Pulp Fiction is structured around three interlinking story segments which are told in non-chronological order. Vincent and Jules, two hitmen working for the gangster Marsellus, retrieve a briefcase of money belonging to their boss which had been stolen by a group of minor drug dealers. While carrying out this job they accidently shoot one of the dealers and have to hide the body at their friend Jimmie’s house. Marcellus has paid Butch, an ageing boxer, to throw a fight but Butch, prompted by the memory of his dead father, decides he can’t do it. During his attempt to escape after the match, Butch shoots Vincent but then literally runs into Marsellus. Before Marcellus is able to kill Butch they are kidnapped, in a random sequence of events, by the owner of a pawn shop and his cousin who rape and torture Marsellus, Butch escapes but decides to return and rescue Marcellus, by doing so he cancels his debt and is free to leave with his . . . Read More
After stealing money from her boss, Marion Crane drives out of town and stops at a motel off of the main freeway. There she meets Norman Bates, the young owner of the motel. Marion decides to return the money but is murdered before she can do so and Norman disposes of her body. Marion’s sister, Lila, and her lover, Sam, come looking for her along with a private detective, and together they uncover Norman’s intense relationship with his mother.
As with several Hitchcock films, Psycho has at the heart of its plot the violent abuse of a woman by a man and could be read as a misogynistic text. Through both the central character of Marion Crane and Norman Bates’ mother, women are represented as deceptive, manipulative, controlling and, from a male perspective, unfailingly unpredictable. The key passage in the film that has become one of the most famous scenes in the history of . . . Read More
I’ve ranged the far-famed seas,
the nuptial stamen of each island,
I’m a great paper seafarer,
and I ran, ran, ran,
to the uttermost foam
Pablo Neruda, El Canto General (1950)
In the 1950s, in a fishing port on a small Italian island in the Mediterranean Sea, Mario, illiterate and unemployed, dreams of a more attractive elsewhere (The New World, America). At the local cinema, he watches newsreels and hears of the impending arrival in the village5 of the great exiled poet from Chile, Pablo Neruda, which leads to his employment as postman charged with bringing Neruda his daily mail.
The daily encounters between the two men, one illiterate the other a future Nobel Prize-winning writer, slowly transform into a friendship. Under the benevolent authority of the maestro, Mario is slowly initiated into . . . Read More
The action of Ashes and Diamonds takes place over the course of a single day: the 8th of May 1945, the final day of the Second World War. However, for Andrzej (Adam Pawlikowski) and Maciek (Zbigniew Cybulski), two soldiers in the outlawed Polish Home Army, the hostilities are not over. The pair has been ordered to assassinate a leading Communist official, Szczuka (Waclaw Zastrzezynski). When their first attempt fails and results in the deaths of two innocent factory workers, they retire to a busy hotel to wait for a second opportunity. While there, the men drink and remember their fallen comrades. Maciek, who has seen too much killing, first flirts with and later falls for the hotel’s beautiful young barmaid, Krystyna (Ewa Krzyzewska), and begins to long for a normal life. Andrzej, however, reminds his young friend of his duty and warns him that failure to execute his orders would be tantamount to desertion. Meanwhile, Szczuka arrives . . . Read More
It is the mid-nineteenth century. Ada is a mute who has a young daughter, Flora. In an arranged marriage she leaves her native Scotland accompanied by her daughter and her beloved piano. Life in the rugged forests of New Zealand’s South Island is not all she may have imagined and nor is her relationship with her new husband Stewart. She suffers torment and loss when Stewart sells her piano to a neighbour, George. Ada learns from George that she may earn back her piano by giving him piano lessons, but only with certain other conditions attached. At first Ada despises George but slowly their relationship is transformed and this propels them into a dire situation.
