A look at London's boho canal lifestyles in ANCHOR AND HOPE

Director: Carlos Marques-Marcet

15 | 1h 53min | Comedy , Drama , Romance | 28 September 2018 (UK)

Now on DVD and VOD.

RATING: ★★★★☆

I enjoyed this bittersweet and very millennial-angsty gay drama from writer-director Carlos Marques-Marcet (10.000 Km) and co-writer Jules Nurrish, which does triple duty as both a good-natured satire on London hipster lifestyles, a more serious-minded look at the emotional tangles of surrogacy and adoption that can face a gay couple, and a salute to the lovely canals of north London’s Lea Valley area. It also serves as a sort of Game of Thrones reunion, as stars Natalia Tena and Oona Chaplin both served on the hit HBO series.

Tena and Chaplin are Kat and Eva, underemployed 30-somethings (Kat is a boat repairer, Eva teaches dance) who are in a longstanding relationship and share a very boho houseboat that they keep moored at various spots along the Lea Valley canal (the idea of setting the movie on the London canal actually arose from the fact that actress Natalia Tena lives in a boat-house there). Life seems pretty sweet when we first drop in on the couple during one summer: hot sex, pub lunches in picturesque watering holes and too much red wine after, and drifting up and down the canals in the glorious sunshine make up their day to day. A more painfully north London liberal lifestyle you could not find. It soon becomes clear though that, with both women being in their thirties, the knotty question of children has started to infiltrate this blissful setup. Or to be more precise, it has become an issue for Eva; Kat turns out to be far less certain that a baby will strengthen their bond, fearing their perfect bohemian setup will be lost forever. Eva convinces Kat to let BFF from Spain, Roger, provide some donor sperm for a bit of DIY insemination whilst he crashes on their couch. But things get way messier than expected

Tena and Chaplin are an engaging duo, more than adequately transmitting the shared physical attraction and sense of humour that have kept Eva and Kat’s relationship going so long, but also fleshing out the subtle differences between them; differences in temperament and confidence that the question of surrogacy starts to turn into chasms. The two also provide a few charming comedy beats where there is some self-aware mocking at just how North London queer-liberated-millennial they’ve become, even down to Kat staying in deep mourning over the death of her cat to Eva having a New Age mother Germaine (Geraldine Chaplin, Oona’s mother in real life) prancing about on the mainland, although she, ironically, turns out to be the sole warning voice about how being a 21st century metropolitan still might not mean you get to bypass all the emotional pitfalls of using someone you are close to as a sperm donor. The way Roger disrupts things is also well-handled. David Verdageur’s full-throttle performance as the louche Roger doesn’t peg him as a looming threat initially; he comes off as a slightly irritating, but basically well-intentioned man-child who is maybe not as respectful of personal space and the need for peace and quiet as Eva might like. But once Eva does get pregnant, Roger - who is really more an old friend of Kat than both women (to emphasise this Kat and Roger speak in Spanish when Eva isn’t around, both characters and actors have Spanish roots) - becomes an increasingly awkward figure who just can’t find a groove to fit into. 

No matter what Roger does (and he doesn’t come off as the most self-aware chap) he just keeps applying pressure to the cracks in Eva and Kat’s dynamic. Eva in particular finds any sign that Roger is getting too invested in the baby alarming; whether it is his dorky crying over the ultrasound scan or his knee-jerk decision to move to London to ‘help out’. Beyond feeling her space is being invaded by a competitor, Eva’s take is that Roger’s over-investment subconsciously gives Kat the excuse she needs to continue to tune out, rather than work harder to overcome her fears about making the pregnancy work. But the film keeps it an open question as to whether Roger leaving would solve the problem. Maybe Kat and Eva are just paying the price for not asking the big question sooner? Perhaps it is not a hugely original approach to have these be the questions that come up for Eva and Kat, but the performers sell the emotional reality.

Beyond the free-flowing performances, the increasingly edgy dynamic between the trio, and the poignant discussion of the ‘big’ themes that the film gently weaves into the narrative, Anchor and Hope is a welcome chance to soak up the pleasant character and diversity of the London canals. The natural beauty of the environment, lensed by director of photography Dagmar Weaver-Madsen, reinforces how the peaceful waterways and the cosy houseboat grew into an ideal that Kat and Eva have both come to rely on; an escape from the hubbub of dry land where nothing seems to make as much sense. But the boat is also a cramped space that might just have no room for three.

