Sunday, 29 January 2012

Top Ten: Typewriters in Film

I was inspired to write this list after recently starting to use a beast of a WW2 Imperial typewriter (although not for blogging, obviously), and also after I included the Mujahideen scene from Naked Lunch in my list of Top Ten: Most Unbelievable Moments in Film. I like typewriters. Typerwriters are cool.

10. SE7EN

In David Fincher's Se7en, Morgan Freeman's Detective Somerset spends a good portion of the opening scenes banging away at his police reports on a typewriter - probably to emphasize even further the difference between him and young rip Detective Mills (Brad Pitt) who storms onto the scene and steals his desk just before the two get embroiled in the hunt for serial killer John Doe (Kevin Spacey).



It might have looked like Maggie Gyllenhaal never really got much work done when she became a legal secretary to James Spader, but that's not strictly true - she did get a whole lot of typing done, although quite a lot of it ended up in the bin with red pen (and sometimes worms) all over it.

7. THE 400 BLOWS

In Francois Truffaut's classic of the French New Wave, main character Antoine and his young friend decide to steal a typewriter from his father's office to sell in order to start their own business (whereas these days they'd collect Kindles and iPhones to fence - darn kids and their schemes). It's a great scene, especially when they run through the streets with it - running with a typewriter that size is like trying to run with a bowling ball.


Imprisoned by crazed fan Cathy Bates and forced to write a new novel, James Caan can't handle the pressure. I sometimes understand how he is feeling in the scene below...


Johnny Depp, aka Raoul Duke, aka Hunter S Thompson, is almost never seen without his trusty red typewriter in Terry Gilliam's crazy drug fuelled romp.


Oskar Schindler (played by Liam Neeson) was a Nazi businessman who saved the lives of over a thousand Jews during the Holocaust by bribing Amon Goeth to let him keep Jewish workers in his factory - here we the list of names being put together on a typewriter.


Jack Nicholson goes slowly crazy as he is isolated in a huanted hotel for the winter with his wife and young son while also trying to write a book (another man sent mad by his novel). In the scene below his wife Wendy (Shelley Duvall) leafs through his papers to see what he's been typing all this time.


In David Cronenberg's/William Burrough's Naked Lunch, typewriters can morph into cockroaches, they can speak, they can move, they can spy on you and everything you write on them - they can even produce some interesting hallucinogenic substances for your enjoyment, should you want them to. Marvel at the scene below as one typewriter chews another to death.


All The President's Men is a classic story of investigative journalism; Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein (Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman) slowly unravel the Watergate conspiracy using a combination of phoning everybody they can think of and knocking on doors - and of course, typing it all up on their trusty 1970s typewriters. Best scene: Woodward comes over to Bernstein's apartment, turns on the radio and types out what he wants to say after being told by his undercover source that their lives are in danger and they may be under surveillance.

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Review: Coriolanus

Coriolanus is Oscar nominated actor Ralph Fiennes' first stab at directing. He has chosen to make and star in a modernised version of the Shakespeare play 'Coriolanus', which centres on a Roman General named Caius Martius; he is a formidable soldier who is given the title 'Coriolanus' after laying successful siege to the Volscian city of Corioles. He is convinced to run for consul by his fame hungry mother Volumnia, and at first he is successful - but the scheming of other politicians, as well as his own sentiments regarding popular democratic rule, turn the mob against him. He is banished from Rome, eventually joining up with the Volscians in order to wreak revenge on the city that exiled him.

While Coriolanus has been given a modern setting (the city is still referred to as Rome, but in fact the film was shot in Belgrade, Serbia) as little as possible appears to have been changed from the original play. Of course everyone is dressed in modern clothing, and there are guns (lots of guns), but the costumes and sets are very sparse, as if every effort has been made to pare the film down; it has the definite ring of a modernised, minimalist theatre production of Shakespeare brought to the screen, rather than an actual translation of the play into film.

The dialogue is gold, as of course it would be, what with Shakespeare being the scriptwriter. As with all Shakespearian productions it's the performances that are the most scrutinised. Some of the bit part actors are clearly not comfortable with the Shakespearean language (a couple of seem to think they're in a school play), but that is made up for by the main performances. As usual, Vanessa Redgrave (as Volumnia) acts everybody else off the screen; Jessica Chastain (who was recently nominated for an Oscar for her role in The Help) does a pretty average job with Virgilia, the wife of Coriolanus. Gerard Butler (as Coriolanus' arch enemy Aufidius) spouts off his lines eloquently in his gravelly Scotch accent (he certainly wouldn't be miscast as MacBeth) although the best of the male supporting actors is almost certainly Brian Cox as Menenius.

