Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The 25 best horror films of all time / Don't Look Now / No 3

The 25 best  

horror film

of all tim

No 3

Don't Look Now

Nicolas Roeg, 1973

Anne Billson
Friday 22 October 2010 11.52 BST

icolas Roeg's trademark non-linear approach to narrative is put to unnerving use in Don't Look Now, a haunting adaptation of Daphne du Maurier's short story about a couple, John and Laura Baxter (played by Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie), who relocate to Venice in an attempt to come to terms with the accidental death of their young daughter. And that's just the start of a film that establishes such a mood of doomy anticipation that no one who watches it can ever again negotiate the narrow, labyrinthine streets of La Serenissima without wondering if they'll catch a glimpse of a small figure in a red raincoat flitting over a shadowy bridge.

Right from the opening sequence it's established that John, an art restorer, possesses the gift of clairvoyance – but, as shown time and again, he fails to act on or even recognise it – with tragic consequences. Images of water, the colour red and broken glass repeatedly intersect in a kaleidoscope of ominous foreshadowing. The presence of a serial killer at work in Venice doesn't so much turn the film into a psycho-thriller as contribute to the backdrop of watery gloom.

Don't Look Now was well received by critics and achieved a certain amount of notoriety thanks to rumours that the (for then) unusually explicit scene of lovemaking between John and Laura wasn't faked. Typically, Roeg intercut the act itself with footage of the couple getting dressed for dinner.

Pino Donaggio, who would go on to score some of Brian De Palma's most successful movies, made his film debut with the poignant soundtrack, and the movie's final shocking reveal is one of the most famous since that of Psycho.

The 25 best horror films of all time / Rosemary's Baby / No 2

The 25 best  

horror film

of all tim

No 2

Rosemary's Baby
Roman Polanski, 1968

oman Polanski's first Hollywood feature was an adaptation of Ira Levin's bestseller, and its success launched a trend for devil-baby, evil-kiddy and satanic pregnancy movies that extended well into the 70s. The novel was first recognised as potential film material at proof stage by low-budget horror entrepreneur William Castle, who ended up as the producer and had a fleeting cameo in the film as a man smoking a cigar outside a phone booth.

According to a (probably spurious) film-making legend, Polanski, having never before adapted a novel, didn't realise he was allowed to make changes, with the result that his screenplay is remarkably faithful to Levin's book.

Mia Farrow, best known for her role in the TV soap opera Peyton Place and as the wife of Frank Sinatra (who served her with divorce papers during the shoot) played Rosemary Woodhouse, a nice Catholic girl who with her husband Guy (John Cassavetes), a struggling actor, moves into an apartment in The Bramford, an old New York block with a sinister history. (The exteriors were filmed outside the Dakota building on Manhattan's Upper West Side, where John Lennon would later be shot dead.) Ruth Gordon and Sidney Blackmer play Minnie and Roman Castavet, the nosy neighbours from hell – and that's even before we find out they're satanists. Gordon won a best supporting actress Oscar, the only Academy Award for a horror movie until 1991's The Silence of the Lambs.

The film works on multiple levels – as a supernatural thriller (though explicit paranormal elements are limited to a hallucinatory dream sequence and the final shot of the baby's eyes), as a psychological thriller about a paranoid pregnant woman who imagines herself at the centre of a conspiracy, and as the last word in marital betrayal, since the most despicable villain here is surely Guy, who allows his wife to be raped by the devil in exchange for an acting role.

Polanski's achievement is in immersing us so completely in Rosemary's point of view that we share her doubts, confusion and suspicions as she becomes increasingly cut off from former friends and begins to believe her husband is in cahoots with the Castavets in a diabolical plan to harm her baby. This is horror rooted not in misty Carpathian castles, but in recognisable modern life, with the satanists depicted not as outlandish fiends but the sort of everyday folk you might encounter on any urban street.

