Tuesday, 30 August 2011

The Guard

This film is full of contradictions and full of stereotypes that are more often than not turned on their head. We’re introduced at the beginning to Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson), who patrols a road on the west coast of Ireland and is the picture of decency; he promptly takes some LSD that he removes from the corpse of a joy rider and later on in the film cavorts with prostitutes. He’s joined by a new colleague who has transferred from the mean city of Dublin, Boyle despises the Americanisms he uses and spurns the proffered cappuccino, he wanted a latte.
In a way this is an exploration of the stereotypes and contradictions of Ireland and the image of Ireland. A country that until recently was enlivened by the Celtic Tiger and had net immigration for the first time in living memory. It is here a modern western democracy where people seem to be obsessed by criminal profiling but where people will only speak English when the fancy takes them. Boyle uses racist language to the keen, upstanding FBI Agent, played by Don Cheadle, because he says racism is part of his make up. It’s stretching a point but in a way he could be being racist about the Irish in saying that they’re inherently racist.
We find out later on that Boyle is entranced by America after he connects with the FBI Agent on the hunt for drug smugglers. He really is the key to this, Boyle admits to him that he intentionally winds people up and that he’s playing to stereotypes. Once they’ve weighed each other up there is the stereotype of the opposites attracted buddy cop partnership. That’s how the case is cracked really, as it always is.
I loved a beautifully executed scene whereby the drug traffickers discuss their favourite philosophers and their favourite quotes. These are of course those who are intent on destroying life as we know it by peddling their foul substances, again a sublime contradiction.

Monday, 29 August 2011

The Rise of the Planet of the Apes

In so many ways this could have been ludicrous, ridiculous and a big waste of time. All of this is avoided by the ignorance of that great barrier to decent sci fi; over explanation. Throughout the film the audience had to make their own connections as to what’s going on, it’s all in the eyes really.
We were also presented with a lot of pointers to the first film; the rustling in the bushes, a reference to the Statue of Liberty, the hands line, a character nicknamed Bright Eyes, a line of cages where an inmate is sprayed by an over zealous lab assistant with a high pressure hose.
The film is all about man’s hubris, as the series is really. Humanity being the first species that can destroy itself and the planet come to that. This is the karmic element to it as well, what goes around comes around, man’s treatment of the apes add to the conclusion as well. They are better off trusting the trees really.
Although I can’t really take this seriously, as much as I enjoy the films, it was on the whole a lot better than I expected and does go a long way to help partially erase the memory of the Tim Burton film.

Saturday, 13 August 2011


In terms of the Venn diagram of close to the knuckle comedies and Judd Apatow films, Bridesmaids is quite a departure. This is because the main protagonists are women. Of course the film is also unflinching and unflattering in its depiction of the bride and her bridesmaids. It manages, though, to do so in a way that is not sexist. It may be demeaning to the individuals but not to women as a whole. It also certainly doesn't treat women as objects.

It's remarkable how many films follow the rom-com pattern of the progression of a fledgling on screen relationship. Bridesmaids is another of those, I'll let you guess what happens. Anyway this film really could be a companion piece to the Hangover, but it's far funnier and doesn't make you feel like you've lost two hours of your life on a completely wasted venture.
It does talk about aspirations, dreams and achievement as well, but not in the sickening way that films can adopt sometimes. What it really says is that on most occasions it's positive steps we take ourselves that help us achieve and that spending too much time not realising this can be destructive. It also says though be careful of grey meat and mixing alcohol and prescription medication.  

