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119 reviews in total 
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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Heart-stoppingly wonderful, 21 April 2008

I first saw '42nd Street' at a film society viewing session when I was 18. At that age I was very cynical, but still this amazing work swept me off my feet. Now I am less cynical and I can see it to be one of the cinema's finest gems.

This is a film in which it is really difficult to trace who should get the credit. Based on a novel by a writer whose subsequent work was unremarkable to say the least, its two scenarists wrote little else of note. Lloyd Bacon was a perfectly competent director, but he made nothing to compare with this little wonder. And Busby Berkeley? Well, one can hardly credit him with anything much beyond the dance numbers.

But it doesn't really matter. The characters are magnificent. Julian Marsh is the very essence of an ageing director - tetchy, insecure. Peggy Sawyer is a fabulous 'everygirl' plucked from obscurity by a chance miscalculation. Billy Lawlor is the perfect 'juvenile' lead and 'Anytime' Annie is hilarious in her unbridled nastiness and duplicity. Then there are the money men - Abner Dillon - leering at the legs of the chorus girls 'They've got faces too, you know!' says Barry... And Jones and Barry - they have some wonderful lines... 'His interest is our principal!' Every one of the actors inhabiting those roles makes them into archetypes that have remained valid to this day.

And of course, Marsh's 'you got to come back a star' speech is one of the high-points of American cinema.

Perhaps the dance numbers in 'Dames' were better, but for me this is the finest of the early (pre-Astaire-Rogers) musicals. If you have ten musicals to take with you to a desert island, you'd be a fool not to include this one.

7 out of 14 people found the following review useful:
A very wonderful piece of visual expression, 21 April 2008

Godard made '2 ou 3 Choses...' more or less at the peak of his creativity. It was also made 'at the same time' as 'Made in USA'. The latter film is, for me, the beginning of the end of Godard as a major contributor to cinema, This, on the other hand, seems to be quite wonderful.

Godard had always been interested in 'prostitution', literally and metaphorically. Here he monumentalises his theme. Juliette Jeanson is a fabulous intensely feminine creation, magnificently played by Marina Vlady. Augmenting her housekeeping money by prostitution as a rather more down-market version of 'Belle de Jour', she muses about her life and its meaning.

This is a film in which it is not the 'plot' or the 'narrative' or even the dialogue that conveys meaning, it is the counterpoint between the images, the dialogue and the situation. This is massively enhanced by the director's use of his own voice as a kind of commentary. 'Shall I speak of Juliette or the leaves on the trees...' etc.

In a way, the film is also an essay on subjectivity and the way that people are treated as objects in certain aspects of capitalism. I hasten to add that I do not swallow Godard's uncritical Marxism, but there is quite enough in this film to make you think long and hard about modern society - today just as much as when it was made.

But the great thing about the film is that it is not just an intellectual exercise, less a piece of unthinking propaganda. It is a film with a heart and Juliette is one of the most lovable female characters in 60s French cinema.

The downside for the here and now is that, of all of the serious films of its era, this is arguably the one that least fits on a television. The Techniscope seems to be the widest image that the cinema allows and trim anything from the edges of Godard's images at your peril. So the trick is to see it in a cinema!

4 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Poetic meditation on mortality, 20 April 2008

Sometimes the market doesn't work. In theory, if a film-maker shows himself to be incredibly talented, some producer snaps him up and provides the resources to make a film that will in turn make a financial impact on the market etc., etc.

Here we have the most talented Irish director since Neil Jordan - without ANY question. He has made two short films that have made everything around them look flat. Both have won prizes, but still he hasn't had the opportunity to make something worthy of his immense talents.

'The Sound of People' is an extraordinary work. It takes a tiny moment in he life of a young man and expands it - using a kind of visual stream of consciousness that has happened elsewhere in the cinema (say the last minute or so of 'American Beauty', or the sensational last five minutes of 'The New World'). Yes, it is Malick-like in style and structure but not in content.

It is philosophical - a meditation on life and death and what separates the two - and yet it is also quite down to earth, as the ideas that it examines have probably occurred to many or most of the people who watch it. In a strange way, it is also literary. A visualisation of something that Joyce or Beckett might have written. But then again it is painterly - using the ever-changing patterns on the surface of a swimming pool to suggest what cannot be seen. But most of all it is cinematic - doing spectacularly and brilliantly what only the cinema can do - to see the world in a new light. One imagines Fitzmaurice repeating the famous words of D W Griffith - 'What, above all else, I am trying to do is to make you see.' And he does.

Message loud and clear to the film industry - DON'T LET THIS TALENT GO TO WASTE!!!

