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David Byrne's American Utopia. (15.)
Directed by Spike Lee.
Starring David Byrne, Jacqueline Acevedo, Chris Giarmo, Daniel Freedman, Tendayi Kuumba and Angie Swan. Available on Blu-ray and DVD. 105 mins
If white supremacists were serious about that contention, rather than just picking a side and supporting the same team that their father does, wouldn't they try and style themselves on someone like David Byrne? Not because he's so very superior, but because during his many years in music, fronting the Talking Heads and performing solo, he has set himself up as the whitest of rocknrollers. His music has taken in African rhythm and funky beats but he has managed to encompass all that while maintaining a stiff, formal, dry, intellectual air. Remaining aloof from the excitable elements, he has bent them to his will. Surely these attributes make a more compelling case for Caucasian dominance than beer bellies, tattoos and shaven heads?
JSA - Joint Security Area. (15.)
Directed by Park Chan-wook. 2000.
Starring Song Kang-Ho, Lee Byung-Hun, Lee Yeong-Ae, Shin Ha-Kyun, Kim Tae-Woo. In Korean with subtitles. Available on Blu-ray from Arrow Video from January 18th. 109 mins.
Back in 2000, this tale about the investigation into a shooting incident in the demilitarized zone was a reflection on nearly half a century of division in the peninsula. Seen now though, it is the first flickering of a great burst of creativity that would see South Korea become a global cinema and TV powerhouse; some of the first steps down the road that would eventually lead to the Parasite Oscar victory. JSA wasn't just the breakthrough film of Oldboy director Park Chan-wook, but the first meeting of the nation's two biggest actors Song Kang-Ho and Lee Byung-Hun.
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Two Takes.
Directed by William Greaves.
Starring Patricia Ree Gilbert, Don Fellows, Audrey Henningway, Shannon Baker, William Greaves, Bob Rosen, Jonathan Gordon, Susan Anspach and Steve Buscemi. Out on Blu-ray75 mins/ 99 mins.
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: that's its name, don't wear it out. Though, on the evidence of the film academic in the documentary included on this disc, once you have got the hang of the pronunciation and get the order straight in your head – the Symbio, the Psycho, the Taxi and the Plasm - you can't stop yourself from saying Symbiopsychotaxiplasm at every possible opportunity. It's a good title: initially forbidding and trays wanky but also intriguing and playful and ultimately a good fit.
Directed by Ron Underwood. 1990.
Starring Kevin Bacon, Fred Ward, Finn Carter, Michael Gross, Reba McEntire and Victor Wong. Out on Limited Edition 4K UHD Blu-ray from Arrow Video. 96 mins.
Apparently, when it came out in cinemas thirty years ago Tremors was a bit of a flop and it only became a cult hit on video. Well, you can't blame me for that, I did my part and saw it at my local movie house. In fact, I'd say it was one of my favourite cinema memories. Tremors is just a dumb monster movie but it's a dumb monster movie made with wit, invention and love. There's nothing better than coming out of a cinema having seen a silly movie that's been done well. It restores your faith in the whole process and makes up for all the crap you see. Plus, I think there is something fundamentally decent about a film whose stars are called Kevin and Fred.
Directed by David Cronenberg. 1996.
Starring James Spader, Holly Hunter, Deborah Kara Unger, Elias Koteas and Rosanna Arquette. 4K Restoration from Arrow Video out on UHD and Blu-ray from December 14th. Also available to download. 96 mins.
This adaptation of J.G. Ballard's book about a group of car crash survivors who form a sexual fetish around the event, marshalled by "hoodlum scientist" Vaughan is a sick, sick film; you can't help thinking that the Ban This Filth crowd have a point with this one. It is also the greatest and most faithful of all film adaptations of literary novels. It perfectly captures the essence of the book, without being pedantically faithful to it. But more than that though, it leaves you the book, completely unscathed. Cronenberg's film is absolutely Ballard's book, but if you read the book after seeing it, his film doesn't intrude into your reading.
The New World. (12A.)
Directed by Terrence Malick. 2005.
Starring Colin Farrell, Q'orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi, David Thewlis and Christopher Plummer. Out on a three-disc Blu-ray and DVD set as part of the Criterion Collection. Three different cuts of the film: Extended, First, Theatrical. 172/150/135 mins.
