United Kingdom

Kenneth Branagh – Hamlet (1996)



Hamlet, son of the king of Denmark, is summoned home for his father’s funeral and his mother’s wedding to his uncle. In a supernatural episode, he discovers that his uncle, whom he hates anyway, murdered his father. In an incredibly convoluted plot–the most complicated and most interesting in all literature–he manages to (impossible to put this in exact order) feign (or perhaps not to feign) madness, murder the “prime minister,” love and then unlove an innocent whom he drives to madness, plot and then unplot against the uncle, direct a play within a play, successfully conspire against the lives of two well-meaning friends, and finally take his revenge on the uncle, but only at the cost of almost every life on stage, including his own and his mother’s. Written by John Brosseau Read More »

Michael Winterbottom – With or Without You (1999)


Rosie and Vincent know each other for ten years, and are married for five. She doesn’t like
her job, he isn’t too pleased working with her dad. They’re trying to have a baby. One
morning Benoit, a Frenchman and former pen pal of Rosie, whom she never met, comes to
visit. Did Rosie love him? Does she love him now?
Read More »

Mike Hodges – Croupier (1998)


Jack Manfred is the antithesis of a garret-starving artist. He hasn’t a romantic bone in his body. He’s an unpublished novelist, with a cynical view of the world, coming to terms with having an ex-policewoman girlfriend (Gina McKee), who loves the idea of being-with-a-writer, while suffering the depressive side-effects of self-absorption. Right now, he has a cash flow problem.

Directed by Mike (Get Carter) Hodges and written by Paul Mayersberg, this is a first person movie. Clive Owen is Jack. The voice-over commentary covers his thoughts, a technique that can be dangerously indulgent. Not here. Mayersberg’s script has the clarity of an open wound. Read More »

Mary Downes and John MacLaverty – Sex and Sensibility-The Allure of Art Nouveau (2012)

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An outstanding three-part BBC4 series that looks at how the Art Nouveau movement flourished in the burgeoning cities of Europe at the end of the 19th century. Aired March-April 2012.

Episode 1: Paris
BBC cultural correspondent Stephen Smith explores the delicious objects of Parisian Art Nouveau. He delves into the city’s Bohemian past to learn how some of the 19th century’s most glamorous and controversial figures inspired this extraordinary movement. Revealing the story behind Alphonse Mucha’s sensual posters of actress Sarah Bernhardt, looking at the exquisite jewellery designer Renee Lalique and visiting iconic art nouveau locations such the famous Maxim’s restaurant, the programme builds a picture of fin-de-siecle Paris. Read More »

Michelangelo Antonioni – Blowup (1966)


Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader wrote:
Michelangelo Antonioni’s sexy art-house hit of 1966, which played a substantial role in putting “swinging London” on the map, follows a day in the life of a young fashion photographer (David Hemmings) who discovers, after blowing up his photos of a couple glimpsed in a park, that he may have inadvertently uncovered a murder. Part erotic thriller (with significant glamorous roles played by Vanessa Redgrave, Sarah Miles, Verushka, and Jane Birkin), part exotic travelogue (featuring a Yardbirds concert, antiwar demonstrations, street mimes, one exuberant orgy, and a certain amount of pot), this is so ravishing to look at (the colors all seem newly minted) and pleasurable to follow (the enigmas are usually more teasing than worrying) that you’re likely to excuse the metaphysical pretensions–which become prevalent only at the very end–and go with the 60s flow, just as the original audiences did. Read More »

David Cronenberg – Naked Lunch [+Extras] (1991)


Review from Washington Post in January 1992…


Someone asked the other day if David Cronenberg’s movie adaptation of William S. Burroughs’s novel “Naked Lunch” was “digital or analog.” In other words, does the movie follow the author’s surrealistic, Rorschach-test prose unit for unit, or does he weave an analogous version of his own?
Cronenberg, definitely, opts for the latter. He does so to his own, very weird degree. This is the guy, after all, who made “Scanners,” “The Fly” and “Dead Ringers.” He enjoys the grotesque. He grooves on molecular mutation. So, picking up on Burroughs’s passing — and metaphorical — references to beetles or buglike beings, Cronenberg takes that thought and scuttles with it.
There are bugs all over this movie. They are big, disgusting, coleopterous beings with pincers, sheaths and mandibles. They show up in bars with exoskeletal nonchalance. They metamorphose out of typewriters. One of them claims to be a spy controller. They emit nauseating, appetite-destroying secretions.
Of course, the movie — set in a brown-tinted, out-there 1950s world — is filled with people too, most of them writers, drug addicts or both. The central character is Bill Lee (Peter Weller), a pest exterminator and former junkie whose job is to dust people’s homes with poison powder. His wife (Judy Davis) happens to be severely addicted to the stuff. She loves to inject it into her breast. An eerie Dr. Benway (Roy Scheider) recommends a different addiction, the black meat of a certain Brazilian centipede. Read More »

Noël Burch – What Do Those Old Films Mean? (1985)


In this extraordinary six-part series, film historian and critic Noel Burch uses clips of rare archival silent film treasures to take us on a riveting journey of discovery. How did silent film reach such incredible heights in a mere 30 years? Why did film in the United States so quickly become such a popular art form?

In the first program, Along the Great Divide: Great Britain 1900-1912, Burch examines early British classics like Rescued by Rover and other, rare films by Cecil Hepworth, Stuart Kinder, James Williamson, R.W. Paul and others to look at how the British “gentlemen inventors of the cinema” created entertainment for the poor.

The second part, Tomorrow the World: USA 1902-1914, looks at early film in America against the background of the immigrant masses streaming into the factories, slums and sweat-ships of early 20th century America. Films by Porter, Griffith, Reginald Baker, George Dobson, Stuart Blackton and others show how early American film invented social content and then dropped it for the development of narrative.

In the third program, She! Denmark 1902-1914, Burch looks at the incredible explosion of filmmaking in Denmark where mature cinema was born at a time when French and American films were simple melodramas. The earliest Danish film stars – Asta Nielsen and Urban Gad – played in remarkable films which were innovative in the technical aspects of lighting, camera angles and editing. Read More »