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Directed by George Cukor. 1938.
Starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn, Doris Nolan, Lew Ayers, Edward Everett Horton, Henry Kolker and Jean Dixon. Black and white. 95 mins.
This shouldn't take long: it's Grant and Hepburn, in a romantic comedy, based on a play by the writer of The Philadelphia Story, Philip Barry, and overseen by the man who'd direct Philadelphia Story three years after this, George Cukor. What else would you realistically need to know? Of course, it's great, that goes without saying. Within a few minutes of the film starting Grant does a backflip and you just know that this going to turn out great.
What's New Pussycat. (18.)
Directed by Clive Donner. 1965.
Starring Peter O'Toole, Peter Sellers, Woody Allen, Romy Schneider, Capucine, Paula Prentiss and Ursula Andress. 104 mins. Out on Blu-ray from Eureka Classics.
Even without the Woooah, Woah, Woah, Oh, that's a great title. It sounds like an invitation to a good time and if it isn't quite a Woooah, Woah Woah, Oh good time, it delivers on that promise, as long as you are prepared to take it indulgences. Its frenetic wackiness is great when it works but when it doesn't it can get very wearing, very quickly. Alternatively, when it does work it has an energy that is infectious and it has that marvellous sixties innocence. There's more to it than just sixties nostalgia, but the sixties nostalgia is a big part of its appeal; it probably was even in the sixties.
A Fistful of Dynamite. (15.)
Directed by Sergio Leone. 1971
Starring James Coburn, Rod Steiger, Romolo Valli, Rick Battaglia, Franco Graziosi, Jean-Michel Antoine and David Warbeck. 157 mins. Released on dual format Blu-ray/ DVD by Eureka Masters Of Cinema.
I have often teased Eureka over their generous definition of Master of Cinema, but there wouldn't be many directors entitled to barge past Sergio Leone in the lunch queue at the Master of Cinema canteen. He only made six films (ok seven, with Colossus of Rhodes) but in those, he invented the spaghetti western and then mastered it to such a degree he effectively finished it as well. And then after that, he made the greatest gangster movie of them all, Once Upon A Time in America.
Moonrise Kingdom (12A.)
Directed by Wes Anderson. 2012.
Starring Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton and Jason Schwartzman. 92 mins. Available on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.
Moonrise Kingdom is a significant moment in the Wanderson filmography as it's the one he made before he made the one that everybody loves, the one that was a big hit, The Grand Budapest Hotel. It's him laying the groundwork for leaving the niche and meeting the wider public. It's also the one he made after the (sort of) children's film The Fantastic Mr Fox that wasn't a hit. MK occupies a spot midway between the two. It's a dry one for Budapest in that it's the first of his films that looks like half of it was shot on location inside giant pop up books. It follows on from Fox in that it is a film about, but not specifically for, children. It's a film about adults' memories of childhood and recreating the protective landscape of childhood imagination.
Directed by Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja.
Starring Emelie Jonsson, Bianca Cruzeiro, Arvin Kananian, Anneli Martini, Jennie Silfverhjel and Emma Broomé. Swedish with subtitles. 106 mins. Released on Blu-ray by Arrow Video.
A Swedish spaceship sci-fi based on an epic poem by a Nobel prize-winning writer; how can you resist? The interior of the space ship Aniara resembles a cruise ship with restaurants and malls and all possible entertainment amenities. The dress code is more air cabin crew uniforms than spacesuits and helmets. Escaping eco-catastrophe on Earth, a group of 800 passengers head off to a new life on the Mars colony. Their trip is supposed to take 3 weeks, but when a collision knocks them off course the inhabitants find themselves on an unending mission to go where no consumers have gone before. As they travel into the void they try to keep themselves amused as best they can. And this being a Swedish sci-fi this inevitably includes the sex party, yah? Lovely to see old 70s stereotype making it all the way out of the solar system.
Sansho The Bailiff.
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi. 1954
Starring Kinuyo Tanaka, Yoshiaki Hanayagi, Kyoko Kagawa and Eitaro Shindo. Black and white. 124 mins. Out now on Blu-ray as part of the Criterion Collection.
The merits of simplicity should never be casually dismissed, but sometimes you can have too little of a good thing. Mizoguchi is rated alongside Ozu and Kurosawa as a great of Japanese cinema and the last Sight and Sound Asleep poll of the greatest films ever made had this up in the top 60. So I sit and watch and wait and wonder what the hell it is I am missing.
Being There. (12A.)
Directed by Hal Ashby. 1980.
Starring Peter Sellers, Shirley Maclaine, Jack Warden, Melvyn Douglas, David Clennon and Richard Dysart. 124 mins. Released on Blu-ray by The Criterion Collection.
Being There is a precious historical artefact, dating back to a time when having an ex-Hollywood actor as president was the most egregious prank the American political system could pull on us. Conceptually, it would appear to be a political satire. A simple-minded man, Chancey Gardiner (Sellers), who can not read and write and is addicted to TV, is taken to be a great sage and pillar of wisdom when he accidentally enters the circles of power in Washington. That is the foundation of a send-up, a piece of scorn and derision, but the emotions that Being There offers up are quiet serenity and peaceful acceptance. In the way that it sets up an outrageous and ridiculous satirical situation, and then doesn't see the funny side of it, it can be seen to be very much in line with the politics of today.
The LImits of Control. (15.)
Directed by Jim Jarmusch.
Starring Isaach De Bankole, Paz De La Huerta, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt, Bill Murray, and Gael Garcia Bernal. 116 mins.
The problem with original artists is that they are apt to do things that are original. With his laidback, less is more style Jarmusch is a true original but this 2009 release took it to an extreme that alienated all but his most devoted followers. Back then, seeing it in the cinema while still heavily jet-lagged I had some sympathy with the man snoring in the row in front of me. A decade later though it doesn't seem that provocative, or in-your-face boring. Indeed, it's probably easier to take than his previous film Broken Flowers.
Directed by Hector Babenco. 1987
Starring Jack Nicholson, Meryl Streep, Carroll Baker, Michael O'Keefe, Diane Vernora, Fred Gwynne, Margaret Whitton, Nathan Lane and Tom Waits. 137 mins. Out on Blu-ray from Eureka Classics.
This film sends drunken bum Nicholson slumming his way through a couple of cold November nights in 1937 Albany, New York, but does it with such pomp and circumstance he might as well be the Sun King reclining at the court of Versaille. His domain is a New York town where every Depression-era period detail looks like it has been lovingly slaved over, buffed down to the just-so degree; it's his stage and he swaggers through it. Early on we learn that his fall into bumdom is rooted in being responsible for the death of his infant child. Wherever he goes a coterie of the ghosts of everybody whose death he was responsible for are in attendance to take care of his every need to feel wracked by guilt. In their pristine white suits, they always look like they are about to burst into some barbershop harmonies.
Angel Heart (15.)
Directed by Alan Parker.
Starring Mickey Rourke, Lisa Bonet, Robert De Niro, Charlotte Rampling. Released on Blu-ray and other formats by Studiocanal. 108 mins.
There are three people you want to consider when reflecting on this film: De Niro, Rourke and Parker. Let's start with De Niro because this film takes us back to the time, hard for you young uns to believe, when every time he appeared on screen was a big deal, monumental. So much so, that on the day it opened a friend of mine got the train up to London just to see it in Leicester Square. The next day, he came back raving about his performance: “And there was this bit where De Niro eats an egg, and nobody has eaten an egg like him.” The And Then Robert De Niro Ate An Egg line would be used against him for many years but the thing is, De Niro really does a job on eating that egg.