Format: Cinema

Date: 21 August 2009

Venues: Odeon Panton St (London) and key cities

Distributor: Network Releasing

Director: Antonio Campos

Writer: Antonio Campos

Cast: Ezra Miller, Addison Timlin, Lee Wilkof, Michael Stuhlbarg

USA 2008

107 mins

A giggling baby plays with his dad; a hair-tugging fight outside a suburban store; a bad bike spill; a grainy Saddam Hussein, noose around neck, drops to his death; a piano-playing cat; bodies in Iraq; clip follows clip, until we see a skinny blonde girl, nervous, uncomfortable, staring into the lens of an unseen cameraman, who is telling her to inform her mum on camera that she is a whore before the porn action starts. The website is ‘’, and a young student is wanking to it as his roommate bangs on the door to be let in. The first line of dialogue is ‘I smell come’.

Welcome to Antonio Campos’s feature debut Afterschool. We are in a preppy American boarding school in New York state when a class video project accidentally captures a tragedy; two popular seniors die, and we follow the reactions of the school, of its pupils, and particularly of the wanking student from the beginning, Robert (Ezra Miller), who shot the incident, an uncool and unliked tenth-grader who becomes a source of anxiety for the institution. He is tasked, by way of therapy, with making a memorial video to the two girls, and it quickly becomes clear that there is very much a right way and a wrong way to think about the girls, the school and the tragedy, and that Robert just isn’t in tune with everybody else. ‘I think I’m not a good person’, he says to his mum over the phone, and she promptly suggests medication.

If, as is usually the case, high school/college movies are intended as portraits of America in microcosm, then this is the most bilious, vicious picture of that nation I’ve encountered in years. The school establishment and student body are damned alike, a world of hypocrisy and empty platitudes, where bullying is studiously ignored, drugs are the currency of cool and problem kids with rich parents just can’t be problem kids. Evil here is not some malevolent force but an absence of feeling, a failure to focus; everybody is so preoccupied with appearances they just can’t acknowledge the reality of the situation. It says something about the tone of the film that eerie, blank Robert emerges as almost heroic in this context for producing a strangely clumsy, insensitive, but ultimately truthful memorial video, while the school’s official version proves to be an appallingly glib, black comic highlight.

Afterschool‘s low-key, observational surface conceals its tight structure, coming across as Kubrick via mumblecore. Campos constantly asks us to consider whose eyes we are looking through and whose version of events we should believe. It lingers where we would pull away, and stares where we would not think to look. The sound is muted and music-free. The dark nature of the story is emphasised by visually inventive, oddly framed photography throughout, imitating both the lopsided compositions of amateur cameramen and the disaffected gaze of a sociopath, building a woozy, unhealthy atmosphere, a world viewed through the wrong head. It’s creepy and smart, and it may just screw with your head for days - recommended.

Mark Stafford


Mesrine: Killer Instinct

Format: Cinema

Title: Mesrine: Killer Instinct (Part 1)

Release date: 7 August 2009

Venues: Cineworld Fulham Road, Haymarket, Curzon Soho (London) and key cities

Distributor: Momentum Pictures

Director: Jean-Franí§ois Richet

Writers: Abdel Raouf Dafri, Jean-Franí§ois Richet

Based on: L’instinct de mort by Jacques Mesrine

Original title: L’instinct de mort

Cast: Vincent Cassel, Cécile de France, Gérard Depardieu, Elena Anaya, Gilles Lellouche

France 2008

113 mins

Title: Mesrine: Public Enemy No.1 (Part 2)

