excellent) - review by John
In the year following the end of WW1, the author, Somerset Maughan, is invited to a party given by a wealthy friend, Templeton. He meets the friend's niece, Isabel, and her fiance, Larry, who admits he has been doing nothing since returning from the war. He just wants to 'loaf' and find a purpose to his life. The author rather agrees with his decision not to take a job offered him in finance, but Isabel is desperate to change his mind, and her uncle, Templeton, is withering in his condemnation of such an attitude. Larry goes off to Paris and Isabel comes to visit. Comparing it with her suite in one of the best hotels, Larry's small, rather dingy apartment appalls her. She tells him that she won't live on $3,000 a year and hands back her engagement ring. On her last night, after dining with Larry, she entices him back to her hotel, kisses him passionately but tells him to go. When Templeton hears about the reconciliation, he is scathing in her failure not to trap him. Tyrone Power, as Larry, seems a bit of cold fish in the way he rationalizes about his desire to find a purpose in life. One can't help feeling for Gene Tierney, as Isabel, in her frustration at not being able to change his mind. By the time he takes himself off to India, he has a lot to do to gain our sympathy. Sofie, a friend of Isabel, wonderfully played by Anne Baxter, turns up later. Clifton Webb, as Templeton, is as lethal as ever with his acid remarks. But an emotional detachment seems to pervade this movie which is hard to pin down.
(Worth watching) - review by John
A rather dour tale of an army Major, Michael, who goes off to the war in Afghanistan as part of a UN contingent, and gets shot down in a helicopter over Taliban-held territory on the way to rescuing a captured radar technician. He's presumed dead and his family grieves. His unemployed brother, Jannik, who has been in goal for attacking a bank teller, decides to shoulder his responsibilities and comes to the aid of Michael's family. He brings in a couple of tradesmen to complete the renovation of the kitchen, spends time with the two young children, and comes to realize that his brother's wife, Sarah, is quite a nice person, after making derogatory remarks about her previously. Sarah, the two children and Jannik all settle back into a cosy routine when it is turned upside down by Michael's sudden appearance. He had survived the crash, been taken prisoner and then rescued by a UN patrol. The story of the returning serviceman to his family, after experiencing the horrors of war, is fairly predictable, but Susanne Bier, the director, keeps the story simple and avoids the usual cliches. Connie Nielsen, who plays Sarah, is especially good, revealing both the strong and vulnerable sides of her character. But a warning needs to be given to the unwary. There is an ugly and brutal scene in Afghanistan which, unfortunately, is an essential part of the story.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Lotte (Josie Lawrence), bored stiff with her uneventful life with her domineering husband, comes across a notice in The Times: 'To rent, small mediaeval Italian castle'. Seeing a chance of getting away from her husband for a month, she persuades a fellow-member at her women's club, Rose (Miranda Richardson) whose novelist husband is unfaithful, to accompany her. They advertise and accept two more women to join them and share the rent, Mrs Fisher (Joan Plowright), a snobbish older woman, and Lady Charlotte (Polly Walker), a glamorous London socialite. All four arrive at the castle to begin a life of ease with staff at their beck and call. There is a certain amount of jockeying for position, each gently resisting any incursion into their own private space, but on the whole they get on pretty well, and the three younger women soon get used to the pompous Mrs Fisher. But their life of quiet solitude is disturbed by the arrival unexpectedly of one of the husbands. With Alfred Molina and Jim Broadbent as the two husbands, and Michael Kitchen as the owner of the castle in the cast, one senses a treat in store, and it is indeed that. A wonderful period piece set in the 20s.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Ravi is working as a child labourer in a carpet factory outside Calcutta in the 1950s. He spends his days pushing trolleys of raw fibres about the factory, but at night he practices knotting on one of the looms and gets good enough to bargain with the boss for better pay. With the extra money he earns, he is able to buy the freedom of his friend, Masha, whom the boss is attempting to sell as a young prostitute. As she leaves the factory she tells Ravi where she will wait for him in the city at each full moon. From then on this pact between them becomes a constant factor in their lives, which the movie follows in four separate time periods. A love story, but not a romance. A movie rooted in the reality of the India at that time, which may be a little confronting, but should not be regarded as an exposure, as that has been done in countless books. Dickens wrote of child labour in factories but his books were still read, as this movie should be seen to experience a deeply moving story.
(Excellent) - review by John
Vicky ( Shu Qi) was 16 and still at school when she moves in with Hao, a good-looking drop-out who spends hours at his DJ console mixing tracks of the techno music played in the bars and dance-parties they go to. She misses her final exams due to his obstruction and her own inertia, and ends working as a bar-hostess earning good money. Their's is a stormy relationship. He's jealous and possessive and thinks she's involved in another relationship. She can't stand his continual accusations. She often leaves him but he always manages to get her back, until she meets an older guy, Jack, with a stake in the bar she works at. He's a steadying influence who just likes having her around and keeps reminding her to go steady on the drink. She moves in with him and feels more comfortable. But he has problems and has to fly to Tokyo quite suddenly. He leaves a mobile number for her to call when she arrives there. The story is set in 2001 but narrated by Vicky as she is in 2010. The movie opens with her walking down a long enclosed brightly lit passage, stylishly dressed, talking about her life 10 years earlier. Shu Qi, as Vicky, portraying a rather shallow character, is none-the-less fascinating to watch and has not acted in a great number of films for nothing. The almost continual technobeat soundtrack emphasizes the life-style of the younger generation living and partying in Taipei at that time.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Tired and frustrated after driving across the Chad desert with no footage of a secret war he is assigned to report on, a TV journalist, David Locke, returns to his hotel in a small settlement to find the guy in the next room lying on his bed, dead, from what turned out to be a heart attack. While picking through his personal things, Locke notices that the photograph in the man's passport bears a resemblance to his own, so he decides to swap them over and take on a new identity. He's now Robertson and he flies back to Europe to keep the next appointment listed in the dead man's diary. Strangely enough he meets up with two representatives of the same Guerrilla outfit he was doing a report on in Chad, and surprised to discover he's an arms dealer, and given a large order backed by a tidy sum of money. Back in London, viewing old footage of Locke interviews, his TV producer comes across a brief item on Robertson. He shows it to Locke's wife and they decide to track him down to find out more about her husband's death. Meanwhile Locke, as Robertson, has flown to Barcelona in an attempt to shake off his past and pursuers, and meets up with 'The Girl', an architecture student, whom he recognizes. As the languid, disillusioned reporter, Jack Nicholson's performance is one of his best and equal to that in 'Chinatown'. Marie Schneider ('Last Tango'), as 'The Girl', is the perfect foil for Nicholson, keeps her cool when he becomes ragged and shows just the right amount of interest for the relationship to be intriguing. Antonioni achieves suspense almost effortlessly, the camera lingering, very often without dialogue, on each scene, sometimes focusing on detail, sometimes taking in the whole picture. This unhurried approach keeps you waiting, but you know something important may happen any moment, or some barely observable detail be revealed, and you end up as hot under-the-collar as Nicholson is out in the desert.