22 out of 131 people found the following review useful:
Egomania on film, 18 April 2008

This film demonstrates the depths to which the documentary medium has sunk. Documentaries should be about exposing emotional and/or socio-political truth through reality. In the same way that it was Welles' tragedy to make 'Citizen Kane' as his first film, it is the documentary genre's tragedy that it was effectively created through 'Nanook of the North'. For many years, documentarists tried to keep pace with Flaherty, or, like Dziga Vertov, create an albeit inferior alternative.

Eventually, they gave up and succumbed to the talking head as the purveyor of truth. The only thing talking heads purvey is words, and words are not the prime medium of expression in cinema.

'Billy the Kid' the film is as sad a case as Billy the Kid the person. The film relies on obsessive immediacy in the same way that Billy relies on obsessive subjectivity. There is not, as far as I can remember, one time in the film where anything is communicated by the placement of the camera or the arrangement of the content of the frame.

With Flaherty, it is completely the reverse, it is difficult to find images that are not primarily giving us truth through the placement of the camera. Of course Flaherty *arranged* his films, he scripted them and they were 'acted', not made 'on the hoof'. But there is more emotional, and ontological truth in every scene in Flaherty's work than in the whole of 'Billy the Kid' and a hundred nonentities like it.

The film doesn't even try to be visually expressive. It is television and it has the same relation to the art of the cinema as an average magazine article has to the art of literature.

17 out of 36 people found the following review useful:
Flawed socio-romantic drama, 18 April 2008

This film demonstrates how fragile film aesthetics are. Quite possibly as a novel, which takes time to read and allows us to accommodate shifts in our emotions, it could be fine. But here we have, essentially two conflicting stories that are jammed onto one another with destructive results.

One story is a tough, indeed brutal, issues movie dealing with justice, male dominance and humanist sentiments, the other is a touching romance about two vulnerable people trying to heal each other from their emotional scars. Neither of these is very original and the one, in my view, emotionally precludes the other. When we are steamed up about injustice, we cannot access the very fine-tuned emotions associated with love.

One of the greatest things about the film medium is its ability to twist time and integrate the past into the present. But here, that is the film's undoing. If the story had been told chronologically, we would at least have been able to get the nastiness out of the way and empathise with the romance, but the threat and extremely crude depictions of the 'horrors of the brothel' keep bursting back in, destroying any subtle emotions that have been generated.

Ulzhan (2007)
13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
High steppe-ing, 17 April 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I really like this film, but I find it frustrating because it reminds me of another film from over a decade ago - maybe several decades - and I cannot for the life of me remember what it is.

Schlöndorff is a film-maker whom I have never really admired, yet here he makes what really ought to be dross into a ethereal almost masterpiece. In a way, the film is in two discreet sections - first Charles leaves 'the world' behind. He leaves behind his car and vice (as in prostitutes, drugs) money - in the oilfields - and his identity (when he jettisons his papers). So he loses everything, then he sets out to discover everything. First the very beautiful and charming Ulzhan, then the crazy Shakuni played by David Bennent. Then the 'meaning of life', perhaps.

It is Shakuni's character who is driving me crazy. A man who sells words... I am sure there is another film with such a man - maybe a Godard film...

Anyway, the brilliant central section set in the steppes is absolutely magnificent - the bleak desert exteriors and the desolate abandoned settlements and gulag-style prisons look like something left over from Herzog's 'Fata Morgana'.

Why I like - nay love - this film is that it ought to be bleak and unforgiving and depressing, but there is such rich humanity in its characters, and such consistently expressive imagery and montage in its style that it is gently euphoric.

7 out of 7 people found the following review useful:
Exquisite primitive film., 17 April 2008

It is evident that Golam Rabbany Biplob is a devoted follower of the wonderful cinema of Satyajit Ray. This simple and beautifully told story of a family's attempts to lift themselves from poverty has a lot in common with early Ray films, and particularly 'Pather Panchali. Indeed it contains a shot which is very similar to one of that film's most famous images - when the characters go for a walk and we see them reflected in the surface of a lake.

But there is more. Ray was a master at filming tense family situations in barely lit night-time interiors. Biplob also achieves this in several scenes in this film. The film is one in which the basic qualities of this wonderful art of the cinema are laid before the audience. We see human avarice, lust, deceit, but also compassion and regret presented through well-crafted images, pointed montage and expressive mise en scène.

This is not a film in which we should expect to find great originality or complex ideas, indeed, we can probably guess the ending within half an hour of the start. But it is the sort of story that, when the art of the film was first created - in the early years of the last century - allowed audiences to experience raw emotions that it had never been exposed to before.

It has been said that all artists are moralists. Unfortunately, in the modern era, in the cinema, this all too often results in the audience being preached at. Biplob eschews such approaches and allows his story space to expand in our minds.