Ralph Fiennes himself is certainly intense, but he does have a tendency to go a little bit over the top. Having previously played Coriolanus onstage (at the London Almeida Theatre in 2000) it seems likely that he is carrying over much of that performance to the screen, perhaps forgetting along the way that in a film you don't always have to yell and gesticulate wildly during emotional scenes to get your point across to the cheap seats. It may have been a mistake to give Coriolanus a shaved head as well; it's certainly striking and cinematic, but it smacks a little bit too much of his recent (and possibly most famous) role, Lord Voldemort, who was also as bald as an egg.

Although Coriolanus is probably an extremely good play, Fiennes has not translated it particularly well to the screen; the only scenes in which I found myself truly interested where the ones in which Vanessa Redgrave took control and showed off what over fifty years in the industry (plus being Michael Redgrave's daughter) can do. The trick with translating a play to film is to do something new with it, something that could only be done through the medium of film. Fair enough, you couldn't have a violent pitched gun battle onstage, and Fiennes and Butler probably couldn't jump through a glass window, but these are quite fleeting scenes and don't leave a very lasting impression (plus film can provide so much more than just cheap action sequences).

Coriolanus is a pretty good watch, but I wouldn't want to see it more than once. It's worth it for Redgrave's performance alone, but other than that there is nothing particularly remarkable about it. Fiennes seems to have got a taste for directing however; his new one The Invisible Woman, which tells the story of Charles Dickens' secret mistress, is coming out next year. Perhaps he'll make a more interesting job of it when he isn't hampered by the shadow of Shakespeare.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Top Ten: Most Unbelievable Moments in Film

I named this list Top Ten: Most Unbelievable Moments in Film, but what I really wanted to name it was Top Ten: You've Got to be Fucking Kidding! Moments in Film. Allow me to explain.

My ex-Professor at the University of Exeter, Steve Neale (author of 'Genre and Contemporary Hollywood, among other things) once wrote an essay entitled 'You've Got to be Fucking Kidding!: Knowledge, Belief and Judgement in Science Fiction'. You can find this essay on page 160 of a book called 'Alien Zone: Cultural Theory and Contemporary Science Fiction Cinema'. As his starting point for this article Neale takes a scene from John Carpenter's 1982 film The Thing. For various very complex reasons, during this scene a severed human head grows insect-like legs, gets up and walks out of the room, upon which one of the astonished characters exclaims the immortal words: "You've got to be fucking kidding!" (see video above)

In that moment, the fourth wall cracks just a little bit; that character has given voice to what we were all thinking (they've gone a little far with that one/that was a bit over the top/you've got to be fucking kidding). This is a list of 'you've got to be fucking kidding' moments; some of them are unbelievable, some of them are awful, and some of them are just plain weird, but they are all moments that make you stop and think: hold the phone. What the hell's going on here?!

10. OLDBOY - The Wriggling Sushi

To start us off it's that classic of 2003, that darling of South Korean cinema, Chan-wook Park's Oldboy. More specifically, it's the scene where Oh Dae-Su (played by Min-sik Choi) goes into a restaurant and chows down on a live octopode; he goes to town on that thing, stuffing it into his mouth raw and wriggling, Gollum-style. Apparently Choi had to chew on four seperate octopodes during filming, and when the film won the Grand Prix at Cannes, Park thanked the dead sea-beasties in his acceptance speech (although they probably didn't appreciate it).

9. DON'T LOOK NOW - The Murderous Dwarf

The grisly denouement of Nicolas Roeg's 1973 horror film Don't Look Now has to be among the strangest and most wholly unexpected pieces of cinema to ever be filmed. Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are wandering around Venice, haunted by what appears to be the ghost of their little drowned daughter. Of course, it isn't really their daughter, but a psychotic serial killing dwarf woman in a red duffle coat who slashes Sutherland's throat. Who woulda thunk it.

