Friday, 31 May 2013

Man With A Movie Camera (1927)

Man With A Movie Camera  (Soviet Union 1927 : 70 minutes) Directed by Dziga Vertov

Early experimental Soviet "propaganda" film from director Dziga Vertov, aiming to document the realities of everyday life in a bustling Russian metropolis, celebrating the impact of industrialisation and the processes of urban progress.

This is an extraordinary film.

At a time when most US and British film makers were content with a single set and a fixed camera position Vertov took his camera out on to the streets of Moscow in an attempt to capture the look and feel of a single day in that city's life.

The novelty of this approach aside he then used the footage to create a dazzling collection of images using every single camera technique available to him and a structure that today would probably be called meta-textual.

So many shots are of the titular man with a movie camera speeding from location to location, several sequences are followed by brief "how we did it" explanatory footage, there are scenes set in the editing suite. The film stops resolves in to a single frame, reverses, winds in on itself and then speeds on.

The pace is frenetic, cut to a seemingly industrial rhythm that pounds and marches into the future at a relentless pace.

The camera is itself the starring character - at the centre of everything while also giving context and a wider view to the images that we are watching. But the people of the city are also given starring roles with big, full-frame close-ups of older people, their faces ceased and worn from a lifetime of struggle and worry; younger people smiling and happy in the sunshine as their day unfolds.

Beginning with empty streets and people waking and rising the film rushes on through all the aspects of modern life : births, marriages and deaths, industry, commerce, relaxation, dancing are all captured by the camera's roving, restless eye.
The streets change from deserted wastelands into bustling thoroughfares filled with horses, carriages, motor buses and cars and people. Thousands of people all moving at once, scattering in every direction under the unmoving eye of the camera.

The camera is hoisted high, slung low, spun, twisted - held stock still and shot forward on foot, in cars and on a train. The effect is a visual poem to the city and it's many facets.

There is criticism that the film is little more than propaganda for the new Soviet regime, but that's patently not true.
There are, for example, several shots of rough sleepers, the film isn't uncritical - but it's aim is not to celebrate the successes of the new government but to capture the effect that change has had on the population.

It's a joyful, uplifting celebration of life and a Utopian hymn to a possible future.

These days Man With A Movie Camera is most often seen with a newly composed Michael Nyman score ; while (in places) the soundtrack pulls against the images, for the most part Nyman's music underpins and accentuates the visuals, feeling like an integral part of the film rather than a (much latter) addition.

This is an extraordinary film.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Manderlay (2005)

Manderlay (2005) [Den / Swe / Fr / UK / Ger / Neth / It  : 132min.] Written and directed by Lars Von Trier

A companion piece to the same directors Dogville (2003) and intended as the middle part of a trilogy - it picks up the story where the first film left off. Grace has left the township of Dogville in the company of her gangster father and his small army of hoodlums.
Attempting to stay one step ahead of the law they are motoring through the southern states of the US and come to a stop at the gates of an ancient plantation, the Manderlay of the title.

Grace intervenes to prevent the whipping of a young black man (Timothy) and is shocked to discover that the estate is staffed by slaves, despite slavery having been abolished more than 70 years previously.

She persuades her father to allow her to remain at Manderlay with a handful of his men, and sets about reforming the closed society.

Nicole Kidman took the role of Grace in the first film and was excellent ; here she is replaced by Bryce Dallas Howard who, will not quite in the same league, makes a brave and dignified effort to portray Grace's burning idealism and essentially liberal outlook.

Willem Dafoe replaces James Caan in the role of Grace's father and is perfectly fine. Lauren Bacall appears (briefly) as the matriarch of the Estate and Danny Glover is her head of household staff in a performance of quiet strength.

However, despite the acting talent on show it's von Trier and his director of photography Anthony Dod Mantle and their cameras who are the true stars.

As with Dogville von Trier reduces the set to a collection of blocking lines on the studio floor and a handful of props. This could have had the efect of reducing the film to something approaching a filmed version of the rehersal stage of a theatrical play, instead of which Manderlay is bracingly cinematic.

It's filled with intense close-ups and two-shots, dizzying overhead and crane shots and some very smart use of filters.

Dod Mantle and von Trier are the only credited camera operators and it's obvious that an immense amount of thought has gone into the positioning of the cameras and their subsequent movements.

It's a shame, therefore, that given the care that's gone into the presentation and look of the film that the script is a bit too weak for the subject matter and too often reaches for the cliche of memelodrama where a stronger, more social-realist or satirical approach would have served better.