Release date: 28 August 2009

Director: Jean-Franí§ois Richet

Writers: Abdel Raouf Dafri, Jean-Franí§ois Richet

Original title: L’ennemi public no.1

Cast: Vincent Cassel, Ludivine Sagnier, Mathieu Amalric, Gérard Lanvin

France 2008

133 mins

Thirty years after his death (he was shot 19 times in a brutal police operation), the facts of Jacques Mesrine’s life and criminal career read like the results of some fevered pulp imagination. Surely he can’t be real? An international criminal Renaissance man, murderer, kidnapper, a master of disguise, a bank robber who’d hit another bank over the road if the mood took him, who gave an interview to Paris Match while on the run, escaped from his own sentencing by taking the judge hostage, broke out of prison after prison, and on one occasion even returned to one to free his fellow prisoners? Mesrine seems to have been born from the 60s-70s zeitgeist, some weird Clyde Barrow/James Bond/Andreas Baader hybrid thrown up by the public subconscious. But nope, he did exist, Jean-Franí§ois Richet and Vincent Cassel have made a 245-minute film about him based on his autobiography, and they have trouble fitting everything in.

Released in two parts, Mesrine is, for the most part, an exciting, if conventional biopic. Richet (who directed the efficient, but pointless Assault on Precinct 13 remake in 2005) has a ball with yer regulation gangster schtick. There are pulse-pounding prison breaks, tense shoot-outs, bank and casino robberies and car chases. There are piles of money and hot molls on tap (Elena Anaya, Cécile de France, Ludivine Sagnier). There are all kinds of exciting low-lifes played by great character actors (Gérard Depardieu, Roy Dupuis and a great turn from Mathieu Amalric). There’s a Schifrin-esque 70s score peppered with period pop as we hop from country to country over three decades. It’s a film of set-pieces and sequences, thrilling, and disturbing, and familiar. Everything you need is present and correct, it’s glossy, sexy, good-looking and halfway in love with its own roguish glamour. It’s hard to begrudge this, though, when the results are so much fun to watch.

To Richet’s credit, there is some grit in the oyster. Young Mesrine is seen in Algeria killing Arabs with a gun and full sanction given by the government he later postured against, and the first film especially depicts him as a nasty piece of work under all the surface charm, a racist wife-beater with a hair-trigger temper, ruthless and capable of vile acts of cruelty. He becomes transformed, after a fashion, by his own narcissism. An off-the-cuff ‘Vive le Québec libre!’ to some assembled journalists politicises him in the media and the public mind, and his criminal career is magically turned into a revolutionary one by the ferment of the times. Entranced by this romantic vision of himself, he starts to act up to this press-created identity, and in the second film becomes trapped by it. There is an intriguing ambiguity to this; we are never sure how much he buys his own outlaw clichés, and this is mostly Vincent Cassel’s work. This is probably the meatiest role he’s ever going to get, and he excels as a man playing the part of a superstar subversive who never quite convinces himself in the role. Full of bravado and populist rhetoric when cameras or an audience are watching, but an empty self-serving bastard inside, Cassel’s Mesrine is all strut and swagger, smiles that never reach the eyes and shifty glances to monitor reactions, utterly convincing as a man racing towards the grave because he has nothing to lose. It is his utter fearlessness, his permanent state of rebellion against everything and the ambivalence of his one-man attack on ‘the system’ that make him such a fascinating character. Cassel has described Mesrine as ‘a symbol of freedom and a terrible man’, which seems about right. I would have liked a little more of the terrible man, personally, but there’s enough here to chew on.

Mark Stafford



Format: Cinema

Release date: 21 August 2009

Venues: key cities

Distributor: Vertigo Films

Director: í–zgí¼r Yildirim

Writer: í–zgí¼r Yildirim

Based on: L’instinct de mort by Jacques Mesrine

Cast: Denis Moschitto, Volkan í–zcan, Moritz Bleibtreu

Germany 2008

92 mins

‘If you want to be the best, you’ve got to earn respect. And if you want respect, you don’t show respect to anyone else. And if you don’t show anyone no respect, they think you fucking invented it.’ So runs the reckless mantra of í–zgí¼r Yildirim’s gritty gangster drama, Chiko, set in the immigrant neighbourhood of Hamburg’s rough Dulsberg district, its compelling hero portrayed with bristling intensity by Denis Moschitto.

