The Lost World + Live Score at BFI Southbank

The Lost World (1925)
The Lost World (1925)

I’ve had dinosaurs on the brain since going to see a 25th anniversary screening of Jurassic Park at the Prince Charles Cinema a few weeks ago, so was very happy to have the opportunity to check out an even earlier example of dinosaurs in cinema. The Lost World, based on the Arthur Conan Doyle novel and directed by Harry O. Hoyt, was made in 1925; once thought lost, it has now largely been recovered, and was shown at the BFI Southbank with an accompanying live piano score from Lucky Dog Picturehouse.

I absolutely loved this movie; the animation was incredibly impressive for the time and I particularly loved the section which saw the diplodocus rampaging through the streets of London. I believe it’s available on YouTube, and it’s well worth a watch.

Puppet

As part of the London International Mime Festival I attended a screening of the 2010 documentary Puppet at the Barbican Cinema. Made by David Soll, the film followed the New York puppeteer Dan Hurlin as he worked on his production Disfarmer, based on the life of Depression-era photographer Mike Disfarmer. I thought it was fascinating, an intriguing glimpse into how an adult puppet show is made interspersed with the history of puppetry. As someone who loves this art form I found it fascinating.

What I watched on TV over Christmas

Happy New Year! As I stumble through the beginning of another year, back in London, settling back into work in a luckily still-quiet office, I’m taking the opportunity to catch up on all those TV shows I missed over the Christmas period when I was busy reading, visiting family, and eating my own body weight in chocolate. Then I thought: why not write a post about all the Christmas television I enjoyed? Why not, indeed, so here it is. N.B. Most of these shows were on the BBC, mainly because I find the iPlayer so easy to use. Other channels are available.

Peter Pan Goes Wrong
I always feel a bit smug when I talk about Mischief Theatre, the company behind Peter Pan Goes Wrong, because as a theatre lover I was one of the first people among my friends and acquaintances to discover them and their brilliant début The Play That Goes Wrong. I’ve dragged friends along to both that and Peter Pan and they have all, without exception, loved them. This is their special filmed-for-TV version of Peter Pan Goes Wrong, featuring David Suchet. It isn’t as good as the live show, but it’s still laugh-until-you’re-on-the-floor hilarious.

The Witness for the Prosecution
Not quite as good as last year’s And Then There Were None (not entirely because of the absence of Aidan Turner), the 2016 Agatha Christie drama for the festive season was still an impressive offering. It may have been bleak, but it was gripping.

Inside No. 9: The Devil of Christmas
I love Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith’s creepy and bizarre series and this Christmas special featured a folkloric figure that seems to have become more popular in the last couple of years – Krampus. Very funny as usual with a dark twist at the end, and gloriously filmed in a 70s style.

Life in the Snow
I have a bit of a thing about the Arctic/Antarctic so I really wanted to watch this documentary about animals who live in the snow. Obviously I loved the penguins the most, but the owls and the Arctic foxes were incredibly adorable too.

Red Bull Soapbox Race
A bit of a departure from what I usually watch, but my dad loves this show and binged on it over the festive period, and I grew addicted to it too. It’s on Dave, a channel which I wouldn’t normally watch (I don’t even know if we have it in our house in London) but I’ve just discovered Red Bull have their own TV channel so I can watch it online! Hooray! Basically, the show involves ordinary people – some with specialist knowledge, others with none at all – building soapbox cars and racing them. They decorate them in elaborate fashion and perform pre-race sketches. Sometimes these homemade cars do pretty well and fly down the course, other times they fall apart mid-race or crash dramatically into the side partway through. I’m really not a sport or racing person at all but this is just so funny. Races take place all over the world and it’s coming back to London this summer – I’m so tempted to get a ticket and see it “live”.

I’m not too gutted about the end of the festive TV season, because January means a new series of Great British Railway Journeys. Woo hoo!

What did you enjoy on TV over Christmas?