It's a great looking film and a remarkable technical achievement - I'd have liked a bit more meat on the bare bones of the script though.

The end credits sequence, however, almost makes up for this weakness : a powerful set of images that will burn themselves into your brain.

Freeview film of the day (UK) : Wednesday 28th of May

Leaving Las Vegas (1995 107min.) [Film4 11.15pm &+1)

Drama featuring an Oscar-winning performance by Nicolas Cage, and co-starring Elisabeth Shue. Ben Sanderson, an alcoholic, drives to Las Vegas after being fired from his film production job with the intention of drinking himself to death within four weeks. In Vegas he meets Sera, a self-assured young prostitute, and, with each pledging not to try to change the other's chosen destiny, they fall in love and carry on a romance over Ben's last weeks.

Directed by the usually excellent Mike Figgis has Nicolas Cage giving a great performance (sic) as a writer who travels to Vegas to drink himself to death.
With a strong supporting cast (Elizabeth Shue, Richard Lewis, even Julian Sands) it's a downbeat film but ultimately rewarding due to the strength of the acting and Figgis' sensitive direction.

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Johnny Suede (1991)

Johnny Suede  (1991)  [US 92min.]  Written and directed by Tom Di Cillo

Comedy fantasy starring Brad Pitt. When a stylish pair of suede shoes falls into dreamer Johnny's lap, he begins cultivating his fantasy - to become a rock 'n' roll hero like his idol Ricky Nelson. But the road to stardom is paved with complications.

As Television never sang on their debut single "Little Johnny Suede/He's so cool".

There is a parallel world where Johnny Suede (the character) would be as famous as Riff Raff or Del Trotter or Edward Scissorhands. He is an immensely likeable character, an innocent torn out of time and thrown down in a world he can't hope to understand or cope with. In the end he's saved from a life of quiet desperation and miserable failure by the love of a good woman.

There's all sorts of magic and nonsense going on here - the plot is of little consequence as it's really nothing more than a bunch of scenes glued together with a sense of fun and adventure.

Johnny's trademark shoes appear from heaven; Nick Cave plays brilliantly with and against as his own image as Johnny's personal angel and/or devil, there's dream sequences worthy of Lynch and the charming conceit that Johnny would love to be a rock'n'roll star but rather than taking the easy route and setting out to be Elvis or Buddy or Gene he wants to be the reincarnation of Ricky Nelson.
That's Ricky Nelson - the American for Cliff Richard.

Two great performances - firstly from Brad Pitt , in his first real leading role, he's all wide eyes and gawky awkwardness and giant,enough hairspray to deplete the ozone layer on it's own, quiff. The second from Catherine Keener - just setting out on the road that leads to Being John Malkovich and beyond.

Nod of the head too for the soundtrack - handled in the most part by the rumbling guitar of Link Wray.

DiCillo seems to have had trouble finding much work off the back of it - I saw his name on the credits for rubbish TV cop show "Monk" recently - which is a shame as he's clearly got the eye and the talent to be a fine director of small scale films.

An utterly charming and unpretentious little film about innocence, hope ,desire and love. An absolute joy to watch.

Freeview film of the day (UK) : Tuesday 28th of May

Let The Right One In (2008 109min.) [Film4 1.20am wednesday &+1]

Horror starring Kare Hedebrant and Lina Leandersson. In a small town in 1980s Sweden, bullied 12-year-old Oskar befriends Eli, who appears to be a normal girl his own age but is actually a vampire.

Sweden has almost no tradition of horror films so the release and subsequent success of Tomas Alfredson's film version of John Ajvide Linqvist's screenplay from his own best selling book came as a real surprise.

Easily one of the best films released anywhere in the world in 2008, it's the multi-award winning (but overlooked by the Oscars due to the stupidity of their nomination process) story of lonely twelve year old Oskar's developing relationship with his new female same-age neighbour Eli and is beautifully realised with extraordinary performances by the two young leads.
There are some moments of gruesomeness but the overall tone is subtle, gentle and soulful - beautifully done and pretty much essential viewing.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Seven Days In May (1964)

Seven Days In May (1964) [US 113min.) directed by John Frankenheimer, written by Rod Serling.

An American general schemes with fellow officers to overthrow a president who supports nuclear disarmament, but a loyal military adviser attempts to foil the plot. Political drama, starring Burt Lancaster, Kirk Douglas, Fredric March and Ava Gardner.

