Monday, 8 December 2014

Still the Enemy Within (Owen Gower, 2014)

Published in 2011, Owen Jones left-wing, revealing book, Chavs, explained how the demonization of the working class has its roots in 1984. The children and grandchildren of miners and factory employees were brought up in poverty as not enough jobs were created to replace the coal mining industry. Jones’ book provided these foundations but it also explored the modern era too. As inequality only widens, those working class children are now adults. With very few job prospects, many communities were left in tatters after collieries, primarily based in the north of England, Scotland and Wales, were shut down. Still the Enemy Within focuses its attention on that fateful year, whereby miners spent over 300 days on strike to only lose the battle, and consequently lose their jobs years later.

Owen Gower directs this powerful film that needs to be watched by every man, woman and child who can feel unrest in this modern world. If you follow Russell Brand’s “Trews”, you need to watch this film. If you want an idea of the pain, suffering and desperate struggle that a revolution and protest requires, then this film is central to your understanding. The fight is not a hashtag, claiming #CameronMustGo. The fight is not boycotting your single Starbucks gingerbread latte or TopShop bargain. Men and women, for almost a year, were without a pay cheque and were refused the dole. Soup kitchens ensured children were fed. Their motto, “Coal not dole!” reminds us that they were fighting for the jobs within an industry that, even in 2014, remains a part of society. Cruelly, as of 2013, 80% of the coal used within the UK is imported from abroad. The public sector has been on strike on multiple occasions since 2010, and even then, people find it difficult to make that decision; losing pay for a single day is too much to lose. 160,000 miners were on strike during 1984, and were without pay for almost a year. Could this inspire a generation?

This particular generation were sold on adverts. Norman Strike, Paul Symonds and Steve Hamil were told that coal was the future (indeed it is, just not coal from within Britain). They were convinced that it gave them the security they needed. Through small re-enactments, we get a sense of the solidarity and close-knit ties these men had to each other and their towns. Miners striked in 1972 and 1974. And won. The difference with the strikes in 1984, is that Margaret Thatcher was not going to lose. The government lied to Nottingham by telling them that their jobs would be secure – they were not. Margaret Thatcher directly intervened with the strike. Police were brutal and unflinching. A miner, David Jones, was killed during the strike. Police would threaten arrest of miners who were trying to support others. Students, LGBT groups and the Black Solidarity group joined the miners on the strike, knowing that this was an important fight that meant more than the coal mining industry. Margaret Thatcher stated that miners were “the enemy within” and the press worked alongside the state in ensuring that the miners, and unions, were considered villains. Thatcher states how there is an “increasing left-wing militancy in control of the unions”, attacking the very idea that working together and reaching a group goal is against “democracy”.

Watching Still the Enemy Within, there is a marked difference between the accents of those involved in the strikes and those on news channels and in government. Thatchers received pronunciation is like scraping your nails on a chalk board against the warm, familial tone of a Yorkshire lilt or a Scottish twang. There is a clear relationship between government and the media, as the well-spoken BBC claim collieries are working when the few who returned to work aren’t enough to work the machinery. Those neat, perfect voices act as a warning that porkies are being told. Steve Hamil sensitively notes how, towards the end, they (the press, the government, etc) weren’t talking to “thinking heads” but to “empty bellies”. “We lost – but we were right”. In hindsight, Nottingham workers regret their decisions, wishing they trusted Arthur Scargill, because they were duped by the state.

This was a cause with an incredible amount of support, whereby it crossed barriers of gender, race and sexual orientation. Everyone worked together to defend the miners, but they still lost. Still the Enemy Within neglects to mention the perspective of the police at the time and the argument against the coal industry. The proof is in the legacy it left behind. Since 1991, old mining towns and villages have appalling unemployment statistics and a large number on benefits. The employment numbers have “gone up” says the current government. But they neglect to mention the unstable temporary, contractual and part-time positions that have gone up also. They neglect to mention the increase in food banks that men and women, in employment, are turning to. Was Thatcher right? Go back to the towns and see for yourself. The fight is far from over and what they did ultimately wasn’t enough. Still the Enemy Within forces us to acknowledge our own position. Will we muster up their spirit and integrity ourselves? Can we look at them and change the future? This film documents a moment that cannot be forgotten and we cannot ignore.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Life Itself (Steve James, 2014)

Writing for the first time in 2008, I remember the initial advice I was given: read Roger Ebert. Of course, I knew of Roger Ebert. Unlike our friends across the Atlantic, watching Siskel and Ebert wasn’t easy and my knowledge of him was primarily through special features on DVD’s I’d seen. Nevertheless, the more I read, the more I realised how important his voice was. His writing was personal, yet profound. He managed to weave into his work talk of literature and drama seamlessly into film discourse. That’s not to say that his writing required an informed audience - film was accessible and fun, and so was his words. Cinema didn’t have to be high-brow or elitist, but it said something about humanity. Life Itself, a sensitive and pertinent documentary about his life and final years, battling cancer, captures his humanity. By the end of its succinct two-hours run-time you feel like you are closer to Roger, and only wish you could sit with him longer.

It was February 2010 when I first heard of his illness. His first surgery for thyroid cancer was in 2002 and he had undergone relentless surgery since then – to the point that both Roger and his wife Chaz had lost count. My knowledge was through the arresting, brightly-lit portrait Esquire magazine proudly included within a revealing article. This was not the rotund, bolshie person I saw on those bonus-interviews many years before – and I couldn’t believe that this was the same person I was reading so often. Roger had undergone a major operation to remove his jaw completely. Life Itself goes one step further than the formal face in Esquire magazine. We witness ‘suction’, as tubes deliver his food straight into his neck. His mouth, a permanent warm smile, hangs gently where his chin was before. It is shocking, but as we listen to his choice of music and his type-activated voice, we pick up and feel how strong he truly is.