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The Big Picture (L'homme qui voulait vivre sa vie)

I’ve got this problem with the Big Picture. The acting is fine, there are some good performances, and it has Catherine Deneuve in it. The photography is almost sublime in places, moody clouds, beautiful seascapes, great scenery. The music is not intrusive; it engages you without leading you by the nose. I just find the plot on the whole rather far fetched.
It’s a story of what is never presented as the perfect French family. The mother, Sarah, and father, Paul, don’t get along, their youngest child is incredibly unhappy. Anyway Paul suspects Sarah of having an affair; he gets drunk at a dinner party and insults his wife and child in front of all their friends. Push comes to shove, she asks for a divorce. By now he’s worked out who she’s having the affair with and confronts him.
What could have a been a drama of manners, of people making sensible life changing choices descends into a film about changing identities and blowing things up. I refuse to believe that just because Paul cannot see the big picture that he would act in such a ludicrous and unbelievably ridiculous manner. Unless that is I’m missing something entirely that is. French thrillers used to be renowned for their subtlety; they probably still are in the main, but not this one. The title in French translates as the man who wanted to live his life. Honestly.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Super 8

When I went to see Star Trek Generations, all those years ago, the boy next to me shook with excitement for almost the whole film and especially when Counsellor Troi was drunk. This is something that I imagine quite a lot of fanboys were doing at the prospect of Stephen Spielberg and JJ Abrams were making a film together.
The resultant film is, of course, Super 8. The film is quite an achievement really as well. If Abrams wanted to make an homage to Spielberg; to E.T., the Goonies and Close Encounters, then it would look something like this film. There are strange goings on in a small town in America, after a massive train wreck, car parts and dogs go missing and the air force are acting mysteriously as well. This time though the events are documented by a bunch of movie making kids.
Both Abrams and Spielberg quite often portray non-conventional families in their films and series. I think that the only really happy couple in Lost, for instance, were Bernard and Rose. In Super 8 the only fully functioning family unit includes kids who repeatedly hit the dinner table with baseball bats.
Without giving too much away, important elements in this film, as with what’s come in the past, are communication and understanding. This is course evidenced in the lack of communication between parents and children as much as anywhere else and of course between different strata of authority, the Police and the Air Force.
Abrams has said as well that it’s important that the film is set in the late seventies, early eighties. He said that the events wouldn’t happen today. Kids would be making a film using their iPhones, or some such device. It wouldn’t take three days to develop film and they’d probably upload everything to You Tube and then Skype the Pentagon, lol.
On the whole it’s a worthwhile experience. It’s a film that is funny in the right places and does not fail to astonish as to how people can have such metal work in their mouth and be such pyromaniacs. People will make comparisons with other films that Spielberg and Abrams have been involved in, as I have. I did find it curious that Matt Reeves was acknowledged at the end of the film. Also when are people going to learn that the film has not necessarily finished when the credits start to roll? All those that left early, when I saw the film today missed a screening of The Case, the film that the kids were making.

Saturday, 6 August 2011

Partir (Leaving)

One of my first thoughts whilst watching Catherine Corsini’s film Partir (Leaving) was of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Kristin Scott Thomas’s character gets up from the bed she shares with her husband in the middle of the night and not long after we hear a gun shot, type door slamming noise. This may not be a coincidence as the film tells the story of a wife falling out of love with her husband, although in the film she hooks up with a Spanish odd job man and hasn’t run up bad debts.
Kristin Scott Thomas gives a wonderful performance as the harassed and not entirely mentally stable Suzanne. She meets the odd job man after he’s employed to clear out a room in the family home so that she can set up a physiotherapy practice there. Passion sets in between them after an accident with her car and they begin a torrid affair. This is of course mirrored with her cold and passionless relations with her husband, which are exercises in going through the motions as much as anything else. Passion for the Spanish odd job man seems to be her main motivation for doing this, that and the fact that her husband’s a bit of a git. Well more than that he tries to hang on to his wife by exercising power over her. Actions more often than not do cause reactions. What I like about the film is that it’s a bit amoral, although there are consequences to what people do, but it doesn’t preach at you either. Ultimately, it does you good to be uncomfortable in the cinema every once in a while, especially if you’re male.


