Showing posts with label studio canal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label studio canal. Show all posts

6 September 2013

Plein Soleil (1960) Blu Ray Review

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BD/DVD Release Date:
9th September 2013 (UK)
Studiocanal UK
René Clément
Alain Delon, Maurice Ronet, Marie Laforêt
Buy Plein Soleil:
Plein Soleil Special Edition Blu-ray [Amazon]

As I was introduced to French cinema through my interest in the Nouvelle Vague films of Jean-Luc Godard, François Truffaut, Jacques Rivette, and Éric Rohmer, and consequently their critical writing for the influential film journal Cahiers du Cinéma (in particular Truffaut’s Une Certaine Tendance du Cinéma Français), it may come as no surprise that René Clément has never ranked high on my list of filmmakers to further explore. Couple this with already seeing Patricia Highsmith’s best-selling novel, The Talented Mr. Ripley, adapted to film by Anthony Minghella and the prospect of sitting through Plein Soleil becomes less intriguing.

First of all – for those of you who have neither read Highsmith’s novel nor watched Minghella’s adaptation – a brief outline of the story is in order. The Talented Mr. Ripley is a thriller that, in all its versions including Clément’s Plein Soleil, follows Tom Ripley, an intelligent career criminal, as he cons his way into the life of a rich playboy, Philippe, by feigning his acquaintance to the man’s father. Ripley is hired by the father to travel to Italy, find Philippe, and bring him back to San Francisco. Now, without wanting to give away any of the film’s plot, Plein Soleil begins with Ripley (Alain Delon) already in Italy and already ingratiated with Philippe (Maurice Ronet) and his circle of friends.

For many, including myself, Clément’s version is the most rewarding. Not only is it the most tense and entertaining of the two adaptations, it also boasts some glorious cinematography by Henri Decaë, the noted cinematographer of such films as Lift to the Scaffold, Bob le Flambeur, Le Beau Serge, and The 400 Blows by directors Louis Malle, Jean-Pierre Melville, Claude Chabrol, and François Truffaut. The film is also noteworthy for its fatalistic point of view. But it is also these two points that mark the film out as an imitation.

As the featurette René Clément at the heart of the New Wave, included with Studiocanal’s restored release, attests, Clément felt unfairly treated by the Nouvelle Vague directors and thought himself a more avant-garde artist than the “Tradition of Quality” directors he had been lumped with. Perhaps this is why he made Plein Soleil with Decaë and also why the film as a fatalistic aesthetic reminiscent of Jean-Pierre Melville, a director admired by the Nouvelle Vague. Nonetheless, Plein Soleil is an entertaining and gorgeously photographed film well worthy of anyone’s time.


Shane James

9 January 2013

The Titfield Thunderbolt 60th Anniversary DVD Review

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I was thrilled to discover recently that Hornby (they of the model railways) have released a replica of the grand old Titfield Thunderbolt as part of their “trains on film” series in celebration of The Titfield Thunderbolt’s 60thanniversary. My initial joy at hearing this news was sadly curtailed when, on inspection, the model advertised on Hornby’s website proved not to be the venerable old engine liberated from Titfield’s museum at all. Instead, the model on offer appears to be a 1:76 scale version of the Thunderbolt’s predecessor, the rather less colourful locomotive that finds its way unceremoniously into a ditch around the film’s halfway mark. Never mind Hornby, at least you tried.

Thankfully, Studio Canal’s 60th anniversary offering is harder to find fault with; a beautifully restored DVD re-release of Charles Crichton’s uplifting 1953 Ealing comedy, The Titfield Thunderbolt. This amiable Ealing offering transports viewers back to an age when inept and avaricious nationalised rail services were making life unbearable for the average commuter, rather than inept and avaricious privatised ones.
On one terribly idyllic morning the residents of the tiny village of Titfield are greeted with the unfortunate news that their crucial branch line, arterial transport route and lifeblood of the community, is to be closed in favour of a bus service. Naturally the residents are outraged, a bus route means paved roads, street signs, zebra crossings and the like; certainly not a fit and proper state of affairs for this sleepy corner of middle England.

Showing true English entrepreneurial spirit, an eccentric bunch of locals band together to run the line themselves. The local squire will act as guard, the village vicar will drive the thing, and the wealthy landlord - motivated by nothing more than an opportunity to begin his daily drinking at some ungodly hour – will fund the entire venture from his own, vast, pocket.

It’s a cheerful affair, a glimpse at an England largely lost to mass production and drab, characterless urban sprawl; a charming invocation of a serene age of long summer afternoons, friendly pints in the local boozer and peculiar British eccentricity.

For the cynic, the naysayer, it’s another example of British cinema with one eye on the past, rather than two on the future; a vision of quaint simplicity, an atavistic dwelling on past glories. Well perhaps it is a little quaint, but the next time your bus replacement service dumps you in drab, characterless trading estate with nought but a Starbucks in which to while away your miserable hours; you might decide that to be resolutely old-fashioned is not such a bad thing.

Chris Banks



Rating: U
DVD/Bluray Release Date: 14th January 2013 (UK)
Director: Charles Crichton
Stars: Stanley Holloway, George Relph ,Naunton Wayne, John Gregson, Sid James

Buy/Pre-Order The Titfield Thunderbolt:

29 November 2012

Sightseers Review

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Ever get the impression that you were watching a different film from everyone else? I'm not sure what I was missing with Sightseers (2012), the new film from director Ben Wheatley and written by and starring Steve Oram and Elizabeth Sladen lookalike Alice Lowe, all three of whom were involved with the recent cult hit Kill List (2011), but half way in I was praying for the end to come mostly as a result of boredom and disgust. Marketed as a comedy, the film attempts to leaven this with a liberal dose of horror, failing dismally to achieve either satisfactorily.