As the documentary uses his autobiography of the same name as a starting point, director Steve James wisely chooses to focus on key moments in his life. His upbringing. His fractitious relationship with Gene Siskel. Siskel’s death due to a brain tumour, and its impact on Roger. It includes details about Roger’s marriage to Chaz at the age of 50, and his own battle with alcoholism as a young journalist. Indeed, Ebert was no saint. As a young man, he was argumentative and pushy in the offices of The Daily Illini. We are told he could back up his demands with a genius-wit and an intelligent-insight, unlike others in the press. It doesn’t surprise us when we are told he won a Pulitzer prize. We are told his opening lines to an article regarding the death of six children in Birmingham, Alabama. Even then, he knew what to say and how to say it (I won’t reveal it hear, it’s worth waiting for). One day, the day after JFK was shot, a paper was in production. When Ebert noticed an advert across the page showing a gun directly pointing at Kennedy himself, he immediately ensured the papers didn’t hit the stands.

These were brash and defiant moves, but Ebert had the confidence and clout to make things happen. His friends, discussing his fight with alcohol explain his slow slide into addiction as he held court at the bar, with a strong drink in hand. Life Itself touches upon the controversy surrounding the simplicity of the thumbs-up/down grading system, but it is clear that through it all, this was a man whose use of language and words could only be admired – and the thumbs-up was merely a way to engage others. He could write a fully-formed film-review within thirty minutes. He could be friends with filmmaker such as Martin Scorsese and Werner Herzog, but honestly criticise their art in the most brutal fashion (Check out his take-down of Scorsese’s The Color of Money). He even made a soft-core porn film in Beyond the Valley of the Dolls with Russ Meyer (of Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!) - To which Scorsese uses his own cinematic-knowledge to reveal his own opinion.

As a writer who aspires to analyse film throughout the years ahead, he remains an inspiration to me. I will dissect and vainly try and understand his process of writing through visiting his blog, that remains active today as a literary monument to the man himself. Roger was a man who exclusively wrote his thoughts in his final years – and his loss is still felt as it is clear that no-one, even now, can match his talent. Six years since I began writing, I can only offer one piece of advice myself after seeing the film: watch Life Itself and read Roger Ebert.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)


In this current era of comic-book obsessed filmmaking, the archaic trait whereby a villain is bit by/hit by/falls into radioactive elements, we automatically relate it to our current heroes. Of course, these heroes were created in the atomic age, whereby fear was rife regarding the power of nuclear energy. The atomic age not only inspired comic book heroes and villains but also impacted on cinema, providing the path for films including Forbidden Planet, Creature from the Black Lagoon, The Thing and Invasion of the Body Snatchers. All of which are either due to be shown, or have been shown, at the BFI in their outstanding Sci-Fi season: Days of Fear and Wonder.

Bookended by a Cabinet-of-Dr-Caligari, mad-man narration, we’re introduced to Dr. Miles Bennett (Kevin McCarthy) in Invasion of the Body Snatcehrs. He is dishevelled and panicked. He is calmed by an investigator and he tells us his story. After he is called back home to the fictional town of Santa Mira, he begins to realise that everything isn’t what it seems. Patients were desperate to meet him, and now they are flippant about the request and claim it “was nothing”. A young boy who runs from his family argues they’ve changed – while a close friend claims the same about her own Aunt and Uncle. Dr. Bennett turns to his young love Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter) and the two discuss the strange happenings. One night, they find a body that appears to be slowly becoming more human – without finger prints and appearing to be dead, Miles and Becky are confused. But it all comes to light as strange seed-like pods are found in the garden shed and, bursting open, they slowly witness the birth of these body snatchers. Miles and Becky have to escape as it is clear that Santa Mira has been overrun by these alien creatures.

It’s a story that, upon its release in 1956, clearly alluded to the political landscape. There is a palpable fear, not only of the atom, but of the communist persuasions of others. Indeed, the loss of identity and lack of humanity is considered the true evil. The horror-trait of an alien domination of the planet only serves to support the idea of a Cold War plot arguing non-American principles as a threat to society. Ironically, characters biggest fears in the film are about what they lose: “I don’t want a world without love or grief or beauty” Becky days. You could argue that in the modern world (in a capitalist, consumerist economy) these traits are eroded away for the sake of financial success.

This is what makes science-fiction so endlessly fascinating. It allegorises issues and threats to the world. Replace a social-threat with an “alien” or “monster” and you can speak honestly and bluntly about the actions and consequences of such an “invasion”. This is why so many people across the world saw 9/11 as “straight from a Hollywood movie”, as it seemed too similar to Sci-Fi films including Independence Day and Armageddon. Invasion of the Body Snatchers, at its time, represents the responses to the post-war era in the USA, and continues to be relevant to this day.

Of course, Don Siegel’s film didn’t end in the 1950’s. Its influence continues today. Whether it is in the eggs within Gremlins, or the goo seen bubbling within Cronenberg’s The Fly, Invasion of the Body Snatchers continues to act as an inspiration for low-budget, but incredibly effective, science-fiction. In fact, you can go further – the sleepy, small town with a dark past bleeds into David Lynch’s nightmarish visions of the USA; the slow but terrifying spread of a people-controlling force in Night of the Living Dead shortly over a decade later; the distrust of psychiatry or fear of what it may not be able to explain within Shock Corridor. Invasion of the Body Snatchers pre-dated them all. The plot alone continued to become relevant with remakes in the 1970’s and 1990’s (are we due another this decade?). It is core to the history of cinema, let alone science-fiction, and with so many themes embedded within its simple, but poignant, narrative, it is an endlessly, re-watchable cult-classic.   

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

150W: Scoop

Short reviews for clear and concise verdicts on a broad range of films...

Scoop (Dir. Woody Allen/2006)

Magic, death and murder are often found in Woody Allen films. Scoop is no different, as Joe Stromble (McShane), from beyond the grave, appears to reporter Sondra (Johannson) in the middle of a magician’s (Allen) show. He gives her the ‘scoop’ of a lifetime, revealing the tarot-card killer as upper-class businessman Peter Lyman (Jackman). Pretending to play Father and daughter in many scenes, Scarlett Johansson is channelling her inner Woody Allen while acting with him. This means Scoop includes two neurotic, awkward Allen-esque characters, for the price of one. Considering the previous year saw the incredibly successful Match Point mark a high-point for Allen, similarly Scoop touches on wealth and power – and how it can corrupt. Including prat-falls and deft one-liners, Allen seems to be in comfortable territory. Far from perfect, Scoop includes playful comedy and, truthfully, it’s nice to see classic Woody back to his old tricks on screen.