When is a romantic comedy not a rom-com? I suppose when there’s less comedy than you would normally expect. Beginners probably is though a rom-com all the same, but maybe it’s unfair to get weighed down pigeon holing the film.
There are a number of interesting traits and techniques on offer here. Throughout the film there is an engaging and interesting use of available light. We’re not given too much sunlight and this is because we’re caught in the pallor of grief as Ewan McGregor’s character, Oliver, comes to terms with the death of his father and so re-appraises the life and death of his mother. It turns out that when his mother died his father came out as being gay.
It is significant that not long after the death of his father Oliver meets a woman who sees the sadness in his eyes and with whom he starts a relationship. This helps him to reappraise what has happened in the past. How could his father leave his mother to be empty in her life, even though he professed that he did love her. We see that throughout the beginnings of Oliver’s new relationship his mind is more on endings. This therefore colours his whole state of mind, which not only affects love but his work as well.
It’s interesting and entirely valid as well for the director, Mike Mills, to give us a little tutorial on the nature of memory. We are presented at times with what Oliver remembers happening and what he would have liked to have happened. In the end there is the realisation that you have to acknowledge a persons whole character, love them for whom they are or were and not just pick and choose the bits you want to.
There is also an interesting device of Oliver inheriting his father’s dog. Left alone with the dog Oliver tells him what’s on his mind, which is not unheard of. At times we are presented with subtitles of what the dog is thinking. This may be what Oliver thinks the dog is thinking or of course it could just be in the director’s imagination. Anyway, Oliver and the dog have a symbiotic relationship, each of them reminding the other of the father.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

There are moments in cinema and film when you have to remember that what you're witnessing and what is happening around you is making a big contribution to popular culture. The events are sometimes greater than the sum of their parts, shared experience and the fruition of a generation coincide.
Such was so with the last of the Harry Potter films. I say the last it may not be yet. That is part of the bitter sweet nature of the occasion. Some people are glad to see to this series conclude, and they can be divided between those that are happy with the content and those glad to see the back of it. Some want it to go on and on. This is not unique, JJ Abrams says that people come up to all the time and say that the ending of Lost sucked. Some of them mean it sucks that Lost ended.
We do have an ending to this series in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2. In fact we have plenty of endings. The body count is so high that it would be understandable to believe that this was an adaptation of an Iain Banks novel. If you don't expect there to be death in this film, then think again. That though has been one of the motifs of this series, death and the avoidance of death. It's pleasing though that in this series death does actually mean something. This has been apparent from the first book and film when Harry is presented as the boy who lived, not the boy who died.
This eighth film though ably explores why we want to stay alive. That values such as love, friendship and family are worth fighting for. We are shown what Harry and his friends have become because of these qualities and also what Voldemort and his allies lack as they are denied this. The cameo in reinforcing this is in the Malfoys, but if you've been watching and reading carefully enough you know that only stretches so far. People need to, ultimately, share fundamental values to get on. Loyalty is also a recurrent them in the series that is explored here.
My only criticism is that of Alan Rickman's make up, are we really to believe that Severus Snape would wear such visible foundation. Even with the joy of seeing such a fine series with Michael Gambon in such a prominent role it was a joy for Ciarán Hinds to turn up as well.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The White Ribbon

The White Ribbon is Michael Haneke’s gift of a marvellous, well crafted, thought provoking film, which is what he's been making throughout his career. This time the setting is a village in northern Germany in 1913-4. The film begins with the unsettling image of a doctor being thrown from his horse, who tripped on a wire left between two trees. The story continues to unsettle for the next two or so hours, and as well for a long time after the film has finished. We are presented with a series of spiteful and vicious events that leave a number of questions about humanity and decency. It's as if the ideal and peaceful village is being sullied in preparation for the decades of horror that are about to come. The title refers to a white ribbon the Pastor insists on his daughter tying in her hair and his son on his arm as a reminder of purity and an insurance against slipping into sinful ways. I was reminded whilst watching the film of Robert Kennedy saying ‘All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’

Went the day well?

