Our resident film critic, Peter Wix, runs a personal rule over a selection of movies, recent, antique and somewhere in the middle

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014) – Roy Andersson 
Almost every scene a painting worthy of a national gallery somewhere. Andersson himself refers to the inspiration of Goya, Brueghel, Hopper, and Otto Dix, and each of these meticulously crafted and timed ‘sketches’ has the power of great art. The set designs emphasise the vapidity and absurdity of human existence beneath the social patina of our personas and our communicative niceties. Think the Chinese restaurant scene in Mike Leigh’s Bleak Moments (1971). Such abstractions obviously highlight the director’s native Sweden, but there’s a universality here that starts with Ionesco, Beckett, and Pinter and has come out as distilled black humour of the most elevated kind. Andersson is a master of the loneliness of living and dying. 9/10

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014) - Roy Andersson

A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence (2014) – Roy Andersson


Dodsworth (1936) – William Wyler 
For David Mamet, a ‘perfect’ film, Wyler’s make of the Sinclair Lewis novel is a surprising watch today. Walter Huston (Treasure of the Sierra Madre) plays an automobile magnate who sells up and gives in to his wife, played by Ruth Chatterton, who wants to be one half of an idle, rich couple visiting Europe. If only she was sure who the other half should be. Her waywardness is treated with skill and frankness, making the suggestiveness of infidelity impact more than in depth, skin-on-skin depictions. Impeccable screenplay. Elegant direction. Fine acting. A historical document on love and marriage. 8/10
Night and the City (1950) – Jules Dassin 
British noir was a prodigious and pungent strand of the genre as a whole. The surrealistic, Dickensian London conjured here by the blacklisted left-winger Jules Dassin pitches the bubble-gum impulsiveness of Richard Widmark at his crazy best against the fight underwold. Money vs wrestling idealism. Curious, fatalistic, unsettling, entertaining, it boasts a stand-out characterisation by Francis L. Sullivan as a nightclub owner, Film connoisseurs may enjoy cameos by great underrated character actors: James Hayter, Edward Chapman, Charles Farrell – and there’s even the Carry On team’s Peter Butterworth as a thug! 8/10
Son of Saul (2015) – László Nemes 
A widely acclaimed, experimental view of the hell of Auschwitz. The filming and narrative technique are praiseworthy, although claustrophobically ‘first person’, in relating a father’s struggle to get a proper burial for his son against insurmountable obstacles in camp conditions. The film illuminates the Sonderkommando, the prisoners who guarded and shepherded arriving victims to the gas chambers. Chilling and honest, you can feel too frighteningly close to the events, and in need of a more customary narrative filter to help translate the experience into something you can judge from your own references. 7/10
Barfly (1987) – Barbet Schroeder 
A rights lawsuit has sadly stymied the release of James Franco’s 2013 biopic Bukowski. It had to be better than this watered-down snifter of the essence of one of the 20th century’s greatest wordsmiths, despite Bukowski himself being involved in the writing and promotion of the film. If you know your Buk, you’ll see that Mickey Rourke’s impression of him failed, unfortunately crossing Don Corleone with Dr Zira from Planet of the Apes. Buk was frivolous and sloppy in letting his biographical details be turned into such an ersatz portrayal of his drunk days. Ham without the rye. 4/10

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment