In Cinemas Now
Directed by Ron Clement and Jon Musker.
Featuring Auli'i Cravalho, Dwayne Johnson, Rachel House, Temuera Morrison, Alan Tudyk, Jermaine Clement and Nicole Scherzinger. 107 mins
There's something deeply sinister about Disney Princesses and their uplifting, inspiring ballads. They may be focussed in on little girls but the effects spill out over the place and anybody caught in the surrounding area is likely to find themselves reduced to mush. The latest Disney Princess isn't a princess actually – Moana (Auli'i Cravalho) is a Polynesian tribal chief – but she has a song, called “How Far Will I Go.” (Hopefully not very, given she's clearly underage.) It's no “Let It Go,” but it does a job on you.
Blue Velvet (18.)
Directed by David Lynch. 1986.
Starring Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern, Dean Stockwell, Brad Dourif and Jack Nance. 115 mins
The notion of Blue Velvet being 30 years old makes me feel old, or rather makes me feel a little too keenly the presence of thirty years between now and the first time I saw it (at the now defunct Lumiere cinema in St Martin's Lane), in ways that other reissues of films from within my adult lifespan don't. I think this is because David Lynch's fourth film provokes almost exactly the same bewildering, intoxicating, repelling reaction today as it did back then. The passing of time has brushed over it, barely laying a finger on it. With most Lynch films audiences walk out wondering What Happened? Nobody walks out of Blue Velvet in any confusion about the plot, but the feeling of not knowing what had just happened is even stronger. Blue Velvet is very simple, very straightforward, lays itself out there in front of you, defies you not to understand it and thirty years on it is still utterly perplexing.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Starring Tom Hanks, Aaron Eckhart, Laura Linney, Anna Gunn, Jamey Sheridan and Mike O'Malley. 96 mins.
The Miracle on the Hudson, when pilot Chesley Sullenberger (Hanks) safely landed a stricken passenger plane in the New York river without any loss of life or even serious injury, is a great true story, but I couldn't see a movie in it. Plane takes off - freak and unprecedented bird strike immediately knocks out both his engines - lands on the water - all get rescued - grateful survivors say Cheers Sully, we'd all be dead if not for you – the end. Eastwood though saw in that something unique – a 9/11 revenge weepie.
The Coming War With China (12A.)
Directed by John Pilger.
In cinemas across the country on Monday 5th with a Pilger Q&A beamed live from the stage of The Picturehouse Central in London. On Thursday 1st there's a preview at the NFT with a Pilger introduction.
There is something very reassuring about a John Pilger documentary: you know that all is wrong with the world, but wrong in the old, traditional, 20th century ways. All the things that we have so far always managed to muddle through one way or the other; rather than the confusing, barbarous, new fangled, post truth ways of the present. With Pilger, you also know where you stand – not as left wing as him. Which is why the title of his new film is so intriguing: for once you didn't know what stance he would take on it.
Directed by Spike Lee.
Starring Teyonah Parris, Nick Cannon, Jennifer Hudson, Wesley Snipes, Angela Bassett, John Cusack and Samuel L. Jackson. 127 mins.
The film opens with two startling propositions. The opening titles tell us during war years, the murder rate in Chicago was higher than among soldiers in Iraq. Hence the title. Then Samuel L. Jackson pops up in a shiny suit to tell us that what we are about to see will be modern day version of Lysistrata by Aristophanes, performed in verse, just like the 411 BC original.
Directed by Jim Jarmusch.
Starring Adam Driver, Golshifteh Farahani, Chasten Harmon, William Jackson Harper and Barry Shabaka Henley. 113 mins.
Paterson is a man who drives a bus with his name on, the name of the city he lives in. Paterson (Driver) is also a poet, but you wouldn't know it: he stubbornly refuses to suffer for his art, or for anything else too much. His life is repetitive and dull, yet he seems positive and encouraging and understanding. While his girlfriend Laura (Farahani) is desperate to express her black and white artistic vision through her dreams of running a successful cup cake business or of being a country music singer, Paterson is reluctant to copy or share his work. Artistic expression is its own reward, he doesn't seek praise or acceptance or money.