In order to escape from her overpowering mother, Tina (Lowe) agrees to go on a caravan trip with her new boyfriend Chris (Oram). However what starts off as a sightseeing trip of North Yorkshire soon becomes the road trip from hell after Chris's true psychotic tendencies come to the fore, following a misunderstanding at a local tourist attraction, with murderous results for all involved.

Like the caravan holiday that forms the basis around which its story is built Sightseers swiftly looses its appeal. Its real problem, as with much of what currently passes itself off as humorous particularly in Britain, is that it tries too hard. As with most 'laddish' fun, the laughs here are more as a result of embarrassment than anything genuinely amusing.

Neither does it work particularly well from a horror point-of-view either. Comedians often see the field of horror as an ideal entry into the world of films. However they frequently make the mistake which many people do, of not taking the genre seriously. By it's very nature horror often lays itself wide open for parody, providing prime material for people to send up. However study them closely and you will discover that those horror films which are successful approach it with a degree of reverence, even when it's being poked fun at.

Those who understand the secret of real horror grasp the concept that less is more. The audience's imagination is always much stronger than anything filmmakers can depict on the screen, with most good horror films cutting away before you see anything at all - The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) had a degree of black humour, but the secret of its longevity was that everyone believed they saw more than they actually did. The current crop of films from mainland Europe such as the upcoming Spanish chiller Sleep Tight (2011) succeed by taking this subtle approach, whilst the American hit Scream (1996), which marketed itself as neither a comedy or a horror film (though it was quite clearly both) worked by doing the whole thing quasi seriously. Much modern British horror on the other hand, like Sightseers and the recent crass monstrosity Inbred (2011), doesn't know when to stop, showing vivid violence and gore in nauseating close-up.

In its defence the film looks beautiful - the English backdrop against which the shenanigans play out is breathtaking. Unfortunately this does little to compensate for an otherwise lurid and inept attempt at offbeat wit. I know my opinion is likely to meet with universal disagreement, in which case please do fill me in on what I was missing.

Cleaver Patterson


Rating: 15
Release Date: 30th November 2012 (UK)
Directed ByBen Wheatley
CastAlice LoweSteve OramEileen Davies

19 November 2012

Watch The UK Trailer For BIFA Nominated Broken Starring Tim Roth

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When you receive 9 nominations from the British Independent Film Awards for your debut feature, Rufus Norris' Broken is certainly a film we should take notice off especially  at the early festival preview to go by. Tonight we have a new trailer for the UK indie which boasts a strong cast of Tim Roth, Cillian Murphy a film looks like it'll deliver on the dramatics with hints of something very dark lurking under the serene  face British suburbia.

Broken set in North London when young man Robert 'Broken' Buckley is at the wrong end of a brutal beating from neighbour Mr Oswald whose daughter makes a false accusation. As Robert struggles with what's just happened to him next door neighbour Archie (Roth), a Lawyer whose 11year old daughter Skunk may have witnessed Robert her neighbour get the beating.

Broken looks an intense little character drama instead of the usual generic gritty London style drama we do seem to see unfortunately more off. Eloise Laurence  who plays Skunk, as well as the film's narrator delivers a really good debut performance and in the trailer it does suggest her own home things might not be as hunky dory as they seem. Not saying this trailer is fantastic nor poor but what it is, it's effective hinting on some dark truths maybe lurking under the carpet but never revealing to much to spoil things.

Broken is set for a Spring 2013 UK Release and also stars  Rory Kinnear, Robert Emms.

12 November 2012

It Always Rains on Sunday DVD Review

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A snapshot of post-war, working class austerity, It Always Rains on Sunday, released in 1947, makes its way back onto cinema screens as part of the BFI’s Ealing retrospective, and is granted a special edition DVD release into the bargain.

Robert Hamer’s engaging drama, is arguably much less well known than Ealing’s comedic offerings, but its relative anonymity compared to the studio’s later offerings hides a stylistic and thematic ingenuity that prefigures not just nourish thrillers which would flourish shortly after, but also the working-class graft of the British New Wave.

Trapped in a joyless existence of bleak domesticity, dejected housewife Rose (Googie Withers) finds her dull life upset by the sudden reappearance of old flame, Tommy (John McCallum), on the run from police having recently escaped from Dartmoor Prison. As the routine of a typical Sunday unfolds around her, Rose desperately attempts to keep the presence of her former lover a secret from her husband, stepdaughters, and the cluttered, tangled lives of the street’s inhabitants: petty thieves, inquisitive journalists in search of a story, prying policemen and wheeler-dealer businessmen whose lives all contribute to a neat tapestry of supporting and intruding narrative threads.

It’s a bit of a conundrum to explain why It Always Rains on Sunday is not regularly included amongst the pantheon of Ealing greats. Perhaps the plain truth is that it was too much, too soon; a dangerous, determined piece of cinema intent on confronting the problems and realities of a post-war Britain, rather than playing on past glories.

