Tag Archives: British Cinema

Movement in the Films of Guy Ritchie – A Video Essay by Jack Brazil


Video Essay: 

Creator’s Statement:

For almost 25 years, Guy Ritchie has been directing stylish feature films. Best known for his British gangster films, such as: Lock, Stock and Two Smokin’ Barrels (1998), Snatch (2000), Rock n’ Rolla (2008) and The Gentlemen (2019) as well as the Sherlock Holmes films starring Robert Downey Junior.

Ritchie is often criticised for his gonzo entertainment filmmaking and his inconsistent performance at the box office. His films have received – at best — a mixed critical reception across his careeer. As a result, Ritchie is not taken very seriously as a filmmaker.

The aim of this video essay is to demonstrate that Ritchie is very much under-appreciated as a director and has a unique style worth studying.

Richie’s stylish editing can be boiled down to the concept of a ‘fast & slow’ framework using a range of experimental formal elements (speed ramps, freeze frames, slow motion, intercutting, parallel action, and superimposition) to control the temporality of his sequences. It is Ritchie’s action scenes that best showcase this use of the framework, with careful consideration for shot length and manipulation of time through the use of editing & experimental formal elements.

Ritchie employs his framework to manipulate the passage of time in his scenes, creating pauses in action that encourage contemplation. To achieve this effect, he balances the use of a faster-than-average cutting rate with moments of stillness, seamlessly transitioning between the two speeds of cutting from one moment to the next. By leveraging this framework in tandem with his experimental formal elements, Ritchie generates a singular sense of motion and movement on screen. His meticulous attention to shot selection and average shot length (ASL) yields striking moments of spectacle and action that demonstrate his playful manipulation of film form.


In recent years, Ritchie has shied away from the style of action that put him on the map substituting fast and slow action for a greater focus on narrative cadence and control, with elements of action implemented throughout his films. I would like to see Ritchie return to his style of old and see more action films using the tried and tested fast and slow framework.


— Jack Brazil


Lock, Stock and Two Smokin’ Barrels (1998), Dir. Guy Ritchie,Ska Films

Snatch (2000), Dir. Guy Ritchie,Ska Films, Columbia Pictures

Swept Away (2002), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Searchlight Pictures, Sony Pictures

Revolver (2005), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Lionsgate UK

Rock n’ Roller (2008), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Warner Bros. Pictures

Sherlock Holmes (2009), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Warner Bros. Pictures

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Warner Bros. Pictures

The Man from U.N.C.L.E (2015), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Warner Bros. Pictures

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Warner Bros. Pictures

Aladdin (2019), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Walt Disney Pictures

The Gentlemen (2019), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Miramax

Wrath of Man (2021), Dir. Guy Ritchie, Miramax

300 (2006), Dir. Zack Snyder, Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures

Watchmen (2009), Dir. Zack Snyder, Legendary Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures

Fight Club (1999), Dir. David Fincher, Fox 2000 Pictures, 20th Century Fox

Transformers (2007), Dir. Michael Bay, Paramount Pictures

Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014), Dir. Matthew Vaughn, Marv Films, 20th Century Fox

Kingsman: The Golden Circle (2017), Dir. Matthew Vaughn, Marv Films, 20th Century Fox


Music Videos

Hundred Mile High City, Ocean Colour Scene. 1997 Universal Island Records. Dir. Guy Ritchie


The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall into My Mind), The Bucketheads. 1995 Henry Street Music. Dir. Guy Ritchie


Deep, Marusha. Low Spirit Recordings 1995. Dir. Guy Ritchie

A Real Love, CB Milton. 1996 Cloud 9 Music. Dir. Guy Ritchie

Rave Can Can, DJ Jacques O. 1996 Kontor New Media Music.  Dir. Guy Ritchie

Upside Down, Joelle. 1995 Hansa. Dir. Guy Ritchie



The Bomb! (These Sounds Fall into My Mind), The Bucketheads. 1995 Henry Street Music.

I Wanna Be Your Dog, The Stooges. 1969 Elektra/Asylum Records.

Diamond, Klint. 2000. Original Motion Picture Soundtrack.

