Friday, 28 December 2018

The Promised Land

I had a near impossible time deciding which still was worthy of representing this film, because one frame fails utterly to justify its irresistible enormity. The Promised Land, a movie by venerable Polish artist Andrzej Wajda, will perhaps prove to be my last great discovery of 2018. I have both hunted and diverted it for over three years and finally settling down with it gifted me with a beautiful companion to my memory of seeing Theo Angelopoulos' The Travelling Players for the first time: Exhausted in the early hours of the morning and yet so utterly transfixed I could only do as much as blink. Wajda's film had me, hexed, and even now I am yet to be free from its spell.

Saturday, 15 December 2018


I settled down with Roma ecstatic to welcome a fresh modern classic and when the credits finally, indignantly printed onto the screen all I was left with was a desperate, consuming desire to seek out The Wild Pear Tree in the hopes that it would fill the vacant hole Cuarón’s ‘Magnum Opus’ had left in me.

Sunday, 25 November 2018

Stanley Kubrick

Kubrick is an icon. A brand. He's a name stamped on every slice of cinematic discussion you can name and in a sense I'm kind of sick of it. I think recently the prevailing stance surrounding the term 'Kubrickian' when deployed by his most avid fans is not one of admiration but ownership. Some people I know seem to try and claim movies with this monocher, and often compliament a flick only to quickly rencounce it as being a fluke the man himself would have handled far better. This is a pokcet of personal experience but in truth I think our all-too avid worship for the man as a collective has gone too far, and cinematic canon needs to make a real effort to de-deify Kubrick and blunt the coinage of his influence with a little perspective. If you aren't happy to simply see a film-maker you adore settled as being less than a god, that's a little worrying. I've lived with his work for nearly a decade, poured over it exhaustingly and discovered a triptch of masterworks, messy crap and deeply troubling projects along the way. In an effort to close the book, here's what I thought.

Sunday, 18 November 2018

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

Luis Buñuel cheerfully abandoned a luminous creative grasp so vivid at the turn of the 1960s for the role of a cerebral court jester as the new decade was dawning and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is arguably the apex of this acid-tongued late period, at least for the jester. Having forged his name in sparkling surrealism in partnership to Salvador Dalí the man returned to this remarkable strand of filmmaking, I think informed by the sharp bitterness of co-penning on Dalton Trumbo’s equally uneven Johnny Got His Gun, and made one of his most spiny, complex and, ironically, overwhelmingly full features.

Cemetery of Splendour

Apichatpong Weerasethakul is, in the main, an extra-sensory filmmaker. He is intrigued by inter-human patience and colours simple tales with the vivid mythology of his native Thailand. It was sad to sense Cemetery of Splendour emerged under some duress, having been attached to seemingly dozens of production companies desperate to be rewarded with the artist’s unique vision once more; and it also seemed Weerasethakul’s most delirious fusions of Thai folk and fantasia were invested in the masterful Tropical Malady and Uncle Boonmee who can Recall his past Lives… but as with only the purest artists the man seems to have founded this story in his heart, and crafted something that evokes the numbing pressure of progress with stark serenity.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Santa Sangre

Shot nine years after his previous feature, the ill-received Tusk, Chilean mad-maverick Alejandro Jodorowsky’s Santa Sangre traces two decade of artistic reflection back to his earliest works- the kind that drew the backing of the then-broken Beatles and singularly started the Midnight Movie phenomenon. Flash-forward to now and the world is at war with drugs. The Berlin Wall is three short years from keeling over and Jodorowsky finally has carte-blanche to summon another maniac-monk epic. What he did, and what he discovered, would shape his creative career forever.