Phantom Phenomena

I recently attended a talk at the Guildhall School entitled Phantom Phenomena, about the many ways in which Gaston Leroux’s original novel has been reinterpreted and remade over the past century. Researcher Cormac Newark specialises in studying the reception of operas, and noticed that many critics who wrote about opera in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries also wrote novels featuring scenes set at the opera. Leroux was one such individual, and his most famous novel The Phantom of the Opera was published serially in 1909-10. The novel, which employs traditional clichés about the emotional and spiritual power of opera, makes heavy reference to the opera Faust, which would have been familiar to many readers at the time as one of the most important operas of the age.

The original Phantom book has spawned musicals, ballets, spinoff novels and over fifty films. The talk focused largely on the film and TV versions, which come from all over the world: the USA, China, South America and Italy are just some of the places which have created their own versions of the Phantom story. We saw several clips from different versions: one early black and white version had the Phantom admiring a male protégé rather than a young female singer, while another had a bizarrely cheery musical number. A telenovela version from South America saw a woman being doused in acid – the implication being that the Phantom was originally disfigured in some way. Yet another version combined the characters of the Phantom and Dracula, and I was particularly intrigued by the Eighties horror version with the music being played on a computer.

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Full, very long list of films and TV shows

The continued popularity of the story in the modern age can be largely attributed to the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, and fans continue to explore and develop the story online via websites. I enjoyed this interesting talk and it’s certainly made me want to see some different versions of the Phantom story.

Labyrinth Masquerade Ball

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I’ve wanted to go to one of the Prince Charles Cinema‘s famous Labyrinth Masquerade Balls for a while, but it wasn’t until the sad death of David Bowie recently that I was finally prompted to go, along with some friends. The Masquerade Balls are designed for die-hard fans of the film (that’s definitely me): attendees are invited to dress up (although I didn’t do this!), sing along, cheer and generally take part in the action.

On entering the auditorium you are given a little goodie bag: I won’t give away the surprise, but you need to keep it handy as the various things inside it will be used at different points in the film. Once seated, you get to enjoy a bit of pre-show entertainment, including a judging contest for those people who did turn up in costume. And then the film begins!

I usually hate it when people talk, sing or move around in the cinema, but this kind of event is completely different – everyone there knows the film back to front anyway and the emphasis is on enjoying it as a community. I have to admit I did really like this way of enjoying one of my favourite films! Of course, I could have stayed at home and watched it on DVD for free – but then I wouldn’t have got to experience the atmosphere. An entire roomful of people singing “Dance Magic Dance” is not to be missed!

I definitely recommend the Labyrinth Masquerade Ball for any fans of the film. They do run fairly frequently, so check out the cinema’s website.

RIP David Bowie, the Goblin King

I was very sad to hear of the death of music legend David Bowie earlier today. In tribute, I have decided to post my review of the film Labyrinth, one of my favourite films, in which Bowie stars as Jareth, the Goblin King. The review was originally posted on the website Ciao.

Labyrinth is a 1986 fantasy film that has developed something of a cult status. I was only one when it came out, but watched it at some point during my childhood and forgot about it until I was seventeen, when I bought it on video. Of course I’ve since replaced my video with a DVD!

Labyrinth boasts the legendary David Bowie as the Goblin King (how many modern musicians could star in a fantasy film and still retain their credibility?) and a young Jennifer Connelly as main character Sarah. The film was directed by Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets, and the film bears many of the hallmarks of his work, including a variety of weird and wonderful puppet characters. It was produced by George Lucas, known for the Star Wars films. Jim Henson wrote the screenplay along with children’s author Dennis Lee and ex-Python Terry Jones. The film was designed by Brian Froud, a fantasy illustrator, who also worked on The Dark Crystal, another Henson effort. Interestingly, Sarah’s baby brother Toby was played by Froud’s little son, who was named Toby in real life!

Surprisingly, despite all these factors, the film was regarded as a commercial failure, only grossing $12,729,917 despite a budget of $25 million (according to Wikipedia). I find this really hard to get my head round, considering how brilliant it is, but sometimes these ‘flops’ become cult classics, and this is certainly what’s happened to Labyrinth.