This is a 1942 Ealing propaganda film starting with the premise that there is a memorial to dead German troops in a churchyard in England, and that this was kept quiet until after Hitler was defeated. The idea was that these Germans, initially disguised as British troops, had attempted to occupy a village in the Home Counties to aid the invasion of Britain. It’s interesting that this in fact could be a propaganda film in favour of the Germans. In the film they are not depicted as being at least one step up from the baby eating monsters that had been the image de jour in the First World War; no, these were troops that were urbane and helpful in the home until they revealed their true identity and began to kill the villagers. I suppose though that their helping in the home, in the film, was a means to an end, they were appearing to be like British soldiers. Their true colours came through in the end when they shot the vicar in cold blood and then shot the cheeky cockney young boy as he ran to the next village. The important elements were that that ordinary people were seen to be defeating the enemy, that Hitler was talked about as being defeated, even though that was three years away. It’s maybe that this renewed optimism had come about with the involvement of the USA in the war. There was the public information element to the film as well, watch out for people that cross their sevens, I’d better hand myself in.

Synecdoche, New York

Synecdoche, New York is Charlie Kaufman’s surreal tale of the life Caden Cotard, a New York theatre director who we follow from his production of the Death of a Salesman, groundbreaking in that it features a young cast, to a massive production based on his own life. This features actors playing him and eventually actors playing the roles of the actors. We also see him contract a whole range of illnesses and conditions, including sychosis and psychosis, there is a difference.


If it’s a psychological drama you’re after then you could do worse than watch Spider on DVD. This was made by David Cronenberg and tells the story of Mr Cleg who takes up residence in a boarding house in London. Seeing a gasometer across the road sets his back to his childhood and what happened to his relationship with his parents. The film features marvellous performances by Ralph Fiennes and by Miranda Richardson who plays of variety of roles in Mr Cleg’s mind.

Source Code

Source Code is a well made science fiction film that is also possibly an homage to Alfred Hitchcock. The film is concerned with the US military attempting to use temporal dynamics and physics to counteract terrorism. It does also question the morality of service and discusses the limits of what can, or should, be asked of military personnel. This was made by Duncan Jones who previously made Moon for which he rightly received high praise and plaudits.

A Serious Man

This is a very personal film; in evoking the Coen brothers’ early life in Minnesota and exploring the experiences of Jews in suburban America in the 1960s it's probably their most autobiographical to date. The main protagonist is Larry Gopnik, a college professor and how his life falls apart- one of his students attempts to bribe him, a gentile neighbour tries to part of steal part of his land, his wife starts divorce proceedings against him whilst having affair with an older man, his brother is arrested, his son orders records from Time in the fathers name with no intention of shelling out for them himself and his daughter makes it clear that she’s biding time before having a nose job, presumably paid for by the father. In an attempt to gain control of his life and to appease his wife he visits a number of Rabbis for advice and is told more about teeth and car parks than anything useful. The main message of the film seems to be what ever we do could be absolutely futile in comparison with the power of God, serious stuff indeed. Especially as it explores the dichotomy of being Jewish; listening to your Rabbi and working towards your Bah Mitzvah, and being American listening to Jefferson Airplane and smoking pot.

The Men Who Stare At Goats

You wait for a film about the American involvement in Iraq to turn up and then… The Men Who Stare At Goats is based on journalist Jon Ronson’s investigation into how an American army unit of psychic spies (or "Jedi Warriors"), were trained to develop a range of parapsychological skills including invisibility, remote viewing, cloud bursting, walking through walls, and intuition. The title refers to the ability to kill a goat by staring at it, a successful event that led to the unit having bad karma. Given the setting of Iraq it was remarkable to me how light the film was it comes across like a screwball comedy in places. The unit used a number of psychological techniques when dealing with prisoners, some more legal than others; this was dealt with in a curiously brief manner at the end of the film. It begs the question did those wacky US Army soldiers torture Iraqis? What’s truly shocking though is the appearance of that purple skinned horror Barney the cloying dinosaur, you have been warned. January 2010

Made In Dagenham

Made In Dagenham discusses one of the most important battles in social politics that has been fought in this country. The story concerns a group of women employed in the late 1960s at the Ford plant in Dagenham and their struggle to have their work recognised as being of equal value to the male workers in the same factory. The story tells of their strike and the great effect it had on their lives, the lives of their families and the ripples their struggle created. This is a well crafted and poignant film. December 2010