Chiko, whose real name is Isa (Turkish for Jesus), is a street-smart young guy on the drug dealer career ladder, running a small business with his quick-tempered friend, Tibet (Volkan í–zcan), with whom he shares a yearning for cash, hot wheels and chicks. More than anything though, Chiko wants to get to the top and enjoy the power that comes with it, and he sets out to prove himself to the local drug boss, Brownie, by agreeing to sell 10 kilos of grass in 10 days on the condition that the merchandise must be sold from an apartment, not on the streets.

Although the operation is soon running smoothly and profitably for all involved, the amount of dope and cash that is suddenly crossing the table seems too tempting for Tibet, who scents an opportunity to beef up his share behind Chiko’s back and use the extra money to support his seriously ill mother, a plan that goes horribly wrong. Not only does he put his long-lasting friendship with Chiko at risk, but he is cruelly punished by Brownie in a moment of savage violence. As the story drifts deeper into genre conventions, Chiko finds some love and stability with the prostitute Meryam (a decent acting debut for Turkish-German rapper Lady Bitch Ray), but ultimately breaks under the pressure of trying to balance his own ambitions with his loyalty to Tibet.

Produced by Fatih Akin (director of the stunning Head On and most recently The Edge of Heaven), Chiko is writer-director Yildirim’s first feature and much like his aspiring hero, he makes no pretence about his own dreams and utter conviction, describing Chiko as his Scarface in the film’s production notes. But ambition alone cannot generate excellence and although Chiko has good pacing and is engagingly witty (some of which is unfortunately lost in the rather careless subtitling), the film’s largely predictable plot is laced with clichés and a slick visual style that gradually defuses its fierce tension, leaving it to a strong cast to carry the film until its final act of desperation and ferocity. The vibrant hip hop soundtrack and well-tuned dialogue lend polish to the drab suburban location, but the mix of raving social commentary and dynamic storytelling is only half-convincing, and Yildirim’s film remains a straightforward rise-and-fall story about a small-time dealer with big dreams, whose reach turns out to exceed his grasp.

In spite of its flaws, Chiko is persuasive in the way it recreates the milieu in which the characters struggle to make it to something bigger and better than what is expected of them, but its uneven blend of social criticism, domestic drama and gangster tragedy illustrates just how difficult it is to capture that distinctive Scarface quality.

Pamela Jahn



Format: Cinema

Release date: 7 August 2009

Venues: London and key cities

Distributor: Soda Pictures

Director: Ursula Meier

Writers: Antoine Jaccoud, Olivier Lorelle, Ursula Meier, Gilles Taurand, Raphaelle Valbrune, Alice Winocour

Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Olivier Gourmet, Adélaí¯de Leroux, Madeleine Budd, Kacey Mottet Klein

Switzerland/France/Belgium 2008

98 mins

Ursula Meier’s debut feature Home tells the story of an insular and unconventional family who live in a house by a disused motorway. Meier wanted to create ‘a road movie in reverse’ (the tagline of the film) by reflecting not the passenger’s gaze but the point of view of the people standing by the roadside.

When the motorway reopens, this kooky, sexually liberated, left-field family’s days of cavorting around semi-naked in front of each other are numbered. They have previously treated the road as an extension of their home, somewhere for the kids to play, for the teenage Judith to sunbathe, and for mum Marthe (Isabelle Huppert) to fit in a ride on her son’s scooter in between the chaos of domestic chores - all of which are undertaken with the style and poise that seem to come so effortlessly to the French (in cinema, at least).

Madness slowly takes hold as the noise and pollution of passing traffic inhibits the household’s daily routine. Dad Michel (Olivier Gourmet) is angry and territorial, while Julien daubs fresh white paint from the road across his face in a gesture of defiance. Marthe can’t hang out her washing anymore for the sound of truck drivers blasting their horns at a half-naked Judith, who persists in sunbathing in a bikini by the busy road. Practical middle child Marion, the scholar of the family, is worried about the effect of carbon monoxide on the family’s health, and defies her mother by refusing to wear a swimsuit that flatters her burgeoning figure.