Rating: 5/10

Friday, 17 October 2014

35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, 2008)

At the end of 2009, I noticed somewhat of an anomaly in Sight and Sound. Ranking the best films of the year, the magazine highlighted two films by director Claire Denis within the top ten: White Material and 35 Shots of Rum (on the festival circuit in 2008, 35 Shots was released in 2009 in the UK). In fact, 35 Shots of Rum earned joint second position alongside The Hurt Locker (The Prophet trumped both at No.1). Therefore, in a recent ‘Jim Jarmusch and Friends’ season, the BFI took the opportunity to screen the film again to celebrate her influences. And Jim Jarmusch was more than an influence too as she worked as Assistant Director on Down by Law only two years before her own directorial debut.

In the case of 35 Shots of Rum, though it focuses on relationships akin to Jarmusch, it holds a central story that evokes the quiet tenderness of Yasujirō Ozu. Living within a small, tight-knit community is Lionel (Alex Descas) and his daughter Josephine (Mati Diop). We see an evening routine as the two return home from a long day. Lionel, a widower, works on the metro while Josephine studies. Their relationship is very close and it is clear that they depend on each other. We are introduced also to a neighbour, Gabrielle (Nicole Dogue). She has feelings for Lionel, and has had these for a long time. The young man in an apartment below, Noe (Gregoire Colin), is detached and unsettled. He doesn’t know whether he is coming or going, but we know Josephine means more to him than he lets on. These four characters depend on each other and we glide through their lives and await a change – or as Roger Ebert put it in his review, a “shift”.

What makes 35 Shots of Rum so engaging is the calmness of the story. The opening moments, as Jo and Lionel busy themselves in the cramped apartment, is almost without words. In fact, the only reason we realise they are Father and daughter is the passing, flippant “Merci, Papa”, noted by many as a shock when revealed. While this personal story can be considered poetic on its own small-scale, Claire Denis hints at larger themes that have always interested her. The use of transport alludes to a different social standing between the characters. Noe drives his own car; something that Lionel seems unimpressed to hear. Lionel himself is an experienced train engineer while Gabrielle operates her own taxi. Their clear connection to public services show roots of socialism that no doubt pulls the two together. Lionel’s passing remark, “we have everything here” as Noe leaves their flat assures us that he is aware of young men and their reliance on material possessions – opposed to strong, loving relationships and the importance of playing a vital role in society. Noe’s treatment of his cat, for example, seems somewhat shocking.

But Denis doesn’t force the issue. These are nuanced characteristics that float in the back of our minds. In a city whereby hot drinks steam in the windy weather and shabby interiors are almost claustrophobic, 35 Shots of Rum feels true. A contrast between the open plains of a beach coast against the urban city mirrors Ozu’s influence further, but 35 Shots of Rum stands on its own and deserves the praise it receives. Subtle and personal, 35 Shots of Rum is a film that tells of the inevitable changes to come and its effect on a family – and the unexpected future they will have to accept.

This post was originally written for Flickering Myth

Monday, 13 October 2014

The Maze Runner (Wes Ball, 2014)

It’s true that The Maze Runner owes a debt to The Hunger Games. While it lacks the political context and Battle-Royale-survival plot, it does have a sense of fun and playful adventure that bogged down the Katniss-led series. As the first of a franchise (the sequel has been greenlit) with a trilogy of books, a prequel novel and a further novel in the works, The Maze Runner has a lot to live up to.

Using the same trope as many horror films, The Maze Runner begins with a shock. A teenager (Dylan O’Brien) is trapped in a lift. It is rising higher and higher in the dark. Loose chains rattle and mechanical noises litter the air. He looks around and coughs until he reaches the top. Opening onto a vast field, he has entered ‘The Glade’. A community led by Alby (Aml Ameen) and his second-in-command Newt (Thomas Brodie-Sangster), this is a group of young men trapped between four towering walls. They are in the centre of ‘The Maze’.  Runners race through the labyrinth each day to map out the area but it constantly changes. Our nameless protagonist befriends a tubby-teen (Blake Cooper) and makes an enemy in “angry-face” Gally (Will Poulter), but still believes there is hope for the group to escape the dangers of the maze.

Limited primarily to a large field, grey corridors and small ramshackle tents mean that locations can be tiring and repetitive. They run down vine-covered hallways, turn a corner to reveal… another hallway. Surely a little more creativity in the context of a man-made maze wouldn’t have been a bad move? The Hunger Games hint at a world outside, while The Maze Runner locks you in. The threats within the world, named “Greavers”, are Cronenbergian creatures. Fleshy centres held up by mechanical spider-like legs mean they sprint across, above and around the walls. They’re more akin to the raptors in Jurassic Park than Shelob in Lord of the Rings. The directorial-debut from Wes Ball, this is a filmmaker who clearly looks to Spielberg and the Wachowski’s for inspiration. Many moments often hint at themes and stylistic flourishes that echo The Matrix. In both films our protagonist is trapped in a world he is desperate to escape, and there is a conflict whereby Gally has acclimatised to ‘The Glade’ in the same manner Cypher preferred the matrix.

But these comparisons are not meant as negative criticism. Clunky lines and predictable dialogue aside (“What if he doesn’t come back?”/”He’ll come back”/”But what if he doesn’t?”/”He’ll be back.”) it remains thoroughly entertaining. The characters are likeable and the story nonsensical (When Kaya Scodelario turns up she seems to only create more confusion - barely any of these "haven't-seen-a-woman-in-years" teenage boys fancy her?) , but the childish enjoyment of getting lost in a vast space of interlocking walls and rooms proves itself once again. On some level, there is game of logic at play – and this life-size puzzle is what keeps you sat in your seat, in the same way as SawCube and the final part of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire did.

