THE BLACK PANTHERS: Vanguard of the Revolution

2015; written and directed by Stanley Nelson; 115 mins

Black Power was like so many half-heard-about groups when I was a kid. Always represented as an anomalous, uncouth, violent, disruptive group to be lumped in with the IRA, unions and other peoples’ kids in supermarkets. When and how my opinions were opened up on the Panthers, I’m not sure but certainly Göran Hugo Olsson‘s hugely underrated found footage documentary, Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 was a major catalyst. There is a rich and vibrant cinematic history on the subject of the Civil Rights movement, going way back to Agnès Varda‘s short doco, Black Panthers, from 1968 (beautiful footage from which which is used a lot and very well here). Here is a really solidly put together addition to the canon, succeeding at being an overall history of the equally fiery rise and fall of this truly revolutionary group. Continue reading


1981; directed by Andrzej Wajda; written by Aleksander Scibor-Rylski; 147 mins

[Sorry, couldn’t find a suitable English language clip or trailer]

With the passing, late last year, of director Andrzej Wajda, and with Cannes 2017 well underway, I thought it time to check out Palme d’Or winner Man of Iron – interestingly, the only sequel ever to win the prize. Previously, I had only seen Wajda’s 1958 masterpiece, Ashes and Diamonds and beyond that, my knowledge of Polish cinema is pretty poor, so let’s delve in… Continue reading


2004; directed by Werner Herzog; 87 mins

[Sorry the trailer’s in German, that is the only trailer I could find]

In lieu of There Will Be Blood (because my DVD was shagged), the 100th review on Reading Films will be of my second favourite Herzog film – after 1972’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God. A neglected documentary, released thirteen years ago and never mentioned except in passing in any retrospective of the director. This, I think, is his most positive, heartwarming and emotionally fulfilling film. Continue reading


2012; directed by Mark Corvino and Jeff Howlett; 92 mins

Rock & Roll: that’s the thing most punk rockers seem to say when the subject is broached as to what makes them punk. They almost inevitably say they just wanted to make Rock & Roll music. That’s not the only connection this film has with the great pantheon of rockumentary filmmaking, though… Continue reading

CRISIS: Behind a Presidential Commitment

1963; by Robert Drew; 52 mins

A bolder, much more confidently made documentary from Drew Associates with better sync-sound and more clarity and accuracy with the cameras of Richard Leacock, James Lipscomb, D.A. Pennebaker and Hope Ryden. Perhaps because they were given unprecedented access to the inner workings of the White House, they naturally upped their game. However, they had also not really stopped working since their 1960 experiment, Primary, thus, the quality of this film and it’s makers is far superior. Continue reading


1969; directed by Marcel Ophüls; written by André Harris and Marcel Ophüls; 251 mins

Part One – The Collapse (l’effondrement): A look at the French experience during WWII, singling out the town of Clermont-Ferrand which was, temporarily after the Nazi invasion, the seat of government for Petaín and the Vichy government. The first half of the film concerns itself with the downfall of France from 1940 to 1942, the attitudes of the people and British betrayal* that led to the split and the rise of the resistance. Continue reading


2013; directed by Gianfranco Rosi; 91 mins

“I come across like a slut.” says one table dancer as she does her make-up. “It accentuates you” replies her colleague in a manner that suggests this conversation is a regular occurrence. Then out they go, from the cramped back area, filled with empty trays and stock to go and gyrate on top of a cramped looking bar to be occasionally ogled by half-interested young men. Continue reading