Stoker & The Best Offer

August 31, 2013

There was a moment in the 1980s when Australian directors such as Bruce Beresford, Peter Weir and Gillian Armstrong heard the siren call of Hollywood and went to make films in the United States. It seems this alluring melody is now drifting towards South Korea, with directors such as Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), Bong Joon-ho (The … More

What Maisie Knew & Elysium (+ film festivals)

August 24, 2013

When Henry James published What Maisie Knew in 1897, the straight-laced mores of the Victorian era were already beginning to unravel. The Edwardian period would be more permissive, more prepared to confront social and sexual issues that had previously been taboo. James had a talent for describing scenes of great moral complexity without condoning deviations … More

Man of Steel & Everybody Has a Plan

July 6, 2013

When comic book heroes are turned into sensitive brooding souls, there is something twisted in our culture. We’ve seen a tortured Batman and now an angst-ridden Superman filled with anxiety about his true identity and how people might react to his superpowers. To complete the psychological profile the new Superman has a difficult childhood. He … More

The Look of Love & In the House

June 29, 2013

“I started out with a mind-reading act,” says Paul Raymond, ‘the King of Soho’. “I soon realised that people liked to look at attractive girls, and they liked it even more if the girls had no clothes on. So in that sense, and in that sense alone, I could read people’s minds.”The producers of The … More

Farewell My Queen & Fast and Furious 6

June 8, 2013

Everyone knows the story of doomed, frivolous Marie Antoinette whose life of pampered luxury was ended by the guillotine. The Queen’s personality was established in filmmakers’ minds by Stefan Zweig’s best-selling biography of 1932, subtitled The Portrait of an Average Woman, and she has never been allowed to deviate too far from that model. Among … More

The Reluctant Fundamentalist & Sinister

May 25, 2013

Mohsin Hamid says the structure of his novel of 2007, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, was partly based on Fred Zinnemann’s classic western, High Noon. Instead of Gary Cooper waiting for the baddies to arrive, we have a group of militant students in Lahore awaiting the police and a group of American agents. It sounds good in … More

NO & The Company You Keep

April 20, 2013

In old episodes of Get Smart, it was not uncommon for Secret Agent 86 to wish that some villain had used his powers “for niceness instead of evil”. No is the movie that applies this wishful thought to the advertising industry. It is 1988, in Chile. The military dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet has been … More

Trance & Rust and Bone

April 6, 2013

In a recent poll sponsored by HMV, Danny Boyle’s Trainspotting (1996) was voted the best British film of the past 60 years. Although such surveys have an unhappy resemblance to those ‘Greatest Hits of All Time’ polls run by commercial radio stations, Trainspotting deserves the kudos. It was a brilliantly original movie which sealed Boyle’s … More

Hara-Kiri & The Loneliest Planet

March 23, 2013

Takashi Miike is the cinema’s man of a thousand faces. He is astonishingly prolific for a contemporary filmmaker, having directed more than 60 movies since his debut in 1991, as well as stage and TV productions. Miike is notorious not only for the quantity of his films but for their bewildering variety. He is probably … More

Cloud Atlas & The Paperboy

March 2, 2013

Watching a movie can occasionally inspire us to adopt that quaint old-fashioned pasttime of reading a book. The new adaptation of Anna Karenina sent me back to Tolstoy, if only to confirm that a terrible film may be made from a great novel. Over the past year I’ve found myself re-reading Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, … More