The Maze Runner is flawed, as many teenage book-adaptations are (Twilight, The Hunger Games, etc), but it’s influenced by the better blockbusters (from before the comic-book take-over). The small-scale of the story is the centre-piece and it wisely hints at the larger picture in the final act only. When we meet the cliché suited woman-in-white, you know you’ve met her before but it’s all part of the fun (was she in the background of Elysium?) A diverse cast, fast-pace and boardgame-like story manages to keep you thoroughly interested. It’s like a rollercoaster – fun and fast-paced, but everything sometimes looks the same.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman, 2014)

Judging the poster, Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow looks like a computer game – I wonder, is this the new state of cinema? The clunky, robotic military gear harks back to Total Recall or Starship Troopers – or, in games, Gears of War. Tom Cruise, last seen in similar dystopian-future film Oblivion, is Major Cage, a press-face for the military who suddenly finds himself on the front line of the fight against the alien. Emily Blunt, returning to time-travel films after Looper, is Rita, an outstanding soldier who knows what Cage is going through. In true Groundhog Day fashion, Cage wakes up every time he is killed to relive the final two days of an epic battle, and Rita is the key to his redemption and to saving planet Earth itself.

Located in London, Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow is initially a fish-out-of-water plot, fused with a socio-political edge. The charming, cheeky Major Cage is a high-ranking official who appears on TV but doesn’t fight himself. Confronted by General Brigham (Brendan Gleeson), he is ordered to serve alongside the troops in France (in an invasion modelled on the opening attack in Saving Private Ryan). Glibly, he refuses. He attempts to bribe the General too, only to wake up in make-shift army barracks on Heathrow’s airstrips. What begins as a subtle criticism of those in power lacking awareness of those on the front line is soon forgotten though, as the time-travel plot begins. Suddenly, the focus is primarily on Tom Cruise’s need to survive. It harks back to the socio-economical subtext of Elysium, which again, is forgotten about once one-man’s survival is at stake.

Outside of Cruise, the majority of roles are standard caricatures for a sci-fi/war genre film. Almost immediately after waking, we repetitively meet Master Sergeant Farrell (Bill Paxton), a Kentucky-born disciplinarian. Reciting lines of literature to rank himself amongst the hard-nuts of army officers in cinema, his approach is so stern as to direct gambling soldiers to preposterously eat their own playing-cards. Emily Blunt herself seems bland and lacks authority to truly support her ‘Angel of Verdun’ credibility. Against Ellen Ripley or Sarah Conner, the angel would have her wings clipped.

But (going by its cinematic title) Edge of Tomorrow is not aiming to showcase complicated characters, or make profound political points. In Gareth Evans’ The Raid, many noted the computer-game progression of the narrative. Level-by-level, working your way through the building, to the big-boss at the end. Edge of Tomorrow is the same, with “extra lives” and advanced weapons to make the stakes higher. Except some people (though not the target-market for this film perhaps) don’t play computer games – let alone play them for the nearly two-hour runtime of this film. For some the relentless action is too chaotic.  The frustration with repeating a sequence can grate, while the more profound elements are left to the side for the sake of a plot-beat that keeps you engaged. Edge of Tomorrow does manage to showcase some breath-taking war-torn landscapes while the comedic-moments as Cruise plays with his time-travel skills are fun. But the story lacks the philosophical scope of The Matrix, and misses the political points of District 9. This is fun, goofy action, with a quirky unique-selling-point, but it can’t break free from the formulaic core at its centre. It feels like we’ve seen most of this before.

This post was originally written for Flickering Myth on 1st June 2014 and adjusted for the change of title when released on DVD/Bluray

Thursday, 2 October 2014

150W: Magic in the Moonlight

Short reviews for clear and concise verdicts on a broad range of films...

Magic in the Moonlight (Dir. Woody Allen/2014)

Woody Allen returns with his annual treat. Magic in the Moonlight imagines a stuck-up, pompous magician (Colin Firth), trying to debunk a psychic (Emma Stone). Unfortunately, a clear plot is muddled by irrelevant romance that only serves to illustrate the distaste towards Allen’s oeuvre. Firth is considerably older than Stone and their romance is forced from the outset. Supporting actors are underused and dull (except for Hamish Linklater’s serenading fool Brice, whose dreary voice perfectly personifies the desperate lover). Woody Allen has asked the question of faith many times before, and a scene whereby Firth prays to God is a memorable highlight. As always, it’s refreshing to hear Woody Allen’s cultured dialogue and refined choice of music on the cinema-screen. But upon the resolution to the central theme, the film loses its steam. A final fifteen minutes stretches the story too long and what could’ve been acceptable becomes gratuitous tosh.

Rating: 2/5

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (1)

This continues a post begun last week.

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One Where No One's Ready (Series 3, Episode 2) -

Completely self-contained and effortlessly acted by everyone involved - as if, at this very moment, all the actors completely understand their characters. Rewatching Series 3, it’s when Friends knew how good it was. The look and feel of the show changes dramatically. Notably, Joey’s hair is completely different. But this episode showcases the nuanced characteristics of each role. Monica, cut-up about Richard. Ross and his strict time-keeping. Joey and Chandler, playing off each other to great effect. “Could I be wearing any more clothes??”. The Ross and Rachel dynamic plays out, proving why they are so good – and bad – together.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (2)

This continues a post begun last week...

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Prom Video (Season 2, Episode 14) –

There is a sense that Kaufman, Crane and Bright realised how much we loved dress-up Friends episodes after this one. Soon enough, we had The One with all the ThanksgivingsThe One with the Flashback and The One that Could Have Been Part I/II. Admittedly, these episodes are often the reason there are chronological inconsistencies, but The One with the Prom Video is a stand-out moment. Ross’ moustache (“Misster Kotter”) and the first appearance of fat-Monica and original-nose Rachel are for the books, but the backstory between Rachel, Monica and Ross is front and centre – and the realisation for Rachel as to how long he has loved her. The fact that Ross is playing the keyboard only hints at another brilliant episode later (The One where Chandler crosses the line in Season 4) when he plays his “sound”.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Monday, 29 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (3)

This continues a post from yesterday.

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One Where Ross Finds Out (Season 2, Episode 7) –

Considering the entire first season has Ross hankering after Rachel. And then, starting the second season, they still aren’t together because of Julie. It is lovely when it finally happens. Then again, it doesn’t last long (in a show-running moment of genius, the next episode is The One with The List.) Ross - and his long face - leaning on the Central Perk door. Rachel, struggling to open the door. That music. Could be the most memorable moment of the entire ten series.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (4)

This continues a post from yesterday.