8. THE DAY OF THE DEAD - Choke on 'em!

In George Romero's Zombie follow-up The Day of the Dead (1985), the outside world is overrun by zombies while a small group of soldiers and scientists survive inside a military bunker. Eventually, cabin fever sets in and things start to gang awry; when zombies finally do breach the bunker, the head military honcho (who we don't like much, because he's an asshole) falls prey to their hunt for human flesh. Two of our zombified bretheren grab ahold of his legs, rip them off and begin dragging them away. Military Asshole (who's name, if you care, is Captain Rhodes) totally redeems himself in this scene with two and a half words: "Choke on 'em!" he screams, even as yet more zombies are tearing out his entrails.

7. THE EVIL DEAD - The Tree Rape

Even if you've never seen it, you've probably at least heard about it; the infamous 'Tree Rape' scene from Sam Raimi's 1981 video nasty The Evil Dead. Deemed so gratuitously horrible that versions of the film that include it are still banned in some countries, the Tree Rape scene really is just what it sounds like.

6. THE EXORCIST - The Spider-walk

Many of you who have seen The Exorcist may have never even heard of the Spider-walk - that's because it was cut from the original film due to the visible suspension wires holding up the stunt woman. These were removed digitally for certain re-releases of the film, and it is now possible to see the Spider-walk in all its creepy glory. Basically, twelve year old Reagan (Linda Blair), who is possessed by a demon claiming to be the Devil, takes it into her head to climb out of her bed and down the stairs on all fours - backwards. That may not sound too insane, but try watching the video above and see if it doesn't make you want to call your therapist.

5. THE WICKER MAN (2006) - Not the Bees!

In the rotten abortion that is Neil LaBute's 2006 remake of The Wicker Man, there is an utterly ridiculous scene in which Nicholas Cage (who is playing the Edward Woodward character) has a wooden frame tied around his head which is then pumped full of very angry bees (in the original film, the Pagan islanders are pissed because their apple crop has failed; in the remake, they're upset about their lack of honey - hence the bees). In what has to be one of the most hilariously cringeworthy scenes of all time, Cage goes on to yell, most unconvincingly, these exact words: "OH NO! NOT THE BEES! NOT THE BEES! AAAHHH! OH THEY'RE IN MY EYES! MY EYES! AAAHHH! AAARGH!" Nuff said. For God's sake, do yourself a favour: watch the original.

4. NAKED LUNCH - The Mujahideen

Ok, this one's going to take some explaining. First of all, Naked Lunch is a film by David Cronenberg (there's your first clue) based on a book by William Burroughs (there's your second clue) which is basically a drug/sex/writing fuelled romp of epic proportions (and there's number three). In Naked Lunch, typewriters are a big deal. In the film they are given personalities, even voices, and are able to act as spies for various agencies. The typewriters have a nasty habit of morphing into odd creatures, usually cockroaches or bugs of some type. There is a scene in which the Mujahideen (which is an arabic typewriter) morphs into...well, I don't quite know what the hell it morphs into. Some sort of fleshy beast, part human, part lobster? I don't know; we're talking Burroughs mixed with Cronenberg here - anything at all can and does happen. You'll have to watch it for yourself. All I can say is, you're left with a very strong desire to grab somebody else and say 'Did you see that shit, or was it just me?'

3. JAWS 3 - The Shark in the Fish Tank

In the third Jaws film, a big shark is back, and this time it has focused its attack on a marine resort rather like Seaworld (in fact, most of the film was actually shot at Seaworld). Of course, the resort is full of interconnected aquariums, which are in turn connected to the ocean, making it extra simple for the shark to swim right in and surprise the diners in the underwater restaurant by showing up in the tank next to them. That's right; an incredibly unconvincing plastic shark the size of a routemaster showing up next to your table just as you're all finishing up your starters. I wouldn't tip; would you?

2. DIE ANOTHER DAY - The Invisible Car

Probably the worst Bond film ever made (and let's face it, they were never exactly stellar to begin with). Producers the Broccolis went too far this time, one-upping themselves into oblivion with Bond's most ridiculous gadget ever: the invisible car. I'm convinced it was this awful addition alone which sparked the dumping of Pierce Brosnan and the old regime in favour of Daniel Craig and a slick new update of Casino Royale; the Bond Renaissance, if you will. All Bond needs is a gun, a Martini and a pack of cards; not invisible Aston Martins. How are you supposed to turn that into a collector's item anyway? Do you just sell the kids an empty box?


