Category: essay

“The greatest show time” | Perfect Blue (1997) and Paprika (2006)

‘It’s the greatest show time!’ announces a clown as he impossibly squeezes out of a tiny automobile. A circus ring seems like an incongruous place to begin a science fiction film, but before long we are following a middle-aged police officer from circus to corridor to train and beyond, without explanation or logical sense. We ...

“One step at a time. One punch at a time. One round at a time.” | Creed (2015)

Halfway through the 2015 drama Creed there is a scene of a boxing match. The two boxers tap gloves, the bell rings, and they begin to warily circle one another. They start to get in some hits, back and forth. Blood is drawn. Tempers rise. The bell rings, and the boxers go back to their ...

“Right here where we live” | Meet Me in St Louis (1944)

A Missouri family go about their day-to-day lives in the 12 months leading up to the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair. That is the one-sentence summary of Vincente Minnelli’s musical film Meet Me in St Louis. On a superficial level it seems too low-key to become crowd-pleasing blockbuster, yet upon its release in November 1944 ...

“It is not too late to undo this madness” | Masters of the Universe (1987)

In 2007 Paramount Pictures released Transformers, a glossy big-budget science fiction film based on a range of action figures. It was a massive commercial hit, grossing more than US$700 million theatrically and inspiring an entire franchise with four sequels to date and a total worldwide theatrical gross of US$4.4 billion. Transformers was, of course, not ...

“Have we got a vacation for you” | Westworld (1973)

Two men, Peter Martin and John Blane, travel to a high technology theme park named Delos. There they both book into Westworld, a reproduction of 1880s America partially populated by interactive robots. When a computer failure spreads like an infection through the park’s robots, they suddenly turn violently against the guests – and Peter and ...

“The world just as it is” | Agora (2009)

A woman looks to the skies in search of order. A student is torn between an infatuation with his teacher and his political ambitions. A slave struggles to admit his religious faith. These three interrelated lives form the core of Agora, a 2009 historical drama by Chilean writer/director Alejandro Amenábar. At the time of its ...

“Ripples in the water” | Alien³ (1992)

According to the diary of actor Ralph Brown, who played the role of Aaron in the film Alien³, there was a message carved into a wall at London’s Pinewood studios. It purported to list the six stages of film production, as follows: Wild enthusiasm Disillusionment Panic Search for the Guilty Punish the Innocent Reward the ...

“The past is a wilderness of horrors” | The Wolfman (2010)

‘I’m a big fan of horror movies as far back as I can remember,’ said actor Benicio Del Toro. ‘The Universal horror movies were the first films I knew the titles of [as well as] the names of the actors in those films.’[1] All the way back in 1931 Universal Pictures stumbled upon a commercial ...

“I am the saint of blasphemy” | The Last Temptation of Christ (1988)

Note: a German translation of this essay is available at Un Cahier Du Cinema. Thank you to Stefan C. Limbrunner for producing the translation. In 1988 the Martin Scorsese Biblical drama The Last Temptation of Christ was released by Universal Pictures under a storm of protest. There were calls for the film to be banned, and ...

“All that cold blackness” | The Abyss (1989)

A United States submarine runs aground near the Cayman Trough, following an encounter with an unidentified object. With both Soviet submarines and a violent hurricane fast approaching, the crew of a deep-sea drilling platform are co-opted to assist a naval mission to secure the submarine. When the hurricane hits, and contact is lost with the ...