The family decide to brick in the windows and sweat out the summer inside their house. Marthe, until now the devoted mother, puts her needs above the rest of the family by insisting they stay on no matter how bad it gets. Here is the only place she can be truly happy, even if the entire family suffers as a result. This seems contradictory: until this point, much has been made of her maternal bond with the children, especially with her young son Julien. But when the ultimate breakdown occurs and Michel threatens to leave with the children, Marthe is prepared to stay on alone in the dark, hot house; still more baffling is her lack of concern when Judith goes missing later in the film.

Meier intended to create ‘a sort of immobile expedition - an inner voyage, a mental journey’, yet Marthe’s breakdown amounts to nothing more than mindless pacing around a messy house full of dirty dinner plates. Marthe’s is a flattering, camera-friendly brand of madness, and luckily her ability to match this season’s floral prints with an edgy pair of heeled ankle boots seems to be entirely uncompromised by her mental demise. This type of superficiality permeates Home, rendering Marthe’s change in attitude to her family nothing more than an irksome plot contrivance, and Meier’s intentions are ultimately undermined by the precedence of aesthetic ideals over substance.

Jessica Dickenson


The Fox Family

Format: DVD

Date: 10 August 2009

Distributor: Terracotta Distribution

Director: Lee Hyung-gon

Original title: Gumiho gajok

Cast: Ha Jung-woo, Ju Hyeon, Park Si-yeon, Ko Ju-yeon

South Korea 2006

102 mins

Remember The Addams Family? That cartoonish clan of freaks and outcasts who lived on the border of normal society? They may have had some strange customs but they always stuck together - each family member proudly individual but also a valued part of the group. Now South Korea boasts The Fox Family, a similarly weird bunch with a Moulin Rouge-esque flair for the theatrical, who are forced to stick together because of their unique differences.

But the Foxes want to be normal, everyday humans. They really are foxes who have come down from the mountains and taken human form in order to fulfil a prophecy, one based on the Korean myth of the kumiho, or the nine-tailed fox. They can remain human if they eat a human liver during a lunar eclipse, which comes along every 1000 years. As you’d probably expect from a Korean film, that last little detail makes everything a little more macabre than your usual fairy tale involving enchanted fluffy animals.

The family are led by the widowed father (Ju Hyeon), who has them performing in a circus troupe that frequently splatters its audience with fake blood - Wednesday Addams would certainly approve. He tries to get his buffoonish son (Ha Jung-woo) and sexy daughter (former model Park Si-yeon) into the dating game as a way of finding suitable human sacrifices, which leads to some of the film’s more slapstick moments. But only the latter manages to score with a seedy pervert who reluctantly agrees to help them recruit further candidates from the fringes of society.

Meanwhile, the youngest daughter (Ko Ju-yeon) keeps to herself and may or may not be the brutal murderer of a local girl. A Columbo-style detective certainly suspects one of them but his sit-and-watch brand of police work is merely a distraction to the central plot, a plot that is already a little thin and from which director Lee Hyung-gon often gets sidetracked. As he circles around different genres and tones - the film is interspersed with some random, foot-tapping, musical interludes - it frequently feels like a Tim Burton mash-up.

Inevitably, the Foxes discover that the secret to becoming human isn’t as simple as ripping out someone’s liver. It’s about love and understanding, the bonds that form when you get to know and care for people. As they extend their family to include those that have been neglected by their own, the real transformation occurs. But it is perhaps because it’s such a universal theme that Lee seems uninterested in exploring it in any depth. He’s much more concerned with mastering the visuals; the sets, costumes and lighting are all wonderfully decadent while his framing and comic timing seem inspired by a crazed Scooby-Doo episode. In a way, the film is incredibly childlike, a classic fable on what it means to be human, yet it also attempts to be dark and sexy without being explicit. It amuses with oddball humour - where else will you see break-dancing riot police? - and the ‘Wonder Woman’ finale saves the day, but ultimately it rarely gets under the fur of its intriguing characters.