Lastly, of course, it had to be Harrison Ford surviving a nuclear blast by climbing into a lead-lined 1950s fridge. This scene is so utterly ridiculous, so head turningly unbelievable that it has actually given rise to the phrase 'nuking the fridge', which is not only used to refer to scenes in which film characters manage to survive the most unsurvivable situations in the most ridiculous ways, but also for scenes that are so awful that they ruin any subsequent enjoyment of the film. But, as I believe I have said before in another Top Ten list (Top Ten: Falls From a Great Height), it is impossible to kill Harrison Ford - I bet if some nut walked up to him and shot him point blank in the face, the hole in his head would just seal straight back up, like the T-1000 in Terminator 2.

Monday, 23 January 2012

Review: J. Edgar

Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar is not your average biopic - mostly because J. Edgar Hoover was not your average man. He was director of the Bureau of Investigation and later the FBI for over fifty years; during that time he instituted a centralised finger-printing lab, presided over the investigation of the Lindbergh kidnapping, and waged war against 'subversives and radicals', mostly under the banner of the fight against Communism. It eventually came to light that Hoover was massively exceeding his jurisdiction, collecting evidence illegally, and creating secret files on political leaders (which were destroyed after his death by his secretary Helen Gandy, played in J.Edgar by Naomi Watts).

J. Edgar tells the story of Hoover's rise to power, but it becomes clear as we watch that what the film is really interested in is his personal life. Ably played by Leonardo DiCaprio, Hoover is presented as a closeted gay man unable to deal with his desires. The film also suggests a platonic gay relationship between Hoover and his deputy director Clyde Tolson, played by Armie Hammer (who you will remember as the 'Winklevii' from David Fincher's The Social Network). While rumours and conjecture about Hoover's sexuality have abounded since the 1940s, it has never been conclusively proved that he was gay, or that he had a relationship with Tolson. There's no smoke without fire, however, and there was a hell of a lot of smoke surrounding the two men (I don't have room in this review to go into it all; check out Hoover's Wikipedia page for more information). And so, J. Edgar presents the secret relationship as fact, portraying Hoover as a powerful man with a distinguished (if controversial) career, haunted by his inability to accept his own sexuality.  

The onscreen relationship between Hoover and Tolson is quite well done, but not nearly strained enough. An angst ridden, unfulfilled onscreen relationship is ample opportunity for clandestine awkwardness and meaningful silences, but these are never made use of with great effect. There is one very good emotional scene in which glasses and punches are thrown, but the relationship has been made into the crux of the film, and it's just not strong enough to hold it up single handed for two and a half hours - plus, there is little else to back it up with.

Many biopics use the trope of the protagonist looking back on their life in old age (in the case of Hoover, he is narrating his political career to a series of young male typists), but few manage to do it with such fragmentary confusion as J. Edgar. I'm not saying we need the year to flash up on the screen every five minutes, just that the jumping back and forth between time periods should be done with a little more care. There are a couple of significant straight cuts between 'old' Hoover/Tolson and 'young' Hoover/Tolson (a particularly good one shows the old pair getting into an elevator, and then the young pair getting out) but for much of the film the framing device seems almost arbitrary; a chronological biopic would perhaps have been far more direct and effective.

The quality of the make-up used to transform DiCaprio and Hammer from thirty-somethings to seventy-somethings really isn't good enough to sustain the amount of time they spend onscreen as their 'old' selves; the actors were clearly being inhibited by the amount of putty they had spread over their faces. DiCaprio is not at his finest in this film, but his average performance these days is still another man's powerhouse. He gets the voice down exactly, drawling away in a perfect early 20th century East Coast twang, but even this gradually becomes a hindrance to the film. There is altogether too much talking in J. Edgar; Eastwood knew he was onto a good thing with DiCaprio's voice and overused it to distraction. Hoover's relationship with his mother (Judi Dench) is portrayed as too close for comfort; this is on purpose, but Hoover's constant refrain of "Yes, Mother" (plus the over the top scene in which the famous transvestism rumour is touched upon) gets a little too close to the territory of Anthony Perkins in Psycho.

Unfortunately, J. Edgar is a film which forces me to use the phrase I keep in reserve for movies that might have been impressive but for a number of inescapable flaws: it had its moments. If you want to see a truly great 20th century American political film, try Frost/Nixon, or All The President's Men - J. Edgar isn't going to be joining them any time soon.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

How To Study Film: Part Seven


This advice does not apply to Film students only; far from it in fact. There is nothing worse than someone who doesn't know when to keep their opinions to themselves during a film. I'm not saying that you should take a vow of silence from the second the titles come up, but you have to let a film do what it was made to do - films are made so that you can watch them, not talk through them.

