21 May 2013

NOTES ON DVD VIEWING 6#


Lore (Cate Shortland, 2012, Australia/Germany) - Taking its impressionistic leanings from Klimov’s Come and See, Cate Shortland’s WW2 drama allows the visuals to do much of the traumatic storytelling. A fine film indeed.

My Brother The Devil (Sally El Hosaini, 2012, UK) - This film is not afraid of taking an urban milieu which has been pushed to creative exhaustion, reinvigorating the form by offering a story about brotherly conflict which is both unexpected and impressively handled in some affecting performances by James Floyd and Fady Elsayed. A welcome addition to the urban British youth fable. One of the more notable British directorial debuts of recent years.

Welcome to The Punch (Eran Creevy, 2013, UK) - I’m not so sure about this one. Creevy’s follow up to the promising Shifty impresses with what is a steely contemporary London neo noir surface, borrowing liberally from the cinema of Michael Mann, to offer us a mildly intriguing narrative that could easily have taken place in the shape of an American western. James McAvoy is miscast.

We Own The Night (James Gray, 2007, US) - Last time I saw this genre piece from James Gray was on its cinematic release. Revisiting it was a pleasure. Gray is careful not to overdo the narrative with implausible set pieces and instead focuses on a human drama between father and sons elevating the film into the company of Lumet’s crime films. A near masterpiece.

The World (Jia Zhang-ke, 2004, China) - Jia Zhang Ke maybe the best filmmaker working in the world today. The World is certainly one of the most accomplished and controlled films I have seen in years. A definitive work of the contemporary era.

The Mob (Robert Parrish, 1951, US) - A sweaty Broderick Crawford wisecracking his way through a crime syndicate that has infiltrated the docks. Directed by the underrated Robert Parrish. Poverty row cinema at its best.

The Tall Target (Anthony Mann, 1951, US) - This hard to find Mann film is one of his best. Utilising the gripping plot device of an assassin lurking on board a train, The Tall Target was one of his last noir forays before he broke away permanently to focus on exploring the western genre. It’s a deceptively simple film with complex political emotions.

Man of the West (Anthony Mann, 1958, US) - Mann’s last great western is a sombre affair that was following suit with a lot of major westerns at the time also offering a revisionist account of the genre. Gary Cooper gives an affecting performance as an ex-outlaw trying to escape his shady and violent past. It is a film that looked forward to Leone’s grotesque, demythologized vision of the American west.

Comrades (Bill Douglas, 1986, UK) - Epic political cinema from Bill Douglas. A rare and sympathetic film about trade unionism.

Trance (Danny Boyle, 2013, UK) - A mildly interesting riff on the films of Nicolas Roeg with a stand out central performance by Rosario Dawson as an alluring femme fatale. Danny Boyle lite.

Alms for a Blind Horse (Gurvinder Singh, 2011, India) - One of the most audacious debuts in years and an extraordinary homage to Mani Kaul. This is one I will revisit for years to come. The film is a flawless exercise in shot framing.

Outland (Peter Hyams, 1981, US) - High Noon in outer-space. A linear, well executed science fiction film with Connery resurrecting the civilising spirit of a lawman up against a corrupt corporate attitude inherited from Alien.

Jubal (Delmer Daves, 1956, US) - Only just released as a new transfer by Criterion, this underrated gem from director Delmer Daves features one of Glenn Ford’s best performances. A freudian western with a nasty turn from Rod Steiger.

District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009, US/South Africa) - Overlong but innovative science fiction cinema that plugs into the cerebral cortex of contemporary geo-political anxieties. Allegorical storytelling about race, displacement and segregation.

Current (K. Hariharan, 1992, India) - A NFDC financed parallel film that brilliantly documents the effects of state bureaucracy on an impoverished Indian family sustaining a livelihood as farmers. This is just one of many films which have been restored and released by the NFDC. Om Puri is excellent as ever.

White Material (Claire Denis, 2009, France/Cameroon) - Elliptical discombobulation at its best.

I’m All Right Jack (John Boutling, 1959, UK) - One of Peter Seller’s most enduring screen performances and classic satire on industrial relations and trade unionism.

The Gold Rush (Chaplin, 1925, US) - This was the polished version that Chaplin released in 1941 with an added voice over commentary. It's a timeless film in every way and one of Chaplin's finest. Favourite moment is when Chaplin ties himself to a dog in the dance hall and hilarity ensues.

Soul of Sand (Sidharth Srinivasan, 2010, India) - A low budget independent film from India that offers some startling camerawork dealing a narrative about class, gender and economic exploitation.

Strangers on a Train (Hitchcock, 1951, US) Revisiting this Hitchcock classic after so many years made me forget how very noir it all is. It's a film that should be grouped into films such as Shadow of a Doubt, Psycho and Notorious since the central male is both aberrant and charismatic.

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