Tag Archives: Janet Leigh

Love Is Colder Than Death/ Liebe ist kälter als der Tod (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, West Germany, 1969)

LOVE IS COLDER THAN DEATH is Fassbinder’s first feature and in it are present elements that would reappear later on and help constitute what we’ve come to recognise as his style. The film begins with an image of him, shoft left of center, with the rest of the frame empty, smoking, reading the newspaper, legs crossed, overweight, menacing and sensual.

Soon we’ll see a shirtless black man, an object of desire, and when we see the head of a syndicate place his hand on his knee, the queerness will come to the fore.

There will be a Turk on the loose who must be got rid of. Hannah Schygulla is the love interest/whore, one of the great presences in film history, here so young, sensual, with a face that seems to communicate everything and yet remains inscrutable.

Fassbinder is not afraid to hold a close-up so that the eye can wonder all over Ulli Lommell’s handsome face,

Lommell clearly dressed to evoke Delon in LE SAMOURAI.

And Fassbinder knows how to compose a shot dramatically so whilst the film is clearly based on a play (and with bare sets, minimal furniture etc), it never feels stagebound, and indeed the setting is opened up (tellingly, to freeways and supermarkets).

It’s a cinephile’s film, dedicated to Chabrol, Rohmer, Jean-Marie Straub and Linio and Cuncho, the characters from Damiano Damiani’s A BULLET FOR THE GENERAL. I love the moment where they go steal sunglasses in a department store and he tells the saleswoman he wants glasses like Janet Leigh wore in PSYCHO. The film seems all tone – alienated, distanced, sensual — and attitude. Personal bonds are valued but deceive, the world is merely out to get you so maintain what you can of your freedom at all cost. All this in a world that’s exploitative and murderous but where numerous people are killed without once drawing blood. A distinctive first feature which I enjoyed very much. The frame grabs are from the Arrow release.


Film is currently playing on MUBI

José Arroyo

Eavesdropping at the Movies: 368 – Psycho (1960)



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We visit the MAC for a screening of the new 4k restoration of Psycho, one of the most analysed films of all time, and arguably director Alfred Hitchcock’s most famous. It’s a film we’ve both seen several times, but not for a few years, and in the cinema setting for which it’s meant, instead of the classroom, there’s a renewed and reinvigorated wonder to its imagery and editing.

We share our feelings about this screening, remark upon things we’d forgotten or had never noticed before, discuss how elements of the film have aged, and compare it to Brian de Palma’s Dressed to Kill, which was, shall we say, inspired by Psycho, and which we recently saw. We find plenty of room for criticism, but although we conclude that Psycho works for us more as a collection of a few iconic scenes than a thoroughly engrossing story from beginning to end, those scenes shine, and nowhere more vividly than on a cinema screen.

With José Arroyo of First Impressions and Michael Glass of Writing About Film.


Binge-watching on the Universal Channel



Does anyone else fend themselves regressing to the comforts of childhood at this time? After a day of marking, I could have re-seen the Clouzot films on MUBI that I love — Le corbeau (1943)and  Qaui des orfèvres (1947) — but I just couldn´t think anymore and found myself subscribing to the Universal channel, where I saw Stanley Donen´s Arabesque (1966), with Sofia Loren and a stiff Gregory Peck. The film´s a bit leaden but charming and as evocative of sixties glamour as anything I´ve seen, Sofia wearing Dior throughout, and Donen filming everything in an imaginative and colourful way, with a pop sensibility one associates with Swinging Sixties. Each shot is playful if not exactly meaningful. A film that doesn´t quite work but that remains a lot of fun.

I also saw Operation Petticoat (Blake Edwards, 1959) which made me understand the whispers around Blake Edward´s sexuality — all those half-naked sailers on the submarine and, despite all the talk, such a subdued look at the nurses –and where Tony Curtis is so good he outshines Cary Grant (yes, it´s possible). I ended the evening with The Black Shield of Falsworth (Rudolph Maté, 1954), where Curtis is not good. You can see he does many of his own stunts but without the grace of movement someone like Lancaster would have brought to them — every move´s an effort for Tony.  but Janet Leigh  is at her most beautiful, Herbert Marshall is recognisable only by his voice but that´s enough, and the whole thing is a lighthearted silly medieval adventure that looks quite good. These are films that were on rotation on tv channels when I was young and I found a certain comfort in the re-visit.


José Arroyo

A note on the ´33 and ´49 versions of Little Women

The Greta Gerwig Little Women needs to be great because the Cukor-Hepburn one is perfect. Plus having the additional bonus of being, along with King Kong and Mae West, the sociological phenomenon of 1933. It´s a pity it´s not more seen:


Watching the ´49 version of Little Women only made me appreciate the 1933 Cukor-Hepburn version more. The 1933 version roots it in the Civil War, privation, self-sacrifice, kindness, family, sisterhood, complicated interpersonal relationships, and with a kind of yankee fierceness that is completely lacking in the sop of the ´49,. To see June Allyson after Hepburn is merely to see lack, where Hepburn was romantic, tomboyish, determined, longing to be an artist and a free woman, Allyson simply lowers her voice and juts her jaw. And even with that she´s better than Peter Lawford. A starry cast almost entirely wasted, Mary Astor certainly is, though Elizabeth Taylor and Margaret O´Brian have their moments (if only a few). Comparing the two is like comparing the illustrated comic of the novel to the novel itself. Same plot, more gloss, more shine, less depth and way less charm. I´d forgotten how important the Christmas setting is to all versions


José Arroyo