Payback, James Brown. 1973 Polydor Records.

Fuckin’ in the Bushes, Oasis. 2000 Big Brother Recordings Ltd.

Che vuole questa musica stasera, Peppino Gadliardi. UMG (on behalf of Decca (UMO) Classics (CAM)); ASCAP, BMI – Broadcast Music Inc.

Get Down, Nas. 2002 Columbia Records


Other Sources

Powerbeats Pro Commercial (2019), Dir. Hiro Murai, Zambezi

Guy Ritchie Interview on Lock Stock with Charlie Rose https://youtu.be/biVd5r4i52A



Intensified Continuity Visual Style in Contemporary American Film Author(s): David Bordwell Source: Film Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 3 (Spring 2002), pp. 16-28 Published by: University of California Press

Tasker, Yvonne. The Hollywood Action and Adventure Film, John Wiley & Sons, Incorporated, 2015. ProQuest Ebook Central, http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/warw/detail.action?docID=7104343.


Interpreting Music Video, Popular Music in the Post-MTV Era. Brad Osborn. 2021.


Only Entertainment. Richard Dyer. 2002. pp.64-69


Thinking Aloud About Film: Aftersun (Charlotte Wells, 2022)

Are the most interesting British film directors currently working women? Charlotte Wells’ textured, precise and poetic Aftersun begs the question. Clearly influenced by Lynne Ramsey (and Chantal Ackerman), and working in the same indie vein as Andrea Arnold, Wells has an eye for the original expressive image that can externalise interior states. She’s got a feel for rhythm too and alternations between movement and stillness, through editing and simple diegetic movement, is what help the film evoke mood and feeling as powerfully as it does. Aftersun is a beautiful and touching film about memory and relationships between fathers and daughters, overhung with depression but laced through with a love that keeps trying to break through the sadness. Paul Mescal and Frankie Corio are terrific in the central roles. We discuss all of this and more in the podcast.

The podcast can also be listened to on Spotify here: https://open.spotify.com/show/2zWZ7Egdy6xPCwHPHlOOaT

and on itunes here: https://podcasts.apple.com/gb/podcast/first-impressions-thinking-aloud-about-film/id1548559546

This is the mix of “Under Pressure” combined with the film’s soundtrack as used at the end of the film, put up on youtube by the soundtrack composer Oliver Coates

José Arroyo


Matthew Smolenski, ‘Here, There and Everywhere’: Movement in the Beatles’s Fiction Filmography



Creator’s Statement

In this video essay I discuss the Beatles’ fiction filmography that spans from 1964 to 1968, constituting A Hard Day’s Night (Richard Lester, United Artists, UK, 1964), Help! (Richard Lester, United Artists, UK, 1965), Magical Mystery Tour (The Beatles, Apple Films, 1967), Magical Mystery Tour (The Beatles, Apple Corps, UK, 1967), and Yellow Submarine (George Dunning, United Artists, UK, 1968). Although my focus on the movement of the central performers’ bodies could certainly be extended to Let It Be (Michael Lindsay-Hogg, Apple Films, UK 1970), I was primarily interested in the integration of this movement into specifically narrative cinema that opposes a “safer” audio-visual context that isolates musical performance as its primary attraction, such as the band’s legendary appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

For both this reason and for chronological convenience, A Hard Day’s Night proved a natural starting point for a consideration of the Beatles’ movement within a narrative context, which works towards putting the Beatles within the familiar comfort zone of tele-concert spectacle. As a ‘low-budget exploitation film’, [1] A Hard Day’s Night’s narrative could be considered a vessel for its musical performances, and so Tom Gunning’s ‘Cinema of Attractions’ theory of early and avant-garde cinema, defined by the act of display and direct, self-conscious address, emerged as an obvious comparison point. [2] The film’s structure contains a degree of self-awareness that centres diegetic fans as stand-ins for its diegetic audience who eventually have their desire for the “attraction” of pure performance fulfilled with the same direct address of, for example, an Edison Company film, but through this comparison I wanted to highlight that the narrative’s continuous flow covertly turns every moment into one of performance. In the same way that much of the appeal of a Beatles’ concert lies in the band’s sarcastic banter in-between songs, movement between and within specific locations in the narrative becomes its own attraction rather than an obligation, defined in this essay as ‘macro’ and ‘micro’ movement respectively. If this ‘macro movement’ can be considered analogous to deep focus cinematography that provides multiple ‘micro movements’ to choose from, A Hard Day’s Night certainly merits Andrew Sarris’ evaluation of it as ‘the Citizen Kane of pop musicals’.[3]

