WORMWOOD

2017; directed by Errol Morris; written by Kieran Fitzgerald and Steven Hathaway & Molly Rokosz; 260 mins, 6 episodes

From the start, you know this is gonna be edging towards an accusation of murder but the beauty of Errol Morris being given a more epic scope to weave together this tale is that he can lead you down several stray threads before coming to the final solution. Ultimately, it seems to be in the service of crafting a credible case before going big. At the heart of his investigation is another autopsy on the nature of truth but Morris uses it as a bed from which to grow out his subject’s conspiracy theory so that it can become conspiracy fact. Continue reading

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INVESTIGATION OF A CITIZEN ABOVE SUSPICION

1970; directed by Elio Petri; written by Elio Petri and Ugo Pirro; 115 mins

A study in Fascism from a Communist director and a then-Communist star, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Indagine su un cittadino al di sopra di ogni sospetto) is a dark, perverse forgotten gem. A satirical look at one man’s sadomasochistic desire to be humiliated, be it in the bedroom or in the full glare of his empire. Continue reading

SPOTLIGHT

2015; directed by Tom McCarthy; written by Tom McCarthy and Josh Singer; 129 mins

[MILD SPOILERS. Sorry.]

The Oscars are a big bunch of bullshit as I think I have said on many occasions on this blog but of the two Best Picture nominees from that year that I have seen, I am so glad this won over The Revenant! A measured, intelligent, low-key drama with actual depth as opposed to the appearance of such. This is that rarest of films that had me forgetting about its construction and losing myself in the story. Whilst it may move toward cliched emotional surges, they are, at worst, earned – at best, totally artistically justified within the good ‘ol three-act structure that American cinema can do so magnificently well. Continue reading

LETTER NEVER SENT

1959; directed by Mikhail Kalatazov; adapted by Grigori Koltunov, Valeri Osipov and Viktor Rozov; 96 mins

The unsung great of Russian cinema, Mikhail Kalatazov was a propagandist. He made films for the Soviet Union that fell in line with the official party thinking. However, what the party didn’t seem to appreciate was that Kalatazov was a cinematic genius. Alongside key collaborator, cinematographer Sergei Urusevskiy, Kalatazov crafted some of the most revolutionary images in film. Continue reading

THE MASTER

2012; written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson; 132 mins

This is the concept album. This is Sandinista! This is Trout Mask Replica. It’s the one that threw everybody off the beaten track. Me definitely. I’ve seen it about eight or nine times but never really got it. Punch-Drunk Love was a departure from the established PTA style that we thought we knew (big, brash, highly-strung ensemble filmmaking). There Will Be Blood was even more different. Both of them still recognisably PTA features, though. Still both had the themes, the look, the sound. This is a distant, inscrutable chamber piece that stops and starts. No great long takes of any particular virtuosity, no attempt to make any bold statements or wow the crowds with directorial flourish. Just a spare, slightly lairy, low hum of a film. Continue reading

LOS OLVIDADOS

1950; directed by Luis Buñuel; written by Luis Alcoriza and Luis Buñuel; 77 mins

The eye-slicing bit from Un chien andalou really put the shits up me when I accidentally saw it at the age of 12, so consequently, I shied away from watching Luis Buñuel films. Still! This one turned up for free so I figured I’d give him a go. Turns out this is one of his least surreal films – not without its bizarre moments but pretty close to the era’s definition of a docudrama. Continue reading

CHILDREN OF PARADISE

1945; directed by Marcel Carné; written by Jacques Prévert; 186 mins

Made under extraordinary and dangerous conditions during the Nazi Occupation in WWII, this is one of those movies often trotted out as a film beloved by critics and filmmakers. Knowing nothing of the director’s work, I thought it time to give this one a whirl. Happily, it’s an absolutely wonderful film. An immersive epic about love and romance and all the people in-between. It’s a classical costume drama that still, after more than 70 years, has a lot to say about the traps we all fall into in love and the traps society pushes us into, because, this being a very French film, it deals with class distinctions in a very acute and intelligent way. Continue reading