Gilbert Lennon 17th April 2003 – 2nd August 2019

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The world’s most charming and cine-literate cat died in my arms at 1120 today following a very short illness. Gilbert was the light of my life and accompanied me everywhere, including my travels on the internet to which he was a keen contributor and editor via this diary. I thought of a lot of things but not this. Now he is on the wild road with his brothers and sister. Vaya con Dios, amigo. You are the best of everything and Mondo Movies and I will not be right without you.

Promising Young Woman (2020)

Who needs brains? They never did a girl any good. Cassie Thomas (Carey Mulligan), a 30-year-old medical school dropout, lives with her parents (Jennifer Coolidge and Clancy Brown). Years earlier, her classmate Al Monroe (Chris Lowell) raped her best friend Nina Fisher; there was no investigation by the school or legal system. Now Cassie spends her nights feigning drunkenness in clubs, allowing men to take her to their homes, and revealing her sobriety when they try to take advantage. At her workplace, a coffee shop, Cassie is asked out by former classmate Ryan Cooper (Bo Burnham). On their date, he mentions that Al is getting married. She begins a plan to exact revenge on those she holds responsible for Nina’s rape starting with classmate Madison McPhee (Alison Brie) whom she gets drunk, leading to a series of voicemails with Madison unable to recall what happened to her in the company of a man Cassie has hired to take her to a hotel room. Then there’s the school dean Elizabeth Walker (Connie Britton). And, dressed to kill, Cassie dresses up at night and frequenting clubs and bars, pretending to be very drunk before teaching them a lesson. But will Ryan prove to be different from all the other guys? … Suddenly she was something else. She was yours. It wasn’t her name she heard when she was walking around. It was yours. Your name all around her. All over her, all the the time. And it just… squeezed her out. This whipsmart black comedy is so startling in intention and execution you are in danger of forgetting it’s a bitterly precise enacting of a rape revenge story (now that’s wish-fulfillment fantasy writ large). The first words uttered are Fuck her. And the thread of brutalist no-fault misogyny is brilliantly excavated with the knight in shining armour given the benefit of the doubt – until evidence emerges to prove otherwise. In this bubblegum production-styled world everything is bigger than life including Mulligan with her Bardot tresses (replaced by an homage to Harley Quinn’s in the final sequence) who delivers a career-best performance (among a sensational cast) channeling her inner Emily Lloyd a la Charles Bronson as the bereft and traumatised best friend who does what every woman wants to the preppier-than-thou men who epitomise droit de seigneur in the he said-she said injustice system where date rape and worse always favours them: Oh, you’d be amazed how much easier it is now with the internet to dig up dirt. In the old days we used to go through a girl’s trash. Now? One drunk photo at a party. Oh, you wouldn’t believe how hostile that makes a jury. Yup, it’s a man’s world and don’t we all know it: they’re never the cause. Until they’re found out. Scene after scene in this tightly structured non-romcom treads a crackling tightrope and emerges triumphant. Challenging, funny, tragic and desperate, this is an audacious and very contemporary debut for writer/director (and TV’s Killing Eve showrunner) Emerald Fennell who makes an appearance as an online makeup tutor for those blow-job lips. With a soundtrack featuring everyone from Cyn to Spice Girls and a standout midpoint sequence featuring Paris Hilton. Produced by Margot Robbie. It’s every man’s worst nightmare, getting accused of something like that./ Can you guess what every woman’s worst nightmare is?

The Traitor (2019)

