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Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me. (15.)
Directed by David Lynch. 1992.
Starring Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, James Marshall, Harry Dean Stanton, Grace Zabriskie, Kiefer Sutherland, Kyle MacLachlan, Dana Ashbrook, Madchen Amick, David Bowie, Chris Isaak, Miguel Ferrer, Moira Kelly, Peggy Lipton. Available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection. On September 13th. 129 mins.
Fire Walk With Me is one of those rare films that I was on the right side of history for. The negativity of its reception in 1992, a year after the TV series had been cancelled, is almost legendary: the booing at its Cannes premiere (though apparently, that's a myth), Tarantino accusing Lynch of disappearing up his own backside and the box office flop. But I loved FWWM when it came out and, along with a few key episodes of the series, I've returned to it regularly over the three decades. Over that time it has become quite the thing to reevaluate it. Some have even declared it to be Lynch's masterpiece. But, the last couple of times I've seen it, I've started to wonder if those non-existent Kanz booers might have been on to something.
Directed by David Lynch. 1984.
Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Francesca Annis, Jose Ferrer, Sian Phillips, Brad Dourif, Dean Stockwell, Sting, Virginia Madsen, Everett McGill, Jack Nance, Paul Smith, Patrick Stewart, Sean Young, Freddie Jones, Linda Hunt, Kenneth McMillan, Richard Jordan, Jurgen Prochnow and Max Von Sydow. Available on Limited edition Blu-ray/ limited edition UHD/ Dual format limited edition Steelbook. 136 mins.
Dune is not a great film. It wasn't when it came out in 1984 and still isn't nearly four decades later. So why the hell am I still watching it? Why did the sound of the review disc of it dropping through the letterbox excite me more than the prospect of Denis Villeneuve's new big screen version? Because David Lynch's version of Frank Herbert's monumental Sci-fi classic is a maddening mix of brilliance and rubbish and what is inspired in it is inspired to such a degree that it keeps you coming back. It's a terrible old tease: taunting and torturing you with glimpses of the remarkable. It sets your mind racing, imagining a whole film on a level with the best bits. I'm someone who prefers watching the Matrix sequels to the original; for me it's always the tease that stays with you, not the consummation.
Blow Out. (15.)
Directed by Brian de Palma. 1981.
Starring John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow and Dennis Franz. Out on Blu-ray and DVD from Criterion Collection. 108 mins
The deck of Brian De Palma films are dealt into two packs: the ones for them and the ones for him. The ones for them are usually big-budget studio projects like Mission Impossible, Scarface and The Untouchables. There's been a fair few flops among that stack (Bonfire of The Vanities, Mission to Mars) but often they are films real people enjoy. The ones for him are opulent, stylish, women-in-peril thrillers (Raising Cain, Body Double, Obsession) that endless rework Hitchcock. Or, more precisely, endlessly rework Psycho and Vertigo. Generally, these only find favour with other filmmakers and a particular form of film nerd. Blow Out was the film for him that it was hoped would be successful enough to double up as one for them. That audiences in 1981 shunned it was a disappointment that De Palma arguably never quite recovered from. It is though the one that is generally considered to be his masterpiece. If you had a dollar for every person who has called it underrated you'd probably have enough to have made it a box office hit in 1981. It is one of the least underrated underrated films ever; to my eyes, it continues to be a slightly overrated underrated film, though I keep trying to find in myself the love for it everybody else seems to have.
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. 1975
Starring Margarita Terekhova, Ignat Daniltsev, Larisa Tarkovskya. Partly black and white. In Russian with subtitles. Out on Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection on 26th July. 107 mins.
A cinematic poet isn't really something to be. The movies disdain poetry – it's one of the things I love about them. The humble page may choose to indulge their poncey ponderings but the cinema is ruthless with them and will expose any chancer with highfaluting notions of the lyrical or poetic, no matter how small the budget. Many have tried, almost all have failed: a cinematic poet isn't really something to be because whatever you try, the films of Andrey Tarkovsky are going to dwarf you, and none of them will dwarf your efforts quite as much as Mirror (or sometimes The Mirror), a plotless, loosely autobiographical, free-flowing book of memories and dreams. It's a tiny epic, trying to encapsulate not just a person's whole life but also that of Russia itself in the middle part of the Twentieth century
Major Dundee. (PG.)