Directed by Robert Zemeckis.
Starring Brad Pitt, Marion Cotillard, Jared Harris, Simon McBurney, Lizzy Caplan and Matthew Goode. 124 mins.
In Allied, a man claiming to be Brad Pitt teams up with a woman believed to be Marion Cotillard for a tale of war time espionage supposedly directed by Robert (Back to the Future, Forrest Gump) Zemeckis. But they can't be really, can they? Being a wartime undercover agent behind enemy lines would normally be one of the toughest jobs out there, but when Pitt is parachuted into 1942 Casablanca to pose as Cotillard's Parisian husband and bump off a Nazi ambassador, the subterfuge is helped enormously by absolutely everything there seeming fake.
A United Kingdom (12A.)
Directed by Amma Asante.
Starring David Oyelowo, Rosamund Pike, Vusi Kunene, Terry Pheto, Tom Felton, Laura Carmichael and Jack Davenport. 110 mins.
The title might lead you to expect an unflinching examination of our present day problems and divisions, but this offers instead a look back at our past failings. That is the British way. It is the late forties, and Seretse Kwama (Oyelowo) is an African prince being educated in England so that he can go back to lead his people in the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland (what is now Botswana) and take over from his uncle (Kunene.)
The Wailing (18)
Directed by Hong-jin Na.
Starring Do-won Kwak, Jun Kunimura, Jeong-min Hwang, Woo-hee Chun, So-yeon Jang and Han-Cheol Jo. 156 mins
Wailing is the title, the name of the location and the primary form of expression in this faintly hysterical exploration of the nature of evil. Set in Goksung, a decrepit, small, rainy Korean town, the film opens with the discovery of a gruesome multiple homicide and just keeps getting more and more fevered, piling on plagues of boils, demons, zombies, mad dogs, shamen and any number of biblical references. The screams come fast and furious in this town called Wailing.
Your Name (12A.)
Directed by Makoto Shinkai.
Featuring Kana Hanazawa, Etsuko Ichihara, Ryûnosuke Kamiki, Mone Kamishiraishi, Masami Nagasawa and Ryô Narita. In Japanese with subtitles. 106 mins.
For western anime enthusiasts 2016 has been a year for mourning the apparent demise of Studio Ghibli. In Japan though, where Ghibli's “final” film* When Marnie Was There came and went two year ago, this year was about embracing something new, Your Name, an anime which went on to be a massive Japanese box office hit. It is currently the fifth most successful Japanese animation ever, and represents a massive breakout success for CoMix Wave Films.
Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them (12A.)
Directed by David Yates.
Starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Dan Fogler, Alison Sudol, Ezra Miller, Jon Voight, Samantha Morton and Colin Farrell. 133 mins.
If JK ever seriously thought that she was done with Potter, if she ever thought that she was out, 2016 has been the year that they dragged her back in, showed her that there would be no walking away from this. There was the theatre event which she supported and now a spin off movie. The Bros Warners couldn't let Harry go when it hadn't even cracked $8 billion at the worldwide box office. Originally Fantastic Beasts was a Comic Relief spin off, a version of a textbook that was mentioned in the first Harry Potter book. Now it's become a five part prequel series, which she will write herself.
Dog Eat Dog (18.)
Directed by Paul Schrader.
Starring Nicolas Cage, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Matthew Cook, Magi Avila and Paul Schrader. 91 mins.
Diesel (Cook) is a big, bald lug with a fierce temper. In any normal gang, in any normal film, he'd be the psycho, the wild card, the element that is going to mess up the scheme. In a gang with Nicolas Cage and Willem Dafoe, he's the voice of reason. Dog Eat Dog: those two are more Kings of The Wild Frontier.
Directed by James Schamus.