The 25 best horror films of all time / Psycho / No 1

The 25 best  

horror film

of all tim

No 1

Alfred Hitchcock, 1960

Mark Kermode
Friday 22 October 2010 11.54 BST

uthor Robert Bloch, on whose novel Joseph Stefano's screenplay was based, described Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho as embodying "the fear of the boy next door". The terror, for Bloch, lay in the fact that the killer "could be the person sitting next to you". Bloch had been inspired to write his potboiler (copies of which Hitchcock reportedly bought up to keep the end a surprise) by news reports about Ed Gein, the seemingly ordinary Wisconsin loner who was revealed to be a murderer and necrophile. Dubbed "the Wisconsin ghoul", Gein made ornaments and clothing from the skin of the dead and inspired a legacy of fictionalised screen shockers, ranging from the trashy Deranged to the epochal Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Oscar-winning The Silence of the Lambs. But it was Anthony Perkins's maternally obsessed misfit in Psycho who most perfectly distilled the modern fear of the monster who looks just like you. "My name is Norman Bates," sang British synth combo Landscape in 1981, "I'm just a normal guy …" proving that Perkins's creation still had pop cachet two decades after his first appearance.

Dispute still rages as to the provenance and power of Psycho's notorious shower sequence, which has become perhaps the most iconic murder scene in the history of cinema. Designer Saul Bass's preparatory storyboards so closely detail every moment of the sequence that some have suggested he should share directorial credit with Hitchcock. Others argue that it is Bernard Herrmann's stabbing score, with its screeching atonal strings, which packs the real punch.
But it was the maestro's flair for carnivalesque showmanship that made Psycho headline news – from the unforgettably camp trailer in which Hitchcock led audiences around the "scene of the crime" before throwing back the shower curtain to reveal a screaming Vera Miles, to his much-publicised ruling that no one be allowed to enter the theatre once a performance of Psycho had begun. "Any spurious attempts to enter by side doors, fire escapes or ventilating shafts will be met by force," announced a cardboard lobby cut-out of Hitchcock, pointing sternly at his watch. "The entire objective of this extraordinary policy, of course, is to help you enjoy Psycho more."

Its edgy exploitation aesthetic and taboo-breaking "toilet flush" shot (even more controversial than the shower scene) have meant Psycho forged a template for the money-spinning slasher franchises that still thrive – or fester? – today. It directly inspired Halloween (which starred Janet Leigh's daughter, Jamie Lee Curtis) and Friday the 13th (in which the murderous mother-son relationship is sneakily reversed), and spawned a string of sequels including a TV movie that brought Bates's legacy into the direct-to-video age.

Janet Leigh

Groaning artworks followed too, from Gus Van Sant's allegedly post-modern colour-copy remake, to Douglas Gordon's puzzlingly feted installation 24 Hour Psycho, which simply slowed the appropriated film to a snail's pace. Hitchcock would never have been so pompous; he made Psycho fast and cheap (it cost a mere $807,000) to entertain a mainstream audience, using his regular TV crew and shooting in black-and-white to give the production a vérité news-footage feel. Many viewers still insist that the blood running down the plughole after Marion's murder is bright red, but it is the power of their imaginations that makes the brown chocolate syrup seem so. After half a century of terror, Psycho is still ensuring that no one feels safe in the shower.

Monday, November 20, 2017

My Cousin Rachel review / A stylish but sexless Daphne du Maurier mystery

My Cousin Rachel review: a stylish but sexless Daphne du Maurier mystery

Dir: Roger Michell. Cast: Rachel Weisz, Sam Claflin, Holliday Grainger, Iain Glen. 12A cert; 106 mins
“Did she? Didn’t she?” ponders the stricken hero about the title character of My Cousin Rachel, taunted with doubt about a possible murder not only in the pages of Daphne du Maurier’s 1951 novel, but endlessly since by the 1952 film, a four-part 1980s BBC version, on radio, and on the stage. He is a young Cornishman called Philip Ashley, heir to a fortune, and played in Roger Michell’s new adaptation by a rakish and dissolute Sam Claflin.

Daphne du Maurier's Long Island Muse


Daphne Du Maurier’s Long Island Muse

By Jaclyn Gallucci on April 1, 2013
It was the summer of 1929 when aspiring British writer Daphne du Maurier took to the seas with Long Island’s investment banker millionaire known as the “King of New York,” who left his Huntington home, Oheka Castle—a name he created using his initials, Otto Hermann Kahn—to take a party of travelers on a tour of Scandinavian waters aboard a yacht he chartered for the occasion.

My Cousin Rachel / Uncovering the duality of Daphne Du Maurier

My Cousin Rachel

Uncovering the duality of Daphne Du Maurier

An intriguing character: du Maurier described herself as possessing two personas CREDIT: GETTY

As new film My Cousin Rachel – based on the classic Daphne du Maurier novel – hits the screens, we examine an author as ambiguous as her characters.