Directed Sam Peckinpah. 1965
Starring Charlton Heston, Richard Harris, Jim Hutton, James Coburn, Warren Oates, Michael Anderson Jr., Senta Berger and Mario Adorf. Out on Limited Edition, 2-disc Blu-ray set from Arrow Video including the Extended and Theatrical cuts. 136/ 122 mins.
Major Dundee is: a Sam Peckinpah western; his third film; the first that he was fired from during post-production. It is the one he made between Ride The High Country, the low budget 1962 with Randolph Scott and Joel McCrea that was his first standout movie and 1969's The Wild Bunch which may or may not be his masterpiece (Pat Garret and Billy The Kid could be faster on that draw) but is indisputably the definitive Peckinpah film. There are seven years between them but a massive chasm. Ride is orderly, while Bunch is mayhem. Ride is a classic western of the old traditions, a glass raised to old certainties; Bunch spews all over the traditions of the western. And between them is Dundee which is neither one nor the other. Because of studio interference, it falls between the two stools; if he been left alone it might have straddled them majestically.
Basic Instinct. (18.)
Directed by Paul Verhoeven. 1992.
Starring Sharon Stone, Michael Douglas, George Dzundza, Jean Tripplehorn, Dennis Arndt, Leilani Sarelle and Wayne Knight. A new 4K restoration out on 4K UHD Collector's Edition, Steelbook, Blu-Ray, DVD and Digital from June 14th. 128 mins.
Basic Instinct is a classic. It may or may not be any good but you can't help yourself. It has an unusual honesty – it's a major motion picture that advertises itself as being as dirty and nasty as a minor one, that is every bit as nasty and dirty as it claims to be. It's a massive Hitchcock homage and as such the correct critical line to take is to wag the finger really quite sternly because all the great Hitchcock films worked on suggestion and by leaving things to the imagination. Leaving anything to the audience's imagination has never been in Paul Verhoeven's nature: he wouldn't trust them to come up with something as depraved as he had in mind. I'm not saying Hitch would've approved of Basic Instinct, but I'm sure he'd have loved the freedom to make it, to actually film everything that was in his head.
World of Wong Kar Wai.
As Tears Go By (1988)/ Days of Being Wild. (1990) Chungking Express (1994) Fallen Angels (1995) Happy Together (1997.) In The Mood For Love. (2000.) 2046 (2004.) Available on a seven-disc Blu-ray boxset from The Criterion Collection on March 23rd.
My WKW ignorance: I always thought of him as Wonky Wah, but the preferred pronunciation is something closer to One Car Way. I was also under the misguided impression that I'd seen more than half of these films before. To see them on Blu-ray in these pristine, director-approved restorations is to realise how much telly, video and DVDs just don't cut it. Profound blessing on Criterion for finally making them available on Blu-ray in the UK. These seven films offer a truly remarkable record of a unique collaboration (with cameraman Christopher Doyle) over a single inspired decade (the 90s) which produced quite simply some of the most beautiful films ever made. He's not deep. This is a man who believes wearing sunglasses indoors and smoking is still cool. But his shiny surfaces and stylishly posed slices of pop culture resonate more deeply than everybody else's profundity. Beware, these films will ruin everything else for you. After watching them it's Wong Kar Wai or the highway.
Zack Synder's Justice League. (15.)
Directed by Zach Synder.
Starring Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Gal Gadot, Ray Fisher, Jason Momoa, Ezra Miller, Amy Adams, Joe Morton and Jeremy Irons. Out on 4K UHD/ Limited Edition Steelbook/ Blu-ray/ DVD and Digital download on May 24th. 242 mins.
