The Spectator film critic who transformed cinema

‘Going to the pictures is nothing to be ashamed of,’ insisted the film writer Iris Barry in 1926. But it certainly wasn’t something to be proud of, either. To the cultural cognoscenti of the 1920s, Barry admitted, the cinema was barely an art at all – about as aesthetically significant as ‘passport photography’. And for much of polite society, seeing a film was done in secret, if at all. So it was a considerable boost for the fledgling medium when, 100 years ago, the word ‘cinema’ began to appear for the first time in this country above its own regular column, with its own dedicated critic, in the arts pages

Lucy Ellmann is angry about everything, especially men

Is Lucy Ellmann serious? On the one hand, yes, very. The novel she published before this collection of essays was the Booker-shortlisted Ducks, Newburyport, which relayed the internal life of an Ohioan mother of four via a single sentence across 1,000 pages. Her publisher tells me that between the proof and final publication of Things Are Against Us, Ellman made 1,700 changes. She is, in short, an undoubted paragon of highbrow meticulousness. Then again and on the other hand, no, Ellmann is not being serious at all here. Things consists mostly of pieces written before the pandemic but is nonetheless influenced by the plague world into which it emerges, reacting

Like a weird episode of Downton – with less sexual chemistry: Rebecca reviewed

Rebecca is a new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic, twisted, never-out-of-print tale of sexual jealousy. It’s directed by Ben Wheatley, with a script by Jane Goldman, and stars Lily James, Armie Hammer and Kristin Scott Thomas. High hopes? Me too. But though it’s perfectly watchable, it’s not at all daring. Would the second Mrs de Winter be more fully formed and less of a pallid, round-shouldered meek little thing? Would sinister Mrs Danvers have more substance? Would it be a modern interpretation for modern times? No, is the short answer. And also it just isn’t sexy enough. Meanwhile, I forgot to start this with: ‘Last night I dreamt I

Why does anyone still rate Vertigo and its creepy, wonky plot?

Here’s something that may interest you. Or not. (Could go either way.) I was looking over Sight & Sound’s ‘100 Greatest Films of All Time’, which has Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo (1958) at number one, having knocked Citizen Kane from the top spot in 2012. (That film always did need a more exciting reveal; would it have helped if Rosebud had turned out to be a massive fireball or dinosaur egg?) But back to Vertigo, which is now the best film ever made. Really? That worried away at me. Who rates this film and why? The storytelling isn’t up to much. It drags and drags. (The first half is a dull