‘The Great Buster’

A homage to one of the great stars of the Silent era – Buster Keaton – as celebrated by director Peter Bogdanovich (The Last Picture Show, Mask), himself a former renowned critic and film historian.

It’s a glorious entertainment of restored material and interviews from Tarantino to Herzog, Mel Brooks to Johnny Knoxville as the importance of Keaton as actor, producer, comedian is discussed and highlighted. And while Bogdanovich as narrator can occasionally over egg the pudding with film critic commentary on a sight gag that needs no words, The Great Buster dishes out a plethora of delight, from the classic The General to lesser known shorts.

But, in spite of all the slapstick highlights (the stunts of which he did himself), what lets Bogdanovich’s film down is that it’s more concerned with anecdotes and often apocryphal tales more than it is with details of Keaton’s life. Whilst it provides the key events from birth to death, somehow little is learned of Keaton the man.

Rating: 66%

‘Quo Vadis, Aida’

Harrowing and brutal, the UN camp in Srebrenica with its thousands of terrified townsfolk is threatened by the invading Bosnian Serb army under the barbarous General Ratko Mladic (Boris Isakovic – Last Christmas, Circles).

As interpreter, Aida Selmanagic (Jasna Djuricic – White White World, Circles) is the go-between for the Dutch UN troops and locals. As she translates information between the peacekeepers and the Serbs, among the rising chaos and panic Aida desperately looks to keep her husband and two sons safe as the Serbian troops evacuate the camp. The Dutch can only look on, powerless to intervene.

The worst episode of mass murder within Europe since World War II, some 8,000 Muslim males were murdered in Srebrenica and 20,000 women and girls forcibly evacuated out of the area by Mladic. Director Jasmila Zbanic (Grbavica, Na putu), through the fictional Selmanagic family, personalises the telling of the tragedy, resulting in an immediacy that is shocking and deeply felt.

Nominated for best foreign language Oscar in 2021.

Rating: 79%


A brave and challenging subject as a psychiatrist protects her patient as he tries to recover his memory, increasingly convinced he is guilty of murder.

The new head of the Green Manors clinic Gregory Peck (To Kill a Mockingbird, Cape Fear) is not all he appears to be, much to the consternation of in-house psychiatrist Dr Constance Petersen (Ingrid Bergman – Casablanca, Autumn Sonata). Romance between the two blossoms, but things are not quite right, forcing them to retrace his movements as nightmares and random moments of recall affect his behaviour.

Psychoanalytic exploration intertwined with suspense from Alfred Hitchcock as Peck and Bergman hit the road in order to find out exactly what happened at the ski resort. As Peck’s dreams (designed by Salvador Dali) become increasingly bizarre and symbolic so Petersen and her mentor, Dr Brulov (Michael Chekov – Rhapsody, Invitation) beging to understand the unfolding chain of events.

Plenty of twists for fans of suspense but ultimately Spellbound becomes a little too academic and theory based as dreams are deconstructed and behaviour analysed.

Nominated for 6 Oscars in 1946 including best film, director, supporting actor – won 1 for best score (Miklós Rózsa).

Rating: 62%

‘Argentina 1985’

With the return to democracy after years of military dictatorship, the Argentinian civilian government prosecute the leadership for crimes against humanity.

A dour but enthralling procedural telling of the race against time as Chief Prosecutor Julio Strassera (Ricardo Darin – The Secret in Their Eyes, Truman) struggles to find an experienced legal team prepared to work against the former junta. Looking to younger, junior members of the legal profession and supported by Deputy Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo (Peter Lanzani – The Clan, The Unseen), Strassera documents extensive evidence to obtain justice for the hundreds of thousands ‘disappeared’ during the dictatorship.

Directed by Santiago Mitre (Paulina, The Summit), Argentina 1985 is engrossing, nuanced and avoids overly dramatically opportunistic moments in spite of death threats, car bombs and the like to spice up the story. The result is a respectful, no bells and whistles unfolding of the true story.

Nominated for the 2023 Oscar for best foreign language film.

Rating: 69%

‘To Catch a Thief’

A slick and stylish comedy thriller from Alfred Hitchcock as a retired jewel thief must prove his innocence following a spate of thefts on the French Riviera.

Living comfortably in the Riviera hinterland, John Robie (Cary Grant – North By Northwest, Houseboat) suddenly finds himself chief suspect when the luxurious hotel rooms of Nice are targets for a jewel thief. Staying one step ahead of the local police, Robie contacts his former acquaintances headed by restaurant-owner Bertani (Charles Vanel – The Wages of Fear, Le feu aux poudres) in an attempt to identify the real culprit. By chance, he falls into the thrall of wealthy American widow, Jessie Stevens (the splendid, straight-talking Jessie Royce Landis – North By Northwest, Airport) and her wily daughter, Frances (Grace Kelly – Rear Window, The Swan).

