“My Evil Twin”: 10 Films Exploring Twins’ Polarity

Doppelgängers have been baffling people for centuries. Identical twins, in particular, have always held a certain fascination on the public, with some saying that they possess sinister abilities or are “mystically bonded”. However, it is the notion of “an evil twin” which probably holds the most fascination, as it involves the timeless tale of the “good vs. evil” battle – i.e, the situation whereby twins look identical, but one twin is “good”, whereas another harbours evil intentions. Below are 10 great films (in no particular order) that display and explore just this interesting situation.

The Dark Mirror Poster

I. The Dark Mirror (1946)

Starring Olivia de Havilland and Lew Ayres, this entertaining film starts with the investigation of a murder, and eyewitnesses all point to one suspect, but the detective soon realises their eyewitness accounts are useless because he deals with twin sisters and finding out which one is culpable looks like an impossible task. This is definitely a film which demarcates clearly an “evil” and a “good” twin, and it also deals with the topic from a scientific point of view because some study is conducted on twins in the story.

dead ringers poster

II. Dead Ringers (1988) 

Loosely based on a real-life story, this film directed by David Cronenberg is a fascinating account of two brothers who are gynaecologists – Elliot and Beverly Mantle (Jeremy Irons in a dual role), and their bond goes far beyond an ordinary friendship or sibling companionship, complicating their personal relationships and career aspirations. Clearly, it is Elliot who is more uncaring and ruthless of the two, with Beverly being more emotional.

Continue reading ““My Evil Twin”: 10 Films Exploring Twins’ Polarity”

Spotlight on Editing & Directing: Verhoeven’s RoboCop (1987)

With its “body-horror” preoccupation, excessive violence, and tongue-in-cheek dialogues, RoboCop (1987) is a quintessential 1980s film, inspired by Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner (1982) and made on the back of the success of The Terminator (1984). There are many things that made it good, including its cinematography provided by Jost Vacano (Das Boot (1981)), its unusual director choice – Paul Verhoeven (who had to be persuaded for a long time to do this film), and the choice to cast lesser-known actors, but on some reconsideration, it is also clear that its editing (choice of shots and their sequence)/directing (position of shots) simply awe – these are the things of beauty in his film. In fact, RoboCop was nominated for film editing at the Academy Awards 1988, but, sadly, lost to Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor. This piece will contain spoilers.

Continue reading “Spotlight on Editing & Directing: Verhoeven’s RoboCop (1987)”

10 “Must-See” Japanese Films

This list excludes anime, and, to ensure variety, includes only two films from any one director.

I. Tokyo Story [1953]

Tokyo Story is one of the greatest films of all times. Director Yasujirō Ozu’s trade-mark subtlety in rendering a picture so quietly powerful is seen here as in no other film as a story is told about the post-war perception shift and the young generation’s disregard and failure to care for their elderly.

II. The Ballad of Narayama [1958]

In my opinion, Keisuke Kinoshita’s version of The Ballad of Narayama (1958) is far superior to the now more popular 1983 version directed by Shōhei Imamura. The film is based on a 1956 novella of the same name by Shichirō Fukazawa and tells of one village and its ancient practice of ubasute, whereby the elderly, upon reaching a certain age, are taken to the mountain to die. The 1958 film’s colourful, theatrical vision gives this story much potency, emphasising its more thought-provoking elements.

Continue reading “10 “Must-See” Japanese Films”

Back to School: 10 Incredible Films

This is a list of ten great films that are set at school or academic environment. It is in no particular order.

I. The Browning Version [1951]

This film is based on a 1948 acclaimed play The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan (The Deep Blue Sea (1952)). Michael Redgrave gives a touching and memorable performance in the role of unlikable teacher Andrew Crocker-Harris at a boys’ boarding school. As his personal life crumbles and leave looms, Crocker-Harris is forced to reconsider his position in school and in life.

II. Heathers [1988]

This great 1980s black comedy is based on an equally great script by Daniel Waters. Winona Ryder plays beautiful Veronica Sawyer who falls for the bad boy of a class J. D. (Christian Slater). Their “Bonnie and Clyde” days begin, as they take on and challenge a powerful school clique.