Life has a funny way of helping you out, as the great sage once observed. Right after completing principal photography on Justice League director Zack Synder, and his producer wife Deborah, quit post-production because their daughter had committed suicide. At that time his reputation was in the toilet, known as the man who was making a po-faced pig's ear of Warner's DC universe. Four years later, he's the top dog, a director again spoken of as a visionary. A funny way of helping out.
Directed by Jean-luc Godard. 1966.
Starring Jean-Pierre Leaud, Chantal Goya, Marlene Jobert, Michel Debord and Catherine-Isabelle Deport. Available on Blu-ray/ DVD from The Criterion Collection from May 17th. Black and white. 104 mins.
One of the extras included on this Criterion disc is a conversation filmed in 2004 between a couple of old French film critics gesticulating wildly as they get quite overemotional about Godard and this film and its meaning and how they had totally failed to understand it on its release. And they are absolutely enchanting: like a mirror image Statler and Waldorf from the Muppets, so imbued with enthusiasm and passion and vitality that seem out of all proportion to the film they are discussing. Indeed, probably any film ever made. But after ten minutes I turned them off because by that stage I'd lost all track of what they were saying. Their emphatic windbaggery becomes self-sustaining irrelevance.
Someone To Watch Over Me (15.)
Directed by Ridley Scott. 1987.
Starring Tom Berenger, Mimi Rogers, Lorraine Bracco, Tony DiBenedetto, Andreas Katsulas and Jerry Orbach. Out on Blu-ray from Indicator Film on May 17th. 102 mins.
From a certain perspective, this late 80s thriller is the defining film of Ridley Scott's career: it's the one that made you realise he wasn't a genius. At the time of his second and third films, Alien and Blade Runner, there was excited talk of him being the John Ford of sci-fi films. His fourth film in 1985, the unicorn and demons fantasy Legend, was a horrible mess and a complete flop, but as absolutely nobody saw it then, or later, this was effectively his follow up to Blade Runner. A slick glitzy thriller about a New York cop (Berenger) falling in love with a rich socialite murder witness (Rogers) that he has to protect from a psychotic mobster, it is something far more disappointing than Legend: adequate and competent. And it set the course for the rest of his career: slick, spectacularly well made but largely unremarkable films. It's like Kubrick following up 2001 with The Tamarind Seed.
Battle Royale. (18.)
Directed by Kinji Fukasaku. 2000.
Starring Tatsuya Fujuwara, Aki Maeda, Chiaki Kikawada, Shugo Oshinari and Beat Takeshi. Available on a five-disc UHD 4k or Blu-ray special edition from Arrow Video. 113/ 121 mins.
Battle Royale: still crazy after all these years. The berserk energy fuelling this Japanese-school-kids-in-a-to-the-death battle makes it a timeless treasure. This is a 20th-anniversary edition (the original UK release was the Friday after 9/11) but it could've been this time last week. Of course, if it was this time last week every reviewer would be saying how it was ripping off The Hunger Games – and doing a bloody fine job of doing so.
Irreversible - Straight Cut (18.)
Directed by Gasper Noe. 2002.
Starring Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassell, Albert Dupontel. Included on the double-disc Indicator Blu-ray release of Irreversible, available from April 26th. 90 mins
Irreversible ends (or begins) with the word "Time Destroys All Things." Time though hasn't been able to lay a finger on this 2002 film which has retained every bit of its notoriety and shock value over the best part of two decades. Nobody can out-ugly Gasper Noe, which is rather reassuring. It would be a terrible state of affairs if this ever became just another film. Maybe this motivated its director to do a bit of potential self-sabotage. If time's slacking, he can do it himself.
Johnny Guitar. (PG.)
Directed by Nicholas Ray. 1954.
Starring Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Mercedes McCambridge, Scott Brady, John Carradine and Ernest Borgnine. Out on Limited Edition Blu-ray from Eureka! Masters of Cinema, September 20th. 105 mins.
