Other Writing


May 26, 2012

Hollywood has never made a more difficult, more expensive movie than Cleopatra (1963). It reputedly cost between US$35-$40 million, which is approximately US$300 million in today’s money. Avatar, in comparison, has been costed at US$280 million. The shooting of Cleopatra was hardly less epic than the Roman empire itself, with a cast that qualified as … More

Bel Ami

May 26, 2012

It probably requires a teenage girl to understand the attractions of Robert Pattinson, and here I’m deficient in empathy. Having missed out on all those romantic vampire flicks I must be lacking a crucial point of comparison, for on first impressions this young Adonis’s acting style consists of several variations on the theme of the … More

The Second Mona Lisa

May 19, 2012

  Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519 but he is still one of the world’s great celebrities. The recent Leonardo retrospective at the National Gallery in London attracted the longest queues ever seen in Britain. Mention his name and reporters come running, as if the latest Hollywood starlet just flew into town. Add a reference … More

Silent Souls

May 19, 2012

Look no further, the sleeper of the year has arrived. Aleksei Fedorchenko’s Silent Souls is a sparse, beautiful film filled with the bare, frozen landscapes of west-central Russia, and rough-hewn characters that hold the viewer spellbound. Cinephiles will recognise the atmosphere of an Andrei Tarkovsky film with its scenes of mesmeric dilapidation, but this is … More

The Dictator

May 19, 2012

For a riotous comedy about a North African dictator imagine a documentary about Colonel Gaddafi’s 42-year reign in Libya. Were he still around to see The Dictator, Gaddafi might have felt flattered by the number of features that Sacha Baron Cohen has borrowed from his glorious regime. There are the costumes, of course, and the … More

Iron Sky

May 12, 2012

Why is it that film-makers think the Nazis are funny? There may have been something inherently absurd about the Third Reich, with its fetish for uniforms, racial purity and Wagner, but it was no laughing matter for those obliged to share the planet with Hitler’s minions. A few weeks ago I expressed reservations about Hotel … More


May 12, 2012

When a story is based on Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, you know there will be no happy ending. I’m not giving anything away because the Hardy reference is proudly displayed in the opening credits, although there will be cinema-goers who have never read this most miserable of novelists. This is the third time … More


May 5, 2012

What a brilliant year it has been for French films. After The Artist rightly swept the board at the Academy Awards, the highlights have continued to arrive in unbroken succession. From the 45 features shown at year’s French Film Festival, an unprecedented number have enjoyed local theatrical releases. The list includes Romantics Anonymous, The Well-Digger’s … More

The King of Devil’s Island

May 5, 2012

Prison camp movies are a distinct genre, with many minor masterpieces – from I Am a Fugitive From a Chain Gang to Stalag 17, to Cool Hand Luke. It’s not easy to say why we find these films so compelling. Perhaps it’s because the prison environment is so mysterious and frightening to the average citizen. … More


April 28, 2012

Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting was one of the more orginal films of 1996. It was a powerful insight into the drug scene, a slab of grimy Scottish realism, and the first time many people saw that talented actor, Ewan McGregor. The film was based on a novel by cult author, Irvine Welsh, who enjoyed a brief … More