Continue reading “Back to School: 10 Incredible Films”

“March of the Penguins” Review

March of the Penguins (La Marche de l’empereur) (2005)

This beautiful documentary, narrated by Morgan Freeman, gets close and personal with emperor penguins, marvellous, unique animals that reside in one of the harshest environments found on Earth – Antarctica. From penguins’ tricky courting rituals to the hatching of an egg, a remarkable moment, and the raising of chicks, March of the Penguins follows every step in emperor penguins’ lives, providing much insight.

Continue reading ““March of the Penguins” Review”

15 Great World War II Films

Schindler’s List (1993) The Pianist (2002) Life is Beautiful (1997)

The Bridge on the River Kwai (1953) Fires on the Plain (1959) Downfall (2004)

Ivan’s Childhood (1962) The Red Thin Line (1998) Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

Come and See (1985) Dunkirk (2017) Rome, Open City (1945)

Letters from Iwo Jima (2006) Saving Private Ryan (1998) The Cranes Are Flying (1957)

“Downfall: The Case Against Boeing” Review

Downfall (2022)

I love scrupulously-put-together documentaries that deal with criminal or social justice issues, and Downfall is one of them. It shows the rise and fall of the engineering company Boeing in the context of two airplane disasters that happened in October 2018 (Lion Air Flight) and March 2019 (Ethiopian Airlines Flight) and involved the same aircraft manufactured by Boeing – 737 MAX. The company’s culture of never hearing bad news and hiding important documents, a new airplane system MCAS, as well as Boeing’s concealment of it from the pilots to save money, all led to the total loss of 346 human lives. Starting from the foundation of the company and ending with the lessons drawn from the two disasters and the grounding of the Boeing fleet, Downfall painstakingly shows every development in this tragic story, demonstrating the full extent of the American corporate greed. Treating everything as “mere business” is very dangerous, especially when human safety is concerned and human lives are potentially at stake.

Continue reading ““Downfall: The Case Against Boeing” Review”

“Titane” Review

Titane [2021] – ★★★★

🔥 Titane hypnotises and mystifies as it repels and shocks, delivering not only a story, but also “an experience”.

Titane is the second feature film of French director Julia Ducournau (Raw (2017)) and the Palme d’Or winner of the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. The film is not for the faint of heart. Alexia (Agathe Rousselle) is a girl who suffered a brain injury as a child and now works at striptease car shows. Her encounter with grieving father Vincent (Vincent Lindon), who works as a fire-fighter, unveils the full extent of both his and her mental disturbances. People say that there is no art in shock value and Ducournau is set to prove them wrong. In her horrifying picture, she demonstrates that films with violence, nudity, sex and drug abuse do not need to be “trashy” and can be as stylish as any high-end production. There is nothing “cheap” about intense Titane which shines with inventiveness and brims with its own special intellectual, emotional and physical rawness, finding its own appreciative viewers.

Continue reading ““Titane” Review”

Film Scene Spotlight: Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata

This will be the first in my series of posts where I discuss individual scenes in films. Ingmar Bergman’s film Autumn Sonata [1978] centres on the relationship between a mother, a self-centred concert pianist Charlotte Andergast (Ingrid Bergman), and her already grown-up and married daughter Eva (Liv Ullmann). One of the greatest film scenes in history takes place at Eva’s home when Charlotte asks her daughter to play Chopin’s Prelude op. 28 no. 2 in A minor.

Ingmar Bergman was a master of showing repressed thoughts and desires on screen and, here, Ingrid Bergman’s silent performance conveys brilliantly all the hidden emotions and thoughts brewing inside the character. In those few minutes as her daughter plays the Prelude, Charlotte is “living through things”… What memories cross her mind at this moment? What turbulent feelings arise in her? As she patiently listens to this “imperfect” performance of her daughter, what “judgement” is she passing on it? Are there simply criticism, pity and disappointment or also guilt, and touches of love, kindness and pride? Probably all of the above. This scene displays the level of subtlety and psychological depth which is simply rare in cinematography, and Ingrid Bergman, Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman truly worked something magical here.