Starring Logan Lerman, Sarah Gabon, Tracey Letts, Linda Emond and Danny Burstein. 110 mins
Another week, another first time director is having a bash at filming a Philip Roth novel: while reality is providing an alarmingly faithful enactment of his novel The Plot Against America, the cinema is still struggling with its attempts to do justice to his work. James Schamus, CEO of Focus Features and scriptwriter on most of Ang Lee's most prestigious films, has decided to adapt one of Roth's later novels, the story of a bright young Jewish boy Marcus (Lerman) from New Jersey who gets a scholarship to study law at a straitlaced, decidedly Christian, university in Ohio in 1951 and thus avoids the draft for the Korean War. Unlike the vigorous skim read approach of Ewan McGregor to American Pastoral last week, Schamus has a rather original approach to trying to transfer a literary novel to the screen: he shoots it like it is the film of a play.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve.
Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg, Tzi Ma and Mark O'Brien. 116 mins
Having landed the job of making the little desired Blade Runner sequel, Canadian director Villeneuve, has decided to get his hand in by making a small(ish) scale, serious science fiction piece. His trial run is Close Encounters without Richard Dreyfuss; a first contact story without an everyman perspective. Instead we see everything through the eyes of the Truffaut figure, the expert: in this case the linguistic expert (Adams) charged with trying to communicate with one of the twelve, giant grey eggs that have landed around the planet.
Directed by Abel Gance.
Starring Albert Diedonne, Vladimir Roudenko, Edmond Van Daele, Alexandre Koubitzky, Antonin Artaud. 1927, silent, mostly black and white. 330 mins
Gance's silent five and half hour epic about the first half of Napoleon's life is a marathon run as a sprint. Probably much like yourself, I've been burned by raves about silent masterpieces only to experience pure tedium, but Napoleon really is the cinema going experience of the year. The only proviso to that is that we were only shown about half of it on a Sunday morning at the NFT and at the cinema with intermissions it is going to eat up the best part of eight hours. If you find it all too much then nip out but make sure you return for the closing sections which is presented in a triptych, three separate but linked screens, that sometimes are deployed to show an epically wide image, or to show different contrasting and complimentary images. The effect is overwhelming, better than a month of IMAX or 3D.
100 Streets (15.)
Directed by Jim O'Hanlon.
Starring Idris Elba, Gemma Arteron, Charles Creed-Miles, Kierston Wareing, Franz Drameh and Ken Stott. 95 mins.
On paper this film has a number of things going against it. It's a London based drama. It has a multi-strand narrative that follows three vaguely connect different stories, a notoriously difficult concept to pull off. And it's got Idris Elba in it. If he is in possession of a BS detector he hasn't read the manual properly because, outside of his animation voice over work and TV projects, it has an uncanny for steering him towards underwhelming projects.
American Pastoral (15.)
Directed by Ewan McGregor.
Starring Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connolly, Dakota Fanning, Peter Reigert, Rupert Evans, Molly Parker and David Strathairn. 126 mins
Ewan McGregor's first bash at being behind the camera is a perfectly respectable but largely lifeless skim read of one of Philip Roth's most celebrated novels. Swede (McGregor) is a high school legend, one of the greatest college athlete who marries a beauty queen (Connelly), takes over his father's (Riegert) business and seems to be the embodiment of American post war contentment. All is well till the late sixties when his daughter (Fanning), disgusted by the war in Vietnam, rebels against her comfortable life and joins the radical underground and their terrorist activities.
Nocturnal Animals (15.)
Directed by Tom Ford.
Starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michael Shannon, Isla Fisher, Armie Hammer and Aaron Taylor-Johnson. 117 mins
On the evidence of his second film, fashion bod Tom Ford is one of many artists whose work falls under the Lynchian influence. Regrettably though it's more daughter Jennifer (Boxing Helena, Surveillance) than father David. This beautifully shot but mostly ludicrous multi-stranded tale, is packed with stark, jarring elements that add up to very little. In his first film, the marvelous and genuinely moving A Single Man, Ford was able to convincingly give melancholic depth to shiny surfaces. Seven years on, the shiny surfaces in his follow up must feel badly let down by the fatuousness of their surroundings.
A Street Cat Called Bob (12A)
Directed by Roger Spottiswoode.