(Excellent) - review by John
Christian arrives in Paris to write about truth, beauty, freedom and love. He is sitting at his typewriter unable to make a start when a troupe of actors rehearsing above his room suddenly break in, and in less than no time he is improvising a story for a new show they want to put on. He visits the famous Moulin Rouge stage-show and promptly falls in love with its star-performer and well-known courtesan, Satine, who mistakes him for a Duke. When the genuine Duke shows up, she repels Christian's advances and tells him that love has no place in her life, meaning that she has to offer herself to the Duke to raise money for their next production. Nicole Kidman is brilliant as Satine. Her song and dance numbers a joy to watch. Ewan McGregor, the sensitive young writer and naive romantic, is perfect for the role and shows he has a good singing voice, but which is often overwhelmed by the heavy orchestral sound. Even Nicole Kidman's voice is almost inaudible in one song. Parts of the voice-over narrative and dialogue suffer the same fate. The rapid cutting in the stage scenes may be effective in speeding up the action in a musical, but becomes very irritating if it goes on for too long without a break, as it does in this movie. Despite these criticisms, it is still worth seeing as a modern musical spectacular with many hit songs of the 70s and 80s and splendid performances from all the cast.
(Worth watching) - review by John
The chambermaid of a rather grand chateau out in the country discovers her employer lying face down on his bed with a large knife embedded in his back. Horrified, his wife, his elderly mother, his spinster sister-in-law, and his two grown-up daughters, there for a holiday, decide to lock the room and call the police. When one of the daughters goes to the phone she finds the cable has been cut. The wife accompanied by the chambermaid then decides to drive to the gendarmerie but discovers the car snowed-up and won't start. They then begin accusing each other, there being no evidence of a break-in, of being involved in the murder. The interrogations become acrimonious as each member in defending herself divulges some facet of their personal life that she would prefer to keep secret. The family cook also joins the discussion and comes under suspicion, and a little later the dead man's sister walks in, says she has never been in the house before, and who supposedly has been out of contact with her brother for years. The 8 women in the story are now assembled and the culprit will eventually be found. This is a delightfully sophisticated comedy thriller very much in the style of an Agatha Christie whodunit, with enough allusions to French Cinema and Hollywood to keep the movie-buff on his toes. The amazing cast includes five of the most accomplished actors of the French screen. All are called upon to do little in-character routines which are wonderfully done. You couldn't ask for more. A most enjoyable movie.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Wong is a first-year university student in Hong Kong whose family was trapped in England at the start of World War 2. A friend persuades her to join a patriotic group of students putting on plays to stir up anti-Japanese fervour. They become more active and start to regard themselves as resistance fighters. When they hear of a visit to Hong Kong by a Mr Lee, a high-ranking Chinese collaborator from Shanghai, they hatch a plot to kill him. The attractive, but naive, Wong, is persuaded to lure him away from the tight security of his household and bodyguards and become his mistress. She is given the persona of Mrs Mak, wife of a successful businessman and enthusiastic shopper. She manages to meet Mrs Lee casually out shopping and is eventually invited to her home where Mr Lee notices her with guarded approval. During a game of Mah-Jong with Mrs Lee, she is able to leave him a note to pick up with her telephone number. He later phones her and a meeting is arranged. So far everything has gone according to plan. Wei Tang, as Wong, in her first feature film, is on camera almost continuously and slips into the two roles as if made for her. But one wonders if her part in the rape scene was really necessary. Other directors have managed to convey sexual violence without the need to demean the woman. One wonders for whose enjoyment it was staged. The English subtitles are of a poor standard. Two lines of dialogue are often whipped away in a couple of seconds. A reasonably good crime thriller with a bit of pornography thrown in at the end.
(Worth watching) - review by John
In the early 1900s a successful lawyer, Fredrik, married to a beautiful young wife, still hankers after a well-known actress, Desiree, with whom he had a long relationship but who is now the mistress of Count Carl Magnus, a jealous military man. Fredrik takes his wife to the theatre one night to watch Desiree perform, but from the stage she stares at him so blatantly that Anne insists on returning home and retires to bed. Fredrik promptly collects his hat and cane and leaves to meet Desiree backstage. They decide to go to a nightclub but Fredrik trips up and falls into a pool of water and they have to go back to her house to dry out his clothes. Unfortunately Desiree's lover, the Count, turns up unexpectedly to find Fredrik wearing his nightshirt, dressing gown and nightcap. To complete the six main characters of the story is Hendrik, Fredrik's son by an earlier marriage, who is in love with Anne but wont admit it, and the Count's wife who is still in love with the Count but boasts that she could seduce Fredrik inside 15 minutes. A highly entertaining, sophisticated comedy of manners and intrigue in which the discontents and yearnings of all parties are exposed and sorted out over the course of a summer night.
(Excellent) - review by John
A grim-looking castle, built in mediaeval times on an island off the northeast coast of England, is the home of an eccentric, middle-aged businessman and his young French wife and living in isolation except for the occasional visit of friends. The husband (Donald Pleasence), is mercilessly teased by his bored wife (Francoise Dorleac), who plays silly games with him. A wounded criminal on the run blunders into the castle and into this weird relationship. His car has broken down on the causeway leading to the island, he's hungry and he wants to telephone for help. Brandishing a gun he locks up the couple in their bedroom while he telephones his boss who refuses to come to the phone. Friends of the couple call unexpectedly and he has to avoid being seen but still keeps the couple in his sights. After the friends have left he returns to his abandoned car and finds it half submerged by the incoming tide. A black comedy thriller, which Polanski's considered one of his best films. Bizarre situations develop almost inevitably given the mismatch of the couple, the sudden appearance of the simple-minded but cunning intruder, and the unscheduled arrival of friends. A movie experience a bit out of-the-ordinary but highly entertaining.
