Sunday, 31 January 2010

A Month in Movies - January 2010

So, my challenge this month was to try and watch one film which was new to me every single day. They didn't have to be new releases, they didn't have to be in the cinema but they had to be films that I hadn't watched before.

The month is up and I've managed least one new film every day for the month.

Reviews for each of them are here on the blog and it would be good to read your own thoughts on any that you may have seen.

Here is the full list;

Tokyo Story

Serious Man, A

Last Days

Fermats Room

Queen of Spades, The


Anvil: The Story of Anvil


Did You Hear About the Morgans

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll

Road, The


Mugabe and the White African

Another 48 Hours

Sherlock Holmes

I Was Born, But...

Savage Eye, The


All About Steve

44 Inch Chest

Mid-August Lunch

Last House on the Left (1972)

Aileen: Selling of a Serial Killer

Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer

Up in the Air

Un Prophete (A Prophet)


Glorious 39

Ping Pong

Ninja Assassin


Late Spring

Book of Eli, The

Bone Collector, The

Early Summer

Edge of Darkness, The

Late Autumn

For the month of February I want to average one film every two days at the cinema which will make 14 new movies...suggestions for film related challenges are welcomed for the rest of the year!

Thanks for reading and following.

Spread the word.

Late Autumn - Filmhouse - 31/1/10

When three friends of Miwa gather, after seven years, to commemorate his death they are each struck by how beautiful his widow Akiko has remained. Of equal importance to them is the fact their old friends daughter, Ayako, remains unmarried. Together the three decide that they will find a suitable partner for the daughter and help her to find happiness in marriage. The stumbling block to all of this is that Ayako has no interest in marrying because she doesn't want to leave her mother alone so the friends determine to find a husband for her so that the daughter will have no reason not to marry. A familiar story to fans of Ozu but, again, delivered in such a way as to make one feel that it is fresh and alive.

Once again Setsuko Hara plays a central role, this time as the mother of the single daughter and not as the single daughter and proves her ability as an actress with a tremendous performance. That she retired over 40 years ago (shortly after the death of Ozu) is a great shame and loss. Here she displays all the love and devotion that one would imagine a wife and mother to possess in an ideal world and that is what she represents; an idealised vision of womanhood...strong, capable, loving, devoted, loyal and beautiful.

As well as the use of colour another interesting departure point in this film from the others in the Filmhouse Ozu season is the character of Yukiko (Mariko Okada) who represents the voice of the "new" Japan...loyal to what she believes is good about her countries codes and practices but embracing of the new Western ideals. The scene where she challenges the three (male) friends of Miwa over their plan to marry off mother and daughter is wonderful...funny but equally revealing of the new post-war generation in Japan.

Much here is familiar from the other two films in the "Noriko Trilogy"; Setsuko Hara, unmarried children, concern for parents, loyalty, marriage and the shift in Japanese society but much is new; the use of colour, a much broader humour and the stronger character of the women.

Another example of why Ozu should be much more widely known and much more highly praised.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Edge of Darkness - Cineworld - 30/1/10

Mel Gibson hasn't appeared in front of the camera for a few years now, focusing instead on his directorial career. During that time it has been easy to forget that Gibson is, despite some of his alleged personal views, a warm and engaging character on screen.

Here Mel plays Tommy Craven, a Boston detective who finds himself cradling the body of his daughter as she lies dying after a hitman misses him and kills her by mistake. Except of course the hitman has found his target and pretty soon Mel finds himself drawn into a murky world of corrupt Senators, secretive secret agents, nuclear weapons manufacturers and dodgy policemen as he tries to uncover the truth behind her death.

This is pretty standard revenge movie fare with few surprises but plenty to distract you...I'm still not entirely sure who Ray Winstones character "Jedburgh" was or what he was meant to be doing for example. It also seemed at times that Mel had managed to force his own religious views into the pot with his dead daughters voice offering comfort to him, a very deliberate shot of Mels crucifix and the appearance of Mel and his dead daughter heading into the light at the films end. Maybe these were already in the script but after his indiscretions I do wonder if this was an attempt to appeal to a certain demographic and to rehabilitate Mel in the public eye.

I'm not paranoid.

I know they're out to get me.

Which could be the tagline for the poster for "The Edge of Darkness".

Friday, 29 January 2010

Early Summer - Filmhouse - 29/1/10

Setsuko Hara again plays the part of Noriko the single girl who must find a husband.

That's it as far as plot goes.

Once again Ozu proves that simple is beautiful. He seems to be at odds with Wildes declaration that; "The truth is rarely pure and never simple" for here he shows us the truth of life for the middle class in post-war Japan and reveals that it is, indeed, pure and simple. There are no Machiavellian machinations, no twists and turns, no complicated or hidden desires just a family interacting with one another and the joy of one young woman finding someone she wants to be with.

In this film Ozu returns to familiar characters, images and themes but still manages to give us something fresh and stimulating. The relationship between Norikos brother and his children echoes that of the children and father in "I Was Born, But...", Noriko herself is, of course, the name of the put upon "old maid" in "Late Spring" and the grandmother is Haruko Sugimura who also played the role of grandmother in "Tokyo Story" are all familiar but are all presented anew.

Another wonderful evening in the cinema watching the slow master at work.

The Bone Collector - DVD - 29/1/10

The following is a transcript of a telephone conversation between two studio executives in 1999.

Dick: Hey Anthony. I got a proposition for you. This is money. Pure money.

Anthony: I'm listening Dick.

Dick: OK. So, I saw Jons daughter the other day and she gets to telling me how she wants to...

Anthony: Jon who?

Dick: Voight. His daughter, Angelina...she's done a couple of movies. There's a lot of buzz about her in this new crazy chick movie, you know the one, uh, yeah..."Girl Interrupted". Could be an Oscar is what they're saying.

Anthony: I saw it, I saw it. She plays the irrepressible wild child daughter of wealthy parents locked up for refusing to conform no?

Dick: You got it. That's the one. So, anyhoo, she wants to do something more gritty, less victim and more strong woman. She doesn't want to get typecast.

Anthony: Sure, sure. But can she act? I mean, let's be honest here Dick, the wealthy wild child daughter of wealthy parents who doesn't want to conform playing the wealthy wild child daughter of wealthy parents in a nut house isn't exactly method, you hear me?

