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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: Hidden (Michael Haneke, 2005)

Hidden begins with an immobile long shot of a domestic Paris street. Only the occasional passers-by and cyclists remind us it is not a photograph. “Well?” we hear a voice say. “Nothing,” replies another. The sequence literally fast-forwards, pauses as Georges Laurent (Daniel Auteuil) leaves his home, rewinds and pauses again. We realise that the […]

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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 Thousand Words

Thousand Words: Inner Torments and Social Disease (The Quiet Duel, 1949)

In the long opening sequence of Akira Kurosawa’s The Quiet Duel (Shizukanaru kettō), which takes place in 1944 in one of the Southeast Asian countries occupied by the Japanese, a man in a white coat is talking to another man who, dozing, leans against the wall behind them. The second man, his face hidden behind […]