Continue reading “Film Scene Spotlight: Ingmar Bergman’s Autumn Sonata”

5 Foreign Films That Should Have Been Nominated for an Academy Award (Part II)

This is the second part of my list of foreign films that should have been nominated for an Academy Awards. As my previous list – 5 Foreign Films that Should Have Been Nominated for an Academy Award (Part I) – I am listing only those films that were officially submitted by their respective countries for consideration.

I. In the Mood for Love [2000]

Directed by Wong Kar-wai (Chungking Express [1994]), this film follows a man and a woman living in Hong Kong who find out that their spouses are having an affair. Confronted with this bizarre state of affairs, the pair also grows closer. Subtle, moving and profound, In The Mood for Love is a modern classic of a film, whose score Yumeji’s Theme by Shigeru Umebayashi (first featuring in Seijun Suzuki’s film Yumeji) brings out all the nuances of Su and Chow’s unusual situation and contributes to the film’s unforgettable atmosphere.

II. The Seventh Seal [1957]

Probably Ingmar Bergman’s greatest films, The Seventh Seal is set in the Middle Ages and follows a group of people who try to escape the plight of the majority – becoming victims of a plague sweeping the Earth. Steeped in religious nuances and symbolism, The Seventh Seal is an entrancing cinematic experience and few know that it is actually based on a play (Wood Painting) by Bergman himself who first devised this story for his acting students.

Continue reading “5 Foreign Films That Should Have Been Nominated for an Academy Award (Part II)”

Soviet Winter Animation: The Mitten (1967)

This sweet stop-motion animation from the Soviet Union titled The Mitten (“Варежка“) was directed by Roman Kachanov (director of The Mystery of the Third Planet (1981), but who also worked on such animations as The Snow Maiden (1952) and The Scarlet Flower (1952)). The 10-minute silent animation is about a girl who longs to have a puppy or a dog but whose family is against the idea. Although sad, she does not despair and in her childish make-believe world starts to pretend that her mitten is a little puppy, feeding it and participating in a dog competition. The girl’s touching devotion to her new pet is not lost on her mother.

5 Foreign Films That Should Have Been Nominated for an Academy Award (Part I)

The Academy Awards have always had a very difficult relationship with experimental and artistic films or with films dauteur, but, nevertheless, below are five films that should have received at least a Best Foreign Film nomination by the Academy (if not a win) and were unjustly ignored. I am listing only the films that were officially submitted by their respective countries for consideration.

I. Wings of Desire [1987]

The Academy’s ignoring of Wenders’s masterpiece Wings of Desire in 1988 now sounds like a crime. Was this film really worse than others, such as Course Completed (Spain) or The Family (Italy) – films that were nominated in that year? No, it was probably simply too artistic and complex to understand. A philosophically entrancing cinematic experience, Wings of Desire tells of two angels in Berlin who observe the behaviour of people around them, and things take a more complicating turn when they slowly realise that they can no longer be simply impartial observers.

II. Ivan’s Childhood [1962]

This cinematic debut by Soviet director Andrei Tarkovsky must be one of the greatest film debuts ever. Thematically significant, visually poetic and unbelievably touching, it tells the story of a twelve-year old boy during the World War II whose zeal to be part of the Red Army fighting the Nazis gains him the admiration of all men around him. The Soviet Union submitted this film for consideration for the 36th Academy Awards and it was unjustly ignored, with the Academy, surprisingly – if not shockingly, nominating such films as Los Tarantos (Spain) and Twin Sisters of Kyoto (Japan) over Ivan’s Childhood. Incidentally, the country’s great anti-war film Come and See [1985] was also later bypassed by the Academy.

Continue reading “5 Foreign Films That Should Have Been Nominated for an Academy Award (Part I)”

BFI London Film Festival 2021: Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog

The Power of the Dog [2021]★★★★1/2

Deliver my soul from the sword/My darling from the power of the dog” (Psalms, Preface to Thomas Savage’s novel The Power of the Dog (1967)).

