The Counterfeit Traitor (1962)

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Writer/producer/director George Seaton’s penchant for realism and drama-documentary style gets a full airing here in an adaptation of Alexander Klein’s titular nonfiction book. The great (and prematurely aged – he was 44 and looks 64 at least) William Holden plays the American born oil man Eric Erickson, resident in Sweden and doing his usual cross-border deals – including with Germany – who is blackmailed into espionage for the Allies in the form of the smirking Hugh Griffith. In Germany he becomes involved with a religiously inclined agent Marianne Moellendorf (Lilli Palmer) who ends up being found out in a confessional, and Erickson then struggles to escape Berlin after betrayal by his friend’s son, a member of the Hitler Youth. This morality tale is long and engrossing and Holden gets the opportunity to play a whole range of emotions under Seaton’s careful direction. The camerawork (by Jean Bourgoin) is mostly static in keeping with this realistic mode but there are some great shots of the rubble of Berlin and the encounter in the church confession box is particularly well staged. It’s great to see these post-war cities in colour, another boon to an involving story. And the startling Klaus Kinski is key to the conclusion. If you ever want the dogs that torment you to take a walk on the wild side well away from you, try a combo of blood and cocaine. It’s amazing what tips you pick up in movies. Co-written by Charles Grenzbach.

The Danish Girl (2015)

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I’ll admit to not being predisposed to liking this: ┬áTom Hooper’s direction is dreadful. His wonky angles ruined the TV series John Adams; he set The King’s Speech in a dilapidated stage set; and nobody told him that there are microphones now so that he really didn’t have to shoot up the actors’ nostrils when they were singing in Les Miserables. Then there’s the subject matter: transsexualism is very ‘now’ but even I had to feel awful for porn-perv Kardashian momager Kris at the wretched treatment she received from macho athlete hubby Bruce Jenner when he decided that what he really wanted was a vagina, stripper heels and long hair. Brutal: we must conclude that Caitlyn Jenner is a thundering bitch, m’lud. So here we have the true-life story of artist Einar whose wife made the mistake of cross-dressing him up to sit for her paintings only to find that he didn’t want to be male any longer. The loathsome Ben Whishaw hits on him; he decides to have groundbreaking surgery and transforms into Lili Elbe; and Putin-alike Matthew Schoenaerts arrives to inject some testosterone into proceedings. Too late, I fear. Alicia Vikander, shot to look like a racial mutant, pouts, Eddie Redmayne preens insufferably like the fey fairy of your nightmares and it all takes place in the same dilapidated shabby set of The King’s Speech with everyone wearing the worst wigs this side of Liberace’s trashcan. Excruciating!