• Cyclo



    Cyclo is a despairing gangster film, one told through the perspective of poverty and desperation. It is powerfully done, but so very dark. The film is constructed with little dialogue and a sense of ambiguity that leaves most scenes unexplained. Yet this brutal nightmare becomes a violent poem. Cyclo is a film of mood and texture, immersing us in the world of crime that the characters fall into. Young people end up in gangs or forced into prostitution; there's little…

  • Things to Come

    Things to Come


    There's an elegant simplicity to Things to Come which allows it to naturally build a compelling story about the aches of life. It's about ageing and shifting family ties. The lead finds herself confronted by change and yet also finds a new freedom. Her politics become a reflection of her life, where she encourages others to think and have ideas, but she never takes any action herself. Early on we see her refusing to engage with a strike and yet…

  • Shoah



    At a certain point learning about history just reduces people to statistics. Shoah is so vital because it tries to make history be about people again. It is a reminder of how seriously we should treat history. It is an act of historical record, letting survivors and witnesses to the Holocaust speak. Their words are preserved here, and even when interviewed through a translator the translator is not edited out, allowing the original answers to be heard exactly. Shoah is…

  • The Limey

    The Limey


    It is not the story of The Limey which compels, but the cinematic structure it employs. It is basically a revenge tale told in a lean manner, with few threads or diversions. However the film is cut fast, criss-crossing through time with shards of dialogue and sound placed over non-chronological images. Each scene exists in a state of montage, with jumpy edits that flicker between moments. It captures that sense of single-minded purpose, where everything folds in on itself and…

  • Tales from the Hood

    Tales from the Hood


    Hooptober X

    A now-classic horror anthology, Tales from the Hood is a loud and brash collection of disturbing tales. Horror anthologies can be a mixed bag but this is a surprisingly consistent effort. The first and final stories most worked for me, but they're all pretty good. Tales from the Hood is also a socially conscious work, dealing with police brutality, gang warfare, domestic violence, and broader racial issues. It's not always a pleasant film, but then again neither are…

  • The Texas Chainsaw Massacre

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre


    Hooptober X

    The Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake offers very little compared to the original. It is fundamentally pointless. However there is something interesting about the craft here. This isn't trying to recreate the original in a totally faithful way, but build its own horror language from the same premise. It uses murky and drab aesthetics, plus some flowing camerawork, to create something more slick. This is heightened 2000s dramatics rather than 1970s low budget grit. That is both the downfall…

  • Empire of Passion

    Empire of Passion


    Hooptober X

    Empire of Passion is a dark tale of murder and guilt. It is moody and atmospheric, built upon grand production design that emphasises the dark and empty world of its characters. At times it appears as a morality tale, but it is also an examination of social conventions and acceptability. It is a film where assumptions and judgements condemn the characters. Ghosts, dreams, and rumours reveal the crimes, not hard fact. This is a story of overwhelming passion…

  • The Strange World of Coffin Joe

    The Strange World of Coffin Joe


    Hooptober X

    The Strange World of Coffin Joe is a movie dedicated to being shocking. It really does aim for depravity, and it is in the most depraved scenes that it most shines.

    This isn't a film with a single narrative, instead being a three part anthology and Coffin Joe just appearing in an ominous opening. The first two shorts are nothing too special, mostly consisting of tedious setup and only making an impact with their grim finales. The best…

  • Orlando



    Orlando is a beautiful work, a film of history and identity played with a poetry that feels so fresh and modern. It is a film about superficial change, of transformations of surfaces. Yet beneath each change things are still the same. Orlando shows this through the repetition of faces and themes across history, giving us the same recurring world even as the costumes update. It's also about gender and the true self beneath appearances. It is about man as woman…

  • Cursed



    Hooptober X

    I found Cursed to be such a bore, just a sanitised and dull horror flick with no bite. Reading afterwards that it was totally butchered by the studio makes total sense. It feels compromised and toned down. All that is left are a bunch of tropes from other horror films and 2000s pop culture. Cursed is a failed attempt to make a werewolf movie which is hip and modern. It struggles to create any interesting lore or characters.…

  • J'accuse



    Displaying some of the most technologically advanced filmmaking of the 1910s, J'accuse is an incredible work on the horrors of war, literally filmed in the trenches of World War One. Death lingers everywhere in J'accuse, from a deer bleeding on the floor in an early scene to the corpses strewn across the battlefield later on. J'accuse captures the mood of a nation which lost so much, with a pacifist, anti-war sentiment that condemns those who survived - what makes them…

  • The Tree of Wooden Clogs

    The Tree of Wooden Clogs


    The Tree of Wooden Clogs is a study of 19th century Italy, presenting an ordinary rural life and the struggles within such an existence. It takes cues from neorealist cinema, seeking an authentic portrayal of poverty. The local dialect and untrained actors help provide that. This is a work of large scale realism, with an epic runtime and elaborate detail. The film is rather aimless in structure but often focuses on the sacrifices made by parents to ensure a child…