Aka Il Traditore. I am not an informant. In 1980 an all-out war rages between Sicilian mafia bosses over the heroin trade following a summit at the home of Bontate (Goffredo Mario Bruno) in which the business is carved up among the capi. Tommaso Buscetta (Pierfrancesco Favino) a made man, departs Italy to escape the mob and live the high life in Brazil with his third wife Cristina (Maria Fernando Candido) and his younger children. Back home, scores are being settled and Buscetta watches from afar as his sons Benedetto (Gabriele Cicirello) and Antonio (Paride Cicirello) and brother are killed in Palermo, knowing he may be next. Arrested by the Brazilian police, tortured and forced to watch his wife being threatened with being thrown from a helicopter to the shark-filled seas below, he is extradited to Italy. Buscetta is saved from his suicide attempt and makes a decision that will change everything for the Mafia. He can either inform or die in a jail cell. He speaks to his wife on the phone and decides to talk because she and the remaining children are safe in the US. He is interviewed by Judge Giovanni Falcone (Fausto Russo Alesi) with whom he shares not just information but personal views on the degrading of what he believes was a once-decent organisation, even while admitting his history of killing: Falcone’s fundamental decency brings out his vanity and his judgmentalism. He shares a cell with fellow informer Salvatore Totuccio Contorno (Luigi Lo Cascio) and at the first maxi-trial (1986) is forced to be cross-examined with fellow capo Pippo Calo (Fabrizio Ferracane) while his former colleagues form a baying mob from behind their glass-partitioned courtroom cells, where they smoke cigars, make obscene gestures and expose themselves. When Tommaso is freed he finds himself at a tailors with Prime Minister Andreotti (Giuseppe di Marca). His subsequent life in the US with Cristina takes a turn when they are serenaded in a restaurant with a Sicilian tune ... All the heroin in the world passes through Palermo. A true crime story from 1980-2000 – and what a story. And what crimes. It starts with a party celebrating Saint Rosalia when Buscetta sees his son Benedetto strung out on heroin. Then a choice is made that contrives against a happy ending. A court-room drama that is as revelatory about the co-existent bravery and corruption of the justice system as it is about the workings of the Mafia, this is interspersed with shocking in-car dramatising of car bombs (kudos to DoP Vladan Radovic) and murders as well as flashbacks to crimes past and a coming of age inscribed against a long-unfulfilled hit (which brings the drama to a stunning close). A masterwork by Marco Bellocchio, a colleague of Pasolini, who has renounced his radical past but clearly cleaves to the edicts of structural Marxism and delivery of a modicum of social justice. At the centre of this biographical narrative of Italy’s most notorious informer is the worldview of a man whose brutality and regrets cannot be covered up with all the finery in the world. Watch his face when he hears about the murders of his sons; and when Calo starts singing the song that became the lure to his returning a second time his reaction is unforgettable; and his rationale for turning. Favino’s portrayal of 12 years in the life of this complex man is dignified, detailed and somehow sympathetic. He might be labelled pentito but he protests, I was and remain a man of honour. This is the crux of the argument – what the heroin trade has done to the Cosa Nostra. These men have forgotten where they came from. It is felt directly by this father of eight children, one of whom is a hopeless junkie. Tommaso’s collegiate relationship with Falcone, who eventually dies with his family in a car bomb, provides another level of moral argumentation – their exchange in the film’s second half-hour is procedural and informative, giving a dignity to the rat (the visual analogies with animals here also include a white tiger and a hyena) as well as teaching us how this impenetrable bunch of gangsters operates. The frenzy of the show trial with its zoo-like atmosphere even gives way to a strain of absurdist humour, particularly when Contorno speaks in his native Sicilian at high speed and frustrates the judge. Later, in America, he’s selling cars despite not speaking English. As he says to Tommaso, I can’t even speak Italian. And he carries a gun, Like John Wayne. Tommaso himself is resolute that he is not a penitent, he is not a spy, a rat. He is a relatively passive protagonist and the sculpting of his macho character with that bull-like face is in relation to other people to the point where we’re not entirely sure of how his mind works yet still find his faintly comical situation tragic and compelling because this is about loyalty and revenge as well as casting a cold eye on politics. The penultimate face-off is with Riina (Nicola Cali), the capo di capi, who has executed everyone, from babies to old men, to eradicate the seed of the supposed traitors because now more men are talking. It is his blankness that feeds the drama before the final confrontation for Tommaso, this time with Andreotti’s counsel, and what an ironic scene that proves to be. In the end he sells out hundreds of mafiosi. This may lack the virtuosity of Scorsese or even the Visconti-esque elegance of Coppola – it has far more in common with the films of the great Francesco Rosi, who also explored the political hinterland of Italian life at a terrible time in its fractious and violent history. Utterly gripping, fine and even shocking storytelling, demystifying a mediaevalism that still exists and drives life, work, corruption and death in a paradoxically beautiful part of the world with a perspective that beats its own drum. A stylish and formally brilliant film. In Italian and Portuguese. The war has just begun

Monte Carlo (2011)