(Excellent) - review by John
Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins), a pampered Hollywood studio executive, is only able to select a dozen film scripts a year out of hundreds that are submitted. Writers are naturally disappointed, and one very much so when Griffin brushes him off with "I'll get back to you". Griffin starts receiving anonymous postcards with death threats. He immediately begins searching through his old files to see if he can pick out the offender. He finds a likely person and turns up at his address one evening, talks to the wife, June (Greta Scacchi), on his cellphone while watching her through the window. She tells him that her husband is down at the local cinema watching Bicycle Thief. He sets off determined to confront his tormentor. A good suspense thriller, directed by Robert Altman, which also exposes the in-fighting among executives and the absurd reasons for selecting a screenplay for production. Quite a few stars are roped in to do cameos, but just about every star in hollywood turns up for the studio's celebratory dinner (no doubt free). May only be thoroughly entertaining for those fascinated by the Hollywood life-style.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Griet is forced into service in the Vermeer household when her family can no longer keep her. Johannes, a painter and a rather moody person, spends most of his time locked away in his studio. His wife, Catharina, is constantly pregnant and jealous of Griet's good looks. Her mother rules the roost with an iron glove and negotiates commissions for her son-in-law, their only source of income. Griet cleans and dusts the artist's studio, but he is too self-absorbed at first to even notice her. One day he looks up to see Griet cleaning the leaded lights and probably realizes that she could be the subject of a portrait. At a time when the artist is agonizing over what his next painting should be, and his mother-in-law desperate for another commission, Vermeer's rich patron, who is attracted to Griet, commissions a painting of her. Despite the possibility of Catharina going into a fury if she knew about it, her mother is determined that the commission is taken up. Secretly Griet starts to sit for the artist. Colin Frith, as Vermeer, and Scarlett Johansson, as Griet, give suitably restrained performances in that they are living in Dutch puritan society of the 1660s, but also because both are fearful of the two dominant women in the house. Yet they generate between them a high degree of erotic tension which smolders beneath the surface. A fascinating drama and a wonderful period piece with scenes not unlike paintings of the Dutch Masters.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Adela travels to India to join her fiance accompanied by his mother, Mrs Moore. Both want to experience the real India but find that the British middle-class professionals who administer the country are aloof from the people and have developed their own closed society, perhaps justified as colonists in the 1750s, but an anachronism in the 1920s when the events in this movie take place. EM Forster in his novel, and David Lean in his adaptation, mercilessly expose this division in Indian society by having an educated Moslem doctor as the main character in the story, who is both surprised and delighted that he should be befriended by two English women who treat him as an equal. With a cast of formidable British actors, an outstanding performance by July Davis, as Adela, and crowd scenes of which David Lean is a master, this movie brings into focus, quite wonderfully, a tiny segment of history.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
A knight returns from the Crusades to find death everywhere. The country is in the grip of the plague that ravaged Europe in the 14th Century. Disillusioned by his experiences abroad he wants to acquire knowledge of life rather than of God, and challenges Death, a sinister monk-like figure, to a game of chess before continuing on his way. Moves in the game are made as he and his squire ride through the countryside on their way home, lingering at small communities where they often experience scenes of cruelty and despair. Even without the plague, it is a harsh life surviving in the Middle Ages. Shot in black and white with startling imagery and as a number of episodes, the overall bleakness is, fortunately, relieved here and there by a touch of humour and the occasional happy scene.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Charlie is the pianist in a seedy Paris bar and thinks he's in love with Lena, the barmaid. One night his brother, Chico, a small-time crook, rushes in needing help. He's just worked a scam on two fellow-crooks and they are after him. Charlie assists him to escape through a backdoor just as two gangster-like figures appear. They are not very happy and follow Charlie when he walks Lena home that night. The two would-be lovers take to their heels and manage to elude their pursuers. They continue their walk but Charlie, being a bit of a ditherer, is not positive enough for Lena and she suddenly disappears leaving Charlie to walk home alone. Next morning they are not so lucky. On his way to work Charlie is bundled into a car and Lena is picked up at her place. Later in the movie there is a flash-back to an earlier period of Charlie's life when he was a well-known pianist and was married. The plot taken from an American crime novel is almost a parody of the gangster movies of the 30s and not all that exciting. Charles Aznavour and Marie Dubois are excellent as Charlie and Lena, both sympathetic and likable characters. Unfortunately gangster movies are not a timeless genre, so the second of Truffaut's 'new wave' feature films is more interesting as an example of smart directing than entertainment for today.
(Maybe) - review by John
A convoluted plot involving an advertising executive being involved in mistaken identity, with a man who doesn't exist, with a wrongful arrest and with a murder that turns out not to be a murder. Cary Grant is totally convincing as the guy mistaken for a spy, Eve Marie Saint, oozing sex-appeal, is the highly seductive decoy whom he can't resist, and James Mason the suave villain who is able to undermine adversaries with his measured tones. Highly entertaining with an ending just a little over the top.
(Maybe) - review by John
An account of 8 days in the lives of crime boss, Tang, his close associates, and his glamorous mistress, Bijou, as see through the eyes of her servant boy, Shuisheng. On his first day he witnesses a drugs' deal in an empty factory building where a man gets shot. On subsequent days he has to stand back-stage as Bijou does her nightly cabaret act at Tang's opulent western-style nightclub. He also secretly observes Tang's No 2 visiting Bijou when the boss is away. But a change occurs in all their lives after a rival gang raids Tang's house leaving several bodies behind. Gong Li, as Bijou, shows what an outstanding actress she is playing here the charismatic, sexy singer fronting a line of chorus girls in Tang's nightclub, but also the petulant and temperamental mistress, sometimes driven to despair by the shallowness of her existence. In the same period and has a similar style to the Chicago gangster-movies of the 30s, but in a different setting, more subtle and with some gorgeous cinematography. A fascinating movie from Chinese director, Zhang Yimou.
(Worth watching) - review by John
It is not everyday that a bookshop owner manages to pour orange juice down the front of a customer, especially this one who happens to be a famous actress and has just bought an expensive book in his shop. But all is forgiven when he invites her to change her top in his terrace-house opposite. Later she invites him to The Ritz but he gets caught up in a queue of journalists waiting to interview her. To get to her he passes through the minders as correspondent for 'Horse and Hound', and they arrange to meet at a friend's house that night who is giving a dinner party. Some of the early scenes are a bit drawn out and should have been smartened up, but don't switch off because, as soon as the dinner party gets underway, the movie gathers pace and ends up being good entertainment.
(Worth watching) - review by John
The routine movements of a professional couple, Georg and Anna, and their young daughter, Eva, are shot close-up in a series of short, abrupt scenes as they move about their apartment: getting-up, getting ready for work and sitting round the table at meal-times. There is a certain detachment between the members of the family, with little said and each going about their business as if the others didn't exist. The parents fantasize that they could escape the monotony of their lives by emigrating to Australia. The child seeks attention by pretending to be blind. Their sense of isolation increases leading to bizarre behaviour and a final long scene which is quite devastating. A gripping and disturbing movie.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Celine, one of three sisters, a rather anxious and nervy professional woman, visits a nursing home regularly where her mother in confined to a wheelchair and who is unable to speak. She reads to her and the mother writes the occasional brief note. At a cafe near her work she is cautiously approached by a young man who has something to tell her that will affect her deeply. Sophie has two children and a husband who's a photographer and, because he's having an affair with another woman, locks him out of their apartment. Anne, a student at the Sorbonne, is in love with a married professor of architecture who takes her on his trips abroad but has decided to ditch her. Although not normally in communication with each other, a traumatic event occurring in their childhood involving their mother eventually brings them together. A glimpse of this event is shown at the start while the credits are running. The title, Hell, is meant metaphorically and is what each of the sisters experience in some form or other, as do the men in their lives, and as the mother does permanently. A riveting drama pared down to the bare essentials with penetrating insight into character.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Moss, out antelope-hunting in the parched lands of the Rio Grande, comes across half-a-dozen bullet-ridden vehicles with as many bodies lying around. One had a case full of bank notes worth about $2 million beside him. A drug deal gone wrong. He makes the long drive back to his trailer home with the cash. That night when he returns to the carnage with a jerry can of gasoline, an SUV turns up with the guys in it blazing away, and from there on he's on the run. He makes it back to his trailer, packs a bag and sets out for El Paso on the Mexican border with the cash. Chigurth, a psychopathic killer working for the drug boss that set up the deal, starts following Moss as he moves south. Not far behind is the sheriff, Bell, and his deputy, knowing that drugs are involved. The ghoulish Javier Bardem, who gives a very convincing performance as the psychopath and who has a novel way of disposing of anyone likely to be a nuisance to him, is the main character who creates the suspense. But that evaporates as final closure to the drama approaches with the sheriff, Tommy Lee Jones launching into a long monologue of homespun philosophy irrelevant to the plot, and the last scene posing a question which is not resolved. A real let-down.
