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Feature Screengem

Screengem: Maureen’s Mobile Phone in Personal Shopper (Olivier Assayas, 2016)

Nothing can distract from the audience’s cinema experience more than a mobile phone. But in his exquisitely enigmatic, always intelligent and creepy-as-hell Personal Shopper, Olivier Assayas uses this most modern of blank tablets, this smallest of small screens, to ramp up the tension within the big screen – bit by bit, message by message. Kristen […]

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Feature Four Frames

Four Frames: Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)

Music, like dreams, can linger in your head in bits and pieces. A snatch of a driving riff from here, a half-remembered lyric from there, a fast, crazy guitar solo from who knows what. Then, in a spark of revelation, it becomes apparent all the elements come from the same song (when this happened to […]

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Feature Four Frames

Four Frames: The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)

Proverbs 3:31: “Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.” To die for a righteous cause is one thing, but to die just for the hell of it is another. To somehow do both at the same time is pure Sam Peckinpah. The life and film-making of Bloody Sam are full of […]

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New Release Reviews

New Release: Manchester by the Sea

The always watchable Casey Affleck has already picked up a Golden Globe, with an Oscar likely to follow, for his fine work in writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s expertly textured, evocatively slow-burning Manchester By The Sea. Affleck plays Boston janitor Lee Chandler, who returns to his titular Massachusetts hometown after the death of his brother and finds […]

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Feature Screengem

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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Feature 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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Feature Screengem

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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Feature Screengem

Screengem: 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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Feature Screengem

Screengem: 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 […]