Dick: I hear you Tone, I really do but listen...this chick is HOT. We could put her in anything and it'd sell tickets so I figure put her in something very now...I'm thinking "Seven", I'm thinking "Silence of the Lambs" and then when that bombs with the critics, which we both know it will, she'll come back to us and we can squeeze her into a pair of tight shorts and market her to the male magazine market...that's a big market.

Anthony: Yeah it is. I like it. So, let's put her in something where she can do that thing she know look surprised all the time and pouty. What have we got?

Dick: I got just the thing. "The Bone Collector". It's like a serial killer movie, dark, gothic but total hokum! There are so many plot holes you could drop Rosie O'Donnell in one of them and she'd plop straight through.

Anthony: Perfect. What's the story?

Dick: OK, well we got Denzel playing a former forensic cop who is bed-ridden after an accident leaves him paralyzed, we got a serial killer leaving clues that only he could solve, we got the Jolie kid playing a former model turned cop, grieving for her deceased ex-cop father who shot himself, we got a great script...we just need the green light.

Anthony: The script is hot huh? Gimme and example.

Dick: Sure, sure...uh, OK..."Hey, for what it's worth, you did a damn fine job out there today" or "My therapist says I'm not getting what I need from this relationship"

Anthony: Really?

Dick: I'm not even kidding. It's a bigger turkey than the Von Trapps would eat at Thanksgiving.

Anthony: I love it. Shoot it, release it and get the Jolie kid right where we want her.

I'm not even joking.

The Book of Eli - Cineworld - 29/1/10

An apocalyptic world.

Marauding gangs looting, raping and pillaging.

A wanderer desperately trying to reach a hoped for nirvana.

Bleak landscapes.

No food or water.

There is much in "The Book of Eli" that will be familiar to anyone who has seen "The Road" but where it differs is in the concept of hope and how that manifests itself.

In "The Road" hope is found within ourselves and in the choices we make. Here in the "Book of Eli" hope can only be found from outside of ourselves; specifically from God and Gods word. This vision of a world following a devastating incident (in this case a nuclear war) decides that while there may be goodness without the influence of Christianity it is only with it that a new and better world can be created.

I'm not sure how comfortable I was with that idea. This isn't a blog for debating matters spiritual however and so I'll focus on the film itself.

"Eli" (Denzel Washington) has been walking (very purposefully) across America for thirty years, heading West in search of...well, we don't know initially. In his possession he carries a book, a book that is very important. We know it's important because as soon as the villainous Gary Oldman appears he is prepared to sacrifice the lives of a lot of his men in order to gain possession of the book.

It's not possible to say too much more about the plot without giving away the twist in the tale (actually there are two twists and, to be fair, I only guessed one of them) but what I can say is that Denzel Washington is as watchable as ever, Gary Oldman hams it up as only Gary Oldman can and the supporting cast are all...fine.

There are some fine flourishes here from directors the Hughes times the film resembles "Sin City" with a certain comic book feel. The action sequences, although ridiculous, are energetic and the cinematography is, at times, very beautiful. Like another Hughes Brother film, "From Hell", this never quite fits together as a convincing whole and instead it presents you with one or two memorable moments as well as a nagging sense that something is missing.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Late Spring - Filmhouse - 28/1/10

Lot's of "things" happen in James Camerons "Avatar".

Big, blue aliens run around a lot.

Spaceships fire missiles.

Stuff blows up.

There are lots of films where really BIG things happen.

In reality that is usually because nothing of any importance is happening.

Nobody really cares about the characters that are running, jumping, shouting or exploding and in a few years time it won't feature on a list of films that matter to anyone other than the sort of people who get excited by BIG things happening in a really BIG way to a cast of people they don't care about.

Don't get me wrong, I'm no cinema love of Hugh Grant has already been documented on this blog and I like Star Wars as well as all sorts of other blockbuster movies. But I don't care about them.

As with all of his other work "Late Spring" is a film that you have to care about. It is tender and delicate like a flower about to bloom. Everything about it whispers quietly about things that really have to listen to hear though. It is a film about what it means to really love someone, to care more for another than for yourself, about sacrifice, about family and about the true nature of happiness.

Each shot is deliberate, nothing is left to chance. The image of the sea crashing against the shore at the films end is one of the most simple and beautiful I have seen. The long passage of Noh theatre is hypnotic, mesmerising and beguiling. The subtle looks cast between the players. This is a film that has been made with love and demands the same of its audience.

"The Guardian" referred to Ozu as the "slow master" this week and they are right...his films are not fast or loose, they are measured. Ozu is a master of his art. A film-maker who cared more about beauty and Art than he did anything else.

What has impressed and touched me most about this season of Ozu films has been the honesty of what is being presented on the screen. It can feel, at least at times, as if one is being granted a window onto the lives of others in another time. Of course we are watching actors and the image is that of Ozus creation but nonetheless I feel that I am being left alone to watch and judge without influence or interference from anyone else.


Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Brothers - Cineworld - 27/1/10

Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman star in Jim Sheridans remake of Susanne Biers "Brodre".

That, my friends, is an impressive list of names.

Gyllenhaal has appeared in three of my favourite films of the recent past ("Donnie Darko", "Brokeback Mountain" and "Zodiac"), Portman was absolutely wonderful in "V For Vendetta" and Maguire was "Spiderman" director Jim Sheridan you have a man with some real quality on his CV too; "My Left Foot", "In the Name of the Father" and "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" (that one is a joke).

With that much quality on display you are entitled to have high expectations and it wouldn't be unreasonable to have them met. However, something doesn't work here. It has a strong source material to build on, it has fine young actors in all the key parts, the director has previous and yet, somehow, it fails to quite hit the mark.

The story is simple and Sheridan does a good job of keeping it so...Sam (Tobey Maguire) is married to Grace (Natalie Portman) and is preparing to head to Afghanistan as a Marine Corp Captain. At the same time his brother Tommy (Jake Gyllenhaal) is released from prison. Within days of arriving in Afghanistan Sams helicopter crashes and with his death Tommy and Grace draw ever closer. There is a problem though...Sam isn't dead; he's been taken hostage by Afghans and eventually he is brought home forcing Grace and Tommy apart.

It's emotional stuff and everybody does a good job of not making it overly sentimental. The relationship between Gyllenhaal and Portman is certainly believable and the devastating impact of his experiences at war are played with real power by Maguire. But I didn't ever feel like I was connecting with what was going on. Perhaps that was because it did, at times, feel as if this was being made somewhat by lacked genuine heart?