Starring Luke Treadaway, Ruta Gedmintas, Joanne Froggatt, Ruth Sheen, Lorraine Ashbourne and Anthony Head. 103 mins.
This is an inspiring film about second chances, the human spirit and triumphing over adversity that is a depressing assertion of just how callous and random human existence is. James (Treadaway) is living rough on the streets of London, trying to stay off heroin and on methodone, busking to make a bit of money so he can buy food rather than scavenge in the bins. It is a bleak existence and the only support he gets is from his drug support worker (Froggatt) who manages to find him a place to live.
The Light Between Oceans (12A.)
Directed by Derek CianFrance.
Starring Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel Weisz, Florence Clery, Jack Thompson and Bryan Brown. 133 mins
The Light Between Oceans is an epic, historical, melodromantic tearjerker in a The Shining setting. Fassbender returns from the Great War in search of a bit of solitude and finds his Overlook hotel is the Janus Lighthouse. Facing two oceans on the coast of western Australia, it's 100 miles to the nearest person and the previous holder of the post went mad. Fassbender's Tom Sherbourne is no Jack Torrance, he's a quiet and taciturn. Luckily, the vivacious Vikander has agreed to be his wife and she has enough emotion for the both of them.
Doctor Strange (12A.)
Directed by Scott Derrickson.
Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams, Mads Mikkelsen, Benedict Wong and Tilda Swinton. 115 mins
Marvel's big screen incarnation of The Avengers are the modern equivalent of The Rat Pack, a cosy, casual boys club (with Scarlett as the Angie Dickinson figure) celebrating relaxed success and casual superiority that is the only gang worth being in. Benedict Cumberbatch's successful introduction should see him successful ensconced as the group's Peter Lawford.
To Live And Die In LA. (18.)
Directed by William Friedkin. 1986
Starring William L. Petersen, Willem Dafoe, John Pankow, Debra Feuer, John Turturro, Darlanne Fluegel, Dean Stockwell and Robert Downey Sr. 113 mins. Available now from Arrow Video on Dual Format Blu-ray/ DVD.
To Live and Die In LA is a work of visionary banality, it is both ahead of the game, yet lagging in at the back of the field. After a lean decade following the The Exorcist, Friedkin tried to replicate the Oscar winning set up of cop film The French Connection: two driven but reckless and rule bending partners operating in an amoral world where notions of good and evil don't really hold. The flip though was to move it from the grit and grime and sleaze of early 70s New York to the shiny, magic hour superficiality of mid 80s Los Angeles.
The Man From Lararmie (U.)
Directed by Anthony Mann. 1956.
Starring James Stewart, Arthur Kennedy, Donald Crisp, Cathy O'Donnell, Alex Nicol, Aline Macmahon, Wallace Ford, Jack Elam, John War Eagle. 102 mins. Released on Dual Format Blu-ray/DVD by Eureka! Part of their Masters Of Cinemas series.
Though not as critically adored, or as popular as those made by John Ford and Howard Hawks, the westerns Anthony Mann made in the fifties, usually with Stewart, have a big following. They are attributed with having brought a new psychological depth to the cowboy film. Stewart is the archetypal man of mystery, new in town and out for revenge, although he doesn't yet know who he needs to get revenge on. As the title song has it, “He was not inclined/ To speak his mind.” He does though have a greater sense of torment and doubt than is usual for the new in town man of mystery.
Directed by Dylan Reeve, David Farrier.
Featuring David Farrier, Dylan Reeve, David Starr, Hal Karp. 90 mins. Out on digital, VOD and DVD from Studiocanal.
Tickled, but not pink. There used to be more things in heaven and earth than could be dreamt of in your philosophy, but not on the internet there isn't. When New Zealand journalist David Farrier, a specialist in lighthearted “And finally...” pieces, chances upon a video of a competitive endurance tickling competitions and decides to dig a little deeper he didn't expect much more than a little novelty piece. Instead he finds himself being immersed in a dark world of tickle shaming and legal bullying. He wants to be Louis Theroux, a humorous pursuer of novelty and freaks, but the story keeps forcing him to be the Roger Cook of the Catfish world, confronting bullies and trying to get to the bottom of an elaborate network of deceit.