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Morning after (Season 3, Episode 16) –

We’ve established how Matthew Perry can’t sob. David Schwimmer though, really can. I’ve met some folk who despise this episode arguing it is too serious, but it is worth noting how the entire third season builds up to this. In fact, the ‘copier girl’ is mentioned within the first few episodes of the season. The jealousy over “Mark” is gradually built up until his unplanned/planned comforting of Rachel while Ross, the “dinosaur guy”, scores with the young thing all the boys fancy. The conflicted argument about whether they were “on a break”, begins here. As almost half of the episode relies on Jennifer Anniston and Schwimmer alone, it is a testament to their acting chops that it holds up. Ross, desperately seeking comfort in Rachel’s arms, remains a moment whereby you’d need a heart of stone not to crumble a teeny bit.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A Walk among the Tombstones (Scott Frank, 2014)

Liam Neeson, hunting down dastardly criminals, is something of a pull at the box-office. From Taken to Non-Stop, Neeson seems to perfectly portray the hero who can save the day. A Walk among the Tombstones seems to seek the pace, and urgency of Taken, but tries to balance it out with a Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-like investigation. A Walk among the Tombstones is a modern example of a star-led drama that, without the star, falls into B-Movie throwaway film fare.

Apart from a 1991-set brief opening, the bulk of the film is set during 1999. Multiple nods to the Y2K virus hint at an end-of-days fear, but this is neither effective nor intertwined with the plot (except the “People are afraid of the wrong things” tag line). The main thrust of the story is the hunting of two serial killers, who expertly target the wives and children of drug-dealers. Matthew Scudder (Liam Neeson), member of alcoholics-anonymous and ex-Police Officer, is sought out to find the culprits of the heinous crimes. Reluctant at first, Scudder is drawn to solving the crimes to atone for his own sins. Due to his lack of computer-skills at the library, he befriends a homeless boy, TJ (Brian “Astro” Bradley) who is street smart and thinks fast, and together they piece together the murders – and work out who might be next…

It is simple thriller-by-numbers. The serial-killers, who ride around slowly in a van, are villains in every way. No nuanced characteristics or well-constructed motives, they’re just evil. Not only do they attack and torture women, but they have a strange fetish whereby they cut off breasts using wire. Scudder, alternatively, is the good guy. The tortured soul who seeks forgiveness (not for the shooting of three burglars without trial it seems, but something “worse”) and spends his days attending AA meetings and eating in greasy-spoons. The opening nods to Dirty Harry, and the pervert-accomplice Jonas (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson), even looks like a tubbier version of the crazed-hippy in Don Siegel’s classic. Eastwood’s iconic role was known for his shoot-first, ask-questions-later form of police work. A Walk among the Tombstones teased the controversial idea that this brutality holds emotional and psychological consequences. Instead, it seems that Matt Scudder is Harry Callahan without the panache.

Unfortunately, reconfiguring and reflecting on the film only highlights further flaws. First and foremost, women are merely victims in the film (failing the known Bechdel test I assume). The opening credits depict glowing white skin of a sexy blonde woman, only to reveal that she is bound by gaffer tape and is in fact a victim to the serial killers. Jonas, the accomplice who, though helpful and a chatty, is also a peeping tom. He is depicted sympathetically and is almost played as a victim of the serial killers himself. Considering his direct connection and assistance in her kidnap, he gets off lightly in how he is treated. TJ, the wonder-kid who should surely be more vital, gets short shrift and could be removed completely from the film with little change to the story itself.

A Walk among the Tombstones, borders on offensive. Its approach to crime and justice is fatally flawed and Matt Scudder, a complicated character, is reduced to simple clichés. It’s worth noting that Matt Scudder features in 18 novels, whereby he attends his first alcoholic anonymous meeting in the fifth entry to the series. Whether his tales could be told better as a television series, or if director Scott Frank simply crammed too much into one film, this current incarnation is a misfire. Surely Scudder deserved better.

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (5)

This continues a post from yesterday...

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Stoned Guy (Series 1, Episode 15) -

There are a lot of cameos in Friends (Brad Pitt in The One with the Rumour, Billy Crystal and Robin Williams in The One with the Ultimate Fighting Champion, etc). Jon Lovitz is one of the few who makes two appearances. This is his first appearance in season one, his second comes in the final season as Rachel dates him (in The One with the Blind Date). The funny thing is, he is the same character in both. As a chef owner, who is high on drugs, Monica attempts to show-off her culinary skills with Rachel playing waitress. Throwing Cheerios (“Save yourself!”) and Phoebe miming his drug-taking are unforgettable moments. But the funniest line remains: "Tarlets .... Tartlets ... Tartlets ... the name has lost all meaning".

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Friday, 26 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (6)

This continues a post from yesterday...

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Nap Partners (Series 7, Episode 6) -

I originally watched this as the 'uncut' episode on the DVD’s. The very nature of two guys enjoying sleeping with each other (with no homosexual undertones) is unlikely - but I think Mr Heterosexual Joey and Always-In-Love-With-Some-Girl Ross meant that this episode plays for great jokes throughout. On the uncut episode, I vividly remember a section whereby Ross and Joey are 'testing' Phoebe and Rachel on being Bridesmaids, and Joey attempts to force Ross into a nap. I was in tears watching it... but alas, I have not seen the sequence since. It isn’t one of the few uncut episodes on the BluRay and the original DVD’s have been discontinued.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Thursday, 25 September 2014

In Order of Disappearance (Hans Moland, 2014)

This is a comedy. It’s got an international sensitivity so the humour, though dark and black, is tricky to navigate. In Order of Disappearance, in its white vistas and father-on-a-killing-spree plot, seems to downplay the connection it could have to recent Daddy-action romps Taken and Three Days to Kill. This time with Stellan Skarsgård in the Dad role, rather than merely kidnapped, his son has been murdered and he is hunting down those responsible, one-by-one.