"I'm suggesting Mr President, there's a military plot to take over the Government of these United States, next Sunday..."

Burt Lancaster, if he's remembered at all these days, is usually recalled as a clean cut, square jawed leading man in any number of anodyne Hollywood place holders from the immediate post-War period. In addition to these, though, he turned in three truly astonishing performances.

The last of these was as the oil man Felix Happer in Bill Forsyth's Local Hero ( 1983), the first was as newspaper columnist J.J. Hunsecker in the outstanding Sweet Smell Of Success (Alexander Mackendrik 1957) and in between came General James Mattoon Scott in this John Frankenheimer parable of political will and might,released in 1964.

Amid all the Cold War paranoia films of the previous decade and following the real world tragedies of the McCarthy witchunt and the Kennedy assassination, this film asks : rather than what will happen if/when the Russians drop the bomb,what would happen if we sought peace and removed the possibility of mutually assured destruction ?

So it's a "what if ?" film ; what if in a future United States a liberal President sought peace rather than conflict, what if in the US of now a President felt sure enough of his course of action to ignore the military and the polls and declare peace ?

And who, back in early sixties America, did you bring in to imagine possible futures ? Rod Serling was your go- to- guy. He'd created the TV phenomenon that was The Twilight Zone and demonstrated that he had the sci-fi writers vision of an Ellison, Bradbury or (especially) Phillip K. Dick coupled with the control of plot and dialogue honed from writing hour upon hour of primetime TV.

Here though he doesn't look at a future of alien invasion,interstellar travel and humans driven insane by automation and being forced to wear one-piece lycra jumpsuits. He imagines a future/ now where a frail but determined President (Fredric March) sees the opportunity to leave a legacy for the future of the race by signing a treaty with Soviets ending the policy of M.A.D. and bringing to an end the nuclear arms race.

And here comes Burt... Four Star Gen. James Scott - decorated war hero and vocal opponent of his President's selling out of the country to the enemy.

Burt was an actor of limited range and in the three films highlighted above he achieves the greatness of his performance by almost not acting. He speaks through a barely opening mouth, adding menace to everything he says. His eyes are immobile yet steely determined. His body movements are small; minimal flicks and twitches.Yet throughout he is upright and brooding. He is the perfect symbolic embodiment of the inflexible attitudes of the US military toward the supposed enemy.

Ranged against Burt and his Army Of The Night are the Presidents rag-tag collection of aides and friends.They drip liberal wetness from every pore.They drink,t hey smoke, they hang out with unsuitable women, they live in the academic world (possibly the worst offence of all to the flag waving patriots we see picketing the White House in the opening shot).

And caught in the middle is Colonel Casey (Kirk Douglas). A military man who worships (maybe even loves) his commanding officer, Big Bad Burt, but who also knows enough to recognise that might can not be allowed to trample the flower of democracy under it's tank tracks.

There's a genuine tension running throughout the film - aided by a clever visual device that precludes the use of "Washington,Wednesday Morning" title cards. There's gadgetry - early teleconferencing from the POTUS - Bond villain style video screens with sliding shutters for Burt - but above all is an engaging story, visually simple yet expansive and with a fine cast of supporting actors : Martin Balsam, Andrew Duggan and Ava Gardener all add weight while Edmond O'Brien turns in a terrific performance as the drunk with a conscience Senator from Georgia.

It's two hours of " what if ? " that reaches for a different conclusion from that which was fashionable in the early sixties and, in that sense, feels more like an anti-war film from the late Vietnam period.

There's also razor sharp dialogue and (even) a few decent jokes - and there's this final scene duologue :

PRESIDENT: And that would be General James Mattoon Scott, would it? I don't know whether to laugh at that kind of megalomania, or simply cry.
GENERAL SCOTT : James Mattoon Scott, as you put it, hasn't the slightest interest in his own glorification. But he does have an abiding interest in the survival of this country.
PRESIDENT: Then, by God, run for office. You have such a fervent, passionate, evangelical faith in this country - why in the name of God don't you have any faith in the system of government you're so hell-bent to protect?

It's a morality tale that has stayed relevant.

Freeview film of the day (UK) : saturday 25th of May

The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976 113min.) [BBC2 10.50pm]

Cult science-fiction drama starring David Bowie. A humanoid alien from another planet mysteriously arrives in New Mexico. Calling himself Thomas Jerome Newton, he rapidly amasses a fortune by coming up with a series of revolutionary inventions, money he hopes will enable him to return to his home planet. But Newton's success arouses the curiosity of a chemistry professor whose investigations threaten to reveal the visitor's true identity.