Malick's fourth film is about the colonisation of North America and the story of the girl that shall not be called Pocahontas. (Of course, what it is really about is what all Malick films are about: the wonder of naycha and the unknowable deity with any notion of story being entirely arbitrary.) In 1607, as the British ships land in what would become Virginia, the innocent natives of the continent get their first look at the monotheist dullards who will take over their land. It is a study of something precious being lost, which is appropriate because this was the first moment that audiences got to see that perhaps Terrence Malick wasn't quite the cinematic visionary they had taken him for. This is the moment when he chose to lose the plot.
Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula. (15.)
Directed by Yeon Sang-ho.
Starring Gang Dong-won, Lee Jung-hyun, Kim Min-je, Koo Gyo-hwan, Kim Do-yoon and Lee Re. In cinemas. Korean with subtitles. 116 mins.
What's wrong with an old fashioned 2? (Or Train 2 Busan?) One film Presenting its follow up seems incredibly mealy-mouthed, but I suppose it's there to emphasise that this is not a direct follow up to the Korean swarming zombie classic. Set four years later, Peninsula has all new characters and takes place in Incheon. That Presents could also be there to communicate the arm's length being maintained between the pristine original and this dog of a follow-up.
Dawn of the Dead. (18.)
Directed by George A Romero. 1978
Starring David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reininger and Gaylen Ross. Limited Edition 4K UHD or Blu-ray four-disc box set from Second Sight Films. Includes three different cuts of the film and extensive extras. Released November 16th. 127 mins.
The making of Zombie movies has been one of the great arenas of human achievement over the last half-century. We've done sod all in most other areas of human achievement, but we have built up a very impressive set of Living Dead movies, so at least we have that to show for it. And I believe this, Romero's second Of The films (to be followed by Day, Land and Diary Of The) is the main reason why. Sure, the first Night of the Living Dead, made ten years earlier effectively created a new horror genre but its immediate cultural influence was mostly restricted to the crimson excesses of seedy Europeans. It was this follow-up - bigger, bolder, colourer – that would show the wider filmmaking world how potently symbolic the Lumbering Dead could be.
King Of New York. (15.)
Directed by Abel Ferrara. 1990.
Starring Christopher Walken, Larry Fishburne, Victor Argo, David Caruso, Wesley Snipes, Janet Julian and Steve Buscemi. 103 mins
This early 90's hippy hoppy gangster blast offers up a rarity: a Christopher Walken leading role. He may be one of the most revered, iconic and imitated actors of the last half-century but almost all his most famous roles are supports; in the 138 roles he has credited on IMDB, I'd be surprised if even twenty of them were leads. In this he is there all the way through, playing Frank White, a drug lord who heads up a predominantly black gang and is half John Gotti and half Robin Hood. Within days of getting out of prison, he has taken out all the rival gangs because he wants to give something back.
A Bout De Souffle. (PG.)
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard.
Starring Jean-Paul Belmondo, Jean Seberg, Daniel Boulanger, Richard Balducci, Jean Pierre Melville. 1960. 89 mins. 60th Anniversary 4K restoration. Black and White French with subtitles.
My breathless moment in the cinema came in the early eighties with Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I remember staggering out of that in a state of ecstatic agitation: who knew films were allowed to be that much fun. If I'd been born two decades earlier, perhaps it would've been Godard's debut film. Back then, its innovations - the handheld camera, the jump cuts, 4th wall breaks and location shooting with passers-by staring into the camera – represented this great unleashing of energy. Who knew cinema could be so wild and free?
The Sheltering Sky. (15.)
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci. 1990.
Starring Debra Winger, John Malkovich, Campbell Scott, Jill Bennett, Timothy Spall and Eric Vu-an. Out on Blu-ray from Arrow Academy. 138 mins
A bunch of Americans travel abroad and lose their way, as they are apt to do. A bunch of Italian filmmakers and an English speaking cast set out to film an unfilmable novel and lose sight of what it is about, which happens. Bertolucci's version of Paul Bowles' novel is remarkable in many ways but foremost because you actually can see it losing the plot.
Southland Tales. (15.)
Directed by Richard Kelly.