Johnny Guitar - that western with women in. Joan Crawford Isn't Johnny Guitar. Or even Mrs Guitar. Sterling Hayden is Johnny Guitar and has designs on making Crawford's Vienna his Mrs Guitar. Out to stop that is the Dancin' Kid (Brady) - he doesn't dance and ain't a kid. Against them all is posse-happy poison dwarf Emma Small (McCambridge) who is determined to see Vienna hanging from the end of the noose. Small by name and by nature, she is driven by her repressed envy at this scarlet – among her many garish outfits – lady who has built a little casino in the desert and is waiting for the railroad to come and make her rich.
Original Cast Album: Company.
Directed by DA Pennebaker. 1970
Featuring Thomas Z. Shephard, Stephen Sondheim, Elaine Strich, Harold Prince, Dean Jones. Out on Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection. 53 mins.
I have caught myself emitting the words, "I hate musicals," on quite a few occasions. But that is clearly ridiculous. West Side Story? Guys and Dolls? High Society? Singin' In The Rain. I love these films. But maybe that's because they are films. On the stage, a musical can be an excruciating thing, because it plays up the worst aspects of the fearta. Even Singin' In the Rain was almost unbearable on the stage. So what to make of Stephen Sondheim? A lyricist of genius smoke on your pipe and put that in, a versatile visionary who broke the boundaries of what musical theatre could be, but a man immersed in the ghastly jazz hand sentimentality of Broadway.
Irma Vep. (15.)
Directed by Olivier Assayas
Starring Maggie Cheung, Jean-Pierre Leaud, Nathalie Richards, Bulle Ogier and Arsinee Khanjian. In French and English, partly subtitled. Part of a three-disc The Films of Olivier Assayas box set, available from Arrow Video, from Sept 6th. 97 mins.
The world of work is incredibly diverse but there is one thing that unites all strands of employment: nobody has it as tough as you do. Even librarians bemoan their lot whenever they are gathered together, comparing papercuts and inventories of the stomach-turning contents glimpsed in the Tesco bags of dossers who shelter in the periodicals during winter. But no area of employment analyses the challenges of its work as thoroughly and as lucratively as the film industry. The extras on every disc has interviews with actors and technicians exploring the difficulties and complexities of their craft. And sometimes the whole film is a Making Of.
Deep Cover. (15.)
Directed by Bill Duke. 1992.
Starring Laurence Fishburne, Jeff Goldblum, Victoria Dillard, Charles Martin Smith, Sydney Lassick, Clarence Williams III. Out on Blu-ray and DVD from The Criterion Collection. 103 mins.
This is a film about a cop who goes undercover as a drug dealer in the LA underground that wouldn't pass muster on the streets. The undercover cop drama demands gritty realism: pained, mumblefish, so-cold-you-can-see-your-breath authenticity. But there is something in the way Duke's film moves and sounds and looks that is just a touch too smooth, too straight, too glitzy to be street. Yeah, but so what? Sod the street. It's got lousy taste in everything and has earned a day off as the universal arbiter of merit. Deep Cover is a dapper little number, smart and insightful and with two of Hollywood's finest screen actors at the top of their game.
The Day Of The Dolphin. (PG.)
Directed by Mike Nichols. 1973.
Starring George C. Scott, Trish Van Devere, John Korkes, Fritz Weaver, Edward Herrmann and Paul Sorvino. Limited Edition Blu-ray from Powerhouse Indicator. Available from July 26th. 105 mins.
This month I have been inconsolable because Powerhouse (or Indicator they answer to both) has been forced, due to unspecified legal reasons, to cancel their Blu-ray release of the infamous Warren Beatty/ Dustin Hoffman flop Ishtar. Quite possibly the years haven't been kind to Elaine May's homage to Road To movies but I remember the first ten minutes being hilarious and it contains one of the late Charles Grodin's finest performances and I was really desperately keen to give it another go. Instead, I get this thrill-an-hour film about talking dolphins forced to become assassins directed by May's former improv comedy partner, Mike Nichols.
The Night Of The Hunter. (12A.)