You can check out some of the stills showcasing the London canals below.

Comment

Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.

A rarely-seen but super-chilling war film returns: It Happened Here

it-happened-here-01.jpg

Director: Kevin Brownlow

PG | 1h 33min | Drama, Fantasy, War | 12 May 1966 (UK)

Screening at the BFI 23 July and out now on remastered bluray

This week the Smoke Screen caught a special BFI re-release of the chilling and provocative counterfactual WWII Brit thriller It Happened Here, the work of director Kevin Brownlow (Brownlow was only 18 when he and Andrew Mollo – just 16 - embarked on this ambitious drama, which took eight years to complete). This dark 'what if' movie is a B&W social realist-esque look at what might have taken place if the Nazis had successfully invaded Britain in 1940. July 2018 marks the famous programmer, historian and writer Brownlow’s 80th birthday, and the BFI has remastered the film to mark the date. Following the screening at the BFI on Southbank (where Brownlow opined on the crazy shoot, which involved awkward encounters with real fascists, and last-minute help getting film stock from a certain Stanley Kubrick), it will be in stores in a new remastered BFI bluray format.

It Happened Here subverts expectations from the off by nothing down the route of a triumphant story of resistance, but instead drops us into the perspective of a 'collaborator'; a former nurse, who justifies joining the British Nazi nursing corps (called inoffensively the IAO "International Action Organisation) by arguing that saving lives during the partisan vs Nazi conflict is the best use of her time. But Nazism is like a disease; it leaks into everything. A nurse might wear a surgical mask and deliver penicillin, but you can't keep fascism out that way. Every where she turns, the regime consumes everything: locking up her friends (who themselves look on her Nazi nurse uniform in terror), forcing her to administer poison to TB patients, and refusing her desire to be a 'non political' nurse who can just tend to patients without being force fed the ideology.

It was struck by how the film's low budget helped create an eerie atmosphere. The Nazi occupation, following their successful invasion of 1940 (presumably after winning the Battle of Britain, though in reality a naval invasion would have to face the vastly superiorRoyal Navy) subsists sort of below surface of picturesque olde England. There simply wasnt the budget to design huge prison camps or giant Nazi monuments that overshadow contemporary London, but its arguably more disconcerting to see London look so...normal, with Brits still in high positions in the dull everyday bureaucracy. The indignity of occupation is you are made to police it yourself and pretend normality. Where the film gets really provocative is the open suggestion that occupation would turn the oppressed into oppressors: partisan groups fighting the Nazis for years are shown to have no hesitation killing surrendering SS troops- who are British volunteers themselves.

 

Comment

Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.

UK Jewish Film Festival 2016 review: The Small World of Sammy Lee

Director: Ken Hughes

X | 1h 47min | Drama | April 1963 (UK)

Playing during the UK Jewish Film Festival 2016  at JW3 on 15 NOV 6.30pm.

See here for bluray details - out from 14 November.

RATING: ★★★★☆

Playing as part of the UK Jewish FIlm Festival 2016, and now remastered for a new bluray release courtesy of StudioCanal and their Vintage Classics Line, Ken Hughes’s (Alfie) The Small World of Sammy Lee is a dark, funny and stylish romp through a seedy Soho from decades past; a side of London that has long since been smothered by gentrification and tourism. In this 1963 British-Jewish crime thriller, Anthony Newley is pitch-perfect as strip-club compere Sammy, the kind of guy who keeps his shady dealings small-time, but has nevertheless used up almost all of his nine lives by the time the film’s main plot kicks off. Having screwed up one card game too many, Sammy has to go on the run from the heavies, managing to convince the surprisingly affable enforcer who is sicked onto him (this is one of those films packed full of gentlemen thieves) that he can muster up £300 by the end of the day.