The Piano is a Gothic costume-romance about the language of love, desire and the paradox of self-determining female agency. At a time when women’s positions in society were defined by patriarchal repression, the arranged . . . Read More
An animated feature film based on Marjane Satrapi’s autobiographical comics about her coming of age in revolutionary Iran. The film begins just before the 1979 revolution in Iran, and unfolds from the perspective of Marji, a precocious 10-year-old girl from an upper-class, Marxist intellectual family. The story follows Marji from childhood to early adolescence in the Islamic Republic of Iran at which point her parents send her abroad to Vienna. In Vienna, we follow her story as she struggles with the travails of life in exile and her guilt about living in the security of Europe while her family and friends in Iran suffer through the 8-year-long Iran-Iraq war. Four years after her arrival in Europe, and following a failed love affair, a nervous breakdown, a period of homelessness and serious illness, Marji returns to Iran. There she has difficulty re-adapting to her old home. Eventually, she gets married and divorced, and then leaves . . . Read More
Directed by the prolific Julien Duvivier, Pépé le Moko is based on a pulp crime novel written by Détective Ashelbé, a pseudonym for Henri La Barthe. It tells the story of a charismatic and glamorous master thief Pépé le Moko, played by Jean Gabin in one of his iconic roles, who has fled from his native Paris after a robbery and has been hiding out in the Casbah in French colonial Algiers. Pépé appears to live a charmed life inside the mysterious and exotic Casbah. He is the boss of a loyal crew, maintains an amicable relationship with the Algerian police inspector Slimane, and is loved and revered by the Casbah’s diverse inhabitants who go out of their way to support and protect him. He is romantically involved with the gypsy Inès, and lives with her, although he has a reputation as a ladies’ man, with Slimane snidely observing that there will be ‘3000 women at his funeral’. However, the protection of the Casbah is also . . . Read More
In the lush Bengali countryside the struggles of everyday life for the Ray family unfold through the stories of its members. The long-suffering mother, Sarbojya, is subjected to the ignominies of life so common to the poor, while her daughter Durga, a clever, often naughty girl who is tragically bereft of horizons, languishes under her mother’s stern discipline, but remains co-conspirator and friend of elderly Aunt Inder. Little Apu is the pride and hope of his family, and he carries great expectations on his tiny shoulders, especially when his father, Harihar sets off on a long and difficult journey to find work. Struggle and ultimately tragedy ensue, and Harihar’s return, and all of the hope and potential it held is sundered by Durga’s untimely death.
Pather Panchali is often cited as the film that put India on the cinematic map, but this view takes only one side of . . . Read More
A chronicle of the trial of Jeanne d’Arc on charges of heresy, and the efforts of her ecclesiastical jurists to force Jeanne to recant her claims of holy visions.
The poet and proto-feminist ‘H.D.’ (Hilda Doolittle) wrote about her experience of watching this film in 1928. She describes feeling nervous to the point where her hands became raw and bleeding: ‘Bare walls, the four scenes of the trial, the torture room, the cell and the outdoors about the pyre, are all calculated to drive in the pitiable truth like the very nails on the spread hands of the Christ’ (quoted in Lopate 2006: 42). More disturbingly, reports allege that, in 1929, two New Yorkers died of shock during a screening. Meanwhile, considering that Joan’s canonisation had only recently taken place in 1920, the Catholic Church demanded that scenes be excised (Wahl 2012: 2).
The Passion of Joan . . . Read More
Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path,” written in 1940, is one of the author’s most frequently anthologized stories, but this by no means indicates that it is her easiest. There is a depth of ambiguity in it. Twentieth-century critics have chosen, for the most part, to examine the role race plays in the story and through that to either condemn Welty or exalt her for her views. But race is certainly not the story’s only concern. Questions of age, service, dedication, and myth also inform the story.
However, it is with race that any discussion of Welly’s story must begin. Welty comes from Mississippi, in many ways the most notoriously troubled of Southern states. Born there in 1909 (to Northern parents), she grew up and has spent most of her life in Jackson. She grew up in an era where the Civil War and Reconstruction were still remembered by many of her neighbors, and she herself has lived through the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and . . . Read More