Aguirre, Wrath of God

It has taken me seven watches to unearth the genius buried like ancient treasure beneath the hulking maw of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God: The scratched-up saga of a murky Conquistador mutiny turned suicide mission… and I find few things cinema has given me more warm and fulfilling than sticking with a flick you just aren’t there with yet, however long it takes, until you are ready to reveal the wonders lurking within its wicked world.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Infinity War

If I’m honest, I padded into the theatre secretly dreading the promise of dead men, women and space folk. The Avengers 3: Infinity War has been shrouded in an admirable web of promotional abstraction that planted a long line of red herrings, from Hulk’s participation in the final battle to Tony Stark’s ever-so-obvious [not] demise. This obsession with mortality scared me, but its only on reflection that I realise it was the work of a fanbase, not the artists behind Infinity War. They toyed with a legion of loyal followers desperate to go on information, rather than meaningful character interaction, to pave the way for something morbidly miraculous in the modern Marvel universe: An honest to god, full-blooded film. 

Marvel Retrospective

I spent the last week and a half painstakingly working my way through the Marvel Cinematic Universea with my friends. The only film that was new to me was Dr. Strange, the others were either well-trodden or sparsley visited entries I usually got a lot more from on this mini-marathon. Let's count them down.

Friday, 6 April 2018

De-Loused in the Comatorium

The 2003-released debut of El Paso proggers The Mars Volta- reputedly a true-to-life tale bent into fairyland, De-Loused in the Comatorium is a concept album that sits in the company of Cerpin Taxt, a man who has plunged himself into a seven-day coma OD'ing on Rat Poison and Morphine. This psycadellic cocktail elevated by brief moments of clarity like the rippling tonal tide of songs like 'Televators' is a fantastic story on paper, given that the limitation of being trapped in a cold hospital examination chamber for the best part of a week and that space being blown wide open by the unconcious influence of drugs leaves it ripe for multi-stranded storytelling. As for all the potential The Mars Volta actually make use of on this album, it might as well be fifteen minutes long.

Thursday, 8 March 2018


a second stab at writing some kind of concept album, if a lot more abstract than the first. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Van der Graaf Generator

Van der Graaf Generator are my favorite band, and Peter Hammill (their vocalist/lyricist) surely my favorite solo artist too. They have inspired much of my own work in recent months, as well as quite frankly put into perspective some reasonably rough times- so I think its time to devote another album retrospective to these lads in their most creativley profitable period: the 1970s. VdGG would reform in 2005 for the excellent 'Present' and I'll tack that peroid onto this post in time. 

I've purposefully ommitted Van der Graaf's 1978 live album 'Vital' because depite its (fantastic) fresh material I do not possess half the experience to acurately detail the strengths or weaknesses of a live album. Take it from me while I have the time, however, to say that it is just essential for fans of the band. Let's get to it.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Glazed Gaze of Medusa

Motivated by a recent obsession with progressive rock bands, in particular the novelistic lyricism of Peter Hammill solo and with Van der Graaf Generator, I decided to cook up a practice concept album draft for fun and, instead of letting that waste away on an outer rim of the hard-drive, wanted to share it here. Using free time to practice writing lyrics has been a fixation of the past few months and I've found all feedback helpful in shaping the direction of new material, as well as editing published pieces. 

As for the musical content that might be on display, I'm not nearly literate enough to offer anything beyond 'tack on an instrumental section here'. I'd hope this will be returned to one day with more in mind- but we'll see. Anyway:

Friday, 5 January 2018

Top Directors

85. Hideo Nakata (cinematically active 1992 – 2018, Japan)
Greatest Works: Ringu, Dark Water

84. Takashi Miike (cinematically active 1991 – present, Japan)
Greatest Works: Audition, Ichi the Killer, Gozu, 13 Assassins

83. Bong Joon-Ho (cinematically active 1994 – present, Korea)
Greatest Works: Memories of Murder, Mother, The Host, Snowpiercer

82. Kiyoshi Kurosawa (cinematically active 1975 – present, Japan)
Greatest Works: Pulse, Cure, Tokyo Sonata

81. Mario Bava (cinematically active 1939 – 1977, Italian)
Greatest Works: Black Sunday, Blood and Black Lace, A Bay of Blood, Black Sabbath, Danger: Diabolik