Nicolas Roeg's sci-fi drama benefits enormously from the casting of non-actor Bowie in the lead role; his limited range is used to great effect to portray the disconnection with those around him that marks out his character as not of this world.

I'm a huge fan of Roeg's work and though the story is rather slight and the performances rather underwhelming the film is cleverly structured, beautifully photographed (especially the exteriors) and directed with his usual fluidity of movement.

Not exactly a classic but a film that was ready made for the move into the cult category.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Cockles And Muscles (2004)

Cockles And Muscles (2004 ) [France 94 min.) directed by Olivier Ducastel and Jacques Martineau

Musical comedy romance starring Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi. For Béatrix, Marc and their teenage children, a family holiday in the Côte d'Azur turns into a whirl of illicit romance, subterfuge and sexual confusion.

Light as a feather, bright and breezy bedroom farce/comedy of manners which, in less capable hands and given the subject matter, could have been either terribly worthy or horribly exploitative.

However the co-directors keep the action moving along at a terrific pace and the mood almost constantly upbeat, even when characters are falling out and questioning the nature of their various relationships.

There's also a very amusing sub-plot involving an old fashioned boiler/shower combination and an entre-act musical number that comes totally out of the blue but which is very well staged and performed.

The southern French countryside also helps out by providing a gorgeous backdrop to the action.

All of the cast are excellent, especially the young boys (Romain Torres and Edouard Collin)  whose friendship provides the hook upon which all of the subsequent events are hung ; however Valéria Bruni-Tedeschi walks away with the film - every scene in which she appears is lit up by her effortless, joyful approach to life - whether singing a song about riding her bicycle, relaxing in the garden with some herbal cigarettes or constantly (and happily)  falling for the clumsy ploys of her lover Didier.

There's not a whole of substance but the film is put together with such skill that the wit and charm of the piece ends up pulling you into the absurdist world and will leaves you with a big smile and a warm feeling of joy.

Utterly charming and disarming.

Freeview film of the day (Uk) : Friday 23rd of May

Hero (2002 95min.) [More4 9.00pm &+1]

Martial arts fantasy starring Jet Li. A Chinese warrior arrives at the palace of the mighty ruler of Qin to relate how he has slain three would-be assassins - but all may not be as it seems.

Absolutely terrific film - beautifully shot and directed by Zhang Yimou who uses light and coloured filters to dazzling effect and starring three of the very best Asian actors of their generation : Jet Li, Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung.

The story itself is interesting enough, but when you add in some astonishing fight scenes, great acting and sublime direction you arrive at something very special.

Thoroughly recommended, even if martial arts films aren't normally your thing.

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Freeview film of the day (UK) : thursday 23rd of May

In The Mood For Love (2000 97min.) [Film4 1.55am friday &+1]

Romantic drama set in 1960s Hong Kong starring Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. Chow Mo-Wan and Mrs Chan live in the same apartment block - both are married, both desperately lonely. Suspecting their respective partners of infidelity, the pair forge a close but tentative friendship - all the while fearing discovery by their neighbours.

Beautifully shot and directed film that is part love story, part mystery thriller.
Director Wong Kar-Wai creates a hypnotic, almost dreamlike world for his characters to inhabit and then moves them through it with great skill and a great eye for detail.

His two leads are both excellent - absurdly handsome Tony Leung won the best actor prize at Cannes for his performance as the lonely newspaper editor who forms a tight bond of friendship with the lovely Maggie Cheung's character, an abandoned wife with unfulfilled dreams.

Their friendship grows through a series of perfectly staged scenes all set in cramped areas - alleys, corridors, too small rooms, restaurant booths - as though the physical location was pushing them together.

The final act is a bit rushed and hasty but for ninety minutes the story, acting and direction will hold you firmly in your seat.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Freeview film of the day (UK) ; Wednesday 22nd of May

Control (2007 116min.) [Film4 1.15am thursday &+1]

Biographical music drama starring Sam Riley and Samantha Morton. Growing up in Macclesfield during the 1970s, Ian Curtis dreams of a career in music, but settles for a job at the unemployment office and life with local girl Debbie. A chance meeting at a Sex Pistols gig changes Curtis's priorities, and he's soon writing songs and singing with the band Warsaw, which will become Joy Division.

