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Murder in Three Acts (1986)
Filmmaker(s): Gary Nelson

In Acapulco, Hercule Poirot attends a dinner party in which one of the guests clutches his throat and suddenly dies. The causes seem to be natural until another party with most of the same guests produces another corpse.

Bicycle, not spacecraft The strangest thing: when films are made of Christie structures, the first thing they worry about is the characterisation of the detective: Poirot or Marple. Clearly, the filmmakers obsess over the potential for engagement within the constraints of the original text, but they...

Published February 3, 2024
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Miss Marple: The Body in the Library (1984)
Filmmaker(s): Giorgi Ovashvili

Amateur detective Miss Jane Marple investigates the murder of a young woman whose body is found in the library at Gossington Hall, home of Colonel and Mrs. Arthur Bantry.

The Switch Detective mysteries are one of the most lavishly adventuresome experiences in literature, if one is interested in how narratives are constructed. The contract between reader and writer is rather complex, often involving virtual contracts with some of the characters as well. Christie is a...

Published February 1, 2024
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Nostalghia (1983)
Filmmaker(s): Andrei Tarkovsky

A Russian poet and his interpreter travel to Italy to research the life of an 18th-century composer.

Architectural Poetry: the Form of Angst Writing film comments is a true pleasure -- there is nothing else like it. We have the freedom to assume that you, dear reader, have already seen plenty of descriptions about the story, the beauty, the meditative nature, the ambiguous...

Published January 23, 2024
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Batman (1989)
Justice is always darkest before the dawn.
Filmmaker(s): Tim Burton

Batman must face his most ruthless nemesis when a deformed madman calling himself "The Joker" seizes control of Gotham's criminal underworld.

This Town Needs an Enema As with Gilliam, Tim Burton isn't a real filmmaker, rather a production designer with a quirky taste. He creates a feel and shoves in the usual elements of characters and story and such. But the idea is that the ‘feel' of...

Published January 21, 2024
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Blood Simple (1984)
Breaking up is hard to do.
Filmmaker(s): Joel Coen, Ethan Coen

The owner of a seedy small-town Texas bar discovers that one of his employees is having an affair with his wife. A chaotic chain of misunderstandings, lies and mischief ensues after he devises a plot to have them murdered.

Good Study The Coens are like Soderbergh, they alternate between risky adventures and “commercial” projects. Only in the Coens’ world, it is not so much a matter of commercialism but a matter of respect for the genre. Half of their films are profoundly layered, with a...

Published January 20, 2024
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Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? (1980)
Filmmaker(s): John Davies, Tony Wharmby

This intriguing story is set in the 1930s at a country house, where two amateur sleuths, Bobby Jones and Lady Frankie Derwent, try to unravel the mystery behind a tale of murder, suspense and false identities. And the only clues the two have to go on are the puzzling last words of a dying man. Featuring characters created by Agatha Christie, Why Didn't They Ask Evans is a classic crime thriller sure to please murder-mystery fans.

The Boomerang Clue I make a habit out of examining film adaptations of classic mystery novels for clues. I’m looking for clues about why the narrative works. There is a reason Christie is the best selling writer in history, even now as print runs are huge. I...

Published January 19, 2024
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King Lear (1987)
A breathtaking cast for you to discover …
Filmmaker(s): Jean-Luc Godard

A descendant of Shakespeare tries to restore his plays in a world rebuilding itself after the Chernobyl catastrophe obliterates most of human civilization.

English Recursion Meets French Semiotics Lear is about sight and truth, and incidentally about how devilish charms (derived from the audience's participation and perception) bend sight and truth. So it (and the similarly placed ‘The Tempest') are naturals for film, especially self-referential films about films and...

Published August 6, 2023
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The Falls (1980)
Filmmaker(s): Peter Greenaway

The exploration of the effects of an unexpected catastrophe, known as VUE (violent unknown event) through the bios of 92 survivors.

Borges Meets Hitchhiker's Guide How Greenaway surprises. Here is an early work that is rich in ways that in later works seem submerged. The concept: A 'Violent Unexplained Event' occurs at 11:41 PM GMT, 14 June, People experience physical changes, often transitioning to birds. 92 new languages...

Published July 27, 2023
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The Big Picture (1989)
Film school prepared Nick for everything... everything but Hollywood.
Filmmaker(s): Christopher Guest

Hollywood beckons for recent film school grad Nick Chapman, who is out to capitalize on the momentum from his national award-winning student film. Studio executive Allen Habel seduces Nick with a dream deal to make his first feature, but once production gets rolling, corporate reality begins to intervene: Nick is unable to control a series of compromises to his high-minded vision, and it's all he can do to maintain his integrity in the midst of filmmaking chaos.

Guest Travels in Search of an Ironic Formula As the child of intelligent film critics, Guest was poised to start a career in midstream, already aware of the dominance of irony in film. He would go on to develop and shamelessly exploit a specific, detailed formula...

Published July 27, 2023
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Begotten (1989)
The Extraordinary First Film From The Director Of Shadow Of The Vampire
Filmmaker(s): E. Elias Merhige

Begotten is the creation myth brought to life, the story of no less than the violent death of God and the (re)birth of nature on a barren earth.

Anal Ears This film is about its voyage into our minds, and it gets more competent as the steps get closer to us. The least artful element is the actual acting and shooting. The selection and processing of images is very nice. In fact, I used...

Published June 30, 2023
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