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La nuit américaine

Clever and interesting
Day for Night is a clever film in that it takes a step back from the cameras and is a film about a film. Whereas the Mousetrap in Hamlet was a relatively minor plot device, in Day for Night, Meet Mabel and its creation is the film. We see Truffaut as a director and actors as actors, with Truffaut's 'character' trying to cope with the troubled production of his film. As with Truffaut's other pictures there is a hint of the autobiographical, with various incidents drawn from his own experience. This film not only works at the two levels, but also on a number of others, and is both interesting drama, as well as being of interest for showing what goes on behind the cameras. A must for all those who want to be in the movies.


A superior thriller
Leon one of a handful of action movies that works at a level beyond that of explosions and big guns. Admittedly it has both of these, and is very violent, but it also has a character all of its own.

Luc Besson blurs the lines of good and evil, and unlike others involved in this genre, actually portrays his 'action hero' as human rather than superhuman. Reno's portrayal of Leon is superb, and is neatly balanced by Gary Oldman's (a bad guy in good guy's shoes). What really makes the movie special is the relationship between Leon and Matilda (Natalie Portman). Slightly reminiscent, and certainly more effective, than that between De Niro and Foster in Taxi Driver, we see a somewhat disfunctional family unit form. It is not often that a film can be said to be exciting and deeply touching.

The film shows that when European and American cinema collide something extra special is created.


An exceptional film about an exceptional man
Gandhi was probably the most deserving Oscar winner of best picture in the 1980's. What really makes this film special is Ben Kingsley. Both the man and the movie required an exceptional performance, and that is what is delivered. All of the major events in India's push for independence are portrayed, though I do think that a greater Indian rather than British interpretation of these events is needed to make this film an all-time classic. A must-see.

Roman Holiday

Audrey Hepburn being sublime
In Roman Holiday Audrey Hepburn is simply fantastic, as is so often the case. The fairytale story, beautiful location, amusing script and fine performances make this a film which gives the audience that very special warm glow that so many try for, but so often fail. One to be watched again and again.

La vita è bella

A superb tragi-comedy
Roberto Benigni's Vita e bella, is in many ways similar to Chaplin's Great Dictator. Both are comic attacks on fascism, but the former's is the more successful. Benigni initially accesses the emotions of his audience through simple comedy, which is a pleasant mix of Keaton and Chaplin. Romance ensues with his real life wife Nicoletta Braschi. The first half of this film has been seen by various critics as being inferior to the second, but this is certainly not the case. In the first section we follow the delightful romance that will eventually lead to marriage and the creation of the wonderful Giosue (Giorgio Cantarini).

It is the first half where the audience can laugh the loudest and delight at the immense comedy talent of Benigni. Unlike so many films nowadays there is nothing crude or course, his is simple innocent humour, which is all the more effective. The way he ties together little strand in the film to create comedy elements shows a great writing ability, and a mastery of timing when it comes to their execution on screen. Various incidents related to the rise of anti-semitism and fascism in Italy show that there are sinister forces at work which come to the fore in the second segment.

Guido (Benigni) moves events on from Tuscany in 1939 to the last year of the war in a concentration camp. In this period he and Dora (Braschi) have had their son Giosue (Cantanarini). The five year old greatly reminds me of Toto in Cinema Paradiso, and plays an equally important role in his prospective film (though in Paradiso's case it is at the beginning of the movie). The relationship between the two is very similar to that of Jackie Coogan and Charlie Chaplin (though Benigni, unlike Chaplin, keeps the best of the comedy moments). Guido attempts to keep from the boy the horrors of what is going on, and this eventually manifests itself as a game where the aim is to score 100 points, with the winner winning a real tank (which, of course appeals to the young boy). Comic moments are still present, that involving Guido's translation of the rules of the camp is particularly notable, but it becomes somewhat more difficult to laugh when we consider the gravity of what is going on.

