4 August 2011


KLUTE (Alan Pakula, 1971, US) – Jane Fonda has never looked so vulnerable and compelling at the same time. A pitch perfect, psychological thriller. Great support from Roy Scheider and Donald Sutherland.

LENNY (Bob Fosse, 1974, US) – Told largely through flashbacks triggered by the wife of stand up comedian Lenny Bruce, this beautifully shot anomaly from the 70s features a magnificent performance by Dustin Hoffman.

DEPARTURES / OKURIBITO (Yojiro Takita, 2008, Japan) – No one quite knows how this one got the Oscar for Best Foreign Film (2009) but it is a slow moving mood piece that offers a rare glimpse at the art of enconffinment. Terrific score by Joe Hisaishi.

THE BIG GUNDOWN / LA RESA DEI CONTI (Sergio Sollima, 1966, Spain/Italy) – This is one of the great Zapata westerns – ugly, brutal and politically conscious.

EL CID (Anthony Mann, 1961, Italy/US) – One of the last great Hollywood epics. Along with The Fall of the Roman Empire, Mann’s career finished on a creative high. Everything works about El Cid including Heston and Loren’s on screen pairing (though they loathed one another during the shoot). Looks incredible on Blu-Ray.

BOMBAY SUMMER (Joseph Matthew, 2009, US) – With a sizable debt to the cinema of Taiwanese film maker Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Bombay Summer makes for a quirky love story between three friends. The ending is unexpected and very moving.

THE YELLOW SEA / HWANGHAE (Hong-Jin Na, 2010, South Korea) – The follow up to Na’s breakthrough hit The Chaser, The Yellow Sea makes for a highly ambitious action thriller. Unfortunately, the narrative strands are excessive and fail to hold together as a coherent whole. Impressively staged chase sequences though.

MOUNTAIN PATROL / KEKEXILI (Lu Chuan, 2004, China) – A landscape film that unveils a hidden world in which a contest between poachers and rangers is played out against the harshness of Tibetan culture.

THE DIARY OF A COUNTRY PRIEST (Robert Bresson, 1951, France) – Bresson’s study of a young country priest who questions his own faith and criticises those around him is an influential film. It was also somewhat underwhelming for a film by Bresson.

A LETTER TO ELIA (Martin Scorsese/Kent Jones, 2010, US) – Gushing with praise and celebratory remarks, Elia Kazan emerges ambiguously as both a hero and villain. It is a documentary of real love and friendship.

STANLEY KA DABBA (Amol Gupte, 2011, India) – Slipping under the radar undetected and receiving positive reviews, Amol Gupte’s directorial debut on the issue of child labour is a beautifully simple tale told with real integrity and compassion.

INSIDIOUS (James Wan, 2011, US) – Scary? Not quite. This is a fairly conventional ghost story lacking in substance.

PUSHER (Nicolas Winding Refn, 1996, Denmark) – The first part in the Pusher trilogy, Refn’s calling card as a talented film maker might be littered with generic situations but it is the nauseous camerawork and gripping narrative that really gets under the skin.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAI (Milan Luthria, 2010, India) – A surprisingly effective mainstream crime thriller with a likable turn by Ajay Devgan as the notorious Mumbai smuggler Haji Mastan; acres of style.

COPYCAT (Jon Amiel, 1995, US) – A film in need of serious critical reappraisal. Whilst Amiel has had an uneventful career as a film director, Copycat is his best film and is imbued with a psychological complexity missing from most Hollywood thrillers. It also features brilliant performances by Sigourney Weaver and Holly Hunter.

THE REMAINS OF THE DAY (James Ivory, 1993, UK/US) – It would be wrong to simply label this one as another heritage film. It isn’t. It’s a masterpiece in many ways and one of Ismail Merchant’s and James Ivory’s greatest achievements. Hopkins and Thompson are astounding throughout.

SUGAR (Anna Boden/Ryan Fleck, 2008, US/Dominican Republican) – Boden & Fleck’s follow up to the brilliant Half Nelson is a powerful study of the immigrant experience. An American neo realist work comparable to Bahrani’s Goodbye Solo and Reichardt’s Wendy & Lucy.

THE GUNFIGHTER (Henry King, 1950, US) – Starkly shot with an expressionist visual style, Gregory Peck is on top form as the despicable outlaw Jimmy Ringo. A great western with noirish accents.

RIVER’S EDGE (Tim Hunter, 1986, US) – A disturbing study of teen apathy, alienation and conformity that still retains its original power. A wonderful cast made up of Dennis Hopper, Crispin Glover and Keanu Reeves.


  1. This is a fascinatingly diverse range of films Omar. Glad you enjoyed Klute – Pakula was an interesting filmmaker and one of the central figures of 70s Hollywood. I'll have to check out some of your other titles.

    What news on the book?

  2. Hi Roy; nice to hear from you! It's been a while. The book is going through revisions - I am adding detailed notes for each chapter. It's nearly finished now. Should be published March/April next year, fingers crossed! Will be taking students to both the Submarine and Senna study days - they fit right into what I am teaching. When I am going to see a video essay from you? You would make an excellent one; would love to see one. Will you be reporting from the London Film Festival this year?

  3. I hope to be going to a festival this autumn, but still not sure which yet.

    Yes, I'm certainly interested in the video essay idea after watching your Ray posting. I'll have a look at your new one now.