Tag Archives: cheat sheet

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.

The Jean-Pierre Jeunet 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 CITY OF LOST CHILDREN (1995) and AMELIE (2001)

These doubles that we program for you always work best when a filmmaker has two or more distinct phases to their career, and when each of those phases contains at least one work of total genius. In that spirit, Jean-Pierre Jeunet may have provided us with the material for our greatest cheat sheet to date. Your evening kicks off with The City of Lost Children, the dark futuristic fairytale that Jeunet co-directed with his long-time collaborator Marc Caro. This film about a scientist kidnapping children so he can capture their dreams is terrifying and beautiful and hilarious and one of the most startlingly original works of the 1990s. Once you’ve watched that, follow it up with Amelie. Jeunet was now flying solo, and created this modern magical romance about a woman who takes it upon herself to improve the lives of everyone around her. In anyone else’s hands, this film would be overly twee and painfully quaint, but Jeunet is far too clever for that. Amelie may be sweet and sentimental, but it is decidedly unselfconscious and unafraid to engage with the darker aspects of life and humanity. And it’s perfect.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The City of Lost Children, check out Delicatessen (1991). The first feature from Jeunet and Caro was a post-apocalyptic black comedy that remains as romantic as it is cannibalistic. Dark, funny and original, it remains an absolute must-watch. If you can’t get or have already seen Amelie, check out A Very Long Engagement (2004). Whereas Audrey Tatou’s Amélie was consumed with creating mysteries, her Mathilde is all about solving them. Following an almost impossible series of clues, Mathilde is determined to discover what happened to her fiancé, thought killed in the trenches of World War One. It’s slightly more full-on than Amelie, but retains the beauty, delight and tangents that made the former so successful.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet? Then you should check out Micmacs (2009). If “quirky” hasn’t become something of a derogatory term, that’s the word we’d use to describe this film about a man with a bullet stuck in his head who falls in with a group of misfits, and with them takes down a pair of international arms dealers. Jeunet himself described it as a cross between Delicatessen and Amelie, so it could also be the perfect film to watch if you only have time for one.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Adam Elliot talking the films of Jean-Pierre Jeunet, will be released on 31 October 2017.

The Sylvester Stallone 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…

ROCKY II (1979) and ROCKY BALBOA (2006)

If you’ve never seen a Rocky film, this double still works surprisingly well in isolation. Rocky II, like nearly all the Rocky films, kicks off with a Previously On montage, so you get a good idea of what you missed in the previous film. Stallone wrote all the Rocky films, but II was his first entry in the franchise as director, and he doesn’t venture too far from the style that John G Avildsen established in the original. There are some differences, and these differences highlight Stallone’s interests: he’s clearly influenced by vérité of New Hollywood, and yet these are still films about ordinary people becoming extraordinary. Throughout the big fight, Stallone lowers the camera so the fighters go from humans to heroes, towering above us. It’s deft work from Stallone so early in his career. When you’re done with Rocky II, put on Rocky Balboa. This was the big comeback for both Stallone and his character, 16 years after the series had seemingly wrapped up. For a film that’s all about a boxer from the ’70s coming up against a boxer in the ’00s, it has the feel of a director from the ’70s trying to hold onto what worked once before in a Hollywood that’s long-since moved on to greener pastures. But the film works; Rocky’s still got it, and so does Stallone.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Rocky II, check out Paradise Alley (1978). This was the first film Stallone ever wrote, and after the phenomenal success of the first Rocky, he was given the chance to direct it. The story of a low-rent hustler who convinces his brother to become a wrestler so they can make some fast cash is a pretty fascinating entry in the Stallone canon. If you can’t get or have already seen Rocky Balboa, check out Rambo (2008). In a two-year period, Stallone revisited his two most iconic characters with unsentimental postscripts. The lack of Roman numerals suggests that, as with Rocky Balboa, this was designed to be the final entry. There’s not as much solemn introspection in Rambo, but that makes it all the more profound: Rocky’s world may be long gone, but John Rambo’s remains. The conflicts of the past take on new yet similar guises, and those who try to help are quickly forgotten. But most importantly, it’s crazy violent yo!

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of Sylvester Stallone? Then you should probably check out Staying Alive (1983). Chances are you’ve forgotten that Stallone directed the sequel to Saturday Night Fever (1977) – yeah, the BeeGees film with John Travolta – because it’s one of those facts that seems impossible to grasp onto, regardless of how many times you’ve heard it or even seen the film itself. But it happened. And if you want to see Stallone directing something that doesn’t involve high-stakes combat sports or the graphic shooting of faceless bad guys, this is something you really need to see.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Michael Ian Black talking the films of Sylvester Stallone, will be released on 30 September 2017.