(Worth watching) - review by John
A rather dated upstairs, downstairs comedy drama which is not as amusing now as it must have been originally, but still fascinating as a send-up of the blatant hypocrisy common in French aristocratic society of the 1930s and of the underclass of servants that served it. Watching the more contemporary Gosford Park, Robert Altman's more serious portrait of similar classes in 1930s' England, might be more entertaining.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Johan,a professor, and Marianne, a lawyer, are interviewed by a newspaper columnist as being a very happy couple after 10 years of married life. The professor is almost egotistical in describing his success and marital happiness; Marianne more guarded in her answers. But it is not long before Johan tells Marianne that he has fallen in love with another woman and that he has to leave her that very day. She can't believe what she is hearing as she is still very much in love with him. She learns much later that he has been seeing his girlfriend for quite sometime and, what really shocks her, their friends knew about it and never told her. Johan turns up regularly at the marital home to see their two children. They embrace amicably, she with rather more ardour than he, as she is still in love with him. Their meetings become less regular and somewhat clandestine as Johan hasn't told his partner. The movie traces these meetings over the 10 years following their separation at which they talk, reminisce, argue and on occasion even come to blows. They are both living separate lives with their partners but are not able to cut the bonds that bind them. A daunting and emotional tour-de-force that has the camera only on them for most of the movie. From very early on, no other characters appear. Liv Ullmann mesmerizing as the woman in love and never quite out of love, and Erland Josephson always the rational man, but struggling to make sense of life. Bergman at his most brilliant.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Martha is a respected head chef at a smart restaurant and lives for her work. Her unyielding personality sometimes puts her at odds with staff and even with patrons who dare to complain. When a sous-chef is appointed without her knowledge or approval, her reaction is cold and offhand. Out of the blue she gets landed with her niece, 8 year-old Lena, whose mother has been killed in a car accident. The whereabouts of the father is unknown, except that he's living in Italy. Lena is resentful, plays truant at school, won't eat and only thinks of joining her father whose address is unknown. She can't be left at home so Martha starts taking her to work. In an effort to please, Mario, by a clever rouse, gets Lena to eat a plateful of spaghetti. Martha is impressed and a little bit of her icyness melts. She wishes she has a similar recipe for getting through to Lena, but having lived alone and been a single woman for so long she is at a loss as to how to win the child's affection. Martina Gedeck is superb and captivating as she imperceptibly changes her attitude, and Sergio Castellitto exuberant and sympathetic with just the right touch. An emotional and beautiful movie and a delight for those with a culinary interest.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Wilhemina, a young Chinese-American surgeon working in New York, meets a ballet dancer, Vivian, and they begin a relationship. But Wil's 48 year-old widowed mother turns up on the doorstep one day having been thrown out of the family home by her father for becoming pregnant to a man she won't name. Trying to solve her mother's predicament she encourages her to go to socials and dances which provide lots of fun and many suiters but no offer that she could accept. Having her mother in the apartment most of the day watching videos cramps Wil's style and her relationship with Vivian suffers. A delightful light-hearted comedy involving three beautiful women and three generations of a Chinese family working out their problems.
(Worth watching) - review by John
A young man gets taken to hospital with multiple injuries after being knocked down by a car. When he recovers consciousness he doesn't want his girlfriend near him. She persists in her visits and becomes distraught when she is turned away each time and, having no family she can go to, comes to rely on one of the doctors for counselling. They first meet for talks in the hospital canteen, but this escalates to walks in the park and eventually visits to her apartment. The doctor's wife, who happened to be the driver of the car, doesn't disapprove of him helping the girl, she has a conscience about her part in the accident, but assumes that the couselling is just that and no more. However, her teenage daughter is more perceptive, notices a change in her father's behaviour and starts asking some penetrating questions. This emotionally charged movie has considerable impact certainly due to fine acting, but possibly also due to it following the principle sometimes adopted by Danish cinema 'that there should be no superficial action'. An impressive precursor to the director's inspirational 'After the Wedding'.
(Maybe) - review by John
Klute, a small-town detective, is worried about the disappearance of his friend, a research engineer. The FBI have cut short their enquiries but had managed to unearth some obscene letters supposedly written by his friend to a call-girl working in New York. He tracks her down, secretly tapes her phone calls, and agrees to hand over the tapes if she answers his questions. She doesn't remember clients as far back as two years, the time when his friend went missing, but does recall a particularly violent encounter roundabout then and gives him the names of two other girls who were badly treated by the same man. They set out together to find the two girls. Bree has hang-ups which are plainly obvious early on, but once she and Klute hit the road, an emotional bond develops between them, so the scenes of her talking at length with her therapist seem irrelevant, interrupt the investigation and dissipate the suspense. They were probably slotted in to give Fonda the chance to win an Oscar. Once they are done with, the movie gets back on track, suspense builds and ends with a shattering conclusion.
(Worth watching) - review by John
A new teacher arrives at a school in London's East End, the poorest part of the city. This is his first appointment and his class is a rowdy out-of-control bunch of kids in the their last year at school. He gets taunted and tested as to how much he'll take in the way of bad behaviour and regrettably even loses his temper on one occasion. But by treating the kids like adults and raising questions about such things as work, love, sex and marriage, which they have never before discussed seriously, gradually achieves their respect. An inspirational movie with a cool and controlled Sidney Poitier responding to provocations in the classroom with just the right touch.