Rich Badley


Bad Boy Bubby

Format: DVD and Blu-ray

Date: 3 August 2009

Distributor: Eureka Entertainment

Director: Rolf de Heer

Writer: Rolf de Heer

Cast: Nicholas Hope, Claire Benito, Ralph Cotterill

Australia 1993

114 mins

Rolf de Heer’s Bad Boy Bubby was a controversial art-house success when released in 1993; audience response to de Heer’s tale of an abused man-child belatedly let loose on society at the age of 35 was polarised, but the film picked up five awards at the Venice Film Festival and became an underground cult item in the United States when a commercial distribution deal fell through. Notoriety in the UK was ensured when the BBFC ordered 20 seconds of footage to be trimmed, fearing that a scene in which a cat is choked to death with cling film was a genuine act of animal cruelty, although de Heer has since provided evidence to show that this was not the case, and the offending footage has been restored to this re-issue.

The almost unbearably claustrophobic opening stretch takes place entirely in the squalid flat where Bubby (Nicolas Hope) lives with his depraved mother, a vile woman who alternately scolds her son and uses him for sex. She has made him fearful of the outside world by claiming that the air is poisonous, and puts on a gas mask whenever she goes out to maintain the lie. This barely functional domestic existence degenerates into chaos when Bubby’s father, a lapsed priest, returns to the fold, causing a rift in the relationship between the ‘child’ and his mother. After realising that the air outside is not toxic, Bubby kills his parents and, in the freewheeling mid-section, sets out to explore urban Adelaide. He encounters a variety of characters that range from a sexually promiscuous Salvation Army girl to a cash-strapped rock band and a scientist who denies the existence of God. The final third lurches into redemptive sentimentality, as the scientist convinces Bubby that he has to take responsibility for his actions.

As with Robert Zemeckis’s Forrest Gump (1994), a less confrontational and more widely popular film about a simpleton’s odyssey through modern times, it is debatable as to whether de Heer is actually concerned about Bubby’s plight, as the character exists in a sustained state of arrested development. Instead, he offers a social commentary, with Bubby serving as a child-like viewpoint from which to observe the positive and negative attributes of society. Bubby understands little, and ‘learns’ about life by mimicking those around him, often with anti-social consequences. An act of police brutality leads to Bubby stealing money from a petrol station by assaulting the attendant, and his attempt to pick up a lonely woman in a restaurant by using the salacious words of his father results in him being thrown into jail for sexual harassment. De Heer embraced the episodic nature of his narrative, utilising the skills of 32 cinematographers to capture the scenes that take place outside the family flat, and the dense sound design recalls the unsettling industrial hum of David Lynch’s Eraserhead (1977). Despite these technical achievements, and Hope’s remarkable performance, Bad Boy Bubby struggles to maintain narrative momentum, and the concluding reaffirmation of familial values seems strangely hollow considering the extremity that has preceded it.

John Berra


God Man Dog

Format: DVD

Date: 10 August 2009

Distributor: Terracotta Distribution

Director: Singing Chen

Writers: Singing Chen and Lou Yi-an

Original title: Liu lang shen gou ren

Cast: Singing Chen and Lou Yi-an

Taiwan 2006

119 mins

Taiwanese director Singing Chen’s second film God Man Dog is made up of four or five interwoven narratives. It made me wonder what the purpose of this cinematic form can be. Perhaps the stories might join together to make a single larger story. Or what happens in one story might reflect interestingly on what happens in another. Or it might just be that one of the ways a work of art or entertainment can give pleasure is by letting us see how a puzzle is solved.

God Man Dog is a converging ensemble piece í  la Altman, but lacks his masterly orchestration of disparate elements. It is hard to see a coherent narrative whole, or one element making sense of another. The stories are connected not intrinsically but by chance elements. The characters all make journeys, and there is some convergence of time and place (Taipei, a regional village, and the highway that joins them). But the stories do not contribute significantly to each other’s development or resolution.