Looking For Eric

Looking For Eric is a glorious film, as I said a few months ago. So, we have another chance to see this film exploring football, philosophy, redemption and the Royal Mail. It is a very good antidote to the cynicism of modern life really, in that there is a great spirit of community depicted in the film... October 2009

Little White Lies

After all of these marvellous thought provoking films Little White Lies appears like the light relief that it is intended to be. Every year, Max, a successful restaurant owner, and Véro, his eco-friendly wife invite a merry group of friends to their beautiful beach house to kick-start the vacation. But, this year, before they all leave Paris, their buddy Ludo is hurt in a serious accident, which sets off a dramatic chain of reactions and emotional responses. François Cluzet and Marion Cotillard head a terrific cast in this acerbically entertaining comedy drama. In French with English subtitles June 2011

Let The Right One In

Let The Right One In the story of a relationship between a twelve year old boy and a considerably older vampire. The main theme of the film is loneliness and how good it is for the soul to meet someone you can connect with. Even if you are being bullied at school and the person you meet is one of the undead. This, in a way brackets the film with Harold and Maude, except Maude did not kill all those that tormented Harold. Anyway it’s a beguiling beautiful study of lost souls reaching fulfilment. December 2009

Let Me In

It is just about a fact of life that Hollywood will adapt stories to fit in with its own vision. Some people say that there are only seven basic plot outlines so if this true every story is just a slightly different version of one that came before it. What muddies the water in terms of adaptations are English language versions of films that are adapted from other media. Before it was a Swedish film about a boy falling in love with a vampire, Let The Right One In was a novel. It is argued then that Let Me In is actually another adaptation of the novel rather than a remake of the first film. What it does do is lose the connection to any reference of Morrissey by changing the title. February 2011


Christopher Nolan came to my attention a few years ago when he made Memento, a film about a man who lost his short term memory and therefore couldn’t make new memories. What was curious about this film was that the scenes were shown in reverse order and that there were flashbacks filling in some of the gaps. He then went on to reinvent Batman for a new generation. His latest film Inception is a story is about dreams and using them to manipulate thoughts and feelings. I was reminded of the Matrix a few times while watching this, but there wasn’t the mistake made of being mired in lots of silly explanations. Often you may find that there are more questions posed than answered throughout the film. September 2010

In The Loop

In The Loop is a film laden with an array of many insults and much inventive swearing. It features characters from the series The Thick Of It and is quite worrying as the characters spend their time spinning a war declaration to the US Military and the United Nations. It does show you that there are some people out there who will use every single conceivable advantage to get what they want. December 2009

The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus

There is always The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus (Terry Gilliam) which along with every other film he’s made has divided opinions. The story is that of the eponymous indeterminately aged Dr Parnassus. He makes a deal with the Devil that he can get five people to choose the right path by midnight, if he fails the Devil gets his daughter’s soul. Anyway, this was Heath Ledger’s last film and he looked like he enjoyed himself making this. He plays Tony, a confidence trickster and a big fat liar. I can’t think of another Tony like that! His character is also played by Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Johnny Depp; filling when Ledger couldn’t. May 2010


One of the most arresting films of the last two years has been Helen. This tells the story of Helen who bears a stunning resemblance to Joy who disappeared on the way home after saying goodbye to her friends in the park. Helen is chosen to play Joy in a reconstruction of the last moments leading to Joy’s disappearance. Helen uses this to subtly change her identity and begins to do the things Joy used to, spending time with the people she did, even kissing Joy’s boyfriend. The film makes one think what is our identity based on, is it what we think and do or is it how other people see us. I suppose the answer is somewhere in between and that we’re all a jumble of personalities anyway. February 2010

Good Night, and Good Luck

Good Night, and Good Luck recounts the story of CBS journalist Edward R Morrow and his personal crusade against Senator Joseph McCarthy’s anti-Communist witch hunt. The story discusses how important it is to make a stand against injustice, even though you may be accused in the process, as Morrow was. He was successful in showing that guilt by association is not necessarily guilt a message that resonates today. It is often the case that films about the past often say more about the time they are made. April 2006

