Logline: In Los Angeles, 2019, a cynical and weary detective is
coerced into tracking down several dangerous rogue androids, but finds himself
confused and dehumanized in the process.
REPLICANT\rep’-li-cant\n. See also
ROBOT (antique): ANDROID (obsolete): NEXUS (generic): Synthetic human, with
paraphysical capabilities, having skin/flesh culture. Also: Rep, skin job
(slang): Off-world use: Combat, high risk industrial deepspace probe. On-world
use prohibited. Specifications and quantities ― information classified.
Sometimes it’s the flaws in
a movie that elevate it to the level of rough diamond. Blade Runner is a
cosmic gem grounded at street level in a wet and filthy social apocalypse of
technological ingenuity amidst a wild moral wilderness. Based on Philip K.
Dick’s 1968 novella Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, it is widely
regarded as one of the most influential sf movies ever made. It also happens to
be my very favourite film (although Fellini’s 8½ occasionally comes
Italy | 1963 |
Directed by Federico Fellini
Logline: A movie director suffering from a
crisis of faith attends a health spa and is visited by the various women in his
life; his wife, his mistress, his muse, and in turn is provoked and inspired by
his friends and colleagues.
The greatest movie about trying to make a
movie ever made. It is also the greatest movie depicting of the creative urge
and the desires that get in the way. Part autobiography, part fantasy, part drama, part comedy,
brilliantly realised; it demands repeat viewings.
Oh, and the title refers to the autobiographical director being in the middle of shooting his ninth feature.
“I turned to the wilderness … And for a moment it seemed to me as if I was buried in a vast grave full of unspeakable secrets. I felt an intolerable weight oppressing my breast, the smell of the damp earth, the unseen presence of victorious corruption, the darkness of an impenetrable night.”
--- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness
There are very few nightmare movies as visually, viscerally and psychologically affecting, as profoundly immediate, despite their historical settings, as Francis Ford Coppola’sApocalypse Now (1979). There has been so much said and done, so much dirty, bloodied water under the war-torn bridge of this extraordinary production, that any humble review in the wake of its questionable destruction, its primal majesty, its philosophical musings is purely grist to the mill. But a few more words scattered to the critical winds won’t hurt. This is a movie that has remained in my heart of dark delights ever since I first saw it cropped on a dodgy rented VHS with its original end credits rolling over a montage of the Kurtz compound being destroyed by what appeared to be an air-strike. It is one of my three favourite movies of all time; it is a war movie to be experienced like a bad acid trip infused with dangerous awe and nightmarish wonder.
Withnail and I
UK | 1986 | Directed by Bruce
1969 and two disheveled, unemployed London actors decide to spend a
rejuvenating weekend in the country only to have their escapade turn into a
series of embarrassing incidents and disasters.
Quite frankly I think Bruce
Robinson’s semi-autobiographical yarn is one of a rare handful of perfect
screenplays. It’s also one of the most moving and affecting films about
friendship. And it also happens to be exquisitely funny. I’ve watched this
movie more times than any other, except maybe Blade Runner,
Apocalypse Now, and Alien.
Story goes that Robinson has
circulating a manuscript for a novel he’d written, based on his experiences
with a fellow thespian and raving alcoholic named Vivian (whom the character of
Withnail is based on). The script ended up in the hands of George Harrison who
decided it was suitable for his Handmade Films production company. Robinson was
then offered the director’s role. He’d never directed anything before.
Down By Law
USA | 1986 | Directed by Jim
three mischievous strangers find themselves sharing the same jail cell after
each being set-up, framed or simply acting in self-defence, they escape into
the wilderness of the Louisiana everglades.
Maverick indie auteur Jim Jarmusch
hit the nail of bittersweet irony squarely and beautifully on the head with
this black and white jazz riff on unlikely friendships forged in times of
despair. It is arguably one of the most egocentric comedies of the 80s, and
certainly one of Jarmusch’s crowning achievements (along with his monochromatic
masterstroke Dead Man and the short Coffee and Cigarettes – Somewhere
in California, all of them as elusively existential as they are ristretto
black in humour).
Down by Law
was Jarmusch’s third feature (and the only feature he’s made with American
financing) and his first using Robby Müller behind the lens. Müller, a magician
of monochrome, casts the film with superb tones and textures; the weathered
homes along the streets of New Orleans, to the luminescent jungle of the
everglades. This is film noir transplanted from the city and off the
beaten track. It’s a fairy tale love story, but you’d never see it coming. It’s
the buddy flick transmogrified. It’s a jam session of mood swings.