The impact of war on a mans psyche is better explored in last years "The Hurt Locker" and without the need to throw in a love triangle. In fact the scenes in Afghanistan are perhaps the least realistic and the most jarring. I would have been happier had we simply learned about Maguires experience (which I can't say too much about without spoiling) and have him return to home to his family. The cartoonish Afghan rebels/Taliban and the inability to really invest the time in that part of the story means that it doesn't sit well.

A good film that could have been, I think, a great film.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Ninja Assassin - Cineworld - 26/1/10

The first girl I ever went on a proper date with was called Emma.

I was sixteen and we went to see The Beautiful South at the Playhouse in Edinburgh. It was great. I'd saved up to buy the tickets, I'd plucked up the courage to ask her, she'd said yes, we'd travelled by train together to Edinburgh and the concert was good. There wasn't a happy goodnight kiss, no repeat date but still a lovely memory from an otherwise miserable adolescence.

"Ninja Assassin"?


Monday, 25 January 2010

Ping Pong - DVD - 25/1/10

This 2002 film from Japan tells the tale of Peko and Smile (who never does), two childhood friends who are big players in the competitive world of high school ping pong. Like lots of sports movies this is a film about the people who compete as much, if not more, than it is about the sport and director Fumihiko Sori manages to create real interest in both characters as well as giving us "Matrix" style ping pong matches.

The source material for this is a manga comic and Sori stays faithful to the style of that with shots that wouldn't look out of place on the pages of a comic while, at the same time, he draws convincing and human performances from the key players. While the ping pong is shot in a very stylish way with superb editing giving a sense of the speed of the sport it is in the gentler and more human moments that this film really shines. The relationship between Peko and Smile is convincing and heart warming...portraying the sort of friendship that many of us would love to have exerienced; loyal, caring and forgiving.

It's a funny film too but in a very Japanese way. Those unfamiliar with Japanese cinema may see this as being a tad twee or cutesy but that is deliberate and the film is also utterly free from cynicism which is refreshing even now eight years on from its release. Sori recently brought us his updated version of the blind swordsman tale with "Ichi" as a female Zatoichi but it will be this tale of friendship and loyalty that will, I think, be what he is best, and most fondly, remembered for.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Glorious 39 - Cameo - 24/1/10

Stephen Poliakoff delivers a beautifully crafted pre-war thriller that tells the tale of the family of Sir Alexander Keyes, a government official, in the run up to the outbreak of world war two.

Keyes eldest, and adopted, daugher Anne finds her idyllic life shattered by the realisation that all is not as it appears within her family as she becomes dragged into the twisted behind-the-scenes politics of those who opposed Britains involvement in conflict with Germany and who are determined to avoid it at any cost.

It is difficult to say too much more without giving away detail that would simply spoil the film. What I can say is that in Romola Garai, as Anne, gives a performance that can only be described as brilliant. She is absolutely captivating whenever she is on screen. Utterly convincing as the character she plays and never falling into the trap of giving a hysterical performance despite the character she plays being exactly that at times. She is a real talent.

This is a thriller that does indeed thrill in places and that casts a light on a period of British history that has been given a romantic gloss the further away from it we have travelled. There is no doubt that this countries finest hour was during the second world war but the period preceeding it is one in which there were several figures who were not keen on our becoming embroiled in a war with Germany for not entirely altruistic reasons. "Glorious 39" does a good job of exploring and exposing that period.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Rabid - DVD - 23/1/10

David Cronenberg makes films that people are forced to recognise but which then divide the audience into two seperate and equally virulent camps; people who abhor his films and their philosophy and those who adore his films and their philosophy.

I fall into the adore camp.

"Videodrome" was one of the first films I can remember that made me realise that their was more to film than Hollywood. It may even have been the first film I saw that wasn't a mainstream, major studio production. It changed me and introduced me to a whole new artistic world.

So, thanks for that to David.

Despite that I had never seen "Rabid" which, for genuine Cronenberg disciples, is tantamount to blasphemy. I apologise.

Following on from "Crimes of the Future" and "Shivers" (as well as a lot of television work) "Rabid" features many of the themes that we now most commonly associate with his work; disease, distortion, mutilation, sex, lust, body image and parasites. Here all of those manifest themselves in the character of Rose (played by porn star Marilyn Chambers) who, following a motorbike accident, is taken to the Keloid Institute for a revolutionary new form of plastic surgery that leads to her body evolving in a very surprising manner.

Rose develops a small, blood sucking, phallus in her armpit which controls her basic desires, most especially her desire for food...which is now only blood. Her body rejects everything other than human blood and has the added bonus of ensuring that those she has fed on develop a new disease which leaves them with their own murderous blood lust.

At only 34 years old Cronenberg took this unlikely set of circumstances and delivered a genuinely shocking and, still, frightening horror film. It is also a serious film and one that makes light of an, obviously, limited budget. At around the same age Wes Craven was delivering video nasty "The Last House on the Left" which was filled with childish and, frankly, irrelevant comic "relief".

Next up for Cronenberg would be a series of films that continued to develop his vision as a film-maker and forging his reputation as a director who could bring vivid, shocking and brilliant films to the screen without sacrificing that vision. "Brood", "Scanners", "The Fly", "The Dead Zone" and "Videodrome" are all genre classics and are all impossible to imagine having been made by anyone else. He is a visionary and a genuine great.

"Rabid" is a fascinating look at the genesis of one of the great film-makers of modern times.

Obituary - Jean Simmons - 1929-2010

Jean Simmons was an actress who spent the latter part of her career playing roles in television drama and will be best remembered, by many, for her role in "The Thorn Birds" during the 1980s a role which brought her an Emmy.

However, she is firmly locked in my memory for her role in "Black Narcissus" the classic Powell and Pressburger film of 1947 about the descent into madness of a nun in a mountain top retreat. While it was Deborah Kerr who was the leading lady Simmons had a central role in the film and gave a great performance.

A British star who made the grade in Hollywood she will be missed.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Un Prophete - Cineworld - 22/1/10

Violent, brutal, bloody, aggressive, relentless, dark and haunting.

Malik is the prophet of the title and like many prophets before him he is cast adrift in a wilderness where he must rely on a Heavenly messenger to guide him through perilous situations. Unlike the prophets of the Old Testament (to pick just one example) Malik is in prison for assaulting a police officer and very unlike those prophets he quickly finds himself slitting the throat of a fellow inmate with a hidden razor in order to keep at bay some Coriscan mafiosa.