The Power of the Dog centres on two very different brothers Phil and George Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch and Jesse Plemons) living on a big ranch in Montana in 1925. If Phil is the very definition of a brutal force and “no-nonsense” attitude, his brother George is more subdued and caring. When George takes notice of a lonely widow Rose (Kirsten Dunst), falls in love her, and moves her and her alienated teenage son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) into Burbanks’ property, the gap between the brothers only grows and soon full psychological warfare is raging. Through the film’s atmosphere alone (including production, camerawork, score and setting), as well as Cumberbatch’s mesmerising-in-its-zealousness performance, The Power of the Dog is a film of uncanny beauty and subtle power, whose biggest asset is the curious interplay of contrasts of all kinds: physical power vs. powers of intellect, kindness vs. ruthlessness, refinement vs. roughness, innocence vs. corruption, hypocrisy vs. honesty, and love vs. hate.

Continue reading “BFI London Film Festival 2021: Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog”

Actor Spotlight: Montgomery Clift

Today, 17 October 2021, marks 101 years since the birth of American actor Montgomery Clift (1920 – 1966). This talented actor was a four-times Academy Award-nominee and is known for such films as The Search (1948), From Here to Eternity (1953) and Judgement at Nuremberg (1961). He often played smooth-talking, melancholy and mysterious men who rebelled against the establishment. Despite the immensity of Clift’s talent and charisma, however, Hollywood never seemed to know what to think of him and he was often portrayed “a black sheep” of the cinema business, a perpetually tortured soul who privately fought many mental and physical battles. Though never openly gay or bisexual, Clift always had his private life under wraps and struggled to fit into the image that Hollywood wanted him to fit into: the image of the Golden Boy who is after money, financial success and women. Though now often overshadowed by, and even compared unfavourably to, such cinematic icons as James Dean and Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift deserved and still deserves much more, especially since both of these actors looked up to Clift and was inspired by his image to forge theirs. Clift was one of the most talented American actors and, unfortunately, one of the most misunderstood ones, who valued the craft of acting above financial success or even critical/public opinion, who wanted desperately to retain his unassuming, independent and original inner core despite the environment that constantly wanted to mould him into something else, a Hollywood environment that favoured flashy displays of wealth, stereotypes and double-dealings. Clift’s story is as much a tale of one talented and intelligent actor following a tragic path as a story of Hollywood’s callousness and complacency.

Continue reading “Actor Spotlight: Montgomery Clift”

“The Last Black Man in San Francisco” Review

The Last Black Man in San Francisco [2019]★★★1/2

There is no place like home”. Housing is an important but often overlooked topic in films (see my discussion of two notable films about housing here). The Last Black Man in San Francisco, which first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2019, tells the story of Jimmie Fails (actor playing “himself”), a young man stuck in a series of menial jobs, but dreaming of a better life and still attached to his old childhood home, which is now an expensive Victorian house in an affluent area of San Francisco. His loyal friend and aspiring playwright Montgomery Allen is always ready to offer Jimmie his own place or rather the place of his parents to sleep in, but Jimmy is set only on one thing – to get one particular house which he believes his father built in 1943 and is prepared to do anything to reclaim it. This cinematic debut from Joe Talbot may be an imperfect film, but it has so many distinguishable characteristics and particular eccentricities that it becomes quite impossible to compare it to anything else. Visually-entrancing, The Last Black Man in San Francisco puts the concept of nostalgia, the spirit of ordinary, under-privileged people, their hopes, dreams and rights, as well as one touching friendship, at the very centre of its low-key drama.

Continue reading ““The Last Black Man in San Francisco” Review”

When Film Posters Mean Art: 10 Eye-Catching Alternative Designs

Designing film posters is an art in its own right and some films come up with rather ingenious ways to entice the public to watch their films. Cinematic fan art is also making some amazing contributions, and below I present ten film posters that have captured my attention recently; see also my posts Alternative Film Posters and “Minimalist” Film Posters, and for those who want to explore poster art in greater detail, I recommend this ten-minute lecture by James Verdesoto, film poster expert who designed that one famous poster for Pulp Fiction.

(i) I simply love how this clever poster to Michael Almereyda’s film Tesla (2020) both captures the character portrayed by Ethan Hawke and his distinguishable characteristics and says something about the main theme: electricity/electric power; (ii) I think the colour red suits this Amelie (2001) poster from Japan, hinting to us that the story will be all about eccentricities and passions, and we can’t wait to know more about adventures of this unusual character in the centre; (iii) I’m Thinking of Endings Things (2020) may have a story which suffers from lots of awkwardness and pretentiousness, but all of its posters is a thing of beauty. The poster to the very right designed by Akiko Stehrenberger is trying to bring out the psychological and otherworldly aspects of the film.

