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Features Screengems

Screengem: The Caged Bird in Le Samouraï (Jean-Pierre Melville, 1967)

Part of the charm of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samouraï comes from the subtle tongue-in-cheek alliterations to genre and character conventions developed in early and mid-century American gangster and noir films. Mannerisms and posturing from James Cagney, Edward G.Robinson, and Humphrey Bogart make their way into Alain Delon’s hard-edged portrayal of Jef Costello, professional assassin. In […]

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Screengem: Samantha Belmont’s Cheerleader Outfit from ‘Night of the Comet’ (Thom Eberhart, 1984)

This post apocalyptic slice of ‘80s camp about a comet that wipes out life on Earth save for a few lone survivors was released at a time when it seemed fashionable to locate films in decaying Los Angeles landscapes. Although it was a time of shopping malls, MTV and the city’s second Olympic games, Los […]

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Screengem: The Human Mask in Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)

As dense and uncategorisable as Ingmar Bergman’s Persona (1966) is, the filmmaker’s career-spanning fascination with the human face remains abundantly clear. In one of his most startling images, he combines his female lead’s facial features to demonstrate how one’s identity cannot exist in total isolation but is always influenced and moulded by others. Elisabet Vogler […]

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Screengem: The Hidden Note in A Ghost Story (David Lowery, 2017)

(Warning: This article contains plot spoilers) We’re all going to die, and one day long into the future, every trace and memory of our existence will be lost forever. This inevitable (and rather depressing) truth is one of the key themes at the heart of David Lowery’s film, which follows a recently deceased man – […]

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Screengem: The Plaster People in After Hours (Martin Scorsese, 1985)

At the root of Martin Scorsese’s After Hours (1985) is a telling paradox: though the film chronicles a nightmarish, serpentine journey through New York’s Soho neighbourhood, it is ultimately a story of entrapment. The protagonist’s sense of being stuck in a life of routine is symbolised through a recurring, startling prop: plaster sculptures of humans […]

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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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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 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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Screengem: General Mireau’s Sofa in Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957)

The most oft-discussed visual aspect of Stanley Kubrick’s morally exasperating anti-war polemic Paths Of Glory is the stunning camerawork that accompanies the early sequences in the beleaguered French army trenches. However, one of the most memorable and infuriating moments surrounds the deployment of a piece of furniture. Following the inevitable failure of the suicide mission […]