The narrative is built around the remaining half a day Sammy has to scare up the dough; racing against the clock to chase up every debt he is owed, lining up several black market deals that pay cash up front but only require a (inevitably late) check from him, whilst rifling through the piles of ‘back of the lorry’ merch he has stashed in his flat to see what he can offload. There’s plenty of appeal in watching this cheeky chancer scrabble from cafes to pool halls, trying to see if his gift of the gab can get him out of one last scrape, and the film works well as a time capsule of a period when Soho really did have edge. Lensed in brooding black and white by cinematographer Wolfgang Suschitzky, the film also boasts an exceptional supporting cast that packs in Miriam Karlin, Wilfrid Brambell, Roy Kinnear and Warren Mitchell. Plus, the jazz score will nestle in your ear for hours after.

Comment

Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.

BFI Black Star Season Review: Pool of London - the film that launched Earl Cameron's career

Director: Basil Deardon

A | 1h 25min | Crime, Drama | 13 August 1951 (Sweden)

On DVD/Bluray from StudioCanal from 25 October

RATING: ★★★★☆

Screening as part of the BFI’s Black Star season, and now released on bluray for the first time as part of Studiocanal’s Vintage Classics Collection, Pool of London is an enjoyable, compact Ealing Studios crime caper directed by Basil Deardon (The Blue Lamp, Dead of Night) that became notable for featuring veteran actor Earl Cameron CBE, known as one of the first black screen actors to break the colour bar in the UK. He has acted in 91 films and TV series, has over 70 years in the business, and is still working. His role in Ealing Studios’ classic thriller was a breakout opportunity for him.

In Pool of London, Cameron plays Johnny, a young and upbeat Jamaican ship worker earning his way on board the Durham; a British Empire merchant marine vessel with a mixed nationality crew. Johnny idolises Dan MacDonald (Bonar Colleano), a roguish American of Italian heritage who looks out for Johnny and has clearly enjoyed playing the older brother role. Arriving in the Docklands for shore leave and to offload the Dunbar’s cargo during the summer of 1951, the two men find themselves getting into troubled waters when ashore. Dan falls in with a gang of smugglers looking to use his boat to smuggle a diamond stash out of the country, whilst Johnny finds himself falling for Pat, a white girl (Susan Shaw) who’s race and nationality means it is impossible for him to really consider being with her. Dan ends up using Johnny to further the heist scheme, assuming he won’t get his pal into trouble so long as things go smoothly, but when the heist goes wrong and the police get onto his tail, he risks getting Johnny stitched up in it all. Dan has to face a choice: let Johnny fall under police suspicion which, given his race, will surely be fatal, or stick up for his friend.

Apart from offering the great Cameron a breakout role, Pool of London also was the first British-made post-Windrush film to feature an interracial relationship, and although the lack of seeing it consummated on screen might have been due to the conservative sensibilities of the time, this enforced distance between Johnny and Pat does serve the film’s wider purpose of commenting on race relations and gives the story quite a poignant tone. Restrained though the film might seem compared to today’s standards - there is no blood or harsh language to be seen or heard - the screenplay does not shy away from putting Johnny in situations where he is subjected to discrimination due to his colour. Though the “N” word is never used, the phrases “you people” and “your kind” are all too frequently thrown at the young Jamaican, usually following some kind of exclusionary act, whether it is a security guard moving him on when he is simply waiting near a door, or bouncers throwing him out of a gin joint.

And speaking of gin joints, the film pleasingly drinks in the rarefied air of such night life haunts, as well as underground dance halls, vaudeville theatres, and even those quaint places known as “milk bars”. The plot ranges across a London still visibly recovering from the Second World War and dotted with piles of rubble and half-repaired buildings, a place all the more striking for being without the hyper-gentrification of today. Trams still trundle through central (though Pat notes they are due to be closed down - the irony!), and the Thames bustles with commercial shipping. Thus, even though the crime at the centre of Pool of London’s central story arc could hardly be called epic (though the band of criminals have a nice touch of eccentricity to them, one being a circus performer who uses his jumping skills to get into the bank) the film functions as a compelling time capsule of a London long gone.

DVD/BR Special Features:

  • New interview with Earl Cameron.
  • New locations featurette with film historian Richard Dacre.
  • Production stills gallery.
Comment

Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.