Fish Tank

There has been a long tradition of socially conscious films made in Britain highlighting what life is like for a large number of people at one end of the scale in our country. This tradition is ably continued in the film Fish Tank that tells the story of Mia. She has dreams of escaping the Essex estate where she lives with her mother and daughter. Throughout the film, she explores a range of possibilities and sometimes makes some questionable and potentially disastrous choices. The landscape is bleak and unforgiving but Mia does her best to foster her ambitions. November 2009

The Fighter

There may not be a film on current or recent release that can match The Fighter for its honesty and its integrity. That may be a slight exaggeration but it has plenty of those qualities in abundance. The film tells the story of the boxer ‘Irish’ Mickey Ward and how he negotiated a number of obstacles on his way to reaching the heights in his sport. The obstacles included his mother who in managing him was well meaning but not as successful as she could have been and his trainer brother who had been a boxer before, knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard, who then developed an addiction to crack. These two are played by the Oscar winners Melissa Leo and Christian Bale. This is well worth seeing, well acted, well written and well made. May 2011

The Draughtsman’s Contract

The Draughtsman’s Contract was shot at Groombridge Place and explores the relationship between artist and patron. The aforementioned draughtsman is contracted to produce 12 landscape drawings of an estate by Mrs. Virginia Herbert for her absent and estranged husband. There are other strings attached to the contract. In the course of his work the draughtsman uncovers events that certain characters wish to be left undisturbed. As with many of Greenaway’s work the film is sumptuously shot and features the sublime music of Michael Nyman. April 2010

The Damned United

This tells the story of the best manager England never had, Brian Clough and his complicated relationship with Peter Taylor. The main subject of the film is Clough’s short tenure as the manager of Leeds United, who some thought at the time should have won the European Cup under Don Revie as they were at times the best team in England. Clough’s appointment came because of Revie’s elevation to the post of England manager. Clough believed Leeds to be cheats and made his feelings clear to the Leeds players when he arrived, saying that whatever they had won in the past was worthless. Not the best way to endear yourself and inevitably things went downhill from there. Happily, Clough did win Europe’s top club prize, even better it was not with Leeds and he remains the only British manager to do this in successive seasons. November 2009


Quite frankly Brazil is one of my favourite films, one of my top ten if I had one. It was made by Terry Gilliam in 1985 and it is a great satire on how modern life was mired in bureaucracy and red tape. It’s a world where the Ministry of Information Retrieval will use a variety of techniques to encourage you to provide the said information. This may involve citizens dying as a result but it’s always wise to not only keep your receipt but to sign for it as well. Discover or reappraise this masterpiece.

Animal Kingdon

I was seriously impressed by Animal Kingdom and I was highly surprised to be the only person in the auditorium when I saw this at the Kino in Hawkhurst. The film is about a family of bank robbers in Melbourne and is based on real events. In revenge for the killing of one of the brothers they assassinated two police officers. This crime shocked the nation as this was the first killing of multiple police officers in Australia since the Ned Kelly gang. I like the way that crime is depicted here, as having as disastrous an effect on the perpetrators as well as the victims. Engaging in a career of crime does have a habit of destroying your life and those around you. The film is lovingly crafted with some subtle, natural performances.


If there is a sub category of Welsh adolescent comedy/dramas then Submarine would fit very neatly into it. If you wanted to be very pedantic you could include that it’s also features the themes of suicidal thoughts, eighties cod mysticism and allergic reaction to dogs. It is with all this considered a very engaging film about a boy who fears that his parents are going to split up and that the love of his life will spurn him. There is also a very good soundtrack made up of songs by Alex Turner of the Arctic Monkeys.