Daphne du Maurier’s novels are famous for their passion, tension and alarmingly candid psychological takes on men and women, often trapped in unhealthily obsessive relationships.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault / Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories

Illustration by Oliver Munday; source photograph by Raymond Hall 

From Aggressive Overtures to Sexual Assault: Harvey Weinstein’s Accusers Tell Their Stories

Multiple women share harrowing accounts of sexual assault and harassment by the film executive.

This story was first published on newyorker.com on October 10, 2017, at 10:47 A.M. The version below appears in the October 23, 2017, issue.


Since the establishment of the first studios, a century ago, there have been few movie executives as dominant, or as domineering, as Harvey Weinstein. He co-founded the production-and-distribution companies Miramax and the Weinstein Company, helping to reinvent the model for independent films with movies including “Sex, Lies, and Videotape,” “The Crying Game,” “Pulp Fiction,” “The English Patient,” “Shakespeare in Love,” and “The King’s Speech.” Beyond Hollywood, he has exercised his influence as a prolific fund-raiser for Democratic Party candidates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Weinstein combined a keen eye for promising scripts, directors, and actors with a bullying, even threatening, style of doing business, inspiring both fear and gratitude. His movies have earned more than three hundred Oscar nominations, and, at the annual awards ceremonies, he has been thanked more than almost anyone else in movie history, ranking just after Steven Spielberg and right before God.

Gene Simmons banned for life from Fox News over his behaviour

Gene Simmons pictured in New York earlier this month.
 Photograph by Slaven Vlasic

Gene Simmons banned for life from Fox News over his behaviour

Kiss frontman reportedly barged in on a meeting where he exposed his torso to staffers, mocked their intelligence and told lewd jokes about Michael Jackson

Ben Beaumont-Thomas
Friday 17 November 2017 10.13 GMT

Kiss frontman Gene Simmons has been banned for life from Fox News after claims that he insulted and taunted staff members.
Simmons was appearing on a pair of shows on the conservative news network – Fox and Friends, and Mornings With Maria – to promote his new book, On Power. According to a Fox News source speaking to the Daily Beast, Simmons barged in on a staff meeting, unbuttoned his shirt and exposed his torso, shouting: “Hey chicks, sue me!”

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Aheda Zanetti / I created the burkini to give women freedom, not to take it away

Australian burkini creator and manufacturer Aheda Zanetti

I created the burkini to give women freedom, not to take it away

The burkini does not symbolise Islam, it symbolises leisure and happiness and fitness and health. So who is better, the Taliban or French politicians?

hen I invented the burkini in early 2004, it was to give women freedom, not to take it away. My niece wanted to play netball but it was a bit of a struggle to get her in the team – she was wearing a hijab. My sister had to fight for her daughter to play, had to debate the issue and ask, why is this girl prevented from playing netball because of her modesty?

The 100 best nonfiction books / No 8 / Orientalism by Edward Said (1978)

The 100 best nonfiction books

No 8 

Orientalism by Edward Said 


This polemical masterpiece challenging western attitudes to the east is as topical today as it was on publication

Robert McCrum
Monday 21 March 2016 05.44 GMT

ext to the suicide bombings, the air strikes, and the beheadings, a closely argued 300-page monograph devoted to a radical post-colonial thesis might seem to suggest a modest literary intervention. Yet in the ongoing, brutal clash of Islam and the west, Edward Said’s analysis remains the book to which no combatant can be indifferent.

Orientalism is a profoundly influential and controversial study of the way in which, for at least 2,000 years, ever since the wars between the ancient Greeks and the Persians, the west has fought with, and largely dominated, the east through a persuasive colonial version of its culture and politics. Said’s masterpiece has been topical ever since its publication shortly before the 1979 Iranian revolution. Today, in an even more unstable world, it must be ranked high on any list of key texts related to the contemporary sociopolitical crises of the 21st century.
Edward Said