Where Malik does share something with the likes of Moses is that he too must embark on a journey of personal growth and lead his people out of bondage. For Malik that journey of personal growth means finding the strength to cope with the life of a prisoner who straddles the opposing worlds of the Corsicans and the Muslims...straddling such diverse groups is, as is pointed out by one of the other players, "not good for the balls"

Watching Malik turn from put upon prison newbie to leader of his own band of brothers is a cinematic experience that is hard to accurately describe. There are few characters that one finds oneself "rooting" for...certainly not Malik who quickly shows himself to be capable of acts that few of us could imagine let alone perpetrate. The leader of the Corsicans "Cesar" is very unpleasant, a man who thinks nothing of issuing instructions to the 19 year old Malik to kill another inmate in the most brutal fashion. Other key players show glimpses of humanity but ultimately they all reveal themselves to be equally violent and immoral.

The "heavenly" guide dispatched to Malik takes the shape of the man he kills, Reyeb, who appears periodically throughout the film to sit with him and, it appears, guide him. These dream like sequences are beautifully presented and on one occasion there is an almost surrealist quality to Reyebs appearance.

This is powerful cinema that shows a side of modern society that those of us who are outside of it would much rather convince ourselves didn't exist. These are not the damaged victims of so many crime films but are instead career criminals with a lust for violence and a desperate desire for power. Malik, in particular, shows himself to be a keen and astute player in this world and ultimately proves himself to be a rare sort of prophet, one whose prophecies come true...with devastating results for those who have chosen not to follow or believe in him.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Up in the Air - Cineworld - 21/1/10

Let's start at the end.

It's disappointing.

Depending on what type of person you are you may be disappointed too.

If you like happy endings or at least endings that offer some hope and that peddle the notion that certain things really matter and are what make life "meaningful" then you won't be disappointed.

If you want an ending where the film-makers have the courage of their convictions and present a consistent image of the central character and where they don't simply look for a way to keep studios and mainstream audiences happy then you will be disappointed.

I was disappointed.

I think my level of disappointment stems from how good the first two acts of this film are. There are moments of real emotion, both good and bad, there is real humour and it is presented as an updated version of the good old days of cinema...with a raffish leading man, an endearing, simple and cute leading lady and an, almost, villainous "other" woman.

As a man who has the unenviable job of firing people for a living Clooney spends more time up in the air, flying from one corporate wasteland to another, than he does at "home". When his company decide to start firing people via the internet he is grounded and faces the prospect of a life like everyone else. This new future is the result of the efforts of new girl in the office Natalie (Anna Kendrick) to revolutionise the industry. He and Natalie have to take a road trip (but in a 'plane) to show her the realities of what the job entails. During this time we learn that Clooney is just short of his goal of ten million air miles (only six other people have achieved this) and this pursuit of something so worthless, at least to Natalie, lies at the heart of who he is.

Who he is and what he represents will depend on your views on life, the universe and everything...his relationship with fellow transient, Alex (Vera Farmiga), will strike you as immoral, empty and souless or perfect sense depending on those same views.

The film is a joy to look at and Clooney is perfection as a hipster here and I have no doubt that either a BAFTA or an Oscar are bound for his mantel but ultimately this is only two thirds of a great movie with a final third that wouldn't have been out of place at a Disney script meeting.

BAFTA Nominations - 21/1/10

We Brits like to tell ourselves that when it comes to matters of art and culture we are still world leaders and world beaters. While the Empire is a dim and bloody memory with little regard in the modern world our position as a hotbed of cultural and artistic creativity is still acknowledged as a testimony to all that is good about these British Isles.

Enough of that, I was straying dangerously close to Daily Mail territory and none of us want that.

My point, and I do have one, is that if we want to continue to enjoy the image we have of ourselves as being a nation of creative eccentrics and loons then it is important that the British Oscars do not simply become a little brother, a pale immitation of the "real" thing. We should look, instead, to reward those things that we genuinely believe represent the best of the past year in film.

It's disappointing then to find "Avatar" in the list of films nominated for "best" of the year. I really don't get it. "Avatar" deserves to be showered with all manner of awards for it's technical and visual achievements but it can, in no way, be described as a candidate for the "best" picture award. I've already detailed the reasons for this in an earlier post so I won't go over it again, suffice to say I will be devastated if it wins the award.

The other films nominated include "An Education" which, as yet, I haven't seen, "The Hurt Locker", "Up in the Air" and "Precious". That, for me, is a disappointing and unadventurous list. None of them would be outstanding candidates for me...which might be why I'm writing this for you and other people are actually involved in nominating and judging these things.

A more interesting list is found in the "Outstanding British Film" category where "Fish Tank", "Moon", "In the Loop" and "Nowhere Boy" will battle it out with "An Education". I've seen all of those other than "An Education" and it would have to be a truly amazing film to beat my tip of "Moon" which was delivered from a first time director on a shoestring budget but which managed to be visually impressive, well scripted, superbly acted and incredibly atmospheric. My feeling is that "An Education" will strikes me as the movie of choice for the luvvies of BAFTA.

In the best director category I'd like to see BAFTA reward someone who has actually directed a film and not simply dragged a mouse across a pad in a room filled with animators and geeks (hullo Mr Cameron and the Avatar crew) which means that I would want the award to go to Quentin Tarantino for "Inglorious Basterds" which, while far from his own best film, is still the best example of real direction on the list.

My favourite film of the last year was "Let the Right One in" (I know it wasn't originally released last year but that's when it was given a mainstream release) and I hope that it triumphs over Michael Hanneke and "The White Ribbon" which, despite what everyone else will tell you, was a lot of pretentious tosh that hid behind impressive performances and beautiful cinematography.

So now we wait and see what the BAFTA mob suspicion is that it will be a good night for James Cameron and also for "An Education" which isn't the same thing as being a good night for film.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Aileen Wuornos: Selling of a Serial Killer/Life and Death of a Serial Killer - DVD - 20/1/10

Aileen Wuornos killed seven men in the space of twelve months.

That is the closest thing to an absolute truth or fact that one can extract from these two films about one of the most controversial figures in recent American criminal history.

Wuornos had a troubled life; a mother who left the home when she was six months old, a father who was convicted of sodomising a young boy and who then took his own life, a physically abusive grandfather, a pregnancy at 13, bullied, homeless, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues and prostitution all played a prominent role the development of the woman who committed the crimes for which she was eventually executed.