The George Miller 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…

MAD MAX 2: THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981) and BABE: PIG IN THE CITY (1998)

How do you pick two films that satisfactorily summarise the career of someone like George Miller? It’s not easy, but we think we can do it, and we’re gonna do it with sequels. Your evening kicks off with Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, the film that obliterates the ambition of every other sequel in history by casually pointing out that there was an apocalypse at some point between the first film and the second. That brazen move is enough to make this a must-see, but it’s also one of the greatest Australian films of all time, one that helped redefine an entire nation’s cinema. Max is an anti-hero for the ages, a road warrior reluctantly enlisted as saviour by a group of desperate survivalists. Once you’re finished this dystopic action film, follow up with that other George Miller sequel set in a familiar yet distant reality, Babe: Pig in the City. Considered a disaster on its release, the film has since been reassessed as a modern classic, a dark fairytale that feels like something the Brothers Grimm would make if they were filmmakers. It’s got heart and there’s a morality lesson, but there’s also a lot of very strange and disturbing stuff you don’t normally see in a family film. Which is part of the reason it works so well.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, get your hands on the original: Mad Max (1979). It may be slightly eclipsed by subsequent entries, but the pre-apocalyptic ur-text is still an all-timer. If you can’t get or have already seen Babe: Pig in the City, track down Happy Feet Two (2011). Like Pig in the City, this is another sequel ostensibly aimed at kids, but refuses to walk the same ground as its predecessor as it leans hard into a bleaker tale for its heroes.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about the films of George Miller? There aren’t that many to choose from given every film he’s made holds an important place in the canon, but it appears that Lorenzo’s Oil (1992) may have slipped a little out of the general consciousness recently. And that’s a shame, because the only outright drama that Miller made is as deft and compelling as his genre work, a tear-jerking true story about two parents giving up everything to find a cure for their son’s disease.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, in which we discuss the films of George Miller, will be released on 30 August 2017.

The Wes Anderson 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 ROYAL TENENBAUMS (2001) and THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)

Some people feel that Donnie Darko is the best indie film of 2001. What this post presupposes is: maybe it isn’t. If Hi4H is somehow ground zero for your experience with the works of Wes Anderson, you cannot do much better than to recommend you The Royal Tenenbaums. This story about an estranged family of geniuses is almost everything you need to know about Anderson’s style: it’s incredibly funny, genuinely touching, and an absolute aesthetic delight, with the formal lines and bright colours Anderson would become known for deployed to full effect. To be honest, this film is probably all you need to get a firm grasp on Wes Anderson, but the moment it’s over you’re going to want to watch some more. Your evening continues with The Grand Budapest Hotel, his Stefan Zweig-inspired Mandelbrot about the employees and guests at a hotel in the fictitious land of Zubrowka, particularly concierge Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes in an all-time performance). Anderson nudges his already-fantastical style even further away from reality, so that it almost feels at certain points as if we’re watching a marionette show or stop motion cartoon. The eccentricities are undercut by a genuine darkness, yet the film remains a complete delight; hilarious and gorgeous and eminently rewatchable.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The Royal Tenenbaums, check out Rushmore (1998). Anderson’s second film is the one that him on the map, with endlessly quotable lines and Jason Schwartzman’s ostentatious Max Fischer high schooler easily one of the more memorable characters in recent years. If you can’t get or have already seen The Grand Budapest Hotel, get your hands on Moonrise Kingdom (2012). Set in the 1960s, Moonrise follows two 12-year-olds who fall in love and resolve to run away together. A maelstrom ensues as their friends, family and the police take off in search of them, in this stunning fable of love and danger.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned when people talk about Wes Anderson? With a filmography as taut as Andersons – at time of writing, a total of eight released features with a ninth in production – it’s difficult to find a lesser-known film. So we’re compelled to recommend Bottle Rocket (1996), his debut feature, and the one that has still gone unseen by many whose first taste of Anderson came with Rushmore. This indie crime film feels perfectly at home in the canon of mid-1990s indie crime cinema, and is a fantastic origin tale for one of our most remarkable filmmakers.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Britt Hayes talking Wes Anderson, will be released on 31 July 2017.