The emphasis begins shifts, and we realise that this is a film about human spirit above all else. Guido not only appeals to the audience due to his comedy and sheer pleasantness, but also in the way that he loves his family and the measures that he will go to to protect them.

This is certainly no Schindler's List, but it never pretends to be. Occasionally events seem a little contrived, but this does seem to work in the film's favour. However, this film avoids the tendency of Hollywood to go far over the top in emotional and credibility terms.

Benigni shines like a lantern throughout the picture, showing that he is a talent, not only in comedy terms, that far outshines his peers. Cantanari is a delight, and Braschi also plays her part well. There is even an appearance by The Magnificent Seven's Horst Buchholz as Doctor Lessing, a man who events change for the worse.

Please don't let the fact that it, to all but the Italians, is a foreign language film. The language itself adds a beauty of form to the film, much as it did in the case of Il Postino. This has to be a certainty for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, though something tells me that it will be overlooked for other awards as it is Italian and not a mainstream English language picture.

Please see this film, and make up your own mind. It is appealing in so many different ways that I'm sure that you will not be disappointed.

Carla's Song

One of the best British Films of the Nineties
It is easy to overlook this Ken Loach film. Critics had not been so kind about the excellent Land and Freedom as they had been in the past, and Carla's song didn't fare that well either. It seems difficult to understand why. The inimicable brand of social realism is there as is the focus on the experiences and emotions of the individual. There is even the trademark visual in-joke.

More than any other character in the recent past I cared for Carla. All performances are exceptional. What we have here is social realism that expands into political statement and ultimately human tragedy.

If at all possible, try to see this film. Carlisle's broad Scottish accent may make it difficult to follow for the non-initiated, but persevere, and you will be rewarded.

Lawrence of Arabia

The greatest motion picture of all time
It is difficult to find the superlatives to convey the scale, beauty, drama, art and sheer achievement of this film. Every shot is a major achievement of photography. Every performer is exceptional (it is probably the best cast ever assembled), with Peter O'Toole giving a performance without parallel (which, shockingly, did not win an Oscar). The story and settings are pure epic. David Lean shows himself as one of the most gifted directors in th history of cinema, giving us an unforgettable experience.

Roseanna's Grave

This movie should be filed on all video shelves next to the wonderful Il Postino and Cinema Paradiso. Though this is not actually in Italian, the style and character of these other two films is evoked. It may not be as moving as these Italian masterpieces, but I would argue that it is more amusing.

It is one of those movies that gives the spirit of a place, draws you in to it and makes the audience genuinely care about the characters. If you feel disillusioned with blockbusters or just need a bit of cheering up after a hard day, this is your movie.

Amazingly, it couldn't get a cinema release over here, and it is very little known. My advice is to try it, and soon, like me, you'll be recommending it to one and all.

Il postino

Touching, beautiful and ultimately very moving. Italian cinema has an emotional content more sincere and accurate than any other nation. Watch in a double-bill with Cinema Paradiso, and you will discover Life is Beautiful (I do hope you spot the pun).

Nuovo Cinema Paradiso

Deeply moving and heartfelt.
This film perfectly shows what it is to love cinema. I found myself profoundly affected by the emotion of the peace, being at on point moved to tears in sadness, and then at the same point in happiness. Come to the Cinema Paradiso, where the delightful life of a small community is reflected, and where you may be reminded of your own happy memories of visits to the cinema in days gone by...


The best historical epic ever made
There is much more to this than can be discovered form just one viewing. Initially the scale of the movie and the strength of the acting will make a great impression. Gradually you may begin to see the imagery (well this is a Kubrick film), and then you will realise just how special this is.

City Lights

Chaplin's real masterpiece
Chaplin produced gem after gem, but this is the one that I rate the highest. We have both the famous comedy and the pathos. Unlike so many other comedians, there is a genius in plotting as well as in the action. Chaplin's Tramp defied the world by remaining silent to give us his most perfect film.

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