Film Season Review: BFI Punk season showcases restored version of Alex Cox's cult film Sid & Nancy

Director: Alex Cox

18 | 1h 52min | Biography, Drama, Music

Available to buy on blu-ray and DVD from 29 August 2019

In cinemas from August 5 at BFI as part of the Don Letts presents Punk on Film season and Punk.London.

Film Rating: ★★★★☆

Re-released to coincide with the UK-wide celebration of 40 years of punk, cult director Alex Cox's (Repo Man) Sid and Nancy is a scuzzy, intense, but also deeply sad look at the dark side of the punk movement. Now 30 years old, the acclaimed film is back in a new blu-ray release courtesy of Studiocanal’s Vintage Classics Label, with the new restoration having been overseen by famed cinematographer Roger Deakins (No Country for Old Men, Sicario) himself.

In June 1976, the Sex Pistols performed their legendary gig at the Manchester Lesser Free Trade Hall, inspiring a generation to dive into the punk movement and reject established principles and authority structures. Cox’s film isn't concerned with those days of success though, as it jumps forward several years from that to observe the tragic collateral damage from that heady rise to fame: the rapid downfall of the band’s notoriously unstable bassist, Sid Vicious, who is played here by a young Gary Oldman on blistering form. The film tracks the last few months of Sid Vicious’s life, beginning in 1978 as we see Sid arrested from the Chelsea Hotel in Manhattan following his partner Nancy's sudden, tragic death, a loss over which a dark cloud of mystery still hangs and which preceded Vicious’s own death from an overdose not long after. Dragged to a police station and questioned, he flashes back to how he first met her. The story revealed to us is a relentlessly dismal one: already a heavy user of substances with a combustible attitude, Vicious’s random encounter with eager American groupie Nancy Spurgeon (a barnstorming turn from Chloe Webb) in London leads to them both spiralling down into a deep hole of heroin addiction. 

The film condemns both the vulgar nihilistic excesses of punk (whilst also sort of being in awe of the scale of it), and also the exploitation of human weaknesses by those keen to profit from the new wave. So low does Vicious fall that even his own shambolic bandmates want nothing to do with him, but their creepy svengli Malcolm McLaren sees capital to be made out of Vicious’s headline grabbing antics and makes no effort to get him the help he needs. Any musical talent Vicious may have had is shown to be truly secondary. As for Sid and Nancy, Cox and co-screenwriter Abbe Wool frame them as an obnoxious, self-destructive codependent duo who nevertheless are almost ludicrously childish, and therefore still deserving of sympathy. It is clear someone like Vicious could never have dealt with regular life, let alone a life where he has been gifted millions of dollars and hordes of admirers giving him license to act out. Vicious’s life is one long circus of binge drinking, fighting, falling off stage and general incoherence which ends with him crying on the floor of an increasingly clapped-out Chelsea hotel room where stale food and empty drug packets gather. Though he doesn’t pitch things at Wolf of Wall Street levels of hedonism, Cox gives us plenty of visions of excess, Sex Pistol-style, including breakfasts of champagne and baked beans interspersed with car demolition and graffiti writing, whilst Vicious is not seen sober once on stage. 

Aside from being a grimly fascinating study of a downward spiral, the film also functions as a irresistible time capsule of the two poles of the punk geography - London and New York - and because Cox shot his film before the rapid gentrification of both cities took hold, many of the locations the Sex Pistols would've frequented were still untouched. Both cities looked very different then: rawer and meaner. Cox also intersperses the death spiral narrative of Spurgeon and Vicious with some truly exhilarating (and stomach churning) gig sequences showing the Pistols in action: these were not the kind of music scenes for the faint hearted, as spit and punches are shown as par for the course. The soundtrack is superbly atmospheric: including contributions from Joe Strummer and The Pogues. A few surreal touches suggest things on screen shouldn't be taken at face value (this is, after all, Vicious’s POV), but that feels more than appropriate given the Sex Pistols wanted to be larger than life.

Disc Rating: ★★★★☆:

Special Features on the Blu-ray Special Edition

    ▪    New interview with Cinematographer Roger Deakins

    ▪    New interview with Director Alex Cox

    ▪    New interview with Don Letts 

    ▪    Trailer

 

Comment

Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.