The film follows the adventures of a teenage girl, Sarah, who lives in her own fantasy world and loves to act out the story from her favourite book, Labyrinth. Angry at having to babysit her little brother on a Saturday night, she wishes that the goblins would come and take him away. When the Goblin King himself actually DOES spirit little Toby away to the castle in the centre of the Labyrinth, Sarah faces a race against time to make it through the maze and rescue her brother.

The plot is in many ways a typical fantasy adventure plot, in which the main character must battle against the odds to achieve some goal or perform some feat. It is gripping throughout and the film never gets boring. The opening sequence, set in our world, sets the scene concisely and it isn’t long before you get into the Labyrinth. The environment within the Labyrinth changes continually: there’s a desert with built-up stone walls, a paved maze, an underground oubliette and a hedged garden, as well as a lush forest and a goblin city. The castle itself is beautifully and cleverly set out like an Escher drawing. There is always something new to be amazed by, and the special effects stand up really well nearly 25 years after they were originally done. The models and the puppetry produce a rich organic feel to the film which is sometimes missing from modern films with their CGI effects.

There are very few human characters in the film: most of them are puppets, apart from one dog! Sarah’s father, played by Christopher Malcolm, doesn’t have much of a role while her stepmother, played by Shelley Thompson, makes a similarly brief appearance but comes across as rather nagging. Baby Toby is very sweet in his little striped romper suit but I bet the actor is embarrassed about it now!

Jennifer Connelly has gone on to star in films such as Requiem for a Dream and A Beautiful Mind to critical acclaim, and it’s not hard to see why as she does an excellent job in the film, even at the young age of 15. Sarah is still very childish in her outlook at the start of the film, prefers her fantasy life to her real life, and is rather stroppy and moody – in fact she is rather annoying, but you really see her grow and develop throughout the film. She is brave and loyal and devoted to her friends, and this really comes across as the film progresses.

Most of the characters in the Labyrinth are puppets, but they still manage to be three-dimensional characters, figuratively as well as literally. There’s Hoggle, the grumpy goblin Sarah encounters as soon as she enters the Labyrinth (urinating into the lake!). Hoggle is torn between his growing friendship with Sarah and his duty to the Goblin King, who threatens to throw him into the Bog of Eternal Stench if he doesn’t do as he is told. Whose side is he really on? Ludo is a large fluffy orange creature, who is very gentle despite his size, and has special powers. Sir Didymus is a quixotic fox-like creature who rides around on his trusty steed Ambrosius (who bears a remarkable resemblance to Sarah’s dog). There is a wealth of other characters who make brief appearances: the little Worm, the frightening Fireys, the Wiseman and his talking Bird Hat, the Junk Lady, the Guards and the Door Knockers… too many to list! These characters, which are all puppets of some description, really add to the richness of the film and are the source of much wonder and humour.

Last but by no means least, there is Jareth, the Goblin King himself, played by David Bowie with a mean hairdo and rather tight trousers! I bet that if you are female and of a certain age you once had a bit of a crush on the Goblin King. Jareth is an interesting character – he is manipulative, cunning and cruel, and he is clearly the ‘baddie’ as he has spirited Sarah’s little brother away and is threatening to turn him into a goblin, but you suspect he has done this out of ennui more than anything else, as the scenes with him in the castle suggest it is rather dull living with a host of silly goblins! Throughout the film his attitude to Sarah evolves and it seems that he starts to develop feelings for her!

The influence of ex-Python Terry Jones on the script is obvious as there is a lot of humour, much of it unexpected. Try and solve the puzzle of the Four Guards before Sarah does – it’s incredibly difficult! The film was scored by Trevor Jones and also contains many incredibly catchy songs written and performed by David Bowie, including ‘Underground’ (which opens and closes the film), ‘Magic Dance’ and ‘As the World Falls Down’. I do own a copy of the soundtrack album as well as the film! In a documentary included as part of the DVD extras, Bowie admits that he made the baby noises during ‘Magic Dance’ as the baby in the studio would not!