80. Alan Clarke (cinematically active 1967 – 1989, UK)
Greatest Works: Elephant, The Firm, Scum, Made in Britain, Fenda’s Pen

79. Georges Franju (cinematically active 1934  – 1979, France)
Greatest Works: The Blood of the Beasts, Judex, Eyes Without a Face, Spotlight on a Murderer

78. Juraj Herz (cinematically active 1965 – present, Czechoslovakia)
Greatest Works: The Cremator, Morgiana, Beauty and the Beast

77. Joseph Losey (cinematically active 1939 – 1985, US)
Greatest Works: King & Country, The Servant, These are The Damned, The Go-Between

76. Billy Wilder (cinematically active 1934 – 1981, Austria)
Greatest Works: The Lost Weekend, The Apartment, Some Like it Hot, Double Indemnity, Ace in the Hole

75. Paul Verhoeven (cinematically active 1961 – present, The Netherlands)
Greatest Works: Robocop, Starship Troopers, Fatal Attraction, Elle, The Fourth Man, Total Recall

74. Henri-Georges Clouzot (cinematically active 1931 – 1968, France)
Greatest Works: The Wages of Fear, Les Diaboliques, Inferno [re], Le Corbeau

73. Tengiz Abuladze (cinematically active 1953 – 1989, Georgia)
Greatest Works: The Plea

72. John Boorman (cinematically active 1961 – present, UK)
Greatest Works: Deliverance, Point-Blank, Hell in the Pacific, Excalibur, Zardoz

71. Jacques Tourneur (cinematically active 1931 – 1977, France)
Greatest Works: Out of the Past, Cat People, Night of the Demon, I Walked with a Zombie

70. Louis Malle (cinematically active 1954 – 1994, France)
Greatest Works: The Fire Within, Au Revoir les Enfants, Elevator to the Gallows, Black Moon, My Dinner with Andre, Lacombe Lucien

69. Kenji Mizoguchi (cinematically active 1923 – 1956, Japan)
Greatest Works: Sansho the Bailiff, Street of Shame, The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums, The Life of Oharu, Ugetsu Monogatari  

68. James Whale (cinematically active 1930 – 1949, US)
Greatest Works: The Invisible Man, Bride of Frankenstein, The Old Dark House, Frankenstein

67. Chris Marker (cinematically active 1952 – 2012, France)
Greatest Works: La Jetée, Sans Soleil, Grin Without a Cat, The Last Bolshevik, Les Astronautes

66. Rodger Corman (cinematically active 1954 – present, US)
Greatest Works: The Masque of the Red Death, The Pit & The Pendulum, The Trip, The Intruder, The Fall of the House of Usher

65. Seijun Suzuki (cinematically active 1956 – 2005, Japan)
Greatest Works: Branded to Kill, Tokyo Drifter, Youth of the Beast, Gate of Flesh, Fighting Elegy

64. Alain-Robbe Grillet (cinematically active 1961 – 2008, France)
Greatest Works: Eden & After, Trans-Europ Express, The Man Who Lies, Successive Slidings of Pleasure

63. Shuji Terayama (cinematically active 1964 – 1983, Japan)
Greatest Works: Throw Away your Books-Rally in the Streets, Pastoral: To Die in the Country, Grass Labyrinth, Farewell to the Ark

62. Alfred Hitchcock (cinematically active 1922 – 1976, UK)
Greatest Works: Rear Window, Psycho, The Wrong Man, Notorious, Frenzy, Vertigo

61. Jean Vigo (cinematically active 1930 – 1934, France)
Greatest Works: L’Atlante, Zero de Conduite, A Propos de Nice

60. Costa-Gavras (cinematically active 1958 – present, Greece)
Greatest Works: Z, The Confession, Missing, State of Siege

