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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.
Direceted 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.
Eating Raoul. (18.)
Directed by Paul Bartel. 1982.
Starring Mary Woronov, Paul Bartel, Robert Beltran, Ed Begley Jr. and Buck Henry. 82 mins. Out on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.
The first question you must ask is, what kind of film gives away its ending in its title? The character of Raoul (Beltran) doesn't turn up till around a third of the way through and then becomes such an important part of the narrative that he has to survive until sometime near the conclusion. Revealing a character is doomed is one thing but, this not being a porn movie, the fact that the film concludes with an act of cannibalism really is a strange thing to highlight from the outset.
Directed by Luca Guadagino.
Starring Dakota Johnson, Tilda Swinton, Mia Goth, Sylvie Testud, Angela Winkler and Chloe Grace Moretz. Partly subtitled. Out on Blu-ray/ DVD from MUBI. 154 mins.
2018 was a really remarkably good year for horror films; of my favourite films of that year, four of them were, broadly defined, horror movies when usually the number of horror films among my year's favourites would be around zero. Hereditary, A Quiet Place and most especially Gasper Noe's Climax were all fantastic. Guadagino's Suspiria remake was a much more contentious proposition, a potent and preposterous mix of high brow and hokum that repelled many but blew me away.
Apocalypse Now: Final Cut. (15.)
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
Starring Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Martin Sheen, Frederic Forrest, Albert Hall, Sam Bottoms, Laurence Fishburne and Dennis Hopper. 183 mins. Available on a 4 disc Blu-ray set. Details here
I don't quite know what Apocalypse Now is any more – 40 years on its relevance to Vietnam is fairly tentative – but I do know, with depressing certainty, that absolutely nothing released this year is going to have even half the impact that this has on a big screen. Or a little one.
Operation Petticoat. (U.)
Directed by Blake Edwards. 1959.
Starring Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Joan O'Brien, Dina Merrill, Gene Evans, Arthur O'Connell. 125 mins. Out on Blu-ray from Eureka Classics on 2nd December.
This wartime submarine comedy-drama in which an all-male crew have to adapt to having a group of women on board isn't a cinematic landmark but any chance to watch Cary Grant in action has to be taken, and if Tony Curtis is along for the ride that doesn't hurt.
The Palm Beach Story. (U.)
Directed by Preston Sturgess. 1942.
Starring Claudette Colbert, Joel McCrea, Mary Astor, Rudy Vallee, Sig Arno, Robert Warwick, Arthur Stuart Hull, Torben Meyer. Black and White. 88 mins. Available on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.
The career of writer-director Preston Sturges burned brightly but briefly. His reputation as one of Hollywood's greatest writer/ directors rests on seven films made between 1940 and 1944. Palm Beach Story lands slap in the middle of his hot streak and is a madcap screwball romcom about a couple who love each other but who have decided, or rather the wife has decided, that they should divorce for the sake of their future happiness. It whizzes along and buzzes with invention in almost every scene but I just couldn't warm to it. This almost 80-year old was just a bit too flip and modern for my tastes.
Directed by John Waters. 1981
Starring Divine, Tab Hunter, Edith Massey, David Samson, Mary Garlington, Ken King and Mink Stole. 80 mins. Available on Blu-ray from the Criterion Collection.
Being totally ignorant of John Waters' early work – anything pre-Hairspray really – the surprise of seeing Polyester for the first time is that he was actually a filmmaker. I always assumed that he just pointed the camera at a bunch of freaks as they did freakish things. Polyester is a bunch of freaks doing freakish things but in the confines of a low budget but competently put together pastiche of a Douglas Sirk melodrama, and it is pretty funny.
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.
Local Hero. (15.)
Directed by Bill Forsyth. 1983
Starring Peter Riegert, Denis Lawson, Peter Capaldi, Fulton Mackay, Jenny Seagrove, Jennifer Black and Burt Lancaster. 107 mins. Out on a 2 disc
Of the many attributes needed to have a long and effective career as a film director, talent ranks some way down the list. Success does not always go to the most creative but the strongest, the most determined, the most opportunistically flexible, and the lucky. Inevitably, a lot of very fine people get lost, mashed up and thrown out by the system. I accept that, see that realistically it probably has to be that way, but wish that Bill Forsyth hadn't been one of those that didn't stay the course. After Local Hero, it seemed that maybe he'd be set for a great career but somehow it all fell in on itself and he hasn't made a single film this century.