A bio-pic of Joy Division's Ian Curtis, directed in atmospheric black and white by photographer Anton Corbijn.
Sam Riley is outstanding in the lead role - part impersonation, part dramatic interpretation of Curtis' slide into mental and physical ill health.
The musical numbers are superb, partly due to the fact that the actors learned to play the songs rather than mime to a playback.
Add to this Samantha Morton (possibly the best British actress of her generation) in the role of Deborah Curtis and you've got a film that works as nostalgia, as a film and as an absorbing drama.

Hell And High Water (1954)

Hell And High Water ( 1954 ) [US 99min. directed by Samuel Fuller]

Action spy drama starring Richard Widmark. A scientist who's concerned about the US government's preparedness for nuclear war hires a submarine captain to lead a search for communist weaponry in the north Pacific.

Ah, the Red Menace Cold War paranoid thriller :  a genre that threw up some terrific films (and a great deal of nonsense).

This is fairly standard fare in terms of its story - dastardly Commies are plotting something for some reason and it's up to the brave US hero to put a stop to their fiendish plan and make the world safe for truth, justice and the American Way.

Except that Hell And High Water has a few aces up its sleeve to distinguish if from the slew of like-minded films that abounded at the time.

Firstly the script : from a story by David Hempstead and written by Fuller and Jesse Lasky Jr., a man steeped in Hollywood and responsible for a lengthy list of intelligent screenplays, including Hitchcock's The Secret Agent (1936).

The hero is a mercenary, a former US military officer hired by a cabal of businessmen whose sit-com accents imply that they represent the "free" world - British, Japanese, French, US etc. The hired help is given a crew of multi-nationals and allowed to bring in his own team of US submariners to help and assist.

All that's then need to round off the crew is an elder statesman professor (to explain the science of things during the exposition phases) and his assistant who is, of course, a woman. Shove all of these people into the cramped confines of a submarine and there's your film.

Secondly : the leading man. Richard Widmark is a very interesting actor - his work is close to that of a character actor and it would be stretch to describe him as having typical matinee good looks ; but there's a charismatic depth to his performances which is aided by his lived-in face and his slightly stooped and defeated body language. There's a lot of words and technical language for Widmark to deliver here and he pulls it off with considerable ease.

Thirdly : the director. Samuel Fuller was a screenwriter and storyliner who had graduated to directing at the beginning of the fifties (he was 38 when he directed his first film) - he came to Hell And High Water off the back of the under-rated, excellent late-cycle noir Pick Up On South Street (1953) ; producer Darryl F Zanuck wanted the film made quickly and cheaply and to have a leading role for his (alleged) mistress, the talent-free zone  Bella Darvi.

Fuller took all three handicaps and made a virtue of them - the end result was full of tension, action, romance and anti-communist messages, for the most part set within the very real feeling cramped claustrophobia of the submarine.
There's little time wasted on characterisation - with the exception of Widmark the cast exist to hit their marks and get their lines out without fluffing. Bella Darvi is exceptionally bad.

Fuller moved on to more director-for-hire gigs before arriving, a decade later, at the twin career high points of the super-heated gems Shock Corridor (1963) and The Naked Kiss (1964).

A thoroughly decent little film made by an endlessly interesting director.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

The Believer (2001) [US 98min.  directed by Henry Bean]

Real-life drama starring Ryan Gosling, Billy Zane and Theresa Russell. An articulate young Jew, Danny Balint, becomes a rabid fascist after growing disillusioned by the contradictions of his faith. He is enlisted as a mouthpiece for a neo-Nazi organisation trying to gain intellectual respectability, but soon finds himself ostracised by the group when he refuses to tone down his anti-Semitic views.

Today Ryan Gosling is one of the best known and widely photographed faces in the Hollywood mainstream ; a decade ago he graduated from television to take the lead role in a feature film for the first time.
If he set out to make an immediate impact then this debut feature by screenwriter turned director Bean was an inspired choice. The Believer showcases Gosling's emerging acting talent perfectly  - his character appears in all but one scene in the film and his portrayal of Danny Balint is gripping from the opening scene of his tracking and assaulting a young Jewish student to the final, elliptical metaphor/symbol.

Balint (as played by Gosling) is a smart-mouthed, quick thinking charismatic : far removed from the stereotypical knuckle-dragging neanderthal that the ultra-right are often represented by on film.
It's easy to understand how fellow travellers (of both the intellectual and the thuggish variety) are attracted to him.