There’s no intense psychological game-playing from Hitchcock (The Birds, Rear Window) as the banter and witty repartee flows fast and freely in this light, entertaining comedy thriller.

Nominated for 3 Oscars in 1956 – art direction, costume design – won 1 for cinematography (Robert Burks – Vertigo, The Music Man)

Rating: 80%

‘Wild Strawberries’

Richly and poignantly observed, Wild Strawberries is a coming-of-age slow burn as the widowed professor reflects upon an emotionally austere life.

A cold demeanour has seen Dr. Eberhard Isak Borg (Victor Sjöström – To Joy, Order) isolated from the world around him with only his housekeeper Agda (Jullan Kindahl – Smiles of a Summer Night, Bröllopsdagen) for company. But on being offered a honorary degree in his home town of Lund, a decision to drive rather than fly results in nostalgic reflection, helped by his travelling companion, daughter-in-law Marianne (Ingrid Thulin – Cries and Whispers, The Cassandra Crossing) and three hitchhikers they pick up on the way.

Writer/director Ingmar Bergman’s (Fanny & Alexander, Face to Face) nostalgic road trip with memory of missed love and a recurring dream with deeply disturbing surrealist imagery is earnest in its explorations yet engrossingly compelling.

Nominated for best original screenplay Oscar in 1960.


‘Pin Cushion’

Quirky yet ultimately tragic mother/daughter debut feature from writer/director Deborah Haywood, Pin Cushion is a bleak tale of bullying and social acceptance as mother and daughter struggle to start a new life in a small town.

A hybrid of grim social realism and sugar candied fantasy, the quiet, nuanced narrative sees the pair surviving on the margins. A club-footed Lyn (a superb Joanna Scanlan – After Love, The Girl With the Pearl Earring), herself ostracised by neighbours and community centre members, can only watch as daughter Iona (newcomer Lily Newmark) seemingly fits in with the trend-setting trio of girls at school. But, in a tale redolent of Mean Girls, she is but a lamb to the slaughter as the likes of Keeley move to keep the newcomer in her place.

Understated yet intense, Pin Cushion is a beautifully crafted short feature (80 minutes) with convincingly real performances from its small cast.

Rating: 74%

‘Corpus Christi’

Powerful and compelling with a tour-de-force central performance, Corpus Christi is a disquietingly emotive journey of one man’s spiritual transformation and its impact on his immediate surrounds.

Finding God in juvenile detention, the heavy smoking, tattoed Daniel (Bartosz Bielenia – Prime Time, 25 Years of Innocence) leaves Warsaw for deadend work in a sawmill: his prison record prevents entry to train for the priesthood. But in a quiet regional village, the opportunity arises for the young ‘Father Tomasz’ to heal destructive divisions within the community. Unaware of his background, the townsfolk eventually succumb to the straight-talking youth as he overcomes self doubt and personal regret.

Directed by Jan Komasa (Suicide Room, Warsaw ’44), Corpus Christi is confronting in its exploration of faith yet its assured storytelling results in an accessible and deeply relatable narrative of redemption and atonement for both Daniel and the congregation.

Nominated for the 2020 best foreign language film Oscar.

Rating: 84%

‘The Look of Silence’

An extraordinarily confronting documentary, director Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing) continues his exploration of the 1965 Indonesian massacres and those responsible.

In a bold mise-en-scène, through optometrist Avi who lost a brother, murdered in the culling of ‘communists’, Oppenheimer interviews numerous men who ordered or carried out the mass killings. As Avi attempts to find out how a brother he never knew died, so current politicians and men of responsibility justify their actions. More than a million people were murdered: along with jokes, not one ounce of remorse or regret is present in the interviews.

As the horrors of reality and the acts of men are unveiled, a quietly restrained Avi gently probes and questions, looking for a flicker, a momentary realisation to no avail. Pauses, silences, reflection maybe but no regret – even to the brother of a murdered victim.

Nominated for the 2016 best documentary Oscar.

Rating: 63%

‘One More Time With Feeling’

Poignant and devastatingly honest, One More Time With Feeling is a deeply personal documentary of a studio-bound Nick Cave recording the album Skeleton Tree just months after the tragic accident that killed his teenage son, Arthur.

Filmed in auspicious black and white, the camera tracks Cave and his fellow musicians in the starkness of the studio, an affect heightened by rumination by Cave and snapshots of family life filmed in their all-white painted Brighton home. With many of the featured songs rewritten after Arthur’s death and exploring themes of death, loss and personal grief, director Andrew Dominik (Blonde, Killing Them Softly) captures intimate moments through Cave’s plaintiff vocals.

With its underlying sadness, One More Time With Feeling is an emotional journey that is both controlled and magisterial, mirrored by both Cave and his wife, Susie in those private moments captured away from the studio.

Rating: 74%