No to The Sisterhood of the Travelling to France. Grace Bennett (Selena Gomez) is an NYU-bound Texas high-school student who works as a waitress with her best friend, high school dropout Emma Perkins (Katie Cassidy) to earn money for a trip to Paris after graduation. Grace’s stepfather (Brett Cullen) and mother (Andie MacDowell) pay for her uptight older stepsister Meg Kelly (Leighton Meester) to come with them on the trip. Emma goes to Paris despite her boyfriend Owen’s (Cory Monteith) proposal of marriage. The trip quickly proves to be a disappointment – they have been ripped off with a cramped hotel room and a tour that moves too fast for anyone to properly appreciate anything. After being left behind by their tour guide, the three girls seek refuge from the rain in a posh Parisian hotel where Grace is mistaken for spoiled celebrity debutante British heiress Cordelia Winthrop-Scott, her double, who leaves rather than stay to attend an auction for a Romanian educational charity for which she is to donate an expensive Bulgari necklace. The three girls spend the night in Cordelia’s suite, and the next day fly by private jet to Monte Carlo  with Cordelia’s luggage, despite Meg’s misgivings. The girls meet Theo Marchand (Pierre Boulanger) the son of the philanthropist hosting Cordelia. Theo is cold because he thinks Cordelia’s a spoiled brat but he escorts the three girls to a ball, where Grace successfully fools Cordelia’s aunt Alicia (Catherine Tate) and Emma dances with a prince (Giulio Berruti). Meg reunites with Riley (Luke Bracey) an Australian backpacker and ex-rugby player she briefly met in Paris. All three of the girls begin to find who they really love but then Owen arrives looking for Emma and the real Cordelia arrives simultaneously and reports her necklace missing … Don’t mess with Texas. A smart, funny, feel-good film set in gorgeous locations with great costumes, romance, pace, a sense of humour and proportion? Check, check and check. A lovely and talented young cast make the most of this modern fantasy with enough moral bite to make it a delight for the brain and the eyes. Gomez is fine in the dual role and she also provides a song in a soundtrack dominated by British singer songwriter Mika and a score by Michael Giacchino. A graduate version of The Princess Diaries, perhaps, but more realistic, if you will. Very loosely adapted from the novel Headhunters by Jules Bass with a screen story by Kelly Bowe and a screenplay by April Blair & Maria Maggenti & director Thomas Bezucha, who made the fabulous Christmas film The Family Stone and doesn’t make half enough movies at all, if you ask me, given his brilliance at balancing comedy and drama. The project evolved into a very different beast from its original incarnation which explains why Nicole Kidman is an executive producer of a story that delves into the meaning of things beyond the luxurious affair of a necklace. Perfect armchair tourism. I finally meet a guy that likes me and I’m not even me

Angel Has Fallen (2019)

We’re lions and that ain’t ever gonna change. Secret service agent Mike Banning (Gerard Butler) is assigned to protect the US President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman) who is recommending him for the position of Secret Service Director. Things take a turn when Mike is falsely accused of carrying an attack on the president while on a fishing trip Williamsburg, Virginia, targeted in a drone attack. The President is in a coma in hospital and his second in command Martin Kirby (Tim Blake Nelson) reveals to the world that Mike was behind the assassination attempt with the backing of the Kremlin. Mike realises it’s his friend Iraq security contractor at Salient Global Wade Jennings (Danny Huston) who’s set him up and he has to go off-grid while he attempts to prevent being jailed as his wife Leah (Piper Perabo) and infant daughter are left behind. He calls them in an attempt to expose the perpetrator. In the forests of West Virginia he tracks down a man he hasn’t seen since he abandoned the family as a rogue ‘Nam veteran – his father Clay (Nick Nolte) and they find they have a lot in common. Jennings closes in and the Banning duo have to tackle the threat head on and FBI Special Agent Helen Thompson (Jada Pinkett Smith) realises there’s more to this situation than meets the eye … Me disappearing was the best thing that ever happened to you. With a storyline ripped from the headlines and our innate suspicions of the real benefactors of weird wars initiated in distant lands, the third installment in the Fallen series takes its sweet time to shift gear into high-octane action but when it does it’s immensely pleasurable, benefitting from a sharp and amusing script by Robert Mark Kamen and Matt Cook & director Ric Roman Waugh from a story/characters by Creighton Rothenberger & Katrin Benedikt. It manages both to plausibly contextualise a run of the mill political conspiracy thriller and give Butler some nice scenes with Nolte who is as his son says as close as you can get to the Unabomber in his paranoid prepper backwoods paradise. Sometimes it’s better to know when to quit instead of lying to yourself and hurting the ones you love. The midpoint sequence when they dispatch Jennings’ men in their different ways is fabulous and funny. There’s a decent if necessarily short-lived supporting role for Jada Pinkett Smith and some really gung ho action scenes culminate in a terrific shoot out with a virtual duel between the men on opposing sides: Huston is a really good villain. Director Waugh is a former stuntman and he really knows how to use space. I told you they’d turn on you