As this video essay defines its selection of films in relation to its musical stars as auteurs rather than its filmmakers, I wanted its structure to depend more strongly on the concept of discography than filmography, using its focus on rhythm and movement to instil within the spectator the feeling of voraciously consuming the ‘macro’ of every Beatles album within the ‘micro’ of its short run-time. ‘Glass Onion’, from 1968 album The Beatles, reveals the self-referential nature of the Beatles discography, explicitly calling back to older songs such as ‘I Am The Walrus’, ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Lady Madonna’ in its lyrics with intertextual aplomb that assumes listener familiarity, and as such this video essay could also be considered a tribute. After a long silence, its filmography is accompanied by ‘Her Majesty’, the final hidden track on the band’s final album, as both a reference to the musical legacy that scores the video and as a reminder of the essay’s condensation of a much deeper career. One advantage of this condensed structure is an absence of didacticism. Although the recurrence of trains in early cinema is explained in relation to the linear, continuous flow of A Hard Day’s Night, the video’s continuous flow need not be broken by frequent comparisons to Help’s planes, Magical Mystery Tour’s coach or Yellow Submarine’s submarine; these comparisons are instead invited by the temporal proximity of the images.

Speaking of the amount of cover songs on the Beatle’s first album in an NME review of Please Please Me, Hamish McBain writes that ‘the Beatles at this point were born interpreters’.[4]  A similar impulse exists in my reliance on comparisons to early cinema and Italian Neo-Realism in ‘Part One’, defined by a sense of the Beatles “interpreting” cinematic language, and just as the Beatles’ discography eventually phases out cover songs altogether, comparisons increasingly focus on previously discussed Beatles’ films, with a prominent comparison to the work of Busby Berkeley even considered a bad object for its pollution of the essence of the performers. In this instance, the Beatles do not provide an interpretation of another artist, studio, and period’s style, but rather an imitation. A handover of sorts could be said to occur around the midway point of the video, with the introduction of psychedelia destabilising conventional cinematic means of representation and forcing a centralisation of the Beatles’ boundary-pushing internal world, which is reinforced by an accelerated reverse montage that gives the video’s first half a pseudo-palindromic structure. “Essence” is thus articulated as intrinsic, and so apparent are its virtues in the cinematic movements of the Beatles that I have considered the act of depiction as self-evident, instead staging my argument around the framing of this essence in each film.

The essay’s concluding argument essentially turns its opening question on its head: yes, the Beatles provide a valuable lens through which to consider cinematic movement as a pleasure in and of itself, enforcing its privileged position within a cinematic hierarchy through their inability to conform to the plotty mould of the Bond film, the limpness of its laboured enforcement in Magical Mystery Tour or its totalising effect on the world of Yellow Submarine. However, what is also revealed in this analysis is the value of cinema as an archive of the Beatles’ movement in a context that prioritises it through form, and it is this that cannot help but shine through in not only this selection of films, but the video essay itself. The spotlight enjoyed by the Beatles was indeed as ephemeral as A Hard Day’s Night’s ninety deadline-oriented plot structure, but testament to their energetic optimisation of that spotlight is my hope that even the ten-minute spotlight of this video should convey even the periphery of the band’s capability during this period.