Continue reading “When Film Posters Mean Art: 10 Eye-Catching Alternative Designs”

“Wings” Review

Wings [1966]★★★★★

Larisa Shepitko was a Soviet film-maker who made only four full-length films (her film Ascent won the Golden Bear Award at the Berlin International Film Festival 1977) before her untimely death in a car accident at the age of 41 in 1979. Shepitko’s film Wings tells the story of a decorated ex-pilot of the Red Army during the WWII – Nadezhda Petrukhina (Maya Bulgakova) who tries to re-build her life after the war period and faces a number of obstacles. Often day-dreaming about flying, Nadezhda finds it hard to find common ground with her only daughter Tanya, who has recently got engaged, and Nadezhda’s self-sacrificing and domineering approach to schooling means that she is also at odds with the younger generation in a college where she directs, who appear in her eyes to be comparatively self-centered and lacking in meekness. Through the character of one female war veteran, Wings deals bravely with a number of sensitive topics, among which is hidden PTSD, loneliness and isolation in the post-war atmosphere, and the problem of adjusting to the times of peace. Shot with nuance and balance, Wings is a largely forgotten masterpiece that needs to be seen.

Continue reading ““Wings” Review”

Salvador Dalí-Disney’s Short Animation “Destino”

Destino is a Salvador Dali-Disney (John Hench)’s collaboration on an animation that first started in 1945 and only finished in 2003 when Walt Disney’s nephew Roy E. Disney found the unfinished project materials in 1999. The surrealist animation was eventually directed by Dominique Monféry, and the music was written by Armando Domínguez and performed by Dora Luz. The animation is one incredible beauty that mixes Dali’s artistic vision with Disney’s hand-drawn techniques, presenting such themes as the pains of lost love, dream-following and memories. Even if narratively difficult to grasp, the viewing experience is still more of a “deliciously enigmatic”, “soul-searching” one, rather than frustrating or unnecessarily confusing. Besides, Dora Luz’s soulful voice adds to it being rather touching and simply unforgettable.

Soviet Animations: The Mystery of the Third Planet, The Golden Antelope & Brothers Lu

I. The Mystery of the Third Planet [1981]★★★★

Based on a book Alice’s Travel by Kir Bulychev, The Mystery of the Third Planet was directed by Roman Kachanov and tells of the interplanetary travel of one spacecraft on board of which there are: a ten year-old girl Alice, her father biologist Professor Seleznev and their friend mechanic-pilot Captain Green. Their goal is to collect some rare animals from other planets to take them back to Earth, but they become unwittingly entangled in the web of machinations perpetuated by one evil person who randomly kills off rare birds-chatterboxes on other planets. At the heart of this mystery is also the disappearance of two legendary Captains, Kim and Buran.

Continue reading “Soviet Animations: The Mystery of the Third Planet, The Golden Antelope & Brothers Lu”

“The Mauritanian” Review

The Mauritanian [2020]★★★★

Based on a memoir Guantamano Diary (2015), this film tells the true story of Mohamedou Ould Salahi (played by Tahar Rahim), a man from Mauritania who was arrested on heresy some time after the 9/11 terrorist attack and then spent 14 years (from 2002 to 2016) in the notorious Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba without charge or trial. Jodie Foster plays his lawyer Nancy Hollander who is determined to see that her client gets a fair trial despite the extremely serious allegations against him, and Benedict Cumberbatch (12 Years a Slave (2013)) plays military prosecutor Stuart Couch who is more than determined to avenge the attack on America, especially since he knows one of its direct victims personally. Despite its slightly uneven narrative, this film by Kevin Macdonald (Touching the Void (2003)) is an intelligent legal drama bolstered by the powerful performances from both Tahar Rahim (A Prophet (2009)) and Jodie Foster. The film, which undoubtedly will make people uncomfortable, clearly shows the Guantanamo Bay abuses through the eyes of one innocent and sympathetic man.

Continue reading ““The Mauritanian” Review”