The Everett De Roche 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…

PATRICK (1978) and ROAD GAMES (1981)

Everett De Roche’s career as a screenwriter was more than Ozploitation, but given he was a key figure in Australia’s defining cinematic movement, we’re going to focus on this phase to demonstrate why he inspired a fanbase all of his own. The first title that should be invoked when talking about not just De Roche’s career but Ozploitation as a whole is Patrick, the supernatural thriller about a nurse tasked with caring for a comatosed young man who may or may not be killing people with his mind. De Roche’s first collaboration with director Richard Franklin – one that would last 25 years – was the kind of scrappy, energetic blast needed in a film movement’s nascent stages. Patrick is a hell of a lot of fun, and one you’ll enjoy watching with some friends. After you’ve watched that, your evening continues with Road Games, the Rear Window-meets-Duel outback thriller featuring the distinctly American pairing of Stacy Keach and Jamie Lee Curtis. Also directed by Franklin, this film is a propulsive blast, with some all-time classic moments of suspense and craft.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Patrick, check out Long Weekend (1978). Released the same year as Patrick, De Roche’s film about a married couple heading to the beach for a weekend getaway positions them as the antagonist and nature itself as the protagonist, with what appears to be an unintended environmental message the result of a perfectly simple horror idea. If you can’t get or have already seen Road Games, track down Razorback (1984), and we’ll only bother with three words to sell you on this one: Gigantic. Killer. Pig.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a title rarely mentioned during discussions of De Roche’s work? You need to get your hands on Link (1986). Elisabeth Shue plays an exchange student at an English university who becomes a live-in assistant for a professor who is preoccupied with the training of super-intelligent chimpanzees… and then the killing begins. If, somehow, that’s not enough to convince you, then we should point out that the professor is played by Terence Stamp.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring C Robert Cargill talking Everett de Roche, will be released on 30 June 2017.

The Joe Dante 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 ’BURBS (1989) and GREMLINS 2: THE NEW BATCH (1990)

Don’t let the fact that The ’Burbs is incredibly silly and funny distract you from the fact that it is also an incredibly clever satire on the veneer of the American Dream. At the tail end of the Reagan era and the Cold War, Joe Dante made a film about white America’s fear of foreigners, set in an idealised neighbourhood whose pristineness belies a rotten, ugly heart. Tom Hanks stars as the quintessential middle-class husband and father who has a growing suspicion of his unusual neighbours, and, egged on by the mob mentality of other members of the suburban cul-de-sac, ignites chaos and destruction. It’s possibly Dante’s cleverest work, and a potential insight into his worldview. Your evening continues with a viewing of Gremlins 2: The New Batch. The original Gremlins is widely considered the superior film, but we’re going to make a case for the sequel. The point of the Cheat Sheet is to give you everything you need to know about the director in the space of two films, and Dante’s predilection for Looney Tunes-inspired wackiness and meta-textual gags that trample uncaringly over the remains of the fourth wall make Gremlins 2 the irresistible choice. Film critic Leonard Maltin appears at one point in the film, trashing the original Gremlins on screen before he himself is attacked by Gremlins, who then stop the actual film we’re watching as we’re watching it, taking over the cinema we are presumably in! The first Gremlins felt like Dante meeting the audience halfway; the sequel feels like Dante Unleashed. Watching these two films back-to-back should tell you everything you need to know about what makes Joe Dante tick.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen The ’Burbs, track down Innerspace (1987). It’s not exactly the suburbam satire that The ’Burbs is, but it’s the perfect mix of action and comedy, and one of the most eminently rewatchable films Dante has made. Who doesn’t want to see Dennis Quaid shrunk to microscopic proportions and injected into Martin Short’s arse? Crazy people, that’s who. If you can’t get or have already seen Gremlins 2: The New Batch, get yourself a copy of Looney Tunes: Back In Action. After years of emulating the Bugs Bunny aesthetic on screen – and collaborating more than once with the great Chuck Jones – Dante fulfilled what was surely a prophecy from the mists of time, directing the 2003 live action Looney Tunes film. Though it doesn’t quite reach the peak of the original cartoon (but what since 1964 has?), it’s still far more in the spirit of the classic series than every hipster’s favourite ironic go-to reference Space Jam. You know it’s true.

