Movie of the Week: Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)

Agnes Varda directs Corinne Marchand, Antoine Bourseiller and Dominique Davray in this slice of life drama where a pop singer wanders around Paris awaiting results of a life changing biopsy.

A very beautiful film, a journey both intimate and epic, crosscutting through wonderful Paris and the full gamut of emotions. Are we watching a naïf evolving from closeted doll with no control of her destiny to self awareness and self determination? Are we seeing time unspooling? A life frittered away in moments? What of the others we meet? All intriguing… where do their lives and philosophies and romances go once after they cross paths with “Cleo” / Florence? As a first watch my thoughts and appreaciation of this wonderful film are unfocused. I can only say with certainty that if you like Richard Linklater’s Before Trilogy or Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird or love the city of Paris then you’ll be seduced by this. Oh, and she has some lovely kittens too.



The Loveless (1981)

Kathryn Bigelow and Monty Montgomery direct Willem Dafoe, Robert Gordon and Marianne Kanter in this biker movie where a gang of leather youths stay one day in a seedy small town while a motorcycle is repaired.

This one is all about the mood, daddio. And you know what? It coasts along with fumes in its tank and a firm grip on it throttle, nice and easy. Slight but really visually sharp. Each shot is ambitiously framed. If you like the scenes in Twin Peaks where the characters just languish about ordering diner breakfasts, listening to jukeboxes, talking hip… then this’ll work for you too. Robert Gordon’s rockabilly soundtrack gives the endeavour a heartbeat. The girls are all trailer trash sexy. Most notable for being the debut of Dafoe and Bigelow. Two massive talents who went on to consistent bigger, better things but their hearts still remain in this cool, rebel outlaw vibe. Their talent was present at their cinematic start. A watchable nothingness, pastiche-a-go-go.


My Top 10 Willem Dafoe Movies 

1. American Psycho (2000)

2. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

3. John Wick (2014)

4. Wild at Heart (1990)

5. The English Patient (1996)

6. The Fault in Our Stars (2014)

7. The Florida Project (2017)

8. Clear and Present Danger (1994)

9. The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

10. The Loveless (1981)

Battle Beyond the Stars (1980)

Jimmy T. Murakami and Roger Corman direct George Peppard, Robert Vaughn and Richard Thomas in this space set remake of The Magnificent Seven.

Cheap and cheerful Star Wars cash-in. Fun and undemanding. With a nice cast of C-List faces. There are far worse ways to spend an afternoon and you get to see glimpses of James Cameron’s apprenticeship in production design and Bill Paxton’s (off screen) carpentry.


Poison (1991)

Todd Haynes directs Edith Meeks, Larry Maxwell and Susan Norman in three metaphorical tales of outlawed queerness based on the works by Jean Genet.

More like a strong sedative, this Poison won’t kill you but it will put you to sleep. An early work in pastiche by the now masterful Haynes. The final torture scene where a boy is covered in spit makes for queasy viewing.


Glass (2019)

M. Night Shyamalan directs Samuel L. Jackson, James McAvoy and Bruce Willis in this sequel to Split AND Unbreakable.

After a promising opening where we catch up with impenetrable vigilante David Dunn (Willis, showing a glimmer of his old spark) and McAvoy’s multiple personality nasty… everything suddenly goes on pause. Like our protagonists, we are trapped in an asylum for far too long. The plot is put in a holding pattern for what feels like an hour. Samuel L. Jackson is muted for most of that slog. The heavy lifting is left to the support actors while the stars mope about in custom designed cells. Sarah Paulson and Anya Taylor-Joy get some lovely outfits to pout around in. Meanwhile Unbreakable alumni Spencer Treat Clark and Charlayne Woodward achieve so much with so little you wonder why we haven’t seen more of them since the year 2000. But we didn’t buy a ticket to see the extended cast… we want the supernatural leads to face-off. After a middling breakout, instead of the teased skyscraper-set finale, we stay in a car park. Characters scrap, then make speeches about comic book tropes (tropes I’m not entirely sure hold water), scrap some more, then we get our twist. Is it a good Shyamalan twist? It certainly is a busy one, unspooling probably a whole extra movie worth of ideas in five brisk minutes. Some of that imagery and conspiracy could have easily been seeded through the previous hour where Mr Glass drools into his wheelchair bound lap. A poor conclusion to Unbreakable, one of the finest superhero movies ever made. An adequate follow-up to Split which wasn’t exactly a perfect experience to begin with but was, at the very least, tighter and not deathly boring.