The stylish Noir-tinged finale, the breathless chase through the Stratford train yard, faultlessly photographed by Douglas Slocombe would seem to echo that most illustrious of British thrillers, The Third Man, were it not for the fact that Robert Hamer’s daunting, dizzying chase through the shadows pre-dates Carol Reed’s masterpiece by two years. The low-key grind of daily life amongst the bomb-scarred terraces of the East End also provides us with a glimpse of the kind of social realism that wouldn’t be fully exulted for a decade or so.

If you are already familiar with this largely unheralded gem, do yourself a favour and reacquaint yourself. If not, find it and discover a wonderfully progressive masterwork of British cinema.

Chris Banks(@Chris_in_2D)


DVD Re-release Date:12th November 2012 (UK)
Directed By:Robert Hamer
CastGoogie WithersJack Warner , John McCallum
Buy:It Always Rains On Sunday (Digitally Remastered) [Blu-ray] / DVD

3 September 2012

Watch The UK Trailer For Rust&Bone (De rouille et d'os)

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Studiocanal have released the stunning new UK trailer for Rust & Bone. A new romantic drama from the director of A Prophet Jacques Audiard and starring Oscar award winning actress Marion Cotillard(The Dark Knight Rises).The film also stars Matthias Schoenaerts and tells the story of an unlikely relationship between a couple whose relationship blossom thanks to an unlikely accident.

Jacques Audiard, acclaimed director of A Prophet and The Beat That My Heart Skipped, returns with this powerful, tender romantic drama about two people from very different worlds seeking redemption in each other. Marion Cotillard (La Vie En Rose, Inception) stars as Stephanie, a killer whale trainer who late one night meets Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts, Bullhead) in a fracas at the nightclub where he works as a bouncer. Put in charge of his young son, Alain has come from Belgium to Antibes to live with his sister and her husband as a family. Alain’s bond with Stephanie grows deeper after she suffers a horrible accident, bringing the two together once more.

Since winning her Oscar for La Vie en Rose, Marion Cotillard has certainly excelled herself in Hollywood with some fantastic and at times challenging roles.So it's always refreshing to see and actor return to their homeland and act in their native tongue, Rust & Bone looks potentially another strong film which could see her possibly challenge for Oscar glory once more.Since  Rust & Bone opened away back at Cannes(Audiard missing out on Michael Haneke for the Palme d'Or) it has been lapping up critical praise where ever the film has been been shown and this trailer highlights the beautiful cinematography, heartfelt powerful performances from it's lead pair. If there's one reason to finally check out foreign language films for first time, Rust & Bone may just be that film when it arrives in UK&Ireland November 2nd.
source: MSN

13 August 2012

Woman In The Dressing Gown DVD Review

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Remastered and re-released to DVD with cast interviews and theretical trailer Woman in a Dressing Gown tells the story of Amy (Yvonne Mitchell) a housewife who seems to no do anything right-she burns the breakfast, fails to tidy the house and doesn’t seem to get dressed and instead stays in her dressing gown for the majority of the film.

I know what you’re thinking. Now wonder Amy’s husband Jim (Anthony Quayle) is thinking about leaving her for young, tidy secretary Georgie (Sylvia Simms). When Amy finds out about his affair she tries her best to tidy up and be a better housewife to the point where she goes and gets her hair done only for the rain to ruin it.

A typical story of the time period, I was excited to see this movie being a fan of such movies once I'd seen Brief Encounter. The problem was however that I found myself comparing Woman in a Dressing Gown with Brief Encounter. Whether that was because it was set in the same time period with the use of the story or language I do not know.

What I do know however, is that both Yvonne Mitchell and Anthony Quayle give believable and in a way relatable performances as Amy and Jim in which both men and women can relate to.

Emily Pontin

Rating: PG
UK Release Date: 13th August 2012
Cast: Yvonne Mitchell, Anthony Quayle, Sylvia Simms
Directed By: J Lee Thompson

8 August 2012

Studio Canal Announces This Year's Titles For It's 'Studio Canal Collection'

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StudioCanal have announced the films that will make up this year's 'StudioCanal Collection' the series that aims to revisit some of the most iconic films from Studiocanal's  back catalogue of over 5,000 titles.

For those of you who don't know, the StudioCanal Collection is a series of acclaimed and influential films on Blu-ray with unique special features and accompanying booklets, available in HD so as to present the best possible picture and sound quality. This year's classic films will be Orson Welles The Trial,Luis Buneul's  That Obscure Object of Desire and Marcel Carne's  Le Quai Des Brumes (Port Of Shadows).


Based on the influential Franz Kafka novel, THE TRIAL is a paranoid masterpiece directed by Orson Welles (Citizen Kane, Touch of Evil). Josef K (Anthony Perkins – Psycho) is arrested, but has no idea what crime he is accused of. In order to find out what offence he is meant to have committed, and to protest his innocence, Josef K must go through the machinations of the judicial system, but he soon finds himself trapped in a dehumanised nightmare.
Welles, Kafka and The Trial documentary
Welles, Architect of Light documentary
Tempo Profile: Orson Welles
Interview with Steven Berkoff (actor, playwright) - adaptations of Kakfa's The Trial andMetamorphosis
Deleted Scene
Booklet on the movie written by Jonathan Rosenbaum, film critic and author of Discovering Orson Welles (2007), the editor of This Is Orson Welles  (1998) and consultant on the 1998 re-edit ofTouch Of Evil. 


