#293 Privilege

Watched: March 18 2021

Director: Peter Watkins

Starring: Paul Jones, Jean Shrimpton, Mark London, William Job, Max Bacon, Jeremy Child, James Cossins

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 43min

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In the near future (counting from 1967, that is. So the distant past, we guess), Steven Shorter (Jones) is a pop sensation with a complete grip on the youth population of Britain. His stage shows are theatrical productions designed to manipulate the audience – mostly consisting of women. Thank God no one wants to take advantage of his position and influence to create a fascist regime!

“Hahaha! We wouldn’t dream of it…”

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Just kidding! That is exactly the plan, of course. You see, the youth of Britain refuse to conform and bow to traditional authorities such as the police, the government and the church. Rude! And naturally, we cannot have that. So why not take this pop star and make him the poster boy for former criminals who have seen the light and are now repenting Christians? It’s a sure fire plan to bring the youth of Britain back into the fold.

“For the stage show, we should go subtle with the symbolism, I think.” “Um… Yeah, sure. We’ll totally do that.”

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The only person on Steven’s side trying to steer him right is Vanessa (Shrimpton), an artist comissioned to paint his portrait. But how can the two of them stand up against the powerful machine of the establishment?

I know! That scourge of fascist regimes everywhere: sexual liberation!

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Well, this movie was oddly prescient… Made in 1967, but it might as well have been made today. We’ve now truly experienced how pop culture and social media fame can influence politics and how dangerous this can be.

“Take the shackles off my hands so I can…manipulate you all to blindly follow my crazy cult of complete conformity and conservative Christianity. And also dance.”

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Are Paul Jones and Jean Shrimpton amazing actors? Well, no. But their apathetic approach sort of works anyway. Privilege is a very compelling pseudo-documentary and one which is very much relevant to this day and we loved it. For an interesting (and depressing) double feature, try pairing it with Framing Britney Spears. Or the Cheeto’s political career… Whatever bites your apple.

“Biting will cost you extra…”

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What we learned: Do not worship celebrities… Or probably anything, really.

Next time: Quatermass and the Pit (1967)

#284 Cool Hand Luke

Watched: November 15 2020

Director: Stuart Rosenberg

Starring: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, J. D. Cannon, Lou Antonio, Robert Drivas, Strother Martin, Jo Van Fleet, Dennis Hopper, Wayne Rogers

Year: 1967

Runtime: 2h 7min

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Lucas Jackson (Newman) is given 2 years for destruction of property after a drunken sabotage of parking meters. He’s sent to a chain gang where he first gets off on the wrong foot with his fellow prisoners, particularly Drag (Kennedy), before ultimately earning their respect for his cool manner, egg eating ability, and utter lack of fucks to give.

Behold the field in which I grow my fucks. Lay thine eyes upon it and thou shalt see that it is barren.

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Luke’s prison stay seems to go all right considering the circumstances. That is, until his mother (Fleet) dies. The guards are sympathetic and make arrangements for him to get a day’s leave to attend the funeral. Just kidding! They lock him up in their torture device “the box,” which is exactly what it says on the tin – a tiny wooden box where he is forced to spend his days/nights until the burial is over. The reason: he might be tempted to escape to go see his dead mother.

We could probably make a bunch of jokes comparing the size of the box to an average NYC apartment. But we’re better than that.

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After his stint in the torture-box, Luke, who seemed content enough to do his time when he sort of flew under the radar, has had enough. His new goal is to get out, and to cause as much disruption for the guards as possible. So he escapes. And is caught. And put in chains. And escapes. And is caught. And given even more chains. And then tortured physically and mentally to his breaking point.

“Please. No more. I can’t. It’s not right. It’s inhuman. No more burpees!!!”

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We loved, loved, loved this, and are cursing ourselves for having to get a ridiculously time consuming project like this in order to actually watch it. What took us so long? Do not make our mistake!

We’re tempted to punch a bitch. A.k.a. ourselves.

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Like most prison movies (we’re thinking The Hill, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Great Escape, etc.) Cool Hand Luke is infused with a distinct sense of dread, even through the scenes which are pleasant enough like the poker playing and the tarring of the road. You just know that this cannot possibly end well.

