Tobias Grey

Brief encounter | 22 June 2017

How do you follow a film like Shoah? The nine-hour Holocaust documentary, released in 1985 after 11 years of work and 350 hours of interviews — with survivors and perpetrators, saviours and collaborators, historians and bystanders — is considered one of the greatest films ever made. For decades, director Claude Lanzmann kept returning to the

Impeccable filmmaking from Michael Haneke: Happy End reviewed

The title is ironic. The end is not happy for Michael Haneke’s bourgeois French family, whose hamper of festering secrets the Austrian director unpacks with glee. His twelfth feature, which is vying for an unprecedented third Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, features an acting masterclass from French veteran Jean-Louis Trintignant as Georges Laurent, a dotty

Amusing, waspish take-down of Jean-Luc Godard: Redoubtable reviewed

Jean-Luc Godard’s famous dictum was: ‘all you need for a movie is a girl and a gun’. In Redoubtable, French director Michel Hazanavicius’s jaunty biopic of Godard, set during the student insurrection of 1968, which premièred yesterday at Cannes Film Festival, there is plenty of the first and none of the latter. The girl is Anne

Revolutionary road

Cairo is deceptively calm, says Egyptian film-maker Mohamed Diab. ‘People were so scared from the fighting in the streets that now all they want is stability at any price,’ he explains. ‘But if you look closely at the situation, it’s worse than it was with Mubarak in charge when it comes to freedom of speech,

His dark materials | 16 March 2017

The enticingly subversive films of Paul Verhoeven were very tempting to me as a schoolboy. When I hit 14, the Dutch director released RoboCop and the excitement among me and my friends at catching two hours of unmitigated ultra-violence reached fever pitch. He did not disappoint. That was in 1988 and it was interesting later

In defence of the Jacobins

The French Revolution ushered in not only a revolution of rolling heads but of talking ones too. ‘Speech-making was a new political instrument,’ writes Eric Hazan. ‘The King of France never gave speeches and neither did his ministers.’ Indeed Louis XVI’s lack of eloquence, or more specifically his egregious line of sentimental claptrap, had fatal

‘A dandy aesthete with visions of sacrificial violence’

Eschewing the biblical advertising of ‘the promised land’ or indeed ‘a land of milk and honey’, the Conservative colonial secretary William Ormsby-Gore presented a far grislier picture of Palestine on the eve of the second world war when he described it as ‘full of arms and bitterness, and there are few who do good and

What took Francis Mitterrand to the top?

Of a dashing political rival, François Mitterrand once remarked: He was more intelligent than I was, he thought faster than I did, he was more seductive to women. In some ways, he gave me a complex. But he lacked perseverance. The man of whom Mitterrand spoke was a certain Félix Gaillard, whose claim to fame

They Eat Horses, Don’t They?, by Piu Marie Eatwell – review

Oh the French! Where would the Anglo publishing industry be without them? Ever since Peter Mayle first made goo-goo eyes at sun dappled Provence in 1990 and pocketed a pile of dough in the process, many a self- respecting hack with a smidgeon of French culture has followed in his train. Most have been purveyors

Tales of Two Cities, by Jonathan Conlin – review

In Jonathan Conlin’s Tales of Two Cities the little acknowledged but hugely significant histoire croisée of two rival metropoles gets a long overdue airing. For, like it or not, London and Paris would be much duller places if neither had deemed fit to discover the other. Oddly, up until now no historian has ever explored