(Excellent) - review by John
Krishna, an abandoned circus boy, takes a train to Bombay and becomes a roundsman delivering glasses of tea to earn enough money to be accepted home by his mother. He joins the many hundreds of kids roaming the streets of the city, and makes friends with Sweet Sixteen, a Nepalese beauty bought by a madam as a virgin to be groomed and on-sold as a future wife. He's befriended by the neglected little daughter of a good-class prostitute who follows him around when her mother is busy with clients. He gets to know a 25 year-old penniless drug-addict and tries to keep him out of trouble when he becomes desperate for a hit. A movie that takes you right there onto the streets of Bombay with Krishna's friends and the other homeless kids, and into the lives and houses of people where he delivers tea. The first feature film of the wonderful director, Mira Nair.
(Worth watching) - review by John
The presence of so many talented actors does not save this movie from failure in its attempt, presumably, to send-up James Bond. Five directors working independently on five separate segments, with no coherent story-line, results in a movie not worth the trouble of watching just for those one or two scenes that are genuinely funny.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
A roving gambler, McCabe, rides into a small mining town in the early days of construction. He wins enough money at cards to buy three women for the whorehouse he wants to start. It's a pretty basic outfit so when Mrs Miller, a brothel madam, turns up and describes the many traps he is likely to fall into, he's happy to do a deal and they become partners. She brings in some classy women from the city and, with the town's residents mostly men, the business thrives. After a while two men from a mining company, anxious to get a foothold in the town, make a good offer for the business which McCabe turns down. They are not very pleased and when three supposed bear-hunters ride up armed with shotguns, he knows they're going to make trouble. Warren Beatty plays to a T the rather simple-minded gambler and likeable rogue. Julie Christie, in one of her finest roles, is the practical whorehouse madam resigned to a wretched life far from the city. Much of the movie is shot in winter with the townsfolk struggling to go about their everyday life in the rain and snow, emphasizing the harsh conditions of a frontier town in the ranges. A movie too good to be considered just a western.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Jane Horrocks' beautiful portrayal of the pathetically shy Laura, or Elvee as she is nicknamed, is what gives this movie its special quality. Shut away in her attic bedroom in her own little world she listens and sings along to Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey and similar LPs, a collection leftover from her dead father's record shop. One day her mother's boyfriend overhears her singing and persuades the local impresario to come and stand out in the road and listen. It is a moving story with Michael Caine in great form as the failed talent-agent who eventually entices the girl out of her seclusion, rather too much of the loud-mouthed, hard-drinking mother, unable to accept her daughter's odd behaviour, but Ewan McGregor excellent as the timid telephone repairman desperate to get to know Elvee.
(Excellent) - review by John
A young executive, while waiting to make a call near a phone booth in a cafe, overhears a woman breaking-up with her boyfriend in a voice that sounds familiar, but just misses seeing her as she burst out and runs into the street. Realizing that she is a past lover and feeling dejected, he goes into the booth and while lifting up a phone directory finds the key to a hotel room. He lets himself in the room and discovers she has already left with the bill unpaid, the reason she still had the key. He starts on a frantic chase to find her. There are flashbacks to the time when he first got to know her and became her lover. He wasn't to know then that there was another woman attracted to him. A wonderfully intricate plot that is woven into a pattern of past and present segments with a totally unforeseen ending that is, for one of the characters, devastating. A brilliant movie.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Just too darned slow for me, so I quit half-way down the trail.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
A bank clerk as the result of a financial crisis loses his job after thirty years and, to feed his family, seeks out, befriends and in some cases, marries rich women, and when he has separated them from their money, murders them. He achieves this by adopting different personas, a salesman, a sea captain, to confuse the police who have been alerted by a family with a missing daughter. It may appear a dark subject for a plot, and indeed this movie has a serious theme which becomes clear at the end, but it is played as a black comedy, if not for laughs, certainly for our amusement. Chaplin, the consummate professional, is able to achieve this by his apparent nonchalant attitude, what he is doing is all in the day's work, touches of humour and moments of sheer slapstick. I don't know of another movie quite like it.
(Excellent) - review by John
An ambitious, young professional woman, Gene Tierney, is wined and dined by a middle-aged columnist, Clifton Webb, in return for establishing her career. He fends off a persistent admirer by his eloquence and wit, making him look stupid, but later both he and the admirer are accused of her murder. A classic thriller of the 40s with an implausible plot and, despite the great cast and clever script, not all that exciting.
(Worth watching) - review by John
A painfully shy manicurist has trouble concentrating at work and frequently takes time off for no apparent reason. She is particularly fearful of men who try to be familiar or offer to take her out. When her sister, with whom she shares a flat and who is normally there to boost her confidence, goes away on holiday, she lacks the will to face life and shuts herself in her flat. Loneliness and her own fears pry on her mind and she begins to have delusions; a crack in the wall will open up or an intruder will burst in. These imaginings happen unexpectedly and with stunning effect as Polanski creates an eery atmosphere using the camera to roam stealthily round the flat picking out strange objects, but always returning to the woman to reveal her state of mind. Catherine Deneuve plays the part of the woman with cool detachment, only to blaze into action when seriously threatened. This movie maintains a degree of suspense that has probably never been surpassed.
(Excellent) - review by John
A light-hearted beginning changes to a tense story of sinister intrigue and smoldering hatred, whipped up by a dangerous love-affair and the revelation of a macabre proposal. Some tension is lost with a court scene that degenerates into farce, but is retrieved again with a shattering conclusion. Rita Hayworth, as the unhappy wife, is mesmerizing when turning up the heat, and Orson Welles, as the Irish drifter, is always compelling to watch. Two lawyers who are part of the intrigue are the weirdest pair you are ever likely to meet on-screen. Not perfect but great entertainment. This movie has nothing to do with China.
(Worth watching) - review by John
An emotionally-charged, deeply moving drama due to a first-rate script and close camera-work giving the four principal actors every opportunity to excel which they do brilliantly.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Not all that compelling despite it being a classic movie. I certainly wouldn't see it again.
(Worth watching) - review by John
She's the boss in the office, but he's the boss when it comes to criminal activity. The coming together of this odd pair of complete opposites, the smart criminal and the unworldly girl shrunk into her own shell of disability, makes watching this movie particularly rewarding.
(Excellent) - review by John
An engaging British comedy with disasters and embarrassments coming thick and fast and a bit of serious drama now and then. Charles and his friends meet at a wedding of one of them. Charles who has been disappointed in his short-term love affairs, spots the beautiful Carrie during the reception and they meet up later at the local inn. But next morning Carrie is off to America and Charles, bitterly disappointed, only manages to meet up with her again at his friends' weddings. The movie is mainly concerned with Charles but we are kept up-to-date with his friends' relationships, some blossoming, some dying. But by the end we are left in no doubt as to who are the winners and who are the losers. The wedding ritual changes little, but what goes on with in it can be both serious and hilarious, as this movie demonstrates.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
A prize-winning Polish hairdresser working in France is divorced by his French wife and, because he is not a French subject and not able to defend himself properly in court, loses everything and ends up begging in the Paris Metro. A fellow Pole befriends him and helps him get back to Poland smuggled in a trunk. Once there he sets about making enough money to be in a position to get even with his ex-wife. Retribution is not a happy theme for a movie, but Kieslowski handles every scene with a light touch and often with wry humour.