“Hey guys! Let’s humiliate the power hungry sadists pointing guns at us! It’ll be hilarious and not at all dangerous.”

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It’s also a fantastic cannot-hold-me-down-movie with a hero who is quietly rebellious and awesome throughout. And though his lack of self-preservation is a bit frustrating for sensible Norwegians, we recognize the defiance and opposition of Luke. We share those traits – we’d just break a lot sooner…

Also, none of us has ever eaten more than three eggs in a single sitting. Other than that, our similarities to Luke are uncanny. Uncanny.

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Also, we absolutely loved the gratuitous scantily-clad-woman-washing-car scene. Whether it’s the result of the sex starved imaginations of the prisoners, or a woman desperate for “safe” attention (they can’t really do anything), it’s hilarious.

Our similarities to “Lucille” are also uncanny. Uncanny.

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What we learned: Prison is all fun and games until they decide to break you.

Next time: Don’t Look Back (1967)

#283 Bonnie and Clyde

Watched: November 14 2020

Director: Arthur Penn

Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Michael J. Pollard, Estelle Parsons, Gene Wilder

Year: 1967

Runtime: 1h 51min

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Bonnie Parker (Dunaway) is a bored small town waitress looking for trouble. Trouble arrives in the form of recently released convict Clyde Barrow (Beatty). The two fall instantly in love when he tries to steal her mother’s car and then performs a robbery just to prove to Bonnie that he really is a convict.

“Impotence and poverty don’t bother me none, but there’s no way I’ll ever date a man who doesn’t have a record.”

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Bonnie and Clyde take off to travel around the US robbing and looting. You know, normal first-year-of-a-relationship-stuff. Soon, the two hook up with gas station attendant C.W. Moss (Pollard), kill their first man, and go see a musical. Two of those things might be more important to the plot than the other. Once Clyde’s brother Buck (Hackman) and his wife Blanche (Parsons) join the group as well, the Barrow gang is born.

We pillage, we plunder, we rifle and loot!
We kidnap and ravage and don’t give a hoot!
We also need all your money and a fourth for our barbershop quartet.

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The gang continue the crime spree started by the protagonists, and as they grow in notoriety and their crimes grow in brutality, the web starts closing in around them. It’s not long before law enforcement starts to catch up…

“No, ma’am, I ain’t here to arrest you. I just wanted a picture for the grandkids. Much obliged!”

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Bonnie and Clyde doesn’t really follow a traditional structure – it starts right in on the action and then has a fairly flat structure throughout, until the final shoot out and credits. Which is not a criticism – it works. There’s just not a lot of ups and downs in action and tension. In a lot of ways, it reminded us of some of the French movies we’ve watched from the ’60s, which is probably intentional from the director. The flat structure also gives it a bit of a documentary feel, although there’s very little else which gives that impression.

Least of all Gene Wilder’s face. There’s no way you can watch his scenes in this movie and not project the character of Fronkonsteen onto this hapless young man.

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We loved the old timey car chases, the costumes, the clip from Gold Diggers of 1933, and the match made in hell of Bonnie and Clyde. As always with movies based on real events, we fall for the temptation of doing some fact checking, and so here is some trivia, based on about 5 minutes of googling. Inaccuracies may occur.
1. There’s little evidence to substantiate the claim that Clyde Barrow was impotent or otherwise unable to perform sexually. There is however some evidence that he was brutally raped in prison, and also that he was bisexual.
2. The couple killed their first man in 1932, but then went right to the cinema to see a movie musical released in 1933. We can only conclude that the pair owned a time machine [citation needed].

“Hey, Clyde!” “Yeah, Bonnie?” “Do you think maybe we should have used that time travel thingamajig to foresee this predicament?” “Well, it’s too late now!” “Uhm… Is it..?”

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Despite the historical inaccuracies and the fact that Bonnie and Clyde never once used their time machine to do anything except watch movies, we really enjoyed this. It is of course an inaccurate version of the very real criminals, but they’re perhaps not overly romanticized – they’re both flawed people in difficult situations, neither heroic nor vilified. All in all, very good. And we can’t wait for the inevitable sequel where they team up with Marty McFly.

“Just gotta get this bad boy up to 88 mph and we are home free!”