Matthew Smolenski

















Armour, Nicole, ‘The Machine Art of Dziga Vertov and Busby Berkeley’, Images, 5, November 1997

Dyer, Richard, In the Space of a Song: The Uses of Song in Film (New York: Routledge, 2012)

Glynn, Stephen, A Hard Day’s Night: Turner Classic Movies British Film Guide (Bloomsbury Academic, 2005)

Gould, Jonathan, Can’t Buy Me Love: Beatles, Britain and America (London: Piatkus, 2008)

Gunning, Tom, ‘The Cinema of Attractions: Early Cinema, its Spectator and the Avant-Garde’ in Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, ed. by Thomas Elsaesser and and Adam Barker (London: BFI Publishing, 1990), pp. 56-61

Gunning, Tom, ‘Now You See It, Now You Don’t: The Temporality of the Cinema of Attractions’, Velvet Light Trap(1993) 3-12

Kirby, Lynne, Parallel Tracks: The Railroad and Silent Cinema (Durham: Duke University Press, 1997)

MacBain, Hamish, ‘Looking Back On The Beatles’ “Please Please Me”’, NME, 2016 <https://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/the-beatles-please-please-me-769691> [accessed 4 February 2021]

Mulvey, Laura, Death 24x a Second: Stillness and the Moving Image (London: Reaktion Books, 2006)

Neaverson, Bob, The Beatles Movies (Michigan: Cassell, 1997)

Roth, Mark, ‘Some Warners Musicals and the Spirit of the New Deal’ in Genre: The Musical: A Reader, ed. by Altman, Rick, (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul in association with the British Film Institute, 1981), pp. 41-56

Sarris, Andrew, ‘Bravo Beatles!’, The Village Voice, 27 August 1964, p. 13


A Hard Day’s Night (Richard Lester, United Artists, UK, 1964)

The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years (Ron Howard, StudioCanal, UK, 2016)

Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, Produzioni De Sica, Italy, 1948)

Escamotage d’une dame chez Robert-Houdin (Georges Méliès, Star Film Company, France, 1896)

Help! (Richard Lester, United Artists, UK, 1965)

Footlight Parade (Lloyd Bacon and Busby Berkeley, Warner Bros., USA, 1933)

‘Four (August ’64 to August ’65)’, Episode Four, The Beatles Anthology, UK, ITV, tx. 17.12.1995

‘From the ABC Theatre Blackpool’, Blackpool Night Out, UK, ITV London, tx. 1.8.1965

Gold Diggers of 1933 (Melvin Leroy and Busby Berkeley, Warner Bros., USA, 1933)

The Kiss in the Tunnel (George Albert Smith, UK, 1899)

Lady Lazarus’, Episode Eight, Mad Men, Fifth Series, USA, Sky Atlantic, tx. 8.5.2012

L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat (Louis Lumière and Auguste Lumière, Société Lumière, France, 1896)

Magical Mystery Tour (The Beatles, Apple Corps, UK, 1967)

Man with a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, VUFKU, Soviet Union, 1929)

Trapeze Disrobing Act (Thomas Edison, Edison Company, USA, 1901)

What Happened in the Tunnel (Edwin S. Porter, Edison Company, USA, 1903)

Window Water Baby Moving (Stan Brakhage, USA, 1959)

Workers Leaving The Lumière Factory in Lyon (Louis Lumière, Lumière, France, 1895)

Yellow Submarine (George Dunning, United Artists, UK, 1968)

[1] Stephen Glynn, A Hard Day’s Night: Turner Classic Movies British Film Guide (Bloomsbury Academic, 2005), p. 9

[2] Tom Gunning, ‘The Cinema of Attractions: Early Cinema, Its Spectator and the Avant’ Garde’ in Early Cinema: Space Frame Narrative, ed. by Thomas Elsaesser and Adam Barker (London: BFI Publishing, 1990), pp. 56-61 (p. 57)

[3] Andrew Sarris, ‘Bravo Beatles!’, The Village Voice, 27 August 1964, p. 13

[4] Hamish MacBain, ‘Looking Back On The Beatles’ “Please Please Me”’, NME, 2016 <https://www.nme.com/blogs/nme-blogs/the-beatles-please-please-me-769691> [accessed 4 February 2021]