However, I would say that it's the film buffs who need to work on this far more than the unknowing babblers. The only thing more annoying than someone who doesn't know when to shut up during a movie is some bastard who thinks he knows it all contsantly attempting to explain things to everybody else. Nobody needs to hear about complex camera techniques when they're trying to watch Jimmy Stewart chase Kim Novak up a bell tower. You might think that what you've got to say is interesting - and, truth told, it probably is - but that doesn't mean you have to shoot your mouth off about it to everybody in the room. Just imagine something for me here; you are watching Hitchcock's Psycho for the first time. You probably already know what happens; the shower scene seems to have been ingrained into our species memory. Even so, you're watching the film, getting carried along by the plot, getting distracted by the MacGuffins, cowering back in your seat watching the famous scene, and the idiot next to you turns around and says:

"You know, the shower scene is really very well edited. You think you see Janet Leigh get stabbed loads of times, but if you watch carefully, actually you don't see anything at all. It's just a trick of the editing; you only think you see it. They used chocolate sauce for the blood."

I mean, Jesus. You may as well just stand up in the middle of a cinema and start yelling "it's only a movie!" over and over again. You don't break down someone's suspension of disbelief just so that you can sound like a clever son of a bitch. You think Hitchcock would have wanted you to sit in front of his film and unpick all of his work out loud? When Psycho was first released he even went as far as barring anyone from entering the theatre even a few minutes late because it would have ruined the illusion.

Sometimes it can be quite difficult to keep your mouth shut during a film; not because you particularly want to say anything, but because other people want you to. This is an issue which is quite unique to Film students it seems, especially if you're watching something with a group of people who are not, never were and never will be Film students. Being a Film student immediately makes you the authority on all things cinematic in the eyes of some, almost to the point of Godlike omniscience.

If you're planning on enjoying a film, I suggest you never sit down to watch it with a known Question Asker. I've been asked all manner of questions during films, ranging from the relatively harmless: "What did he say?" to the slightly more annoying: "what did he say just then when I said what did he say?" to the vaguely infuriating: "is he going to die?" to the show stopper of them all: "what's going to happen next?"

Studying Film can help you in predicting the plot of movies, sometimes with startling accuracy, but it still doesn't make you an oracle. If you've never seen a film before, then at any given point during it you only know as much as the person sitting next to you. You cannot tell your friend what will happen to their new favourite character, or what turn the plot will take for sure, unless the film you're watching is particularly derivative and therefore easy to predict.

I have yet to find a polite way of dealing with Question Askers, because there really is no polite way of telling somebody to shut the fuck up because you're far more interested in watching the film than what they have to say about it. And what's more, you've never seen this film before either, so you have absolutely no idea which one of the teenagers will be found murdered next. However, there is one piece of advice I can give you. It's surprising just how many people don't think of this idea: why not try watching a film on your own for a change? There's nothing scary about going to the cinema alone, and definitely nothing scary about watching a DVD alone. Of course, films were made to be enjoyed with others - that's the beauty of them, in a way - but you can still save the conversation until you're sitting around a sticky table with half a bottle of wine in your hand somewhere it's acceptable to yell over the background noise.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Review: Shame

"Forgive me, but I don't want to give you a Warhorse sunset. I hope there's hope but there's not always a resolution." - Steve McQueen

Steve McQueen's latest work Shame, another collaboration with favourite leading man Michael Fassbender (the two also worked together on 2008's Hunger), takes a look at the life of Brandon (Fassbender), an alienated sex-addict living in New York. Brandon is a handsome successful businessman in his late thirties. Dogged by his secret affliction, he performs joylessly compulsive sexual acts at every opportunity. One day, a surprise visit from his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) disrupts the solitary world he has created for himself in his luxury apartment high above the city.

New York itself becomes a major factor in the film; the streets and buildings are Brandon's bleak concrete playground, witness to the repetitive futility of his addiction. This is interesting considering that McQueen originally intended to shoot the film in Britain (McQueen, his co-writer and both of his lead actors are all from the UK or Ireland) but ended up in New York almost by accident due to the presence there of sex addicts who were actually willing to speak out about their situation (I guess all the British addicts must have been a little too British about the whole thing). But, McQueen makes incredibly good use of the city, even though he never intended to be there. Brandon is constantly barhopping or taking solitary picturesque night jogs, and Sissy, who works as a nightclub entertainer, sings a slow bluesy rendition of 'New York New York' while he looks on teary-eyed, his strained relationship with her forgotten while he listens to her sing.