The Hidden Gem: Want to see something off the beaten path, a lesser-known work from Joe Dante’s filmography? We recommend you take a look at 1993’s Matinee. Dante’s love letter to William Castle features John Goodman as a schlocky film producer promoting his horror film Mant! in southern Florida as a group of movie-loving kids try to cope with the Cuban Missile Crisis. We’ll likely never see a movie-length dramatisation of Joe Dante’s childhood, so Matinee is probably the next best thing.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Neil Marshall talking Joe Dante, will be released on 31 May 2017.

The Neil Marshall 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…

DOG SOLDIERS (2002) and THE DESCENT (2005)

Your evening’s viewing begins with Dog Soldiers, the first feature by Neil Marshall. The film follows a group of soldiers in the Scottish Highlands who find their training mission interrupted when they are terrorised by a pack of werewolves. Marshall’s debut feature revels in the grand tradition of low-budget horror films, using budgetary limitations to its advantage: a contained cast and a remote location means that the characters are front and centre and the scares are restrained and effective. After watching a group of men battle werewolves in the forest, you’re going to want to watch a group of women battle subhumans in an underground cave system: his follow-up The Descent is a masterful horror, stylish as hell and terrifying as all get-out. Marshall wisely keeps his focus on character, forgoing the usual trope stereotypes in favour of complex people we genuinely care about. And then he drops them in the most terrifying setting imaginable. If you’re not claustrophobic when the film begins, you will be by the end, and the confined cave system isn’t even the scariest thing about this ingenious horror flick. Honestly, text your friends now because this is a double feature designed for company.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Dog Soldiers, check out Doomsday (2008). This postapocalyptic virus film was conceived by Marshall when he imagined futuristic soldiers battling medieval knights, and draws inspiration from the likes of Mad Max and Escape From New York. If you can’t get or have already seen The Descent, track down Centurion (2010). The historical action film features Michael Fassbender as a Roman soldier on the run in Britain, fighting Picts and traitorous Romans alike as he tries to stay alive in 117AD.

The Hidden Gem: Want to check out something slightly off the beaten track? Well, it’s kind of tricky to do a Hidden Gem this month, as Marshall’s only made four features. We were tempted to suggest one the many high-profile episodes of television he’s directed (particularly the 2012 Game of Thrones episode Blackwater), but we think we might go with Marshall’s 1999 short film Combat. It’s under eight minutes long, you can watch it literally right now by clicking on this link, and it’s a perfect encapsulation of what makes Marshall so interesting: a straightforward high-concept idea executed with all the filmmaking elements available. If you are going to watch a double feature as suggested above, we recommend kicking it off with a pre-show screening of Combat.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Scott Weinberg talking Neil Marshall, will be released on 30 April 2017.

The Allison Anders 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 that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

GAS FOOD LODGING (1992) and GRACE OF MY HEART (1996)

Happy 25th birthday Gas, Food, Lodging, the Dinosaur Jr-soundtracked ode to the beautiful landscapes of New Mexico and the intense girls who inhabit them. Anders’ first solo-directed feature – like her first Border Radio (1987, with Kurt Voss and Dean Lent) – hovers in the borderlands, where Shade (Fairuza Balk) falls (didn’t we all?) for her (quite evidently queer) best friend Darius (Donovan Leitch) before realizing that it’s Javier (Jacob Vargas) who loves her. Meanwhile her sister Trudi (Ione Skye, Leitch’s older sister in real life) has fallen for a geologist, with grave consequences. Their mother Nora (Brooke Adams) is trying to hold it together and find new love. One trailer, three tough-as-velvet women, and a soundtrack that knew what the ’90s was about before the ’90s even happened. Music is Anders’ particular genius, with Border Radio the first in a trilogy of contemporary SoCal musician films – but it’s 1960s and ’70s-set Grace of My Heart that most captured ours, telling tales of the Brill Building with characters who are almost just not quite (but enough to thrill) the stars of the era. Ileana Douglas has the starring role she always deserved as debutante-turned-songwriter Denise Waverly who finds her voice with the help/hindrance of variously dependent men (most loyal being producer Joel Milner, in an all-out funky turn from John Turturro) and equally variously resilient, funny women (including a surprisingly excellent turn from Patsy Kensit). With a soundtrack that mixes covers of obscure songs by big names from the era (Joni Mitchell’s ‘Man from Mars’ makes a particularly striking appearance) with original songs, Grace of My Heart is one for fans of The Get-Down or Vinyl – but with way more girl power.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen Gas Food Lodging, follow the music to Sugar Town (1999), the second of the SoCal trilogy, which will have you asking ‘Why on earth wasn’t this turned into a TV series?’ – not only for the great performances from Ally Sheedy (as a film production designer looking for love with all the wrong men) and Rosanna Arquette (as a former horror film ingénue facing ‘mom roles’ and her desire to be a mother) but for its Nashville-meets-Californication take on the seedier end of the music biz, featuring British new romantic musicians Martin Kemp and John Taylor as washed-up 80s rockers.If you can’t get or have already seen Grace of My Heart, then for something completely different, there’s Mi vida loca (1994). It’s the film that made Anders’ name internationally, a raw and still-radical girl gang tale filmed with mainly street-cast actors, some of whom were part of Chicana and Latina gangs in LA’s Echo Park. Mousie and Sad Girl are best friends, but their friendship struggles to survive the violence and betrayal that come from poverty and racism.

The Hidden Gem: Things Behind the Sun (2001) brings together Mi vida loca’s rawness with Anders’ inside knowledge of the music biz, this is an astoundingly courageous (and semi-autobiographical, for Anders) film that should have made Kim Dickens a huge star. She gives absolutely everything to her role as Sherry, a rock singer breaking into the college radio charts with a powerful song about having been raped, which catches the ear of music journalist Owen (Gabriel Mann) and brings up memories for him, too. It’s a slow burn (aided by a tour de force performance from Don Cheadle as Sherry’s manager and lover) and a tough watch, but – much like the Nick Drake title song – it will haunt you forever.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Jennifer Reeder talking Allison Anders, will be released on 31 March 2017.

The Asghar Farhadi 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 that will not only make for a great evening’s viewing, but bring you suitably up-to-speed before our next episode lands…

ABOUT ELLY (2009) and A SEPARATION (2011)

Asghar Farhadi hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons recently: instead of celebrating the Best Foreign Film Academy Award nomination for his sixth feature The Salesman, coverage concentrated on his entanglement in the Trump travel ban, as both Farhadi and the film’s star Taraneh Alidoosti stated that they would boycott the awards over the block on Iranians travelling to the US. The Salesman is their fourth film together – and the third was About Elly, which got an international release after A Separation gave the director his (hopefully first of many) Academy Award in 2012. Alidoosti played the titular Elly, a shy teacher swept along on a group trip to the seaside by Sepideh, whose daughter is in her kindergarten class. Along with the three couples who’ve known each other since law school, there’s another single guest, Ahmad, and Sepideh has plans to get him and Elly together. Romantic comedy turns into a sickeningly tense he said/she said thriller when Elly disappears and Sepideh’s half-truths come to light, subtly shading the complicit and compromised lives of Tehran’s middle classes. That’s even more palpable in A Separation, where a planned divorce leads morally-upright Nader into a compromising situation: after his wife Simin leaves him to live with her mother, prior to her moving to the US to escape theocratic oppression, he hires Razieh to look after his Alzheimer’s-afflicted father. Both the grandfather and very bright daughter Termeh are caught in the battles of wills between the parents, as well as the class agony between Nader and Razieh, with a sense of consequences that many critics have compared to Michael Haneke’s Caché. Things can’t end well.

Substitutions: If you can’t get or have already seen About Elly or A Separation, you must watch the film his two subsequent films: The Past (2013), which replays some of the themes of divorce, betrayal and children bearing the brunt of adult struggles seen in A Separation, but with the added knife-twist of cross-cultural relationships and immigration, as Farhadi shoots in France. And then there’s The Salesman (2016) is a drama about drama, going back to the filmmaker’s roots in studying theatre. It follows a couple whose relationship frays during their participation in a production of Death of a Salesman, as they confront the scandalous past of their apartment’s previous tenant. What’s past is, as ever in Farhadi’s films, all too poignantly and unsettlingly present.

The Hidden Gem: Set on Iranian New Year’s Eve, Fireworks Wednesday (2006) is punctuated by small explosions, literal and metaphorical, as Alidoosti’s character Rouhi, a bride-to-be, gets sent by her employment agency to clean for a warring married couple: Mojdeh is convinced Morteza is having an affair; Morteza thinks Mojdeh is crazy. Rouhi spends a long day caught between them, their son Amir Ali, their beautician neighbour Simin, and the febrile celebratory atmosphere outside.

The next episode of Hell Is For Hyphenates, featuring Tina Hassannia talking Asghar Farhadi, will be released on 28 February 2017.