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Orchestra Rehearsal (PG.)
Directed by Federico Fellini. 1978.
Starring Balduin Bass, Clara Colosimo, Elisabeth Labi, Ronaldo Bonacchi, Ferdinando Villella, Giovanni Javarone. Italian with subtitles. 69 mins.
I doubt more than four months pass without a new Fellini review disc dropping through the letterbox. Which is a splendid state of affairs (though I'm still holding out for a re-release of La Dolce Vita, hint hint.) Colour or black and white; made on location or setbound; neo-realist or oppulently surreal, they are all different yet somehow the same. This though is a break from the Fellini norm – a small, single location drama, made for TV. Fellini films traditionally sprawl off in all kinds of directions almost on a whim; the idea of containing him in a single space is intriguing. But having set himself this challenge, he quickly manages to wriggle out of it and back to what he knows. You can put Fellini in a box, but you can't keep him there.
Henri-Georges Clouzet's Inferno. (15.)
Directed by Serge Bromberg and Ruxandra Medrea. 2009
Featuring Romy Schneider, Serge Reggiani, Costas Gavras and Berenice Bejo. 98 mins. French with subtitles. Released on Blu-ray by Arrow Academy.
Or Inspecting Clouzot's mess. In the sixties H-G Clouzet was one of the giant figures of French cinema. The director of Wages of Fear and Les Diaboliques, he was often dubbed the French Hitchcock, which was certainly true of his approach. He prepared meticulously with everything storyboarded beforehand and was tough on his actors. In 1964, after four years without making a film, he intended to sweep back with his masterpiece, a groundbreaking study of male jealousy. Unfortunately, he wasn't ready for la participation inattendue de Pete Tong and the whole thing fell apart and was never finished.
The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (PG.)
Directed by Billy Wilder. 1970
Starring Robert Stephens, Colin Blakely, Geneviève Page, Christopher Lee, Tamara Toumanova, Clive Revill and Irene Handl. Out on Blu-ray on 22 January as part of Eureka's Masters of Cinema series. 120 mins.
Billy Wilder's affectionate and touching take on Arthur Conan Doyle's creation is one of those films that no critic can rattle out a review of without describing it as underrated. When it came out in 1970 it was disliked by audiences and reviewers: according to Neil Sinyard in the Extras, this was because the film was neither the conventional Sherlock Holmes adventure the former wanted, nor the satirical send up the later expected. Since then it has been rediscovered and reevaluated to such a degree that it is now probably rather overrated.
Brawl in Cell Block 99 (18.)
Directed by S. Craig Zahler.
Starring Vince Vaughn, Jennifer Carpenter, Don Johnson, Tom Guiry, Marc Blucas and Udo Kier. 132 mins. Out on Blu-ray/ DVD on Boxing Day.
He's just two films in but writer/ director S. Craig Zahler already seems to have his act down cold: slow, almost meditative dramas, nominally thrillers but not really played for tension, punctuated by moments of eye-popping violence (not quite literally, but surely only a matter of time.) This and previous film Bone Tomahawk are surely the most placid and serene prison/ cowboys vs cannibalistic natives dramas you could imagine.
A Clockwork Orange. (18.)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick.1971
Starring Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke, Anthony Sharp, James Marcus, Miriam Karlin, Godfrey Quigley and Philip Stone. Released by Warner Brothers Premium Collection. Blu-ray/ DVD/ Digital Download. 136 mins
A Clockwork Orange is to the seventies what Sgt Pepper was to the sixties. It is the shutters being slammed down on all the hippy peace and love malarkey; a rain on all our parades, but so gleeful you grin like an idiot as it strips away every shred of human decency. Kubrick's adaptation of Anthony Burgess's tale of youth violence and state oppression turns it into a thrilling horror comedy, a saucy end-of-the-pier variety show full of top turns and overseen by an extraordinary MC in Malcolm McDowell's Alex DeLarge. It is a nightmare vision of humanity and a dream of what cinema can be; one of the most inventive and thrilling of all movies, most artists would trade their right yarble (if they had any) to make something half as accomplished. Still, you'd hate to have it on your conscience.
The Battle of Algiers (15.)
Directed by Gillo Pontecorvo. 1965
Starring Brahim Haggiag, Jean Martin, Saadi Yacef, Samia Kerbash, Fusia El Kader. Black and white. 121 mins.
Pontecorvo's urgent recreation of recent events is a ramshackle classic. The 1965 film often has the quality of watching children playing a game of war on a just vacated battlefield. The decade before, in a city divided between the affluent European sector on the seafront and the densely populated Casbah that sprawled across the hills behind, the Algerians began to organise to overthrow the colonial yoke of the French. Independence was finally gained in 1962 and almost straight after the leaders of the FLN guerilla group started to work on making a film of the struggle. Italian director Pontecorvo eventually took on the task, getting a cast of non-actors to re-enact events on or around the places where they had occurred.
Three Films by Jia Zhangke (15.)
Directed by Jia Zhangke.
A three-disc, dual format Blu-ray/ DVD box set released by Arrow Academy including:
Mountains May Depart. (12A.) 2015. Starring Tao Zhao, Yi Zhang, Jing Dong Liang, Zijian Dong, Sylvia Chang, Sanming Han. 123 mins.
A Touch of Sin. (15.) 2013. Starring Wu Jiang, Vivien Li, Lanshan Luo. 127 mins.
24 City. (U.) 2008. Starring Joan Chen, Tao Zhao, Jianbin Chen, Liping Lu. 109 mins.
Around a decade ago some fairly outlandish claims were being made for the work of Jia Zhangke, some reviewers calling him one of the world's most important filmmakers. Well, I don't know about that, but he specialises in one of the world's most important and fascinating topics: the consequences of China's mass lurch into state capitalism. For international audiences he has been the Chinese filmmaker who has best illustrated the dramatic social and political upheavals in his country during this century. With his wry, detached style he has captured the ironies of a one-party state unleashing the forces of unchecked capitalism, the brutalities of industrialisation and the pains of a rural society being hurried along into becoming urban high rise one.
Directed by Brian De Palma. 1976.
Starring Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving, William Katt, John Travolta, Nancy Allen, Betty Buckley and P. J. Soles. 98 mins. Out on Blu-ray from Arrow.
De Palma's version of Stephen King's Carrie is an absolute horror movie classic; but as absolute horror movie classics go, it is not one of the best. It's one of those films where you remember the good bits and forget what's in between. And in Carrie, there really isn't much between those good bits, though the film does at least manage to whip through them quickly. It barely seems to have started when the prom sequence begins and I was thinking, what happened to the film? Aren't we going to find out some more about these people, or about Carrie telekinetic powers?
Directed Sion Sono.
Starring Reina Triendl, Mariko Shinoda, Erina Mano, Yuki Sakurai, Aki Hiraoka, Ami Tomite. In Japanese with subtitles. 85 mins. Out on dual format (Blu-ray and DVD) from Eureka Entertainment.
What can I say about the plot of Sion Sono's latest, (actually two years old and he's made six films and a TV series since) without giving away too much? Not a lot. A coachload of Japanese school girls are on a trip, and then something strange and horrifying happens. It is so bizarre and random it really needs to be experienced pure and without prejudice.