The House on Telegraph Hill (1951)

Is there something going on in that funny little head of yours – something you’re keeping from me? Upon emerging from a Nazi death camp, Victoria Kowelska (Valentina Cortese) takes the identity of Karin Dernakova (Natasha Lytess) a friend who died there. She travels to the United States where she meets her friend’s son Chris (Gordon Gebert), and discovers that she has come into a large inheritance via Karin’s aunt Sophia who has died. Eventually, she gets involved with the boy’s guardian Alan Spender (Richard Basehart) who lives with Chris and the boy’s governess Margaret (Fay Baker), and marries him. However, after some suspicious accidents, she starts to believe that Alan may be trying to kill her so he can claim the money and confides in Major Marc Bennett (William Lundigan) the well-off lawyer who liberated her from Belsen …  You think it’s easy to kill somebody? It takes time and patience and a strong stomach. Adapted by Elick Moll and Frank Partos (with uncredited contributions by Robert Bassler, Richard Murphy and director Robert Wise) from a rather cunning 1948 novel, The Frightened Child by Dana Lyons, this brings a concentration camp survivor into the post-war realm of American Gothic noir. This blend of real-life horror with mystery and gaslighting suspense has its own strain of the Uncanny, with themes of identity, greed and psychopathic murderousness to the fore. And what an irony – to survive the Nazis and wind up in the clutches of a killer. Cortese makes for a compelling heroine, Basehart is a great psycho and for those students of film history and Twentieth Century-Fox in particular Lytess was the acting tutor who was so close to Marilyn Monroe as she climbed her tortuous road to stardom. The San Francisco locations are well captured in stark monochromes by cinematographer Lucien Ballard with a mood rarely less than threatening – and what about that runaway car! In real life Cortese and Basehart married following the production. In reel life … well, this is that story. Quite an unusual thriller from Wise. My conscience will be my witness

Zeroville (2019)

Who the fuck is Montgomery Clift? A young excommunicated seminarian Vikar (James Franco) who has a tattoo of Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor on his shaven head arrives in Los Angeles on the same day in 1969 that a crazed hippie family commits five savage murders including that of Sharon Tate and he is brought in for questioning. He gets a job building film sets at Paramount Pictures and witnesses Ali MacGraw fluffing her lines on Love Story and meets Viking Man (ie John Milius) (Seth Rogen) and is introduced to (unnamed) directors who discuss their future projects – they are based on Paul Schrader, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg. He soon begins to work on editing films with Dottie Langer (Jacki Weaver) who teaches him to cut little pieces of film together after putting them in order to create something unique. When he falls for actress Soledad Paladin (Megan Fox) who has a little daughter Zazi (Joey King is teenage Zazi) he changes his mind about what life can be about and he conflates his images of her with his images of the films he learns to love. They go to CBGB and he wigs out to Iggy Pop and starts editing one of Soledad’s films. He finds a guy with an Afro (Craig Robinson) burgling his apartment and allows him leave after they share their love of cinema. He starts working with producer Rondell (Will Ferrell) who also has a secret love for Soledad. Then he goes to the Venice Film Festival where his genius is recognised …. There’s a secret movie hidden in all the movies ever made. A troubled distribution lay in wait for this 2014 dream trip through 1970s Hollywood with a fantasy time lapse telescoping of directors, productions, plot reveals and mad shoots – Rogen clearly doing a Milius in the jungle is a joy. The beautiful Fox’s character is presumably a take on Spanish star Soledad Miranda, the dream girl of cult director Jess Franco, which presumably acted as a lure to the writer/director James Franco (adapting Steve Erickson’s novel) whose own fizzing brain clearly teems with precisely the kind of information that spills out all over this. With his own brother playing Monty in Room 928 of the Roosevelt Hotel, the hope that as an actor he himself might mine the role of the protagonist for the kind of spiritual meaning he must have needed but didn’t discover as a seminarian, is dissipated with something of a blank performance and a screenplay that eventually loses the plot. Fuck continuity, he spits out, at significant Dennis Hopperesque intervals while his character seeks redemption in A Place in the Sun and The Passion of Joan of Arc and The Holy Mountain and finds those subliminal cuts in films that are long rumoured to exist in a kind of parallel movieverse. Gus Van Sant and Wim Wenders show up to play explanatory roles which certainly makes you sit up. Tonally there are distinct shifts: the Ferrell and Robinson sequences are comedic (Is this a robbery or a movie review?) and this is obviously a delight for cinephiles but the glimpses of Zelig-style recognition dissolve into a funereal feeling when it swerves to the left and into the realm of emotion and beyond the gleaming nitrate surfaces. Don’t you know there’s no such thing as cheating when you go to the movies?

