Sunday, March 18, 2012


THE GENERALIST is now hooked into a well-known provider of DVDs and, as result, have been on extended movie-watching jag –one of life’s great pleasures. Here are some of the most entertaining and interesting movies I have seen so far. Some are new, most are not. All come highly recommended.

I am midway in a journey through the oeuvre of François Ozon, a brilliant French director who I first got into through the two marvellous films he made with Charlotte Rampling – ‘Under The Sand’ and ‘Swimming Pool’ – and I have yet to find a film of his I didn’t enjoy. All his films come over as being delightfully fresh. There are always unusual elements, plot twists and strange, magical elements.

François OzonBroadly speaking, his films divide into two groups: the first are deep and interesting psychological studies of men and women and relationships. Most are dominated by the women  - what incredible actresses he finds to work with. The second are something approaching Ealing Films: quirky comedies that seem very strange and lightweight  and innocent at first but quickly reveal themselves to be extremely clever confections that put you under their spell. Fortunately, still have seven to watch: ‘Water Drops on Burning Rocks’ (Based on a play by Fassbinder); ‘The Refuge’;  Regarde La Mer and Other  Film’; ‘Angel’; ‘Criminal Lovers’; ‘Sitcom’ and  ‘Les Amants Criminels’. Great. His new film ‘Dans La Maison’ comes out in October 2012. Find out more at

According to Wikipedia: Ozon is considered to be one of the most important young French film directors in the new “New Wave” in French cinema such as Jean-Paul Civeyrac, Philippe Ramos, and Yves Caumon, as well as a group of French filmmakers associated with a "cinema du corps/cinema of the body"

‘Monsters’  is terrific. Alien creatures have invaded Mexico and a couple – thrown together by fate – have to negotiate their way overland through their occupied territory. The effects are brilliant and the acting superb. Check the Making of.. sections. The movie was shot for some £40,000 and most of it was improvised as they travelled across central America. A triumph.

‘Frau im Mond’ is a lesser-known silent sf movie that Fritz Lang produced after ‘Metropolis’. Strange and quirky, its got a magic all of its own. Again the doc on the making of the film is fascinating: Lang invented the ‘countdown’ in this film and worked in close collaboration with rocket pioneer Herman Oberth, who invented the concept of the multi-stage rocket.

This a really cool music doc about the real-life rivalry and love/hate interaction between two mad cult Detroit bands. Again check out the fascinating interview with the director Ondi Timoner who shot the film over a five-year period. You have to admire her grit and stamina. These guys are seriously deranged.


‘Melancholia’ by Lars von Trier is a psychological disaster movie, like a cross between Ingmar Bergman and Tarkovsky, with a great performance by Kirsten Dunst. Mysterious and intriguing. ‘Fear Eats The Soul’ is a controversial and gutsy 1974 movie by Rainer Werner Fassbinder about a love affair between a young Moroccan man and an elderly German lady, which challenges racial prejudice head-on. DVD comes with two remarkable docs about Fassbinder. For my money ‘The Libertine’ is one of Johnny Depp’s great films, based on the life of the 17th century rake and poet Lord Rochester. Worth re-watching with the Director’s commentary.


Two stylish b&w movies by Luc Bresson and Patrice Leconte respectively. In one, a desperate hustler in deep trouble meets a very tall angel; in the other, a girl (played by Vanessa Paradis) who is about to jump in the Seine  is rescued by a knife-thrower and joins him on his adventures. Both beautiful shot, suitably quirky, very French.

‘Gomorrah’ is harsh, brutal and drawn from the real-life activities of mafia gangs in Naples who control the garbage industry. Not for the squeamish. ‘The Spanish Prisoner’ is an intriguing Hitchcockian mystery, directed and written by David Mamet, in which an innocent man gets tangled in a web of intrigue. Finally ‘Together’ is a gem: a wonderful warm non-cliched film about a Swedish commune, full of hilarious and touching moments.



I started reviewing movies for the NME back in the 1970s at a time when there weren’t even videos. The only way you could see films was at the cinema. There was a rarely a chance to see a film more than once. When video arrived it was exciting, particularly as you could buy blank tapes and record stuff off the TV. I still have boxes and boxes of tapes with fading labels that I sporadically sit down to catalogue. A source of many forgotten gems.

Back then, film critics were very high up in the journalistic hierarchy with legendary figures like like the late lamented Pauline Kael and Dilys Powell and the still-in-action Philip French whose encyclopaedic knowledge of cinema I’ve always admired.

Now the role of the film critic is much diminished. The word Masterpiece is overused. I hate the star ranking thing.

The fact that now you can actually get to see (but also own) hundreds of thousands of films is a game-changer; the audience is able to voice their opinions on-line.

What interests me is the depth in which you can now study a film. You can not only view it repeatedly  - like rereading a book - but also I love the many extras about the making of the film. You can also watch the film with commentary -  a subject that merits a post in itself.

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