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by Michael Barrett

6 Dec 2016


Peter Sellers (and part of Constance Cummings) in The Battle of the Sexes (1960)

James Thurber’s 1942 story “The Catbird Seat” is one of the crueler classics in the American canon. It’s a revenge story in which a mild-mannered accountant, one of the army of faceless and unimaginative cogs organized into the corporate wheels, decides to kill an efficiency expert whose decisions are causing lay-offs and streamlined procedures that threaten his dull world. Since the expert is a woman, there’s an inevitable sense of the sexist fear of women in the previously male domain of the workplace. From the accountant’s point of view, she’s presented as an interloper of annoying mannerisms and phrases, like her use of “catbird seat”.

This story is filmed more or less faithfully while being transferred to Edinburgh: “A man’s world, a world in which the shortest skirts are worn by man” declares the narrator (Sam Wanamaker). In the clothing firm called MacPherson Tweeds, the cloth is hand-woven by families in the Hebrides and nothing has changed since the company was founded by the current owner’s grandfather. The latest MacPherson (Robert Morley) falls under the spell of outgoing American consultant Angela Barrows (Constance Cummings), who begins modernizing and updating the systems of filing, accounting and manufacture.

by Michael Barrett

28 Nov 2016


Jonathan Genet in Cosmos (2015)

Where to begin? Evidently at the ending, since this is the final film of the late Andrzej Zulawski, one of the most original, passionate, kinetic and crazy filmmakers in cinema.

To describe the story in rational terms, which is inappropriate, it’s about a romantically deranged young student named Witold (Jonathan Genet) who takes lodging with a demented family: a hyperactive red-haired landlady (Sabine Azéma) given to bouts of paralysis, her nonsense-spouting second husband (Jean-Francois Balmer), her sexy daughter (Victória Guerra) and son-in-law (Andy Gillet), the hairlipped maid (Clémentine Pons) who’s an unnoticed double of an unrelated character, and a polymorphously sexual fellow lodger (Johan Libéreau).

by Michael Barrett

18 Nov 2016


Kate Manx in Private Property (1960)

Shabby and unkempt, Duke (Corey Allen) and Boots (Warren Oates) drift over to a gas station and intimidate the owner into giving them free orange pop. Then they squat on their haunches and talk about sex. Boots says he’s “never made it” because he’s saving himself for marriage, and he bristles when Duke says he’s looking for a “sugar daddy”. To pacify him, Duke says he’ll fix it up for Boots with some “twitch”. When they spot a fine blonde woman, a nervous salesman (Jerome Cowan) tells them she’s out of their class, but they persuade him to give them a lift and follow her car, at one point threatening him with knives to continue.

So these boys are established from the start as all bully and tough talk, giving an air of menace that carries them through a slow-burning psychological study in which we wait to see if anything violent will really happen, or anything sexual, or both. From the empty house next door, they spy on the pretty woman, Ann (Kate Manx), who spends most of the day by her swimming pool. Her heated pool is as much a symbol for herself as the switchblades are for the uptight, sexually bantering drifters, and it’s hard to miss the symbolism.

by Valeriy Kolyadych

15 Nov 2016


Alanna LeVierge in Let Her Out (2016)

When a bike courier has a bad accident outside of the motel where her mother died, things get strange. All of a sudden, Helen’s (Alanna LeVierge) idyllic life of hanging out in hip lofts with her actress roommate, Molly (Nina Kiri), becomes tinged with the presence of some kind of evil force that seems to follow her everywhere.

Watching Cody Calahan’s film, I couldn’t help but think of It Follows (2014). To be sure, the ‘80s throwback trend is nothing new anymore, and the story itself doesn’t call to mind David Robert Mitchell’s modern classic, but there’s a pervading feeling that you’ve seen this all before. The problem isn’t even that it’s derivative, but that it doesn’t pull it off.

by Valeriy Kolyadych

14 Nov 2016


Johnny Galecki in The Master Cleanse (2016)

We first meet the sad-sack hero of The Master Cleanse as he tries—and fails—to joke around with a stereotypical diner waitress. His goofy grin, however, hides a darker past that the movie carefully tiptoes around. All we are told is that Paul (played by Johnny Galecki) is sad. He’s sad because of some kind of life event involving his partner… or is it ex-partner?

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Here Comes the Bloom: Timothy Bloom Takes Hip-Hop to the Sock-Hop

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