Spike Milligan's Q Vol 1 (15.)
Produced and (presumably) directed by Ian McNaughton.
Starring Spike Milligan, John Bluthal, John Wells, Richard Ingram, Peter Jones, David Lodge, Robert Dorning, Julia Breck and Alan Clare. 480 mins. 3 Disc DVD set released by Simply Media. Order at simplyhe.com
All surrealists and mold-breakers are engaged, to some extent, in the process of trying to escape from their own boredom: “Oh look, Salvador's shaved half of his mustache off – isn't that interesting.” For Spike Milligan the battle was to prove, through the creation of free wheeling off the wall comedy, that he was not Light Entertainment. His previous attempt at this, The Goons, ended up becoming a national institution. (No subversion there, thought it probably got under the Queen's skin no end to have her first born chained to the wireless and doing Neddy Seagoon voices.) His ultimate battleground was his BBC2 creation Q, a sketch show in denial about being a sketch show. I'm not sure it's a fight that he or it ever really win, but they put up a good effort, fight like (showbiz) troopers
Directed by Fred Schepisi. 1987.
Starring Steve Martin, Daryl Hannah, Rick Rossovich, Shelley Duvall, Fred Willard and Michael J. Pollard. 102 mins. Released on Blu-ray by Eureka!
When Woody Allen wants to be taken seriously he makes Interiors; Steve Martin makes Roxanne. Allen takes seriousness at face value, sternly replicating the mood of his hero Bergman; Martin takes a classic 19th century French verse tragedy and skillfully rewrites it as a modern romcom. Cyrano De Bergerac, by one hit wonder Edmond Rostun, is about a noble soldier poet whose enormous nose prevents him from expressing his love for Roxanne. Instead he uses his wit and eloquence to help the handsome but dim and tongue tied man Roxanne does love, to woo her. Martin makes the beconked hero a fireman in a mountain ski resort in British Colombia, a blissful nowhereville, where he tries to fix up Daryl Hannah with Rossovich.
The Beatles: Eight Days A Week. (15.)
Directed by Ron Howard.
Featuring John, Paul, George and Ringo. 120 mins. Out on Blu-ray, DVD and Two disc Special Edition, from Studiocanal. Pre-order at http://scnl.co/EightDaysAWeek
Despite all the hype, and the Leicester Square premier, and the big name Hollywood director, this is just another film about The Beatles, of which there are plenty already. So what makes this one special? Well, it's a film about The Beatles; that's what makes it special. You may have heard it all many times before, but you can't hear it too many times in my book: theirs is perhaps the greatest story of the 20th century. One of the oddest too; the phenomenon of the world's youth suddenly, and with only minimal prompting, deciding to acclaim four cheeky and tuneful Liverpudlians as the greatest musical and cultural force on the planet – and for the four of them to then go on to become exactly that.
Directed by Woody Allen. 1978.
Starring Diane Keaton, Mary Beth Hurt, Geraldine Page, Sam Waterston, Richard Jordan, E.G Marshall, Kristin Griffiths and Maureen Stapleton. 91 mins. Released individually on Blu-ray; also available as part of the Woody Allen: Six Films 1971 -1978 by Arrow Films
And so we must, because it can not be put off for any longer, come to the first of his serious films. Arrow released the box set of his early films last month but have decided to delay the standalone release of Interiors for a month. If Annie Hall was the fine dining experience, then Interiors is the bill, the price you have to pay. And it is steep. So steep you will go back over it to check the figure and wonder when and why exactly we ordered so much wine.
The Small World Of Sammy Lee (12.)
Directed by Ken Hughes. (1963.)
Starring Anthony Newley, Julia Foster, Robert Stephens, Wilfred Brambell and Warren Mitchell. Black and White. 105 mins. Released on EST, DVD and, for the first time, Blu Ray by Studiocanal. Out on November 14th.
