thu 16/08/2018

Film Features

theartsdesk in Thessaloniki: Moving Pictures in the Cradle of Austerity

Ronald Bergan

Greece is in economic meltdown. Austerity is hitting most of the population very hard. Businesses are closing down. The amount of homeless has increased. There are strikes and huge anti-government demonstrations throughout the country. What better time to hold a huge film festival?

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theartsdesk in Kazakhstan: the 8th Eurasia International Film Festival

Steven Yates

Almaty may have lost its capital status to Astana in 1997, but this city of 1.6m inhabitants, about nine percent of the country's population, remains the commercial and cultural hub of Kazakhstan. The Eurasia Film Festival was first held here in 1998 with the support of the Filmmakers Union as a forum for movies from the CIS and Baltic countries.

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Film on Demand: Skeletons

theartsdesk

Nick Wheatfield’s surreal comedy Skeletons won the Michael Powell Award for best new British feature at the 2010 Edinburgh Film Festival, and deservedly so. An off-beat film combining British eccentricity with a high-concept hook, there is more than a touch of Beckett about the central characters, Davis and Bennett, played with oddball appeal by Andrew Buckley and Ed Gaughan.

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The Hitchcock Players: Barbara Harris, Family Plot

Matt Wolf

Alfred Hitchcock famously loved his blondes, and they didn't come much more lovable than Barbara Harris. A Broadway star during the 1960s who later shifted her attentions towards film, Harris was at the peak of her talent in Family Plot, a delightful if minor Hitchcock entry distinguished by a fine quartet of American leads (Karen Black, William Devane and Bruce Dern are the others) among whom Harris stands apart.

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The Hitchcock Players: Naunton Wayne and Basil Radford, The Lady Vanishes

alexandra Coghlan

Never one to underestimate the potency of a cameo (as evidenced by his own appearances in his films), Alfred Hitchcock had a particular genius with supporting roles – generating menace, intrigue or comedy with the fewest of brush strokes. Two of his earliest, and slightest, creations would also prove two of his most enduringly popular: cricket-obsessed duo Caldicott and Charters from 1938’s The Lady Vanishes.

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The Hitchcock Players: Hume Cronyn, Shadow of a Doubt

graham Rickson

Shadow of a Doubt was reputedly Hitchcock’s personal favourite among his films. Joseph Cotten was cast against type as the glamorous, homicidal uncle, fleeing from the police and pitching up unexpectedly in his sister’s household in a sleepy Californian town. Hitchcock’s decision to shoot Thornton Wilder's script largely on location gives the film a unique flavour.

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The Hitchcock Players: Grace Kelly, Dial M for Murder

Jasper Rees

Aside from the platinum hair and the porcelain beauty, there is no identikit Hitchcock blonde. She can be an ice-hearted femme fatale or a traumatised hysteric, or she can be Grace Kelly, a peachy embodiment of femininity whom the director enjoyed throwing in harm’s way. He would memorably do it in Rear Window, a film which he talked about to his leading lady throughout the making of Dial M for Murder.

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The Hitchcock Players: Cary Grant, Notorious

Demetrios Matheou

Like his great contemporary Jimmy Stewart, Cary Grant not only gave some of his best performances for Hitchcock, he also grabbed the opportunity to darken his screen persona. It was never the case, with either of them, of simply playing “baddies”. Far more significantly, they revealed the dark psyches of average, even good men, in performances that leave the audience with the bitter aftertaste of familiarity.

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The Hitchcock Players: Lila Kedrova, Torn Curtain

graham Fuller

There’s an affecting moment in the café scene in Torn Curtain (1966) when the physicist Michael Armstrong (Paul Newman) and his fiancée-assistant Sarah Sherman (Julie Andrews), desperate to flee East Berlin, are awed into compassion for the jittery Polish Countess Kuchinska, who offers to help them if they will sponsor her bid to emigrate to the U.S. It looks a little as if Newman and Andrews themselves were awed by Lila Kedrova’s fabulously flowing performance.

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The Hitchcock Players: Tippi Hedren, The Birds, Marnie

kieron Tyler

The relationship between Hitchcock and Hedren was already subject to scrutiny, and is symbolic of his fascination with blondes. Soon, with Sienna Miller playing the leading lady of 1963’s terrifying The Birds and Toby Jones as the director, it’s going to be revisited with the TV film The Girl (2010’s Hitchcock’s Women had trodden this path).

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The Hitchcock Players: Farley Granger and Robert Walker, Strangers on a Train

Fisun Güner

Some actors build their characters from the feet up. In fact, it’s a theatrical commonplace to think that shoes can hold the key to a character's psychology. Hitchcock takes the idea and applies it to the opening sequence of Strangers on a Train, his 1951 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s 1950 debut novel.

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Tony Scott 1944-2012

Karen Krizanovich

Anthony David “Tony” Scott was "the other Scott brother" whose filmmaking was cinematic, determined and all-encompassing. After directing thousands of television commercials, Scott’s breakthrough film, The Hunger, starring Catherine Deneuve, Susan Sarandon and David Bowie, became a classic, setting the stage for beautiful, elegiac and shocking tales of vampirism, love, and the implications of immortality. A trained fine artist, Scott's eye always found the perfect shot.

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The Hitchcock Players: Anthony Perkins, Psycho

Ronald Bergan

In Robert Bloch’s novel Psycho, Norman Bates was plump, balding, bespectacled and 40 years old, the physical antithesis of the lean, lanky and boyishly good-looking 28-year-old Anthony Perkins. The casting satisfied Hitchcock’s desire to create as much sympathy for Norman Bates as possible. There is nothing about Perkins to suggest a homicidal psychopath. He is a clean-cut young man, who soon reveals himself to be charming, confident, and witty.

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The Hitchcock Players: Anny Ondra, Blackmail

Demetrios Matheou

Grace Kelly, Eva Marie Saint, Ingrid Bergman, Kim Novak, Tippi Hedren, Janet Leigh – these are only the best-known of that special breed, the Hitchcock blonde. For some reason, whether he wanted a femme fatale or a romantic accomplice or a tragic victim, Hitch liked them blonde, and preferably glacial.

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The Hitchcock Players: Barbara Bel Geddes, Vertigo

graham Rickson

Vertigo’s recent elevation to the top of Sight and Sound’s contentious Top 10 makes its minor shortcomings all the more glaring. But dodgy back projections, a plot full of holes and a truly terrible painted portrait ultimately don’t dim its brilliance. Barbara Bel Geddes, later to attain global fame in the late 1970s as Larry Hagman’s mother in Dallas, plays the supporting role of Midge, the former fiancée of James Stewart’s Scottie.

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theartsdesk in Locarno: Sunshine Cinema in the Alps

james Woodall

The most radical Locarno ever: it's in the upper 20s Celsius in the southern Alps. The sky is cloudless blue. Moreover, not for one, or two, or three, or four nights in a row, but for FIVE has it not rained in this small resort. Next year no doubt it will again be the normal business of deluges in the Piazza Grande, and an air of anti-climactic, soul-freezing damp will prevail.

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