Fiction - Commercial - Corporate - Animation - Documentary

Dogs of War – 1981


Hidden behind the bargain bin 80s action film actioneer marketing (Christopher Walken waving a massive Manville XM18 launcher) lies one of the best ever studies of the mercenary trade, and the cold cruelty with which the great powers toy with weak nations. After a nightmarish first half where Walken reckons an all-too-realistic dictatorship in Central Africa, he meticulously puts a team and plan together for a client-mandated assault. For the most part, this plays out like one of the great 70s procedurals, like 3 Days of the Condor or All The President’s Men, where sporadic bursts of disturbing violence punctuate the building tension. It all leads to a phenomenally tense and precise action climax, that is both powerful and cathartic, making this little-known cinematic curiosity the crown jewel of its star’s career.

Persepolis – 2007


If for some reason you managed to miss Marjane Satrapi’s phenomenal biographical graphic novel about her youth in revolutionary Iran, now’s your chance to make up for lost time. Her irreverent art is beautifully brought to life in this animated adaptation, one of the most funny, touching and important films you will ever see.

Across 110th Street – 1974


One of the very best « blaxploitation » movies ever made is also a first-rate gritty cop drama, where the seedy New York of yesteryear is at its grimmiest, and two of most magnetic male stars of all time, Yaphet Kotto and Anthony Quinn, fight their way through mobsters and corrupt officials alike. You probably only know it for its wonderful theme song by Bobby Womack (reused in QT’s Jackie Brown), but the film itself deserves at least just as much attention and reverence.

This Man is Dangerous – 1953


Thank you fellow filmmaker Dan Stuyck for putting this one on our radar. International man of mystery Lemmy Caution (a very deadpan Eddie Constantine) jokes, slaps and murders his way through this incredibly convoluted tale of extortion, kidnapping, double and triple-crosses. What makes this one stand out is the surprising level of ruthlessness and some wonderfully self-aware one-liners.  Seek this one out if you appreciate the finer things in life.

A Hidden Life – 2019


Love him or hate him, Terrence Malick’s style is immediately recognizable and has its own, unique power. It can falter when applied to the wrong topic, but work wonders when matched with a compelling story. Thankfully, such is the case in this heartbreaking true story of a German conscientious objector at the dawn of World War II. Stars August Diehl and Valerie Pachner surrender themselves completely, with staggering results, and at its best, the film achieves an etherial kind of beauty that is seldom experienced in any art form. A must-see!

Out of Sight – 1998


American indie darling Steven Soderbergh made his best film when he adapted Elmore Leonard’s breezy novel. This smooth, sexy caper is always on the move, always feels alive and sparkles with fleshed-out characters, witty banter and committed performances. And if you like this one, you can also check out its sister film, Jackie Brown, with which it shares a universe, an author and a minor character.

Phase IV – 1974


This one is all down to execution. Genetically enhanced ants play havoc with two scientists’ experiment before moving to cruel mind games. The killer element here is the direction and macro photography by design legend Saul Bass: why, what, how? It doesn’t matter. What could have been silly or cheap is instead truly horrific and unique, and while we don’t say this often, we would love to see what a remake might look like, coming from someone with the right mix of talent and vision.

Little Women – 2019


Greta Gerwig’s Oscar-nominated triumph does more than dust off a beloved classic for an easy buck. It revamps and enhances it, injects it with life and an indomitable freshness, gives it a sense of wonder and joy. It also provides a showcase for some of the finest actresses of their respective generations, and despite faultless turns from Laura Dern and Meryl Streep, it is Saoirse Ronan and Florence Pugh who steal the entire show. Wonderul stuff!

A Passage to Marseilles – 1944


As a double-bill with last month’s recommendation – and featuring more dastardly Nazis and patriotic derring-do – we present to you the unofficial sequel to Casablanca. This time, the focus is on men fleeing French penal colonies (so brutally illustrated in Papillon) run by the collaborator Vichy government, in order to return to Europe and fight for their country. Like Casablanca before it, with which it shares the key creative staff, the cast is the stuff dreams are made of: Bogart, Lorre, Rains, Greenstreet… Enjoy a seriously underrated treasure.

Five Graves to Cairo – 1943


In one of his first big hits, golden age wunderkind Billy Wilder gives us his own spin on the WW2 spy adventure. The tight confines of a dusty Egyptian hotel make for a gripping, suspenseful tale, and no matter the gravity of the situation, it never eschews an all-too-rare ingredient of modern filmmaking: fun.