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What we learned: The minute someone orders you to change your hair is the minute you should dump them. Also, Arthur Penn was in love with Faye Dunaway’s face.

Next time: Cool Hand Luke (1967)

#278 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Watched: September 22 2020

Director: Sergio Leone

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Lee van Cleef, Eli Wallach

Year: 1966

Runtime: 2h 58min

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We must admit that there’s little we can say about this movie other than how much we enjoyed it. But we’ll give it a go!

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Yodle-odle-ooooo! Wah-WAH-waaah…

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Blondie (Eastwood) and Tuco (Wallach), a.k.a. the Good and the Ugly, respectively, have a lovely little scheme going. Blondie hands over Tuco, a wanted man, to the authorities, collects the reward, then frees his partner just as he is about to be hanged for his crimes.

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Yodle-odle-ooooo! Wah-wah-WAAH!

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While they’re doing their thing and occasionally backstabbing each other for cash, Sentenza (Cleef), a.k.a. Angel Eyes a.k.a. the Bad, is a gun for hire who by accident learns about $200 000 hidden somewhere and goes off in search of a good pay day.

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Yodle-ooAAH! WAH-wa-wa-wa…

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Eventually, during another attempt at killing each other, Blondie and Tuco also learn of the money, and since they both hold some information about its location, they must stick together in order to claim their reward. Oh, and the American Civil War is also in full swing around them.

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Yodle-odle-ooooo! Wah-WAH-waaah…

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly might be the most famous Western in the world, and it certainly delivers. There’s dust, tumbleweed, weatherbeaten clothes, weatherbeaten men, weatherbeaten horses and donkeys, and lots of beautiful landscapes filled with cacti.

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Yodle-odle-ooooo! Wah-wah-WAAH!

It’s beautiful, intriguing, exciting, funny, tense, occasionally horrific, and thoroughly entertaining, even at three hours long. Ennio Morricone’s score alone is worth the time, and we love how Sergio Leone was not scared of making three hour epics and telling complex stories. If you’re only going to watch one Western in your life, this should be it. Although why on earth would you only watch one Western? They’re amazing!

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Yodle-ooAAH! WAH-wa-wa-wa…

What we learned: Never have a bath without a gun. Also, you’ll never get rid of this earworm…

Next time: Tokyo Drifter (1966)

#267 The Ipcress File

Watched: April 15 2019

Director: Sidney J. Furie

Starring: Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Guy Doleman, Sue Lloyd, Gordon Jackson, Frank Gatliff, Freda Bamford

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 49min

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Dr Radcliff boards the 7.55 to Nottingham and then promptly disappears – the last in a long line of misplaced scientist working for the British government.

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Pro tip: if scientists are disappearing at an alarming rate, try diversifying your reading material when in public.

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After a long and strange morning ritual (who goes through all that trouble to grind beans and make French press coffee and then NOT let it steep??? You’re basically drinking beige water at that point), Sergeant Harry Palmer (Caine) of the Ministry of Defence goes into work and is given a new mission recovering the misplaced scientific equipment.

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“He’s about yea high, grey hair, glasses, sort of sciency-looking..? Yeah, we keep losing him, so give us a call if someone turns him in, ok?”

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The “insubordinate trickster” Palmer starts to track down the main suspect, Albanian scientist-stealer “Bluejay” (Gatliff), alongside fellow spies and officers, including love interest Jean Courtney (Lloyd). However, it becomes clearer and clearer that there is a mole inside the British Army. Who can it be?

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In real life, our money would be on the guy with the obviously fake glasses.

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Can you do better than The Ipcress File if you’re in the mood for an espionage thriller with brainwashed scientists, sexual tension, double crossing weasels, cheeky yet charming scoundrels, and some sort of cooking fetish? Possibly. But you can certainly do a hell of a lot worse!

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We think this picture speaks for itself

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Michael Caine is more likable than he has any right to be, and we enjoyed the bureaucracy of espionage – you never see a single L101 in a Bond-film! We also loved the exchange in the parking garage, the library (we want one!), the bowler hats, all the lamps, the shot composition, and the sort of jazzy/noiry music.