Director Nick Broomfield made the first of these films in 1992 and examined the motives of those who were involved with Wuornos at that point. Those people included a pot smoking lawyer calling himself "Dr Legal" and a born-again Christian woman who adopted the adult Wuornos and encouraged her to plead guilty in order to find absolution from her sins. With friends like those...

Wuornos did plead guilty despite her earlier claims that she had acted in self defence. In the case of her first "victim" she described, at her initial trial, a period of sustained and horrific physical and sexual abuse at his hands before she shot him.

There were also allegations that several of the police officers in the original investigation, along with Wuornos' lesbian partner, were in negotiations to sell their stories to film companies. Eventually several of those accused resigned or were re-assigned to different sections lending some credence to her claims.

In the second film Broomfield arrives back in the States to film the last days of Wuornos who has now, ten years later, decided to confess that all the killings were in cold blood and not self defence. However, in an unguarded moment, she confesses to Broomfield that the killings were self defence but that she cannot face a life sentence and would rather die so will not fight her execution.

Throughout the second film it becomes increasingly clear that Wuornos has become increasingly detached from reality and is paranoid. She believes her cell has been bugged, she makes claims of torture and conspiracy and is also sure that upon her death she will be taken aboard a spacecraft to be with Jesus.

A moving and thought provoking look at the tragic life of a woman who committed some awful crimes and a powerful look at the real implications of the death sentence. Is there any moral or legal case for executing a woman who was, for much of her life, the victim of terrible abuse and who is also, clearly, mentally disturbed? The Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, thought so and that was in no way connected to his re-election campaign.

Questions, questions, questions and, as with all good documentary film making, few answers. Instead you are forced to come to your own conclusions and then to question how you have arrived at them.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

The Last House on the Left (1972) - DVD - 19/1/10

When two teenage girls head to the big city to attend a rock concert they run into serious trouble when an attempt to buy some marijuana leads to their being taken hostage by recently escaped convicts Krug and Weasel. After being tortured and murdered their tormentors end up in the home of one of the girls parents where they find themselves becoming "victims".

Horror historians campaigned long and hard for this film to be given an uncut release and have hailed it as a lost classic and very influential. The influence of the film is clear to see on many other horror films as well as such strange bedfellows as "Pulp Fiction" and "Home Alone"!

Despite its place as a video nasty and an important part of film history it has to be said that this is not a film that has aged well. It has a particularly childish tone, despite the unpleasant subject matter, which is surprising given that director (horror luminary Wes Craven) was 33 years old when he made it. The "horror" is diluted by a truly awful soundtrack and his insistence on shoe-horning in two comedy police officers at regular intervals despite the fact that they have no place in the narrative.

Many thinks improve with age; I'm just one example and their are many, many "old" films which despite being of their time lose nothing of their impact as time goes by (I'm thinking about "The Exorcist" which continues to shock and horrify despite the fact that it is very much of its time) but "The Last House on the Left" has simply taken on the look and feel of a student film project.

As a horror fan I have long had an interest in seeing this film but it did nothing to dispel the notion I have that Wes Craven doesn't make frightening films he simply makes b-movies that have none of the charm of that genre. That said there is no doubt that there is a dark and unpleasant heart to this film which without the Keystone Cops and hill-billy soundtrack may have packed more of a punch after all these years.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Mid-August Lunch - DVD - 18/1/10

Gentle, charming, quaint, delicate, warm, beautiful and honest.

In the same week as the "industry" awarded the excesses of James Camerons empty "Avatar" some of it's highest honours I stumbled upon this gem of a movie.

Gianni Di Gregorio is best known as the man who provided the screenplay for the ultimate gangster movie "Gomorrah" in which he presented us with the awful, violent and ugly truth of the life of a gangster in modern Naples. Here though he presents a world so far removed from that as to be almost alien.

As well as directing Di Gregorio stars as Gianni who lives at home with his mother. With the pressures of being unable to meet the financial demands of their condominium living begin to bite they are offered a way out as the administrator tells Gianni he will wave much of what is owed if he will look after his mother for the night while he takes a break with his wife. Gianni and his mother reluctantly agree and are then given a surprise when the administrator turns up with his mother Marina and his aunt Maria.

While the two new additions to his life settle in Gianni receives a request from his friend, the local doctor, to look after his mother, Grazia, while he works the night-shift at the hospital. A sense of loyalty to his friend sees him agree. So now Gianni has 24 hours with 4 elderly women to negotiate...which turns out to be a lot more difficult than anyone could have imagined.

This is a film that finds joy and beauty in the most unlikely of circumstances and shows that big budgets, fancy special effects and a "name" will never be a match for a simple story told with love and care by a director who understands the importance of honesty.

Golden Globes 2010

And the winners are...

Best Film


The ultimate triumph of technology over art? Quite possibly. It seems like James Cameron wins awards for making really, really BIG films. Films that make use of technology in ways never before seen and while that may make for an interesting visual spectacle I'm not sure that makes for interesting film.

Avatar was essentially an advertisement for how BIG special effects and CGI have become. The script was leaden and lumpen. The "acting" didn't deserve to be called such. The plot was heavy handed and, possibly, crass.

Like the all conquering "Titanic" it seems like James Cameron is to be rewarded simply for making visually impressive films. To my mind "Avatar" was the equivalent of eating at a fast food restaruant...everything looks really good, it even tastes good but an hour later you are hungry again and can't shake the feeling that you've wasted some valuable time and money for little real reward.

When one looks at the other candidates in this category it becomes even more galling that "Avatar" walked away with the prize. Only three have been released here in the UK but all three of them are better films than "Avatar". "The Hurt Locker" was more impressive visually, stunning cinematography that created a sense of dread and foreboding, fine performances from the leads and a central message that was delivered with subtlety. "Inglorious Basterds" had two of the last years best scenes (the opening meeting with the Jew hunter and the bar meeting) as well as a script that was simply brilliant. "Up in the Air" I haven't seen yet but I'm willing to wager it relies on performance and script to move the audience and not giant blue aliens poking things from the screen.

Equally disappointing was the decision to award Cameron the best director gong when there was so little evidence of direction on the screen that didn't come from a mouse and a keyboard. Tarantino dragged the best performance of the year from Christoph Waltz as the "Jew hunter" in "Inglorious Basterds" and was overlooked. That to me is a crying shame because if there is a director who has done more to push boundaries, to try new approaches and to push the mainstream audience working in Hollywood then I'm not aware of him or her. Cameron was a safe choice and one cannot help but wonder if the showering of praise on "Avatar" is as much to do with promoting a film that must take a record amount at the box office in order to claw back the amount spent on it.

