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last update 25.Aug.12
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The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
5/5   MUST must see SEE   Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie
dir Luis Bunuel
prd Serge Silberman
scr Luis Bunuel, Jean-Claude Carriere
with Fernando Rey, Paul Frankeur, Delphine Seyrig, Bulle Ogier, Stephane Audran, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Michel Piccoli, Julien Bertheau, Milena Vukotic, Maria Gabriella Maione, Claude Pieplu, Muni
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
release Fr 15.Sep.72,
US 22.Oct.72
reissue Fr 13.Jul.11,
UK 29.Jun.12
72/France 1h42

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie Bunuel's marvellously surreal satire pokes lacerating fun at the snobby, unflappable French middle class. Shot like a sitcom, it's a snappy look at the ridiculous inequity of Western society, peeling back the veneer of civilisation in a way that's even more timely now than it was in 1972.

Ambassador Acosta (Rey) and three friends (Frankenur, Seyrig and Ogier) arrive at a country house for dinner, but discover that they're a day early. And rescheduling the meal proves rather complicated, as the men are secretly involved in an illicit drug deal, and hosts Alice and Henri (Audran and Cassel) would rather sneak off for sex. The interruptions to their rescheduled meal become increasingly surreal, including a tea room that runs out of tea, a group of soldiers on manoeuvres and a gang of armed thugs.

The film is packed with hilariously ridiculous touches. These privileged people have no connection with the real world, caught in a swirl of prejudices, blurred morality and private obsessions that express themselves at all the wrong times. Clever side characters include a bishop (Bertheau) who wants work as a gardener and has his powers of forgiveness sorely tested, and Alice and Henri's maid (Vukotic), who seems unflustered no matter what craziness happens next.

The whole film is wilfully absurd, and as events continue the scenes become more explicitly dreamlike. Everything stops so a young soldier (Maxence Mailfort) can recount his eerie visions, and several of the more outrageous moments end with someone waking up in shock. Some scenes feel like they take place on a stage in front of an unseen audience. Or maybe they're not quite so unseen after all. And maybe society would be better off if they weren't around.

All of this is played straight by the first-rate cast and directed with a fine sense of warped humour by Bunuel, who playfully uses camera angles and sound to torment his characters (and us). Along the way, the cracks begin to show as the actors reveal their characters' insecurities. Cleverly, even though the film feels like a collection of random scenes, there isn't a wasted moment. These people may think they have it all, but they're actually trapped in a cyclical hell.

15 themes, language, violence
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The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog  
5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir Alfred Hitchcock
scr Eliot Stannard
prd Michael Balcon, Carlyle Blackwell
with Ivor Novello, June, Malcolm Keen, Marie Ault, Arthur Chesney, Reginald Gardiner, Eve Gray, Alma Reville
june and novello release UK 14.Feb.27,
US 10.Jun.28
restored UK 10.Aug.12
27-12/UK Gainsborough 1h32
The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog Hitchcock's third feature established his name. Indeed, he regarded it as his first true accomplishment, setting the tone for the career that followed. It also stands up as an inventive mystery-thriller that's both scary and darkly moving.

As a killer who calls himself the Avenger preys on fair-haired women in London, Mr and Mrs Bunting (Chesney and Ault) begin to fear for their blonde daughter Daisy (June). Thankfully, she's being courted by cocky detective Joe (Keen), who's sure he can protect her and catch the Avenger. Then a shy, strikingly good-looking young man (Novello) rents a room in their home. As Daisy's affections quietly shift from Joe to this new lodger, her parents begin to worry about who he is. And Joe's jealousy makes him suspicious as well.

Based on a novel that set out a theory about Jack the Ripper, the film is a blackly comical exploration of events that would still have been in the communal consciousness. Hitchcock continually injects jarring images and raw emotions that undermine the central mystery, which results in much more heightened suspense as we begin to actually care about these people. And the way he builds a sense of city-wide panic, police incompetence and media hyperbole is eerily timeless.

Even if we're unsure if the lodger is innocent, Novello's sympathetic, haunted performance puts us on his side. And his tender scenes with June are tinged with a sense of impending heartbreak. We also fully understand the parental concern that oozes from Ault's pores as she spies on the lodger. By contrast, Keen's portrayal of Joe's increasing possessiveness and arrogance turn him into the true villain of the piece, even as we understand why he does this.

In other words, this silent film is far more textured and expressive than almost any police thriller in recent memory. And the BFI's restoration is simply gorgeous, refreshing the graphic title cards and re-introducing the original colour-tinting to emphasise Hitchcock's striking visual style. More controversially, Nitin Sawhney's new score includes a couple of vocal ballads that hauntingly echo the mood but feel jarring after the lush instrumentals. Although this also beings out the film's resonant story and universal themes, which are powerfully relevant 85 years later.

