Alfred Hitchcock – Number Seventeen (1932)

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This early Alfred Hitchcock thriller is certainly not among the master’s best — and the poor quality of most surviving prints does not help matters — but Number 17 is an entertaining little journey into mystery. Students of the director and his style will be the most appreciative of the effort, more willing to overlook the awkwardness of much of the film in order to ascertain glimpses of things to come in later films. And there’s a lot that’s awkward, from the not-really-surprising ending to several confusingly shot sequences (and some excessively choppy editing throughout). The climactic train sequence is emblematic of the film as a whole; portions of it are exciting and effective, but much of it is undercut by poor pacing and timing that just doesn’t quite work. Ultimately, it does build up to a good head of steam, but it has to strain mightily to get there. The cast is good, overcoming the underdeveloped nature of many of their roles; Leon M. Lion does especially well in the comic relief lead and Anne Grey is quite effective as the mysterious “mute” member of the gang. John Stuart projects that time-honored British mixture of manliness and restraint, and Donald Calthrop is nice and oily as one of the thieves. 17 is rough going at times, but it’s worth sticking out its short running time. — Craig Butler Continue reading

Gary Tarn – Black Sun (2005)

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Brief synopsis :
(www.britfilms.com)

Tragically blinded in a random street mugging, Hugues de Montalembert defied expectation and continued to travel the world, alone. In Black Sun film-maker and composer Gary Tarn constructs a poetic meditation on an extraordinary life without vision.

Description
(by kamera.co.uk)

Black Sun documents the artist’s will to live a full life, free of fear and impediment. Opening with aerial shots of New York, Montalembert describes the violent events that left him sightless. As he does, identifiable images meld together into a palette of colours, finally becoming little more than a spectrum of lights, slowly dimming, until we are left with the ‘dark honey’ glow that Montalembart tells us he has lived with for the last twenty-eight years. He candidly describes his refusal to go through the motions that doctors told him were the steps to his recovery – nervous breakdown, acceptance of disability, rehabilitation and adapting to a new life full of restrictions – instead setting out his own plan, which would see him travel alone to Indonesia within 18 months of the attack. From there he journeyed to Bali, where he began to write down his experiences. The resulting book became an international bestseller. Since then, Montalembert has continued to travel and write.
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Michael Tuchner – Fear Is the Key (1972)

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Following the death of his family in an aeroplane crash, a man plots an elaborate revenge scheme on those responsible. By setting himself up as a criminal, he plans to get close to a certain tycoon who has been approached by the culprits to help them retrieve the cargo of the lost plane. Written by Jonathon Dabell Continue reading

Clive Brook – On Approval (1944)

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Plot Synopsis by Craig Butler (AllMovie):
English actor Clive Brook’s only directorial effort, On Approval, is based upon Frederick Lonsdale’s frothy 1926 play, though reset in the late 19th century. Brook plays George, a titled duke whose wealth has largely been spent but who has no intention of settling further into genteel poverty. George is enormously appealing to Helen (played by Googie Withers), a good-natured American heiress, and is equally appalling to Maria (Bea Lillie), an Englishwoman of considerable means. The imperious Maria is dating the eternally devoted Richard (Roland Culver), who worships her. Maria decides that she will marry Richard — after he spends a month with her in a secluded Scottish castle, where she will try him out “on approval.” Maria, however, does not intend to discover whether they are suitable for all aspects of marriage; every night he is to row across the loch and spend his nights at a local inn. Neither Maria nor Richard will lack for company, though, as George and Helen invite themselves along. Things get complicated when it turns out that there are no rooms available at the inn, leaving the men to share the castle with the women — a prospect that so horrifies the servants that they promptly leave the two couples high and dry. Left to their own devices, the foursome get to know each other — and they don’t necessarily like what they find. Continue reading

Ben Hopkins – 37 Uses For A Dead Sheep (2006)

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portrait of the Kirghiz tribe, living a quasi-Iron Age existence in one of the remotest places on earth.

37 Uses For A Dead Sheep is a documentary with a sense of humour. However, as he recounts the eventful history of Central Asian tribe the Pamir Kirghiz, director Ben Hopkins stays on the right side of Borat-style ethnic mockery, treating his subjects with affection and esteem. He also turns a few of them into film stars in a range of reconstructions that entertainingly reveal the community’s journey over the last century or so.

Evocative title, that. Could the film itself possibly match it? Director Ben Hopkins finds the Pamir Kirghiz, a small Central-Asian tribe now living in eastern Turkey, and works together with them to craft a fleet-footed, intriguingly pomo documentary about this little-known group of nomads. Hopkins uses the tribes people to reenact moments from their history (shot in grainy 16mm), then shoots himself shooting them, then interviews them about it, while intercutting it all with images of their life today, in a village the Turkish government pretty much settled just for them. Oh yeah, there’s also a framing device in which the director talks to an old Kirghiz man about—you guessed it—all the things they can do with a dead sheep. It’s all very meta, but once Hopkins reveals the odd backstory of this people, pingponging between the Great Powers (Russia, China, the U.K.) who controlled their homeland at various times, it’s hard to think of a more appropriate approach to this material. The result is an inventive look at some truly unwitting victims of history’s relentless, unforgiving march. Continue reading

David Mackenzie – Hallam Foe AKA Mister Foe (2007)

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Synopsis –

Hallam is almost over the sudden death of his mother when he begins to suspect that his beautiful step mother may have had a hand in her death, and it doesn‘t help that Hallam fancies her rotten. After a confrontation with his step mum, Hallam escapes to Edinburgh. Out of money and out of friends, he finds his tree–top skills well suited to the rooftops of the city, where he lives ferally, attempting to avoid the perils of the streets below and becoming obsessed with a gorgeous girl who happens to look just like his mother. Continue reading

Alfred Hitchcock – The 39 Steps [+Extras] (1935)

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Criterion wrote:
Synopsis
The best known of Hitchcock’s British films, this civilized spy yarn follows the escapades of Richard Hannay (Robert Donat), who stumbles into a conspiracy that involves him in a hectic chase across the Scottish moors—a chase in which he is both the pursuer and the pursued. Adapted from John Buchan’s novel, this classic Hitchcock “wrong man” thriller encapsulates themes that anticipate the director’s biggest American films (especially North by Northwest), and is a standout among his early works. Continue reading