Gosling inhabits the role - his natural physique, heavy lidded eyes, unreadable  facial expression and intensity all add to the  attraction of the character. The dislocation between his physical appearance and the vile belief system that he propounds is, thus, all the greater and adds to the level of mystery around his character.

Smartly, Bean gives the inexperienced lead two actors who know their way around a movie set to work with : as the Balint character's mentors in the overground neo-fascist movement Billy Zane and Theresa Russell are older counterpoints to Gosling's young tyro : attractive, well spoken people who attempt to intellectualise their position on the fringes of political thought. They add depth and weight to the film in among the more violent episodes featuring Gosling and his young friends.

While not a perfect film, (there's a romantic sub-plot that seems to exist only to provide an easy explanation to events in the last reel, for example) there's enough thought and care gone into it's making to remove any thought of sensationalism.

Henry Bean went on to write Basic Instinct 2 (2006) and direct the little seen Noise (2007) - which is shame because The Believer  demonstrates some real talent in the way in which it's directed, mainly using hand-held close-ups and low angle shots which emphasise the manner of Gosling's towering over the others in his circle of fascists.

Gosling would return to the dead-pan intensity of this character in the mega-budget Drive (2011).

Monday, 20 May 2013

Freeview film of the day (UK) Monday 20th of May

Dreams Of A Life (2011 94min.) [C4 2.00am tuesday]

Zawe Ashton stars in this drama documentary that, using reconstructions and interviews with friends, looks back over the mysterious life of Joyce Carol Vincent, a 38-year-old woman whose body lay undiscovered in her flat for three years after she died.

There's not quite enough material to fill the running time and some of the reconstructions are slightly underdone, but Carol Morley's angry documentary still has plenty to say about a society that can fail to notice the absence of a popular young woman for three years.

As a piece of investigative journalistic film making it is outstanding and deeply effecting; there's a moment when the real Joyce appears on the soundtrack that is truly heartbreaking and some of the testimony collected will haunt you for a very long time afterwards.

Well worth making the effort.

Also of interest- the Italian film Io Non Ho Paura (I'm Not Scared) (2003) is on Film4 at 1.50am.

Inferno (1980)

INFERNO (1980) [Italy 102 min. directed by Dario Argento]

Horror directed by Dario Argento and starring Leigh McCloskey. American student Mark Elliot receives a letter from his sister Rose, who thinks her New York apartment has links to an ancient coven. But when Mark arrives in the Big Apple, Rose has disappeared and a series of occult killings are gripping the city.

Inferno is like  a crash course in Argento's themes and stylistic devices crammed into a rather ill-fitting 102 minutes.
There is a story - but while, on the surface, it appears mysterious, complicated and inter-connected, in reality it's little more than an elaborate peg from which to hang some brilliantly composed and constructed set-pieces.

What you do get, however, are a series of beautifully composed shots lit in vivid red, deep blue and off-kilter green. There's very little in the way of natural light : almost every scene is an interior and those set outside tend to be at night, more often than not during a vicious rainstorm and in one case during a lunar eclipse.

The film is thematically linked to Argento's previous release, the genre classic Suspiria (1977) - as the story once again focuses on houses that hide dark secrets and the misfortunes of those innocents who stumble into the lives of those who inhabit these homes.

As usual with films dubbed into English there is alienating distance between the scenes of dialogue and the viewer : an actor's mouth clearly forms the word "Giovanni" but "John" is heard on the soundtrack. In the case of Inferno though this alienation only serves to add to the sense of dislocation which is the predominant tone of the film.

When the film steps up a gear is in the directors delivery of set-pieces - an early scene set in a mysterious flooded underground room is extraordinary in terms of the technical skill involved and when the pay-off comes it's effective and well handled.

Argento then reprises this trick throughout the film : every fifteen minutes or so there's a set-up for another gruesome murder that's handled slickly and with enormous care to ensure the combination of mood, tone and look all combine to deliver the maximum shock.
Keith Emerson contributes a pounding neo-Gothic keyboard and orchestra soundtrack which effectively counterpoints and underpins the on-screen action.

At the time of its release far too many horror films were content to rely solely on visceral shock and the opportunities offered by advances in make-up special effects : Inferno stands out because of the obvious care taken over its construction and the fact that is beautifully shot with some extraordinary images in among the carnage.

Best to view it without taking too much notice of the plot and just let Argento's fabulous compositions and colour scheme wash over you.