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cairnsdavid

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15 reviews in total 
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Donkeys (2010)
7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:
All the emotions, 20 June 2010
10/10

The trouble with British cinema may not be that we have an addiction to realism, but that we have such a dull idea of what reality is. The opera-singing fish and chip shop proprietor criticized in another review here, is in fact a real guy, who really sings opera in his fish bar. Reality contains more than just misery, poverty and squalor. The miserable goes hand in hand with the beautiful and the absurd. It's always impressive when a film manages to do justice to all three aspects of existence, as Donkeys does.

An aging wastrel who fears he may be dying wants to make up with his estranged daughter. From this simple and powerful premise, the filmmakers weave a web of emotional and comic complications, aided by a fantastic cast who make sense of the dizzying shifts from tragedy to farce and back again, sometimes within a single scene or even a single spoken phrase. If you want to experience the messiness of life condensed into a compact and compelling narrative, with the release of both laughter and sorrow, Donkeys will move you.

Modern Vampires (1998) (TV)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Ugh, 3 June 2003

I've never given anything a bad review before, and I do so this time only because I can't believe all the good reviews here are genuine. I think the director rounded up all his pals to try and generate some positive word. What's needed is some authentic moral outrage to restore the balance. I thought this film was largely unfunny (despite some excellent actors) and totally confused in its approach to the subject. The vampires were horrible, and so were the mortals, and I couldn't care less what happened to any of them. The film had nothing to say, even on the most basic level. We were supposed to root for or like Van Dienh and Wagner because they were pretty and cool, but they were just as loathsome as everybody else. I felt physically sorry for Steiger, staggering through this farrago with acute discomfort, and we're supposed to laugh at someone who's both a bereaved father and an ex-nazi? The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. The naked girls are cute, but I couldn't enjoy them with a clear conscience because of the mindless viciousness of the film they were surrounded by. It's not particularly violent or anything, just shallow and ugly. And if you think the bad editing is due to the censor, think again - the European version is sloppy and disjointed too, because the filming itself is flat and there obviously wasn't enough good footage to begin with. Tawdry, unimaginative and doesn't even pay basic attention to vampire rules. Makes INNOCENT BLOOD look like NOSFERATU.

Modern Vampires (1998) (TV)
0 out of 1 people found the following review useful:
Ugh, 3 June 2003

I've never given anything a bad review before, and I do so this time only because I can't believe all the good reviews here are genuine. I think the director rounded up all his pals to try and generate some positive word. What's needed is some authentic moral outrage to restore the balance. I thought this film was largely unfunny (despite some excellent actors) and totally confused in its approach to the subject. The vampires were horrible, and so were the mortals, and I couldn't care less what happened to any of them. The film had nothing to say, even on the most basic level. We were supposed to root for or like Van Dienh and Wagner because they were pretty and cool, but they were just as loathsome as everybody else. I felt physically sorry for Steiger, staggering through this farrago with acute discomfort, and we're supposed to laugh at someone who's both a bereaved father and an ex-nazi? The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth. The naked girls are cute, but I couldn't enjoy them with a clear conscience because of the mindless viciousness of the film they were surrounded by. It's not particularly violent or anything, just shallow and ugly. And if you think the bad editing is due to the censor, think again - the European version is sloppy and disjointed too, because the filming itself is flat and there obviously wasn't enough good footage to begin with. Tawdry, unimaginative and doesn't even pay basic attention to vampire rules. Makes INNOCENT BLOOD look like NOSFERATU.

13 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
Marvelous, 9 March 2003

As good a script as Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett ever wrote! Mitchell Leisen directs with some flair too. This film drove Wilder to become a director after Charles boyer had a sequence cut - from then on, Wilder was able to protect his screenplays from such treatment. But any trouble behind the scenes doesn't really harm the film itself, which is a joy. An even more abrasive protagonist than usual, Charles Boyer's gigolo nevertheless builds up colossal sympathy - it's an approach Wilder would replicate in THE LOST WEEKEND to Oscar-winning effect. But EVERYBODY in this film is marvelous, as is the inventive story, inspired by Wilder's own time in mexico awaiting a visa to allow him into the States.

Raw Meat (1973)
15 out of 19 people found the following review useful:
Sarcasm, 29 November 2002

- is the reason to watch this film. The flabbergasting and versatile displays of sarcasm shown by Donald Pleasence's copper Calhoun are simply breathtaking. The British policeman, as is well known, has about 52 forms of sarcasm at his disposal, to make up for his not carrying a sidearm, and Pleasence uses them ALL, shifting from one to another with lightning speed. Observe a master at work. Pleasence and Rossington apparently ad-libbed many of their best lines, resulting in free and easy and extremely funny series of scenes between the two. "And very nice too."