Perhaps this is too analytical a way to approach what this film has to offer us. It may be better seen not as narrative-driven but as a set of contrasting studies of people confronted by weighty problems, to do with alcohol, depression, work, money, growing up, sex, parenthood, disability, death. We are shown how they try to get to grips with their lives, and in several cases are invited to consider the role that religious or superstitious feeling plays in this. God and the supernatural do not seem to give the characters what they need: we are left thinking that they face their troubles alone unless they find something in the human world to give meaning to their lives.

There is an impersonal feeling to the cinematography - little sense of a human touch in the filming, of the camera’s presence, of light playing on film. The blank, detached gaze of the camera emphasises the characters’ isolation, but also gives them a kind of equality: there are no protagonists or privileged characters in this film. They are on an equal footing not only with each other but with us, for there is no judgement and no irony in the way they are depicted - the viewer does not see more than the characters see, or understand better than the characters understand.

God Man Dog is not, I am pretty sure, a deep film, though it is ‘about’ Life, Death, and all that. However, it does show us things about people in ways that are perhaps its own. The acting always carries conviction: what we see seems real, even when it is intriguingly odd. The dogs? I think they are just random interlopers into the human stories.

Peter Momtchiloff


Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters

Format: Cinema

Date: 10-21 July 2009

Venue: ICA (London)

Director: Paul Schrader

Writers: Chieko Schrader, Paul Schrader and Leonard Schrader

Cast: Ken Ogata, Masayuki Shionoya, Go Riju, Yasosuke Bando, Kisako Manda

USA 1985

120 mins

Also available on DVD Region 1 from Criterion

Yukio Mishima was a Japanese author, poet, playwright, actor and leader of the private militia, the Tatenokai or Shield Society. Paul Schrader’s 1985 film, Mishima: a Life in Four Chapters, attempts to shed light on the development of this complex figure, famous for the circumstances of his death as much as for his literary work.

Schrader paints Mishima as a modern-day Byron, forever cultivating his celebrity image while seeking to fuse art with action and social change. The story mixes episodes from Mishima’s life and work and is told in flashback over four chapters. The fourth chapter depicts Mishima’s infamous siege of the Japanese Self-Defense Force headquarters while the earlier chapters go back to the past events that could have motivated him. Sequences in black and white indicate episodes from Mishima’s early life while hyper-stylised, hyper-colourful studio scenes represent the world of Mishima’s fiction.

Despite considerable aesthetic ambition, Mishima always feels more like a writer’s film than a director’s. I say this not just because it is about the life of a writer, but more because it is obsessed with the processes of writing and story-telling. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem in itself, but it becomes one as Schrader’s literary obsessions smother the cinematic potential of the film. (One is reminded that Schrader also wrote Taxi Driver, but that it was the cine-love evident in Scorsese’s direction that really made this film a classic). The scenes from three of Mishima’s novels that Schrader crams into the narrative are flat, repetitive, and nauseatingly over-staged. As episodes, they serve only to point out obvious parallels between Mishima’s life and work, and to contribute to a whole that is already too wordy, too codified, and too bogged down with information. The manically stylised images are entirely at the service of narrative information and intellectual ideas; they have no real feeling or truth of their own.

The fourth chapter is admittedly better, as Schrader drops the camera acrobatics and focuses more on the action of Mishima’s final work in all its mad, heroic glory. This is the only place in the film where there is space to really look at the mature Mishima, to ponder what he was all about, and to feel genuine fascination at his enigmatic personality. It perhaps just saves the film from being completely bloated and boring, and leaves it standing as an informative introduction to an impressively dedicated life.