(Excellent) - review by John
Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant find themselves in Rio de Janeiro as spies for US Intelligence, she to infiltrate a group of German scientists up to something, and he, a US agent, to act as her minder. Living the life of a wild woman, she had been friendly with a businessman now associated with the group, and she hoped to renew the relationship by calling on him. Once in the lion's den we realize that she is on very dangerous ground as her old friend is none other than Claude Rains (the devious Chief of Police in Casablanca) and we soon sense a similar tension developing as in that movie. Great drama and the rapport between Bergman and Grant hypnotic.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
This is not a movie for the followers of Miss Marple, or even 007, as it contains a couple of very gruesome murders and a bath-house scene that might be setting a new benchmark in violence. But it is a gripping thriller with a credible story and great performances from the four principal characters whose casting can only be described as inspired.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Following up a large gambling debt owed by one of her patients, who tells her that he is going to be killed unless it's paid, a smart young psychiatrist visits a bar and meets the man who is owed the money. He tells her she is being conned and it is really only a small amount which he is willing to cancel if she would go with him to a back-room, where he is in the middle of a game of poker, and give him the nod if she sees a sign, known as a 'tell', that his opponent is bluffing. From this point she is caught up in a series of deceptions and scams which bring excitement into her rather dull life but soon escalate into serious crime and even murder. A wonderfully cool performance from Lindsay Crouse, this is a thriller for the connoisseur.
(Excellent) - review by John
There's a murder in a small Mississippi town. A black homicide detective gets arrested on suspicion, freed and then helps the local police-chief find the murderer, which upsets the local rednecks who try to drum him out of town. The relationship between detective and police-chief is in turn explosive and conciliatory, but they have to get on, the detective has been told by his chief to stay, and the police-chief knows his job is on the line if he doesn't solve the murder. A sixties movie well-worth seeing with superb performances from Poitier and Steiger
(Excellent) - review by John
Started off well with a sensitive account of the young magician's friendship with a daughter of the nobility, the depiction of life at the Archduke's court at the turn of the last century and some good shots of old Vienna. But the illusions conjured up by the magician when adult and performing on-stage were too fanciful for me to want to bother with their explanation or take this movie seriously.
(Maybe) - review by John
The decidedly dull first 40 minutes was rather like a documentary with Martin Scorsese as narrator explaining how the casino operated and how the mafia siphoned off most of the profit. There were a couple of minutes of excitement when two guys got hammered, one literally, and Sharon Stone threw some chips around in a tantrum. But that didn't upset the manager because a couple of scenes later they were at their wedding reception knocking back the champaign and the inevitable after-dinner speeches were about to begin. That's when I bailed out.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
An expansion of my earlier review. There are two threads woven into the plot. An attractive young clairvoyant visits rich elderly women, unearthed by her taxi-driver partner, and by 'contacting' a dead relative hopes to extract money from them. A devious jewelry-shop owner sets-up his beautiful dark-haired partner, who dons a blond wig and very high-heeled boots as disguise when on the job, to steal jewelry which he can then sell through the trade. There is a remote connection between these two couples through one of the old ladies which eventually brings them into conflict. I enjoyed it just as much the second time.
(Excellent) - review by John
An early Fellini made only a short time after 'La Strada', this movie is about a young woman who has one misadventure after another. She is pushed into a river, left to drown and all her savings stolen. Out on her beat she is picked up by a famous film star wanting company but shown the door as soon as his girlfriend returns. She is made to look a fool when she is persuaded to go up onstage during a show. Nothing seems to go right for her. Yet she refuses to give up on life and crawl back into her hole. As the woman, Giulietta Masina is mesmerizing. With her wonderfully expressive face and body movements she conveys disappointment, pain, despair, but also a jaunty happiness when things are looking up, as they sometimes do.
(Maybe) - review by John
At a Bengali family gathering, with the husband of their choice present, the daughter to be married cautiously joins them, asks a question, recites a poem, glances in his direction, approves and the match is made. Not an auspicious start to their life together you would think. They emigrate and in their new country make compromises and adjust to the 'American Way' but still hold to the essentials of their culture. Their tender and loving relationship with each other and with their two children as they grow up is touchingly portrayed, especially that between father and son. Very moving and beautifully shot, this movie is something special.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Nobody warned me about this one. It might be described as a study in perversion with a gruesome ending. An absurd film that should be avoided at all costs.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
A couple, whose partners have both died, meet at the school where their children are weekly boarders. A lift is offered by the man and accepted by the woman, which is repeated each week-end giving them the chance to get to know one another. But despite the time spent together in the car the relationship doesn't progress. The woman is still grieving over the death of her husband and doesn't want to talk about it, and the man is unusually reticent and doesn't say very much either. So those car rides begin to pall after a while. Then we have the scenes of the man test-driving a car on a motor-racing circuit, which may be fun for him, but is deadly boring for us, and which again doesn't seem to get them anywhere. Even with the casting of two well-known French actors and a bit of smart camera-work, this movie never rises above the ordinary and seems very dated.
(Maybe) - review by John
Theresa Russell has a firm grip on this movie and is excellent as the guileless snuffer-out of husbands, painlessly of course. Doggedly pursued by Debra Winger, a Federal Investigator, she is finally rundown holidaying in Hawaii and, surprisingly, the two become buddies, but both wary of each other. With another husband ready for the chop and life getting more complicated, suspense was building nicely and I was looking forward to an exciting ending. It didn't happen and a great opportunity was lost. But even Hitchcock had to bow to Hollywood on occasion, and fudge the last 5 minutes of a film, and yet it was still very well worth seeing.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Just checking. As expected, mindless, with stunts taking over from the story.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
A young Vietnamese has his pedal-cab stolen by rivals and has to earn money to repay the owner. Looking to do any job, he comes under the influence of the local pimp and drug-dealer and slips into a life of petty crime. Later he joins a vicious gang but soon realizes he's out of his depth and must turn his life around. Shot in the middle of Ho-Chi-Mind City, with the drug-dealer's den overlooking one of the main thoroughfares, the bustle and din created by the crowd and traffic are an essential part of the movie. Violent at times it is still a very human story.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Orwell's novel is disturbing to read, but this pretty good adaption is a nightmare to watch. A communist government has complete control of both the public and private lives of its citizens by using informers and setting up a cast-iron system of surveillance. A couple decide to break the rule of 'no fraternizing' by meeting surreptitiously. There tender affection for each other lifts the gloom for a while, but the movie is very hard-going and not to be recommended for a jolly evening's entertainment.
(Maybe) - review by John
A fine example of deadpan British comedy with one absurd scene following another and surprises coming thick and fast. A caste of fine character actors who never put a foot wrong, and not a 'a star' in sight. You'll go to bed laughing but only if you're an addict of this brand of humour.