Day 8 – Sammy and Rosy Get Laid (Stephen Frears, UK, 1987)

sammy and Rosie


Day 8:
I was nominated by Andrew Grimes Griffin – One movie poster a day for 10 days. The no explanation bit is annoying people so: I loved British cinema in the 80s. The diversity: The Long Good Friday, A Private Function, Mona Lisa, The Merchant-Ivories, Dance with a Stranger, Brittania Hospital, The Greenways and Jarmans, the Bill Forsyths. And these of the top of my head. All were much discussed and remain memorable. My favourite of these was the run of films Stephen Frears had in the mid-80s: Launderette, Prick up Your Ears and my favourite of all: Sammy and Rosie Get Laid. I loved the interracial aspect, the visual inventiveness, the sexyness and cool embodied by Roland Gift, the social critique. Little did I know that it´s a film that inspired vitriol by the people I liked best in Britain….and for the moments in the film I liked best, e.g. the description of a Sunday (or was it a Saturday), holding hands with your loved one after a night of passion, walking through the Southbank, visiting a gallery, going to a movie and catching a lecture. My idea of a perfect Sunday. Who knew that would invoke all kinds of class hatred. That , if I remember correctly, it was Colin McCabe who gave the lecture in the film might have had something to do with it. But still. Anyway this raised all kinds of issues of cross-cultural analysis, what does one need to know? We understand knowing little can be a problem. But can it also be a problem to know too much?


José Arroyo

A Note on Brief Encounter (David Lean, UK, 1945)

Brief Encounter is woven through and through with loss, sadness, the stifling of desire, the structuration of forces of repression — the state, the police, the institution of marriage: all that is so beautifully expressed in the scene where we see Laura (Celia Johnson) going to have a smoke under the the War Memorial, the park bench still wet from the rain, after her failed attempt at the assignation with Alec (Trevor Howard) that had exercised her so — interpellated as personal lacks and individual moral failings.

It was only on my last viewing that it became clear how the film is actually structured around the moment of loss, a moment which bookends the film, and which we first see narrated objectively and then come back to subjectively at the film’s end (and Catherine Grant’s marvellous video essay, Dissolves of Passion, take on an even richer resonance when seen through the lens of loss, of Dolly Messiter robbing the couple of their last minutes but also the loss of a love that is desired but cannot be).

The film begins to tell us a story, one that doesn’t start of as but then becomes Laura’s story told in flashback, and the end returns us to to the beginning but now fleshed out as Laura subjectively experiences– and by this I mean something different than told through her point of view — those last moments with Alec, the loss, the despair, the world infringing on and robbing her of that which is so important to her but which she cannot speak of, except to us, the audience.

As we can see in the clip above, the film begins with a train, engine steaming streams of smoke, heading towards us and slicing through the frame. We then begin with a medium close-up of Mr. Godby (Stanley Holloway). The camera cuts to passing trains once again, before again picking up Mr. Godby, crossing the track on foot. Why begin here and with Mr. Godby? Clearly the passing trains, the platform where people linger only momentarily before heading elsewhere, the steam; all help create an emotional as well as physical setting for the drama that will be played out. But look also at the formal elegance, at the beauty of the compositions. This dangerous speed, the transient and furtive meetings, the steaming desire the film will dramatise, all will be contained by the same order, hierarchy, symmetry, the elegant manner that also characterise framing and composition (and in a different way, Mr. Godby’s uniform).

I was struck also by how in the shot in the station café, the focus is entirely on Mr. Godby and Mrs. Bagot (Joyce Carey), flirting away, in their own way negotiating and making possible the fulfilment of the desires denied the more middle class Lauras and Alecs. You might note that the camera pans from Mr. Godby and Mrs Bagot to Laura and Alec, that significantly they remain at a distance. We don’t yet know who they are and we don’t yet hear a word they say. Mr. Godby’s voice is still carrying, now off-screeen, now speaking of police, whilst the camera lingers at a distance is on this new couple we will later get to know so well. So from the very first images, we get speed, steam, the sense of transit and indeterminacy but also of order and containment, all whilst being brought to notice regarding forces of repression. And the film tells us this whilst making a homology between two couples characterised as belonging to two different classes, one the servants; the other those being served, even if only in a cafe.

I will write  about the two ways we’re shown Dolly Messiter’s intrusion into the last moments the couple have together –the one objective at the beginning, the other subjectively near the end —  in my next post.