Said, a highly sophisticated and brilliant public intellectual, drew on his experience as an Arab-Palestinian living in the west to examine the way in which, from cu lture to religion, the west imperialised the ancient and complex societies of north Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. He would argue that the Gulf wars, and the catastrophe of Iraq, are a direct consequence of a fateful and crude ideology rooted deeply in the western mind.
Any summary of Said’s immensely subtle analysis of western attitudes and conduct towards the east risks becoming a travesty. However, in simplified terms, Orientalism examines the history of how the west, especially the empires of Britain and France, created a thought process to deal with the “otherness” of eastern society, customs and beliefs. As Said himself puts it, “I study orientalism as a dynamic exchange between individual authors and the large political concerns shaped by the three great empires (British, French, American), in whose intellectual and imaginative territory the writing was produced.”
The authors in question include Homer and the Greek playwrights such as Aeschylus who first characterised the Persians of “the east” in their dramas as exotic and inscrutable, stereotypes that Said shows subsequently to permeate the works of writers such as Flaubert, the young Disraeli, and Kipling, whose accounts of “the east” fed the west’s fascination with the orient. Said further sharpened the political edge of this narrative by showing how such ideas could be seen as a direct reflection of European racism and imperialism.
After the publication of Orientalism set off a firestorm of criticism from every angle of the east-west divide, Said declared, in a retrospective essay, that “the orient-versus-occident opposition was both misleading and highly undesirable; the less it was given credit for actually describing anything more than a fascinating history of interpretations and contesting interests, the better”.
These were vain hopes. In the nearly 40 years since Orientalism first appeared, the Middle East, the Arabs and Islam have continued to fuel enormous change, struggle, controversy and, most recently, warfare. Said, a pugnacious advocate for an independent state of Palestine became drawn into some visceral arguments in a way that helped politicise a book whose scholarly first intent had been to use, in Said’s words, a “humanistic critique to introduce a longer sequence of thought and analysis to replace the short bursts of thought-stopping fury that so imprison us”.
Said always longed for elegance and sophistication in argument. “I have called what I try to do ‘humanism’,” he wrote, a word that might surprise those who found him consistently combative and unforgiving in argument. But he was unrepentant. “By humanism I mean first of all attempting to dissolve Blake’s mind-forged manacles so as to be able to use one’s mind historically and rationally for the purposes of reflective understanding and genuine disclosure. Moreover, humanism is sustained by a sense of community with other interpreters and other societies and periods: strictly speaking, there is no such thing as an isolated humanist.” Perhaps it was Said’s tragedy that he should practise his craft as a great literary critic in an age which has had no patience with the subtleties of language, and no serious appetite for the nuances of a complicated idea. During Said’s professional life, almost every aspect of his study became reduced to slogans and violent posturing.
Indeed, just before Said died in 2003, he noted with dismay the continuing impact of “orientalist” ideology on the west: “Bookstores in the US,” he wrote, “are filled with shabby screeds bearing screaming headlines about Islam and terror, Islam exposed, the Arab threat and the Muslim menace, all of them written by political polemicists pretending to knowledge imparted by experts who have supposedly penetrated to the heart of these strange oriental people...”
As the US and the western powers continue to grapple with the crisis of Islam in Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and Libya, while desperately appeasing the oil-rich princes of Arabia, Orientalism will remain the text to which the Foreign Office and the State Department will have to return to replenish their search for mutual understanding in the conflict between east and west.
Said was always a vociferous enemy of theories about the “clash of civilisations”. With great elegance and clarity, he argued for intellectual progress. “One of the great advances,” he wrote as the Orientalism controversy raged around him, “is the realisation that cultures are hybrid and heterogeneous, and that cultures and civilisations are so interrelated and interdependent as to beggar any simply delineated description of their individuality.” How, he went on, “can one speak of ‘western civilisation’ except as an ideological fiction that gave the western nations their present mixed identities? This is especially true of the United States, which today can only be described as an enormous palimpsest of different races and cultures sharing a problematic history of conquests, exterminations, and of course major cultural and political achievements.”
In words that might provide an epigraph to this series, Italo Calvino once said that a classic is a book that has “never finished what it wants to say”. Orientalism is such a book.

A Signature Sentence

“No former ‘oriental’ will be comforted by the thought that having been an oriental himself he is likely – too likely – to study new ‘orientals’ – or ‘occidentals’ of his own making. If the knowledge of orientalism has any meaning, it is in being a reminder of the seductive degradation of knowledge, of any knowledge, anywhere, at anytime.”

Three to Compare

Albert Hourani: A History of the Arab Peoples (1991)
Ammiel Alcalay: After Arabs and Jews: Remaking Levantine Culture (1993)
Edward Said: Out of Place – A Memoir (1999)
 Orientalism by Edward Said (Penguin, £10.99).