Tag Archives: cheat sheet

The Ridley Scott Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

ALIEN (1979) and PROMETHEUS (2012)

There aren’t many filmmakers who have provided us with such perfect before and after shots. Sure, Hitchcock did two versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much and Michael Haneke remade his own Funny Games, but these films weren’t quite the career bookends that Ridley’s duelling Alien films are. His second feature, Alien, remains one of cinema’s most ensuring masterclasses in How To Get Everything Perfectly Right. Character, tension, dialogue, horror, pacing… no element has been shortchanged in favour of any other, and it all seems so damn effortless, like an observational documentary gone awry. Even after decades of influence and numerous pretenders, its impact remains remarkably intact. So when Scott returned to the universe for prequel Prometheus, he tried to recreate the feeling of a clean slate. The film was not promoted as an Alien prequel, but rather its own fresh thing, with familiar images slowly cluing the audience in as the film progressed. Prometheus has its defenders and its detractors, but no matter of your feelings for it, there’s no better way to compare the tastes, interests, sensibilities and evolution of a filmmaker than by watching him make essentially the same film at the start of his career and then again at the end.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Alien, seek out Blade Runner (1982). If this film has somehow managed to elude you, then use our show as an excuse to correct that grave error. There are numerous editions, and good arguments for each one, but if you’re after guidance then you can’t go wrong with the 1991 “Director’s Cut”. If you can’t get or have already seen Prometheus, get your hands on All the Money in the World (2017) (and you thought we were going to say Alien: Covenant, right?). If you’ve been disillusioned by some of Ridley’s recent films and think his best work is behind him, then prepare to be shaken by the sheer energy, pace and confidence behind the direction of this brilliant work.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Ridley Scott? Then you should track down The Duellists (1977). It’s weird that Scott’s lush, epic debut feature should have fallen into the cracks of semi-obscurity, but when your subsequent films alter pop culture forever, a demotion is understandable. Nevertheless, Scott’s first film is a confident, stunning work of tension, with every shot an oil painting. Do not miss this one.

The 100th episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Greg McLean talking the films of Ridley Scott, will be released on 30 September 2018.

The John Hughes Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

THE BREAKFAST CLUB (1985) and PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES (1987)

If you get right down to it, there are primarily two types of John Hughes films. The first is the type he’s best known for: the teen angst comedy. Adolescent desires and frustrations are depicted through low-fi high concepts: what if you family forgot your 16th birthday? How much life could you live if you skipped school for a day? What if five kids with nothing in common had to spend a Saturday in detention together? The Breakfast Club is perhaps the ultimate Hughes film: it’s fully committed to its elevator pitch, it digs into uncomfortable emotional territory, it’s funny as hell, and it features Molly Ringwald. It’s essentially all the Hughes teen films smashed into one, which is why we’ve programmed it as your first film of the evening. Then we follow it up with that other perennial John Hughes film: the frustrated family man who just wants to do right by his family. From Mr Mom to She’s Having a Baby to the Vacation series, Hughes was consumed with how life and circumstance conspire to thwart the best-intentioned husband and dad. With Planes, Trains and Automobiles, he turned his successful Vacation formula on its head, this time featuring a man trying to escape the road to return to his family. Whether troubled teen or desperate dad, these two films should give you a good idea of what drove Hughes. Quite literally in the case of Planes, Trains.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The Breakfast Club, seek out Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986). It’s more broadly comic than his other teen films, but you still get a fair bit of emotional heft from Cameron’s paternal woes. And the fantasy concept of skiving off school and having the greatest day of your life is one that remains deeply appealing regardless of your age. If you can’t get or have already seen Planes, Trains and Automobiles, get your hands on National Lampoon’s Vacation (1989). The story of an eager dad trying to give his family the best holiday possible was such a huge hit, it spawned three sequels, a Superbowl ad, an in-canon reboot, and a made-for-TV spinoff. (Are you one of the seven people who has seen Cousin Eddie’s Island Adventure? Let us know in the comments!)