How refreshing. I do so hope that he makes more films of this quality, he is a very promising talent. And his music is absolutely perfect for the story that he is telling. Well done!

0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Exquisite cinema, 15 April 2008

I just got back from seeing 'Rear Window' in a cinema. It's probably the tenth time or so I have seen it 'full size'. Every time I am captivated by, above all else, the 'editing'. I put the word in quotes because it is not the 'classical' aspects of editing - rhythm etc., that I see, but the way in which Hitchcock cuts each scene up into detailing shots which, in turn, dovetail together to create a logical picture.

This is yet another example of the Master giving us a lesson in film theory. LB is playing Sherlock Holmes. He is adding small facts together to make bigger understandings. So Hitch uses the characteristic of montage discovered by Kuleshov in the early days of post-revolutionary Russia to take us through the process. It is magical.

But it wouldn't be so magical were it not for Hitch's wonderful characters - Miss Lonelyhearts, Miss Torso, the composer and so on. And they also contribute to this master-class in stylistics as each is given just enough screen-time to define their place in the drama.

And finally, and finally, and finally... there is Grace Kelly - the most beautiful, graceful, feminine star ever to light up our lives. And how are we introduced to her? She kisses us! Heart stops.

Maybe Hitchcock really was the greatest director ever. And there is nobody, nobody currently making films at this level of sheer genius.

Star Wars? Godfather? They are not in the same galaxy as this cinematic wonder.

Angel (2007)
3 out of 10 people found the following review useful:
Almost totally without merit, 15 April 2008

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I must be a masochist. Ozon's work is tiresome, at best, yet, since he is clearly technically able, I keep saying 'maybe this time...' But no. This time is worse than all of the rest. This time is embarrassing kitsch. Poor Romola Garai - a wonderful actress. Here she is persuaded to over-act with such crass stupidity that she is almost unrecognisable from her stunning performance in 'Atonement'. OTT has its place in cinema, but it is a place that needs a context. Here there is no context, just tastelessness piled upon tastelessness.

The characters do not engage. The relationships do not engage. The style is flowery enough to make the Chelsea Flower Show look drab - but to what effect? None. Style is nothing if it is not pointed in the direction or theme. (And theme is nothing if it is not arrived at through style.) The script of this may have looked fine, but once on the floor, Ozon killed it stone dead. By the end, I would not have been surprised if the director had entered screen left tap dancing and singing 'I'm gay, I'm gay, I'm gay.' (Lest it be thought I am homophobic - Pedro Almodovar is Europe's greatest director by a long way, in my estimation.) The sad thing is that, while other much much greater directors are unable to find the funds necessary to make great films, some idiots are willing to pour millions into this rubbish.

Save one... there is one moment in the film which is beautiful - but it is borrowed from someone else. The moment when Angel encounters her husband's child is truly affecting - but it is too close for comfort to the moment in 'Once Upon A Time in America' when Noodles encounters Max' son.

This film is absolute drivel.

Garage (2007)
11 out of 17 people found the following review useful:
Astonishingly Bressonian Irish film, 19 March 2008

Here we have a real rarity. An Irish film that really evidences an understanding of the place of film grammar in the art of the cinema. This rural tragi-comedy looks at a very uncomfortable sliver of the human condition.

It is, largely, about the way that the complexities of modern life can render the simple-minded tragically vulnerable. Under normal circumstances I hate - indeed loathe - films that 'overtly' mimic the works of dwarfingly great film makers. I am not sure that Abrahamson (the director) actually sought to mimic the wonderful, indeed sublime cinema of Robert Bresson, but I am sure that that is exactly what comes to mind when the film is watched. Thematically, it has much in common with 'Mouchette' (not best Bresson, but very good Bresson!). Stylistically, it resembles parts of 'L'Argent'! That the above is the case and it still grips and appeals is a great credit to the film makers. But it is not completely 'echt' of course. There are parts of Bresson's magisterial style (his use of close ups, and his total command of sound for example) that are largely missing, but, make no mistake, this is a wonderful piece of cinema.

At the centre of it is the character of Josie, a harmless simpleton, whose guileless sincerity leads him to be the butt of the cruel humour of the would-be sophisticates with whom he shares parts of his rural existence. But fate has an even crueller plan for Josie.

Effortlessly characterised by comedian Pat Shortt, the director's unflinching gaze shows Josie's blameless naiveté in heart-rending detail - his loneliness, his pain at the cruel jibes and his unreasoned optimism.

I really hate the style of cinema that seeks to drag its audience into a slough of despond, but though tragic, 'Garage' doesn't do that, because it retains its clear belief in cinema and its potential to lift the human spirit to undreamed of heights.

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