This is a film about growing up, and the difficult transition from teenager to adult. Sarah is a particularly childish teenager who is very attached to her fantasy life and material things. The film is about her adjusting her priorities and learning to put friendship and family before toys and trinkets, while at the same time maintaining the delicate balance between living in the real world and keeping that connection with your imagination and your childhood. At the same time it subtly explores sexuality and romantic feelings: it isn’t something children would pick up on – the film is comfortably rated U – but any teenagers or older people watching would notice the changing relationship between Sarah and Jareth, who also represents the fantasy world that Sarah is in danger of completely succumbing to. Fantasy is a medium that is often used to explore important themes and after watching Labyrinth a number of times I think the film does this remarkably well. According to the DVD extras, the film has over time proved especially popular with teenage girls, and I can certainly understand why, as it certainly resonated with me as a teenager (and in fact still does).

Labyrinth is a film that repays repeat viewing. The storyline and characters remain exciting and fresh and are not dulled by familiarity. When watching again you notice things you didn’t pick up on the first time. For example, in Sarah’s bedroom you see things that are reflected in the world of the Labyrinth: a musical box with a doll in a white dress that looks remarkably like Sarah in the ballroom scene; an M. C. Escher poster that resembles the castle; a doll resembling Ludo; and more which I will leave you to spot for yourself. During the part of the film set in the Labyrinth, there is more to see: watch out, for example, for the three standing stones that when viewed at a certain angle look just like Jareth! The makers of the film obviously took great care and time when designing and filming it.

My DVD is the 2007 2-disc Anniversary Edition. The DVD includes a number of extras including a very informative and entertaining documentary, including interviews with the main people involved and a look at how the characters and sets were made. There are also a number of featurettes and some beautiful concept art. Unlike some DVD extras these are really worth paying attention to.

While I was doing research for my review I found out that Labyrinth was also turned into a novel by M. C. H. Smith. Three volumes (with a fourth on the way) of an English-language Manga sequel, entitled Return to Labyrinth, have recently been released. The sequel follows the adventures of baby Toby once he turns fifteen, and have received mixed reviews on Amazon. I still think I would like to get hold of them though, more out of curiosity than anything.

Overall, Labyrinth is one of my all-time favourite films, and I recommend it for children, teenagers, and any adult who still likes a bit of fantasy. It’s a wonderful film and has everything: great story, beautiful design, interesting characters, humour, songs and a message. There is an excellent informative article about the film on Wikipedia, but I recommend reading it AFTER watching the film, as it does give away some elements of the plot. If you haven’t seen it – do!

Man With a Movie Camera – Barbican Cinema

Shown as part of the City Visions series at the BarbicanMan with a Movie Camera is a 1929 experimental silent film with no story or dialogue, directed by Dziga Vertov and made in the then USSR. This showing was accompanied by Paul Robinson’s HarmonieBand, and preceded by a 3-minute showing of Hungerford: Symphony of a London Bridge, a pilot for a projected London Symphony film.

I went to see this because I am interested in Russia and Russian culture, and I really enjoyed it. The film is full of life and interest, filmed in different Russian towns and including lots of different people. Unusual angles and quirky happenings made it a fascinating watch.

Returning to Oz

Okay, so I’m a lifelong fan of The Wizard of Oz. It’s one of the earliest films I remember watching – the moment when Dorothy steps out of the door of the farm into the colourful world of Oz is forever imprinted on my memory. The Eighties sequel, Return to Oz, is completely different but just as good – terrifying and disturbing but brilliant. Once I found out that the films were based on a series of books by L. Frank Baum, I got hold of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (surprised to learn that the ruby slippers were originally silver shoes) and later obtained a volume of the entire Oz collection.

Also, I own three pairs of red glitter shoes.

ruby slippers

Just one of my three pairs of red glitter shoes (a.k.a. ‘ruby slippers’), used by my cousin as a table display at her wedding

The Returning to Oz season at the BFI, therefore, was a dream come true for me. Incorporating a number of early black and white films and other movies inspired by the world of Oz, a documentary, and a discussion forum, I booked up for almost everything. Unfortunately Return to Oz (1985) couldn’t be shown as it is no longer available for distribution in the UK, and I didn’t get to see The Wiz (1979) as I was busy on both of the nights it was showing. However, I made the most of everything else.