Nils Dickmann (Skarsgård) is introduced as “Citizen of the Year” through his expert snow-ploughing skills (something Stellan Skarsgård told Flickering Myth was a huge amount of fun). The Twin Peaks Norwegian village he lives within seems to include a vast array of different drug-financed criminals including Dickmann’s brother – though he decided to settle down. His son is killed unceremoniously in the opening moments and Nils first reaction is to blow his own head off, until his a friend of his son, Finn (Tobias Santelmann), pops up and changes his mind. As Nils works his way up the chain (with a single cross alongside a name when each character is killed) the stakes get higher and multiple gangs are involved, including Serbian’s led by Bruno Ganz.

There is surely a point being made when films praise the older, traditional man against the young upstarts who kill recklessly and break the law. In Order of Disappearance features clumsy and proud villains, and Nils seems to take each character down with ease. In a similar manner to Fargo, In Order of Disappearance uses the snow-scape to give a sense of innocence to this small village before showing the ugly truth beneath the surface. The kills he racks up forces a pause for the moment, as Nils erodes away his own innocence too. His introverted persona makes each death play out in quiet succession, as if he is simply taking out the trash. Writer Kim Fupz Aakeson also seems to play around with cinema references, squeezing in banter about the ridiculous names of criminals (“Wingman”, “Chinaman”, etc) or explicitly stating his inspirations, as Nils brother tells him “When did you become Dirty Harry?”

In Order of Disappearance is a strange beast. With expected laughs from ludicrous moments involving snow-ploughs and para-skiers, it also hints at an interesting edge as henchmen are shown to have backstories and nuanced characteristics that fail to resonate throughout the story. We are told how “young people destroying themselves” is commonplace and police seem to shy away from tackling the crime too – is this part of the comedy? Or is this a serious side-note?  It feels muddled or simply aimed at a niche audience.

In any case, director Hans Petter Moland manages to capture incredible vistas as snow cascades down across the screen and Skarsgård’s performance remains a haunting depiction of a grieving father; bitter, frustrated, focused on avenging his son’s death. Apparently, “Norwegian kids can’t disappear or bad obnoxious parents look for them”. Clearly, Skarsgård captures that bad (he is killing people) obnoxious parent. But In Order of Disappearance is an acquired taste. If dark humour and revenge-stories in snowy terrain is your cup of tea, then plough ahead.

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (7)

This continues a post from yesterday...

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Proposal (Season 6, Episodes 24 and Episode 25) –

Sadly, Matthew Perry struggles to play an emotional wreck. Sarcastic, smug and childish is Chandler. Romantic, crying and angry isn’t exactly his thing. Despite this, The One with the Proposal forced him to step up to the plate. It’s not as upsetting as some episodes higher in the list but the use of Richard (Tom Selleck) and suddenly-serious approach to Chandler’s lack of commitment make the situation heart-breaking. Joey, telling Chandler that Monica has left is the icing on the cake. Courtney Cox has always managed to play Monica with real heart, and her intense, controlling nature does mean that Monica proposing to Chandler equally makes sense. But, seriously, there are way too many candles. How long did it take to set that up? Isn’t that a huge safety risk? Mr Treeger wouldn’t be amused at all.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (8)

This continues a post from yesterday...

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Routine (Series 6, Episode 10) -

The later seasons get a lot of stick but, as my favourite character is Ross, this particular episode only serves as another great example of how the Gellar family are complete screw-ups. We are told regularly how strange their upbringing was but, considering how specific this routine needed to be, Schwimmer and Cox must've prepared for weeks to get it right. Ross as wet-blanket is great in the first few series as Schwimmer can play it so well. But Ross as manically-depressed and a bit nuts is when he truly comes out of his shell. Considering the cast, towards the end, were rumoured to be paid $1m per episode, they surely had to work hard for this one.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Chungking Express (Wong Kar Wai, 1994)

A personal favourite film, Wong Kar Wai’s In the Mood for Love is a romantic, sensual masterpiece of filmmaking. Chungking Express, released six years prior, still holds the sensitivity and patience of In the Mood for Love but enjoys a more playful, youthful tone. Both are playing at the BFI Southbank as part of the 'A Century of Chinese Cinema' season throughout September and October.  Chungking Express frames its dual narratives within the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong (many scenes based around the same ‘Midnight Express’ food-stall) whereby the innocent stories of love and criminals on a killing spree seem to merge into the business of life. Chungking Express is a set of moody, tender stories that show that behind the stern exterior of the men of the law is broken hearts and humanity that we can all relate understand.

Two stories are connected by a brief second. The first story follows off-duty cop, He Qiwu (Takeshi Kaneshiro) as he pines after his lost love May. He is desperate to move on and fall in love with another woman, and after a night of pineapple-eating, he meets the woman to adore (played by Brigitte Lin). Unfortunately for him, she is a drug-smuggler who is in hiding after killing off street gang-members after a drug-operation goes south. The second story portrays the romance between an unnamed cop (Tony Leung) and a snack bar worker, Faye (Faye Wong). Cop 663 has seen his steamy relationship with an air-hostess hit the skids, and takes comfort in the coffee and conversation with Faye - only for her to use a key his ex has left behind, to tidy and fool around in his flat. The first story, of a klutz falling for a dangerous, gun-toting dame, plays as an action-come comedy-come-romance while the second story is a twee love-story with friendly, quirky characters.

The connection between the stories is minimal. They both include lonely lovelorn policemen, while the women could not be more different. The use of uniform in the second story is constantly reinforced, whereby the profession of the characters in the first story is never specified by their outfits (in fact, the mysterious woman is almost in disguise as she claims her raincoat and sunglasses combo is due to her cautiousness about the weather, while his desire to imitate Bruce Willis hints at his inability to serve and protect).

The shuddering camera work captures the city effortlessly. We squint and look closer to make out who is on screen and how the events unfold, similar to the experience of trying to take in a busy street at night. Neon-lights and crampt spaces are a feature of Wong Kar Wai, as bodies struggle to move around each other. Strange obsessions and recurring pop-tracks add nuance to characters and almost create a hypnotic and dreamlike world that is a pleasure to be within. Sardines, pineapples and the Mama’s and Papa’s California Dreamin’ become unique, memorable assets to a film that in the characters alone, you are drawn in.

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (9)

This continues a post begun yesterday.