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of John Hughes? Then you should track down Career Opportunities (1991). Sure, it doesn’t quite fit the remit of “gem”, but it certainly qualifies as “hidden”. A more grown-up version of Home Alone, the film focuses on an ambitious but lazy young man who becomes the overnight custodian of a department store on what ends up being the most fateful of nights. It’s a fun watch, but still more a curiosity than anything else: an example of how the formula that made Home Alone work can so easily not work if some of the elements are tweaked too far.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Daina Reid talking the films of John Hughes, will be released on 31 August 2018.

The Nora Ephron Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

HEARTBURN (1986) and SLEEPLESS IN SEATTLE (1993)

If you want to really get to know Nora Ephron as both a writer and a person, you’ve got to kick off your evening with Heartburn. Directed by Mike Nichols and starring Meryl Streep & Jack Nicholson, Ephron based Heartburn on her own autobiographical novel about her marriage to Carl Bernstein. With Ephron as both storyteller and subject, there are few works as revealing or insightful as this gem of a film. Follow it up with Sleepless In Seattle, her second film as director and eighth film as writer. You’ve probably seen Sleepless, but look, it can’t hurt to see it again. A flawlessly-constructed romcom that holds up despite the countless pretenders that have since diluted the genre into meaningless pap, Sleepless is masterful at both the rom and the com aspects, packed with brilliant one-liners, interesting characters, and humans behaving like humans instead of cardboard tropes. If you’re wondering why Ephron is so highly regarded, this pair of films will put that question to rest.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Heartburn, seek out This Is My Life (1992). Ephron’s directorial debut wasn’t as autobiographical as Heartburn, but it definitely drew on her experiences as a woman struggling to hit it big in the entertainment world as she raises a couple of kids alone. And the physical similarities between Ephron and star Julie Kavner can’t be ignored. If you can’t get or have already seen Sleepless In Seattle, get your hands on When Harry Met Sally (1989). Directed by Rob Reiner (whom Ephron would later cast in Sleepless and Mixed Nuts), this is the all-time classic of the genre. Funny and engaging, satisfying yet unpredictable, this is one of Ephron’s best scripts, and would play a big role in setting the tone of her directorial career.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Nora Ephron? Then you should track down Perfect Gentlemen (1978). This is the film that started it all. Her first produced film was a made-for-TV movie that features Lauren Bacall, Ruth Gordon, Sandy Dennis and Lisa Pelikan as a group of women who meet after visiting their husbands in prison, and decide to band together and rob a bank. It’s a bit hard to track down (a low-res but watchable version may possibly be findable online if you cast around a bit), but it’s absolutely worth it.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Corrie Chen talking the films of Nora Ephron, will be released on 31 July 2018.

The Alan J Pakula Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

ALL THE PRESIDENT’S MEN (1976) and THE PELICAN BRIEF (1993)

We said this in the episode announcement, but we’ll say it again: Alan J Pakula was cinema’s poet laureate of paranoia. His filmography is consumed with conspiracy thrillers both real and imagined, and sitting high atop that mountain, and high atop the canon of really all cinema, is All the President’s Men. The ink wasn’t dry on Nixon’s resignation when this film hit cinemas, and perhaps it’s that lack of perspective that helped keep it from becoming an overt rallying cry. There is not a moment of sentiment in this procedural ode to investigative journalism, and it remains the gold standard of rewatchable, engaging, relevant cinema. And look, nothing can possibly follow it, so you should probably just watch it twice. Or, alternately, take a swing at The Pelican Brief. We’re not necessarily recommending this because it’s also a great work; more because it helps define the second overwhelming sphere of Pakula’s career. The song remains the same – government conspiracies, massive cover-ups, terrifying parking garages – but the style is a world away, as Julia Roberts’s law student teams up with Denzel Washington’s journalist to run away from bad guys with guns as they shine a light on a conspiracy that goes all the way to the White House. These films may look similar if you’re squinting at a one-line synopsis, but they are, in more ways than one, chalk and cheese. And that’s exactly why they make the perfect double if you want to get your head around Pakula in one easy viewing.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen All the President’s Men, seek out The Parallax View (1974). If not for President, Pakula would likely be remembered as the guy behind The Parallax View, a brilliantly understated work of paranoia. This time we’re watching a fictitious threat, but told with the same verisimilitude as his Watergate-based follow-up. If you can’t get or have already seen The Pelican Brief, get your hands on Presumed Innocent (1990). The Harrison Ford thriller is arguably the baseline for the legal thrillers that came to dominate the 1990s; it’s very possible that Pelican author John Grisham was himself bitten by a radioactive Presumed Innocent. It’s also the first of Pakula’s ’90s polyptych of highly-stylised thrillers, and would, whether intentionally or unintentionally, set the tone for the remainder of his career.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Alan J Pakula? Then you should track down Sophie’s Choice (1982). Before you protest and claim that Sophie’s Choice is actually mentioned quite often, ask yourself this: is it the film itself that everyone refers to, or the title, which through standard pop culture overuse has become the rote go-to phrase that refers to any mildly aggravating choice, from deciding New Year’s Eve plans to choosing between sandwich condiments. If you’ve not seen it, the film is nothing like its reputation; surprisingly light and far from the unrelentlingly bleak prospect many believe it to be. Give it a spin. You might be surprised.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Alex Ross Perry talking the films of Alan J Pakula, will be released on 30 June 2018.

The Bong Joon-ho Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

MEMORIES OF MURDER (2003) and OKJA (2017)

It’s safe to say Bong Joon-ho has never repeated himself, but if you absolutely had to divide his filmography into distinct hemispheres, you could justify labelling one basket “gritty murder mysteries in small towns” and another “high-concept, possibly involving a giant monster”. So kick your evening off with Memories of Murder, which we’ll reductively but usefully describe as the South Korean Zodiac. Inspired by the country’s first recorded serial killer, the film follows a local detective partnered with a city detective, and digs into the processes and mistakes the pair makes as they try to catch the killer. Not afraid of overselling this one: it’s easily one of the best modern police procedurals you’re likely to see. Once you’ve seen that, follow it up with Okja, The fantasy-action film follows a young girl who runs away to save the life of her beloved gigantic pig, falling in with a group of animal liberationists as they try to rescue the genetically engineered creature from the ominous Mirando Corporation. Beloved by audiences and critics, the film was nominated for a Palme d’Or at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, and is available right this second on Netflix.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Memories of Murder, seek out Mother (2009). When her son is accused of a terrible murder, a woman who sells medicinal herbs sets about trying to prove his innocence, becoming increasingly forceful as she finds herself blocked at every turn. If you can’t get or have already seen Okja, get your hands on Snowpiercer (2013), which is also on Netflix, and also features a perfectly over-the-top Tilda Swinton performance. Our world has frozen over, and all that’s left of humanity resides in a super train that travels the world. The rich and powerful reside at the front, and the poor and destitute are kept at the back, at least until a group from the rear of the train decide it’s time to mount a revolution, and begin an odyssey through the microcosmic societies that have formed down the carriage line.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Bong Joon-ho? Then you should track down Barking Dogs Never Bite (2000). Bong’s first film foreshadows a lifelong preoccupation with idiosyncratic characters, his fascination with the relationship between humans and animals, and a tendency to lean on unexpected musical cues and styles. If you’re a fan of Bong, this is an essential and little-seen piece of the puzzle.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Abe Forsythe talking the films of Bong Joon-ho, will be released on 31 May 2018.

The Dennis Hopper Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

EASY RIDER (1969) and COLORS (1988)

Not all filmmakers create a work that changes cinema and continues to resonate for the next five decades, and those that do rarely achieve such a feat with their debut. Dennis Hopper was no mere vanity actor-turned-director, launching Easy Rider into the zeitgeist and creating a work that served as an icon for both the counterculture movement as well as its inevitable death. Nothing but respect for my Captain America. Once you’ve finished watching that film, throw on Colors. This intense crime drama stars Sean Penn and Robert Duvall as unlikely partners, upending the cliché of the experienced elder cop and the brash young upstart even as the genre was taking root. It’s a product of its time, but it’s not dated the way it might have… or perhaps even the way it should have, given the issues it’s dealing with could easily be ripped from today’s headlines. It’s remarkably nuanced work from Hopper, who perhaps should get as many plaudits for this work as he does Easy Rider. Either way, this is a hell of a double.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Easy Rider, seek out The Last Movie (1971). It’s not exactly a beloved film, and its reputation is that of a total disaster, but the same dystopic 1970s feel that drove Easy Rider drives The Last Movie. It is a film of excess, a difficult and indulgent second album, and really worth a watch. If you can’t get or have already seen Colors, get your hands on The Hot Spot (1990). This gritty film noir set in a sun-drenched small town stars Don Johnson, Virginia Madsen and Jennifer Connelly, and is definitely a minor classic, particularly if you’re a fan of ’90s thrillers.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Dennis Hopper? Then you should track down Out of the Blue (1980). This drama about a young girl whose obsession with music helps distract her from domestic dramas is remarkably nuanced work from Hopper, and deserves to be ranked with his best.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Noah Segan talking the films of Dennis Hopper, will be released on 31 March 2018.

The William Friedkin Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

THE FRENCH CONNECTION (1971) and THE EXORCIST (1973)

It’s not a slight on William Friedkin’s later career that we picked two films from the 1970s. It’s just that, well, how do you not go with these titles? The French Connection is a procedural crime film best remembered for featuring one of the greatest and most tension-filled car chases of all time, but there’s so much more to it than that. It’s hard to think of many other films of this ilk with characters, dialogue and detail this complex, which is probably why it gets exponentially better on every viewing. Once you’ve finished watching the adventures of Popeye Doyle, pop on a copy of The Exorcist. If this is your first viewing, then we won’t spoil the surprises that are to come. You already know its reputation as one of the most terrifying and genre-changing horror films of all time, and its impact has certainly not been lessened with time. Watch these two films back-to-back and you’ll not only have the best possible night in, but you’ll gain a good understanding of what made Friedkin one of the greats.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The French Connection, seek out Cruising (1980). The film about cop Al Pacino investigating a serial killer targeting gay men was controversial upon its release, and its reputation remains contentious. But the procedural detail that drove French Connection drives this film, and it’s certainly one you can’t afford to let pass you by. If you can’t get or have already seen The Exorcist, get your hands on Sorcerer (1977). Based on the same Georges Arnaud novel that inspired Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Wages of Fear (1953), Sorcerer follows a group of men tasked with transporting unstable explosives over brutally rough terrain. If you can, see it as big and as loud as possible. And try good luck extracting your fingers from the arm rests afterwards.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of William Friedkin? Then you should track down The Boys in the Band (1970). Adapted by Mart Crowley from his own play, the film is about… actually, we’ll let imdb take on the responsibility of synopsising: “Tempers fray and true selves are revealed when a heterosexual is accidentally invited to a homosexual party.” It goes without saying that much of the content will look dated to a 2018 audience, but that’s true of all films, and should not put you off checking it out.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Andrew Kevin Walker talking the films of William Friedkin, will be released on 28 February 2018.

