A one-line spoiler-free review of everything I watched in the cinema in February and March 2024

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.

Pet Shop Boys Dreamworld: Greatest Hits Live at the Royal Arena Copenhagen (2024), David Barnard – The eagle-eyed among you will spot that I have already seen this show three times in person and once on the tellybox from Glastonbury, but why wouldn’t you take one last opportunity to watch one of the greatest pop songbooks of the last forty years on the big screen?

Neil Tennant in Pet Shop Boys: Dreamworld

Anatomy of a Fall (2023), Justine Triet – This was absolutely incredible and a mesmerising performance by Sandra Hüller. Plus it has a great dog in it. Go see it.

Sandra Hüller in Anatomy of a Fall

The General (1926), Clyde Bruckman and Buster Keaton – I think this is the oldest thing I’ve seen at the cinema since starting this voyage – last year I saw The Blue Angel and M from 1930 and 1931 as part of a Weimar cinema season – and obviously Buster Keaton is great, the stunts are great, the battle scene is great, and it is like how I imagine the Fast & Furious franchise must be, but with trains and set in the 1860s. Except, making a film in 1926 where the hero is a Confederate? Like making a film in 2008 where you are meant to be cheering for the Nazis erecting a swastika flag at the end. Absolutely nope.

Buster Keaton defending slavery on his way to becoming a Confederate soldier in The General

Stop Making Sense (1984), Jonathan Demme – The eagle-eyed among you will spot that I have already seen this during its limited run back in the cinema in October but it was being put on in a little pop-up cinema a bus ride away from my flat, and why wouldn’t you take one last opportunity to watch one of the greatest concert movies of all time on the big(-ish) screen?

David Byrne in Stop Making Sense

The Killers (1946), Robert Siodmak – At a loose end I made my own evening double bill at the BFI. I even booked the same seat for both screenings. First up was this enjoyable enough noir thriller although I remain a bit baffled as to why it is quite so well regarded …

Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster in The Killers

Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1931), Rouben Mamoulian – … and then what a way to find out I’d been pronouncing Jekyll wrong all my life. I’d never seen this before aside from some stills of the make-up and camera effects from an old movie monsters book I had as a kid. It is pre-code so was incredibly raw in the way it unambiguously played it as a tale of sexual coercion and domestic violence, making me laugh about how if you made it in 2024 and framed it this way, you’d have people in the letters page of the Daily Mail complaining it was a “woke” version and longing for the days when the story was “just about a mad scientist drinking a potion and turning into a monster” rather than having any moral or philosophical dimension.

Fredric March and Miriam Hopkins in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Incidentally the screening at the BFI concluded with an unrestored but original length version of the sequence where Miriam Hopkins’ character Ivy Pearson flirtily undresses while Dr Jekyll is in the room, which was excised by some censors at the time, and so the full version isn’t in the restored print. Absolute amazing to think that nearly 100 years ago some bloke (presumably) was sitting in a darkened room making notes suggesting it was fine for us to see her take off stockings, but the bit where back-to-camera she unfastens her top, and even though we can’t see them we suddenly are aware her breasts exist, was a step too far.

Copa 71 (2023), James Erskine and Rachel Ramsay – Great story and interviews and incredibly vivid and restored footage of the 1960s and 1970s, not just of the tournament in Mexico but also local footage from the countries invited, but I could happily take or leave the ten minute Team! U! S! A! coda.

The unofficial “Inglaterra” team that played at Copa 71 in Mexico

Drive-Away Dolls (2024), Ethan Coen – Didn’t make me laugh quite as much as Bottoms did last year, but nevertheless a very enjoyable lesbian buddy-movie/heist/caper with some enjoyable leftfield twists and a great turn as one of the goons by Joey Slotnick.

Geraldine Viswanathan and Margaret Qualley in Drive-Away Dolls

Monster (2023), Kore-eda Hirokazu – I must stop going to emotionally gruelling movies, it is like an elaborate form of self-harm. As a parent I absolutely felt put through the wringer as this tale unfolded and refolded.

Soya Kurokawa and Sakura Andô in Monster