David Warwick


The Stranger

Format: Public Domain

Director: Orson Welles

Writers: Anthony Veiller, Victor Trivas and Decla Dunning

Cast: Edward G Robinson, Orson Welles, Loretta Young, Philip Merivale

USA 1946

90 mins

The legend of Orson Welles has no room for The Stranger. Masterpieces, studio-butchered (or simply flawed) classics, even bad films with elements of genius, but mediocrity never. As Welles’s co-star, Edward G Robinson, once put it, ‘Orson has genius but in this film it seems to have run out’. And yet other great auteurs were permitted hundreds of mediocre films; John Ford seems to have made at least one for every Stagecoach or The Searchers, and even Alfred Hitchcock was allowed his fair share.

The Stranger shows what Welles could have become had he been allowed to work as a jobbing director within the studio system. His output for the radio between 1938 and 1940 was certainly prodigious and not every programme sent Americans panicking into the streets as War of the Worlds did. Perhaps his film career could have been similar. The Stranger was even finished a day ahead of schedule and under budget and actually made money at the box office - not the stuff of Welles legend.

Perhaps it’s because Welles himself disliked the film, but for some reason The Stranger has become one of the filmmaker’s most forgotten and overlooked movies. It merits barely a page or two in most biographies and there are very few stories about its production. Welles apparently directed the film (following the script) by day and performed magic tricks at drunken parties in the evenings. The studio overruled an interesting casting option - Agnes Moorehead (the first wife in Citizen Kane) in the Edward G role - but other than trimming the opening section, interfered very little.

Thus the film is directed entirely by Welles, unlike The Magnificent Ambersons, which had an ending added by Robert Wise, and bears all the hallmarks of an Orson Welles film. His strong (heavy-handed) directorial style is much in evidence: his roving camera and striking angles, chiaroscuro lighting and his composition in depth (although without Gregg Toland’s wide angle lenses and dramatic depth of focus). The film’s strengths, as well as its flaws, are largely due to Welles.

The first reel is excellent - full of drama, tension and dramatic noir-ish shots as former Nazi Meinike is set free from prison in order to lead the war crimes investigators to a bigger fish - Franz Kindler. Edward G Robinson repeats his calm, all-knowing investigator from Double Indemnity. Kindler is played with hammy urbanity by Welles in what seems to be a dry run for his villain in The Third Man, Harry Lime. His speech on a ‘Carthaginian peace’ for Germany bears comparison with Lime’s story of the cuckoo clocks and the Borgias. Welles’s performance is often considered the film’s major flaw, although it is certainly not as jarring as the irritating Irish brogue he employs for The Lady from Shanghai, and seems to be indicative of his restless spirit and his constant striving to try something different, which led to his much lauded voodoo Macbeth as well as War of the Worlds. It is also indicative of his sheer love of acting.

The following reels are set in a sleepy Connecticut town complete with prep school and colonial style buildings (looking remarkably like the set from Gilmore Girls). The film itself takes on the pace of the place as we are treated to fishing trips, discussions on antiques and repairing the town clock, as well as the quirky locals who don’t much mind that the church clock hasn’t worked in decades and are annoyed by the noise when it is fixed. There is the town clerk and store-owner who inadvertently invents the self-service mini-mart so he can listen to the radio and play checkers instead of serving customers.

Disguised as a teacher and married to the daughter of a Supreme Court judge, Kindler hopes to hide out in the idyllic town until the Nazis rise again. But as the net slowly closes in around him the audience finds itself almost sympathising with the unrepentant Nazi (perhaps not to the disturbing extent Hitchcock achieves in Psycho) as he hurriedly redirects a children’s paper chase so they don’t find Meinike’s body. But of course Robinson, with his bulldog tenacity, eventually leads us to a finale that although not quite as baroque as the ‘crazy house’ in The Lady from Shanghai is certainly memorable.

The Stranger won’t trouble the greatest films of all time lists but it is not a bad movie. There are good moments in the overall mediocrity and it is probably better on the whole than The Lady from Shanghai, which alternates between the brilliant and the awful. It might even be the fifth best Orson Welles film…

Paul Huckerby