Film

Selective Memories

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Review of 'The Majestic', director Frank Darabont

In the US in the 1950s thousands of actors, film-makers, writers and technicians had their lives and livelihoods destroyed by an anti-Communist witchhunt. In an atmosphere of mutual suspicion, many of those accused of Communist sympathies named their friends in order to avoid being blacklisted themselves. The studios willingly joined the frenzy, passing on the names of longstanding staff who then had to face the inquisition. Hollywood's cooperation with the show trials has been a shame from which it has tried to make amends on many occasions. 'The Majestic' is its latest attempt.

Moving Down the Highways of Life

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Review of 'I'm Going Home', director Manoel de Oliveira

I'm Going Home' is a French film by the little known but prolific Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira. Michel Piccoli's protagonist, Gilbert Valance, is an ageing and principled actor who meets tragedy one night after the show. Like many recent French films 'I'm Going Home' opens with the scene of a play, in this case Ionesco's 'Exit the King' in which Gilbert is the lead. The metaphor soon becomes clear. After the curtain falls he learns that his wife and daughter have been killed in a car accident. He is left alone with a small grandchild whom he tries to comfort and be comforted by.

Too Young to Take the Rap

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Review of 'Biggie and Tupac', director Nick Broomfield

In September 1996 Tupac Amaru Shakur (2Pac) was shot dead in Las Vegas. Six months later Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls aka Notorious BIG suffered the same fate in Los Angeles. In the period before they were killed, the two men were arguably the biggest rap stars on the planet. To this day neither murder has been solved.

Sex in the City

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Review of 'Sidewalks of New York', director Edward Burns

New York is the setting for this exploration of love, deceit, and the neuroses of six people in and out of various relationships. 'Sidewalks of New York' is an attempt to understand the interaction of the city with its inhabitants, and the impact of this on their lives and their relationships.

Fight or Flight

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Review of 'The Invincible', director Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog's 'The Invincible' is set in 1932 in a Polish stetl (Jewish village), and Berlin just before Hitler's victory. It tells the story of Zishe Breitbart (Jouka Ahola), the son of a Jewish blacksmith with phenomenal physical strength, who is lured to Berlin with the promise of fame and fortune. There he meets Hanussen (Tim Roth), 'king of the occult', who runs a cabaret specialising in the supernatural that is popular with Nazis and wealthy Berliners, at a time when the Nazi movement is on the edge of power.

War and Peace

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Review of 'No Man's Land', director Danis Tanovic

Sometimes you see an image so often that it becomes familiar and meaningless, and the scenes of wars we see on television are one example. During the civil war that consumed Yugoslavia in the 1990s, a television reporter would talk to camera in front of armoured personnel carriers full of UN peacekeepers, the sound of shelling going on behind them. But it does not take much to make an apparently familiar situation seem new.

Resisting the Temptation of Love

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Review of 'Charlotte Gray', director Gillian Armstrong

'Charlotte Gray', based on Sebastian Faulks's novel, is a classic story of girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl signs up as a spy behind enemy lines in Vichy France to find boy, girl ends up with different boy. Cate Blanchett plays the title role, a young Scottish woman with a love of all things French and a hatred of what the Nazis have done to the country. She is naive and romantic, and falls in love with an RAF officer at a party. When he fails to return from a mission over France she resolves to go there and find him.

A Very Public Rebellion

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Review of 'If...', director Lindsay Anderson

1968 was the big year of revolt, its epicentre the student-led insurrection in Paris. But the spirit of resistance in the field of culture and the arts had begun earlier. In the late 1950s French New Wave cinema had rejected the well made studio film and taken to the streets to celebrate freedom. The spin-off here was the emergence of a number of film directors such as Lindsay Anderson. He made 'If...' in 1968, the very year in which the spirit of revolt became a material force.

Murder and Mystery

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Review of 'From Hell', directors Albert and Allen Hughes

The Jack the Ripper story repeatedly attracts the interest of modern artists. Is it the dark and frightening background of Victorian London, or the supposed connections of the murderer to the Freemasons and to the eldest son of Queen Victoria, the Duke of Clarence? Whatever, this is no ordinary murder story, but a symbol of a class riven city and an imperial order in deep crisis.

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