Tourneur’s expressionist masterpiece finds delight and terror, simultaneously, in the tinted moving-image. More fun than The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, less theoretical than Lang’s Destiny.
Victory (Maurice Tourneur, 1919) – 4/5
Tourneur's beautifully realized adaptation of Joseph Conrad’s novel lacks the author’s psychological depth (is this necessarily a bad thing?), substituting a more Romantic view of humanity (“love” is the film’s final title card). What Tourneur lacks in subtle irony, he makes up for in conviction.
Billy Liar (John Schlesinger, 1963) – 4/5
A certain influence on Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange, Schlesinger’s droll ironies, complimented with a terrific performance by Tom Courtenay, precisely address a burgeoning trend in solipsism and individuality run amok. For some reason, Schlesinger would flip-flop on these tendencies later in his career.
Darling (John Schlesinger, 1965) [rewatch] – 3/5
Christie won the Oscar for her performance in what is, essentially, an update of the great Baby Face, with Barbara Stanwyck. Self-critical enough, if slightly undercooked in terms of social commentary (plus, Christie is no Stanwyck).
Far From the Madding Crowd (John Schlesinger, 1967) – 2/5
Schlesinger has two aims with his Thomas Hardy adaptation – a quest for scale/vision and to further flesh out his sexual politics. Both are muddled in a sporadically handsome, but dramatically inert ego-trip.
Midnight Cowboy (John Schlesinger, 1969) [rewatch] – 2/5
Schlesinger’s Best Picture winner is a heavily aestheticized, sentimental account of late 60’s bleeding-heart liberalism. Rather than reckoning with the implications of sexual liberation, Schlesinger humorlessly panders to contemporary immorality, guised under the pretense of visual experimentation. Moreover, the method acting of Voight and Hoffman predicts contemporary preference for deranged, psychoanalyzed protagonists. Paul Morrissey would correct these errors with his Flesh trilogy.
Perfect Sense (David Mackenzie, 2012) – 2/5
For a film about sensory necessity, David Mackenzie displays little interest in varied formal technique. Rather, his crypto-apocalyptic downer would rather revel in banal melodrama and feign its way through addressing the theoretical precepts implied by the film’s title and premise.
Miss Bala (Geraldo Naranjo, 2012) – 2/5
Naranjo bucks the hand-held trends in telling his contemporary story of human degradation and exploitation. However, much like fellow filmmakers Cary Fukunaga and Matteo Garrone, the overriding, borderline offensive neglect to intricately deal with the ethical considerations of not just the historical moment, but their own detached, observational approach negates any tangential resonance.
Kill List (Ben Wheatley, 2012) – 2/5