Oranges and Sunshine

Oranges & Sunshine highlights the extraordinary practice of exporting children to Australia from Britain. This went on from the late nineteenth century to the nineteen seventies. What makes this practice so horrendous is that the children were told that their mothers were dead or did not want them and the mothers were told that the children had been adopted. Of course they hadn’t been they had been promised the aforementioned oranges and sunshine only to end up in the most extreme cases being abused in variety of different ways. This thoughtful, heart wrenching and campaigning film was made by the son of Ken; Jim Loach.

A Separation

A Separation should be subtitled, nothing is ever black and white, certainly not in a relationship where the couple in question feel that they want to know that their partner is committed before they commit themselves. The film also appears to be an exploration in how to answer a question by asking another, 'are you guilty?', 'well do you think I'm guilty? The story is centred around Nader and Simin who start the film by discussing with a judge in court about whether they can get a divorce or not. The judge is not convinced that they want to divorce, Simin wants to leave Iran as well but there is the complication of their 11 year old daughter. The couple separate, and after Simin leaves the family home, Nader employs a woman to clean the house and to look after his father, who as Alzheimer's while he's at work. She is also pregnant and due to series of unfortunate events she loses her baby. The film then changes tack and discusses and explores the ins and outs of these occurrences. The very clever device of nobody really admitting anything until the very last minute is skilfully employed here. The film really stretches out how far you can go if you're in love with someone and how much space and room you can give them to make their own mistakes. It also discusses beautifully the nature of trust and how that can work and how it can leave you desperate. There is also no music in this film, you're often left with the sounds of Tehran's traffic in the background. That is significant as well as you the viewer have to make up your own mind how to react to the tragedies and comedies portrayed here.

The Tree of Life

Blimey, the Tree of Life, takes you through the whole of existence from the big bang to the afterlife discussing the choice between grace and nature. The film is a long discussion about the choice we have as to whether we believe in the survival of the fittest and the rules of the jungle or if we rise above that. This is explored in the lives of a Catholic family in Waco, Texas in the 1950s. The father is very strict towards his three sons and argues with the mother as a result of this. As a result the sons find it easier to have a connection with their mother. It’s a very thought provoking film that is well worth seeing although its beginning, middle and end are scattered throughout the universe. In exploring this Catholic family, who attempt to live in grace, Malick discusses the existence of God and if he does exist where is he? On reflection after seeing the film I’m reminded of the words of Philip Larkin, which I won’t repeat here. There is also the exploration of how elegant and serene planets and stars are in their sweep across the galaxy, they are indeed heavenly bodies. They do however harbour the violence of chemical explosions and predatory carnivores.


This well made biopic shows us Mussolini life from the First World War when he was a philandering socialist opposing an oppressive regime. The film tells the story of the other woman and the son they had together, both of whom were shockingly treated by the Italian state and the church. It seems the best thing the nuns could tell her about alleviating her situation was that she'd receive solace in the next life, very reassuring.

Fantastic Mr Fox

The Fantastic Mr Fox is the story of a Fox's attempts give up the life of stealing birds when his wife becomes pregnant. He ultimately takes on three local farmers with less than poor reputations. The film features Wes Anderson motifs such as his obsessions with labelling and headwear. There is also the long running theme of the relationship between fathers and sons. Beautifully done.


Home is at times is quite a disturbing film, but don’t let that put you off. It's about a family whose life is turned upside down from their ideal existence by the building of a motorway next to their isolated house. The family go through the joy of being on holiday, the attempts to look for a missing daughter and the torment of road noise. This is Ursula Meier first film which is hard to believe watching this accomplished film.

The Seventh Seal (Det Sjunde inseglet)

I've been waiting to see this for a number of years, I've seen other Bergmann films but not the most famous and the most widely regarded as his best film, until now. It is his best film, it achieves the objectives of talking about big themes but looking at them in a small way. Death and destruction magnified onto a small Swedish village with a knight playing chess with Death to save three people. I was rminded of Schindler's List 'he who saves one life saves the world entire'. Reading the notes the BFI provided about the film, Bergmann talked about the imperfections of the film because it was mad quickly. That leant to the success of the film because it gave an authenticity to the performances and the relationships between the characters. Whilst I watched the film I realised that I was drinking in this beauty and that captivated me, I'm not sure if you can drink in visuals maybe you can imbibe them, maybe they intoxicate you. Bergamnn shows us the essence of life is in the avoidance of death and maybe realising that is also realising when your time is up.