59. Wim Wenders (cinematically active 1967 – present, Germany)
Greatest Works: Wings of Desire, Paris Texas, The American Friend, Kings of the Road, Alice in the Cities

58. Bob Fosse (cinematically active 1951 – 2001, US)
Greatest Works: All That Jazz, Lenny, Cabaret

57. Max Ophüls (cinematically active 1931 – 1955, France)
Greatest Works: La Ronde, the Earrings of Madame De…, Lola Montes, Letter from an Unknown Woman

56. Gaspar Noé (cinematically active 1985 – present, France)
Greatest Works: Irréversible, Seul Contre Tous, Enter the Void

55. Nuri Blige Ceylan (cinematically active 1995 – present, Turkey)
Greatest Works: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Uzak, Climates

54. Shohei Imamura (cinematically active 1958 – 2002, Japan)
Greatest Works: Vengeance is Mine, Profound Desires of the Gods, Intentions of Murder, The Insect Woman, The Ballad of Nayamara

53. Apichatpong Weerasethakul (cinematically active 1993 – present, Thailand)
Greatest Works: Tropical Malady, Uncle Boonmee who can Recall his Past Lives, Syndromes and a Century, Cemetery of Splendour, Blissfully Yours

52. Yoshishige Yoshida (cinematically active 1960 – 2004, Japan)
Greatest Works: Eros + Massacre, Heroic Purgatory, Akitsu Springs, Confessions Among Actresses, Coup D’etat, Bitter End of a Sweet Night

51. Sidney Lumet (cinematically active 1957 – 2007, US)
Greatest Works: Dog Day Afternoon, 12 Angry Men, Network, Prince of the City, The Offence, The Pawnbroker, The Hill

50. Jacques Tati (cinematically active 1947 – 2002, France)
Greatest Works: Playtime, Traffik, Mon Oncle, Mr. Hulot’s Holiday

49. Abbas Kiarostami (cinematically active 1970 – 2016, Iran)
Greatest Works: Close-Up, Through the Olive Trees, Where is the Friend’s Home?, Certified Copy, The Wind Will Carry Us

48. Sayajit Ray (cinematically active 1955 – 1991, India)
Greatest Works: The Music Room, Charulata, The Big City, Pather Panchali, The World of Apu

47. Stanley Kubrick (cinematically active 1951 – 1999, US)
Greatest Works: Paths of Glory, Dr. Strangelove, The Shining, 2001: a Space Odyssey

46. Paul Schrader (cinematically active 1974 – present, US)
Greatest Works: Mishima: a Life in Four Chapters, Affliction, Cat People, Light Sleeper, Autofocus

45. Fritz Lang (cinematically active 1919 – 1960, Germany)
Greatest Works: M, Metropolis, Die Nibelungen, Destiny, The Big Heat

44. Paul Thomas Anderson (cinematically active 1988 – present, US)
Greatest Works: Magnolia, There Will Be Blood, Boogie Nights, Punch-Drunk-Love, the Master

43. Hsiao-Hsien Hou (cinematically active 1980 – present, Taiwan)
Greatest Works: A City of Sadness, Flowers of Shanghai, The Puppetmaster, A Time to Live & A Time to Die, The Assassin

42. Michael Haneke (cinematically active 1989 – present, Austria)
Greatest Works: The Seventh Continent, The White Ribbon, Cache, Amour

41. Charlie Chaplin (cinematically active 1914 – 1967, UK)
Greatest Works: City Lights, Modern Times, The Gold Rush, The Great Dictator, The Circus, The Kid, Limelight

40. Mikhail Kalatozov (cinematically active 1927 – 1969, Russia)
Greatest Works: Letter Never Sent, The Cranes are Flying, I am Cuba

39. Alejandro Jodorowsky (cinematically active 1957 – present, Mexico)
Greatest Works: The Holy Mountain, El Topo, Endless Poetry, Santa Sangre