The Robert Wise Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951) and WEST SIDE STORY (1961)

There wasn’t any type of film Robert Wise couldn’t make. His first six films included two horrors, a period drama, a thriller, a courtroom drama, and a crime noir. He was a polymath long before he’d even dipped his toe into science fiction or musicals, and he conquered those genres as comprehensively as he did the others. Your evening kicks off with The Day the Earth Stood Still, an enduring classic and easily one of the most influential science fiction films of all time. It’s pulp with heart, a fascinating angle on the alien invasion trope that turns the spotlight on humanity with such brutality, it feels like it was made for audiences from Klaatu’s home planet. There’s no better cautionary tale about the morality of human beings, and we guarantee you’ll be pretty wary of them after seeing this film. Once that’s done, switch gears and pop on West Side Story. This film feels like the musical genre’s missing link, bridging the gap between the classic MGM musicals of the Freed Unit, and the more modern, less sanitised genre it eventually became. As an update of Romeo and Juliet, it’s inspired. As a commentary on the American Dream and systemic racism, it’s years ahead of its time. As a musical, it’s one of the greatest of all time, with music by the legendary Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by an offensively-young Stephen Sondheim. As a film, it is a certified classic, beautifully shot and perfectly choreographed. Watch these two films back to back and you’ll be a confirmed Robert Wise fan before the night is over.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The Day the Earth Stood Still, seek out The Set-Up (1949). This is one of the earliest examples of a film running in real time, beating High Noon to the screen by three years. An aging boxer refuses to throw a fight, despite the threat from gangsters trying to put the fix on. It’s one of the greatest boxing films of all time, and a personal favourite of Martin Scorsese in case our recommendation isn’t enough for you. If you can’t get or have already seen West Side Story, get your hands on The Sound of Music (1965), that other legendary Robert Wise musical about a girl named Maria. This film oscillates between its reputation as cornball sing-song and Nazi-flag-ripping meme, but there’s a reason it endured long after musicals fell out of vogue. If you only know the film from a few melodic snippets and one Austrian helicopter shot, clear an evening and sit down with one of the seminal works of cinema history.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Robert Wise? Then you should track down Audrey Rose (1977). Anthony Hopkins stars as a man who believes that the daughter of a New York couple is his own daughter reincarnated, and that’s all we’re going to say. It’s tense, dramatic, and constantly surprising; the biggest mystery is how it’s managed to elude classic status for so long.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Eloise Ross talking the films of Robert Wise, will be released on 31 January 2018.

The Maurice Pialat Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

NAKED CHILDHOOD (1968) and UNDER THE SUN OF SATAN (1987)

Maurice Pialat’s first feature film, Naked Childhood, was released in 1968. It was considered by critics to be a social commentary, but Pialat disagreed. His beautiful debut about foster children trying to fit in with their adopted families deliberately avoided the fraught political arguments of late 1960s France, and instead concentrated on the real lives of the French working class. It showcases the stunning naturalistic performances that would become a hallmark of Pialat’s work, and immediately cemented him as one of France’s best emerging auteurs. The film was nominated for a Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, and was awarded the Prix Jean Vigo in France. At a pacey 83 minutes, it’s the perfect film to kick off this double, which continues with his 1987 film Under the Sun of Satan. Gerard Depardieu stars as a zealous rural priest determined to save the soul of a young woman, played by the extraordinary Sandrine Bonnaire, who has shot dead her lover. It is a deeply religious film clearly made by a self-professed atheist, and is a starkly beautiful and chilling masterpiece. It was the first French film in 21 years to win the Palm d’Or at Cannes, a decision that was met with some controversy, as you’ll hear on the show. Watch these films back-to-back and you’ll not only have a perfect evening of film viewing, but you’ll come away with a firm grasp on the filmmaker Pialat was and the filmmaker he became.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Naked Childhood, seek out To Our Loves (1983). The screen debut of frequent Pialat collaborator Sandrine Bonnaire, the story of a family threatened by the bourgeoning sexuality of their daughter is unforgettable and intense, and even features Pialat on screen as the family’s patriarch. And he’s a damn good actor. If you can’t get or have already seen Under the Sun of Satan, get your hands on Van Gogh (1991). Vincent Van Gogh is a passion subject for so many filmmakers, and Pialat had been preoccupied with the artist his whole life. The film covers the final 67 days of Van Gogh’s life, and is unsentimental and beautiful at once, concentrating more closely on his personal life than his work. Most of Pialat’s films ran close to the 90 minute mark, but Van Gogh comes to an epic 158 minutes, and every second of it is earned.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Maurice Pialat? Then you should track down The House in the Woods (1971). Long before renowned auteurs like Jane Campion, David Fincher, Susanne Bier and David Lynch moved from cinema to short-form TV, Pialat directed this seven-part TV series for French television. Written by Rififi co-screenwriter René Wheeler, the series follows the citizens of a small village during World War One. It ranks alongside Pialat’s best work, with some surprisingly funny moments and unexpected diversions. The extra room suited him well, and he doesn’t waste a moment of the extended running time as he takes us deep into the lives of his characters.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Luca Guadagnino talking the films of Maurice Pialat, will be released on 31 December 2017.