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

English speaking cinema, whether from Hollywood, Britain or a curious mixture of the two, has always been fascinated by royalty. There has been a fine tradition of films specifically exploring the reign of Elizabeth I. Flora Robeson and Bette Davis both gave their takes on the long reigning queen as has Judi Dench in recent years and also Cate Blanchett, who has reprised this role in Elizabeth The Golden Age. After the transition in title of the play The Madness of George III to the film The Madness of King George, I did wonder this film could have been called Elizabeth II. Anyway the film, did Sir Walter Raleigh single handedly destroy the Spanish Armada? Was he even there? There's more Errol Flynn than historical accuracy in Clive Owen's performance. It's a very stylish, easy on eye, easy on the ear, romp really. We are at least twice presented with stirring images showing the munificence of Elizabeth, as if she was some kind of demi-god. There are some who will say never let the facts get in the way of a good story, which this film certainly doesn't.

The Third Man

I once dismissed the Third Man as little more than Orson Welles making a speech about cuckoo clocks, how wrong I was. There is so much to like about this film, the performances from Orson Welles through to Bernard Lee and Wilfrid Hyde-White were captivating. Bernard Lee gave us the salt of the earth Sgt Payne who punches Holly Martins (Joseph Cotton) one moment and waxes lyrical about his books the next, for me he almost steals the show. Orson Welles gives probably the best thirty minute performance in fim history, probably only equalled for effect by Anthony hopkins in the Silence of the Lambs. The power and charm of Welles almost makes you want Harry Lime get away with his abhorrent crimes. Throughout the film your led to be sympathetic with so many of the characters as they are placed in inenvaible positions by Lime.

Syndromes and a Century (Sang sattawat)

I wasn't really prepared for the beauty of this film. The beauty came from the interaction between the caharacters. What first appeared mundane becam riveting and funny. Adoctor was interviewed twice to see which department he would be best suited to, or we two versions of the same interview. We are also shown two versions of a consultation with a monk before he gave the doctor(s) roots to cure their ailments. We were shown different scenes in the life of the hospital, no-one died, there were no hysterionics. Doctors drank spirits while discussing the merits of Red Cross t-shirts and dentists discussed singing with their patients, sheer poetry.


I saw Pride and Prejudice a couple of years ago and was very impressed by the cinematography. Atonement builds on that success, Wright proves that he can make an intelligent, well scripted, well shot film. At the same time he gets excellent performances from his actors, including a marvellous two minutes from Brenda Blethyn. Keira Knightly is making progress as is the sublime James McAvoy. film of the year? Nearly.

Falling Down

Both Robert Duvall and Michael Douglas give excellent performances of the same character. Beautifully scripted, but apparently portrays a non logical walk across LA. You can almost hear tham saying 'I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore'

The Ipcress File

What a joyful film, far more realistic than Bond, Caine gives an excellent performance as the awkward, insubordinate Harry Palmer, who saves the day in the end. Almost perfect.

The Da Vinci Code

Preposterous film about piffling nonsense, an adaptation of an appalling book really. Cutting away all the baloney about Jesus, Mary Magdalene and international conspiracies, Audrey Tatou sounds like she's pretending to be French, just as Tom Hanks pretends to act. Ian McKellern, somehow, on occasion, shows some restraint in delivering awful lines to some extent but fails miserably. It must be the mind numbing stupidity of the non jokes about tea and coffee,  let alone god and Jesus. The only controversy that remains is that how something so banal could be made and then treated seriously than someone other than Dan Brown.

La Vie en Rose (La Mome)

Fairly depressing account of the life of Edith Piaf. If the film is true her life was, let's face it fairly depressing. I normally don't mind non-sequential films, but at times I failed to see the logic of it all.