38. Stan Brackhage (cinematically active 1952 – 2004, US)
Greatest Works: The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes, Dog Star Man, Mothlight, Window Water Baby Moving

37. Dario Argento (cinematically active 1970 – present, Italy)
Greatest Works: Deep Red, Suspiria, the Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Phenomena, Opera, Tenebrae

36. Ritwik Ghatak (cinematically active 1951 – 1977, India)
Greatest Works: A River Called Titus, The Cloud-Capped Star, Subarnarekha

35. Masahiro Shinoda (cinematically active 1960 – 2003, Japan)
Greatest Works: Pale Flower, Double Suicide, Assassination, Himiko, Captive’s Island, Silence, Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees

34. Wong Kar-Wai (cinematically active 1988 – present, Hong Kong)
Greatest Works: In the Mood for Love, Chungking Express, 2046, Happy Together, Days of Being Wild

33. David Cronenburg (cinematically active 1966 – present, US)
Greatest Works: Dead Ringers, Crash, The Fly, Naked Lunch, A History of Violence, Eastern Promises, Spider

32. Roman Polanski (cinematically active 1962 – present, Poland)
Greatest Works: Chinatown, Knife in the Water, Repulsion, The Pianist, The Tenant

31. Werner Herzog (cinematically active 1962 – present, Germany)
Greatest Works: Nosferatu the Vampyre, Grizzly Man, Aguirre Wrath of God, La Soufrière, Woyzeck

30. Terence Malick (cinematically active 1973 – present, US)
Greatest Works: The Thin Red Line, The New World, The Tree of Life, Badlands, Days of Heaven

29. David Lynch (cinematically active 1977 – present, US)
Greatest Works: Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, The Elephant Man, Eraserhead

28. Robert Bresson (cinematically active 1934 – 1983, France)
Greatest Works: A Man Escaped, au hasard Balthazar, Pickpocket, Four Nights a Dreamer, Diary of a Country Priest

27. Sergio Leone (cinematically active 1946 – 1984, Italy)
Greatest Works: Once Upon a Time in America, Once Upon a Time in the West, the Good the Bad& the Ugly, For a Few Dollars More

26. Sam Peckinpah (cinematically active 1958 – 2004, US)
Greatest Works: Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, Straw Dogs, the Wild Bunch, Bring me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, The Killer Elite, Cross of Iron, Ride the High Country

25. Krzysztof Kieślowski (cinematically active 1966 – 1993, Poland)
Greatest Works: Dekalog I, Three Colours Red, Three Colours Blue, Dekalog VI, Camera Buff

24. Michael Powell + Emeric Pressburger (cinematically active 1940 – 1960, UK)
Greatest Works: The Life & Death of Col. Blimp, The Red Shoes, A Matter of Life & Death, The Tales of Hoffman, Black Narcissus, A Canterbury Tale, Peeping Tom

23. William Friedkin (cinematically active 1962 – present, US)
Greatest Works: The Exorcist, The French Connection, Sorcerer, To Live & Die in L.A, Bug, Cruising, Killer Joe

22. Glauber Rocha (cinematically active 1959 – 1980, Brazil)
Greatest Works: Black God White Devil, Land in Anguish, the Age of the Earth, Antonio Das Mortes, Barravento

21. Carl Theodor Dreyer (cinematically active 1919 – 1964, Denmark)
Greatest Works: Ordet, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Vampyr, Day of Wrath, Gertrud 

20. Jean Renoir (cinematically active 1925 – 1970, France)
Greatest Works: The Rules of the Game, La Grande Illusion, A Day in the Country, La Bête Humaine, The River

19. Larisa Shepitko (cinematically active 1966 – 1979, Russia)
Greatest Works: The Ascent, Wings

18. Andrzej Żuławski (cinematically active 1969 – 2015, Poland)
Greatest Works: On the Silver Globe, Diabel, The Third Part of the Night, Cosmos, Possession