Adapted from Pierre Louÿs' 1898 novel 'La Femme et le Pantin', THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE marked Buñuel's final film. Recounted in flashback to a group of railway travellers, the story wryly details the romantic perils of Mathieu (Buñuel favourite Fernando Rey), a wealthy middle-aged French sophisticate who falls desperately in love with his 19-year-old former chambermaid Conchita (Carole Bouquet). Thus begins a surreal game of sexual cat-and-mouse, with Mathieu obsessively attempting to win the girl's affections as she manipulates his carnal desires, each vying to gain absolute control of the other.

Arbitrary Desire (Interview with Jean-Claude Carrière)
Interview with Carlos Saura
Double Dames (Interview with Carole Bouquet and Angela Molina)
A portrait if Luis Buñuel (Interview with Pierre Lary and Edmond Richard)


Le QUAI DES BRUMES is Marcel Carné's controversial adaptation of the Pierre Mac Orlan novel of the same name, today regarded as one of the greatest French classical movies. Jean (Jean Gabin), a deserter, arrives in Le Havre and looks for a shelter before leaving the French territory. Housed in a shed on the harbour, at the end of the docks, he meets an eccentric painter (Michel Simon) and a mysterious and beautiful girls called Nelly (Michele Morgan)… From then on he will be trapped in a tragic destiny, in spite of his passion for Nelly and his will to live…

On The Port Of Shadows
Introduction to Quai Des Brumes by Ginette Vincendeau, Professor and Film Critic
Restoring Quai Des Brumes
Booklet on the movie written by Ginette Vincendeau, Professor and Film Critic.

2 August 2012

Delicacy (La délicatesse) DVD Review

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Quality romantic comedies (French or otherwise), are an elusive beast. The phrase ‘chick flick’ is now synonymous with poor quality filmmaking. Often trite, sickly and poorly written the romantic comedy is a genre that has suffered from some of the laziest efforts of recent years. The majority of the energy is put into casting big names in an ‘if you build it they will come’ method of attracting audiences. Adapted from his own award winning novel, David Foenkino and his brother Stephane direct.

Nathalie (Audrey Tatou - Amelie, The Da Vinci Code) finds her idyllic life shattered when her husband is killed in a traffic accident. Following the loss of her soul mate she cuts herself off emotionally and channels all of her energy into her career. She spends a good deal of time fending off the advances of her boss while forming an attraction to Swedish colleague Markus (Francois Damien – Heartbreaker). He’s certainly not the typical love interest; gap toothed, ungainly, shy and socially awkward. Those closest to Nathalie make it clear that she could do much better.

Tatou has made a career out of romantic comedies, with extremely varied results. Delicacy keeps you off balance by switching between genuinely funny and touching moments to those of loss and despondency. Though very well acted by both Tatou and Damien, the lack of genuine chemistry between the two characters is evident. There is no real sense that Nathalie needs Markus to fulfill her and complete her recovery from losing her husband.

Delicacy is charming love story that benefits from the lack of Hollywood-style gloss and two engaging lead performances.

Vikki Myerscough

Rating: 15
Release Date: 6th August, 2012 (UK&Ireland)
Director: David Foenkinos, Stéphane Foenkinos
Cast: Audrey Tautou, François Damiens and Bruno Todeschini

Fancy winning this film on DVD? We have 5 copies of the film up for grabs at The People's Movies, enter here!

30 July 2012

The Land That Time Forgot DVD Review

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The Land That Time Forgot (TLTTF) is a movie I wish I had seen 14 years ago.

It is my belief that the dinosaur phase is an essential part of the lifecycle of the human male. All boys need a point in their life where dinosaurs are not just cool, but the be all and end all of existence. If you have not at one point run around a playground, pretending to jump on your prey and stab them with your giant sickle-clawed feet, well you have missed out. It’s awesome.

And the kid who did that would have gone mad for TLTTF.

TLTTF takes place in the year 1915 and begins (brilliantly enough) with the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U-Boat. There are few survivors: amongst the passengers only Bowen Tyler (Doug McClure) and Lisa Clayton (Susan Penhaligon) escape death. They soon rendezvous with the remnants of the crew, led by Captain Bradley (Keith Barron). When the U-Boat surfaces to take on air, these few lead an assault on it, and manage to commandeer it. Unfortunately, the chaos caused by a battle of wits with the German Captain Von Schoenvorts (John McEnery), casts them adrift. But then they make a momentous discovery: Caprona, a mysterious continent dismissed by the world at large as a myth.

And that’s enough chatter. Back to the dinosaurs.

I have yet to decide whether the special effects of TLTTF are brilliantly awful, or just awful, but they are definitely the most distinctive thing about the film. Static model pterodactyls on strings let the side down and Tyler’s fight against a plesiosaur descends into insane self-parody, when the actor starts fighting what seems to be a sock puppet with teeth. However these are the low points: most of the actual models aren’t necessarily great, but they aren’t bad either.

Honestly, I would take iffy practical effects over bad CGI anyday. See, in theatre, props are often used to represent reality, rather than mimic it. We recognise what is being represented, and in response, our minds fill in the realism. I believe I had a similar response to TLTTF’s practical effects. The upshot is that, even though the effects of TLTTF are dodgy even at their best, I still found suspension of disbelief possible, and so remained engaged.