The BFI can often across as a slightly pompous institution but the old Biffy does a lot of good work rescuing and renovating overlooked and forgotten films. Along with Studiocanal, they have chipped in some of their lottery funding to restore this minor gem of sixties Soho seediness.
Logan's Run (12A.)
Directed by Michael Anderson. 1976
Starring Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne, Farrah Fawcett-Majors, Michael Anderson Jr. and Peter Ustinov. 114 mins. Released on double play by Warner Bros
Logan's Run offers up a nightmarish vision of the future – a domed city in the 23rd century where everybody lies about their age. In this Aldous Huxleyish society everybody is young and their lives are fully of fluffy japes and saucy fun. They walk around in tunics, have sex and nobody seems to do much work apart from the Sandmen, the armed police force. Even they have a jolly time, exterminating dissenting voice with carefree flare. The people they kill are Runners, and what they are running from is the Big Catch – it's a great life in the domed city, but short; everybody dies at 30. This happens in a ceremony called Carousel, a primitive Cirque De Soleil arrangement where the birthday boys and girls try to renew by flying up towards the light only to get blasted into smithereens.
Artificial Eye, 40th Anniversary Collection. Vol 1-4.
The future of Artificial Eye – specialists distributors of art house cinema, subtitles preferred – seemed to be a cause for concern as it slowly got subsumed by the Curzon World empire. So far though Curzon have been true to their vision of making arty stuff more accessible through streaming or by increasing the number of screens dedicated to showing it, and though it can be difficult to know where Curzon ends and Artificial Eye begins, the name is still there and still carries a certain cache, or definite promise of quality.
To mark the 40th anniversary they are releasing four box sets each containing four of their films. Vol 1 is all films by British directors. Vol 2 are all Best Foreign Language film Oscar winners. Vol3 all won the Palm Door at Cannes. Vol 4 is a bunch of other stuff.
Vol 1: 45 Years, The Deep Blue Sea, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Fish Tank.
Vol 2: Amour, Ida, A Separation, The Great Beauty.
Vol 3: 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days; Blue Is the Warmest Colour; The Class; The White Ribbon.
Vol 4. Three Colours: Blue; Mouchette; 400 Blows; Babette's Feast.
The Neon Demon (18.)
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn.
Starring Elle Fanning, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Karl Glusman, Alessandro Nivola and Keanu Reeves. 118 mins. Out on VOD, EST, DVD and Blu-ray from Icon.
I've never really been convinced by Refn, unable to shake off the suspicion that he was a hollow, showpony, charlatan rehashing other people's ideas and happily playing at being Kubrick or Lynch or Mann while convincing critics (or a coterie there of) that he was a unique talent. He was the worst kind of iconoclast: his films were long periods of artfully posed torpor punctuated by moment of outre violence. Now he's made his most superficial effort yet, a horror mystery set in the LA fashion industry that appears to be rehashing elements of Mulholland Drive, and he's quite won me over.
One Million Years B.C. (P.G.)
Directed by Don Chaffey. 1966.
Starring Raquel Welch, John Richardson, Martine Beswick, Percy Herbert and Robert Brown. 96 mins. 50th Anniversary restoration released on double play by Studiocanal.
And the primordial swamp created woman. The pre-publicity for this 50th anniversary release invites us to admire the antiquated loveliness of Ray Harryhausen stop motion dinosaurs but really One Million Years B.C is all about the timeless wonder of Raquel Welch packing out her fur bikini. Now I don't want to go all Barry Norman leech on you but there is something about her candyfloss assemblage of blonde hair and her pulchritudinous perkiness that bypasses the base concerns of the libido and inspires a sense of innocent, childlike wonder.
Directed by Martin Scorsese. 1990
Starring Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, Lorraine Bracco and Paul Sorvino. 146 mins. Part of Warner Brothers Iconic Moments Collection.
Seeing Goodfellas for the first time – opening day matinee, Screen on the Green – is one of those cinema trips I'll never forget. It was one of those rare occasions you see a new film and realise that you have seen something monumental, a classic. Usually you work that out a few years later. With this you knew straight off that it was going to change things.