(Excellent) - review by John
The story of an outwardly, clean-cut guy, starting out in life, who changes his persona when he sees the opportunity to live the high-life of the super-rich. Suspense builds as he wriggles out of one awkward situation after another, sometimes having to use extreme methods to avoid exposure. Matt Damon is perfect in this roll, always appearing calm and unconcerned, only his face giving us tiny glimpses of what's going on in his head. This movie stays in the mind long after others have disappeared.
(Excellent) - review by John
Not my sort of film. Too much political grandstanding and intrigue, and too many scenes shot from the shoulder which, far from giving it a feel of authenticity, tended to make it seem more like a poorly produced documentary.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
Jack is having trouble getting started on his first novel and is short of money. His father calls and tells him he should go back to his old job as a croupier and that a friend of his is just waiting to employ him in his casino. Jack passes the interview and joins the team. Working in the casino he finds enough material to make a start on his novel. Much as he tries not to get involved with the customers, one does manage to way-lay him one night and to offer him an attractive proposition. A good mystery/thriller with a fine performance from Clive Owen.
(Excellent) - review by John
A film director, uncertain about the film he is about to begin shooting, is approached by a procession of his friends and associates who all want to be part of the action. This unwanted attention drives him into a state of reverie in which he fantasizes about his earlier life of which he is not particularly proud. Frequent time-changes are not always easy to spot and are sometimes confusing. By its sheer brilliance and ingenuity this film was greatly admired when it first came out, but probably wouldn't appear very high on anyone's list today.
(Worth watching) - review by John
A most moving and wonderful portrait of a remarkable woman done with love and dedication. Scenes of her childhood are seamlessly interwoven with those of her at work drawing and communing with her animal characters, which delightfully come alive at odd moments. A movie made for adults but quite suitable for children, with some stunning shots of the Lake District and of Yew Tree Farm, which the successful author eventually bought, and with a soundtrack of music composed by Nigel Westlake creating just the right atmosphere.
(Excellent) - review by John
To enjoy this movie you need to accept that the two main characters are not all that bright and that the story might be a fantasy. On the strength of a whim, the girl persuades her boyfriend to murder another guy they both know and who happens to fancy her. The girl helps to hold the guy down while the boyfriend stabs him a number of times. They successfully get the body into a car they've borrowed and, after a long drive, end up burying it in a forest. But, rather like Hansel and Gretal, they lose their way and just happen to come across a cottage inhabited by a little old lady, sorry, a nasty old man with a 12 bore, who has them in his underground bunker in no time. If you want to know more, see the movie, but it's not nearly as good as the same director's thriller,'Swimming Pool', or his delightful mystery/satire '8 Women'.
(Maybe) - review by John
The arrival of friends, a grand tour of the impressive chateau, and when joined by the artist, affable conversation over tea, sets the leisurely pace of this movie right from the start. But all this is part of a plan hatched by the lovely wife to get her artist husband painting again after 10 years of painter's paralysis. She discreetly offers bait in the form of the incredibly beautiful Beart, just visiting, whom even the aged artist can't fail to notice. From then on the camera moves into the studio and spends an hour or two looking over the artist's left shoulder while he sketches and paints, or pointing at the incredibly beautiful Beart, who is now officially a model, posing in the nude, reluctantly of course, and not at all happy at having to hold one awkward position after another. The artist doesn't appear to notice the glares of the beautiful round eyes as they hurtle in his direction. However, one does notice a slight easing of the tense as the sittings progress. After another hour or so, the first DVD comes to an end and you are then faced with the decision whether to order the second one. I decided not to so I can't tell you what the final outcome is. But perhaps we have a clue. The cameraman must have got bored being stuck in the studio as he occasional sets up his camera in the garden of the impressive chateau and takes a shot or two of the incredibly beautiful model's boyfriend pacing up and down biting his finger nails. Perhaps I will put that second disc in my Queue to find out what happened.
(Excellent) - review by John
Frances McDormand in her first movie made a few years before 'Fargo', plays the wife cheating on her husband, who then takes out a contract to kill both the wife and the boyfriend. The pace is deceptively slow, reflecting the Texas background, but that only emphasizes the impact when the story takes a sudden turn. It also reflects the character of the lumbering, weird private detective who accepts the contract and who sets out to stalk the couple. Good chilling stuff. I loved it.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
A fast-moving crime thriller set in Hong Kong with a gripping story and about 2 minutes of love-interest. Tony Leung, thankfully not a drug-dealer as he was in 'Cyclo', just brilliant as the police mole having to stay on his toes and yet keep his head down to avoid being picked off in the crossfire. Great entertainment.
(Excellent) - review by John
The guys, after a hard day in the oil fields, like to don cowboy gear and take their girlfriends to the local honky-tonk bar for a bit of hip-to-hip dancing and a shot at riding a furiously gyrating mechanical bull, the longest ride getting the prize. Into this hot-house atmosphere rides, sorry, drives the new-boy in town, Travolta, with girlfriend, Winger and, not too far behind, a mean-looking guy with sinister intent. The sound track has some top names performing and Debra Winger is an absolute knock-out.
(Excellent) - review by John
Authentically based on an actual battle that took place in Natal Province late 1870s, this movie is a dramatic account of how a small contingent of British troops came to be holed up in a small outpost on the veld and how they were menaced and eventually had to fight off a much larger, highly disciplined Zulu force. One of the best truly historical films ever made, you wont find this in any of the critics' Best 100 list. 21st Century moral attitudes have been applied to denigrate this film, but strangely enough, not to those depicting American Civil War battles that occurred barely two decades earlier.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
An intense and moving love story told as only the French seem capable of doing with the minimum of histrionics and, as a welcome change, with not a bare breast in sight.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Do read 'At a glance' before seeing this movie. It won't spoil your enjoyment but it will help you to understand the changes in historical time that occur. The settings and costumes are a feast to the eye and Tilda Swinton is quite wonderful as Orlando.
(Excellent) - review by John
An innocent country girl, a free-loving doctor and his casual girlfriend are the main players in this very absorbing movie set in the old Czechoslovakia. Juliette Binoche in her first big role.
(Excellent) - review by John
Not to be confused with Mulholland Falls, this movie is the hypnotic mystery/crime at its best. The story is far from straight forward and frequent time-shifts demand that you keep your wits about you. Naomi Watts and Laura Harring are at their devastating best. Seeing the movie a second time was just as enjoyable.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
Nick Nolte, as boss of the police squad, is rather too nonchalant to be convincing, but the movie maybe worth seeing for the fine effort put in by the rest of the caste.
(Maybe) - review by John
This is another one of those movies like 'Crash' that has no discernible story, just a series of episodes strung together with the thinnest of threads. As to locales, Paris obviously recognizable, but others could be anywhere in Europe; we are not told. Fortunately there is a shining light in this movie among a pretty drab bunch of characters, Juliette Binoche, and because of her I give it one star.