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So many lamps. We kind of regret not counting them. Hit us up if you are bored enough to do that very thing! #coronahobbies

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Double this with The Manchurian Candidate for the perfect cold war/paranoia/science-gone-wild/brainwashing thriller evening. And kids? Stay home. Stay safe. Wash your hands and watch excellent movies.

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Make yourself a pot of stronger coffee than Harry and have yourself a marathon!

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What we learned: Don’t slouch like a pregnant camel. Also, Sister the Youngest learned the advantages of a revolver vs. an automatic for when you want to get away with a crime. Sister the Oldest has known for a very long time…

Next time: The Knack… And How to Get It (1965)

#265 The Collector

Watched: March 19 2019

Director: William Wyler

Starring: Terence Stamp, Samantha Eggar

Year: 1965

Runtime: 1h 59min

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Freddie Clegg (Stamp) is a socially awkward butterfly collector who’s convinced that the only reason he can’t get a date is because women won’t take the time to get to know him. Then one day he wins a large sum of money, buys a remote farmhouse, and decides to test his theory by kidnapping Miranda Grey (Eggar) – an art student he’s been stalking for a while.

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“Stop..!. struggling..! I am a nice.. *hnng* ..guy – I’m doing this for your own good.”

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After the initial shock of having been drugged and taken by a psychopath, Miranda decides the only way she’ll leave the house alive is if she plays along with her deranged “host.” She agrees to stay for four weeks, during which time Freddie believes he can Beauty-and-the-Beast her into falling in love with him.

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“Oh, you’ll be quite happy here in this cold, damp cellar prison I made you. You’ll have a bed, clothes, art supplies – everything a young woman could possibly need! Now love me. “

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The Collector may be from 1965 (based on a 1963 novel) but the parallels to certain contemporary movements are impossible to ignore. Freddie definitely doesn’t see himself as a bad guy (he’s a Nice Guy, you see – just misunderstood), but he also doesn’t see Miranda as human. She is only there to fulfill his needs – she has none of her own. And when she fails to act the way he wants her to, she has no more value to him.

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Trying to flood the house to get the attention of a neighbour when your host is finally letting you have a bath? Where were you raised???

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We absolutely loved this one, and were on the edge of our seat throughout. Terence Stamp was amazing as the psychopathic Freddie – his physicality as well as his sudden and chilly shifts in mood and attitude were fascinating to watch.

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The switches between childlike, innocent happiness and icy calculation are very creepy

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Samantha Eggar is similarly engaging as Miranda – she never loses her defiance despite having to negotiate and play along with her kidnapper. She, like us, never quite loses hope that she might eventually escape this hell.

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Despite her fear, Miranda tries to connect with and manipulate Freddie – anything to regain her freedom

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If you’re a fan of psychological horror and/or serial killers, The Collector is a classic and you simply must check it out. And what better time to watch a movie about someone being held against their will in a remote house than in the midst of a pandemic in which we’re being forced to stay inside our houses? If nothing else it will put your own isolation into perspective. (We hope you’re doing well though, and that you’re not too lonely, wherever you are. Stay inside and stay safe!)

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And even if you’re stuck inside, it’s still nice to occasionally dress up for dinner. Especially if you’re alone and not with the psychopath who abducted you… If that is the case, eat in your PJs. You deserve it.

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What we learned: NEVER hit them once and then try to run. You keep hitting until there’s nothing left but splattered brain matter (theoretically of course. Please do not organize a raid on our apartments. Or search our basement).

Next time: The Hill (1965)

#248 Zulu

Watched: November 17 2019

Director: Cy Endfield

Starring: Stanley Baker, Jack Hawkins, Ulla Jacobsson, James Booth, Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Patrick Magee, Mangosuthu Buthelezi

Year: 1964

Runtime: 2h 18min

Zulu

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The year is 1879. In South Africa, imperialism rules, but Zulus have attacked a white settlement and won, which inspires another tribe to do the same to a nearby mission/military hospital.

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“Yippee ki yay motherfuckers!”

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At the mission, Lieutenants Chard (Baker) and Bromhead (Caine) must learn to work together and cooperate if they are to defend themselves from the 4000 advancing Zulus with their own measly 150 soldiers, many wounded.