Shining - Extended Edition. (15.)
Directed by Stanley Kubrick.
Starring Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson and Joe Turkel. 144 mins.
At last the Brothers Warner have gotten around to releasing the full length version of Kubrick’s horror classic on Blu-ray, two years after it was put back in cinemas. This 144 minute version which Kubrick cut down to two hours while it was still on release. It is therefore the version that was savaged by American critics who after Barry Lyndon were perhaps predisposed to see Kubrick as a spent force and sensed they could claim their biggest scalp since David Lean and Ryan’s Daughter.
One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest (18.)
Directed by Milos Forman. 1975
Starring Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, William Redfield, Will Sampson, Brad Dourif, Christopher Lloyd, Scatman Crothers and Danny De Vito. 131 mins. Part of the Warner Brothers Iconic Moments Collection.
Is forty years enough to make something a timeless classic? If so I think this will be the first in the enclosure. It's a film that was absolutely of it time, yet seems almost untouched by the passing of four decades. (It still has its 18 certificate after all these years, though it would have been an X when it was relelased.) It's the Casablanca of the counter culture generation and Nicholson is its Bogart.
Love and Death (PG.)
Directed by Woody Allen. 1975
Starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Olga Georges-Picot, Henry Czarnik and Harold Gould. 85 mins. Part of the Arrow Academy Woody Allen: Six Films 1971 – 1978.
We would come in time to despair of Allen's obsession with Ingmar Bergman and the giants of Russian literature - the Dosts and the Cheks, the Ovs and the Skys, Tols and the Oys – but forty years ago he could still see the funny side of them and this glorious send up is not just the last of The Early Funny Films, but also probably the funniest.
When Marnie Was There (15.)
Directed by Hiromasa Yonebayashi.
Featuring Sara Takatsuki, Kasumi Arimura, Nanako Matsushima, Susumu Terajima, Toshie Negishi and Ryôko Moriyama. 103 mins. Dubbed English/ Japanese with subtitles. Out on Blu-ray from Studiocanal.
Few films that have come out this year have the poignancy of this Japanese animation. The sadness comes less from its story of a lonely young girl finding friendship when she is sent to the country to recover from a bout of ashma, and much more from it being, as things stand, the final film from the legendary Studio Ghibli. The retirements of its two leading directors and co-founders, Isao Takahata and Hayao Miyazaki, (this is the first Ghibli film that neither of them have contributed to) have left a gap that the rest of the company has failed to fill. When Marnie underperformed in Japan on its 2014 release it announced a “temporary” halt to production.
Of course, if you are banking the future of a company on a single film than maybe not go with a downbeat, pre-teen, supernatural, chaste lesbian romance.
The Sacrifice. (15.)
Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. 1986
Starring Erland Josephson, Susan Fleetwood, Valeire Mairesse, Allan Edwall, Gudrun Gisladottir. 145 mins
It’s hard to imagine two more diverse directors than Woody Allen and Tarkovsky. They do though have one thing is common - a debilitating admiration for Ingmar Bergman. For his final film (cancer would claim him soon after it was completed) Tarkovsky, who had defected from the Soviet Union, pitched up in Sweden and prepared for the end of the world, stocked up on Bergman touches.
Woody Allen: six Films 1971 - 1978 (18.)
Bananas (1971), Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex *But Were Afraid to Ask (1972), Sleeper (1973), Love and Death (1975), Annie Hall (1977) and Interiors (1978.) Directed by Woody Allen. 527 mins. Available on Blu-ray
Or The Early Funny Ones. Or more precisely: four of the early funny ones, the indisputable masterpiece and the first serious one. The funny ones that are missing are both pretty funny: Allen's debut Take The Money And Run, a mockumentary about bank robber built around gags and routines from his stand up days that was made by a different company and seems to have come adrift from his other films; Play It Again Sam which, even though it was adapted from his play and featured the first on screen pairing with Diane Keaton, doen't count as a Woody because it was directed by Herbert Ross.