The Roman Polanski Cheat Sheet

Want to become an instant expert in our filmmaker of the month without committing yourself to an entire filmography? Then you need the Hell Is For Hyphenates Cheat Sheet: we program you a double feature that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but will bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

ROSEMARY’S BABY (1968) and THE PIANIST(2002)

We demand autobiography from auteurs. As soon as we grant adjective status to an artist – Hitchcockian, Bergmanesque, Spielbergy – we begin combing obsessively through their work in order to cunningly infer insight into their personal lives. Few filmmakers have met this requirement as forcefully as Roman Polanski. His horror film Rosemary’s Baby is either an all-time classic or an embarrassing clunker depending on who you ask, with the film dividing cinephiles like few other canonised works. The story of a pregnant woman who comes to believe that she is the subject of occultist manipulations made s aplsh on its release, but took on a whole new meaning when, the following year, Polanski’s pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered by the Manson Family cult. Once you’ve watched that, continue your evening of biographical tourism with The Pianist, Polanski’s 2002 Holocaust drama. Although it is a biography of Polish-Jewish pianist Władysław Szpilman, it is set in a time and place that Polanski himself experience as a child, and so there is a palpable verisimilitude to the aesthetics and detail and drama. Details from Polanski’s childhood colour the film, details from his life repurposed and merged with Szpilman’s. Both Rosemary’s Baby and The Pianist are two essential stories, not just because they adaptively relate key parts of Polanski’s life, but because they are enduring works in their own rite that bookend a career, presenting the filmmaker he was in the 20th century, and the one he became in the 21st.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Rosemary’s Baby, check out Chinatown (1974). Arguably the best film in his canon, Chinatown is an enduring exemplar of the gumshoe genre, grittier and darker than its Hayes Code-curbed antecedents could ever afford to be. If you can’t get or have already seen The Pianist, check out Carnage (2011). Latter-day Polanski has displayed a repeated interest in adapting single-location stageplays to the screen, irising in on the human drama of people bottled in a confined space. Carnage is arguably the best of the lot, as two couples (Jodie Foster & John C Reilly and Kate Winslet & Christoph Waltz) poke and prod at one another over the course of an afternoon.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Roman Polanski? Then you should seek out Knife in the Water (1962). It’s strange to suggest a renowned filmmaker’s debut film is somehow “hidden”, but with so much of the conversation around Polanski’s filmography beginning with his arrival in the United States, the early work is often pushed to the background. His first feature, shot on location in Poland, tells the story of a wealthy couple who invite a hitchhiker to join them on their yacht. Tensions, as they often do, escalate. It’s a remarkable entrance, skilled and confident, and leaves little doubt as to why his career took off with such sudden force.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Emma Westwood talking the films of Roman Polanski, will be released on 30 November 2017.