José Arroyo

PS at the end of  Altman (d: Ron Mann, USA, 2014), a wonderful documentary on the filmmaker, his wife Kathryn recounts how how watching Brief Encounter inspired Altman’s filmmaking, ‘one day, years  and years ago, just after the war, Bob had nothing to do and he went to a theatre in the middle of the afternoon to see a movie. Not a Hollywood movie, a British movie.He said the main character wasn’t glamorous, not a babe. And at first he wondered why he was even watching it. But twenty minutes later he was in tears and had fallen in love with her. And it made him feel that it wasn’t just a movie.

PPS: In an article reflecting on Lost in Translation 15 years after, Sofia Coppola writes: ‘“I got married not long before and kind of felt isolated. I was in this stage where I wasn’t sure if I’d made the right choices or what I was doing in the post-college beginning of my adult life,” she says. “Brief Encounter was in my mind while writing but I was looking a lot of the idea of being connected because at that moment, I wasn’t.”




Locke (Steven Knight, UK, 2014)


A film that any aspiring filmmaker should see. You want to know how to make a fine film with only one actor in one set? See what Steven Knight and Tom Hardy do with Locke.

Ivan Locke is a construction manager wrapping up work for the day. Tomorrow will be the apotheosis of his career, the biggest cement pour outside of that undertaken by government or the military in history. He’s in his car on his way home. His wife is making sausages and wearing the team shirt. His kids are all excited about the big game that they’re all about to see. But he won’t be there. On his way home, he gets a phone call that will change his life. At the end of his car journey, he will have lost his wife, his home, his job and his children. But he will have made sure the cement job gets done properly and he will have done the right thing. Plus, knowing Ivan Locke as we’ve come to know him on this journey, it’s hard to believe that he won’t return home tomorrow and win back all he’s lost.

The film is like a Hawkesian tale in which professionalism is indistinguishable from morality. Locke has to make sure the cement job gets done right and he also has to do the ‘right’ thing no matter what the cost to himself and those near him. He’s almost autistic in his attention to detail and he can’t lie. It’s an iconic role. If Hardy weren’t already a star, this role and his performance of it, would surely make him one. The character is bound to become iconic and a cultural reference point. Who wouldn’t want to be like Locke, slowly, methodically, systematically, humanely trying to answer everyone’s queries, solving everyone’s problems, being kind but truthful, trying to move resolve issues even as he knows that solving another’s problems is  a move forward for another and a step backward and into the unknown to himself. Hardy is very moving, the changing tonalities of his voice in that gentle Welsh tone he adapts a mini-masterpiece of emoting.

The film is in the tradition of those tour-de-force theatre pieces like Cocteau’s La voix humaine where a woman breaks up with a lover over the telephone and the whole play is one long monologue. Except here it’s a man talking, sometimes to his absent father, about what it is to be a man. And you do get to hear other voices at the end of the line, all wanting something. This is a tour-de-force performance for Hardy, who gets to act out practically every emotion going whist in the service of a character who must remain calm, stoic, methodical. Because, it’s a one-character piece in one set, the dialogue here also has to bear the brunt of exposition that in an ordinary film would be spread amongst other aspects of mise-en-scene. This is of course an opportunity for the director and cinematographer, how to make the visuals interesting and expressive whilst remaining locked in one car. They succeed. Haris Zambarloukos does a fabulous job with the cinematography. We get neon colours at night, reflections of reflections depending on Locke’s state of mind, frames within frames, sometimes one a direct image, the other but a shadowy reflection of one, the softening of fog, the sharpening of focus, multi-coloured indicators in the night. What starts off as a long journey into night ends up as a cantering journey into clarity, purposefulness, decisiveness. This is why the film is so pleasurable to watch. Locke is very moving, very fine. But it is perhaps also why it is no more than that. Hardy, however, is nothing less than great.

PS Brummies might note with pleasure that in the film, the construction site in which the cement pour is to take place was the construction site of what is now The Cube.

Addendum: In his recent How to Watch a Movie (London: Profile Books, 2015), David Thomson notes that Locke is  the film that established Tom Hardy as a major figure and that,  ‘No film I’ve seen in recent years is more eloquent on where we are now, and on how alone we feel. There is nothing left to do but watch and listen’ (p. 41).



José Arroyo