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  • Se7en

    Se7en

    ★★★★½

    I feel a tendency to look down my nose at the most popular so-called serious films on this site, particularly if they're from the '90s and early 2000s. So far I've dismissed Dead Poets Society, Forrest Gump, Good Will Hunting, American History X and Requiem for a Dream, all with a certain degree of self-satisfaction I'm sorry to admit. But Seven is one film I can't even pretend to have neutral feelings towards.

    Seven takes place in an unspecified American…

  • The Last Detail

    The Last Detail

    ★★★½

    In many ways, The Last Detail might be the most New Hollywood film I've ever seen. It's directed by the most New Hollywood of directors, written by the most New Hollywood of writers, and stars the most New Hollywood of actors. It has the quintessential New Hollywood mood and worldview, and the quintessential New Hollywood aesthetic. And yet I still feel like there's something missing from the equation.

    In the film's opening scenes, we are introduced to two minor USN…

  • The Bad and the Beautiful

    The Bad and the Beautiful

    ★★★★

    In the early 1950s, three films that have gone down as classic Hollywood-on-Hollywood tales were released in alternating years. Each film was directed by one of the greatest Golden Age auteurs, and each provides its own unique perspective on Tinseltown. In between Sunset Blvd and A Star Is Born there was The Bad and the Beautiful, a sweeping saga that looks at the role of the producer in the grand scheme of the industry.

    The film begins with studio head…

  • Killer of Sheep

    Killer of Sheep

    ★★★★½

    The term "slice of life" is applied a great deal, with seemingly little attention to what it actually means. For instance, Ken Loach's films get called slices of life while they're actually polemics; John Cassavetes's films get called slices of life while they're actually character studies. I'd even hesitate to describe Yasujiro Ozu's films as slices of life; they've always seemed too formally rigorous to earn that term.

    Outside Italian neorealism, Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep is the only film…

  • The African Queen

    The African Queen

    ★★★½

    It baffles me that I once considered The African Queen one of my favourite films. Well, the law of diminishing return strikes again. It's not that it's a bad film - far from it - but it's hardly as great as its reputation would suggest.

    Based on the novel by C. S. Forester, John Huston's film takes place at the start of the First World War. Samuel (Robert Morley) and Rose Sayer (Katharine Hepburn) are English sibling missionaries in German…

  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail

    ★★★★

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail isn't a film that inspires serious thought. Fortunately, it compensates by being anarchically funny in a striking variety of ways. I really don't think I could pick a favourite bit, but I have a soft spot for the animation sequences.

    All this said, I feel like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Monty Python more generally, is the sort of thing one grows out of. If you're British, familiarity with the material means the sheen of subversiveness is rubbed away after a certain number of watches, and even just by seeing and hearing it quoted to death.

  • Parasite

    Parasite

    ★★★★★

    "Damn you, Parasite," I feel like grumbling. "Why did you have to go and win all those Oscars? Thanks to you, we no longer have the right to complain about the Academy." But I assume this is just what happens when a film comes out that is so good it has the power to bring decades-old reservations crashing down in ruin, possibly never to be rebuilt. Who can say? It's never happened before.

    Bong Joon-ho remains a director in whose…

  • The Farewell

    The Farewell

    ★★★★½

    In a just world, The Farewell would have been nominated for at least five Oscars. But you don't need me to tell you that the world we live in is far from just, and it's no good crying over spilt milk. Suffice it to say that Lulu Wang's second feature is one of the cinematic highlights of 2019, and even though my experience of last year's films is still fairly limited (I'm working on it, people), I doubt my opinion…

  • Imitation of Life

    Imitation of Life

    ★★★★

    Is there anything left to be said about Douglas Sirk? Any more theses to be written on how his extravagantly emotive style was just a camouflage for a deeply satirical sensibility? Such ideas rarely enter your head when you're watching one of his films - they're crowded out by the breadth of the feeling they generate, which just begs you to immerse yourself in it. Imitation of Life is a film that seems to encapsulate the general idea of his…

  • Bob le Flambeur

    Bob le Flambeur

    ★★★½

    When I watch an earlier film by a director who's impressed me with his or her later efforts, I often find it difficult not to compare this earlier film unfavourably to those later ones simply because I have the benefit of hindsight and therefore know what pinnacles the director would go on to reach - an unfair advantage over those experiencing the film for the first time. Case in point: Bob le Flambeur. I've seen three other films by Jean-Pierre…

  • Le Boucher

    Le Boucher

    ★★★★½

    Claude Chabrol is one of French cinema's most hallowed names, so it was really only a matter of time before I experienced his work for the first time, especially due to the fact that a) he's one of the Nouvelle Vague's most prolific directors, and b) he's notable for taking inspiration from none other than Alfred Hitchcock, worshipped like a god by the filmmakers of his generation. His Le Boucher didn't disappoint: it's a bracingly different kind of thriller, skewing…

  • Bright Star

    Bright Star

    ★★★½

    When I was studying the Romantic poets, the one whose work I appreciated most was John Keats. He was the least pretentious out of all of them; he seemed to write directly from the heart. I don't think Byron or Wordsworth could have had it in them to write something as simple yet at the same time as heartfelt as Sonnet on the Sea, for instance.

    Jane Campion's Bright Star feels like an attempt to capture the spirit of his…