All That Heaven Allows (US, 1955)

One of the classic 1950s melodramas that looks magnificent in the Criterion DVD (only available in Region 1). Spectacular mise en scene and the colour use is extraordinarily Expressionist. Excoriating on the bourgeoisie; a must see. (DVD, 5) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0047811/

However, I don’t now feel this film to be as great as I once thought. I admire it for its craft and am interested in it as a comment on 1950s America but now find Ron’s falling in love unconvincing (a rather important dramatic point!). Its message is history while contemporary films (of any time) are going to be speaking of now in some way; now obviously concerns me more then then.

Of ‘classic’ cinema I’ve been watching recently I think film noir movies stand up well (to the test of time) because their cynicism is still a modern sensibility. The hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie in ATHA is clearly still relevant, but the Country Club milieu is different in the 21st century.

Mary Reilly (US, 1996)

Maybe Julia Roberts was miscast, but her accent is no worse than Malkovich’s, but I don’t think that’s the problem with this (appropriately) grim-looking film. For me it’s too understated to be a fully Gothic horror. Lacking the tension of the identity of Hyde requires some other narrative hook and the mouse-like Reilly doesn’t quite grab on film; may have worked better as a novel. (OAR) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0117002/

Killing Me Softly (US-UK, 2002)

I remember this getting some terrible press and though it’s not a good film it’s nowhere near as bad as some suggested. Kaige Chen directs well (no surprise there) but the script doesn’t convince; there’s no enough setting up of the characters. (DVD) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0250468/

Kingdom of Heaven (UK-US, 2005)

I’m in a run of post-9/11 films. There’s no doubt in my mind that Christians come out worst in this (and a good thing that is too with Islam being demonised by many) but as for it being Osama Bin Laden’s version of history?! That charge is pure right wing propaganda. Actually atheism comes out best of all in this fascinating film. Too wordy to be a blockbuster – cost $130m according imdb – and so it’s no surprise it was a major flop. Doesn’t start off with an action grabbing sequence and one of the major battles isn’t shown. Restraint is the key and maybe its weakness is Bloom, who struggles to offer the charisma required in the role. (DVD) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0320661/

Jagged Edge (US, 1985)

I don’t like courtroom dramas so it’s a no brainer that I don’t like this film but that didn’t stop me watching it again. What is it about courtroom dramas? I suspect it is the cliche-ridden narrative (a startling bit of evidence ends a scene with a gasp from the courthouse and the judge will be irascible and so on). (DVD, 2) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089360/

The Aviator (US, 2004)

Too long (the third quarter sags badly; from the moment Cate Blanchett’s brilliant Hepburn departs) but the other 3/4 are excellent. Features the best plane crash I’ve seen and fabulous cinematography and set design. DiCaprio’s good. (OAR). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0338751/

Hotel Rwanda (US, UK, SA 2004)

An exceptionally powerful film. Welds drama to history in a way that will grip those disinterested in Rwanda and so ensure this massacres will not be forgotten. Anchored by Cheadle’s immense performance as a sharp, ordinary guy who becomes a hero by default, the film brilliantly dramatises the west’s indifference to black Africa. A muse see. (OAR). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0395169/

Lady Vengeance (Korea, 2005)

Second Park Chan Wook this week and blimey his compositions and set ups can peel the eyeballs back. Astonishing mix of mood from the playful to the tortured (often in the same shot: see the queue of mums, dads and a gran waiting to torture a guy). Undoubtedly one of the biggest talents making movies. Watch them. (DVD). http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0451094/

Good Night, And Good Luck (US, 2005)

It’s heartening to see films such as this coming out of ‘Bush’s America’ as it shows that America isn’t wholly Bush’s. A brilliant slice of history where the population was being cowed by a ‘war on communism’; now it’s the ‘war on terror’. Fabulous performances; superbly directed. Clooney also co-wrote and co-produced: talented guy. (DVD) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0433383/

Joint Security Area (Korea, 2000)

Park Chan-wook is a bit of a special director. More of an genre piece than his celebrated Vengeance trilogy this has some striking compositions and is informative about the North-South Korea divide. Well worth a watch. (DVD) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0260991/