We can only hope that on this occasion the Globes are not a hint at what the Academy are thinking.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

44 Inch Chest - Cineworld - 17/1/10

Colin Diamond is happily married to Liz. They've got it all. Nice house, two cars, a good business. Colins a bit of a geezer, sure, he's not exactly "legit" and he knows some unpleasant characters but he loves Liz. He's old fashioned, a family man, he understands how much hard work "love" is and what it takes to make a marriage work.

Liz doesn't love Colin. She's told him so. She's fallen out of love. More worryingly she's "found" someone else. Colin knows what that means; it means she's sleeping with another man. Liz wants out and Colin wants to know he is, who this "other" man is, who he is and where he is.

The other man is a French waiter. You couldn't make it up. A French waiter. All tight jeans and Gallic charm, garlic charm. Colin, understandably, isn't best pleased. Truth be told he is pissed off. He's hacked off. He's cross. He's angry. He's devastated and depressed.

Colin and his friends (Meredith, Mal, Peanut and Archie) take the French waiter from his French waitering (against his will it has to be said) and tie him up, lock him in a wardrobe then sit around and wait for Colin to kill him.

From the writers of "Sexy Beast" this is a film that will disappoint anyone who saw the trailer and thought they were going to get a "Lock Stock" gangster movie with "geezers and birds". What you get instead is a fabulously written piece of theatre. The language may be fruity but it's delivered with a rhythm and style that leaves you slack jawed in wonder. Taking the language of Cockney gangsters and twisting it in a post-modern take on Shakespeare is no mean feat.

As a film it isn't any great shakes but as a piece of writing and as a masterclass in acting it is superb. Everyone in this is terrific. Ray Winstone as the broken, battered, exhausted and confused Colin Diamond, Ian McShane as the sinister, gay, ganglord Meredith, Tom Wilkinson as the man living with his mum while living a life outside the law, John Hurt as "mad" Frankie Fraser made flesh on screen as Peanut and Stephen Dillane as wide boy Mal are all devastatingly good.

A difficult film to recommend because I didn't feel like I was watching a film...a dark, comedic, twisted gangster film about the nature of love and the things we will and won't do for it on the silver screen in the form of a stage play.


Saturday, 16 January 2010

All About Steve - Cineworld - 16/1/10

It's Sandra Bullock which means it must be a romantic comedy.

It is.

She's a bit like a female, American, Hugh Grant...playing a certain type of role in a certain type of film but always playing it with real charm and with real presence on screen.

There is nothing of note here, it's not groundbreaking, it's not "dark", it doesn't have an "edge" and it won't win anyone associated with it any awards. It will have lots of sniffy detractors making snide remarks about how "trivial" it is and they are right; this is trivial and it's silly but there are times when that's exactly what you want on a Saturday night at the movies.

The other people in the cinema laughed...a lot.

So did I.

Sandra Bullock does what she does brilliantly and I love her for it.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Departures - Filmhouse - 15/1/10

It is rare, to the point of being mythical, to find perfection in this imperfect world that we live in.

The Japanese have a concept of finding beauty in imperfection called "wabi-sabi".

This film from Yojiro Takita is perfect.

Forget the fact that it won the Oscar for best foreign language film, that means many utterly dreadful films have been awarded Oscars and I wouldn't watch them again if my life depended on it. Ironically that is what "Departures" deals with; our dependence on life as well as our fear of death.

Daigo is a young cellist who loses his place in an orchestra when it is dissolved by its patron. With no job and no income he and his wife head for his home town to take up rent free residence in the home his mother left to him when she died. Once there he spots an advertisement for a job in "departures" which he assumes must be in the travel industry. What he has actually stumbled upon is a job working with "the departed". His job will consist of preparing the bodies of the dead for their journey into whatever lies next.

Initially reluctant and embarrassed by his new role Daigo keeps it from his wife but she soon finds out and leaves him after demanding he quit for something more respectful. Even when she returns, pregnant, and hopes that the shame he may visit on his child will prompt into a career move he does not because he has found his calling.

The respect, care, attention and warmth that Daigo and his employer bestow upon the recently departed is inspiring and uplifting to watch. The delicate and intricate nature of the ceremony they are involved in becomes a joyous thing and not macabre. The dead are treated with reverence and not repulsion. The result is that through them the families who are left are comforted, healed and brought closer together.

The samurai mantra of life in every breath is here given genuine meaning through those who have no breath left. Lives now lived and breath spent offer hope to families and loved ones.

Like Ozus "Tokyo Story" it is the notion of appreciating and caring for those around us because soon enough they will not be that lies at the heart of this film. While Daigo departs the orchestra, then Tokyo, then sees his wife depart it is the permanence of the departure from this life that allows him to see what is really important and to cherish the things he values the most.

Filled with real emotion, capable of making you laugh from your gut and cry pure tears this is as close to, no, scrap that...this IS perfection.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Savage Eye, The - Filmhouse - 14/1/10

Part documentary, part drama, part stream of consciousness, part social document, part beat poem...totally brilliant.

This 1960 movie from director Joseph Strick presents a few days in the life of tragic divorcee, Judith, as she navigates her new life in Los Angeles. It's a life filled with loneliness, brief encounters, longing for her husband, loathing for his new partner, wrestling matches, burlesque clubs, drag bars and "masturbation by proxy" as she describes one loveless love match.

Accompanying Judith is her conscience played by the camera lens who is as much a character as Judith is and who provides the means by which we see the world that she inhabits.

At a little over an hour this is a magical, tragic, hypnotic and poetic film. Nobody really speaks, the narration is provided by Judith and her a beat poem Ginsburg or Burroughs would have been proud of. It also reminded me a little of "By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept" which is always a good thing.

A film I had never heard of from a director I was totally unaware of but which is now permanently etched on my memory.

I Was Born, But... - Filmhouse - 13/1/10

An early Ozu silent movie presented here at the Filmhouse with a live pianist.

This was like stepping back in time.

A wonderful look at what cinema in its earliest days would have been.

The film itself is utterly charming as we follow the lives of two young boys as they struggle to overcome local bullies and the shame they feel at their fathers lowly status in the community. As with many of Ozus later films it concerns itself with the lives of middle-ranking Japanese and their day to day existence...which doesn't sound like a recipe for a great night out but that is exactly what this delivered.