Starring Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, Cheri Oteri, Wallace Shawn, Lou Taylor Pucci, Amy Poehler, Nora Dunn, Bai Ling, Holmes Osbourne, Miranda Richardson, Jon Lovitz, John Larroquette and Justin Timberlake. Out on limited edition Blu-ray from Arrow Video from January 25th. 145/ 160 mins.
This is my third time reviewing Southland Tales, Kelly's still notorious second film, and at least the fourth time seeing it. The first time was for its small scale UK cinema release in 2007, move than a year after it had been booed at Canz, a very great honour it shares with the likes of La Grand Bouffe, Crash, and Twin Peaks Fire Walk With Me. In 2021, even though I covered it last summer for a release on MUBI, when I saw Arrow was releasing a limited two-disc edition I was straight on to the PRs for a preview disc.
Investigation Of a Citizen Above Suspicion. (18.) *
Directed by Elio Petri. 1970.
Starring Gian Maria Volonte, Florinda Bolkan, Arturo Dominici, Gianni Santuccio, Orazio Orlando, Salvo Randone. Out on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection from 18th January. 110 mins.
It starts with Volonte giving a sly look back into the camera to check that everybody is following him. He's about to commit a heinous crime but is still so full of himself that he'd hate for it to go unnoticed. He then enters the Moorish apartment of an attractive young woman (Bolkan) who asks him how attends to kill her today. He replies by slashing her throat and after a bout of lovemaking does just that. And if that hasn't grabbed your attention than the revelation that the citizen above suspicion is a senior policeman, surely will.
Tin Drum. (15.)
Directed by Volker Schlondorff. 1979.
Starring David Bennent, Mario Adorf, Maria Winkler, Daniel Olbrychski, Berta Drews, Andrea Ferriol and Charles Aznavour. Out on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection. 163 mins.
The Tin Drum is a story about an evil little child that was born in Danzig in the first half of the 20th century, but doesn't become a Nazi. Adapted from Gunter Grass's novel, its central character, Oskar (Bennent) is a kind of sociopathic Peter Pan who at the age of three stops growing and bangs away on his beloved toy drum as the years pass him through the Neverneverland of Nazi Germany. He's still an obnoxious little tosspot, but he isn't an obnoxious little Nazi tosspot.
Directed by Albert Serra.
Starring Helmut Berger, Marc Susini, Iliana Zabeth, Laura Poulvet and Baptiste Pinteaux. Subtitled. Out on Blu-ray from Second Run on January 11th. 138 mins.
Though it combines two quintessentially British pursuits – costume dramas and dogging – this is a prime example of the kind of foreign muck we have set our borders against. It's the 18th century and a group of exiled French libertines and free thinkers turn up in Germany to encourage the Duc de Walchen (Berger) to round up some loose ladies, head down to the woods and circle the hand-drawn carriages for a night of sexual debauchery and abandonment, but always with their wigs on.
Directed by Christopher Nolan.
Starring John David Washington, Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Debicki, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Dimple Kapadia, Himesh Patel and Kenneth Branagh. Out now on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD. 150 mins.
All I want for Christmas is a set of Tenet subtitles. Oh, and access to a rewind button. Back in August, I was up for the challenge of attempting to throw my head around the back and forth of Christopher Nolan's head spinning palindromic time travel puzzle but, fair's fair, at least let us hear what they're saying. There's a perversity in walking out of a spectacular Imax biggest-screen-in-Europe viewing having just witnessed what could be the last hurrah of big-screen entertainment thinking how you'd really like to see it on your telly.
Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bull's History Lesson. (PG.)
Directed by Robert Altman. 1976.
Starring Paul Newman, Joel Grey, Harvey Keitel, Kevin McCarthy, Geraldine Chaplin, Will Sampson, Frank Kaquitts and Burt Lancaster. Out on Limited Edition blu-ray from Power House Films. 123 mins.
Now, don't get yourself in a tizzy because the title for Altman's film about Buffalo Bill's (Newman) attempt to incorporate the legendary Native American leader into his Wild West Show has an outdated word in it. Deep breaths must be taken and a slow acceptance arrived at that the past - that wilful and defiant past - continues to refuse to conform to our enlightened modern standards. Still, you wouldn't be able to use that title nowadays, which is wholly appropriate for a film about the speed with which we re-write history and bend it to our current necessities.
Cinema Paradiso. (15.)
Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore. 1988.