Moonrise (1948)
25 out of 29 people found the following review useful:
An Astonishment, 29 November 2002

MOONRISE shines. Borzage brings expressionist silent movie technique to bear on what is really more a melodrama than a film noir, a tale of guilt and redemption ultimately close to his romantic concerns. The difference is the degree of psychological angst we have to go through with the protagonist in order to reach it. Borzage's technique brings us into the hero's mind, from the stunning opening (flashbacks within flashbacks) to the hero's guilty visions. That opening is one of the finest I've ever seen, building up an unbelievable pressure in the first couple of minutes of the picture, leading to a thirst for revenge which the hero, and the audience, can spend the rest of the film regretting.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
IMITATION deserves the sincerest flattery, 28 November 2002

What a mad film this is. The music is truly fantastic. Romantic and darkly sinister at the same time, and with a touch of kitsch. OK, more than a touch. To that we must add the casting of a nice Jewish/Mexican girl playing an African American who passes for white, but whose mother has possibly the darkest complexion seen anywhere in a fifties US film. The whole career of Lana Turner's character in the film is totally implausible and hilarious - but then, probably no more so than Turner's real life career and private life, which the film kind of mirrors. Then we have some shocking violence and vaguely SHOWGIRLS-esque musical numbers. And the film startlingly undercuts the friendship it's nominally about, the subversive sensibility of director Sirk at work. It's often hard to tell how serious he's being, and yet, if he's joking, the man is sick! We cut from Susan Kohner being viciously beaten by her boyfriend to her mother, literally at the feet of Lana Turner, giving her a foot rub. Turner: Ah, that felt wonderful! WHAT is going on here? See it and fail to decide for yourself!

3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:
Oh, the ambivalence!, 21 November 2002

A film about war and violence from a filmmaker who is never quite able to decide what he thinks or feels about these subjects. If that sounds like a damning criticism it really isn't meant to be. Peck avoids most anti-war movie cliches, and doesn't shy away from the guts and misery, but can't avoid getting his caveman instincts aroused by the carnage. With this filtered through his typically warped sensibility you get something more complex than either liberal hand-wringing or gung-ho militarism, and certainly more interesting than the Spielbergian combination of the two seen in SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. The film has flaws - it's homophobic in a way that's tacky and dull (the truth about heroic homosexuals in the war would be more arresting), and the film is certainly uneven - but it's the surrealistic weirdness that makes it compelling, and unevenness is the price you pay. Peck's drug of choice on this one was Slivowitz, a hellish Yugoslavian apple brandy which will take the top of your head off, and the film definitely feels like something conjured from a deranged mind. To be frank, Peck didn't know what he was doing half the time he was shooting this film. This shows particularly in the mad ending, which tails off unexpectedly leaving no resolution but a feeling of total disorientation, and in the dreamy shell-shock sequence, which compares well with Jaglom's TRACKS as a portrait of war psychosis. James Coburn is excellent (he will be missed) and Maximillian Schell a sinister delight. And long live the great David Warner - somebody give that man a decent role again. Casting him as a characterless thug in TITANIC just WON'T DO.

7 out of 11 people found the following review useful:
It's him!, 21 November 2002

Afraid I found this a little stagey. I know it's very EARLY Murnau, and I wouldn't expect the flash and wallop of DER LASZT MANN, but without either expressionist stylisation or nifty camerawork, my attention wandered a bit......but I was brought back to full wakefullness by the appearance of what looks like Max Schreck's Graf Orlock from NOSFERATU - or at least his hand. A sinister taloned hand reaching through a window in a bizarre dream sequence, accompanied by a billowing curtain of the kind soon to cross the atlantic with Paul Leni for THE CAT AND THE CANARY and to appear, a few years later in James Whale's THE OLD DARK HOUSE. And I should add that the scary dream is followed by an equally freaky comedy dream set in the castle kitchen, where a scullery boy dreams of revenge for previous slights...Murnau's comedy relief is always kind of peculiar.

Worth seeing for the dreams!

2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:
The composed film..., 18 November 2002

Interesting to see a good few criticisms here, amongst the predictable raves. So many people still don't know how to watch a film! Powell would have laughed at the people trying to apply the laws of "realism" to one of his masterpieces.

Three images from the climax spring to mind:

The rat-like movements of Kathleen Byron as she scuttles up the stairs... The shock cut to the extreme closeup of her eyes... Here appearance in the doorway, outlined by a reddish background, an assault upon the eye after minutes of cool blues and greens...

Powell talked about the ideal of the "composed film", which would blend all the elements of cinema, with music leading the way. The climax of BLACK NARCISSUS is one of his greatest achievements towards this end.

Though Powell wasn't easy to work with, his lover Kathleen Byron wasn't easy to work with, and the two together sometimes found each other impossible to work with, their collaboration realised some of the most exciting sequences of Powell's career. It's a tragedy the British film industry didn't (and still doesn't) know how to exploit Byron's amazing talents. And it's shocking that they could ever have thought they could do without Powell's.


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