Sherlock Holmes - Cineworld - 12/1/10

A Guy Ritchie directed Sherlock Holmes movie starring Jude Law?

I really didn't want to see this.

Guy Ritchie made one good film (Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels in case you didn't know) and since then has made a succession of very, very poor immitations. He was also responsible for "Swept Away" starring his ex-wife; Madonna, which is a strong contender for the worst film ever.

However, here Ritchie has shown himself to be a director capable of great things. This is a wonderful slice of action-adventure cinema with some genuine laugh out loud moments and charm to boot. Robert Downey Jnrs Holmes is a rogue with a mind so quick and so brilliant that nothing escapes him and Jude Law turns in a performance which, for once, didn't leave me with the strong desire to find him and punch him in his face.

The feel is more "Indiana Jones" than it is Basil Rathbone but this is Holmes for the new millenium and it works gloriously. It's not going to win any Oscars and plenty of people will sniff at it but it left me feeling genuinely pleased about having seen it. It's a boys own adventure and I can't wait for the sequel.

Another 48 Hours - DVD - 11/1/10

Oh, and indeed, dear.

Where the original 48 Hours was thrilling, funny and edgy this is simply appalling.

A near identical sequel (including a replica of the black guy in a redneck bar scene) this offers few thrills, no laughs and the only time I was on the edge of my seat was when it was time to hit the off button.


Mugabe and the White African - Fimhouse - 10/1/10

Documentary exploring the tragic but inspiring tale of the Campbell family in Mugabes Zimbabwe.

The Campbells are white farmers who decided to make a stand against Mugabe and his land reclaiming proposals by taking the matter to the SADC. By doing so they hoped to protect their land but also the lives of those who relied on them and their farm for work, community and survival.

It would be easy to have some sympathy with the proposal to reclaim land owned by whites if it was being handed over to black farmers in an attempt to rebuild a society in dire financial straits but in truth the land is being handed over to Mugabes family, friends and allies as payment for services and support. The awful moment when one such crony arrives to challenge the Campbells over their refusal to leave in his top of the range jeep and talks about his need to have this land as a "peasant" is just terrifyingly ridiculous.

The Campbells come across as genuine and worthy people, they are not "old colonials" using the cheap labour of black peasants to line their pockets...they are White Africans, as connected to the land and the nation as any of the blacks they employ and befriend.

An inspiring tale told simply.

Cloverfield - DVD - 9/1/10

One I missed on its release but that I'm really glad I have finally caught.

Taking the found-footage style of "Blair Witch" this tells the, ludicrous, story of a giant monster landing in Manhattan and laying waste to man, machine and beast!

Some fabulous set pieces (notably the Staute of Libertys head rolling down a busy street and the attack of the mini-monsters in the subway tunnels) as well as strong performances from the cast elevate this from simple b-movie homage to genuine monster magic.

Good fun with some jump out of your seat scares along the way.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

The Road - Cineworld, 9/1/10

Adaptation of Cormac McCarthys contemporary classic novel.

The novel isn't disrupted by chapters which means that when reading it there isn't a natural place to stop and "rest". This, I imagine, was a deliberate move by McCarthy in order to give the reader the same sense of constant travel that the protagonists in the book endure. It's a successful technique because I read the novel in one sitting and was physically exhausted at its end.

The story concerns a "man" and his son, the "boy", walking the road in a post-apocalyptic world. Everything is dead; plants, insects, birds, fish...everything. Earthquakes shake the world around the father and son, trees fall without warning, it is always cold, it is wet, gangs of cannibals stalk the road looking for a meal, nobody can be trusted. It is a bleak and desolate world.

Like the novel there is little here to "enjoy"...this is a film that forces you to endure alongside the characters. I left feeling drained, physically and emotionally. The grey skies of the dead world and the terrible omnipresent cold were reflected in the cold, harsh winter of my city. A genuine sense of dread and defeat filled me.

While that may not sound like a reason to go and spend some time in the cinema you should go and see this. Viggo Mortensen (the man) and the boy (Kodi Smit-McPhee) are both devastatingly good. Not for a moment do you doubt that they are father and son. Mortensens sense of duty to the boy and his willingness to risk everything to protect him feels very real.

At it's heart that is what elevates this film from being depressing...the relationship between the father and son, the love, the ties that bind them, the nature of those ties and the desperate battle to survive together.

An instant classic.

Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll - Cineworld, 8/1/10

Biopic of lead Blockhead, Ian Dury, with Gollum and Kong leading man Andy Serkis playing the part.

My own knowledge of Dury was very limited so I went into this with a completely open mind to the man.

Famously Dury was struck with Polio as a young man and there can be no doubt that his disability and his time spent in an institution for young men with similar afflictions as well as his, apparently, largely absent parents contributed to the creation of an angry, confused, self-destructive man.

Despite these negative qualities Dury did have another side; bohemian, generous, witty, erudite and wildly creative. He was also a loving, if absent and distracted, parent.

His life, loves and musical output are all covered in enough detail and with enough pace to make this an interesting biopic but the real success here is in the fact that it is not fawning or sycophantic like so many others. Here we see Dury in all his glory and covered in all his shame.
I came home and bought "New Boots and Panties" (the seminal Blockheads album) and found myself enjoying it greatly. That's a good recommendation for a movie I think...I liked it enough to find out more about the person at its heart.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Did You Hear About The Morgans - Cineworld - 8/1/10

Hugh Grant.

I love him.

That's right.


I don't care who knows it.

"Music and Lyrics"? Loved it.

"Notting Hill"? Loved it.

There is nothing new going on in "Did You Hear About The Morgans". Hugh plays, well, the same character he always plays but that just makes me feel all warm and tingly!

It's funny, it's frothy, it's light and it won't win any awards but I don't care. Hugh Grant being sent on the witness protection programme to a tiny Wyoming town and having to deal with bears, rednecks and assassins is a great way to spend 90 minutes of anyones time.

All's a great way for ME to spend 90 minutes of my time.

Fracture - DVD - 7/1/10

Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling face off against one another in a Hitchcockian thriller about a man who murders his wife (Hopkins) and the arrogant young D.A who must prove it in court.

This is a clever movie that only falls flat by shoe-horning in irrelevant and clunky background stories to pad out the running time. Whenever Gosling and Hopkins are not on screen together the pace slows to near reverse but when they are together the pleasure to be derived from watching genuinely gifted actors is worth the wait.

