Bob Light

Rome Open City

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Director Roberto Rossellini, re-released 7 March

In the spring of 1944 Italy was caught up in a maelstrom of violence and destruction. The Allied armies were fighting their way up from the South, the Germans occupied the rest of the country with their customary savagery, while the remnants of Mussolini's fascist forces were conducting a psychotic bloodfest anywhere they could.

Ken Loach Retrospective: British Film Institute

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In June the great socialist film-maker Ken Loach turned 75. To celebrate the British Film Institute is holding a retrospective of most of his important films and some of his matchless work for TV. Simultaneously, the BBC is releasing a six-disc collection of the TV work that Loach directed in the 1960s and 70s. This includes Days of Hope, the epochal four-part analysis of the 1926 General Strike, and also my personal favourite, the sublime Big Flame dramatising a workers' takeover of Liverpool Docks.

Shadows of Progress: Documentary Film in Post-War Britain 1951-77

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This sumptuous four-DVD box set produced by the British Film Institute (BFI) contains 34 rare documentary films from the post-war period.

The 100-page accompanying booklet makes grandiose claims for the significance of these films but the reality is quite different: this box set is not worth buying and only a handful of these films are worth watching even once.

In fact this set is only worth reviewing because it throws an interesting sidelight on the relationship between socialist politics and film, culture and art.

You can see the issue played out clearly enough in the recently released feature Made in Dagenham.

The People's Train

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Thomas Keneally, Sceptre; £17.99

This is a luminous novel by any standards; by the political standards of Socialist Review it is little short of brilliant.

It is brilliant because for once here is an epic novel which has an authentically epic scale: the (substantially true) story of Artem Samsurov, a member of the Bolshevik Party who escapes from a Siberian labour camp and makes his way to Brisbane, where he dedicates himself to the early struggles of the Australian working class.

The Hurt Locker

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Director: Kathryn Bigelow; Release date: out now

The Hurt Locker has been reviewed with something close to rapture in the US. Roger Ebert (the Simon Cowell of US film critics) gave it an orgasmic five-star review, calling it "breathtaking", a "great film" and "a leading contender for Oscars".

It is easy to see what took Roger's breath away. The story follows an elite bomb disposal unit counting down their final 39 days working in occupied Baghdad. Decades ago Hitchcock already knew that a ticking bomb is, by definition, exciting cinema.

The Corner

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Director: Charles S Dutton; Writers: Ed Burns, David Simon and David Mills

Made in 2000, two years before The Wire, The Corner has never been shown on British television. It is only being released on DVD now because of the success of David Simon's later work. Indeed there are so many similarities between The Corner and The Wire that they simply have to be discussed together.

Bill Douglas Trilogy

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Director: Bill Douglas

Bill Douglas is almost a legend among British filmmakers. Google his name and you find a flash-flood of superlatives. Lindsay Anderson calls him "the poet of British cinema" while the Observer's Philip French sees his Trilogy (My Childhood, My Ain Folk, My Way Home) as "one of the heroic achievements of British cinema".

Law and Order

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Director: Les Blair; BBC DVD

Those impatiently awaiting the final series of The Wire might like to check out Law and Order. Over four episodes Law and Order tells the story of the British criminal justice system - a robbery, a police investigation, a trial and a prison sentence.

When it was first shown in 1978 it created a firestorm of political controversy. Furious questions were asked in parliament, newspaper editorials attacked every episode and the governor of the BBC was summoned to explain himself to the Labour home secretary.

Challenging the New Leviathan of Racial Inequality

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What is it about Crash that is upsetting liberals?

why has the success of Crash at the Oscars been treated with such scorn? For donkey's years the Oscar for Best Picture has gone to, well, donkeys, and no one gave a damn. This year the Academy gives the statuette to a halfway decent movie, and all hell breaks loose.

Sinking Feeling

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Review of 'Syriana', director: Stephen Gaghan

What follows is not so much a review - it is more an anxiety attack in print. A review should tell you something about the movie, but I can't since I did not really understand much of Syriana. A review should offer firm opinions about the film - but again I can't. It's not that I don't have an opinion, it's that I have too many and they don't quite fit together. A review should close by advising you whether or not the movie is worth seeing - but I can't. My answer is a firm yes, and an equally firm no. So call this a non-review. Colour me confused.

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