Michael Powell’s Penultimate Film

Peeping Tom, the 1960 psychological thriller about a homicidal cinematographer who uses his camera to capture the death throes of the models he murders, is regarded today as one of director Michael Powell’s masterpieces. At the time of its release, however, it was universally reviled by most critics and brought an abrupt halt to Powell’s career. Some even mistakenly believed it was his last film and even Powell wondered if he’d ever work again. But the celebrated director would go on to helm four more feature films, a made-for-TV production of Bela Bartok’s opera Herzog Blaubarts Burg (aka Bluebeard’s Castle, 1963) and the documentary Return to the Edge of the World (1978). Among his post-Peeping Tom work, Age of Consent (1969), his penultimate feature, is an underrated delight and features Helen Mirren in her first starring role.

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Aboriginal Prophecies from Down Under

The rational versus the irrational always creates compelling conflicts in the best kind of fantasy/horror films where scientists and/or investigators are faced with trying to understand or explain supernatural events or mysteries of the occult. A denial of the paranormal fueled the chilling storyline of Jacques Tourneur’s Curse of the Demon (1957, released in the U.K. as Night of the Demon). A similar tone of skepticism is under attack in The Last Wave (1977), one of the rare Australian films to delve into Aboriginal mythology and superstitions but also one that addresses the environment on an apocalyptic level.

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Silence of the Lamb

The Quiet Room (1996)First person narration in films can be a tricky proposition. Not only can it become monotonous but it can also work against the visual storytelling, imposing a structure on the film that frustrates the viewer’s attempt to interpret and come to their own conclusions about events, characters and dialogue. One of the rare exceptions to this often overused device is Rolf de Heer’s THE QUIET ROOM (1996), the story of a marriage coming apart as told by the couple’s seven year old daughter. Seen from her viewpoint, the increasingly hostile relationship is something she can’t fully comprehend but she decides to take steps to alter her unhappy situation by refusing to speak until her parents reconcile. Despite a highly stylized visual approach (the cinematography is by Tony Clark), THE QUIET ROOM is a simply told but emotionally complex character study with moments of magical realism and a refreshingly unsentimental but compassionate look at how one child reacts to a marriage on the rocks.    Continue reading