Anvil: The Story of Anvil - DVD - 7/1/10

Every review you have already read about this will have talked about "Spinal Tap". That's not lazy reviewing, it's just impossible to talk about this film without being reminded of Rob Reiners mock-rockumentary. I mean, the drummer is called RobB Reiner for goodness sake!

If you didn't know better you would be forgiven for thinking that this was a spoof of a spoof. It's not, it's a real look at a real band.

Anvil were, at one point, destined to be the next big thing on the metal scene. Drawing admirers from luminaries like Metallica and inspiring many others it seemed like success was just around the corner. Several corners later and Anvil are still gigging but to ever dwindling audiences and to zero interest from the music business.

The real joy of this film is found in the relationship between lead singer "Lips" and drummer Robb. Here are two guys who have been buddies since high school and despite all of the ups and downs, the trials and tribulations they remain totally committed to one another. They shout at each other, they fall out every day but they are bound together by their love for one another and their belief in what they are doing. That belief may be misguided for two men in their fifties but you never pity them...instead you find yourself cheering them on and sympathising with them.

Maybe the best movie about being in a band ever.

Daybreakers - 6/1/10 - Cineworld, Edinburgh

Human kind has "evolved" to become vampire kind. That's the premise behind this "Blade" lite vampire flick.

The problem for the vampires is that the supplies of human blood are running dangerously low and a new source must be found to stop all vampires turning into the sort of demented tormentors we all saw in "Blade 2"

Ethan Hawke works on a blood substitute but as he does so he stumbles across something more startling...a cure for vampirism. That leads to all sorts of trouble for him and some of the humans he has befriended along the way.

This sort of stumbles across the screen and, at times, you are laughing when you suspect the director expected you to be screaming or aaaahing. Willem Dafoe in particular turns in a laughably OTT performance that had me squirming in my seat. Which is also how I spent the time watching him in "Antichrist" last year.

Disappointing film milked from an interesting premise.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The Queen of Spades - 5/1/10 Filmhouse, Edinburgh

Re-issue of Thorold Dickinsons 1949 lost classic in which Dame Edith Evans plays a Russian Countess with a murky past and a dark secret.

Young army captain Suovorin (Anton Walbrook) discovers an ancient book which hints at the wealth to be had from selling ones soul to the devil in exchange for the numbers which will guarantee success in a popular gambling card game of the time. When he learns that the Countess was the last person to make this deal he worms his way into the affections of her young ward in order to learn the numbers of the cards that will bring him riches.

A dark, beautifully shot and delicously wicked little film "The Queen of Spades" is perfect Sunday afternoon viewing. Rain outside, a blanket wrapped around you as you lie on the sofa, the lights off...lose yourself!

Fermats Room - 4/1/10 DVD

A Spanish thriller with echoes of both "Pi" and "Cube".

A group of mathematicians find themselves invited to a mysterious conference where they find themselves locked in a room where the walls are, literally, closing in on them. To stop the walls from crushing them they must solve a series of riddles being sent to them via text.

This wasn't a film that received a lot of attention on its release but it's a cute thriller with strong performances from all of the cast and the director makes a good job of cranking up the tension as the walls draw ever closer on the boffins in the box.

Last Days - 3/1/10 DVD

Gus Van Sant turns his eye to the last days of a rock star who bares more than a passing resemblance to Kurt Cobain.

A shambling, rambling, drug addled waste of a man wanders through the film surrounded by the most awful group of hangers on. There is little dialogue in this film and much of what there is doesn't make an awful lot of sense but don't be confused...this is a film that has a lot to say.

Van Sant is a film-maker who makes films that move the viewer. He has a wonderful ability to take big ideas or events and make them seem incredibly personal and relevant to the viewer. He brings us into the world he is creating and allows us to become immersed in it.

Here we get a real sense of the horror of being the adored, lauded and deified rock star. While he himself cannot cope with everyday demands like getting dressed or cooking a meal the people around him need him to sustain their lives and lifestyles. The sense of pressure on his young shoulders is almost tangible.

There is a lot of religous imagery here too...Blake (the Cobain character) is seen dressed in red and white, surrounded by nature, bathing in a stream and with tousled blonde locks like some sort of grunge Jesus. Light relief comes in the form of two young Mormon missionaries who come to share the message of the Gospel with the delinquents, drug addicts and reprobates of Blakes home.

Art-house cinema for sure and not a biopic like "The Doors" but a gem of a film.

A Serious Man - 2/1/10 Filmhouse, Edinburgh

Joel and Ethan Coen are film-makers who have proven, on more than one occasion, that they can make wonderful films; Barton Fink, Fargo, Blood Simply and No Country for Old Men all being cases in point.

However they are also responsible for the likes of the pitiful "The Ladykillers" remake which, in an ideal world, would have been burned long before it was allowed to see the light of day and sully the memory of a terrific post-war British classic.

This film will prove to be divisive. Some people, I am sure, will love it and hail it as a dark, subtle comedy. Others will see it as a too personal and too intimate portrait of the lives and experiences of the film-makers themselves which all too often leaves the viewer on the outside of some inside joke.

I fall into the second category. Clearly this film contains autobiographical elements but it fails to use those to make some wider, more universal, point with which the viewer can connect. For much of the running time I felt that I had stumbled into a counselling session and that I was being sucked into the therapy.

Short on genuine laughs, big on in jokes this is a film that doesn't have a whole lot to say and says it in a way designed to make you feel like you weren't meant to ever hear it.

Self-indulgent film making.

Tokyo Story - 1/1/10 Filmhouse, Edinburgh

The first in the Filmhouse Ozu season.

Long thought "unsuitable" for a Western audience because of his intimate depictions of the subtleties of Japanese middle-class, post-war life Ozu is, nonetheless, now to be found alongside Kurosawa when one thinks of the great Japanese directors.

This film is a moving and delicate look at the notion of filial loyalty in post-war Tokyo. When the elderly parents of the Hirayami family come to visit their children in Tokyo it soon becomes apparent that their children have no time to share with them. Instead their daughter in law Norkio takes responsibility despite the fact that her young husband has died during the war.

That is really it by way of plot but this is a film about people, about the nature of family, the notion of loyalty and the realisation that we should cherish the time we have with those we love because soon enough they won't be here.

A genuine classic, this is a film that requires patience from you but the reward for doing so is the knowledge that you have seen something genuinely wonderful, deeply personal and beautifully created.