The Egyptian (1954)

You shall see such wonders as your eye never beheld. In eighteenth dynasty Egypt, Sinuhe (Edmund Purdom) is a would-be doctor out hunting with Horemheb (Victor) and he saves the life of a young man (Michael Wilding) suffering from an epileptic seizure. When the afflicted youth awakes, he introduces himself as the Pharaoh Akhnaton and makes Sinuhe the royal healer. Akhnaton becomes a devotee of a new religion devoted to sun (Aten) worship, eventually triggering a conspiracy by traditional priests. While working at his new, prestigious post, Sinuhe suffers through a botched romance with Babylonian courtesan Nefer (Bella Darvi) after giving up his lover Merit (Jean Simmons). He is accompanied on his wanderings by his corrupt yet likable servant Kaptah (Peter Ustinov) and when his adoptive parents commit suicide out of shame over his conduct he becomes despondent, he leaves the Pharaoh’s court to bury his loved ones, and, in the process, incurs the wrath of Akhnaton and Horemheb who is now Commander of the Armies. He has to work at a funerary chamber for 70 days to cover the cost of having his parents embalmed. Eventually he learns the truth of his origins but it does not lead to the exalted position he expects and Merit warns him that Akhnaton has condemned him to death.T They share one night of passion before he flees for his life. Then the priests urge his return to kill Akhnaton at the royal court where Princess Baketamun (Gene Tierney) reveals the identity of his true father and lures him to the task with the promise of the throne … Son of a cheesemaker! Finnish author Mika Waltari’s 1945 bestseller is given the nutty epic treatment under the expert direction of Michael Curtiz and after all the bells and whistles, ludicrously enjoyable setpieces (watch as lions take on Mature!) death threats and murder, it all boils down to an Oedipal tragedy. What raises this above the usual fare of the era is a smart script by Philip Dunne and Casey Robinson. The romance between Purdom and Darvi (Twentieth Century Fox’s Darryl F. Zanuck and his wife Virginia named his latest protegee after… themselves) is fabulously silly: The greatest gift a man can give a woman is his innocence, she trumpets. Yet beneath the pomp and pompadours there lie some smart apercus, viz. All existence is vanity. And dialogue to die for: Mincing perfumed idiots who carry sunshades and twitter like birds! John Carradine has a great scene as a grave robber. With Red Rock Canyon and Death Valley standing in for Egypt this is a triumph of costuming, production design and a fabulous, rousing score by Bernard Herrmann and Alfred Newman. It was British actor Purdom’s most notable role (after replacing Mario Lanza on The Student Prince), cast after Marlon Brando scarpered a week before shooting was due to commence. Purdom followed it with the lead in another ancient epic, The Prodigal. Following the married actor’s affair with Tyrone Power’s wife Linda Christian, his contract was dropped and he eventually moved to Italy where he married and divorced Christian and carved out a career in sword and sandal epics . Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this is that the prolific Curtiz made The Boy From Oklahoma for Warners and White Christmas for Paramount the same year – and the latter was the box office smash. Bonkers fun. She loved me all her life but this I didn’t learn till it was too late