(Excellent) - review by John
As to be expected it doesn't quite have the impact that it had when it first came out, but it is still a darn good thriller.
(Excellent) - review by John
An early Hitchcock movie very popular when it came out, but the adaption of John Buchan's spy novel doesn't hold up today, the story being so dated.
(Maybe) - review by John
A Hitchcock psychological thriller, as compulsive viewing as 'Psycho', but with a more human touch. A movie that has you sitting quietly afterwards deep in thought.
(Excellent) - review by John
One of Truffaut's early films about a school kid persistently getting into trouble. It wouldn't hold the attention of the average child for five minutes these days. It still appears in lists of top movies.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
It is quite astonishing that this Hitchcock movie is still such a compelling one to watch. Laurence Olivier and Joan Fontaine just superb.
(Excellent) - review by John
A charming comedy/thriller with some very odd characters, possibly aimed at people like me with a warped sense of humour. Hitchcock, in his most benign mood, must have had fun making this.
(Excellent) - review by John
The dimly lit first half, with the camera continually circling and a strobe light intermittently wandering across the screen, makes it hard to fathom exactly what's happening. When light is slowly restored we are treated to two, long scenes of extreme violence. Stamina and a strong stomach are needed for this one. Better - don't waste your time.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
Rugged NZ landscape, beautifully shot, is the background to a most absorbing and dramatic story. Some reviewers have pointed out the symbolism that certain events are meant to represent. Forget all that rubbish and just enjoy the movie. Helen Hunt plays Michael Nyman's music with great feeling and surprising virtuosity. Anna Paquin, as the young daughter and her mother's mouthpiece, gives a remarkable performance.
(Maybe) - review by John
At no time do the couple in this movie deserve our sympathy. They make a fine mess of their lives by cheating, and the drabness of it all is thoroughly dispiriting. I can't think how this got on my list.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
A touching story of how a tai-chi master from Beijing joins his successful son and family in New York, the impact it has on their lives, and how his expertise inevitably draws him into the Chinese community. Followers of tai-chi will love this movie. There is plenty of footage of the master in action.
(Worth watching) - review by John
I happily agree with everything David Stephenson says about this movie. The production team deservedly won 3 Oscars and Polanski's well-known drive to achieve perfection is apparent everywhere . The story, just like the Hardie novel, unfolds at a leisurely pace but never fails to surprise you by the turn of events. The scenes of rural life with not a town in sight and the back-breaking work endured by ordinary country folk, are quite fascinating and add an extra dimension to an absorbing story.
(Worth watching) - review by John
A sophisticated situation comedy centered on the Riviera that twists and turns all the way but never falters for a moment. Audrey Tautou is dazzling as the gold-digger and Gad Elmaleh excellent as the rather gauche barman at a posh hotel who is in hot pursuit. Just sit back and enjoy the ride and, maybe, thank the gods that the French can do this sort of movie so well.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Don't expect this movie to be about poverty in India, or even much about the horrors of partition. It is all about the crippled daughter of a well-to-do Parsee family and her young and attractive Hindu nanny, their daily outings into a small, predominantly Muslim community and their encounter with a group of male friends of different religions who regularly gather over a cup of tea to talk and argue about life and politics, and who soon become enchanted by the sweet nature of the child and the subtle flirting of the nanny. Tensions appear and the dark cloud of partition is ever present. A wonderful film to experience if you have never seen a film based on India.
(Excellent) - review by John
An interesting crime movie with a bizarre plot and very well acted, but with too many lengthy monologues that test our patience and do little to further the story. In the second half the movie takes a weird turn and soon loses most of its credibility.
(Maybe) - review by John
Don't be taken in by the accolades heaped on this movie. Its a shocker. The comic bits are not funny and the sad bits not worth a tear. The story-line meanders about all over the place being mainly concerned in fulfilling its politically-correct purpose, and is so contrived it goes beyond credibility. Even Miss Congeniality fails to raise the bar. So, caveat emptor!
(Don't bother!) - review by John
A stunning movie; Isabelle Huppert's performance quite mesmerizing. We all have our fantasies, some we wouldn't admit to. Michael Haneke lays bare those of the piano teacher with such delicacy and insight that we cannot help being greatly moved and even alarmed by her predicament as events unfold.
(Worth watching) - review by John
Do we really need to see, yet again, the aged office executive going through the tedious hoops of becoming retired. In this movie it all took so long and was so depressing that what came later hardly lifted the gloom.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
Just too slow off the mark, I soon lost interest.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
I am sure Kubrick would have had plenty up-his-sleeve for later on, but the first half-an-hour was so painfully bad I had to pull the plug.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
I enjoyed all the sketches by the six famous directors. The Paris background was always fascinating. Ideally, as in reading short stories, you need a break between each one to savour the qualities of each. The subtitles were not easy to read and the longer ones often whisked away too quickly.
(Worth watching) - review by John
A very stylish, light-hearted, romantic musical with all the dialogue sung. But I missed those short breaks that occur in most musicals when the actors just talk to each other, and this movie would certainly have been more enjoyable for me had the music of Michel Legrand been at-all familiar.
(Worth watching) - review by John
There is little in this movie to exercise the mind, in sharp contrast to "Memento", released a couple of years earlier, on the same subject. That was a real brain-teaser. But if you like the idea of a guy with a memory span of about 15 minutes coping with some determined female attention, then go for it.
(Worth watching) - review by John
As one critic wrote: 'This film could easily lapse into an incomprehensible morass'. It did. Attempting to fit the three faces of the main character to a jumble of dream time and real time episodes became tiresome, and the explanation of it all was unconvincing. The final scene was no better than that an average TV thriller.
(Maybe) - review by John
The many 'feel-good' episodes in this movie, played sensitively by many fine actors, could not disguise the fact that, despite an absent father, it was really about a self-centred little brat whose behaviour towards his very sick mother was abhorant. For me this was a big issue. Some will say that I have missed the point.
(Maybe) - review by John
A deeply moving story that develops slowly and relentlessly with Shabana Azmi's performance - quite wonderful. A film for those with a heart.
(Excellent) - review by John
This must be one of the slowest and predictable movies I have ever watched. The opening wedding scene went on for ever, the couple's hanging-around- together dull, and the alpha male's goodbye helicopter take-off interminable. Cut to oil rig. Jammed fingers? A fall? From this point the movie could only get better.
(Don't bother!) - review by John
I loved this movie for its unusual story, its sensitive treatment, and the dreamlike atmosphere created by its soundtrack.
(Not to be missed!) - review by John
A little disappointing given the wealth of directing and acting talent. For some of the episodes, the 8 minutes was too short. But there were others which were very satisfying, especially the one where the wonderful Juliette Binoche plays the distraught mother. The scenes of Paris are bound to capture your attention.
(Worth watching) - review by John