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)
This early adaptation of the first Oz novel was the first movie version, a single-reel programme that compresses the story into a short film. It came about when Baum, trying to settle his debts, sold the rights to his story. Directed by Otis Turner, the film was produced by William Selig and the Selig Polyscope Company. This version departs in several ways from the original story: for instance, Dorothy meets the Scarecrow when she is still in Kansas and the two of them along with Toto the dog and a couple of farm animals (a cow and a horse, played by actors in costume) are blown to Oz. I did like the scene in which Dorothy rescues the Scarecrow from his perch, and the swirling haystack effect is a lot of fun. However, the moment of Dorothy’s melting of the Witch Momba is rushed through and although the Wizard’s escape from Oz in a balloon is shown, Dorothy’s return isn’t portrayed, although she doesn’t seem too worried about this. This film doesn’t strike me as a classic, but it is an entertaining first glimpse at Oz on film.

The Patchwork Girl of Oz (1914)
This feature-length Oz story was produced by L. Frank Baum himself, and the Oz Film Company. Directed by J. Farrell MacDonald, it incorporates elements from several different Oz stories. The basic plot involves a young boy and his uncle journeying to the Emerald City in search of food; on the way they meet a wizard who has been brewing a magic potion for six years designed to bring things to life. The wizard’s wife sews a doll and uses the potion on her. In the ensuing chaos, several individuals are turned to stone and the rest of the characters set off on a quest to gather the ingredients for the potion that will restore them to life.

This film is confusing in parts, and isn’t always coherent or understandable. It didn’t do particularly well at the time, possibly because of the reliance on stage conventions, such as the troupe of dancing girls who accompany the characters for no reason at all. It also cost a lot of money to recruit Pierre Couderc, the French acrobat who played Scraps, the Patchwork Girl of the title. However, some of the special effects are pretty impressive, such as the doll assembling itself, the cast members disappearing into a magic wall, and the set of furniture assembling itself. I also loved the character of the Woozy, which was like a cat constructed with numerous cardboard boxes.

The Wizard of Oz (1925)
This Twenties version of the Oz story was adapted by L. Frank Baum Jr. (the author’s son) and produced by Chadwick Pictures Corporation. It was directed by Larry Semon, who also took on the role of the toymaker which bookends the film, and that of the Scarecrow, while his wife Dorothy Dwan plays a young adult Dorothy. This adaptation differs significantly from the original book: in it, Dorothy is a princess from Oz who was left on Uncle Henry and Auntie Em’s doorstep as a baby. She is due to find out the truth about who she is on her eighteenth birthday, which proves the catalyst for her return to Oz along with Uncle Henry, a corpulent grump, and three farmhands, with two of whom she is embroiled in a love triangle. The rest of the tale relates how Prime Minister Kruel, aided by Lady Vishus, attempt to stop her taking the throne alongside her true love Prince Kynd. In this version, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion are the disguises of the three farmhands who travel to Oz, and the Tin Man is notably played by Oliver Hardy in his pre-Laurel & Hardy days.

This film was entertaining with quite a lot of slapstick, although I felt too much time was spent in Kansas before the group actually got to Oz. I also would have liked to see more of Oz, rather than just the palace and the basement. I wasn’t impressed with the way Dorothy treated the Scarecrow, who went out of his way to help her and didn’t come to the best end! However, I thought the bookend story of the toymaker and his granddaughter was clever and well done.

The Wizard of Oz (1933)
This eight-minute animation, directed by Ted Eshbaugh, wasn’t particularly memorable but is notable for being the first film to portray Kansas in black and white and Oz in colour. I thought the style of characters bore quite a lot of resemblance to Mickey Mouse.