To make an unusual analogy, Alien has aged like a fine single malt; what was initially smoky and flavoursome with intense character and finish has become a truly powerful cinematic elixir. It doesn’t get much better than Alien, for mood, tone, atmosphere, mise-en-scene, special effects, cinematography, music, acting. Even the pared-back dialogue never comes across as forced or risible, as often is the case with derivative movies, because Alien does pull from numerous sources, it’s not a wholly original plot. But the emphasis on the visual narrative, the realism, the restraint in humour, these elements make the movie’s calibre like that of a full metal jacket; Alien kicks ass.
UK\France | 1966 |
Directed by Roman Polanski
Logline: On an isolated beach castle property an
eccentric husband and his wayward wife are set upon and driven to distraction
by a desperate gangster and his befuddled accomplice.
A dark comedy of manners and errors, this is minimalist Kafkaesque perfection
from Polanksi and his frequent co-screenwriter Gerard Brach. Donald Pleasence
in an early career performance, but is challenged every step of the way by
US | 1990 |
Directed by Martin Scorsese
Logline: The true story of the mob career of Italian gangster, Henry Hill, living
in Brooklyn, NYC, during the 50s, 60s, and 70s.
Coppola’s The Godfather (Parts I & II), this is the best movie about the
Mafia ever made, which never mentions the word. Featuring career performances from
Ray Liotta and Joe Pesci. Scorsese’s control of narrative, sourced music,
extreme violence, and the cult of personality have never been better. It does
for garlic and meatballs, what Tampopo
did for noodles.
Hong Kong | 1995 | Directed by Wong
an urban nightscape the lives of a contract killer and his agent working at a
distance, a drifter searching for her ex-lover, and an eccentric mute vying for
attention in outlandish ways, all cross paths.
Amidst the big neon glitter, the
cluttered, claustrophobic alleyways, the towering architectural sheen, and the
strangely lonely bars and cafes, five lost souls clamber and mumble, peer and
glance, laugh, cry, perspire, and ponder. They dream of love and desire; of
connecting in a trip-hop world of ordered dysfunction, searching for that elusive
creature called belonging.
“The world is full o' complainers. An' the fact is, nothin' comes with a guarantee. Now I don't care if you're the pope of Rome, President of the United States or Man of the Year; somethin' can all go wrong. Now go on ahead, y'know, complain, tell your problems to your neighbor, ask for help, 'n watch him fly. Now, in Russia, they got it mapped out so that everyone pulls for everyone else... that's the theory, anyway. But what I know about is Texas, an' down here ... you're on your own.”
The debut feature from Joel and Ethan Coen, and a damn fine piece of filmmaking it is. I sawBlood Simple (1984) over twenty years ago one dark and stormy night while I was babysitting for some friends of my parents. One of those early VHS releases with the big chunky covers, it featured the now classic artwork on the cover (also used for the original poster): red stilettos, cowboy boots, handbag, keys and a pearl-handled .22.
Come and See
“And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see. And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.”
Chapter 6, The Book of Revelation (The Apocalypse of St John the Divine), The New Testament
Without a doubt the most devastating and profoundly anti-war movie ever made, Elem Klimov’s semi-autobiographical account of a teenage boy unwillingly thrust into the atrocities of WWII Byelorussia, fighting for a hopelessly unequipped resistance movement against the ruthless Nazi fascist forces, witnessing scenes of abject horror, as he slowly loses his innocence, inexorably loses his mind, his face that of a frightened old man, his soul a ruined sentinel. Come and See is pure nightmare poetry.
What begins as a road movie
transforms into an elusive science fiction thriller, and ends abruptly as a
romantic drama. But there is a deep sadness that permeates the narrative. This
is instigated in a prologue sequence depicting the US military on a search and
rescue mission, which culminates in an airstrike on one of the massive alien
“octopus-spider” creatures, which involves Kaulder and Samantha as casualties.
This isn’t immediately apparent, but can be confirmed upon repeat viewing.
Apart from the superb performances
from McNairy and Able (and the great work ellicited from the un-professionals),
what makes Monsters such a powerful and intelligent movie is Gareth
Edwards’ approach to tone and atmosphere. The narrative isn’t so interested in
the bigger picture, although that is addressed, albeit ironically, even
cryptically, by the movie’s title, but by the little moments within scenes, the
nuances of the characters expressions, through body language and reflection of
thought. This is one of the most moving and unassuming love stories I’ve ever
seen, exquisitely heightened by Jon Hopkins beautifully atmospheric, hugely emotive,
mostly electronic score.