Starring Philippe Noiret, Salvatore Cascio, Marco Leonardi, Agnese Nano, Leopoldo Trieste and Jacques Perrin. Out on 4K UHD, Blu-ray and DVD on a two-disc edition with the Theatrical and Director's cut from Arrow Academy. 124/ 174 mins.
Cinema Paradiso is a sacred text for lovers of the movies. The story of a cinema in a square in a small town in Sicily over the forty years after the end of the Second World War, it taps into an almost unlimited well of sentimentality. Firstly, a sentimentality about the magical nature of cinema, but much more so our sentimental attachment to Italians; hysterical, over emotive, mamma mia Italians.
Five East Pieces. (15.)
Directed by Bob Rafelson. 1970.
Starring Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Susan Anspach, Lois Smith, Ralph Waite, Billy Green Bush. Out on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection on November 16th. 98 mins
Is there a more natural and instinctive screen presence than Jack Nicholson? His stardom seems innate, a matter of course. Hard to believe then that he spent nearly a decade and a half knocking around Hollywood and TV, doing bit parts without anyone saying, "Hey, that bloke's a natural."
The Anderson Tapes. (15.)
Directed by Sidney Lumet. 1971.
Starring Sean Connery, Dyan Cannon, Martin Balsam, Ralph Meeker, Alan King, Garret Morris and Christopher Walken. Out on Blu-ray from Indicator films on 16th November. 97 mins.
After doing ten years for safecracking, Connery emerges from prison in the early seventies to find that it is 1984. Everywhere he goes, the ex-con is under surveillance. He can't move without popping up on a wiretap. If he knew he'd feel persecuted; if he knew that none of them was actively aimed at him and his proposed criminal enterprise he'd feel slighted.
The Ladykillers. (PG.)
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick. (1955.)
Starring Katie Johnson, Alec Guinness, Cecil Parker, Herbert Lom, Peter Sellers, Danny Green, Jack Warner and Frankie Howerd. In cinemas now. A 5 disc Collector's UHD Blu-ray Edition is out on November 9th, part of Studiocanal's Vintage Classics collection. 95 mins.
Their remake of the Ladykillers is notorious for being perhaps the Coen Brothers' worst films – fighting it out with Intolerable Cruelty in a dark corner of the archive, kept well away from the other films. The oddity of it is not that they would do a bad job of it; the oddity is that of all the films in all the world, they would choose to remake a film that was made (or rather premade) in their own image. The Ladykillers is a beautiful time capsule of London and the King's Cross area in the mid-50s, all lovingly encased in the hyperbolic tones of Technicolour so it will always be that bit lovelier than it really was, especially in Studiocanal's 4K restoration. But, to modern eyes, this dark comedy doesn't speak of the past. It looks like it might have been ripped up from this century and tossed back in time to land in the mid-1950s, at the top of a dead-end road in Kings Cross, just above a train tunnel.
Directed by Paul Leni. 1924.
Starring William Dieterle, Olga Belajeff, Emil Janning, Conrad Veidt and Werner Krauss. Out on Blu-ray from Eureka Masters of Cinema. Silent. Black and white. 81 mins.
Despite having had a surprisingly good time with Leni's 1928 American feature The Man Who Laughs, I wasn't prepared for the marvels of his early German compendium feature, a fevered Expressionist dream about Ivan The Terrible, Caliph Harun Al Raschid and a fellow known here as Spring Heeled Jack, better known to us as The Ripper.
Best Before Death. (15.)
Directed by Paul Duane.
Featuring Bill Drummond, Tam Dean Burn, Avijit Halder, Charlie Sellers, Tracy Moberly. Out on Blu-ray from Anti-Worlds. 93 mins.
A dab hand in the music biz and the world of conceptual art, Bill Drummond has excelled in two of the major arenas of chancer attainment. He just needs to write a children's book and he'll have the full set. Working alongside Jimmy Cauty in his various music biz alter-egos, The KLF, the JAMMs, The K Foundation, he made mediocre to poor dance music that was somehow passed off as avant-garde.* He also made one of the worst records ever to get to No 1, Doctorin The Tardis**, awarded Rachel Whiteread a £40,000 anti-Turner prize for being the year's worst artist and burnt a million pounds on a remote Scottish island, which is probably all people remember him for now.