best of 2014, british film, Favourite films, Movies

Favorite films – Pride (2014)

Shown this Christmas on BBC2, 2014’s Pride was my favourite film of that year and hopefully will find a wider audience on its terrestrial television premiere.

This is an article I wrote about the film (with a few minor edits) for the late and much lamented movie magazine Verite. Continue reading

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comment, crime, directors, Favourite films, horror, Movies, Uncategorized, Verite film magazine

“John Doe has the upper hand!” In the frame – Se7en

This article was first published in the January 2015 issue of Verite Film Magazine. Before you proceed this was for a running feature called ‘In the frame in which Verite writers wrote about their favorite scenes in movies. This was my one entry in the strand and looks at a scene from near the very end of director David Fincher’s 1995 masterpiece of neo-noir horror, Se7en. If you haven’t seen the movie and you read this, I will personally visit you in the night and force feed you Spam till you burst. Spoilers okay! You have been warned. Continue reading

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Classics, exploitation, Favourite films, horror, In Memorium, Movies

Remembering Wes Craven and The People Under the Stairs

The news today (the 31st August 2015) of the death of the director Wes Craven came as something it was hard not to characterise with gallows humour as a ‘Shocker’, of all the directors classed as ‘Masters of Horror’ Craven was the one that had kept a candle burning for the horror genre. Whilst others either fizzled out after initial promise (Hooper), gradually got stuck in a genre rut (Romero), suffered a gradual decline (Carpenter), or left the genre for pastures new (Cronenberg), Craven demonstrated a remarkable resilience.  Continue reading

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Classics, Favourite films, Movies, Reviews

Favourite films – Night of the Hunter

During the great American depression of the nineteen thirties to support his family young father Ben Harper is driven to crime. Arrested for robbery in front of his children, he is sentenced to hang. However, he has secreted the money he has stolen on his property and entrusted its whereabouts only to his children. Waiting for the gallows, Harper is enclosed in a cell with a preacher (Mitchum) incarcerated for automobile theft. Continue reading

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Favourite films, Movies, Music, Reviews

Favourite films – Inside Llewyn Davis

Llewyn Davis (Isaac) is singer plying his trade in the proto-hipster folk scene of Greenwich Village. Davis exists crashing on the floors of long suffering friends, and fellow musicians, whilst scraping a playing gigs and releasing the occasional record. Over one week he endures a perfect storm of crises as his disagreeable personality, bad luck and refusal to brook artistic compromise brings him to the brink of ruin. Continue reading

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Classics, Favourite films, horror, Movies, Reviews, science fiction

Favourite films – Invasion of the Body Snatchers

It’s a commonly recited refrain that the film industry’s fondness for recycling material is stifling creativity, or more simply ‘remakes suck ass dude’, but Jack Finney’s 1954 science fiction novel Invasion of the Body Snatchers has proved fertile soil for the cultivation of American nightmares. Don Siegel’s 1956 film slyly presented a paranoia that can be read as either fear of communism or McCarthyism. In Philip Kaufman’s 1978 remake this becomes something else, expressing a fear of conformity, urban alienation, the breakdown of community and the social paranoia of being an outsider. Continue reading

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exploitation, Favourite films, horror, Movies

Favourite films – Tenebrae

Made in 1982 when director Dario Argento was recovering from the commercial failure of Inferno, many fans expected Tenebrae to be the final part of the Three Mother’s trilogy (the title leads one to expect that), instead the film sees the director return to the Giallo tradition in which he had made his name over a decade before (with The Bird With the Crystal Plumage).

Bestselling American mystery novelist Peter Neal (a fine performance by Anthony Franciosa in a part originally intended for Christopher Walken) travels to Rome to promote his latest book “Tenebrae”. He arrives to a hostile reception from a feminist book critic and an interview with the police. A woman has been found murdered. The victim’s throat slit and mouth stuffed with pages from Neal’s novel. When further murders follow, the crime novelist starts to investigate his ego unable to resist the prospect of solving a real mystery.

Stylistically Tenebrae is quite different from previous Argento films. Moving away from the deeply saturated comic book colours of Suspiria and Inferno, Argento and his director of photography Luciano Tovoli bathe the film in light. Nighttime scenes seem to be lit by industrial floodlights. When there is a thunderstorm in the film, the lightning flares the whole screen white. Where most horror films shroud their suspense sequences in darkness, Argento exposes every detail.

Stunningly art directed, the film is as much an artefact and document of the 80s as Miami Vice. Argento chooses striking angular modernist buildings as locations; characters dress in whites and pastels colour coordinated with the sets. These muted white and pastel colour schemes look terrific when they are then sprayed in bright sticky arterial crimson.

Stunning set-pieces are staged that seem to exist for no more reason than to let Argento’s visual imagination go wild. In one celebrated single shot a camera prowls the exterior of a building, discovers the killer entering, then crawls up an exterior wall, through a bedroom window where a victim awaits, back out the window, over the roof and down the other side of the building to the ground floor where a second victim awaits. This sequence has no real narrative reason for being. It doesn’t advance the plot and there are easier ways of establishing a killer entering a house. But oh my god, does it look amazing!

Immeasurably enhancing the visuals is an incredible score from Simonetti-Morante-Pignatelli (unable to use the band name Goblin at the time for legal reasons). The score mixes prog rock and disco elements and in keeping with previous Argento/Goblin collaborations is placed as high in the mix as possible.

Tenebrae finds Argento in a playful mood, his plot slyly raising the accusations of misogyny and sadism that had been levelled against him by critics of his previous films only to then paint the screen red with ostentatious glee. Although ostensibly featuring a realistic narrative, the film is completely absurd in the most captivating fashion. Random occurrences break the narrative; characters do the most illogical things; everyone lives in amazingly opulent apartments (even shoplifters); there is even a strange sci-fi subtext that no one understands except Argento. None of this matters a jot, in fact it just adds to the fun of one of the director’s more neglected masterpieces.

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