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“You think you’re so cool, riding in here with your title and rank and stupid sexy hair…”

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Zulu is a famous epic depicting real events with surprisingly little racism considering the subject matter and the time. Sure, we do not really see the Zulus’ side of the story, and they are a nameless, faceless, personalityless mass for most of the movie. However, they are also intelligent, strategic, cultured and honorable, which makes the film a lot less dated than we’d expect.

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Basically, they are people. And treated as people. Which should be a given but sadly is not.

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The cinematography is gorgeous, the characters are great (Bromhead is a very shady queen!), and the suspense is real. Also, fun fact, the Zulu king Cetshwayo kaMpande is played by his real life grandson Mangosuthu Buthelezi.

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However, no fun fact can compare to the glorious moustache of Colour-Sergeant Nigel Green

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We loved the arrival of the Zulu, the British adherence to protocol even in a crisis (proper tunic etiquette is to be observed at all times!), the action, and the game we made up wherein we recast the movie using only Monty Python members (they all correspond perfectly with a character in the film!). And did we mention it is gorgeous? Well worth a watch!

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“We’re knights if the round table, we dance whene’er we’re able. We do routines and chorus scenes with footwork impeccable…”

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What we learned: Invade someone’s land and they might be a bit pissed off.

Next time: #249 Bunny Lake is Missing (1965)

#247 Topkapi

Watched: December 17 2019

Director: Jules Dassin

Starring: Melina Mercouri, Peter Ustinov, Maximilian Schell, Robert Morley, Jess Hahn, Gilles Ségal, Akim Tamiroff

Year: 1964

Runtime: 2h 0min

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Elizabeth Lipp (Mercouri) has an obsession. Emeralds. And no emeralds are greater than the ones adorning the dagger of Sultan Mahmud I, currently on display at the Topkapi Palace in Istanbul. But how will she get her hands on it?

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“No locks or security measures are a match for my intense stare.”

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To execute a heist, she recruits ex-boyfriend Walter Harper (Schell) who in turn enlists a motley crew of amateurs. There’s mechanical magician and toy maker Cedric Page (Morley), mute acrobat Giulio (Ségal), and muscle man Hans (Hahn). Together, they will switch out the dagger with a replica and get away before anyone knows a robbery has even taken place. Or so they plan.

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Before any heist can be done, one needs to find one’s James Bond-looking ex to sort out the details.

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In order to get the weapons they need over the border from Greece, they pay small-time con man and designated “schmo” Arthur Simpson (Ustinov) to take a car across the border. However, when customs find the guns, the hapless Arthur is engaged as a spy for the Turkish government who fear an assassination is about to take place.

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Few things scream “International Man of Mystery” like this guy

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Arthur successfully infiltrates the group and becomes an integral part of their plan. But will they succeed? Will Arthur betray them? Will their cook Gerven (Tamiroff) ever shake his alcoholism? These are the questions which will haunt you. Until you watch the excellent Topkapi, that is.

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“Subtlety is my forte”

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This one had us hooked from the beginning. We loved the colourful, strange and magical opening and Elizabeth’s monologue to the camera. The kaleidoscopic filter added to the surreal feeling, and we were in for the ride!

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Much like Arthur himself!

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The heist was very exciting, and we also loved the colours, the humour, the suspense, Gerven the drunken cook, the sunglasses-wearing Turkish agent-dude, and the homoerotic oily wrestling. Not to mention 1000-films favourite Peter Ustinov. The man won Oscars and a knighthood, and has even been quoted on Criminal Minds! Which is among the greatest honours a person can receive.

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Pictured: his greatest achievement

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The only drawback was actually the person who promised to be the most intriguing – miss Elizabeth Lipp herself. Sure, the idea for the robbery was hers, and she opened the movie very strongly, but after recruiting her ex to plan the heist, she basically did nothing. Walter was the one to come up with the plan and get the others involved. Her role after the start was just to make out with all the men in turn and seduce a poor lighthouse keeper. And she had so much potential. Although she did redeem herself a bit in the end. All in all, another great heist movie from Jules Dassin.

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This scene alone is worth the investment of two hours of your life

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What we learned: Plan meticulously, execute cleanly, don’t get caught before, during or after.