Directed by Charles Laughton. 1955
Starring Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Billy Chapin, Sally James Bruce, James Gleason, Peter Graves, Evelyn Varden and Lillian Gish. Out on 2-disc Blu-ray/ DVD from Criterion Collection. Black and white. 89 mins.
Because it happens to most everything else, it's a small wonder that nobody has made a musical of Night Of The Hunter. Everybody in the film seems to have their own tune or musical cue, and Walter Schumann's score offers up a variety of themes that ranges from gentle lullabies to storming menace. More than that, its mix of queasy menace and parenthesized sentimentality seems ideally suited to musical theatre.
The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. (PG.)
Directed by Martin Ritt. 1965.
Starring Richard Burton, Claire Bloom, Oskar Werner, Cyril Cusack, Sam Wanamaker, Peter Van Eyck, Robert Hardy, Bernard Lee and Michael Hordern. Black and white. Out on Blu-ray from Eureka Masters of Cinema. 108 mins.
I have never read a le Carre novel. A shocking admission no doubt, but I'd suggest that I'm missed out less than with almost any other major author because le Carre is a writer who has been uniquely well served by the big and small screen. I'm not saying every adaptation has been great, but that they have all been faithful to the spirit and tone of the author. From very early on, it was established that this was one writer, probably the only writer, with which the movies did not take liberties. And this being the first film version of his work, this is where that was established.
Directed by Johnny To. 2003.
Starring Simon Yam, Lam Suet, Maggie Shiu, Ruby Wong and Raymond Wong. Out on Blu-ray from June 21st on Eureka Masters of Cinema. 88 mins.
I always thought of Hong Kong as a city that never sleeps but not in this Johnny To's thriller. The action takes place over the course of a single night, during which the streets of downtown Kowloon are totally deserted apart from various police units and assorted villains, none of whom are up to any good. After fat, sweaty detective Lam Suet loses his gun he involves a PTU unit led by Simon Yam to help him get it back. Their quest to recover it starts a wee small hours criss-cross of coincidences and chance encounters that resembles a kind street lamp farce.
The Roy Andersson Collection. (15.)
Directed by Roy Andersson.
About Endlessness 2020/ Being a Human Person 2020/ A Pigeon Sat On A Branch Reflecting On Existence 2014/ You, The Living 2007/ Songs From The Second Floor 2000/ A Swedish Love Story. 1970. Six-disc Collector's Edition Blu-ray boxset available from Curzon Artificial Eye on April 26th.
In a quiet week for new releases, I'm going to take one last chance to bang on about how the 78-year-old Swede is the 21st Century's greatest film artist. For the best part of fifteen years I've been trying to find ways to get across to readers the wonders of his singular vision. For Song From The Second Floor it was “Monty Python's Meaning of Life as written by Ingmar Bergman and directed by Jim Jarmusch.” For You, The Living it was “a series of saucy seaside postcards scripted by Beckett and relocated to a drab Scandanavian city.” For A Pigeon it was “the slapstick of the living dead.” For About Endlessness it “a seamless meshing of high art and light entertainment that mixes Tommy Cooper with genocide.” For this boxset I'm going with describing his films as life-affirming troughs of despair.
Directed by Sam Raimi. 1985.
Starring Reed Birney, Sheree J. Wilson, Louise Lasser, Brion James, Paul L Smith, Edward R. Pressman, Antonio Fargas, Richard Bright and Bruce Campbell. Out on limited edition Blu-ray from Indicator. 82/87 mins.
Here's a film that I was giddy with excitement about when the review disc dropped through the letterbox even though I had zero expectations for it being any good. The excitement was because this is an early collaboration between Sam Raimi and the Coen Brothers; the low expectations were because I'd seen it before. And it isn't a great film but it is madly ambitious – a slapstick screwball comedy parody of 30's crime noirs done as a live-action cartoon. Its most celebrated scene is a series of door frames collapsing like dominoes which is kind of appropriate for a film that is constantly falling on its face but in a way that is totally admirable.
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.
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.
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.