Criterion Review: The Lure

★★★★☆ As far as synopses go, a Polish-vampire-mermaid-1980s-musical certainly captures attention. But debut director Agnieszka Smoczynska’s violent, sexy fairytale The Lure is more than the sum of its parts; a luscious, strangely enchanting watch.Sirens Silver and Golden (Marta Mazurek and Michalina Olszanska respectively) loiter on the shores of Warsaw in 1980s Poland, hoping to catch…

Criterion Review: Certain Women

★★★★★ Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women tells three stories of female malcontent in Montana, one of the least populous states in the United States. Connected by only the thinnest of narrative threads, each story offers delicate, quietly moving insight into the lives of its subjects.Lawyer Laura Wells (Laura Dern) has a client who has been stiffed…

Criterion Review: It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World

★★★☆☆ A critical success on release, the enormous budget of Stanley Kramer’s 1963 epic comedy It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World meant that it only just scraped a profit. The premise: a group of strangers race across America to try to get to a rumoured buried treasure.It’s worth noting that the extended version included…

Criterion Review: Lord of the Flies

★★★★☆ William Golding’s tale of public schoolboys stranded on a desert island is an iconic depiction of fundamental savagery. More than fifty years on, Peter Brook’s 1963 Lord of the Flies remains the definitive film, its hallucinogenic brutality as terrifying as ever. The film opens with schoolboy Ralph (James Aubrey), moving through the forest of…

Criterion Review: Stalker

★★★★★ Arguably Andrei Tarkovsky’s finest masterpiece, the Russian director’s 1979 film Stalker is the culmination of a career-long preoccupation with memory, trauma and the relationship between subjective perception and physical reality. Following a mysterious disaster that rendered a small town uninhabitable, the eponymous Stalker (Alexksanr Kaydanovskiy) illegally takes visitors in to the area now known…

Criterion Review: A Brighter Summer Day

★★★★☆ Unreleased in the West since its 1991 release, Edward Yang’s historical epic A Brighter Summer Day is finally available through the Criterion Collection. This gorgeous, stately and moving landmark in Taiwanese filmmaking has undoubtedly been worth the wait.Firmly rooted in the political context of its 1961 Taiwan setting, and at an uncompromising 4-hour running…

Criterion Review: The Fisher King

★★★★☆ Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges) is at the top of his game. A shock-jock radio host specialising as a kind of anti-Frasier Crane, he encourages listeners to call in with their problems before humiliating them with insults and the music of Ray Charles.Living in a sterile Manhattan apartment and repulsively self-satisfied, it’s all going so…

Criterion Review: Diabolique

★★★★★ “Don’t be devils! Don’t ruin the interest your friends could take in this film. Don’t tell them what you saw. Thank you, for them.” So close the end credits of Henri-Georges Clouzot’s 1955 Diabolique, hailed as the first film designed around a true climactic twist.Christina Delassalle (Vera Clouzot) is the rich owner of a…

Criterion Review: 12 Angry Men

★★★★★ In the 60 years since its release, Sidney Lumet’s masterpiece has lost none of its impact. In this age of unreason, 12 Angry Men remains sorely and urgently contemporary. Filmed originally as a TV movie, Reginald Rose’s screenplay is one of the best ever filmed.Shot in real time à la High Noon, 12 Angry…

Criterion Review: Tampopo

★★★★☆ From the prison-set cookery lesson in Goodfellas to the black cannibalistic comedy of Delicatessen and the gluttony of the gargantuan diner in The Meaning of Life, the theme of food is a rich and well-ploughed field in cinema. But it is surely director Jûzô Itami who offers audiences the definitive on-screen culinary experience in…

Criterion Review: The Life of Oharu

★★★★★ Of the countless films director Kenji Mizoguchi made over his career, The Life of Oharu is said to be among his favourites, and Criterion’s welcome home release of his 1952 masterpiece is proof of both its aesthetic quality and narrative power. The eponymous Oharu (Kinuyo Tanaka) is a young noblewoman in seventeenth-century Japan who…

Criterion Review: Solaris

★★★★★ Originally billed as the Soviet 2001: A Space Odyssey, Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 masterpiece Solaris is a subtly different beast to Kubrick’s balletic space picture – claustrophobic, meditative and deeply moving. Arguably the first science film to use the cosmos as a metaphor for psychological inner-space, Tarkovsky’s adaptation of Stanislaw Lem’s novel was remade in…