Henry James Rebooted

Posted on by Zoe Guttenplan

The latest film by Bertrand Bonello, The Beast, is inspired by Henry James’s 1903 novella The Beast in the Jungle. The setting has been changed from England to Paris in 1910, Los Angeles in 2014 and an unnamed Francophone locale in 2044, and the genders of the two central figures have been transposed. John Marcher, […]

Riddle of the Sands

Posted on by David Gelber

The great superpower of Dune is its prescience. In 1959, Frank Herbert walked the sand dunes of Florence, Oregon, and saw the future: aridity and riches, sand and spice. Strong coastal winds were pushing the dunes east, towards the city, and the US Department of Agriculture decided to intervene, planting sedge and beach grass to halt the sand’s advance. This battle for the environment

Tripods at Dawn

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

When Winston Churchill’s A History of the English-Speaking Peoples was published between 1956 and 1958, Clement Attlee quipped that Churchill should have called it ‘Things in History That Interested Me’. The same might be said about David Thomson’s new book, The Fatal Alliance. Although ostensibly about war movies, the book includes digressions on Robert Falcon […]

Two Weddings & a Papal Bull

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Biographies of film stars generally fall into three categories: hagiographies written for the most admiring fans, exposés fuelled by gossip and scandal, and scholarly tomes centred on archival research or cultural theory. Roger Lewis makes it clear that his lengthy book about Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor belongs to none of these categories. Indeed, he […]


Posted on by David Gelber

Cape have timed the re-issue of Lowry’s masterpiece to coincide with the release of the film; but re-issue and reappraisal have long been overdue in any case. Under the Volcano, despite steady sales, has never been much more than a cult, and the time has come for it to be generally acknowledged as one of […]

The Full Horror of Ordinary People

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Mike Leigh’s Naked (1993) is a wonderful, horrible film. It follows the adventures of Johnny, a Mancunian Raskolnikov, introduced to us in the first scene committing a vicious rape. Repellent yet fascinating, Johnny – played with almost unhinged brilliance by David Thewlis – is presented as an emblematic antihero for our times: rootless and loveless […]

In Search of Fassbinder

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Munich, Thursday 7 July 83 The BBC has booked rooms for us in the Hotel Bundesbahn, which is virtually part of the main railway station. You don’t hear the trains, and it’s quite comfortable, but in this city there must be places with more character. I’ve arranged to see Fassbinder’s composer, Peer Raben, when he […]

Not Recommended

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Like most people of my approximate age and general outlook, I fell upon a book called Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when it appeared in 1971 and devoured it at a single sitting. These were early days in university and people hobbled around campus with Lord of the Rings in their smelly bags. Hunter […]

Werner Herzog: Spectacle and Extremity

Posted on by David Gelber

Herzog first uses the image of a ship stranded in the branches of a tree, high above the waters, in Aguirre, Wrath of God. It reappears in Nosferatu when a ship brings the vampire from Transylvania to wreak vengeance on the civilised burghers of Western Europe and infest their town with plague. In Fitzcarraldo this […]

Passion and Commitment

Posted on by David Gelber

At the opening of the 27th London Film Festival, its director, Ken Wlaschin, claimed that ‘if you had been living in a hole for the past twelve months, you could come to the festival and still see the best of the world’s cinema’. If anyone had been living in a hole for the past twelve […]

She Had the Measure of His Manhood

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

SCOTT BERG IS a superb biographer. I first read his biography of Max Perluns (the brilliant ehtor at Scribner who worked with Hemingway and Scott Fitzgerald), then Goldwyn, and then Lindbergh, for which he received the Pulitzer Prize. At the start of their twenty-year friendship, Katharine Hepburn promised to tell him everything but made one […]

Niving it Up

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

DO WE GET the life we deserve or is it all completely random and out of our hands? If you have lots of really good stuff happen to you at the beginning, does that mean you can expect to have things evened out with lots of bad stuff later? Do only shits prosper or do nice […]

Follow the Trail

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Have You Got Time? would have been a more apt title. Like his Biographical Dictionary of Film, David Thomson’s Have You Seen…? is a book for getting lost in. You pick it up wondering whether you really want to set the video for that late-night showing of Beat the Devil, and you put it down […]

Let’s Talk Film

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Every Johnson needs his Boswell. Woody Allen’s seems to be a man called Eric Lax, who has so far given us Woody Allen: A Biography and On Being Funny: Woody Allen and Comedy, and may conceivably have another half dozen or so such titles up his sleeve. One day it might be quite interesting to […]

The Rest is Silence

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Douglas Fairbanks was one of the great stars of silent movies and in many ways encapsulated all that was best and most intriguing about Hollywood cinema before the coming of sound. Highly acrobatic – he performed all his own stunts – he had a screen persona for which the word ‘swashbuckling’ was virtually invented. The […]

‘Balding. Can’t Sing. Dances a Little’

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

As Joseph Epstein points out in his discussion of one of the greatest names in the history of dance, movies and show business, the name itself is perfection, matching honest, unpretentious Fred with twinkling, shining, uplifting Astaire. Born Frederick Austerlitz in 1899, there was nothing in his background or childhood to suggest his destiny. His […]

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Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Joyce Johnson, the author of Minor Characters, an elegant memoir of New York life in the 1950s, presents her new biography of Jack Kerouac as a distinctive contribution to our – that is, Kerouac biography readers’; Kerouac readers are too myth-drunk to care – understanding of the writer. Well, she would, wouldn’t she? Apart from […]

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