Join us every week for a trip into the weird and wonderful world of trailers. Whether it’s the first teaser for the latest instalment in your favourite franchise, an obscure preview for a strange indie darling, whether it’s good, bad, ugly or just plain weird – your favourite pop culture baristas are there to tell you what they think.
Julie: The Ipcress File features Harry Palmer, James Bond’s darker counterpart, as he gets involved in a case of kidnapping which takes an unexpected turn. The start of the Harry Palmer series based on the spy novels by Len Deighton, it is well worth your patience as the film takes us on an ever darker path. Michael Caine alone, very much on the ascendant here, is worth the watch.
Eric: The overall flavour of a movie such as this one is conflict: the conflict of a dark story with murky outlines rendered in bright cel-shaded hues for its motion picture treatment, the same dream-inflected rotoscope style Linklater used five years earlier on Waking Life. It’s also reflected in the conflict in its protagonist’s head, an agent undercover in a druggie commune who takes enough of a drug for it to literally cause brain damage that disassociates his cerebral hemispheres, and the narrative spreads its treacherous branches outwards from there. Despite its overall direction (and casting choice for its lead) muting the omnipresent atmosphere of paranoia from the story, the movie is incredibly faithful to the original Philip K. Dick tale, right down to its incisive and cynical conclusion.
Sam: My all-time favourite ’70s (just) post-Watergate paranoia thriller must be Sidney Pollack’s Three Days of the Condor starring Robert Redford as the last survivor of a team of spies that becomes brutally murdered in one of the first scenes while Redford is out to get food. What follows is an exciting tour de force of uncovering who is behind the hit job with his sinister killer-in-chief, played by a frighteningly mischievous Max von Sydow. Redford teams up with superstar-of-the-day Faye Dunaway to figure out which branches of government were in on the conspiracy. The conclusion clearly inspired a very similar scene at the end of the Jason Bourne trilogy, when Redford is faced with keeping quiet or going public with what he knows. The ending must have sent chills down the audience’s backs and evoked some cheers in the light of Bernstein/Woodward’s similar predicament in connection with the Watergate revelations two years earlier. No coincidence indeed that Redford himself would star as Woodward (alongside Dustin Hoffman’s Bernstein) in the Oscar-winning All The President’s Men just one year later. Three Days of the Condor is fantastic on its own, but an even better companion piece to Pakula’s masterfully no-nonsense political thriller.
Matt: I was torn, to be honest: so many great masterpieces of paranoia to choose from. Which one to go for? Philip Kaufman’s 1978 Invasion of the Body Snatchers, whose ending still gives me the chills, or indeed Don Siegel’s original? John Carpenter’s The Thing? Or should I just go for The Manchurian Candidate, the granddaddy of all political paranoia movies? In the end, I decided to go for Francis Ford Coppola’s The Conversation, a film as unsettling as those other classics, but what I love about it – and about The Manchurian Candidate – is the emotional range it has and the deeply melancholy streak that goes through it. My favourite cinema had been planning to do a series of films they’d call United States of Paranoia, and both The Manchurian Candidate and The Conversation had been on the programme, but hey, the best laid plans of mice and men and all that. There’s a slim chance they’ll still show the series, once it’s safe to go to the movies again, but I’m not counting on it… so I’ll keep myself happy and/or paranoid in my own four walls. Which also fits The Conversation quite neatly.