Next time: Zulu (1964)

#243 The Masque of the Red Death

Watched: October 19 2019

Director: Roger Corman

Starring: Vincent Price, Hazel Court, Jane Asher, David Weston, Patrick Magee (double feature night with Seance – we had a Magevening!), Nigel Green, Skip Martin

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 29min

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An old woman is given a rose by a red-cloaked figure and all hell breaks loose.

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“She loves me, she loves me not…”

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Prince Prospero (Price) is a villain and a tyrant. And a satanist. After the Red Death appears in the village providing for his castle, he burns it to the ground with the exception of three villagers. Francesca (Asher), her father Ludovico (Green) and her betrothed Gino (Weston) are taken to the castle to provide entertainment.

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“No, what I’m saying is I’ll never win an axe throwing competition in this corset!”

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Prospero throws decadent parties for his rich friends to distract from the plague ravaging the outside world. He enjoys humiliating and mocking his guests, but as they seem to have little in the way of dignity, they tend not to mind.

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“See? I knew that corset wouldn’t hold her back!” “I’d still prefer if she took it off…”

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The prince is into some dark shit though, and his new goal quickly becomes to turn the Christian Francesca to his own faith. His wife (?) Juliana (Court) senses competition and decides to go all in with the whole Satan-thing to please her man. But will their close, personal relationship with the Devil save them from the looming threat outside?

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“Oh ordlay, ivethgay usway ouryay essingsblay. Amen-ay!”

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Another Poe, Price and Corman collaboration, and we’re living for it. Vincent Price is his usual fabulous self, and we loved the colours, the clothes, the sets and the story.

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“My interior decorator was going through a symbolic phase.”

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The start was almost Bergmany with Death hanging around playing cards, and in the end it comes full circle with a bunch of colour-coded Deaths (Illnesses? Plagues?) marching away in a conga line of doom.

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“Day-o! Daylight come and me wan’ go home!”

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An excellent Halloween movie and wonderful entertainment all around, The Masque of the Red Death is everything you would expect and more. Love, love, love this.

What we learned: Don’t sell your soul to Satan over a guy. Do it for yourself!

Next time: The Naked Kiss (1964)

#241 Red Desert/Il deserto rosso

Watched: October 16 2019

Director: Michelangelo Antonioni

Starring: Monica Vitti, Richard Harris, Carlo Chionetti

Year: 1964

Runtime: 1h 57min

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Giuliana (Vitti) is not doing too well. After a car accident she has not been herself, according to her husband Ugo (Chionetti). But was it the accident that changed her? Her conversations with her hubby’s business partner Corrado Zeller (Harris) reveal that all may not have been peachy even before the incident.

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“Oh, I’ve never had any ill effect from being the only dab of colour within miles. Never bothered me at all, no way!”

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Whatever the reason might be, she is clearly not completely stable, and Ugo is incapable of helping – or even understanding his wife. Corrado seems more sympathetic but he cannot help her either. Even the prospect of group sex cannot cheer her up, so you know it’s serious!

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Just one pineapple short of being a proper swingers party! (Yeah, this will probably only make sense to people in Molde, Norway. Thanks, Eirik!)

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All around Giuliana, nature is being ruined by industry and she is falling apart with it. She is utterly diconnected from her husband and most other people – even (or perhaps particularly?) her son. The only one she does connect with is Corrado, but it is a relationship which can’t save her.

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You cannot be saved by a man who enthusiastically engages in breaking apart and burning up your sexy, red bedroom cave for momentary warmth and comfort.

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Red Desert is beautiful, fragile and mesmerizing. The bleak environment feels a bit alien in many ways and the film is strangely hypnotic. As often before, we weren’t overly keen to start it (two hours of Italian drama is a lot on a Wednesday night after work) but we were drawn in from the beginning and we really loved it.

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We do enjoy a good fog!

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We loved the music, the long takes, Monica Vitti, and the slow development of the affair. Although we found the sex scene very uncomfortable – we’re still not quite sure this was what she wanted..?

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Her look suggests “trapped animal” more than “sexually aroused woman”, but perhaps we’re reading her wrong…

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Definitely one to rewatch at some point!

What we learned: It’s hard to manoeuvre through life with a broken gyroscope.

Next time: Seance on a Wet Afternoon (1964)