It was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014 but will continue to run on the blog this week. And at number...
  1. The One with the Blackout (Season 1, Episode 7) –

So many men relate to Chandler. His awkward mannerisms, his over-compensation with humour, his lack of confidence with women – the skinny guy knows him intimately. Personally, I always felt that Ross is more interesting, and ultimately funnier, but The One with the Blackout does show how brilliant Chandler is (“I am trapped. In an ATM vestibule. With Jill Goodacre!”). This is also the episode introducing Italian scumbag Paulo and the first man-to-man conversation between Ross and Joey regarding Rachel. “Ne-e-ever gonna happen…"

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

Monday, 22 September 2014

Twenty Years on... The Top 10 Friends Episodes (10)


On September 22nd 1994, the pilot episode of Friends was screened in America. It is twenty years since that fateful moment Rachel walked into Central Perk, wearing her wedding dress. Looking around, she finds her old best friend from school, Monica. The first jokes were slightly twee, but some clumsy slapstick (Ross’ umbrella bursting as he greets Rachel) and a self-depreciating joke (Monica is the only one Rachel could turn to. Monica is the only one she didn’t invite) began Friends - the TV series we all fell in love with.

I was introduced as my older sisters watched it in 1995 on a Friday night on Channel 4. I recall the complete shock when Ross says "I take thee.... Rachel...". I sat with my best friend watching the closing minutes of Series 4 and sat with him again to watch the aftermath. I watched the entire series when it first came to DVD. Then I watched it again when I first started a girl who became my wife (a rite of passage in many ways, considering Friends taught me so much about the trials and tribulations of ‘dating’). Recently, with the new BluRay boxset release, I watched it all again. All ten seasons within three months.

With this in mind (and split over the next fortnight), here are my Top 10 Friends episodes to mark the twentieth anniversary of one of the best American sitcoms in history …

10. The One with Russ (Series 2, Episode 10) -


Trying to balance the funny episodes, and the deeply-serious (but-still-funny) episodes, is always a challenge. This episode is an example of a whole plot structured around a single gag. Rachel starts dating a character called Russ, who is virtually the same person as Ross (both are played by Schwimmer). High-jinks ensue as Russ and Ross meet each other – and immediately despise each other. Additionally, it also includes the perfect ending with a cameo from Julie (Lauren Tom) who inevitably falls for Russ.

The countdown continues tomorrow ... 

This article was originally written for Flickering Myth on September 22nd 2014

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Das Cabinet des Caligari (Robert Wiene, 1920)

The history of cinema harks back to few films that are as important and iconic as Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari. An expressionist masterpiece, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari is, for a limited time, back in the cinema. Re-mastered and screened from August 29th, the cinematic experience is a rare treat as the hand-painted backdrops and subtle face make-up can be seen up-close and appreciated in the way it was intended (perhaps even better). As filmmaking was finding its feet, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari makes use of the theatrical manner of stage and sets, but toys with the narrative device of flashback to tell its story. Like an old man telling us a tale, the mysterious narrator with his wide eyes, has his own backstory – and a memorable finale reveals all.

Almost a legendary fable of cinema already, Das Cabinet des Caligari begins as two met sit on a bench. A young man, Francis (Friedrich Fehér) tells a story to an old man (Hans Lanser-Rudolff) and we are transported to see the events unfold. A small village is introduced. Francis and his friend Alan (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski) are to go out on the town, and visit the fair, but not before they banter about their love of the local girl Jane (Lil Dagover). Unknown to the boys, amongst the glowing lights of the fair, Dr Caligari (Werner Krauss) is due to perform with his somnambulist Cesare (Conrad Veidt, who would go on to play the trumped up Nazi in Casablanca). As the two enter the tent, it is revealed that Cesare knows the past, present and future. Cesare, expressionless with piercing-eyes, tells Alan that he will die before the morning and as predicted, Alan is murdered in the night - by Cesare. Francis immediately seeks support and holds his suspicions towards Caligari himself. Even magic appears to be at play when Cesare kidnaps Jane, while Francis spies on both Caligari and the sleeping Cesare – how can he appear in two places at once? Though Caligari is the villain of the film, it seems that all is not what it seems for Francis either. 

Released in 1920, and directed by Robert Wiene, Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari has become the subject of many essays, books and articles of cinema. At 77-minutes long, this is a short film that, broken into six-parts, is easy to watch and a pleasure to re-watch now it has been fully restored. Silent cinema has never looked so good, and the colour-tints and painted-sets, with their fake-shadows and sharp lines, only serve to establish the film as a work of art.

So much has been inspired by the film, such as Murnau’s Nosferatu two years later, but it has continued to this day. Danny DeVito’s Penguin in Batman Returns is clearly the villainous Dr. Caligari himself; glasses, top hat and cane included. Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, an underrated homage to psychological thrillers of the era, pays a huge debt to the plot and doctor-patient dynamic seen in Caligari. The jagged edges, and diagonal lines, would go on to influence Carol Reed’s The Third Man, which would in turn influence Spike Lee. In fact, the bizarre setting is perhaps the most memorable element. But it is worth remembering how, within a few decades of the invention of cinema, a film like this was made. Haunting and innovative, Das Cabinet des Caligari is the horror film every cinema goer needs to watch. And if you’ve seen it before? Watch it again.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The Boxtrolls (Graham Annable/Anthony Stacchi, 2014)

Despicable Me has a lot to answer for. Not only has it spawned a sequel, with a “”spin-off” later this year in Minions, but it has manufactured the specific creature that little kids will die imitating (perhaps loudly shouting “bottom”, as you walk through the supermarket). But The Boxtrolls, looking like an uglier, gothic cousin to the minions, is nothing to apologise for. Looking like Aardman animation meets Abe’s Odyssey, The Boxtrolls contains much more than empty crates and annoying little creatures. More creative and considerably more profound, The Boxtrolls is much more than a Despicable Me imitator.