Crisis (1946)

Ingmar Bergman directs Inga Landgré, Stig Olin and Marianne Löfgren in this dramatic tragedy where a young woman, raised by a foster parent, is attracted to the big city by her wayward birth mother.

A rather dry, dated melodrama with some astutely composed shots. Landgré catches the eye as the girl everyone wants to possess, Olin adds mystery as a pathetic, corrupt seducer. Fans of Ibsen will enjoy the most.


A Time to Kill (1996)

Joel Schumacher directs Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock and Samuel L. Jackson in the John Grisham courtroom drama where a white lawyer defends a guilty black man who killed the racists who raped and left for dead his child.

For a big glossy studio entertainment A Time To Kill starts with a bloody sexual assault on a child, effectively uses the KKK as a villainous backdrop and make some very un-lefty statements about capital punishment. It also is a compelling watch. Well plotted, even if it gets a little too hooked on recurring attacks by the racists on the legal team. The narrative is gripping enough without such embellishments, we didn’t need the fifth mini-action sequence to cause the record to skip. McConaughey makes fine work of his first lead role (even if bizarrely Sandra Bullock is topped billed in the credits) and lands the difficult final monologue. Yet of all the attractive names the project attracted, it is Samuel L Jackson who walks away with the honours. Shame his incarcerated character struggles for screentime when the plot is opened up and out of the courthouse. Solid Saturday night entertainment.


The Cotton Club (1984)

Francis Ford Coppola directs Richard Gere, Diane Lane and Bob Hoskins in this gangster fantasy where a jazz musician, dame and tap dancer circle the hoods who run New York.

Bob Hoskins is electric in this. He stands head and shoulders above an eclectic cast, has wonderful chemistry with Fred Gwynn , who also charms as a towering enforcer. The movie itself is gorgeous, rich, busy with moments. A frenetic place and splattering of dance numbers set it out from other Godfather wannabes. The Godfather is opera, this is jazz. Yet the sexiness of Diane Lane aside, it is also cold, inhuman. A cartoon. A re-enactment. Lots happens around The Cotton Club, very little we connect to. The black players subplots starring Gregory Hines feel just as sidelined and segregated as the characters real life counterparts would have. So much work has been put into this feature, but no real love or care.


The Ninth Configuration (1980)

William Peter Blatty directs Stacy Keach, Scott Wilson and Ed Flanders in this surreal drama set in an military asylum.

What am I watching? WHAT AM I WATCHING?! Misold as a horror movie. And why wouldn’t you if it was by The Exorcist’s William Peter Blatty and you were the poor marketing executive who had to come up with a lobby card campaign for this. In reality it is a lunatics take over the asylum drama closer to M*A*S*H* and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Only incoherent. Chock full of space crucifixions, all dog productions of Shakespeare, non sequiturs and a thirty minute bar fight. The parts never meet, it never settles into something enjoyable or even followable. A cult oddity that would struggle to find a fan base even now, let alone then.


Vice (2018)

Adam McKay directs Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Steve Carell in this lacerating biopic of Dick Cheney, the CEO of Halliburton Company and U.S. Vice President.

Like his previous flashy yet distasteful The Big Short, this is all invective and walloping satire with very little grace. Two hours of an audience being hit over the head with “And then this terrible, corrupt thing happened, and you did nothing about it, you fucking dummies!” as if we didn’t know, as if we didn’t care, as if we had some mechanism other than the broken democracy that legitimised the stock market and right wing political profiteering to halt such actions. We did know how self serving and manipulative Dick Cheney and his ilk were. The frustrating thing here is this cinematic prosecution of him is so haphazard and in love with itself you end up having a bit a sympathy and respect for the monotone cunt by the real end credits. Bale, Adams and Sam Rockwell’s solid turns gets lost in the irritating directorial fourth wall breaking shuffle. Only Steve Carrell’s dinosaur Donald Rumsfeld sticks in the memory and keep his head above McKay’s tricks and badgering. McKay’s intentions are admirable, his verve at filmmaking should yield results. Yet he’s too heavy handed and tone deaf for satire, lacking Spike Lee’s visual daring or Billy Wilder’s witty spryness or Stanley Kubrick’s deadpan nihilism or Warren Beatty’s sense of hope.