PG themes, violence
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Rumble Fish
4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir Francis Ford Coppola
scr SE Hinton, Francis Ford Coppola
prd Doug Claybourne, Fred Roos
with Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, Vincent Spano, Diane Lane, Nicolas Cage, Chris Penn, Diana Scarwid, Dennis Hopper, Laurence Fishburne, Tom Waits, William Smith, Michael Higgins
cage, spano, dillon and penn release US 21.Oct.83
remastered UK 27.Aug.12
83/US 1h34

Shadows Best of 1983

rumble fish Just in time for its 30th anniversary, Coppola's artful teen drama gets a remastered release, bringing its 1950s-style beats and stylised storytelling to a new audience. The film is an unusual blending of teen angst with surreal imagery and sounds. And it's through the details, rather than the plot, that Coppola moves us.

In Middle America, Rusty James (Dillon) has led his local gang since his big brother Motorcycle Boy (Rourke) ran off to California two months earlier. His pals (Spano, Cage and Penn) follow him loyally, but his girlfriend Patty (Lane) thinks he's wasting his time trying to be so cool. In the middle of a brawl, Motorcycle Boy returns, enigmatically talking about his resistance to violence. And Rusty James is too young to realise that his aspiration to be like his brother is based on a heroic myth that isn't true.

The fresh-faced cast features a startlingly lean, silky turn from Rourke, channelling Brando as the soft-spoken tough guy. And it reminds us of Dillon's early promise as a leading man (see also Coppola's companion piece The Outsiders, made the same year). He's thoroughly engaging as a dim but charismatic teen who naturally commands the respect of his pals, seeking glory through the gang rumbles his brother banned. But would they follow him into a potentially fatal fight?

Coppola directs this present-day story as if it were shot in the 1950s, evoking period classics while seasoning Stephen H Burum's greyscale cinematography with billowing smoke, racing clouds and expressive camera angles. Meanwhile, Stewart Copeland's iconic score adds a wonderful snap. But Coppola and Hinton's script focuses on the strong emotions beneath the surface, making the film both a retro pastiche and far ahead of its time.

Unusually for a teen drama, this film never flinches from the realistic details of language, violence, drugs and sex. Even the relationships play out with a sharp edge that we rarely see anymore. Along the way, Coppola indulges in bold filmmaking touches including an out-of-body experience, a philosophy-spouting barman (Waits) and some red and blue fighting fish that would kill each other if they could. And for this genre, the climax is startlingly subtle and haunting.

18 themes, strong language, violence, drugs, sexuality
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4.5/5   MUST must see SEE
dir Carol Reed
scr James R Webb
prd James Hill
with Burt Lancaster, Tony Curtis, Gina Lollobrigida, Katy Jurado, Thomas Gomez, John Puleo, Minor Watson, Gerard Landry, Jean-Pierre Kerien, Sid James, Gamil Ratib, Pierre Tabard
lancaster, lollobrigida and curtis release US 30.May.56
reissue UK 30.Jul.12
56/US MGM 1h42
Trapeze An early Hollywood bromance, this sumptuous circus drama features Curtis and Lancaster as musclebound friends trying to keep their act together despite a meddling woman. It's an impeccably well-made film that still stands up remarkably well.

Brooklyn trapeze artist Tino (Curtis) arrives at the Circus Bouglione in Paris, desperate to be taught the triple from the last man to do one. But Mike (Lancaster) is haunted by a fatal accident in his past. Perhaps they can help each other move forward, but there are distractions along the way: ambitious acrobatic drama queen Lola (Lollobrigida) will do anything to join their act, while soulful horse-gymnast Rosa (Jurado) clearly has a thing for Mike. And things are about to get messy.

Reed directs with a strong visual flair, including vivid colours, a bustling circus atmosphere and huge characters. And the vertiginous photography sharply captures the height of the circus tent. But the main focus is on character interaction, which is soaked with rivalries, lust and regret. This sometimes lets the plot drift into melodrama (a lion attack!), but we can't take our eyes off these actors who are at the peak of their physical powers (Lancaster even performed his own stunts).

Curtis exudes boyish physicality and energy as he charms everyone he meets, while Lancaster is a complex bundle of fragile confidence with flashes of hope, sure that adding Lola to the act will throw everything out of balance. Indeed, Lollobrigida is purring and dangerous, determined to be in spotlight, no matter who she needs to seduce. Jurado mainly glowers from the sidelines, adding to a gang of wacky characters that includes the stormy circus owner (Gomez), the over-worked dwarf (Puleo), the tetchy horse trainer (Landry) and the philosophical snake handler (James).

As it heads to a heart-stopping finale, the screenplay audaciously weaves everything together, including some strong subtext about the collision between commerce and art, as well as the ripple effect caused by a manipulative fame-hound. We can also see this film's influence on everything from 2001: A Space Odyssey to Brokeback Mountain. Plus an upside-down kiss that's not only sexier than 2002's Spider-man, but was filmed a half-century earlier.

U themes, some violence
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