The Compleat Ingmar #20: The Silence (1963)

I was not prepared for the extent to which Ingmar Bergman’s oeuvre would embrace the uncanny. He may not be a David Lynch, but where Lynch’s nightmares are often emphatically surreal, Bergman’s use of the dreamlike is more subtle, more psychological, and probably more Freudian – though not in the overly literal way that pop-Freudians tends to go for. Unless we’re talking about Hour of the Wolf, which indeed feels like proto-Lynch in its final third, Bergman’s onereic sequences – when they are not explicitly dreams, as for instance in Wild Strawberries – always leave it up to the viewer whether what they are seeing is really happening or not, and to what extent it is filtered through, or even distorted by, a character whose perception is less than reliable.

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The Corona Diaries: “Backlog” is just another word for great films you can still look forward to

It’s been a while since we posted one of these. In the meantime, 2020 is history, but 2021 is aiming to show its elder that it can be just as much of a pest. (As someone said: 2021 is shaping up to be the mutated version of 2020.) Will the vaccine help? Perhaps, at least I hope so, but for now we’re left to wait and see. While we were lucky in Switzerland that cinemas were open for half the year, they’ve now been closed since October, and the day on which they can open again seems to be moving further and further into the distance. In the spring of 2020, Mege posted this photo of one of the local cinemas:

Back then, this seemed like an optimistic act of defiance. These days, when I pass the building, it still says the same, but that “Coming soon” sounds like a feeble act of denial.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #40: Star-Spangled Paranoia

Ah, 2021. We expected so much of you, but you decided to one-up your predecessor. The events of the last week have made John Frankenheimer’s paranoia classic The Manchurian Candidate (1962) look surprisingly sedate – who needs one sleeper agent brainwashed by hypnosis into becoming a terrorist when you can mobilise thousands via Twitter and distorting reality? Nonetheless, The Manchurian Candidate retains all of its unsettling potency. Join Julie, Sam and Matt – and quite possibly exactly 57 card-carrying members of the Communist Party – as they talk about Frankenheimer’s seminal film and why it still works so well. (One part of the answer is obviously Angela Lansbury.) So, instead of passing the time with a game of Solitaire, why don’t you join us as we explore not only this classic film of political and personal paranoia but the rich seam of paranoia that goes through American cinema?

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I’ll be in my trailer… watching trailers: Ho^3

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.

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Six Damn Fine Degrees #8: Jason Robards

Welcome to Six Damn Fine Degrees. These instalments will be inspired by the idea of six degrees of separation in the loosest sense. The only rule: it connects – in some way – to the previous instalment. So come join us on our weekly foray into interconnectedness.

It is a fact universally acknowledged that sometimes very bad films can have a surprisingly good cast. Take Chernobyl: The Final Warning, for instance, which I would have been blissfully unaware of if it hadn’t been for last week’s Six Damn Fine Degrees entry by Alan. Sure, Jon Voight has been in films that should have been delivered to the nearest trash compactor before ever seeing the light of day, but he’s also been in some stone cold classics. (No, Baby Geniuses and the Mystery of the Crown Jewels isn’t such a classic. Sorry.) Speaking of trash compactors, Chernobyl: The Final Warning also features the Death Star MVPs Ian McDiarmid and Sebastian Shaw, who memorably co-starred in Return of the Jedi as the wacky duo Emperor Palpatine and Anakin “NOOOOOOOO!” Skywalker, at least before Shaw fell foul of the original Jedi Purge and was digitally replaced by a bald, scarred, Humpty Dumpty-looking Hayden Christensen. Then there’s Annette Crosby, who played Victor Meldrew long-suffering wife for eleven years before later taking on the famous Dickensian role of “Mr. F’s Aunt” in the BBC adaptation of Little Dorrit. Seriously, though, Crosby’s no slouch, as is evidenced by her OBE for services to Drama. The cherry on top of this particular radioactive sundae, though, is Jason Robards.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast Christmas Special 2020

2020 is almost over, but not before we go into the strangest festivities in decades. Are many of our listeners in lockdown? Will they be able to celebrate with their families, or will they be sitting down for a Christmas dinner with very few, if any, to join them? Everyone at A Damn Fine Cup of Culture hopes that you out there are safe, healthy and able to have a few days of cheer – and, we hope, some damn fine culture to keep you well. For this year’s Christmas Special, we talk about the culture that has helped us stay sane in 2020 – from books to board games, from Hollywood pastiches to silent movie classics. Join us once again, and expect a few surprises along the way. Wishing everyone happy holidays, and may 2020 give us a bit of respite after this most exhausting year!

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The Compleat Ingmar #19: Winter Light (1963)

It has been said many, many times, but it bears saying again: for someone who described himself as an agnostic, Bergman had something of a fixation on religion. Not in social or cultural terms, mind you: Bergman’s concern seems to be almost entirely with very personal matters of faith. Winter Light is probably the most literal in this respect: its protagonist, Tomas (Gunnar Björnstrand), is the pastor of a small Swedish church out in the sticks who finds that as his congregation dwindles (the first scene sees him preaching to a handful of people, several of whom politely try but fail to hide their disinterest), so does his belief.

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They create worlds: Paper Beast

One of the things that video games can do magnificently is create worlds. These posts are an occasional exploration of games that I love because of where they take me.

So many video game world I’ve experienced were inspired by the aesthetic of cinema, and mostly by a fairly narrow range of movies: Star Wars, Aliens, James Bond, the Lord of the Rings movies and these days obviously the Marvel behemoth. Which isn’t a bad thing: I’ve greatly enjoyed inhabiting movie-inspired pastiches of New York and Los Angeles, I’ve had good times fighting my way through space stations, mansions and snowy castles. I’ve been wowed by the worlds that games create for their spectacle, but mostly it’s a familiar kind of awe: this is the best-looking Nazi stronghold or Death Star-alike I’ve ever sneaked through, this feels just like Blade Runner‘s futuristic Los Angeles or like Peter Jackson’s version of the Mines of Moria.

It is rare that a game world feels truly different, unexpected and surprising.

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A pair of bitter-sweet twins: Les Parapluies de Cherbourg and Les Demoiselles de Rochefort

Love. Romance. Beautiful French women – and they’re twins, though not identical ones. Song and, yes, dance. Yup, we’re in Jacques Demy country, though if your only experience of Demy’s films is the sublimely melancholy Les Parapluies de Cherbourg (1964), Les Demoiselles de Rochefort (1967) might feel like a change of pace. Where the former film will leave many teary-eyed, Les Demoiselles de Rochefort is a fluffy French meringue that, if you’re attuned to its pleasures, should put a big, goofy smile on your face. And that’s before we even get to the axe murderer subplot.

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A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #39: Bond – Nobody does it better (or worse)

2020 turned out to be No Time For Bond – but our intrepid cultural baristas won’t let that stop them! In the absence of a new instalment in the long-running James Bond franchise, Julie, Alan and Sam – our resident expert in All Things Bond – talk about what the series has to offer: the best and the worst, the shaken and the stirred, the Goldfingers, GoldenEyes and Golden Guns. Who’s their favourite Bond? What’s the film they like least? Are the Bond movies actually good? And does Bond, James Bond still have a place in the 21st century, where the global threats are of a very different kind? P.S.: Listen out for the Bond-appropriate pre-credit sequence! (Okay, it’s not as if you could miss it, seeing how it’s right at the beginning.)

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