A one-line spoiler-free review of everything I watched in the cinema in August and September 2023

I’ve never really been a movies person, they last too long and I always want the bar/toilet after 20 minutes like at a gig, which stresses me out. But I got myself a BFI and a Picturehouse membership and once a week I try to find the weirdest most ‘Martin’ thing to watch somewhere. But I’ve treated it like watching TV/gigs/football rather than a sacred art event. Boring? I’ll leave. Need a wee or a drink? Go do that. Occasionally you miss the vital two minutes of a movie but then so what? There’s another one next week. It’s been brilliant.

Talk To Me (2022), Danny Philippou and Michael Philippou – I really enjoyed this, it positively zips along and all of the twists and shocks are well integrated into the story, and as an elderly citizen it was fascinating to see phones and social media so centrally welded into a horror story mostly featuring teenagers.

Sophie Wilde and a china hand in Talk To Me

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954), Richard Fleischer – I strongly remember watching this at my gran’s house on telly as a kid and it is an absolute riot of colour and design, with Kirk Douglas hilariously cast in a slapstick action role, but at just over two hours it does drag a bit. There’s lots of “look at us filming our practical effects underwater because we can” padding.

James Mason and Paul Lukas in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea

L’immensità (2022), Emanuele Crialese – It is mostly billed as a story of a trans kid in 1970s Rome but it is also quite a harrowing study in domestic abuse, although it does feature one of the most sublime segues from reality into a dream/fantasy dance sequence I’ve ever seen. Both Luana Giuliani and Penélope Cruz absolutely shine in this. A really good movie.

Luana Giuliani and Penélope Cruz in L’immensità

AN ASIDE ABOUT TRANS REPRESENTATION: Interesting to me that this month I saw two films that include trans representation but which take very different approaches to it. Talk To Me features non-binary trans actor Zoe Terakes, who plays a character whose gender identity is never remarked upon, and I didn’t even notice. Authorities in Kuwait did. They banned the fucking film over it. What is the matter with people?

L’immensità featured a main character whose trans identity was central to the film, but director Emanuele Crialese, themselves trans, purposefully cast cis teen girl Luana Giuliani in the role, arguing that if they had cast a trans teen at such a pivotal moment in their own gender identity in a role exploring that experience, it could have been harmful and distressing.

Variety (1985), Bette Gordon – Despite the premise of this being about a woman who starts getting obsessed with the adult entertainment industry in early 80s New York this was deeply unsexy and boring and had an ineffectual citizen detective procedural bolted on to it which I honestly could not have cared less about. Well that’ll learn me not to have walked out after 20 minutes because “surely this will pick up soon”. Reader, it did not.

Sandy McLeod in Variety

COUNTERPOINT: This recent interview with director Bette Gordon about the reissue suggests I just didn’t get the point of it at all.

Apocalypse Clown (2023), George Kane – I figured I was either gonna love this or walk out after twenty minutes, fortunately it was the former. Lots of surreal laugh-out-loud moments and an incredible funny topical final pay-off scene.

Natalie Palamides, David Earl and Fionn Foley blundering through Ireland somewhere

The Nettle Dress (2023), Dylan Howitt – A soothing meditation on nature and creativity in the face of grief as a man spends years making a nettle dress for his daughter while mourning his father and wife. Has a truly excellent dog in it all the way through.

Allan Brown, the subject of The Nettle Dress

Vali, the Witch of Positano (1967), Sheldon and Diane Rochlin (now Flame Schon) – Whimsical portrait of proto-hippie-beatnik-counterculture-scenester Vali Myers living rural life in Italy where the locals seem to have assumed she was a witch, an illusion she did nothing to dispel.

The incredible Vali Myers

The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda (1968), Ira Cohen – Also featuring Vali Myers, this was like watching a psychedelic alien sex ritual through a kaleidoscope, blimey they took a lot of great drugs in the 1960s.

The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda was like being on strong psychedelic drugs. I should imagine, my lawyer suggests I add.

Gasman (1997), Lynne Ramsay – Incredibly bleak vignette of broken family life.

Govan Ghost Story (1989), David Hayman – A strong performance by Tom Watson as a man left on the scrapheap by the closure of Glasgow’s shipbuilding industry and seemingly haunted by every aspect of his life, not just the ghost next door.

Tom Watson in Govan Ghost Story