Smoke Screen reviews the bluray of hit 1982 comedy TOOTSIE, one of the first of The Criterion Collection's new UK re-releases

FILM REVIEW

RATING: ★★★★☆

As the esteemed American Criterion Collection label - think lavishly packaged, bonus feature-laden DVD and Blu-ray editions of classic and contemporary cinema - makes its way finally to UK shores (thanks to a multi-year distribution deal with Sony), the Smoke Screen was lucky to be able to take a peek at some of the first discs to be made available here. First up is Syndey Pollack’s 1982 cross-dressing comedy starring Dustin Hoffman; Tootsie.

Tootsie tells the story of on an out of work New York actor and acting coach- one Michael Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman)- who, tired of being turned down for role after role because he, as his agent says (and he isn’t wrong, frankly) is a ‘difficult’ one, decides to go for a role on a bland hospital-based weekly drama disguised as “Dorothy Michaels”: a middle aged female performer with a southern twang to her voice and a bolshy-but-motherly attitude. Winning the role despite the misgivings of the chauvinistic director, in part because of Michael/Dorothy’s unexpected take-no-shit outbursts which please the frustrated female scriptwriter/showrunner, the character and “Dorothy” herself go on to become prime time hits and a nationwide sensation. This of course puts Michael in an absurd situation, as the longer this goes on, the greater the fallout will be when it is revealed he is pulling a fraud on both the network and the American public. And then there’s the not insignificant fact that Michael starts to fall in love with his female co-star Julie (Jessica Lange), who herself thinks “Dorothy” could be a perfect match for her widowed and distinctly old-school “man’s man” father.

Hilarity and hijinks ensue for Michael in short order, from hours lost to leg shaving, too much time spent avoiding the near-constant attentions of hungry males in his vicinity when in disguise, to having to handle the looming clash with his friend of six years (and recent sleeping partner) Sandy (Teri Garr): who has no idea about Michael’s alternate life and starts to think he his having an affair with whoever this “fat” woman is who she spies going up to Michael’s apartment every evening . But, though he went into this scheme purely interested in getting some cold hard cash to fund a play his flatmate and writing/acting partner Jeff Slater (Bill Murray, in a typically great deadpan supporting role) wants to put on, the experience Michael has of everyday sexism in the workplace and beyond starts to make him reflect on his own boorish and self-absorbed behaviour.

Tootsie certainly boasts an interesting writing team, aside from M.A.S.H TV series creator Larry Gelbart and writer/playwright Murray Schisgal, both famed directors Barry Levinson (Rain Man) and Elaine May (A New Leaf) also put in uncredited rewrites.  Pollack himself was already acclaimed for films like They Shoot Horses, Don't They? and Three Days of the Condor. Upon release, the film actually came second in terms of domestic US box office for the entire year of 1982, beaten only by Spielberg’s E.T, and it racked up an impressive number of Oscar nominations too (ten in total, including for actor, director and screenplay).  In 1998, the United States Library of Congress deemed the film "culturally significant" and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry. The film is frequently held up as a smart piece of commentary on sexism and male-female relationships, as well as just being a great example of how to craft a fast-paced, zany comedy. But how does it hold up some 34 years later?

In truth, Tootsie’s progressive credentials can be criticized, in many ways from the “it’s a product of its time” angle. Some of the gags are a bit stale and lazily play on stereotypes of female “issues”, and one recurring joke where the TV show’s bumbling lead actor Dr John van Horn(George Van Haynes, who played the hapless police commandant in the Police Academy films) basically carries on as the dirty old letch of the production “Dorothy” is starring in, really starts to move into awkward territory when he forces himself upon “Dorothy” after following her to her apartment in one third act scene. The whole farrago is played for laughs, and van Horn’s boorish advances are cut short by Jeff walking into the apartment, but this really doesn’t seem funny now. And for a film championing women, there could have been better roles for the actual females starring in the picture: with Jessica Lange a somewhat weak and uncharismatic presence, and Teri Garr stuck playing a bit of a flake (even if the scene where her character angrily claims the cherry chocolates Julie’s smitten father gave to “Dorothy”, which a desperate Michael is now trying to pass on to her to soothe her anger, is one of the film’s best).