17. Buster Keaton (cinematically active 1917 – 1966, US)
Greatest Works: The General, The Cameraman, Sherlock Jr., Steamboat Bill Jr., Our Hospitality, Seven Chances

16. Yasujirō Ozu (cinematically active 1927 – 1962, Japan)
Greatest Works: Late Spring, An Autumn Afternoon, Tokyo Story, Tokyo Twilight, Floating Weeds, I Was Born But…

15. Michael Mann (cinematically active 1981 – present, US)
Greatest Works: The Insider, Heat, Thief, Last of the Mohicans, Miami Vice, Collateral, Ali

14. Akira Kurosawa (cinematically active 1941 – 1993, Japan)
Greatest Works: High & Low, Seven Samurai, Rashomon, Throne of Blood, Ran

13. František Vláčil (cinematically active 1950 – 1988, Czech Republic)
Greatest Works: Marketa Lazarová, The Valley of the Bees

12. Elem Kilmov (cinematically active 1959 – 1985, Russia)
Greatest Works: Come & See, Farewell, Agony

11. Hiroshi Teshigahara (cinematically active 1953 – 1992, Japan)
Greatest Works: Woman in the Dunes, The Face of Another, Pitfall, The Man Without a Map

10. F.W Murnau (cinematically active 1919 – 1931, Germany)
Greatest Works: Sunrise: a Song of Two Humans, The Last Laugh, Faust, Nosferatu: Symphony of Fear, Taboo

9. Miklós Jancsó (cinematically active 1950 – 2012, Hungary)
Greatest Works: The Red & The White, The Round-Up, Red Psalm, Elektra My Love, Silence and Cry

8. Ingmar Bergman (cinematically active 1946 – 2003, Sweden)
Greatest Works: Persona, Fanny & Alexander, The Seventh Seal, Winter Light, Through a Glass Darkly, Cries & Whispers, Wild Strawberries, Hour of the Wolf

7. Béla Tarr (cinematically active 1978 – 2011, Hungary)
Greatest Works: Sátántangó, Werckmeister Harmonies, The Turin Horse, Damnation, Autumn Almanac

6. Masakai Kobayashi (cinematically active 1952 – 1985, Japan)
Greatest Works: Harakiri, Samurai Rebellion, The Human Condition, Kwaidan

5. Víctor Erice (cinematically active 1961 – present, Spain)
Greatest Works: Spirit of the Beehive, El Sur

4. Alain Resnais (cinematically active 1936 – 2014, France)
Greatest Works: Hiroshima mon amour, Last Year at Marienbad, Night & Fog, Providence, Muriel, Je T’aime Je T’aime, Mon Oncle Amerique

3. Theo Angelopoulos (cinematically active 1970 – 2008, Greece)
Greatest Works: The Travelling Players, Landscape in the Mist, Alexander the Great, The Hunters, The Weeping Meadow, Eternity & a Day, Reconstruction

2. Jean-Pierre Melville (cinematically active 1949 – 1972, France)
Greatest Works: Army of Shadows, Le Cercle Rouge, Le Samouraï, Le Silence de la Mer, Second Breath, Le Doulos

1. Andrei Tarkovsky (cinematically active 1962 – 1986, Russia)
Greatest Works: Andrei Rublev, Mirror, Stalker, Nostalghia, Solaris, Ivan’s Childhood

- The most prolific director here is Stan Brackhage, who directed 377 shorts over the course of 52 years.
- The director with the most ‘great works’ is Ingmar Bergman, with eight.
- The director with the fewest ‘great works’ is Tengiz Abuladze with one.
- The longest career on show is that of Alain Resnais, who worked relentlessly over the course of 80 years. He directed his first short film when he was twelve years old.
- The most recent director, Nuri Blige Ceylan, started working in 1995. The oldest, Charlie Chaplin, began in 1914.

- The countries that produced the most ranked directors were the US (16), France (14) and Japan (13). The Japanese ranked the highest overall with a cluster of four in the top 16.