Wednesday, 28 October 2009 22:43

ten of the best...films

Ten of the best films, in my opinion:

I could quite easily populate a top ten with just Hitchcock, predominantly, David Lynch and Kubrick films, so I have limited it to two films maximum per director:

1. Notorious: Hitchcock.

Ingrid Bergman plays a lush with a Nazi father, Cary Grant a hardhearted CIA man who 'runs' her.  There is a love story, incredibly taut suspense, dark humour and some fantastic performances.  A near perfect film.

2. Barry Lyndon: Kubrick.

This is the closest Kubrick came to his imagined Napoleon biopic. The cinematography is sumptuous to look at and the story, Thackeray's, is a bittersweet one.

3. 2001 - a space Odyssey: Kubrick.

I was going to choose Paths of Glory, but this film is almost unequalled in its scope and breadth.  The entire evolution of human, artificial, and extraterrestrial intelligence is its plot and it is a marvellous cinematic spectacle with an enigmatic and profound message.

4. Ikiru: Kurosawa

A bureaucrat, after thirty years in the same stultifying job, learns he is dying of stomach Cancer and tries to find purpose in his life. A brilliant central performance, with moments of simple, delicate perfection:  Moving, without sentimentality.

5. Jaws: Spielberg

There's a big shark and it's eating people. Terrifying monster movie genius.

6. Mulholland Drive: Lynch

An enigmatic and at times extremely beautiful film about (this is my reading, anyway) the truth and self-delusion. The Hollywood lie, the seedy reality, the unreal and the real. Exquisite.

7: My life as a dog: Hallestrom

A charming film about a young boy and his empathy and identification with the dog, Laika, who was sent into space.  Really warm and sad and sweet.

8: Brazil: Gilliam

Dystopian bureaucracy and the yearning for humanity in an industrialised, Orwellian world.  It is both funny and very wry, with a very British - yes, Pythonesque - wit.

9: North by Northwest: Hitchcock

Cary Grant again, this time caught up in a web of intrigue.  A great romantic thriller.

10: The Elephant Man: Lynch

The film's dark gothic Victoriana looks incredible, and the performances including those from Hopkins and Hurt are brilliant. Overall, an extremely beautiful, emotional and tender experience.

Published in Leisure
Thursday, 21 August 2008 08:37

Joanna Newsom

Live review:  Joanna Newsom, Royal Albert Hall, 28 September 2007

When I was asked to go to this concert, I was trepidatious, even reluctant.  I had heard her name mentioned before and I had attempted to listen to her earlier works, but her naif screechy voice had completely horrified me, if I am honest.  I could not get beyond the broken glass voice that scraped and scratched against the pristine elegance of the harp.  But I was convinced to go, nonetheless.

So, in the prestige of the second tier of the Royal Albert Hall, we took our seats, directly opposite the stage.  We had opted to enjoy a meal rather than see Roy Harper, which may have been a mistake, it was a good meal, nonetheless, and I prepared to be aurally assaulted by screech owls for an hour.

She came onto the stage with a winsome humility, and she spoke in a friendly and unassuming way to the audience.  And then, with a guitarist, a violinist and a drummer she began to play.

And from the first bars of music, 'Bridges and Balloons', the sound swelled up and around the vast hall and I found that I was crying.  Not out of sadness, but because of how utterly - overwhelmingly - beautiful the merging sounds and lyrics were.  In the living, breathing, soaring music was something that I had missed, there was an honesty and a fragility that was so compelling that it was impossible to not feel it.  And from that point on I was completely mesmerised. I think that when she played Sawdust and Diamonds I felt that I had actually travelled to a forgotten land.  It was, in the end, one of the most memorable, beautiful and suprising concerts I have ever had the good fortune to attend.

I expected to be assaulted by screech owls, but instead I was lifted from the ground by a fleet of a hundred rainbow plumed parrots, and flown to a beautiful place.

Published in Leisure
Friday, 08 August 2008 07:12


oyster shellsTerror's Advocate

Jaque Verges is a smirking, cigar wielding, French lawyer who has defended and been involved with a range of characters who can be described as 'colourful' in the same way as a gunshot wound can be.

He has represented a rogue's gallery or hall of fame, depending on your viewpoint, of extremists, terrorists, nazis, murderers, freedom fighters and assassins, from the right and the left.  He counts among his friends Carlos 'the Jackal', Swiss nazi benefactor Francois Genoud and Pol Pot,  under whose leadership an estimated 1.4 million people died.

Berbet Schroeder's film, which documents Verges extraordinary life, offers a tantalising insight into the man, including speculation over the 8 years in which he 'disappeared' from public life. Was he with Pol Pot? Was he a secret agent? Was he living a simple life in Paris?

At first it is possible to believe the notion he spins of himself - a man driven by principle, drawn to the struggle of the Algerian freedom fighters in his youth and defending bombers from the death penalty.

But then, through his proceeding career and his associations, the line of principle becomes untenable.

He defended Klaus Barbie, the former Gestapo chief, for example, justifying his position by posturing about establishment hypocrisy. In spite of his efforts, the Nazi war criminal was found guilty on 341 counts, including one incident where 44 children were rounded up from a farmhouse east of Lyon, at Izieu, and sent to their deaths.

In the second half of the film the introduction of Ilich Ramirez Sanchez or Carlos 'the jackal' somewhat overshadows Verges, this man whom a compatriot describes as a 'psychopath' struts an intriguing figure across Verges' life, as do many of the characters, including Algerian bomber Djamila Bouhired (the first deathrow woman he rescues and falls for) and the deadpan Magdalena Kopp (the second) or the repentant Hans Klein.

An extraordinary story is unfolded, and this is a stunning film, with exceptional access to the people involved and a wide reaching overview of this man's questionable but astonishing life.

By the end of this fascinating  film, you are left with an enigmatic figure in Verges, with whom it is not possible to sympathise.  Was he simply driven by ego? or something darker?

It is essential, for the law to be just, that everyone be defended.  

But I found myself asking, who can defend Verges?

4 out of 5

Official site

Published in Leisure

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