In fact, I found the whole film quite engaging. Edgar Rice Burroughs (on whose source material the film is based) knows how to write a ripping yarn, and the film expertly captures that pre-War/age of exploration sensibility. It’s all about honourable men being all chivalrous and whatnot, struggling manfully to survive in an alien land, while behaving in an (admittedly) uncomfortably imperialist manner. The whole scenario has this optimistic self-confidence to it, sweeping you up in its willingness to explore, understand and tackle this wilderness head on by Jove!

It helps of course that the main characters are likeable. Both Tyler and Von Schoenvorts are chivalrous men, principled without being fanatics. Tyler is also a caring fellow: he is violent when he has to be, but his dislike of violence is plain to see. McClure proves very capable in playing such a straightforwardly good man. McEnery too gives a good showing, crafting a surface of military discipline, which on occasion recedes, to reveal a companionable knight with an inquiring mind.

The action is also well done. Though the spectacle of the dinosaurs is, as mentioned, not without its flaws, the occasional man-on-man brawls are executed with energy, though not much style. Better are the sequences shot from within the submarine, where the unsure lighting and cramped conditions helps to manufacture some truly nailbiting tension.

The film is not flawless. None of the supporting cast gets anywhere near the development of Tyler and Von Schoenvorts, which is particularly problematic in the case of Clayton. She basically becomes the love interest, by virtue of being the only woman in the film. Though the scientific mystery of the island is solved, the idea is not particularly well explored, and the simplicity of the narrative prevents it from having true dramatic impact. But the film is nonetheless enjoyable. And frankly, young me probably wouldn’t have cared much about any of those things. TLTTF is a solid story, with dinosaurs. That’s all he would have needed to hear.

Adam Brodie

UK DVD Release: 30th July 2012
Directed by: Kevin Connor
Cast: Doug McClure, John McEnery , Susan Penhaligon
Buy:The Land That Time Forgot On DVD [1975]

26 July 2012

Searching For Sugar Man Review

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Music documentaries are a curious sub-genre often set aside for obsessive completist fans and celebrity voyeurs but in recent years they’ve been going undergoing something of a renaissance. Big name film-makers have made big biographical pictures about world renowned stars with Scorsese adding George Harrison to his list of subjects as well as fans of Bob Marley and Paul Simon rushing to their nearest multiplex. There have also been films about lesser known artists whose stories are remarkable enough to hold our attention; DIG told the story of the rivalry and escalating violence between Portland’s Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre while The Devil and Daniel Johnson focussed on the distinctive artist’s battle with mental illness and rise to prominent cult success.

It is this second group into which Searching for Sugar Man firmly falls, coming from first time feature Director Malik Bendjelloul and featuring as it’s protagonist a true unknown, it tells a story that is unlikely to be repeated.

The Sugar Man is Rodriguez – a Hispanic singer/ songwriter hailing from Detroit who recorded two LP’s in the early 70’s that swiftly sank without a trace. Leading the search is Steve Segerman, a record store owner, Rodriguez fanatic and resident of South Africa. To understand how and why it is this record store owner a continent away feels so strongly about this forgotten artist he feels compelled to lead the search we must travel back to the recording of those two albums. And travel back we do, talking heads from all involved in the recording of Cold Fact and Coming From Reality regale tales of Rodriguez’s discovery, the belief they had in the album, their utter conviction that it would make Sixto Rodriguez as big a musician as anyone around. The producers involved were already making records for the likes of Marvyn Gaye and Stevie Wonder and yet they go on record to say that is was Cold Fact that they see as their masterpiece. All pretty strong stuff, rose tinted nostalgia perhaps? As it turns out, their belief was completely merited. The music of Rodriguez is fully deserving of the praise heaped upon it yet the excessive proclamations by some speaking (one is on the verge of tears) seems a little trite knowing the fate of their musical genius. They are right about the music though – a cross between a number of important sounds of the era with elements of Bob Dylan Cat Stevens - that make it an even greater surprise that he failed to sell at all in America. This however is far from being the only surprise in the life of Rodriguez, one that makes for a gripping documentary.

Against all odds and circumstance, a copy of his first LP Cold Fact winds up in Apartheid South Africa where his songs of struggle and liberty instantly strike a chord with the liberal anti-apartheid movement soon becoming the biggest album of it’s day. It makes Rodriguez a nationwide star bigger than Elvis and the Rolling Stones with its lead track Sugar Man a bone fide hit and lending itself not only to the title but the nickname of our guide through the story Steve ‘Sugarman’ Segerman. He, like many others in the country knew nothing more of Rodriguez than the information they had on the record – a picture and three possible names (as well as Rodriguez he was credited under Jesus Rodriguez and Sixto Rodriguez). The cultural boycott imposed on their segregated nation meant it was difficult to receive any information about new overseas acts and, little-known to them, the rest of the world hadn’t taken to Rodriguez in equally overwhelming fashion meaning there was little information to be found on their elusive hero.

The tongues of Capetown’s muso’s started to wag and what the ears heard made for gruesome listening. Urban legends started to emerge, ranging from a grizzly onstage suicide to a drug overdose but all with the same outcome – Rodriguez was dead. Decades pass, South Africa becomes a liberated nation and yet still Steve Segerman can find nothing to satisfy his unanswered questions about Rodriguez – the labels have long since shut down and not having remained in the music world for long little was known about him after those recordings. He enlists a fellow enthusiast and music detective Craig Bartholemew and the two set about tracing down a conclusive answer to the mystery surrounding Sixto’s disappearance.

