Sex & The City – Port of Call: New Orleans

5 06 2010

In the last week, I’ve been to see two films at the cinema. The first was the rather cumbersomely-titled The Bad Lieutenant – Port of Call: New Orleans; the second, the less confusingly-named Sex and the City 2.

At first glance it might seem that these two Hollywood movies have very little in common. One is a story of crime and addiction set in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, the other a tale of ladies who lunch, buy shoes and have romantic adventures in New York and Abu Dhabi .

Look beyond the obvious differences between the two however, and it soon becomes clear that they have a surprising amount in common. For a start, they’re both sequels, of a sort. Bad Lieutenant is a re-imagining of Abel Ferrara’s 1992 study of Catholic guilt and redemption, and Sex and the City 2 an extension of the TV and movie franchise that has brought such joy to womankind (and such bum-numbing misery to their menfolk) over the last ten years.

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An Introduction to…

5 02 2010
Joseph Cotton

"Hello, Film Advice Hotline?" Joseph Cotton in 'Shadow of a Doubt'

For a long time, I resisted getting into The Fall. The band were on the John Peel show a lot during my impressionable teenage years, and I was always rather taken with their brand of angry Manc ranting. But, at the same time, I was aware that The Fall had been going since 1978 and had averaged at least an album a year, not to mention a whole mess of live recordings, bootlegs and rarities. If I started buying their records now, I thought, I’d have a whole lot of catching up to do. So, for some years, I did everything I could to ignore them. Then one day, out of the blue, I thought ‘fuck it’ and bought a CD or two pretty much at random. 

The cinema can be a bit like that too. Many of the most famous and influential directors of yesteryear have back catalogues that, to a newcomer, can be a little bit intimidating. You may have heard of Bergman or Hitchcock or Ozu and have a vague idea that their work is important in some way, but as a novice where do you start? Bergman made 44 films, Ozu more than 50, Hitchcock 57. Knowing which ones you should watch first, to get a sense of the director’s style and preoccupations, can be nigh on impossible.

Here, then, are my suggestions for the two or, at most, three films that might best introduce you to some of the most prolific Big Beasts of the cinema. 

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Mind Your Language

24 09 2009
Christoph Waltz in 'Inglourious Basterds'

Christoph Waltz in 'Inglourious Basterds'

There’s a nice moment early in the 1983 Mel Brooks film To Be or Not To Be when the dialogue suddenly switches from one language to another. Brooks and his co-stars play a troupe of Polish actors, caught in Warsaw during the Nazi occupation. In the first scene, as the curtain of their theatre goes down after a performance, the actors hold a panicky behind-the-scenes conference in gabbled, subtitled Polish. “Can’t we just switch to English?” someone suggests. The actors sigh with relief and, for the rest of the film, everyone speaks in American-accented English.

It’s a good joke, and one that highlights a problem that English-speaking directors face when making films for English-speaking audiences about non-English-speaking people. Do you employ local actors and subtitle everything? Or do you throw realism to the wind and cast, say, Ray Winstone as a gondolier or Tom Cruise as a Nazi? 

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