• A Warning to the Curious

    A Warning to the Curious

    ★★★★½

    4th Lawrence Gordon Clark (after The Stalls of Barchester, The Treasure of Abbot Thomas, Lost Hearts, before The Ash Tree)

    Horror that strikes at the heart of the seaside experience, but a very specific off-season seaside experience, where all of the shops are shut and there's virtually no-one around. It's an experience of the seaside that I haven't really indulged in yet, that lovely graveyard loneliness. Solitude seems to be a friend of mine recently, what with the stresses of…

  • Schalcken the Painter

    Schalcken the Painter

    ★★★½

    1st Leslie Megahey

    Ah, Winter. It always comes so much sooner these days in the UK, and each one promises to be more bleak than the last. So, what better way to announce the impending misery by wrapping oneself up in the chilling embrace of a Ghost Story for Christmas? Well, it wasn't made specifically for that slot, but somehow Megahey manages to smartly position this in the Omnibus arts documentary slot, persuading the powers that be that he could…

  • Terror

    Terror

    ★★★

    1st Norman J. Warren

    I have had the pleasure of meeting three directors in my life. The first was Kevin Brownlow, the second Mike Figgis. But the third was perhaps the most memorable. At the very first conference I ever spoke at, Norman J. Warren was being given a lifetime achievement award, which also involved a Q and A before a screening of one of his films, Prey, and the Soska Sister's version of Rabid, which I reviewed here at…

  • Sleepwalker

    Sleepwalker

    ★★½

    1st Saxon Logan

    An ultimately quire disappointing support feature from a time when the British film industry was on its last legs; the Eady Levy that had been helping subsidise film production for thirty years would peter out in 1985, and what little money that was given out would usually only get to features under an hour. Still, Logan was able to inject the restrictive demands with a certain level of visual flair; Sleepwalker has incredible cinematography, a series of…

  • Woman of Rumor

    Woman of Rumor

    ★★★★

    Tenth Mizoguchi (After Ugetsu, Osaka Elegy, Story of the Last Chrysanthemums, My Love Has Been Burning, Victory of Women, Princess Yang Kwai-Fei, Miyamoto Musashi, The Lady of Musashino and Tales of the Taira Clan)

    As ever, Mizoguchi's absolutely mastery of content and form produces superb, mature drama that deals with adult themes in a thoughtful and nuanced manner. Here he returns to his classic theme of the geisha and her place within Japanese society, though here it's about those women…

  • St. Louis Blues

    St. Louis Blues

    ★★★½

    1st Dudley Murphy

    There was a clip from this in the Bix Beiderbecke documentary I saw yesterday, and I was so impressed by the quality of Bessie Smith's singing that I thought it would give it a watch. Likely made for black-only movie houses, St. Louis Blues takes the-then popular song and expands it out into a brief narrative of Smith's lover being a general rat and using her money to entertain other men. It's from this tale as old…

  • Bix: Ain't None of Them Play Like Him Yet

    Bix: Ain't None of Them Play Like Him Yet

    ★★★★

    1st Brigitte Berman

    If a person truly dies when the last person who forgets him, then the great natural musicians of the late 19th and early 20th century are some of the saddest names to go, were it not for the miracle of the recording. And even then, some musicians only have a small catalogue from which we can draw on. Take Bix Beiderbecke, widely regarded as one of the finest jazz cornet players of the 20s. This was a…

  • Sailor Suit and Machine Gun

    Sailor Suit and Machine Gun

    ★★

    1st Shinji Sômai

    A profoundly strange film for how many times it simply bellyflops every expectation. You'd expect from the name and the poster this would be a snappy little flick involving teenage shoot-outs in a school, which would be an amazing film in a trashy B-movie kind of way. Instead, it plays like a Seijun Suzuki film without any of the nervous, twitchy energy. Long, relaxed panning shots predominate the drama, sometimes resting in a single, strange angle (a…

  • Miss Americana

    Miss Americana

    ★★★½

    1st Lana Wilson

    This will be a review of two halves. The first is on Taylor the woman, because the past week has involved me trying to re-assess my own biases. The second is more to do with the film itself, which lives and dies by Swift but I find to be deficient in a number of cinematic ways. Certainly, it's impossible to completely separate the two, but I shall try.

    First, it's abundantly clear that the female experience of…

  • Opium

    Opium

    ★★½

    1st Robert Reinert

    Exquisitely beautiful cinema. Richly detailed sets laced with exotic fabrics and as much layering as the mind can possibly stand. In the gorgeous tinting that came from my copy, a world of illicit and erotic possibilities spawn endlessly from the perfumed images one sees onscreen. It's remarkably frank in its sensuality, including numerous scenes of bare-breasted women frolicking in an imaginary lakeside fantasy that looks like it's straight out of La Primavera, but with more pervy men…

  • The Stuart Hall Project

    The Stuart Hall Project

    ★★★

    2nd John Akomfrah (after Handsworth Songs)

    A warm, charming film about a fascinating man. Hall was responsible for consolidating much of what we now know as cultural studies in the UK, including the New Left Review. It's fair to say that without Hall, I couldn't be an academic, so some homage must be paid to him. Akomfrah's work pays tribute to Hall by placing him in the general context of social developments in post-war UK, focusing on the class and…

  • All Too Well: The Short Film

    All Too Well: The Short Film

    ★★★

    1st Taylor Swift

    As a man, writing about art that is made by women for women has a number of deep potential ravines. Perhaps the biggest is the concept of taste, or what constitutes 'good art'. There is, undeniably, a hierarchy still in place that marks out female or queer-based art as being effeminate or frivolous, sexist assumptions that date back long through the history of film/art/literature/whatever you may choose to see. These are biases that are ingrained in us…