What they discovered on their journey makes Bendjelloul’s film one of the most surprising and incredibly positive stories of the year, one that we are unlikely to see happen again. Bendjelloul comes from a background making 30 minute TV documentaries in his native Sweden but his step up to feature length films is seamless. There’s a cinematic quality to a number of scenes that belies the young Swede’s relative newcomer status to the medium. With the narrative he creates he becomes almost like a magician saving each reveal for maximum effect that enables you to enjoy this film regardless if you know the story or not, that said coming to this film with no knowledge at all is surely the most rewarding.

On top of an incredibly well crafted film is the music and life of Rodriguez himself – a man who was discovered with his back to the audience, establishing almost instantly the heir of mystique that carries through his life while simultaneously distancing himself from the rest of the world. This remarkable film and the strength of Rodriguez’s music will surely serve to ensure that distance doesn’t remain as big.

Matthew Walsh

UK Rating: 15
Release Date: 26 July 2012
Directed by: Malik Bendjelloul
Cast: Rodriguez

25 July 2012

Searching For Sugar Man Interview - Malik Bendjelloul

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There’s an engaging enthusiasm about Malik Bendjelloul that seems so apparent that it almost comes as a bit of a surprise to hear something negative from him, “I don’t really like music documentaries.” It’s even more curious considering the young Swede is the Director behind the music documentary of the year. The Mediterranean looking Scandinavian sees himself primarily as a storyteller and it was the strength of the story at the centre of his debut feature Searching for Sugar Man that took him from obscurity to being the toast of Sundance where his film picked up two awards and became the first film bought at the festival. He may even have resurrected the career of a forgotten great of 70’s rock in the process.

Rodriguez is the greatest rock icon you’ve never heard and the subject of Malik Bendjelloul’s film. Far from being a bloated tale of the success and excess of an established household name squeezing the last drops of ‘unseen footage’ out of a tired story and onto a fanboy audience, the secrecy that surrounds Rodriguez is the films appeal and the feature would never have come to light had Bendjelloul not chanced on an incredible story while in South Africa. “I had spent six months travelling around Africa looking for a story.” He explains, “Then I heard this one and it was like, wow! That’s the best story I’ve ever heard!”

Told to him by a record store owner and Rodriguez enthusiast Stephen Segerman, he heard the remarkable story of the enigmatic musician – a Detroit resident where he worked as a labourer in construction. Discovered by well established producers (at the time working with the likes of Marvyn Gaye and Stevie Wonder) Rodriguez recorded and released two albums, Cold fact in 1970 and Coming From Reality the following year. Those involved in the process were convinced of its brilliance, believing Cold Fact to be the masterpiece of their collective careers. Big things were promised to Rodriguez but none were to materialise and he soon sank without a trace, selling little to nothing in America. Nothing remarkable there – for every band that makes it there’s a thousand cutting their losses playing weddings and pubs across the world - but it’s the second stage of this mythical career where things take a turn for the sensational.

Somehow a bootleg copy of Cold Fact found its way to Apartheid-era South Africa, laying roots for unprecedented success ensuring Rodriguez became bigger than the likes of Elvis Pressley and The Rolling Stones. Due to the cultural boycott on South Africa and their cocooned lifestyle in their cut-off country, little was known of Rodriguez and reports of a grotesque onstage suicide began to emerge, “He was as dead and as famous as Jimi Hendrix” as Bendjelloul puts it. Segerman and fellow muso Craig Bartholomew set out to discover more about their elusive, much loved and presumed dead hero and hearing their tale, the storyteller instinct in Malik Bendjelloul knew he had his film. “If you have a wonderful story, people are happy to hear it. The more times your jaw drops when you hear a story the better it is this one my jaw was dropping all the time.”

Leaving South Africa enthralled and determined to start making what was initially to be a half hour TV documentary to be shown in his native Sweden, Bendjelloul became hesitant about listening to Rodriguez “It couldn’t possibly live up to my love for the story but I listened and it was great, some of the most beautiful songs ever to be on record I think. The superlatives work.” And in South Africa especially, there are certainly superlatives abound when it comes to Rodriguez. “He is considered better and as popular as Dylan and The Doors, these are rock Gods, he is not just a popular guy, no, and he is the one.”

It was after hearing the records that the Bendjelluol too became convinced and knew he had enough to transform the 30 minute TV piece into his first feature length film, succeeding in unearthing a musical great.

Rodriguez’s music sounds so encased in the time, so much like other important voices of the time that his disappearance into obscurity becomes hard to comprehend. “That is the real mystery” agrees Bendjelloul, “it isn’t why is he big in South Africa but why isn’t he big in America.”

His film touches on the parallels in these cross-continent countries that acted in opposite ways to determine Rodriguez’s career trajectory. Unknown too many outside the bubble of Apartheid South Africa, there was a strong white liberal counter-movement that opposed the divided regime and this is where Rodriguez’s songs of struggle first found an audience.

Rodriguez sang ‘the system’s gonna fall soon to an angry young tune’ almost aiming at musicians saying ‘you can do stuff about this’ and they did – the first movement was white guys picking up guitars and singing songs against Apartheid and they all said Rodriguez was the guide for that so he was kind of changing a country without even knowing where he was aiming!

