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Features Screengems

Screengem: Frank’s Cut-and-Paste Collage in Thief (Michael Mann, 1981)

Premier US film-maker Michael Mann paints pictures on an epic scale and delivers major set-pieces without losing sight of the very human dramas at the heart of his story. His first feature, Thief (1981), recruited James Caan as safecracker Frank – a state-raised kid who spent much of his teenage years and young adulthood in prison. Frank […]

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Features Four Frames

Four Frames: The Longest Yard (1974)

There’s something very 1960s and ‘70s about split screen. Brian De Palma loves it, but it’s been criminally underused of late. When it works well, the audience sees and knows much more. Ideas, by their very nature, are multi-faceted. Robert Aldrich’s American football drama The Longest Yard splits the screen, and splits opinion. Macho bullshit, […]

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Features Screengems

Screengem: The Suspended Water Drop in Blood Simple

“Drip, drip, drip, drip … I shouldn’t laugh but I know I’m a failure in your eyes …” So sing mad Ayrshire rockers Biffy (f*****!) Clyro in their melancholic Black Chandelier, a dark song about light and shades. The celebrated Coen brothers’ much-darker-than-light first feature, Blood Simple (1984), ends with a character lying dying, gutshot […]

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Features Screengems

Screengems: George Smiley’s spectacles in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson, 2011)

When Daniel Craig strode out of the surf wearing those blue swimming trunks and announced himself to the world as the new James Bond, Martin Campbell’s Casino Royale (2006) became an instant hit. With Gary Oldman’s first appearance in his heavy, horn-rimmed spectacles in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, the visual appeal is more muted but, […]

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Features Screengems

Screengems: Rooster Cogburn’s Colt Navy Sixes in True Grit (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2010)

There is surely something of the War on Terror in the Coen brothers’ big screen version of the 1968 Charles Portis novel, True Grit. This enduring Western tale – already filmed, with John Wayne as US Marshal Reuben “Rooster” Cogburn, in 1969 – follows a manhunt in late 19th Century Arkansas and Oklahoma, a quest […]

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Screengems

Screengem: Willie’s Beret in Steamboat Bill, Jr. (1928)

First impressions count, and William Canfield is about to be disappointed. Beset by the empire-building intentions of a rival Mississippi paddle steamer boss, Canfield – known as Steamboat Bill – receives a telegram telling of the impending arrival of his son, Willie (Buster Keaton). It will be the first time Canfield has seen his offspring […]