On the other hand, Tootsie’s screenplay is interesting in how it does actually address some of the criticisms audience members might have of this concept: which, after all, is that of a straight, white man taking a job that should have gone to a woman in an already male-dominated industry (and yes, you could view it as creepy that, in a comedy, a disguise allows a man access to female private spaces like dressing rooms). Michael himself comes off as a bit of an asshole in the opening few minutes, flirting aggressively with women, treating his acting student and friend Sandy cruelly in coaching sessions, and later two-timing her once their relationship turns sexual: two-timing in a very strange double sense, given he is falling love with Julie and also neglecting their relationship due to the time he is spending dressed and acting as a woman. It seems at first that this is just all going to be passed off as a bit of light comedy.

But later in the film, whilst disguised as the finger-wagging and uncompromising “Dorothy”, and having starting to side with his female co-stars, Michael himself hears the same bullshit, chauvinistic justifications directed back at him from the male employees on the show. In one scene, the faintly sleazy director Ron Carlisle, who is two-timing Julie much to “Dorothy’s” displeasure, defends his behaviour using exactly the same words Michael used when explaining away his callous treatment of Sandy. In disguise, Michael’s retort to Ron - “I understand you better than you think” - has a self-lacerating undertone to it. But on the other hand, when Sandy angrily calls “Dorothy’ that “fat woman” who she has spied sneaking into Michael’s apartment at night, Michael is visibly hurt at the sharp language she uses, though he has probably said the same thing thoughtlessly a thousand times before.

 

It is a credit to the filmmakers though that Tootsie remains blisteringly funny no matter whether Michael is in disguise or not: the film never just relies on some of the more obvious gags of having him struggle to keep his composure in the ladies dressing room, or battle to keep his wig falling off. Watching Dustin Hoffman rant epically at his agent (played by Pollack himself) that he is spectacular at playing vegetables in commercials (“ I was even a great endive salad, dammit”!) and seeing he and Pollack get utterly tongue tied over trying to explain Michael/Dorothy’s increasingly bizarre situations whilst separating what is happening to who (by the third act Julie’s father wants to Marry Dorothy, Julie thinks Dorothy is a lesbian, Sandy thinks Michael is gay) is side-splittingly funny. So although Tootsie has dated somewhat when it comes to the progressive side of things, its comedy laurels remain well-deserved.

 

DISC REVIEW + EXTRAS
RATING: ★★★★☆

The film’s 4K bluray transfer delivers the goods in terms of audio/visuals.

Those unfamiliar with Criterion’s tradition of lavishing care and attention on the extras for their releases are in for a pleasant surprise: Tootsie is packed with informative bonus features, including a commentary Pollack recorded back in 1991 for an earlier release, a timeline chapter selection tool to help pinpoint particular scenes and points in the commentary, and several making of featurettes and interviews with the cast.


New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray

  Audio commentary featuring director Sydney Pollack

  New interviews with actor Dustin Hoffman and comedy writer Phil Rosenthal

  Interview with Dorothy Michaels by film critic Gene Shalit

  Making of “Tootsie” (1982) and A Better Man: The Making of “Tootsie” (2007), two documentaries featuring interviews with cast and crew

  Screen and wardrobe test footage

  Deleted scenes and trailers

  PLUS: An essay by critic Michael Srago

Comment

Owen Van Spall

Greetings. I am a Film History MA graduate from Birkbeck University of London and a trained NCTJ qualified journalist. Apart from a long history of film and news writing for this site and various other publications, I am also a trained photographer with my own camera kit. I write mostly every day. Along the way I have picked up work experience at Sight & Sound, The Guardian, The Independent, The FT, The New Statesman, and more. I have written hard news stories, features, arranged and conducted interviews with celebrities, film directors and other major cultural figures, arranged photo shoots, and covered film festivals, conferences and events in the UK and abroad. If you wish to commission me or enquire about full-time opportunities please find my CV and contact details below. A physical portfolio of print only cuttings can also be provided.