America too was undergoing a Civil Rights movement but here in his native country, Rodriguez was unable to find an audience and while mainstream America had found room for white and black artists it still struggled to accept any blurred lines. “If you had a Mexican name like Rodriguez you should be doing Mexican music, mariachi or something. He was seriously challenging the white rock scene and at that time in the US that was a road you weren’t allowed to go down.” His Latino name was unlikely to break into mainstream commercial radio in America and crucially that determined his US fate. It’s a fate that Bendjelloul is understandably optimistic will be viewed far differently now, “Hopefully the music is going to be re-evaluated and becomes something that people know of, one of those stories that everybody knows of because it’s one of the great artists of the 70’s, he really is. He’s never played to more than 300 people in the U.S now he’s going to be a legend there”. And as proof, if needed, he adds “he’s playing Letterman next week!”.

Perhaps there are similar redemptive qualities to Bendjelloul own story making this film. Turned away from all financiers he had to go it alone, working for 5 years on an all consuming debut film. “I never got a cent so all these things – original score, animation, editing – I did on my kitchen table. I wanted to, otherwise it’d never be finished. All the funding dropped out, it was a mess, it was horrible. I fought for 4 years to make this the way I wanted it.” When he finally received help from Man on Wire producers Simon Chinn and John Battsek, it was his D.I.Y process that surprisingly they were keen to keep with the majority coming from circumstance “the idea was to have a lot of that (animation and landscape shots) since he wasn’t famous so there was no footage and his family didn’t have a video camera there was nothing really to start with.”

Far from being bruised by the exhaustive process, Bendjelloul remains characteristically upbeat and adamant that should be as little studio collaboration as possible to truly tell your story, “It is nice to have friends and be able to talk to someone, maybe I should but there’s something very nice about it on your own, you have your kitchen table and you do the whole thing and you do it your way, everything you want. Also that’s why you do a film, otherwise you can work somewhere for someone and get a salary but this way you don’t get any money or anything but what you do get is the feeling that this is your baby.”

So can B too claim a small victory against the bigger industry giant? “Yeah it’s fantastic, it’s insane. There are so many people opposed to you who almost try and make it not happen and now it’s opening in over 100 cities in the US and sold in 25 countries.” After such staggering success it’s not surprising that the idea of travelling the world once more for another story sounds appealing “Maybe I will, it’s a very pleasurable way of research.” As it turns out, it’s also an incredibly effective one.

Searching For The Sugar Man will be released in UK&Ireland by Studio Canal July 26th.

Matthew Walsh

6 July 2012


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Recently just opened to a limited release (today more general release) in USA is Sarah Polley's TAKE THIS WALTZ starring Michelle Williams,Seth Rogen. Thanks to Studio Canal the film will get a cinema run in UK&Ireland and this afternoon we received the film's UK trailer and official poster.

Take This Waltz tells the story of a young couple (Williams & Rogen) Margot & Lou who struggle with monogamy and fidelity with Margot torn apart as he has to choose from a new mystery man. Luke Kirby plays that mystery man with Sarah Silverman (showing off her acting chops for a change)  and Aaron Abrams making up the rest of the cast.

The film debuted at last years Toronto Film Festival drawing some excellent reviews and at times it was one of those films that I was curious about but couldn't why I was attracted to it. Possibly it's the indie Lost In Translation feel to it that did it for as that's one of my favourite films or it's not blockbuster comic book film so you do feel a little bit grounded giving the brain time to recoup.

Check out the UK trailer and poster (in the traditional UK quad style) for TAKE THIS WALTZ and give your brain some  comicbook blockbuster rest with a charming little bittersweet summer tale on August 17th.

From Sarah Polley, the director of the Sundance award-winning AWAY FROM HER, comes this summer's must-see romantic drama TAKE THIS WALTZ (in cinemas August 17th) . A funny, powerful and beautifully bittersweet story that follows Margot (Michelle Williams BLUE VALENTINE, MY WEEK WITH MARILYN), as she struggles to choose between two different types of love. As her mind and heart battle against each other, and caught in the swealtering heat of a hot Toronto summer, Margot uncovers and ignites a side to herself that she never knew existed. TAKE THIS WALTZ also features standout performances from Seth Rogen (50/50, SUPERBAD), Sarah Silverman (SCHOOL OF ROCK) and Luke Kirby (SHATTERED GLASS).

28 June 2012

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie DVD Review

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Cruelty is fun to watch.

X Factor. Eurovision. TOWIE. Britain’s Got Talent. Come Dine With Me. Take Me Out. All are popular shows built around one of two expectations. Firstly, that people really enjoy mocking idiots (even if said idiocy is completely staged), and, secondly, that people get a kick from watching other people bitch. These shows expect people to both enjoy being mean, and vicariously relish the meanness of others.

Well, going by the popularity of these programmes, it seems that that expectation holds up. Considered objectively, this is a fairly unpleasant state of affairs. Indeed, on occasion I feel I should have a problem with it. But then I remember how much I adore both taking the piss out of people and bitching in general: I can recall many conversations that would be the poorer without them. And being mean about people is not just fun. On occasion it even has value. Case in point: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie.

This film by writer/director Luis Bunuel is truly venomous, though at first it hides it well. Watching Discreet Charm is an experience akin to having a waking dream. Within the film the lines between reality, fiction and imaginings are blurred and shifting, giving all scenes the weight of reality and a lulling dreamy haze. It is paced like a dream too, flowing inexorably yet smooth as silk, unbroken by the constant shifts from location to location, and from reality to fantasy. This style makes for a gentle rather than angry film. But once you peek beneath the surface, the central antipathy of Discreet Charm shines clear as day.

Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is a film about slagging off the upper middle classes. And it does so maliciously, gleefully and repeatedly.

The characters of DCB exemplify the film’s hidden venom. On the face of it they don’t seem particularly bad people: a close-knit group of wealthy friends, chatty and companionable. Sure, they dabble in illegal drug trafficking, but drug abuse carries about as much negative stigma on the big screen as killing zombies. On the whole they seem perfectly pleasant.

That is, until they reveal themselves as a band of horrifically snobby hypocrites and poseurs. Thevenot (Paul Frankeur) invites a chauffeur for a drink, just so the group can mock the way he drinks a dry martini. Though they may deal drugs, they declare a hatred for drug addicts and look down their noses at a cavalry commander’s use of marijuana. Don Rafael Acosta (Fernando Rey) claims to have liberal sympathies, in the same breath as stating no amount of education could elevate the lower classes. When the working Bishop, Monseigneur Dufour (Julien Bertheau), appears before Henri and Alice Senechal (Jean-Pierre Cassel & Stephane Audran) in the clothes of a gardener, they refuse to believe he is who he claims to be and roughly eject him from the house. He has to change back into his formal regalia before they show him respect.

Meanwhile, the refined appearance and behaviour of these characters is shown to be merely skin deep. Bunuel looks beneath their crisp, fashionable clothing and boasted culinary knowledge, and brings to light sensual gluttons. These bourgeois pursue physical pleasure compulsively. The Senechals’ inability to restrain their lust causes to the collapse of their dinner party. Acosta, in a room filled with gun-toting revolutionaries desperate to slaughter him, cannot help himself from breaking out of hiding: he just has to finish his lamb chop.

But it is not just the characters that are bedevilled by Bunuel’s nastiness. The whole structure of the film is a statement about how aimless the lives of these people are. The scale of the bourgeoisie’s devotion to physical pleasure is demonstrated by the film’s ‘plot’ concerning their constantly frustrated attempts to have dinner. The goal of their onscreen lives is to eat. The meaninglessness of their lives is further emphasised by a recurring visual metaphor. The bourgeois are walking down a country road, their gait swift and purposeful. Yet there is nothing on the horizon, and nothing but empty fields stretching all around them. The bourgeois, despite appearances, are heading precisely nowhere.

All this makes The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie a comprehensive mockery of the 20th century’s upper classes. It has no interest in balanced assessment, and is ruthless in its attack. It is a cold-bloodedly cruel film. But just because it is cruel, does not mean that its cruelty is gratuitous. The attack is justified because it is an attack on pretentions. Bunuel’s bourgeoisie are thoroughly disrespected, because they expect respect without first earning it. This film attacks that sense of superiority: its barbs aim to tear apart this façade of higher civility. In doing so it aims to keep this new nobility down to earth. In the midst of their social and economic triumph, Discreet Charm is the slave whispering in the bourgeousie’s collective ear:

“Remember: you are arseholes”

Adam Brodie

UK Re-release Date: 29th June 2012 (Cinema) 16th July 2012 (DVD)
Directed by:Luis Buñuel
Cast: Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Jean-Pierre Cassel
Buy/Pre-Order: Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie On DVD or on Blu-ray

Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie - 40th Anniversary Reissue Published via

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18 June 2012

A Bronx Tale Blu-Ray Review

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A Bronx Tale was Robert De Niro’s directorial debut in 1993. After years of legendary collaborations with Martin Scorsese he finally decided to direct a film and what a very fine film it is. The film came out during a strange time it was post-Goodfellas but sort of pre-Tarantino which is a time when were a quite a few interesting crime films like King of New York, Millers’ Crossing and Menace II Society. A Bronx Tale takes a much old fashion approach.

The story is set in the early 60s and concerns young Italian boy Calogero Anello (Francis Capra) who witnesses a murder committed by local mob boss Sonny (Chazz Palminteri). Sonny eventually offers him a job throwing dice and working in his bar but his father Lorenzo eventually finds out. He returns the money to Sonny and forbids him working for him again.

The film fast-forwards 8 years and Calogero (Now played by Lillo Brancato Jr.) has been working for Sonny without his father’s knowledge. Calogero becomes a member of local gang much to the disapproval of his father. Calogero meets an African-American girl Jade (Taral Hicks) and they decide to go out despite the racism in the area between Italian and African-Americans. The rest of the film deals with the race relations betweens Blacks and Italians and his relationship with Sonny and his father.

The film obviously has been compared to Goodfellas but it’s a much tender and sweeter film and everything works out in the end for the best. The film however is just a fine good telling of an age old story of a boy who gets mixed up with the wrong people and what happens.

All of the cast is really great. It features extremely subtle performance by De Niro as Calogero’s jazz loving bus driving father. It’s very affective scene with him and Sonny discussing the time Sonny offered him a job but he turned it down on moral grounds. It’s also just an extremely well crafted film which is hard to do.

Overall the film is one to cherish and watch every once in a while. It’s also the best thing De Niro has directed.

Ian Schultz

UK Blu-Ray Release Date:18th June 2012
Directed By: Robert De Niro
Cast: Robert De Niro, Chazz Palminteri, Joe Pesci,
Buy A Bronx Tale On Blu-ray

A Bronx Tale - Official® Trailer [HD] Published via