Boxtrolls lurk underground. They mess up the streets at night and, with their muddy boxes and cluttered manner, are feared by the community they live beneath. Stories claim they are responsible for kidnapping children and carnival-performances are played out to ensure the public know how dangerous they are.  Of course, they are no threat. Introducing Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) as the villainous, desperate older gent who seeks a place at the table amongst the upper-class (termed as the “white hats”), the boxtrolls are his sworn enemy – despite their cheeky, playful manner. Indeed, the boxtrolls themselves are creatures with love to give and we see, akin to Monsters Inc, the raising of a child in their company. Named after the boxes they wear, “Fish” adopts human-in-a-box, “Eggs” (voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright, aka ‘Bran’ from Game of Thrones, and looking a little like one of The Riddlers). In an innovative twist, it is the daughter of the esteemed ‘white hat’ Lord Portley-Rind (Jared Harris), Winnie (Elle Fanning), who clashes into Eggs one night. This forces the two to confront their differences while taking down the evil Mr Snatcher.

Of course, the synopsis could be as simple as “boxtrolls have to defeat snatcher”. But The Boxtrolls is more nuanced than that. Amongst the ramshackle underground home and steam-punk world they inhabit, there are revolutionary and bold statements made. Other than the greedy, cheese-obsessed Archibald Snatcher, very few others can be simply-defined baddies. The snooty white-hat wearers are arrogant, but considered misguided. Even the two henchmen (voiced expertly by Richard Ayoade and Nick Frost) are confused by Snatcher’s actions, as it slowly dawns on them that they are indeed “henchmen” (By the same token, the final gag during the credits goes even further as they muse on their existence, becoming one of the most intelligent and inspired jokes in animation.)

The winding tracks and creaky buildings that we walk down is a feast for the eyes. Tim Burton would surely get a kick out of the long-legged and bulging-bellies of the humans. The British tone of Aardman animation shines through, and the boxtrolls even seem to channel the trolls from Frozen a tad. But, unlike the cookie-cutter morals of most Disney and Dreamworks fare, the “makers of Paranorman and Coraline” tell a story that clearly draws parallels to our modern world. In a moment of frustration, boxtroll “fish” becomes incredibly angry, almost living up to the horror stories that we were told. It is brief and inconsequential, but a sobering moment as the parallel between anger and victimisation is drawn. In the final confrontation between Snatcher and Eggs, Snatcher tells him “they’ll never accept us…” What connects these two vastly opposing characters? Who does Snatcher believe “they” are? All is revealed when watching The Boxtrolls.

The ballooning abscesses as allergic-to-cheese Snatcher forces himself to eat brie is gross, colourful and guaranteed to make you laugh. The comedy is intelligent, the animation expert and the story is thoroughly engaging. The Boxtrolls is poignant and inventive and as much fun as it is bold in its statements.

This post was originally written for Flickering Myth

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Night Will Fall (André Singer, 2014)

It is difficult to digest the truth behind the Holocaust. The pictures in books, reconstructions and cinematic depiction of the events seem to detach us from the truth. It can feel like a nightmare that exists only in dreams and on screens. Night Will Fall manages to directly connect the nature of the truth in documentary with the horrors witnessed in 1945. Director André Singer (Producer of The Act of Killing and Into the Abyss) connects them in a manner that sharply forces history into focus. The collective efforts to murder a group of people by a brainwashed militia, consciously accepted by the citizens in surrounding villages that could smell the death, is too difficult to comprehend. Yet this definitive moment in history was captured on camera, and tasked to Sidney Bernstein and his team, to ensure that it was not lost and proved how despicable humanity can be.

Night Will Fall documents the attempt at capturing, editing and releasing the footage filmed when concentration camps were liberated (the unreleased film, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, has been painstakingly restored by the Imperial War Museum to be released later this year). But this is a moment that changed the world. Camera-clad soldiers marched, within lines of German soldiers, towards Bergen-Belsen, unaware of what they would see. Alfred Hitchcock was involved as a supervising director, recommending the location of the camps – and their surrounding towns – are shown in the film, to highlight how close others were to the death camps. He suggested that wide, slow pans were to be used to add an air of authenticity. There was no room for anyone to imply the footage was doctored in any way. Colour film was used in some instances, footage that brings the reality closer to home. But at a time whereby millions of victims were refused entry to the surrounding countries, the rolls of film and editing that had been put in place to bring this news to the fore, was shelved. The worry was that a public outcry would mean Britain and America would be forced to take these refugees into their own country – something that, after World War II, they simply couldn’t afford to do.

Prior to watching Night Will Fall, I visited the Imperial War Museum, and specifically the Holocaust exhibition. The information contained across two floors was too much to take in during one visit, but the history of Jewish discrimination that began so much earlier that the breakout of WWII is crucial to where it ultimately led. Stories of German Jews who fought alongside their nation in WWI only to be reviled little more than a decade later, embedded itself in my memory. The fact that Night Will Fall exclusively deals with the aftermath is important. The camps and their liberation only took place in 1944. We learn from our mistakes, we’re told. In the case of genocide, it is not an event whereby we want to liberate a country and find out afterwards the mistake was made again.

These camps were in action for years, with the loss of life in the millions. Eisenhower, shown visiting the camps, surely never believed he would ever see such horror. Billy Wilder’s use of the footage, in Death Mills (as Night Will Fall documents) focuses the attention on the crimes committed by the Nazi’s. But this documentary is about the truth and the consequence of inaction. The opening moments of Night Will Fall show the bodies in piles within camps. SS Guards were ordered to move the bodies to mass graves. Their faces are real. Despite the sunken eyes and gaunt cheeks, the faces are real. The bodies are rubbery and heavy. The footage gives you a sense of the weight of the corpses, and the guards who drag them over the rubble clearly show no remorse as they appear to move them like animal carcasses. But these are lives, hundreds and thousands, of innocent lives. I have never seen such explicit and shocking film from the concentration camps. Night Will Fall coincides with the release of the originally-intended film, German Concentration Camps Factual Survey, but it is a masterpiece unto itself. Rather than explaining and recalling the events, Night Will Fall highlights the importance of film. Akin to diaries of photographers and journalists in war zones, Night Will Fall is unflinching in its intention to hold onto the mistakes we made, so that we learn from it. And in a time whereby YouTube captures every political decision (and indecision) and news crews attempt to capture every side of conflicts in Iraq and Israel, surely Night Will Fall reminds us that we need to make a change before it’s too late. Otherwise, like the cameramen in Bergen-Belsen, who knows what we will find in the aftermath.

Originally written for Flickering Myth