The Wizard of Oz (1939)
What can I say about the most famous Oz movie? This is my favourite film of all time; it’s just wonderful. However, The Wizard of Oz as we know it nearly didn’t happen. The role of Dorothy almost went to Shirley Temple; luckily, she couldn’t sing well enough and Judy Garland got the part. The original director Richard Thorpe was temporarily replaced by George Cukor, who got rid of the blonde wig and false nose Garland had been encumbered with in order to make her look more like the Dorothy of the books. The role of the Tin Woodsman was originally played by Ray Bolger, who felt he was miscast and swopped with Buddy Ebsen to take on the role of the Scarecrow, whose acrobatics were more suited to Bolger’s talents. However, Ebsen came down with aluminium poisoning owing to the makeup used to costume him for the role, and while he was recovering he was replaced by Jack Haley. The film’s chief director was Victor Fleming, but he was replaced towards the end by King Vidor, whose direction of the black and white scenes at the beginning of the movie – including the iconic ‘Somewhere Over the Rainbow’ section – made a lasting impact on the film.

This catalogue of near-disasters and major changes makes me wonder if it was fate that the film turned out so brilliant as it did. Would it have been anything like as good as it was under different circumstances? I can’t help thinking that it wouldn’t.

Oz: The Tin Woodman’s Dream (1967)
This short segment is what remains of an unfinished movie co-animated, during the psychedelic Sixties, by Joanne Ziprin and Harry Smith, who also directed. Produced by The Film-Makers’ Cooperative, the movie was abandoned on the death of major backer Arthur Young. This bizarre film drew on a wide range of sources including the drawings of Hieronymous Bosch, Tibetan mandalas and sketchings of microscopic life by biologist Ernst Haeckel.

The beginning of this short film was intriguing, with the Tin Woodman and Toto the dog moving through a bizarre, ever-changing landscape. However, this soon changed into kaleidoscopic images whirling and repeating themselves, and while this was interesting at first, it soon grew tedious. Perhaps it looked better if you were on drugs.

In Search of Oz (1994)
This documentary, directed by Brian Skeet, was shown on the BBC in the early 1990s. It featured writers such as Salman Rushdie, Gore Vidal, Martha Coolidge, Ray Bradbury and Geoff Ryman, as well as others associated with Oz including relatives of Baum. The documentary featured clips of several Oz films and atmospheric shots of the Kansas skyline; it put forward some interesting theories about the significance of different aspects of the story – Rushdie maintains that the Wizard represents the disappointing parent who is all show and bluster.

The documentary paved the way for the panel discussion The Radical Land of Oz, which took place later that same evening. It was chaired by season curator Rhidian Davis – this man makes some excellent choices, he curated the Hitchcock season last year and is responsible for the forthcoming Gothic season. Guests included the novelist Geoff Ryman, who wrote Was (1992), a book based on the Oz myth; Matthew Beaumont, a senior lecturer at UCL; and Sophie Mayer, an author and contributor to Sight & Sound.

The discussion was really interesting and enlightening, with each of the contributors bringing a different perspective to the Oz world. I particularly liked Sophie Mayer’s insight into Return to Oz, which is one of my favourite Oz films. I have to say that the concept of a lesbian subtext in this film had never crossed my mind!

I thoroughly enjoyed the season, which seemed to coincide with resurgence in interest in the Oz world – just before, a production called Dorothy in Oz opened at the Waterloo East Theatre which I attended (and reviewed here). The production transported Dorothy and her friends to a mental health institution, and bore something of a resemblance to Return to Oz, in which Dorothy is committed to an asylum. Also, the new Disney film Oz: The Great and Powerful has just been released – I saw this on Sunday night and, while it lacked the magic of earlier Oz films, it had several brilliant touches including a great performance from James Franco as the title character, a travelling ‘magician’ who is blown into Oz and hailed as the Wizard who will save the inhabitants from the Wicked Witch. I also loved that they stuck to the black and white=Kansas and colour=Oz formula. I was less impressed by the idea that Glinda needed a man to come and rescue the inhabitants of Oz at all, and Mila Kunis’ character was unfortunately underdeveloped. The film as a whole looked beautiful, though.

Skyfall

On Sunday I went to see Skyfall at the BFI IMAX, near Waterloo station. I couldn’t believe how expensive it was. There’s a reason I don’t go to the cinema very much anymore. Still, it was JAMES BOND.

Skyfall poster

One of the friends who came to see the film with me commented that one of her friends had seen it, and that that their verdict was that it was good, but Daniel Craig kept taking his top off. I have no idea why this is considered a bad thing.

