Discovering good movies, one bad movie at a time

Ingmar Bergman, as we all know, stopped making movies with Fanny and Alexander. His next movie, two years later, was After the Rehearsal, and this was a point of much friction between him and his foreign distributor, Triumph Films. For Bergman, it was extremely important that nothing else he ever made after Fanny and Alexander be […]

You are Ingmar Bergman, one of the most famous motion picture directors in the history of the medium, and you have just completed Fanny and Alexander, a monumental declaration of your intention to be done with the art form, having said all you will ever say with it. And critics have agreed, anointing the film […]

Reviews of all episodes: Episode 1: “Mangrove” (15 November 2020) Episode 2: “Lovers Rock” (22 November 2020) Episode 3: “Red, White and Blue” (29 November 2020) Episode 4: “Alex Wheatle” (6 December 2020) Episode 5: “Education” (13 December 2020)

Education, the fifth and final entry in director Steve McQueen’s Small Axe anthology is almost certainly the most straightforward: as a narrative, a delivery system for a political message, as an aesthetic object. Whether this is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder; for myself, I will not pretend to be a […]

The consensus of opinion, as far as I can tell, is that Alex Wheatle, the fourth episode of Small Axe, is also the weakest, granting an exceptionally high lower bound for “weakness”. I don’t agree, but it’s not hard to understand why somebody might come to that conclusion: the 67-minute story (written and directed, as […]

It would hardly be righ to expect a filmmaker to crank out what amounts to five consecutive feature films all right in a row and have absolutely no detectable drop in quality, so the fact that Small Axe, Steve McQueen’s five-part TV anthology, couldn’t keep knocking out one Lovers Rock after another isn’t surprising, and […]

Every film director in the history of the medium has made, or will have made, their final film. Most of them scrape out some dumb nonsense, the kind of half-assed project that a fading, aging artist can get financed. The lucky ones are able to do so at least semi-knowingly, ending their career on a […]

For such a tiny sliver of a thing – 70 minutes long, set almost entirely in one location, almost nothing “happens” – Lovers Rock feels like it’s almost boundless in how much it can yield up to its viewer. This is true simply at the level of how we encounter it: taken purely on its […]

Steve McQueen’s Small Axe project has been gestating almost as long as he’s had a career as a film director: for a full decade, he was attempting to put together what ended up as a five-part television anthology series of stories (some of them based on true events) about life among the West Indian population […]

For what would prove to be the final film of his self-imposed exile in West Germany, Ingmar Bergman wanted to finally honor the cinema of his host country, rather than keep making quasi-Swedish chamber dramas as if nothing had changed but the address of his studio. And indeed, that is very much what he ended […]

There was no need for a follow-up to Fårö Document, a decade later, just as there was no reason not to make a follow-up to Fårö Document. And so it is that Ingmar Bergman tentatively returned to his native Sweden, around three years after declaring that he would never under any imaginable circumstances do so, […]

By almost any conceivable metric, the experimental short film The Dance of the Damned Women/The Condemned Women Dance is the most minor work of Ingmar Bergman’s mature career, and maybe even putting the qualifier “mature” in there is unnecessary. Possibly its single biggest point of significance is that it was the last project the director […]