The narrative of Shame is very far from the spoon-fed stylings of your average flick; rather than setting us up with situation, problem, gradual overcoming of problem, and resolution, McQueen simply drops his film into Brandon's life for an allotted period of time, before suddenly taking it away again. Whatever happens in between does not feel plotted out or formulaic, it feels 'captured', as though it just happened to happen during the filming period. Real lives don't have neatly arranged ups and downs and nicely rounded out resolutions. With many films, you will have no sense of the characters actually having existed before the camera started to roll, and no sense of them continuing their lives once it has stopped; the characters and their lives are only there because the film is. With Shame, the film is there because the characters are.

While Brandon is constantly surrounding himself with people, his isolation is palpable; he is the embodiment of the classic 'solitary man in the city'; hidden in plain view like a tree in a forest. Any other film about sex addiction would have Brandon recognise his problem, come to terms with it, and eventually redeem himself - but not Shame. Brandon does make an attempt to forge a 'normal' relationship with one of his co-workers, but this fails miserably, pushing him straight back into his addiction with even more destructive force than before. Brandon isn't trying to 'fix' himself, or at least not very hard; this film isn't about that. It's about modern malaise and greed, the bust after the boom, the incredibly destructive power of addiction, and the shame that comes with the fulfilment of a worthless desire.

Shame is a KINOLENS Film of the Moment and is on general release in the UK.

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Review: The Artist

As you might have noticed, unless you're living under a rock on the dark side of the moon, Michel Hazanavicius has been wowing critics, and now the average viewer too, with his new silent film The Artist. Set in the late twenties/early thirties, The Artist is an endearing dramatic comedy in the classic style of the golden age of silent film. It explores the effect of synchronised sound films, or 'talkies' (the first all talking picture being 1927's The Jazz Singer) on silent star George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) and up-and-coming young dancer/actress Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo). George is rendered obselete by the onset of this new medium, while Peppy (who is also George's number one fan) is in her element.

Acting is a key aspect of any film, but in silent film, where there are no voices or background noises to lean on, performance was even more crucial. Exaggerated facial expressions and gestures were the order of the day, and the cast of The Artist do not disappoint. The pairing of Dujardin and Bejo works especially well; the romantic friendship shared by the two leads seals the film together (plus the unforgettable John Goodman as the Director never fails to draw a laugh). But the real star of The Artist is of course Jack the dog (whose real name, apparently, is Uggie). An incredibly cute, well-trained and Chaplin-esque animal, Jack ultimately steals the show, appearing in all of his master George's films, and even saving him from a housefire.

The film looks spectacular, instantly bringing back the true meaning of the phrase 'Silver Screen'; however, even though this is a silent film, it is Hazanavicius' use of sound which is truly incredible. The film has a wonderful score (some of which is either very reminiscent, or lifted straight out, of Hitchcock's Vertigo) but the real standout scene as far as sound is concerned is George's 'synchronised sound nightmare', in which suddenly everything he does has an accompanying noise, whether that be putting down a glass on his desk or knocking over a chair. His confusion and fear grow greater and greater until he runs outside to see a group of dancing girls cackling at him ever more loudly, and then finally a falling feather which, when it hits the ground, makes the sound of a bomb.

The Artist is a joyful celebration of the early days of cinema, and a film that everyone, not just film geeks, will enjoy. Watching a modern film in a modern cinema is generally an exercise in sitting as still and as silently as possible until the credits roll, when you will sneak furtively out of the screen as though you've just been doing something unsavoury. It is impossible not to get caught up in the retro audience reaction which is generated by The Artist. Laughing, clapping and poking your neighbour in the ribs are not only allowed; they are practically compulsory. You'll find yourself skipping out of the cinema with aching cheeks due to the almost permanent grin which has been glued to your face for the last two hours (although the film does have its darker moments).

If you think you might be put off by the silent aspect of the film, you won't be; in reality, silent films are very far from being silent. They are how cinema was originally constructed, and for quite some time the only way it was possible to construct it (although it is true that synchronised sound, like James Cameron's Avatar, was conceived long before we had the technology to implement it). The Artist is a KINOLENS Film of the Moment and is now on UK release.