I did think the film was excellent, a fitting marker of the fiftieth anniversary of the 007 franchise. I’ve been a fan since my childhood; I love the old sixties films with Sean Connery, but the films need to adapt and change in order to stay fresh and relevant, and I thought Sam Mendes did a brilliant job at bringing the series up to date while still remaining true to the spirit of the originals. Continuing the rejuvenation of the series, which began with the superb Casino Royale and continued with the less impressive Quantum of Solace, we find out more about Bond’s troubled background, are reacquainted with Judi Dench’s M – determined to prove that MI6 is as relevant as ever in the modern age – and are introduced to Q, no longer the white haired and white coated eccentric of the old days, but an incredibly youthful computer geek, played by Ben Whishaw. “Were you expecting an exploding pen?” he says to Bond when they meet for the first time in the National Gallery. “We don’t really go in for that any more”. We also meet another character familiar to fans of the series – I won’t say any more for fear of spoilers.

Javier Bardem’s villain is chilling and camp, and in a modern twist is a whiz at technology, sabotaging computer systems from the safety of his private island. The locations in this film are stunning, from Turkey to Shanghai and Macau, though my favourite parts were those set in London: as a bit of a London Underground geek, I was excited to see Bond weaving his way through the subterranean tunnels of London and amused to watch him try to navigate the tube at rush hour: though as my friend pointed out, it was wrong that he was travelling on a Jubilee Line train on a District Line track. I doubt that many people would notice this, though!

The ending of the film made me sad as I hadn’t seen it coming. I was pleased once I realised what the title of the film was referring to, as this had me puzzled for a while.

I loved Skyfall and can’t wait for the next instalment of Bond in a few years’ time. I understand that Daniel Craig will be returning, which makes me extremely happy.

The Genius of Hitchcock

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As a huge fan of director Alfred Hitchcock I was excited to see that his films were being shown at the British Film Institute over the summer in a celebration of his work, The Genius of Hitchcock. I knew immediately that I wanted to see one, and decided to pick my favourite – Rear Window. I would have liked to see more, but at £10 at a time I couldn’t afford it, especially as I have several collections of Hitchcock films on DVD already. I know some people don’t see the point of going to see a film in the cinema when you can watch it for free at home, but I liked the idea of seeing it on the big screen without distractions: at home I always seem to end up tidying my room or checking my phone while I’m watching a film.

Rear Window is a brilliant film. It’s so clever, set entirely in the apartment of L.B. ‘Jeff’ Jeffries who has broken his leg after a photography assignment went wrong. Bored, and stifled in the New York heat, he is reduced to spying on the neighbours whose windows back onto the yard. This yard is the focus of the entire film, which lends a claustrophobic and tense atmosphere to the proceedings. Jeff becomes obsessed with watching the neighbours and is soon convinced that murder has been committed.

I love the actors in this film. I really like James Stewart and he is great as the restless photographer, convinced that something suspicious is going on in the apartment opposite. Grace Kelly is fabulous as his society girlfriend Lisa and her clothes in this movie are simply stunning. One thing I like about this film is the development of the couple’s relationship. At the beginning of the movie, Jeff is convinced that Lisa is ‘too perfect’ for him and wouldn’t be able to fit in with his nomadic, adventurous lifestyle travelling the world. However, her actions during the course of the film go some way to proving him wrong as she falls in eagerly with his plans and goes outside the apartment to investigate for herself, something that Jeff with his broken leg is unable to do.

I love the way the characters living in the surrounding apartments are portrayed. Including a struggling musician, a woman looking for love, a newly married couple and a ballet dancer, many of them have few or no lines but their personalities and lives are conveyed through their behaviour. I liked how there was some sort of development or resolution to each character’s story. Another great character is the nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter), who is initially sceptical about Jeff’s claims but comes round to his way of thinking and is enthusiastic about solving the mystery.

Watching the film in the cinema was a brilliant experience. As well as the obvious – the picture and sound – I enjoyed seeing it with people who were clearly enjoying it as much as I was. There was laughter in all the right places and a palpable sense of tension as the film moved to a climax. It definitely beats watching a film on my small laptop screen.